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Our Recent Posts

Rules We Eat By

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 15:04

Rarely a day goes by when there isn’t a study released about what we should and shouldn’t eat. Rarely a week goes by that I don’t think, “I should be more careful what I eat.” Truthfully though, I think we do OK in our family.

Overall, we eat balanced meals, a variety of foods, plenty of vegetables, and most of what we eat is not processed. We accommodate one vegetarian and a gluten-reduced diet, and we aim for something in the diabetic-friendly/low GI range. Smoothies make up a large number of my breakfasts (4-5 a week). The biggest challenge we find is controlling starch intake.

There are a few truisms that help me make decisions when looking at meals:

“Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants.” — Michael Pollan

The core of Pollan’s early manifesto, In Defence of Food, this advice is really three rules.

  1. Eat food. Not food-like products but food, the ingredients you find on the outer part of the supermarket, not in the aisles.
  2. Not too much. Do not fall prey to the GIANT serving sizes passing as meals. (Check out Food Friday: Portion Distortion for how to judge portion sizes)
  3. Mostly plants. Proteins and starch have their place but neither should take the lead.
If you are not hungry enough to eat an apple, you are not hungry.

I have no idea where I first read that (though it appears that it is also one of Pollan’s Food Rules) but it saves me from empty calories frequently. I know that I eat out of boredom or just habit — I wander into the kitchen looking for “something.” When I remember to ask myself this, I often find the answer is that I am not really hungry and I am able to walk out of the kitchen again. Sometimes, I will acknowledge that I am hungry and look for food. Sometimes, I actually grab an apple.

Half of your plate should be vegetables.

The half-plate model, like the serving size guide, is a great visual tool and is especially useful when dining at buffets or smorgasbords. It’s also helpful at home. The model is based around a 10″ plate and if you make 1/4 starch or grain and 1/4 protein you will also likely hit the target for serving sizes.

Everything in moderation.

OK, maybe not everything but I try not to abstain from certain foods or restrict myself by carefully measuring specific items (salt, sugar, fat, especially) because it always ends in cravings. On the other hand, moderation is a key component of the phrase — something I find myself unable to do when it comes to theatre popcorn, my dietary Achilles heel. Other than that, I do manage to balance and moderate.

One last thing.

Shawn and I realized a while back that we tend to enable each other when it comes to bad food choices so we try to give in less frequently. We neither chastise nor cheerlead but when one of us says, “I could really go for… ” the other one tries not to say, “I’ll get my keys.”

It’s definitely a work in progress, but progress is definitely being made.

That said, I am going to keep a food diary this week, without consciously trying to adjust my eating, just to see what an average week looks like. It includes one birthday celebration  and an assortment of meetings so it’s a typical week in that respect. Mostly I am curious to see whether my perception matches my reality.

Sick Day – Movie Day

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Tue, 04/22/2014 - 01:29

Each of us spent the long weekend fighting sinus cold; for me and Kiddo it peaked yesterday. Today, though, we maintained “hang mode” and ended up watching a collection of movies back to back. All were films we’d seen before and there was no real connection from one to the next, but it feels good sometimes to ignore whatever is on television — the news and the prime-time and crap reality series — and just watch more long-form storytelling.

Spirited Away — we started with Miyazaki, thanks to the Simpsons’ whirlwind tour through his films in Sunday’s episode [there's a clip on YouTube if you missed it]. I love this film for its animation and its story and if you haven’t already seen it, it is on my “must see” list.

Star Wars — I have no clue how many times I’ve seen this movie. Thirteen times in the theatres in its original and return runs but countless times since on VHS, DVD, and television. Today, we were in no mood to take Luke’s whining seriously though so we were heckling the characters heartily.

Wall-E — only the second or third time viewing for me. While there is something loveable about Wall-E, it’s never quite lived up to the hype. We almost followed this one with Idiocracy though, because of the matching towers of garbage.

Despicable Me — the original definitely “Gru” on us. When we originally saw trailers for it we all collectively rolled our eyes but the actual story is both funny and heartwarming. Barely a week goes by that Kiddo or I doesn’t exclaim “IT’S SO FLUFFYYYYYY!!!”

Julie and Julia — considering how little hubby likes Meryl Streep, I was shocked when he selected this one, but I do enjoy it. I love it a little less knowing how things worked out later for Jule, but overall, I love the way it follows both women’s lives and their relationship with food and with those around them.

Then since Kiddo was off to bed and hubby was out, I picked a movie for myself. While I debated taking a detour from the feel-good theme of the day, I stuck with it.

The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel — when the trailers for this one came out, I took one look and said, “Nope.” But for whatever reason when scrolling through Netflix tonight, I decided it would fit the bill; I figured the cast was good enough to make up for any shortcoming in the plot. In the end, it was perfectly satisfying.

The Skeleton in my Political Closet

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sat, 04/19/2014 - 04:47

[CC-BY] IK’s World Trip on Flickr.

I have a dirty little secret in my past: I was a card-carrying Young Socred — the youth arm of the Social Credit Party of BC.

I’m not nearly as embarrassed about having been a member of the party as I am of how I got to be a member. I didn’t walk up to a table and sign up, I let someone else sign me up because he said it would make it easier for me to run for student government on a slate.

Yeah, right.

But how did I end up running for member at large? I was bored and decided to read the minutes. An entire page of the transcript consisted of board members congratulating one of their number on his decision to adopt a vegetarian lifestyle. I thought I might lose my mind. This group controlled a significant budget, had a large agenda to manage, and was spending a big chunk of time on this?

I wrote a letter to the board of directors. A week later I got two replies — each one thanked me for taking the time to read the minutes and send feedback. Each invited me to attend the next meeting as they were open to all members. One wholeheartedly agreed with me about the frivolous use of time on the vegetarian lifestyle adoption, the other emphasized the need for more strong women’s voices in student politics.

What I soon learned was that the board was very split both by political affiliation and by gender. After being in the audience for a board meeting, I could tell the board was completely broken. Rarely could any decisions be made because of the sharp political divide and lack of will by either side to compromise. I was later approached to consider running for member at large in the next election. I did, and it was an epic disaster.

On the way to making the decision to run, I guessed I would have to “pick a side” and, because the members of the Young Socreds were charismatic and I was naive, I ended up signing the membership form they put in front of me, and running on their slate. When it came to election day, though, I discovered their support didn’t run as deep as I thought; I came in close to last.

Despite the loss, I stuck it out with the Young Socreds for another year. I served as secretary for the club and was elected as an alternate delegate to convention in the year that saw Bill Vander Zalm ousted and the election of Rita Johnston as party leader (i.e. scapegoat as the party knew they would be destroyed in the next election).

However, buoyed by her success, I ran for president of the Young Socred club — and I was unchallenged until the final days when someone threw their name in against me and won easily. While it was never voiced, it was clear that my gender was the issue. Humiliated and disillusioned, I walked away from the group, and chucked my membership card in a box, and put political membership behind me.

I don’t talk about it much because it was a weird time in my life. I used to be incredibly embarrassed by the whole thing but overall, it was eyeopening in a lot of ways.

  • It was the first time I felt my gender had been used against me.
  • It was the first time I saw politics from the inside — as an alternate delegate I got mountains of campaign literature from the many people vying to take Vander Zalm’s place at the helm.
  • I learned a lot about backstabbing, positioning, doublespeak, and propaganda.

In the years since, I’ve watched many of the people who were in that group continue to move in political circles and I know what is in their closet, too.

Poetry Month Random Haiku

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Wed, 04/16/2014 - 15:32

I wanted to write a few haiku but didn’t have anything in mind so, using the Creative Random Word Generator, I got these three words: fare, mud, and rash, and wrote these three haiku:

without any coins
I can’t ride the bus today:
exact fare only


underfoot we crush
blades of grass into the mud
building a shortcut


suddenly, red welts
in patches across her skin
the rash, a warning



Photos from Flickr by me (bus stop & puddle) and Tim Sheerman-Chase (infected by the alien virus). Like these? Check out my Haiku Miscellany and Coffee Haiku books.

If Video killed the Radio Star, what is killing the mall?

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Mon, 04/07/2014 - 19:40

I sometimes think our generation both created and now is destroying the shopping mall. I mean, I know they pre-date GenX, but check this quote:

“Teen retail stores are down a full 31 percent according to Bloomberg. Unless teenagers now feel a collective urge to put down their smart phones and do something as heavily nostalgic as shopping in a mall — which, by the way, is intensely 1985 — it might be irreversible.”

The rest of Hepburn’s Is this the Death of Retail? has good points… but I keep coming back to the way Regan’s America convinced a generation to “hang out at the mall” — it was intense, focused, consumer behavior and exactly what “the economy” needed.

I completely blame that mid-80s era for my obsession with tech, gadgets, consumer culture, and general accumulation of goods. The Boomers were at the forefront but we were caught in the wake, buying music, movies, overpriced designer denim, and whatever it took to look like our favourite pop stars.

Then cries started about the middle class dying — wages weren’t increasing in line with the cost of living so we were buying less. But I think it started before then. I think all that STUFF became overwhelming. We were stuck in houses full of things we had nowhere to put. We all felt trapped and spent the last part of the 20th century obsessing over simplifying, downsizing, and focusing on our spiritual and emotional well being. There was a shift from tourism to travel — people wanted experiences rather than souvenirs.

And in the middle of it all there was terrorism that made people want to stay indoors, a financial meltdown that disposed with many households’ disposable income, and the internet that gave everyone the means to do things from their living room that used to be done at the mall. The battle cry of, “customers want convenience” launched thousands of online marketplaces selling everything that could be shipped from warehouse to doorstep, cutting prices by cutting out the sales floor.

And who is doing most of the shopping online? People my age and just slightly younger. The latter part of GenX who shopped as a leisure activity in the 80s, making the Mall into a destination, is now shopping online.

We’ve watched chain after chain fall as consumers turn to online purchasing — using the storefront to kick the tires then letting someone else carry the packages to their door. I think malls can still survive, with a greater emphasis on service and variety, but the margins are already razor thin and only truly flexible and remarkable retail outlets are going to make the next cut. The dinosaurs will become extinct as they fail to adapt.




To My Body

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Fri, 04/04/2014 - 02:46

to my body, that works so hard to lift, contain
and transport all that makes me
every thought and emotion that lives inside this flesh and
there is a lot of flesh
bones, sinew, ligaments, and untoned muscle
but it holds true.

a toast, in thanks, for being there through thick and thin
mostly thick
and even when aching and broken and damaged
still holding me tight.

an apology for playing favourites
a bad habit I admit but
I never was too fond of my Hobbity toes
or rough elbows that never fail to get in my way

I don’t always pay attention to where you are
but you remind me
with bruises and scrapes
and that one shattered ankle
now mended by medicine, science and time.

I thank you for the curves
and even the rolls
and the cellulite that some clever marketer willed into existence
all proof that famine and ill health
have yet to find me.

if middle is an age, I am there now
and parts of you have begun to decay
still guided by shorter lifespans of my ancestors
but I have chosen the extended warranty
through the pharmacy
and that seems to be agreeing with you.

so if I grumble offhandedly, forgive me
I am truly thankful for the years of unquestioned service
and while I do sometimes consider
subtle adjustments
you are my body, and I will never trade you in for a new model.

If the player doesn’t work in your browser, download: To My Body

Photo, © Shawn DeWolfe. Thank you to hubby for taking the photo that accompanies this piece. It was edited only to adjust the colour to compensate for the lack of natural light and cropped to focus on the subject.

April is Poetry Month

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Tue, 04/01/2014 - 19:35

Poetry, like art, tends to be extremely personal. Either you like it or you don’t — and sometimes there’s no way to explain what it is that you like or dislike and even if it has aspects or characteristics that you enjoy the subject may take it out of the running — or the reverse may be true!

For me, a poem should do 5 things:

  1. It should be accessible — if I have to define most of the words (with the exception of nonsense poetry), I will lose interest.
  2. It should have a rhythm — not necessarily iambic pentameter but a flow that I can feel when it is read aloud.
  3. It should suggest or project an image — I am a big fan of descriptive poetry; I don’t believe it always has to mean or represent something else.
  4. It should provoke an emotion — ideally something strong like lust, fear, revulsion, or joy but even the smaller players are welcome.
  5. I should be brief —  it need not be as small as haiku, but nor should it ramble on for pages.

Some of my favourite poems, in no particular order, include:

I intend to both read and write some poetry this month and encourage you, my friends and readers to do the same.


The Perils of Disorganization

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Fri, 03/28/2014 - 23:54

There are a few things I am not very good at — scratch that; there are a few tasks I suck at. today I hit an intersection of some of those things and it caused me anxiety, stress, frustration, and a lot of self-directed anger that all ended up spilling over and making both my day and Shawn’s day unpleasant.

Filing papers, tracking financial things, and dealing with government agencies are all things I actively avoid at all turns. Today I couldn’t put off any longer what I had been delaying but it meant I had to do all these things I hate (because I suck at them) one after the other.

First, I had to find a bunch of statements among a stack of unsorted statements, bills, receipts, and other paperwork, so I spent a chunk of time sorting. Then I had to figure out how much GST one of the companies had collected and paid in the last year and the first quarter of this year which meant some spreadsheet entry. Then I had to file online with the Canada Revenue Agency. Shudder.

It was frustrating but going OK until I was done the online filing when I realized I had posted financials from one company under another company’s number. When I tried to fix it, I was shunted through a digital maze and eventually offered a “service not available” notice.

I took it as a sign from the universe to walk away from the computer and we went for lunch.

I still have to finish filing and I still have to sort out the mess with the CRA. Lunch made things temporarily better, but I feel like a heel. I tell myself time and again, it is ridiculously short-sighted to put off filing. Every time this happens, I vow to stop the behavior.

Yes, I know “if you do a little bit every day — or if you do it as soon as you get the mail — it won’t seem so tedious and overwhelming” but I’m sure you’ll agree that knowing the right way to do something is not the same as doing things the right way.

So, this weekend, I will file. After that, I will try — yet again — to stay on top of the pile but I would much prefer to be able to hire someone to do it for me.

Cover Conundrum

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sat, 03/22/2014 - 23:36

In my last post, I gave you a peek of the cover I’d designed for SmoothieJune: reviews, recipes, and reflections on a month of smoothies. Even though I like it overall, I’m not completely sold on it as a final design.

I had a peek at my competition — bestselling smoothie books — and there’s two dominant colors among the bestsellers: spring greens and deep pink hues. The good news is there is not a single smiling face to be seen, so my general design is sound.

The question is, do I pick one of my pink smoothies and try to blend in (pardon the pun!) or tweak my current cover and stand out? I certainly had a number of bright smoothies that I’ve already photographed but I wonder if I need to make a fresh one and pose it specifically for the cover? I made a nice blueberry-green smoothie the other day and took some photos out in the sun; I may see if one of those will work better than the muted Chai Smoothie photo I’d chosen already.

I also read a great article on designing covers — Shawn and I already knew the tips listed in The Five Secrets to a Killer Ebook Cover, but Karen Eckstein presents them well at the Future of Ink. I also found an article by Joanna Penn at The Creative Penn about changing her cover after she’d already published her book. I’ve always been hesitant about doing that because of all the marketing and branding that one has to tie into things — but for her, it had a positive impact on sales, so it’s worth noting that I don’t have to stick with the cover I design if it turns out not to be working. Check out Book Marketing: On Changing Book Covers to see her justification for the change and the process she went through. It’s worth reading the comments on this one too.

I found both articles as I slid down the rabbit hole of the Digital Publishing group on Google+. I was hoping to find feedback on how best to manage the images inside my book but got distracted by the many other useful articles and discussions.

I’m still a few of weeks out from my ideal publication date, and maybe a week to make a decision on the cover so I can send out my early-reader copies.


Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Thu, 03/20/2014 - 03:55

So following my rabbit dream post, and on the heels of two friends asking me about smoothies, I decided to gather all my smoothiejune posts, tidy them up, and add some new content — information as well as new recipes.

I wrote for most of Sunday, some of Monday and wrapped it up last night — about 12,000 words total. I also spent time Monday designing the cover. I still have to manage all the photos (resize them to be Kindle-friendly), get the manuscript edited (it’s in the hands of my editor already!), and follow the other steps as outlined in Those DeWolfes’ “5 Things You Must do Before Publishing Your eBook” — the toughest of those is going to be generating some buzz among potential audiences.

However, it feels really good to have just pushed through and done something that has been in my head and on my to-do list for about a year — I had originally planned to release the book a year after my smoothiejune experiment.

Now that has led to a cascade of other thoughts, ideas, and plans. One of my other plans will be to create an ebook version of Shawn’s “Impress the World Before 11 AM” brunch cookbook. It really deserves wider distribution than the pricey print-on-demand versions he originally created at Lulu (which are still available, but I think I will make the new one a revised edition and put it on both Smashwords and Kindle). I’m aiming to get that done before I go back to work next week (on a whim, I took an extra four days vacation since I felt productive).

In addition to that, I have work to do for our car site, Where Can I Buy A Car Online (long name, useful site!) — I’ve been helping to edit and schedule content plus, I have to file the tax paperwork (not something I’m looking forward to).

When all that is done, I can get on to the next book. But which one? Eeenie… meenie… miney… mo….

Dreaming of Rabbits

Cheryl's Flotsam & Jetsam - Sun, 03/16/2014 - 19:37

For the past week, I’ve had several dreams involving rabbits. I try not to put much thought into dreams but with the same imagery showing up repeatedly, it’s hard not to at least consider whether my subconscious is telling me something.

In one, we had gone to a shelter to adopt a dog but were talked into taking home a large black rabbit. After I had fed it some lettuce, I returned to find it had shredded the lettuce and was wearing it like scalloped armor. When I brushed the lettuce armor off, the rabbit had changed from black to white.

In another, I had discovered a rabbit warren in the front bed and was trying to gather up all the little rabbits but they kept jumping out of the basket and returning to the warren every time I turned around. These rabbits were all light brown.

A third found me searching for cages so that I could adopt out the baby rabbits I’d found plus the baby-baby bunnies — tiny things with big anime eyes. I was putting two rabbits in each cage but there were many more rabbits than cages so I was looking for alternatives. Bunnies ranged from brown to white to spotted or speckled.

When I look up dream interpretation and rabbits, most of the standard interpretations are consistent: general good luck, overcoming obstacles, and fast thinking. Other interpretations speak to fear, change, and prosperity. Yet more interpretations, most of which rely on mythologies and legends, link rabbits to rebirth, self-sacrifice, persecution, fertility, and sexuality. In short, rabbits can indicate damned near anything.

Most interpretations ask the dreamer to consider the colour of the rabbit with white normally indicating good luck or positive outcomes and black the opposite.

I also know that from Alice in Wonderland to Donnie Darko, rabbits tend to act as dream guides, but these particular rabbits weren’t giving me any direction.

Sooooooo, what gives, brain?

If I look to what I think about before I drift off to sleep, lately it has mostly been a lot of writing ideas — story fragments and article or blog post subjects — and just general thoughts about how to better track, schedule, and complete all the many writing ideas and goals I have.

Even though the meaning here still seems inconclusive, I am choosing to interpret the rabbits in a positive light. The fact that there were multiple rabbits in two of the dreams and that in the first the rabbit changed from black to white — negative to positive — I believe that my subconscious is telling me I will be successful in my writing and prosper, assuming I can find enough cages (i.e. get it written).

Which means I should stop thinking about it and go get it done.