28 Jun

Links for a Sunday Morning

work hard

A World Without Work – The Atlantic (long read)

For centuries, experts have predicted that machines would make workers obsolete. That moment may finally be arriving. Could that be a good thing?

Is Obesity a Choice – Dr. Spencer Blog

Do you believe that obesity is due to laziness and a lack of will power? Do you think the solution is simply choosing to eat less and move more? Consider this story. . .

Many Ask, Why Not Call Church Shooting Terrorism? – NY Times

“If the same violence is committed by a white supremacist or apartheid sympathizer and is not a Muslim, we start to look for excuses — he might be insane, maybe he was pushed too hard.”

What’s behind Canada’s newfound lust for luxury? – Maclean’s

As for Canadians, in particular, our appreciation for the finer things in life has risen alongside the country’s booming housing market, which has made homeowners feel a whole lot richer than our biweekly paycheques would suggest.

We Tried On Victoria’s Secret Bathing Suits And This Is What Happened – Buzzfeed

“This is like the pose you make when you’re trying to act natural around your crush, so you decide to wrap your arms around your body so it looks like a straitjacket. That is to say, “natural” poses do not look natural on a lot of people.”

The Harry Potter Personality Test – The Atlantic

Researchers found that, for the most part, people’s personality traits tended to mirror the stereotypes of each house: Ravenclaws scored highest on “need for cognition.” Slytherins scored highest . . . narcissism, psychopathy, and Machiavellianism; Hufflepuffs, true to form, were the most agreeable.

This is Where Body fat Ends Up When You Lose Weight – Science Alert

Our calculations show that the lungs are the primary excretory organ for fat.

Medicare has a mental-illness gap. It’s time to close it – The Globe and Mail

Why are treatable diseases that affect one-and-a-half times more people than cancer still not properly covered by medicare? We’re talking about depression and anxiety, ailments suffered by 80 per cent of the millions of Canadians who have a mental illness.

24 Jun

Grain of Truth Book Review

I was recently sent a copy of Grain of Truth: The Real Case For and Against Wheat and Gluten by Stephen Yafa by the publisher. It’s probably because I love bread, I think gluten is fascinating, I make my own sourdough, and I am skeptical about people touting gluten as being worse for you than poison (or whatever it is those Grain Brain and Wheat Belly folks are claiming).

Grain of Truth

The subtitle is a bit misleading because the book definitely trends to the “for” side of eating wheat and gluten (not that I’m against that), champions the artisan bread movement, and refutes claims made by Grain Brain and Wheat Belly.

Yafa argues a good case, but the points he makes are probably just as speculative as those books that he is refuting. So if you’re not celiac and don’t have non-celiac gluten sensitivity (NCGS) then this book will make you feel better about passing on gluten-free pasta in favour of the stuff that actually tastes good.

The author clearly did extensive research visiting and talking with producers at every level from farm to milling to processing, including enormous industrial bakers and small scale artisan bakers and stone millers.

He explains that industrial bread baking has a fermentation time of about 4 hours from flour to package which, if you’ve ever made bread from scratch, you’ll know is extremely short. Nature would have dough ferment in 2 or more days and it is this natural fermentation process, better known as sourdough, that Yafa speculates is the key to better digestion of wheat.

Home bakers and artisan bread makers tend to use naturally fermented dough (sourdough) and a longer slower fermentation time compared to industrial bread bakers. Yafa argues that this long process encourages lactic fermentation, which cuts through the large gluten molecules that are difficult to digest and breaks them down into smaller parts that are more digestible. Additionally, the probiotics that are produced as a result of long fermentation are readily absorbed by and beneficial for the body.

All in all, the book was a very interesting read. I was fascinated (in a really geeky way) about the details he discussed about the growth patterns of different type of wheat and the history of the production of flour. And of course I love that he’s championing home baking, especially with sourdough.

I think the book is lacking a little on the science side but overall it was an easy and interesting read, especially for people who like their cake and want to eat it too.

Grain of Truth by Stephen Yafa on Amazon

11 Jun

6 Things to do in Stratford Ontario

Matt and I recently visited Stratford Ontario for a weekend getaway. It’s close by (only a few hours drive from Windsor, and there’s even a direct bus from Detroit and Toronto), Matt has never been, and we thought it would be a cool place to see.

We spent 2 nights in Stratford at the Forest Motel and were able to keep ourselves relatively busy all weekend with theatre and eating and shopping and swans and yoga and boating and chocolate.

If you’re interested in taking a trip and are not exactly sure how to keep yourself occupied, here’s my recommendation for 6 things to do in Stratford Ontario:

See a Play

Kind of obvious. In fact, that’s probably why you’re planning a visit there in the first place.
And if you’re going to see one, why not see two? The Stratford Festival has a packed schedule of plays and musicals in the summer, up to 5 a day, so there is a lot to choose from.Hamlet - Stratford

Matt and I saw Hamlet. Not to be confused with Macbeth which, when we purchased our tickets, is precisely what we did. Imagine our surprise when there were no witches.

I’ve been to the Festival Theatre a few times and never had a bad seat, including that one time I was sitting in the nosebleeds and literally got a nosebleed (but that’s a story for another time). So you can still have an enjoyable experience in the cheap seats.

(Bonus: If you’re under the age of 30 you can score tickets for $15-$35 on the Play On Weekends.) 

This time, however, we splurged on front row tickets which were so close to the action that I was afraid of distracting the actors by putting on a sweater when I got chilly.

Make Chocolate

The candy-making workshop at Chocolate Barr’s was our favourite part of the weekend. Derek, the head candy-maker, taught us how to properly temper chocolate by hand, how not to burn chocolate (which, as I learned, I do all the time), how to make chocolate bark, and how to make truffles.

We came home with everything we made, which was a lot, and consumed it way too quickly to be socially acceptable.

Chocolate Making at Chocolate Barr's

Our truffle making skills were weak and the resulting truffles hideous in comparison to the stuff sold at Chocolate Barr’s, though we could spin it as “rustic, hand-dipped, and artisanal” and the hipsters would love it. They were delicious regardless.

Derek gave us lots of samples of the Chocolate Barr’s products, answered my million and a half questions about his shop, and only made fun of us a handful of times in the process.

Highly recommended.

Call or e-mail the shop in advance to organize a time. It’s $75 per person and totally worth it.


Stratford Avon River Walk

Stratford is a beautiful place to stroll, particularly along the Avon River. I say stroll because the pace is leisurely: partly to accommodate the abundant waterfowl, partly to observe the beauty, and partly because of the geriatric nature of the patrons.

The river stroll is really quite nice so it’s no wonder it is so popular with tourists and locals.

If you walk far enough west along the river, away from the downtown and the theatres you’ll find the Avondale Cemetery which has some prominent local individuals going back to the late 1800s. You can even take a self-guided heritage walking tour of the cemetery. Or should I say strolling tour?

 Afternoon Tea

In Stratford eating is an event in itself. The restaurants definitely cater to the theatre crowd and offer really high calibre meals but I didn’t find the price points totally out of reach. We dined at Mercer Hall, Pazzo Taverna, and Canadian Grub and I didn’t have a meal that I disliked. (Tip: it’s a good idea to make reservations for dinner pretty much everywhere, especially on Saturdays)

My favourite meal was at The Parlour Inn where we had afternoon tea with an abundance of sandwiches and scones and spreads and pastries. But of course I’d say this, being the Anglophile that I am.

Afternoon Tea Stratford

The Parlour Inn has afternoon tea service on Sundays from 1-4pm for the very reasonable price of $22 per person. They used to have it posted on their website but don’t appear to list it any more. Either way, you need to call ahead to book a reservation.

Take a Yoga Class

Of course I’d say this. I actually managed to convince Matt to take a yoga class with me while we were in Stratford. We took a Hot Yang/Yin class which was exactly what my body needed though Matt is not a fan of the slow pace of Yin practices.

Downtown Stratford has two studios, Moksha Yoga Stratford, where we took a class, and Yoga Collective.

Drop in rates are $21 and $18 respectively.


The Forest Motel, where we stayed, was on a tiny lake and they had canoes and paddle boats available to use for free to people staying at the hotel so Matt and I took advantage.

You can also rent canoes, kayaks, and paddleboats right on the Avon River in the middle of town at Avon Boat Rentals for $15-$23 per hour depending on the type of vessel. If you don’t want to do the paddling yourself, they offer river cruises for the reasonable price of $7.50.


23 May

Links for a Sunday Morning

Debunking the Myth of the Job-Stealing Immigrant – NY Times

Immigrants increase the size of the overall population, which means they increase the size of the economy. Logically, if immigrants were “stealing” jobs, so would every young person leaving school and entering the job market; countries should become poorer as they get larger. In reality, of course, the opposite happens.

The Economics of Tidying Up – The Atlantic

Status quo bias means that most of your stuff stays because you can’t think of a good reason to get rid of it. Kondo turns things around. For her, the status quo is that every item you own will be thrown away unless you can think of a compelling reason why it should stay.

This Is What Sweden’s Most Statistically Sought-After Home Looks Like – Slate

Hemnet determined an average value for measurable features such as size, price, number of rooms, bathrooms, and floors. Then they analyzed images of the most clicked-on properties over a six-week period to determine preferences for wall colors, floor types, and kitchen countertop materials.

No, it’s not you: why ‘wellness’ isn’t the answer to overwork – The Conversation

Many of us simply work too much to really be well. Nothing can alleviate the stress of overwork except working less.

How sleep plays a role in depression (and vice versa) – Globe and Mail

Researchers who have followed people with insomnia over months and years have found that (non-depressed) people who have insomnia are more likely than those without insomnia to subsequently develop major depression.

Yoga’s Surprising Brain Benefit May Erase the Effects of Chronic Pain – GOOD

While chronic pain—particularly the sort linked to depression—can actively reduce a person’s amount of grey matter, practicing yoga has the opposite effect on the brain, by prompting grey matter growth in the internal cerebral cortex.

Mounting Evidence of Advantages for Children of Working Mothers – NY Times

A 2010 meta-analysis of 69 studies over 50 years found that in general, children whose mothers worked when they were young had no major learning, behavior or social problems, and tended to be high achievers in school and have less depression and anxiety.

Meditation and yoga may ease diseases that cause gut pain – Washington Post

Stress-relieving meditation can suppress the activities of genes that help cause inflammation and other immune system problems in people with IBS or IBD, the study stated.

10 May

Links for a Sunday Morning


What Does ‘Middle Class’ Even Mean? – The Atlantic

According to a recent survey from Gallup, about 51 percent of Americans consider themselves middle or upper-middle class, while 48 percent consider themselves working or lower class. That’s the highest share to identify themselves as being on the lower rungs of the socioeconomic ladder since Gallup began gathering such data in 2000.

Smaller Portions Taste Better and are More Satisfying – Big Think

Consumers compensate for small portions by attending more to the sensory properties of the food, altering their eating behavior, and slowing their rate of eating, which has the effect of increasing satiation, hence lessening their desire for more afterwards.

Why diets don’t actually work – Washington Post

After you diet, so many biological changes happen in your body that it becomes practically impossible to keep the weight off. It’s not about someone’s self-control or strength of will.

How Music Evolves – The Economist

There are three periods of rapid change. The first is from 1963 to 1964—the period of the British Invasion. The second is in the early 1980s. The third is around 1991. These revolutions do all correspond with times musical critics would have said change was happening (classic rock, new wave, and hip-hop respectively).

How allowing that early sip of alcohol can influence a child’s mind and future – Globe and Mail

Parental influence only goes so far. And in cultures where “getting wasted” is synonymous with having fun, early tastes of alcohol may not be harmless, researchers say.

30% of People with a ‘Healthy’ BMI Are Actually Obese – Obesity Panacea

Physicians could start paying less attention to weight or adiposity altogether, and evaluate more relevant markers of a patient’s health, including metabolic factors, psychological status, mobility, etc.

06 May

How to Buy Greek Ferry Tickets

Around this time of year when everyone is organizing their summer vacations, I often get e-mails from people reading  my blog for tips on planning a trip. I get a lot of questions, especially about Tobermory and Crete and Norway. I am by no means an expert but I do a LOT of research for every vacation that I plan so I do end up with a wealth of knowledge on certain destinations.

The most recent question I received was from Jacquelynn about travelling the Greek Islands:

Hi Samantha. I came across your blog and I enjoyed it very much. I’m definitely going to try and accomplish your top 5 list. I was wondering if you knew a site or the easiest way to island hop. I’m going to GREECE come this August. I’ll be visiting Crete first then Santorini, and lastly Milos. I was wondering if you knew how much ferries cost and if you have any advice on where to buy tickets. Thank you so much for your time.

Chania Crete (50)

Hi Jacquelynn

First of all, I haven’t been to Milos and know nothing about it. I HAVE been to Crete and Santorini and loved them both though, I must say, Crete has a very special place in my heart. Good choice.

Thankfully, I keep a repository of years worth of plans, websites, travel times, prices, and itineraries handy to revert back to at times like these.

Back in 2012 we paid 48.60 euro for a 2-hour Seajets ferry from Heraklion, Crete to Athinios Port, Thira (Santorini). Prices these days for that trip are closer to 60 euro.

The best website for helping you plan your island hopping is www.gtp.gr. It includes ferry times for all the major lines like Seajets (mentioned above), Hellenic Seaways, and ANEK Lines so you can compare what works best for you schedule.

Note that not all ferry trips between two destinations take the same amount of time. Some ferries are highspeed while others are not. And some routes might include stops at other islands before your destination. Be sure to compare travel time as well as departure time.

The official departure times for summer aren’t posted on gtp.gr until May or even June for some lines, but you won’t have trouble booking a ticket even a couple of days in advance for most ferries.

You can buy the tickets online for most ferry lines or if you want to buy them last minute, they are available from certain travel agencies in major cities. Check out the line’s website for info on the agencies that sell tickets.

I hope that helps!

And if you’re looking for more information on places to visit and things to do in Greece, check out my other posts:

Santorini Travel Tips

Top Things to do in Loutro Crete

Travelling to Heraklion Crete

Top 5 Things to Do in Chania Crete

Safe travels!

03 May

Links for a Sunday Morning


The Canada 150 Logo – Maclean’s

Designers consulted by the Ottawa Citizen offered varying takes on [the] design, one calling it “student work,” another saying it “meets the minimum criteria of a usable logo.”

Wearing a Suit Makes People Think Differently – The Atlantic

Formalwear elicits feelings of power, which change some mental processes.


The Board of Governors have voted on and unanimously approved the $90,000 in penalties be imposed on the Halifax team, coaches, and players for their actions in not playing the game.

How Wealth in Childhood Shapes Personality Later in Life – The Atlantic

The dynamics of inter-class marriages reveal that money predictably influences the way one goes on to think about with work, emotions, and parenting.

For Teenagers, Potassium May Matter More Than Salt – NY Times

The kids who consumed the most potassium had much lower blood pressures by the end of adolescence. What we need to focus on is increasing potassium intake rather than focusing on restricting sodium intake.

Recipe Writers Tell Us How to Spot Reliable Recipes on the Internet – The Kitchn

An experienced recipe writer will pay close attention to the words they choose in the instructions, to make sure they are clear and specific, and provide enough explanation to help even novice cooks.

26 Apr

Links for a Sunday Morning

Peace Quote

Growing Generational Divisions are a Worrying Millenial Shift – The Globe and Mail

Economists say that those who stumble when they’re young have a steep scramble to catch up, decreasing the social mobility that keeps economies and countries healthy. When class lines calcify, experts contend, society suffers.

Why Asking for Advice Makes People Seem Smart – The Atlantic

Asking for advice only made the participants seem smarter when they asked about something the mentor was a self-identified expert in. When the mentors were asked to weigh in on topics they had no knowledge of, the advice seeker was seen as less competent.

The Shame Game – From the Corners of the Curve

It matters because health isn’t always physical, mental health is just as important and the years of dieting and punishment on myself caused my damage than good.

This meditation teacher has an amazing explanation — and solution — for why so many of us can’t escape the voice in our heads – Business Insider

A commute is a trip where you’re trying to get somewhere, but you don’t really enjoy the journey. You’re not really present for the journey — the journey is kind of garbage time to get you to something that’s meaningful.

Mixed Signals: Why People Misunderstand Each Other – The Atlantic

Chances are how you look when you are slightly frustrated isn’t all that different from how you look when you are a little concerned, confused, disappointed, or nervous. Your ‘I’m kind of hurt by what you just said’ face probably looks an awful lot like your ‘I’m not at all hurt by what you just said’ face. And the majority of times that you’ve said to yourself, ‘I made my intentions clear,’ or ‘He knows what I meant,’ you didn’t and he doesn’t.


24 Apr

Mindfulness is effective for treating depression

Worrying quote

If you’ve never tried a mindfulness practice then you should start.

I try to meditate as often as I can remember because I know it benefits me, even though it can sometimes feel like I’m sitting around and doing nothing.
If I don’t get around to meditating in the traditional sense (seated, in silence, with my eyes closed) then I turn my actions into a meditative practice.


Yoga is an obvious one. Paying attention to my body in space– how it moves, how it feels, how it changes. I do it when I lift weights too.

Sometimes I create a mindfulness practice when I walk the dog. Noticing the temperature of the air, the sounds I’m hearing, and noticing my own state. Am I trying to rush through the walk? Am I thinking about other things? Am I stressed or anxious?

I even work on mindfulness in the shower where, left to my own devices, I would be so scatterbrained that I’d forget whether I shampoo’d and do it twice.

It’s nothing much. It doesn’t seem like it requires a lot of effort but when you actually stop and try pay attention to the present, to how your mind bounces around or fixates itself on something, or to what your body is experiencing it can be a challenge to remain focused. It takes practice.

The benefits of mindfulness are numerous and as more studies come out touting the health benefits of staying present, it’s becoming a no brainer, like flossing your teeth.

For example, a recent study on mindfulness therapy and depression “established that mindfulness-based therapy is equally as good as drugs, which could offer a new option for those who do not want to be on medication for years.”

“It teaches people to recognise that negative thoughts and feelings will return, but that they can disengage from them. Rather than worrying constantly about them, people can become aware of them, understand them and accept them, and avoid being dragged down into a spiral leading back to depression.”

Want to try it?

Here’s a very simple exercise you can try anywhere at any time:

Focus on your breath for one minute.

That’s it.

Breathe in and out slowly. Your mind will drift and, when it does, notice your thoughts then return to your breath.

19 Apr

Links for a Sunday Morning

THEN & NOW: Watch Detroit change before your very eyes – Detroit Free Press

Amazing Detroit then and now pictures.

A realistic look at monogamy, affairs and the growth of monogamishness – Globe and Mail

The painful truth about long-lasting committed relationships: They offer security and familiarity. Which are precisely the opposite forces that drive passion – novelty, risk and the unknown. And yet we continue to expect both from one mere mortal, our spouse.

Making time for kids? Study says quality trumps quantity. – Washington Post

It appears the sheer amount of time parents spend with their kids between the ages of 3 and 11 has virtually no relationship to how children turn out, and a minimal effect on adolescents, according to the first large-scale longitudinal study of parent time to be published in April in the Journal of Marriage and Family. The finding includes children’s academic achievement, behavior and emotional well-being.

Tough, Cheap, and Real. Detroit is Cool Again – National Geographic

“Detroit offers space and time. Here there’s maybe a chance for young people to build a middle class.”

The Right Dose of Exercise for a Longer Life – NY Times

The sweet spot for exercise benefits came among those who tripled the recommended level of exercise, working out moderately, mostly by walking, for 450 minutes per week, or a little more than an hour per day. Those people were 39 percent less likely to die prematurely than people who never exercised.

Indifference is a power – Aeon

Any misfortune ‘that lies outside the sphere of choice’ should be considered an opportunity to strengthen our resolve, not an excuse to weaken it.This is one of the truly great mind-hacks ever devised, this willingness to convert adversity to opportunity.