If you love to read, and know a few like-minded friends and family members, then starting a book club could be right up your alley. A book club is a great way to see your friends and make new ones, exercise your brain and share your thoughts with others—but that's just the beginning. Here are a few simple ways you can start your very own book club.
Get the word out. Is anyone else in your network interested? The first step to starting your book club is to ensure you have enough people interested in joining your group. You can put a call out on social media or ask your coworkers to join. Better yet, reach out to your community via posters (perhaps in the local library) and flyers to get a sense of interest.
You don't need too many people to start your book club—three to four people should do it—just enough to engage in a fun discussion about the book du jour.
Sort out basic logistics. Make it fun and for everyone. Once you get a better sense of who's interested and numbers, you can start planning. Ask yourself questiosn like, 'How often do we meet?' or 'Will we meet at my house, a neutral place, or do we rotate through the homes of various members?' Location plays an important factor in your overall success because you want a space that allows for free discussion and, not to mention, convenience. The last thing you want is for someone to bow out because it's too far for them.
Start an email chain, or if you're on a particular social media platform, invite everyone to join a group—and while you're at it, give your book club a fun name! This will help you all stay updated, coordinated and informed. You can post details about the book you're discussing, add reminders about upcoming meetings, locations and any other information that might be of importance. Social media is a simple, yet effective way of keeping everyone in the loop.
What will you read? Pick books that appeal to the majority, or go for something new and exciting. To get started, ask members to post titles by some of their favourite authors on the group's page or email chain. This will help determine common ground, or draw your attention to titles you might not have heard of before. Once you pick a book, give the group notice and set a date for your first meeting. Make sure you offer enough time for members to finish reading the book.
You can even plan a few books in advance. If you have a theme, you can choose books from a certain category or by a certain author. Providing a list ahead of time will help members be more prepared and anticipate what's to come.
Who leads the book club meeting? As the person who started the book club, you can be the default leader, or you can, once again, rotate through members. It's easiest to have the person who hosts also lead, but ultimately it's something you as a group can decide. The discussion leader should come up with question related to characters, themes, plot twists and anything that stood out in the book. Plan for about an hour or two of questions—if you're a chatty group, you won't need more than 10 (including extras).
Don't forget the frills and trimmings. No meeting is complete without treats and snacks. Here's a chance for themed potlucks (where everyone contributes one dish from a pre-planned list), or maybe set up a rule where the host provides simple snacks and treats if the meeting is taking place in their home. This can change as you rotate through the group.
Finally... some ground rules. Remember: This is supposed to be fun! Be respectful of all members and their opinions. It's important to have open discussions—and sometimes that can also include heated arguements—about everything from the theme and plot to the characters and author. Make sure everyone has a chance to speak, share their thoughts and explore their ideas. Leaders should pay attention to the time to ensure everyone stays on schedule.
Of course you love your pet—but the bills from the vet are another matter. Follow these tips on covering the costs, and on when it might be time to let go.
My late dwarf rabbit Molly was known as the Two-Thousand-Dollar Bunny among my friends. In fact, medical bills for this fluffball—adopted for just 20 bucks—were closer to $3,000 by the end of her life, 11 months after I brought her home.
Molly had Snuffles—not as cute as it sounds. Snuffles, or pasteurellosis, involves sneezing, wheezing, runny eyes and, in my bun’s case, an out-of-control abscess needing daily draining and two rounds of ultimately unsuccessful surgery.
I was a student at the time, and when my vet was talking options and price tags, I can't say every one of the tears I shed was for Molly. Later, as the bills piled up, my then-boyfriend demanded to know exactly where I'd draw the line. I couldn't say. He saw an inversely proportional relationship between the amount I'd spent on a rabbit and my suitability as a life partner. We'd already split up by the time Molly passed away.
Alda Loughlin, practice manager of the Animal Clinic in Toronto, sees many clients struggle with emotionally charged financial decisions about treatment. Here she shares insights into handling high-cost medical care for pets.
People usually underestimate veterinary costs when they're planning to become pet owners. Loughlin relates that her clinic asks prospective animal adoptees how much they expect medical care will cost in the first year.
"How they answer dictates how we'll go forward with the application," she says. "People often think about $500 for a new cat or dog, but you may be looking—without medical problems—at $900 to $1,100, for neutering, exams, vaccinations and microchipping."
If those figures shock you, best get your fix of kitten cuteness on YouTube.
One way of being prepared for big bills is taking out pet insurance; at Loughlin's practice, 30 per cent of clients have policies. While Loughlin supports this precaution, she admits hearing regular complaints about the hoops claimants jump through for reimbursements.
"If people don’t want pet insurance, I suggest they take $30 a month and put it away, or even pay it forward to their vet," she says. Loughlin stashes $100 a month between August and April for her own poodle's annual dental cleaning. "It's good to have a cushion," she says.
Negotiate a payment plan
If you're facing a big bill and you're not covered, your vet may let you pay in installments. "Mention that a treatment is price-sensitive," suggests Loughlin.
Some charitable organizations will help pet owners who are retired, on disability benefits or on a fixed low income and faced with expensive veterinary procedures. In Ontario, pet owners may be eligible for assistance from the Companion Animal Wellness Foundation (requests go through the Veterinary Emergency Hospital in Toronto) or the Farley Foundation, says Loughlin. Ask your vet about similar foundations in your home province.
Do your research
The price tags for treatments can vary quite dramatically from clinic to clinic, so it's OK to shop around, advises Loughlin -- it's a question of balancing out quality and cost. "Call a couple of clinics, ask questions, and be very candid about your pet's condition," she says. She also advises asking exactly what's covered in each quote: is it just the surgery or also the pre-op bloodwork, post-op meds and follow-up visit?
And don't just let cost be the deciding factor. Checking websites with scores and client reviews of local practices or asking your network for recommendations gives you a sense of the level of care you can expect from an unfamiliar vet.
Draw your line
While I couldn't draw a line for my rabbit Molly's medical care, I admit I sometimes felt frustrated that such sophisticated and expensive options even existed as I fell deeper into the red. And I've sometimes wondered if all the interventions were even fair to her.
I polled my friends recently on where they'd draw the line for their own pets. Most said there was no line, but one had an important insight to share, based on her experience paying a fortune to prolong the life of a suffering cat.
"I've regretted the course of treatment we gave my cat who had kidney failure, for more than a decade, but that taught me a lesson," she says. "Find a vet you trust -- one who knows you and your pet well. Just because you can do another test or try another treatment doesn't necessarily mean you should."
Summer grilling doesn't just brings out the best get-togethers, but also the best in barbecued steaks. Don't throw your t-bones and sirloins into the grill just yet. Our easy-to-follow recipes for marinades for steak will give your meat a hearty flavour-boost that'll please all meat-lovers in your family.
The best way to add some flavour to your steaks is by whipping together some great marinades for steak and letting the meat soak up the amazing flavours. If you love exotic spices, try bathing your steak in a Five-Spice Marinade, which is flavour-packed with Chinese five-spice powder. Or, mix together cumin, paprika, garlic and lemon juice for a hot and zesty Moroccan Marinade.
Want something simple and classic? A quick Salt and Pepper Steak Rub is a perfect addition to any barbecue.
You can also try brushing your steaks on the grill with some Sweet Smoky Tomato Basting Sauce, a delicious mix of tomatoes, apple cider and chipotle peppers in adobo sauce.
Now get out and get grilling with some of these delicious marinades for steak.
10 tasty marinades for steak:
1.Salt and Pepper Steak Rub The classic combination of black pepper and coriander seeds is delicious on thick, juicy steaks, such as T-bones, sirloins or strip loins.
2.Sweet Smoky Tomato Basting Sauce This sauce mellows out considerably when brushed over meat on the grill, but it also packs a punch of flavour when served as a side sauce at the table. For doubly delicious results, use it to baste while grilling and serve extra sauce at the table.
3.Moroccan Marinade Got a pantry of spices? Stir together a few tablespoons of cumin and paprika with cinnamon, garlic and lemon juice for a flavour-filled marinade, perfect for grilling meat and poultry.
4. Universal Spice Rub Keep this simple all-purpose rub on hand for a last-minute flavour boost. You can rub it onto steak, ribs, brisket, chicken, fish or seafood before putting them on the barbecue.
5. Chili Orange Marinadeâ€¨ Love the taste of orange? Try whipping together orange juice, orange rind, tomato paste and chili powder for a flavour-packed marinade, perfect for grilling steaks or chicken.
6. Lemon Pepper Marinadeâ€¨ This zesty mix of lemon rind, lemon juice, garlic and peppercorns makes a delicious marinade for grilling steak and chicken.
7. Five-Spice Marinade Want add a punch of flavour to your steak? Bathe your steaks with a marinade of Chinese five-spice powder, gingerroot, onion, cayenne pepper, soy sauce and orange juice.
8. Cajun Spice Mix Add some spice to your steaks. Mix together some brown sugar, paprika, cumin, dry mustard and hot pepper flakes and lather it onto your sirloins, kabobs and T-bones. 9. Mediterranean Spice Mix If you're interested in adding a milder flavour to your steak, whip together some rosemary, cumin, oregano and cinnamon for a sweet and delicate flavour.
10. Adobo Marinade Love jalapenos? Soak your steaks with this spicy marinade, made of garlic, lime juice, cumin, oregano and a hot jalapeno pepper.
This super soft wrap is the classic accessory you need in your closet for any time of year.
A luxurious wrap for all seasons – the Bayberries Wrap is the quintessential accessory. We chose to design this wrap in our luxurious Eco Alpaca DK yarn made of 100% superfine alpaca for its fluffy and luxurious feel. The large checker pattern is a unique alternative to plain stocking stitch and is reversible for a consistent look on both sides.
This wrap pattern is suitable for beginners, and knitters of all skill levels will enjoy the simple pattern and beautiful yarn. We recommend using stitch markers to indicate each square and make it easier for you to follow the pattern. Knit on 3.75 mm needles with five skeins of yarn, this pattern requires patience, but it is a joy to knit and you will wear the wrap for years to come.
Materials: - 5 Skeins of Americo Eco Alpaca DK (100% Superfine Alpaca) 100g / 262 yards (240 m) - 3.75 mm (US5) needles -Stitch markers (optional) - Yarn needle
Measurements: Approximately 75" (190 cm) long by 15" (38 cm) wide
Gauge: 20 stitches and 26 rows = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
K, k: knit
P, p: purl
RS right side of work – knit side
WS wrong side of work
Using 3.75 mm (US 5) size needles, cast on 129 stitches.
Purl 2 rows.
*Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row: K2, (p25, k25) 2 times, p25, k2
Next Row: K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows)*.
Repeat from * to * 6 more times.
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Next Row (WS): k2, (p25, k25) 2 times, k25, k2
Repeat these two rows 12 more times (26 rows).
Next Row (RS): K2, (k25, p25) 2 times, k25, k2
Knit 2 rows. Cast off in pattern.
Finishing Sew in all loose ends. For best results, block your finished piece. Enjoy!
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.
Heart disease and stroke are one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women—and risk factors, symptoms and even treatment might vary by age. Here's what you need to know.
It was Dec. 13, 2014. I was getting ready to go out for dinner when suddenly everything went wrong. I lost coordination, almost like I was drunk. I went numb, as if the local anesthetic that dentists use had been applied to half of my body. My arm went limp, I could barely walk and, out of the blue, I got a raging migraine. At 31 years old, I was in the midst of a transient ischemic attack, often called a ministroke, but I had no idea.
It wasn't until the next day, when I was feeling only slightly better, that I realized something was really wrong. I didn't want to wait for an appointment with my family doctor, so I called Telehealth Ontario, the provincial service that connects callers to a registered nurse via telephone. In the very back of my mind, I wondered if I'd had a stroke—but I was too young, or so I thought. But when I described my symptoms, it became clear that I wasn't too young. In fact, the nurse who took my call was worried enough to send paramedics to my house. Soon, I was in the back of an ambulance, rushing through Toronto's busy streets on the way to the hospital.
The statistics Luckily, my stroke was mild, and, in July 2015, I underwent surgery to have a patent foramen ovale closure device inserted to close the hole in my heart. But, to this day, I'm still shocked at how little I knew about the risks associated with stroke and heart disease, or just how common they are. As I soon learned, about 1.6 million Canadians—557,000 of them women over the age of 24—report having cardiovascular disease. And, according to a study looking at factors and behaviours affecting cardiovascular health published in 2013 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, fewer than one in 10 adult Canadians were in ideal cardiovascular health from 2003 to 2011, which means 90 percent of us are making choices that are increasing our risk for a cardiovascular event. In fact, heart disease and stroke is one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women, and most of us have at least one risk factor.
It's a club that I didn't particularly want to be a part of, but having joined, I began wondering what other women's experiences had been like.
Unlike me, when Victoria resident Carolyn Thomas started having a range of symptoms— crushing chest pain, nausea, weakness, sweating and a persistent ache down her left arm—on her 58th birthday, she immediately thought it could be a heart attack and went straight to the ER. But when she got there and told the doctor on duty about her symptoms, he said it was just acid reflux. "I remember exactly what he said," she recalls. " 'You're in the right demographic for acid reflux. Go home and call your family doctor for a prescription for antacids.' " Embarrassed and apologetic, she did just that. But her symptoms persisted for two more weeks. She eventually went back to the hospital, and this time, she was told she was suffering from what was actually one of the most serious types of heart attacks—a complete blockage of her left anterior descending artery, which is often referred to as the widow-maker.
Since then, she has recovered, but it's far from full—she had to retire early and continues to see a specialist at her regional pain clinic.
Irmine MacKenzie also went to the hospital immediately. It's been 35 years since the New Waterford, N.S., resident lost the use of her left arm and leg after suffering a stroke caused by carotid artery stenosis, narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain. She was 61 years old and, having just finished eating breakfast with her husband, John, she headed to the kitchen to tackle the dishes. Suddenly, plates started dropping from her hands, shattering as they hit the floor.
After a six-week hospital stay and a three-month stint in a rehabilitation program in Halifax, she eventually learned to walk again. Her ability to manage quite well over the past three decades is clearly a testament to her grit— and maybe some kind words from a stranger. "I won't ever forget the ambulance driver who took me to the rehabilitation centre," she says. "He told me, 'We're taking you by stretcher now, but you'll be walking out of there with a cane.' " Sure enough, that's exactly what she did.
A better understanding It has now been two years since I suffered my transient ischemic attack, and I feel like I'm still learning about heart health. I now understand the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, for one thing. When I had my stroke, I didn't know this kind of program existed—my cardiologist didn't refer me to one, but having access to dedicated professionals in a safe, encouraging environment could have helped me navigate the health-care system and guided me toward healthier choices.
One thing I found myself, Carolyn and Irmine echoing is how, as women, we must advocate for ourselves in the health-care system, ensuring that our voices are heard and our health is looked after. We need to put ourselves first, without shame or guilt. As Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says, "It comes back to education and partnership with your health provider. Don't be afraid to ask questions and be informed."
Heart health by the decade Nearly two-thirds of all heart attacks and strokes occur in Canadians 65 or older, but younger Canadians are increasingly at risk. Here's what you need to know at every age.
In your 20s and 30s: Young people with heart-health issues are part of a growing minority. A study published in 2012 out of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that, over a period of 12 years, strokes among people aged 20 to 54 made up an increasingly greater proportion of strokes across all age groups, growing from about 13 percent in 1993–94 to 19 percent in 2005.
Closer to home, the Heart and Stroke Foundation says several studies predict that the rate of strokes among younger adults will double in the next 15 years. The main reason? According to Dr. Tara Sedlak, a cardiologist at Vancouver General Hospital and clinical assistant professor at The University of British Columbia, it comes down to lifestyle—high stress levels, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and smoking. Research bears this out: The University of Cincinnati study suggested that a rise in lifestyle-related risk factors (such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol) may contribute to a higher incidence of stroke.
But there is a way to turn the tide: As with other age groups, simple changes such as exercising regularly, quitting smoking and eating healthily could see the rates of cardiovascular disease—and, more specifically, stroke—decrease, says Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
In your 40s and 50s: Cardiovascular disease is less common among younger women, in part because of their higher estrogen levels; the hormone offers some protection to the arteries. But as women approach menopause and their estrogen levels drop, the incidence of stroke and heart attack increases.
Unfortunately, broad knowledge of their increased risk may not protect perimenopausal women from misdiagnosis. According to research by the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which provides advice, legal assistance and risk-management education to 95,000 Canadian physicians, doctors are missing the signs of stroke in patients nearly 10 percent of the time, largely because symptoms are often nonspecific—patients often complained of headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
And women, who have historically been less inclined to advocate for themselves, are particularly at risk. Research out of the University of Leeds in England showed that, between April 2004 and March 2013, 198,534 heart attack patients at National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales were initially misdiagnosed—and most of them were women. During that time, women suffering a heart attack were 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed compared to men.
It might be difficult to challenge doctors who tell you nothing's wrong, but Dr. Sedlak encourages women to listen to their bodies and to be firm with health-care providers about what they're experiencing. "If you feel there is a real problem, be persistent," she says.
In your 60s and beyond: Women over 65 have the most strokes of all age groups, but they still have fewer strokes than men the same age. However, a Danish study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2015 found that, after 60, women tend to have more serious strokes than men—and they're more likely to survive, which can have serious repercussions on quality of life.
John Sawdon, the public education and special projects director of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, explains that cardiac rehabilitation programs, which are free with a referral from your doctor, are the perfect next step for recovering cardiac patients of all ages, but they're particularly important for older Canadians, who tend to live more sedentary lives. These programs are supervised by a cardiologist and, after an assessment, are tailored by your cardiac rehab team, which usually includes nurses, physical therapists, kinesiologists and social workers. They can provide exercise training, education on heart-healthy living and stress counselling—all of which can contribute to the health and well-being of people who have heart problems. And they're effective, too: "Research has shown that those completing cardiac rehab live seven years longer than control groups," says Sawdon. It also "reduces incidence of another heart attack by 50 percent."
What's your risk? Ninety percent of adult Canadians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But while factors such as obesity, hypertension, alcohol abuse, family history and ethnicity increase everyone's risk, regardless of gender, the following three are particularly relevant to women.
Smoking: While we all know that smoking is seriously unhealthy, it can be especially damaging to women's cardiovascular health. Smoking when taking the oral contraceptive pill can drastically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. But quitting can cut your risk within a year.
Diabetes: According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are at a very high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, "they may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than individuals without diabetes."
Mental illness and stress: "Women have a higher frequency of stress-induced heart disease, and women's hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men's," says Dr. David Fitchett, a cardiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
Heart health dictionary
Atherosclerosis: When arteries narrow and harden due to plaque buildup.
Cardiomyopathhy: Diseases of the heart muscle, which cause it to become enlarged, thick or rigid.
Cardiovascular disease: A broad term for problems with the heart and blood vessels, often due to atherosclerosis. These conditions can lead to heart attack, angina or stroke.
Heart attack: Also known as a myocardial infarction, these attacks happen when the flow of blood to a section of the heart is blocked, preventing the muscle from getting oxygen.
High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, this is when the long-term force of blood against artery walls is elevated, requiring the heart to work harder, which may eventually lead to heart disease.
Microvascular angina: A disease of the small coronary artery blood vessels. Many angiograms do not view the small blood vessels, so this can be difficult to diagnose.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: A tear in the coronary artery wall. Physical or emotional stress appears to play a role. Most cases (around 70 percent) occur in women under 50—and a third of those are pregnant or postpartum women.
Stroke: When the blood supply to a portion of the brain is interrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain either bursts or is blocked.