After reading this post, don't forget to enter our contest – you could win a new dishwasher. Plus, do you have your own story to tell? Send it to firstname.lastname@example.org (no more than 300 words, please), and you could win one of 30 daily prizes. Today's winner is Tiina Rebane.
With our constant focus on being green, I find that some things are going to the extreme – for example, greeting cards. There's something so special about receiving an envelope that isn't a bill. With virtually everyone using emails these days, I really look forward to the old-fashioned birthday card. That said, there is a way around the dilemma of sending proper cards without promoting the ever-wasteful greeting card industry –
make your own cards! From a very early age my sister and I have been making cards for our family members from newspapers, flyers, old greeting cards – whatever we could get our hands on. It is a great creative outlet for parents and children, promotes the three Rs in a fun way, and guarantees that the recipient won't be receiving the same card twice!
Thanks to Tiina for sending in her story – and don't forget, if you still haven't entered, there's still time to send your own story to email@example.com.
Tiina wins a gift basket of organic beauty products from
Origins, including: • Origins Organics Body Pampering Massage Oil • Origins Organics Silkening Body Spritz • Origins Organics Cleansing Body Bar Today's code word: cards Read more: •
The art of thank-you cards •
19 eco-friendly gift ideas •
Eco-friendly gifts and gift wrapping
A popular dish in restaurants, mussels are often perceived as too fiddly to prepare at home. In fact, they’re easy to clean and take less than 10 minutes to cook.
1. Most mussels sold in Canadian supermarkets are farm-raised. Look for the symbol of approval from Ocean Wise.
2. When shopping, look for mussels nestled in plenty of ice to keep them fresh. Buy ones with tightly closed shells or those that snap shut when tapped. They should appear shiny and wet. Avoid those that look dried out— they may have died or been improperly stored.
3. If not cooking right away, remove mussels from the mesh bag and store loose in a bowl to collect juices; cover with a clean damp towel. Drain liquid daily. Refrigerate for up to three days.
4. When ready to cook, give mussels a sniff. They should smell fresh and salty, like the ocean. Scrub mussels under cold running water. If necessary, trim beards (the fibre-like membranes that protrude from shells) by grasping and pulling toward the hinged edge.
Homemade tomato sauce takes time to develop flavour, so it's smart to use prepared sauce on weeknights. To check your mussels for freshness, tap the shells to make sure they close, and discard any that don't. Once cooked, the shells should open; discard any that remain closed. Serve with a crusty baguette for soaking up the fragrant broth.
While you don't want to overwhelm seafood with too much spice, these mussels can take a hit of curry because the creamy sauce tempers the heat. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the delicious broth.
Mussels are readily available year round in most grocery stores. PEI has an excellent reputation for harvesting the delicious mollusks—you'll see PEI mussels sold all across North America, even as far south and west as Hawaii.
Island chef Gordon Bailey wowed crowds with this impressive appetizer at the 2011 Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival. It is a showstopper in terms of looks, but it's really a snap to make. The aioli features raw egg yolks, so use organic eggs, if possible, or substitute 1 cup light mayonnaise for the egg yolks and oil, adding the other aioli ingredients according to the recipe.
Slow-simmering this sauce all day creates a flavourful base for cooking the mussels. The high setting on your slow cooker is great for steaming mussels without running the risk of overcooking them. This dish makes a great main for two or a starter for four. Serve with crusty bread, if desired.
Get help and information at your fingertips with these smartphone apps.
On January 25, the charitable campaign Bell Let's Talk Day will resume an ongoing and urgent conversation about mental health in Canada. Tracking the hashtag #BellLetsTalk, Bell Canada will donate five cents for every text, call, tweet, Instagram post, Facebook video view and, this year, they'll also be counting a Snapchat geofilter. Donations since it's inception total nearly $80 million, and the campaign is on track to raise $100 million by 2020.
The good news, thanks in part to the campaign, is that the stigma surrounding mental illness is steadily reducing, with 81 percent of people more aware of mental health issues compared to just five years ago. But for every stride made in funding research and ridding stereotypes, the stigma still exists and access to care stagnates.
The Centre for Addictions and Mental Health reports, "While mental illness accounts for about 10 percent of the burden of disease in Ontario, it receives just seven percent of healthcare dollars." This underfunding leaves Canadians suffering from mental illnesses—and their families—to bear the financial burden. This is especially troubling when Canadians in the lowest income group are three to four times more likely to report poor to fair mental health than those in the highest income group. What's more, even if you have the means to incur expenses such as therapy and counselling, you can expect a long wait, especially if you're seeking help for a child. In Ontario, for example, it's not uncommon to wait six months to one year for therapy.
Here's where the latest technology—available on your smartphone or tablet—can help. Whether you want to speak with a doctor, therapist or just explore your options, these apps put the power of obtaining mental health help and information in the palm of your hand. Here are five of our favourites.
Maven Clinic: Meet your digital health clinic. This app—specifically designed for women—allows you to speak privately with mental health specialists, as well as other healthcare professionals (such as nurse practitioners, physical therapists, nutritionists, OB/GYNs or paediatricians). You can video chat with a medical professional (appointments start at $18 and go up to $70 for a 40-minute mental health appointment) and even get a prescription. There are also free forums where you can chat with other users and ask questions.
MindShift: Young people ages 15 to 24 are more likely to experience mental illness than any other age group. Created by Anxiety Disorders Association of British Columbia, MindShift is designed to help teens and young adults cope with anxiety. Some of the app's features include breathing exercises, a symptom checker to help rate your current anxiety, and steps to get you through difficult episodes or situations.
TranQool: Whether you're nervous about talking to a therapist for the first time or need more time with one, this app connects you with registered therapists and mental health professionals for a secure one-on-one session. You can match to experts (who focus on teaching cognitive behavioural therapy) based on preference, and can feel safe knowing the video chat is secure and never recorded. TranQool is currently only available in Ontario but the app is planning to launch in other provinces across Canada.
Akira: Founders Dustin Walper and Dr. Taha Bandukwala had a vision to rethink the way healthcare works here and around the world. Akira heralds itself as the "doctor in your pocket" and connects you with doctors and nurse practitioners via your smartphone. The app allows you to speak to a professional who can refer you to specialists, prescribe or renew prescriptions and suggest community resources that might be helpful for you.
TalkSpace: This app allows you to privately talk to a licensed therapist nearly any time of day from your smartphone or tablet. TalkSpace also offers couples therapy and a new Social Media Dependency Therapy, a 12-week program to better understand and manage social media's impact on mental health. With more than 1,000 therapists available, you can receive quick, anonymous, accurate help and information from a trusted professional.
While these apps are good alternatives to seeking help or information about mental illness, they may not be equipped to deal with crisis situations. If you are in a crisis situation, call 911 or go to your local hospital.
People didn't really have backyards in the olden days. They had a front porch, an outhouse and a lot of cough medicine that was, in fact, morphine. With no one else around for miles, you could do anything out front—even your laundry—because no one cared if you stood on your lawn, completely naked, hanging your wool bloomers on the clothesline. And if you happened to be treating that cough, chances are you didn't care, either.
Now, of course, if you have a house, it usually comes with a backyard; that's where you destress, relax and entertain. Your front yard is for showing off aspects of your personality that you want the world to see. The backyard, however, is where the real you lets loose. The modern home is the residential version of the mullet: business in the front, party in the back.
The façade of my 1840s cottage looks a lot like it would have in the 19th century: a white painted porch, some rambling roses and a little vegetable garden. Up until recently, my backyard was similar; it matched the house but didn't necessarily match me. Making it over was a chance to express another part of my personality; to show that, even though I love the past, I wasn't stuck living in it. So, to provide balance, I paired my period-appropriate front porch with a decidedly contemporary urban backyard, one where I may or may not hang my bloomers out to dry…while nursing a cough.
How to grow your own privacy
Being in the backyard is great, but sometimes you want to grab your morning coffee, curl up on the front porch and watch the world go by—without the world watching you. A dense leafy perennial vine is a great way to create a green privacy wall. Certain ivies will grow quickly, while others, like this climbing hydrangea, will take several years before they provide enough cover for you to feel comfortable in your ratty pajamas.
How to put a perpetually unproductive planter to work
My potting shed is packed with planters of every size that will never be filled with flora. (Mainly, they're filled with just spiders.) That's why I dragged a few planters out of storage, dusted them off and repurposed them as outdoor tables. Topped with a round sheet of glass, my black drum-shaped planter is the perfect complement to a pair of armchairs. And by setting an old pine plank on top of two smaller box planters, I created a custom outdoor coffee table without setting foot in a shop.
How to get a lawn in an instant
For most people, a lawn is nothing but trouble. In an effort to cajole their grass back to life every summer, homeowners arm themselves with lawn seed, fertilizer and a big bag of swear words. Save yourself the effort and fake it. Artificial grass is now sold edged and in rolls—just like indoor rugs—and it looks way better than it did years ago. You'll get beautiful colour and soft cushioning under your feet with minimal effort—simply roll it up at the end of the season.
How to create powerhouse planters
If you want a container garden that makes an impact, forget typical generic nursery plants—I'm looking at you, geraniums—and embrace the plants of the disco era. Tropical greens that were popular houseplants in the 1970s not only look great in planters but also tolerate dry conditions. Mix tall, spiky spider plants and wandering Jew with cascading creeping Jenny and sweet potato plants (Ipomoea batatas) for dynamic pots that command attention—especially if you're doing the hustle around them.
How to hang a window box without a window
It wasn't just for esthetics that I installed my backyard fence planks horizontally; it was also for function. The boards allowed me to hang window box planters with nothing more than a few large S-hooks. Positioning planters at different heights lends a contemporary feel, while mounting them evenly enters more traditional territory.
Tip: Add draping spiller plants to window-box arrangements. They'll trail down fences and walls as the season progresses, creating a living-wall effect.
Dollar stores often sell artificial grass in square tiles that clip together so you can design your own custom “carpet.” Linked in a long, narrow strip, they make a chic runner for an outdoor dining table.
Historian Cheryl Foggo brings the stories of important African-Canadians to life with her books, films and plays
How much do Canadians know about our country’s black history? How many people would admit to knowing little about Viola Desmond before the campaign to choose a woman to appear on the new banknote? Most of us might say our knowledge stops at the Underground Railroad or Nova Scotia’s Black Loyalists. But this country is rich with stories of African-Canadian experiences on the east coast, west coast and everywhere between. While classrooms play catch-up in diversifying history curriculums, learning the names and stories of African-Canadian men and women is a conscious effort that should no longer be set aside.
Cheryl Foggo is a playwright, historian and author who’s committed to making the names and tales of African-Canadian settlers known. Based in Calgary, Foggo actively combs archives and documents recounting the lives of Alberta’s black settlers. One of her projects is a documentary film about the legendary black cowboy John Ware, who was considered a hero in Alberta’s ranching frontier.
We spoke with Foggo about her latest projects, Alberta’s lesser-known African-Canadians and why celebrating Canada’s black history is important not just in February, but year-round.
When did you first become interested in Canada’s black history?
From a young age I was interested in the stories I heard my mother’s family tell when we visited my grandparent’s home in Winnipeg. Although I wouldn’t have defined it as history at that time—it was just my Mom and her siblings and their parents talking about their lives—I found these stories interesting. As I got older, I gradually became aware of a disconnect between the history I was learning in school and what I was hearing from my family. I began to wonder why our stories were absent from the historical record.
Why do you think Canadians don’t know much about our country’s black history?
I think it’s up to Canadians to ask ourselves this question. Even what Canadians do know about the Black Loyalists and the Underground Railroad is limited to a “happy ending” narrative and skewed away from the realities of the struggles black Canadians faced historically.
Western Canada’s black history isn’t widely known or taught. Share the story of one lesser-known African-Canadian and her contribution?
It’s tough to choose, but I’ll pick a woman from Alberta. Violet King, the first black female lawyer in Canada. She was a trailblazer throughout her life and an accomplished classical pianist. She was also the only woman in her graduating class from the faculty of law at the University of Alberta in 1953, the same class as former Alberta Premier Peter Lougheed.
King went on to work for Citizenship and Immigration Canada before becoming the first woman named to a senior management position with the American National YMCA. She also happened to be among the best friends of my mother, Pauline, and her twin sister, Pearl, and a bridesmaid for both.
In your opinion why is knowing more about Canada’s diverse history so important?
A history that is incomplete is damaging. A history that is purposely incomplete is sinister. How can Canadians move into a sustainable future if we can’t acknowledge our past? And how can we acknowledge and reckon with our past if our canonical history is missing pages?
What are you currently working on?
I’m working on a documentary film about the legendary black cowboy John Ware and a collection of articles and essays that will anthologize my writings about Alberta’s black history.
Can you recommend some resources for Canadians who want to learn more about Canada’s black history?
There are many ways to gain more knowledge about this subject. Here are a few places to start:
> The Black Lives Canada Syllabus