Suggestion Saturday: October 21, 2017

Here is this week’s list of short stories, articles, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

How Reading Rewires Your Brain for More Intelligence and Empathy. I wonder if more intelligent and empathic people have a higher chance of finding pleasure in reading, too?

The Sorrow and Shame of the Accidental Killer. Wow, what a story. It must be excruciating to live with that much guilt over something you didn’t do on purpose and would give anything to fix.

On Presumed Innocence, Believing Victims, and Keeping the Legal Balance via CeeArrBookNerd‬. This is one of the most important articles I’ve read this week. I can’t agree with it more.

My Mum – from Schizophrenia to Dementia in 60 years via AmandaGreenUK‬. When one member of a family is mentally ill, it can affect everyone one around them. This blogger’s story was quite interesting.

First Evidence That Online Dating Is Changing the Nature of Society. This was fascinating. For any of my readers who don’t already know this, I met my spouse online.

Minimalism and Emails via WriterDann‬. Oh, I really need to start doing this. My inbox always gets stuffed.

From Why Are More American Teenagers Than Ever Suffering From Severe Anxiety?

Jake was right — his parents didn’t understand. Jake didn’t really understand, either. But he also wasn’t good at verbalizing what he thought he knew: that going to school suddenly felt impossible, that people were undoubtedly judging him, that nothing he did felt good enough. “All of a sudden I couldn’t do anything,” he said. “I was so afraid.”

From Don’t You Worry, You Aliens:

There isn’t a virus. He’s pretty sure of that. The radio, when the BBC news had come back every day for a week, before ceasing once more, had mentioned rumours of a virus motivating some of the big “refugee trains” that had got stuck in the West Country. But nobody who’d left from round here had been ill. Nobody who’d come through had been ill.

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What I’m Not Willing to Give Up to Become Healthier

Over the last several years, I’ve started following multiple blogs and Twitter accounts that focus on fitness, nutrition, and wellness. I’ve made a lot of adjustments to my diet and lifestyle in order to make it healthier:

  • Lifting weights a few times a week
  • Getting a minimum of 12,000 steps a day
  • No longer drinking fruit juice
  • Switching from rice milk to almond milk to cut calories and added sugar in my diet.
  • Gradually increasing how many servings of vegetables I eat every day. I always ate enough fruit, but now I eat the recommended number of vegetable servings, too.

There have been many times when these sites suggested an ingredient tweak, a new recipe, or a workout routine that ended up working wonderfully for me. Some of them required a period of adjustment in the beginning, but I was soon able to adapt to them by keeping an open mind on changes that sounded even mildly interesting.

With that being said, there are a few things that I’m never going to stop eating because of how much I love them. I’m sharing them with you today to remind you that you don’t have to give up your favourite foods either. With an adjustment in how you make them or how often you serve them, anything can be part of a healthy diet.



A couple of years ago, I began stumbling across articles about people who peeled vegetables like zucchini into noodle shapes and then served them with spaghetti sauce on top to reduce the calorie count of this dish. They called those noodles “zoodles,” and some of the sites I follow posted multiple entries about different ways to prepare and serve them.

I think it’s great that they found a way to make a lighter version of spaghetti, but I will never make that same switch. Spaghetti is one of those meals that I really look forward to eating in the autumn and winter because of how much I love it.

While I was perfectly willing to switch to whole wheat noodles and replace some of the meat in my sauce with extra chopped vegetables, I’m only interested in eating spaghetti if it has real noodles in it.


Maple Syrup

Yes, there are low-calorie, sugar-free syrup substitutes out there that taste okay. I’m glad that people who are diabetic or who watch their calories closely can enjoy something similar to it without raising their blood sugar or eating more than they should.

I love maple syrup so much, though, that I’d much rather enjoy the real thing sparingly than have pancakes every week with imitation syrup on them. The sugar and calorie content in maple syrup is high, so I generally only have it a couple of times a month during the cold season.

When I do treat myself with this meal, I serve it with homemade whole wheat pancakes and sliced fruit. This makes this dish more filling and nutritious. The fact that I have it so sparingly also makes it even more special when I do decide to make it.



As I’ve mentioned in previous posts here, I cut back on the added sugars in my diet a few months ago. Chocolate and other sweets are a rare treat for both physical and mental health reasons. When I do indulge in them, I go straight for the good stuff.

If I’m going to eat chocolate, it will be something out of the ordinary. Most chocolate bars out there contain milk ingredients, but some of the speciality ones are surprisingly safe for me. I like dark, rich chocolate that satisfies you with a few small squares of it. Often I’ll choose dark chocolate that has nuts or dried fruit mixed into it. I’ve even found one brand of “milk” chocolate that’s safe for me. It’s specially marketed to people who are vegan or allergic to milk, and it’s delicious.

Some of the bars I love the most are between $5 and $10 each. Since I only eat them a few times a year, that splurge is more than worth it.

My other big indulgence is candy corn. I currently have a few containers of it squirrelled away in my cupboards now that it’s available again. I’m going to try to make them last through the winter. It’s not something I’ll eat every day, but it is something I’ll nibble on now and again.

What Do You Refuse to Give Up?

You don’t have to give up everything you love in order to become healthier. In fact, cutting all of the treats in life is a great way to crash and burn in a few days when your self control runs out.

Maybe some of the things I mentioned today are foods that you’re also determined to fit into a healthy diet. If so, cool! If not, what small changes are you able to make to your diet and daily habits? What favourite foods or drinks are you never going to be willing to give up?

Tailored Book Recommendations Are the Best

The Chronicles of Narnia was one of the first series I remember being recommended to me. My generous uncle gave me all seven books in that series at once when I was in elementary school.

As soon as I read The Lion, The Witch, and the Wardrobe, I began quietly touching the back of every closet to see if it contained a wall behind the clothing hanging in there or if it would somehow lead me somewhere interesting. I was a little young for the later, darker instalments at the time, but I loved the first few stories immediately and soon grew up enough to enjoy the rest, too.

One of the things I loved the most about the magic in that world was how unpredictable it was. Aslan didn’t always show up when you expected him to, and he didn’t necessarily meet my expectations of what the creator of a planet would be like either. I spent more time than I care to admit memorizing little details about Narnia and wondering what it would be like to go there for real.

When my uncle heard how much I adored his gift, he came up with something even better for the next round of gift-giving: copies of The Hobbit and the Lord of the Rings trilogy.  The Hobbit was an instant hit with me. I loved Bilbo’s cautious nature and the exciting details of his trek to The Lonely Mountain. It was one of my first brushes with characters who were in real danger when they went on an adventure. This was a more treacherous world than the one the Pevensie children knew.  There were no adults around to save them, and I was never entirely certain if Bilbo or his companions would make it home safely again.

Not only were there carnivorous trolls in The Hobbit, Bilbo also had to face conniving Gollum (whose backstory and identity wasn’t revealed until The Fellowship of the Ring), gigantic spiders who also wanted to eat him, and many other perils.

My uncle knew what he was doing when he recommended these stories to me. The basic rules of magic were different in each universe because one was written for a younger audience than the other was, but they were both filled with creatures whose very existence tickled my imagination.

Tailor Your Recommendations

Suggesting the right book for someone is kind of like giving them clothing. Knowing the right size (or genre, in this case) will go a long way in helping you pick something out, but there are many other small details that matter as well. You have to know someone incredibly well in order to have any chance at all of giving them something they’ll want to use or read over and over again.

There have been times when I’ve recommended books to people who ended up not enjoying those tales at all. In other cases, I’ve had books recommended to me that didn’t quite fit my tastes.

Other than obvious errors like writing two-dimensional characters or using cliches excessively, so much of what goes into a great story is subjective. You might be bored stiff by plot lines that I love, and I might feel the same way about the stories that someone else could spend all day reading without ever growing tired of them.

So it came as a huge surprise to me when a friend recently recommended a book that I’m loving so far: The Utterly Uninteresting and Unadventurous Tales of Fred, the Vampire Accountant by Drew Hayes.

Fred was a completely ordinary man who was turned into a vampire as an adult. He gained strength and became a physically healthier version of himself, but he otherwise remained the same shy and quiet man he’d always been.

No, he didn’t sparkle in the sunlight, seduce teenage girls, radically change his habits, or suddenly have the nearly-supernatural ability to conquer the world. (There’s nothing wrong with liking any of these tropes, of course, but they’re not the kind of storylines I generally want to read about).

Honestly, other than the fact that he drank blood and was now allergic to daylight, Fred reminded me of myself and of a few of my friends. He had a kind soul and a sharp wit. Sometimes he worried more than he should. He wasn’t the life of the party, although he was incredibly likeable and charming once you got to know him beyond his day job and strange affliction.

This is the kind of vampire fiction I will never get enough of. It has a dry sense of humour and a realistic take on what it might be like to become a vampire but still have nearly all of the problems from your old life following you around.

Will you like this story? I don’t know. There are some readers who I’m sure will stop a few pages in once they realize that Fred is breaking nearly all of the rules that have ever been made about what a vampire is supposed to be like. It’s completely okay for them to do that, and I hope they find what they’re looking for elsewhere.

When I recommend this tale to people in the future, I’m going to save it for folks who enjoy unconventional monsters, sarcasm, and the realization that becoming a vampire isn’t always all it’s cracked up to be. There’s an audience out there for every book and a book that’s perfect for even the most selective reader if you look long enough for them.

Suggestion Saturday: October 14, 2017

Here is this week’s list of short stories, articles, recipes, and other links from my favourite corners of the web.

Under One Roof. My family moved around a bit when I was a kid. Every time we packed up to go to another house, I secretly wished to find the belongings of the previous inhabitants in its attic or crawl space.This story reminded me of that memory.

Ten Awesome Things My Wife DIdn’t Have Growing Up in America via queerxfamily. It is so interesting to read posts like this that compare small differences between countries. I wish I could find more of them out there.

Diwali Over the Years via rachnaparmar. This was such an interesting explanation of this holiday. I didn’t know anything about Diwali when I first found this post, but it seems like it’s a lot of fun.

Black Forest Naked Cake. I’m sharing this with you in honour of Oktoberfest. If I were going to celebrate it, I’d make this version of black forest cake for sure.

My Dual Identity via ‪ManisMadness‬. This was a good post.

How Science Found a Way to Help Coma Patients Communicate. Mind-blowing is the only word I can think of to explain this article. Wow!

From Return of the City-State:

If you’d been born 1,500 years ago in southern Europe, you’d have been convinced that the Roman empire would last forever. It had, after all, been around for 1,000 years. And yet, following a period of economic and military decline, it fell apart. By 476 CE it was gone.

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Mindfulness on a Rainy Day

Today’s post is going to be a little shorter than normal. Why write more words than you have to?

As I mentioned last week, the weather here in Ontario has been unusual in all sorts of different ways over the last few years. We have finally seemed to drift away from the summer-like heat of September and early October, but we’re continuing to experience the same kinds of heavy rainstorms we did this past spring and summer.

Yesterday was a particularly drizzly day. We didn’t get many millimetres of rain, but it did rain off and on so frequently that it felt like the world was always going to be this damp. What made me giggle about this thought was that only a few days ago I felt like the world was going to remain hot and humid forever.

Oh, how things change. Sometimes it happens when we least expect it, too.

I stood in front of my window and watched the rain fall. There weren’t any particular thoughts rolling through my mind in that moment. It was relaxing to watch the people, cars, and bicyclists pass by on the ground below me.

Suddenly, I remembered a story from my childhood that had to do with rainy days and the things people do on them.

Old Memories Surfaced

When I was a child, I loved going out for long walks in the rain. My mother didn’t know this at the time, but I used to collect some of the earthworms that crawled onto the sidewalks when the ground became too soggy to hold them.

Some of those worms came home with me if I thought they weren’t strong enough to survive outside or if I hadn’t already picked up my fair share of them during the current storm. Sometimes people accidentally stepped on worms on the sidewalk. It made me sad to see them injured. I tried my best to help out the ones I could. There was an aquarium filled with soil and plants in my bedroom where they could live safely, so that’s where I put them.

A year or two later, my family moved a few thousand miles away. One of the many things we did before we packed up the moving van and began a new chapter of our family’s adventure in the same state my siblings and I were born in was to take that aquarium and dump the soil (and earthworms!) into our backyard. I assume we repotted the plants as well, but I don’t remember that part of that day.

It wasn’t until all of the soil had been dumped out that mom noticed there were an extremely large number of plump, healthy worms wiggling around in it. I believe I told her what I’d been doing at that point and that she was surprised by it. One of my strongest memories of that day was feeling surprised that she hadn’t noticed what I’d been up to. I’d always assumed that she had ways of knowing everything her kids did!

It’s funny how a storm can dredge up half-forgotten moments like that. I hadn’t thought about that memory in years.

Mindfulness Through It All

The rain continued to fall yesterday. I saw people scurrying on the street below. They stayed close to the buildings and other covered parts of the street. Maybe that was why I only saw a handful of opened umbrellas being used down there? The sidewalk was quite damp, but there weren’t too many big puddles on the ground.

One of the things I appreciate the most about practicing mindfulness is how it frees me to enjoy little moments like this one.

I smiled at the memories that cropped up in my mind. When they faded away again, I returned to watching what was happening on the street.

There’s something beautiful about living in the moment like that. I was grateful for the rain and for the time to relive a happy, old memory before returning to the present day.

Dual Citizens Get Two Thanksgivings

Seven years ago, I became a Canadian citizen. There are many things I love about being a citizen of both Canada and the United States. Having the excuse to celebrate Thanksgiving twice every year is definitely part of that list. Yes, this is blog post about food. No, this isn’t about turkey. Don’t tell the… Read More

Suggestion Saturday: October 7, 2017

Happy Thanksgiving to all of my Canadian readers! I’ve decided to split up my holiday-themed links between the dates when Canadians and Americans celebrate this holiday since most of my readers come from one of these two countries. I was originally planning to put a traditional Thanksgiving picture in this post, but this photo was… Read More

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The Endless Summer of 2017: A Review

Title: The Summer That Refused to End: What Really Happened to Ontario in 2017 Author: Gaia Terra Publisher: Cosmos Release Date: June 21, 2017 End Date: Unknown Rating: 3 Earths out of 5 Review: Just when you thought summer had ended…it came back for more! The summer of 2017 definitely started out innocently enough. Without… Read More

What I Love About Weightlifting

Last Thursday I blogged about the parts of weighlifting that I hate. Now it’s time to dig into all of the reasons why I love this form of exercise. Today’s post will be longer than the one that was published here last week because there are far more things I enjoy about bodybuilding than there… Read More

Suggestion Saturday: September 30, 2017

tHere is this week’s list of blog posts, comic strips, short stories, articles, and other links from my favourite corners of the web. It’s Okay to Be Self-Centered. Isn’t this an eye-catching title? Be sure to read the whole thing before deciding what you think of it. Rules for Preserving Health in Victorian Times via 18thCand19thC. One… Read More

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