The Gallery.

His gross old chair.Note: I found this one in my backlog of TERRIBLE DRAFTS and thought this one was okay enough to not just delete outright. And now, even though it’s nearly a year old, I’m sharing it so it doesn’t die in the “kill your darlings” fire I intend to start in my drafts folder after my second glass of red this evening. (RIP Dry January. Who was I kidding anyway?)

Your place was a bar in the old Student Union Building, a place with sticky tables and floors that might never have been washed. It was renovated in 2012, long after you stopped going, but at 5:00 on a Friday on the last day of classes, the vinyl benches were all split open the way they’d always been.

You could always go back and find it just as you’d left it, more or less.

More, because it got dirtier and your table was more readily available as the place seemed less busy.

Less, because every year the patrons got younger, to the point where you couldn’t tell how old they were, because everyone under 22 looks 14 now. The beer was less cheap, and better tasting. They started putting art on the walls.

And maybe they always had art on the walls, but you wouldn’t have known that then because you were always looking for him in that chair by the railing where he’d sit, hunched over his beer. You never looked anywhere but at him, furtively, and then back down at your drink, or at your phone as you counted down to the very last moment you’d need to leave to get to class on time.

You’d meet him before class and then sometimes just not show up, and your grades were terrible then but you knew even then that no employer ever asks for your transcript. Student loans were paying and you were beholden to no one. You’d never be able to afford grad school anyway. And he was so cute.

IMG_0707The story of your life together began in that dank little bar, and every time they kicked you out you swirled right back the next day. It was like the place had a current and you got swept up in the swell.

Once you were done with that place you’d roll out together, like the tide. You’d go to Toronto, maybe. Montreal, for sure.

Instead, you took an administrative position on that same campus, and every time you’d walk by your old place on your way to get a bagel at lunchtime you’d look for him, hoping to see him in that chair.

Every year, hoping became less rational. He was at his own grown-up job, beholden to bosses and clients and other adults. You’d ask him to ditch it for the day, or to cut out early and meet you there, but he wouldn’t. He couldn’t. It was stupid to ask.

UBC Gallery LoungeEverything now is rent and daycare and earth tones and trying to remember to pay your phone bill on time. You’re not caught up in currents, now; you’ve drifted a long way upstream, to a place where the weeds grow so tall that sometimes it’s hard to see into the distance.

You went back for one last beer, and they checked your ID and looked in your purse before they’d let you in. “I’m so old,” you laughed as they did the math on your age. “It’s the last day of classes and we have to check everyone,” they said.

The student paper had said this place was closing because once the new student union building was built this place wouldn’t relocate – the furniture was too crappy, and this generation of students wanted a different kind of experience. Craft beer. Better food. The kind of thing you’d want too, most of the time. So The Gallery was dying.

You’ll be married seven years this year. You wonder if the end of this place is an omen. You think you hope it’s not.

The appeal of The Gallery and that time was that you never had to think too hard about any of it, those reckless days and nights you spent ignoring your better judgment and persuading him against his. You’d never have imagined you’d be sighing at him over his loud eating, or the unfolded laundry, or another broken mug “because can you maybe try being careful?”

IMG_0708They’d moved the tables around, so your spot didn’t really exist anymore but you still looked for him. You had texted him to say that you were going, hoping he’d be feeling sentimental enough to leave work early and join you. The tables were filthy, and the floors still so gross, and in every straightforward way it was as you remembered it. But in subtle ways your place was already gone.

There were no pizza bagels. You didn’t know the music they were playing. There seemed to be a lot of young men named Brody.

He wasn’t there.

Maybe it never was yours. You try to remember if it really was, or if it only became your place because you needed somewhere to house your ghosts. It’s a lot easier to leave your youth behind if you can feel like it’s still living on somewhere without you, and that you could visit it for a beer if you wanted on some rainy Friday afternoon.

Maybe what you remember is a feeling and you’d need to be 23 to feel it again. Twenty-three is much better in hindsight. You forget how often it felt like you were drowning.

You finish your beer and say goodbye, though you aren’t sure to what. You’ll think about that later. For a moment everything felt endless again and you could go anywhere. It wasn’t a strong current, but you let it take you home.

We used to be young.


There is no baby left.


These kids, they are like people.

Nick is away for the weekend pretending to make sacrifices for our family by procuring a few months’ worth of rainbow trout. Hunting is work – there is no beer-drinking during the day because of all the guns and wolves and potential death/dismemberment – but fishing is primarily beer drinking in boats on quiet lakes and it will be at least 30 degrees Celsius this weekend and he packed the strongest sunblock I have because he will really suffer under all that sunlight, his dry, paper-white skin just searing in the heat while he gives his all for future fish dinners I will have to cook.

To say that I begrudge him his leisure time would be … well, I begrudge him his leisure time. But he did clean the apartment before he left. But he didn’t wash the floors. Marriage is like this, always weighing but trying not to, always wanting the best for the other person but not really.

So the little one and I are together all weekend, for four days and four bedtimes, and he has already cried for Daddy three times since Nick left at 4:00, twice after falling down at the park and once more at bedtime, when I told him he would not get away with lying about things Daddy would never have promised and he broke down. “Daddy wouldn’t be mean to me,” he whimpered into his pillow. “Yes he would,” I said, because I don’t know. I forgot to brush his teeth.

But in the moments when we find ourselves in harmony, this kid and I, we are a team. “I will help you cook dinner,” he said as I pushed him in a shopping cart past the packaged meats at Buy Low. “You like hot dogs, mum?”

“We should get the chocolate chip ice cream,” he said as we passed the frozen treats. “I have been pretty good today I think.”

Sometimes having a preschool aged child is like being buckled into a windowless cargo van that’s hurtling over a cliff while a rabid chimpanzee screams in your ear about all the times you have ever been wrong, but sometimes there are flickers of humanity in these little primates. Sometimes, you see in him an ally. And you know you have to do better with him – you have to remember to brush his teeth, even when he’s being a bit of a shit – but sometimes, you let him do what he needs to do, and you see yourself in him, and it is kind of fun.

I do like hot dogs. He helped me make dinner tonight, standing on a chair in front of the stove and offering to stir noodles and then dropping stuff all over the floor but meaning so well. And we had Kraft Dinner and hot dogs and ketchup and chocolate chip mint ice cream and it was filled with sodium and we all probably have heart disease now or at least hypertension but he picked a meal and he helped put it together and it didn’t involve toast or Nutella or crying.

This is a level of progress that was unimaginable even three months ago. There’s no baby left in him.

We ate dinner together while he told me about his day, chattering on about all the ways he was very helpful and very good. He asked me about my day, and if I had been good and if the scientists had been helpful and if I was tired.

“We work very hard, mum.”

“Yes we do, monkey.”

“I like making dinner with you,” he said, and for a moment I forgot about the screeching chimp and everything I did wrong and hoped that maybe we’re onto something.

We’re off to a good start, at least.

Understanding about Food Babe.

If you are on the side of facts and reason on the food-related internet, there’s a good chance you saw Gawker’s delightful take-down of Vani Hari, otherwise known as “Food Babe.” The story ate up my whole newsfeed on Facebook almost all day long, and I loved it. I did. I loved it in that way you love things when you are the intended audience for a story and it just lands. Skewers the opposition. Does everything it’s meant to do for the people who will enjoy it the most. Food Babe is ill-informed at best, and dangerous at worst and I am not defending her, exactly. But Food Babe does not exist in a vacuum.

Food Babe is the manifestation of a set of symptoms, like how boils sometimes appear on your body when you’re trying to fight an infection.

I know first-hand how challenging it is to put science garble into plain language. At work, I communicate science and communicate to scientists, and though I am not a scientist myself, I understand the challenges inherent in trying to tell people about scientific discovery. For a story to matter, people have to care.

A scientific breakthrough is most of the time not very sexy. Discovery starts small – someone in some lab somewhere finds something at the cellular level that could have potential implications, maybe in animal models. It must be studied, and those efforts must be repeated and verified, and peer-reviewed, and then if it is in fact a breakthrough, it still has a long way to go, sometimes decades, before it’s applicable to humans.

As a writer, this is the challenge. You want people to read your work. Page views are validation. You want a good hook, a degree of certainty that media is going to take interest in your story and pick it up and maybe do TV interviews with the lead investigator in front of your building. The temptation to throw a little glitter on that press release is always there. Scientists want to see their work in the news. Journalists want a good story. Readers want a good headline, an action item, something to take away to improve their lives and share on social media.

People want to read that something causes or cures cancer. Anytime I read that wine or beer is actually good for you, I don’t check the sources – that shit gets shared. I want it to be true! It has to be true. I love wine so much.

Good science communication resists the sparkly lure of a click-bait headline or a sensational take on basic science. Good science reporting is clear, effective, never misleading, and makes no promises. Good science writing informs an interested public, and benefits the scientists who make the discoveries, the institutions that support their work, and the people for whom these discoveries are relevant (or will be relevant in the future).

Telling science stories is hard, especially online where anyone can find any number of more-interesting opinions and “facts” to inform or reinforce his world-view. TL; DR, and all of that.

Good science communication doesn’t always make us feel good.

Science is uncertain, and doesn’t make sweeping claims. It can’t. It would fizzle and die before it ever got to peer review.

Science is not about our feelings.

A lot of us are afraid. Or hopeful. Or optimistic. We want to believe that if we live the right way, and eat the right things, and exercise the right amount that we won’t get cancer or diabetes or whatever thing we’re most afraid of. Organic kale and local in-season tomatoes are pretty goddamn wonderful. You know what else is amazing? Those blue slushies from the gas station in July when only something blue will do to quench your ravenous thirst.

And you can enjoy all of these things and live to be 100 or be hit by a bus tomorrow, but only eating the kale and the tomatoes is not a salve. It is not protection against the unknown, because there is no such thing. Health and long life are an odds game, and you can get just as lucky drunkenly slapping the table and shouting “HIT ME!” as you can soberly and carefully counting the cards in the deck.

That doesn’t mean you should stuff your face into a bag of Cheesy Gorditas and just hope for the best. I mean, get into those things sometimes, but also have a salad? And some whole grains? Or a bit of broccoli, every now and again, even with cheese sauce? A healthy diet is not a complex equation: Mostly good stuff, a little bad stuff to preserve your sanity, and don’t drink pop every day. Wine is okay but you should verify my claims here because I am blindly clinging to the belief that my liver is totally fine after all it’s been through.

So if a healthy diet and reasonably good nutrition are so straightforward, why does Food Babe exist? Her blog and her books are the results of the worst possible combination of our secretly Googled paranoia, increasing distrust of corporations and the government, decreasing science literacy among the general public, and shitty online fear-mongering.

Food Babe fills an emotional need the way that Dr. Oz does. She makes people feel good, and often on the internet feelings are more important than facts, which are scary and outside our control.

Not being in control is terrifying. Trusting corporations to make decisions that aren’t wholly influenced by money is not a great idea either. So Food Babe’s message is compelling, even if it is largely unfounded. I just can’t imagine living in a world where everything is so toxic and frightening and costs so much.

The urge to want to feel like if we do the right thing, or avoid the right things, nothing is going to hurt is understandable. And “toxins” are a kind of villain, a bad guy we can arm ourselves against with the right combination of information and abstinence. But it doesn’t really work like that.

I understand about Food Babe. I don’t like what she’s doing, and I’m worried about how many people take her seriously. The problem is Food Babe, and it isn’t. Our problem’s root is in how desperately we need to hear good news, and how little good news there seems to be sometimes, at least in headlines, if you’re not sure where to look. Our problem is in how reassuring some messages are when they reinforce our fears, and when they’re packaged in nice-looking books and pretty blogs, and how we trust things that look professional and sound good, because life is so much easier and less terrifying when someone trustworthy has all the answers.

Just know that there are no miracle cures, no super foods, and no magic juice that’s going to make you pee out all the bad stuff. Wash your produce. Don’t eat meat every day. Drink lots of water. Eat enough fruits and vegetables that it doesn’t hurt or burn when you poop. And read with an eye for the details; we’re all selling something, and whatever it is, it’s motivated by our optimism, our hope, and our fear.

Good science is not going to shout at you or jump up and down, waving its arms. It can’t, and it shouldn’t. Look for it.

Another year, already?

In 2014, may you have everything you need.

For us, 2012 and 2013 were fast-paced and periodically relentless. I changed jobs, and will change jobs once more before the year is out; my contract ends at the end of May. (Side note: if you’re looking for a communications coordinator, my specialty is web communications and I am an asset to office potlucks.) Though money was tight and times were periodically tough, we always had enough. We were happy, even when we thought we weren’t. We had fun.

I hope you always have enough, and whenever possible more than you need, and that whatever you’re doing there’s fun in it.

I’m glad we’re still doing this. Happy New Year. Let’s meet again in 2014.

photo (2)

Picnic season.


There comes a point in May where it is no longer possible to wait to eat watermelon outside, and that point came today. Having been confined to our quarters for too long, we decided last week that we would spend our holiday Monday in a park with bocce balls and picnic foods and blankets laid out on the grass no matter what the sky looked like, even if there was a hint of rain.


And though it was cloudy, the rain held off. There was a breeze but it wasn’t chilly, and it was warm enough for cold drinks and salads. So we sat on our blankets, and played bocce ball and badminton and chased bunnies, and some people grilled chicken wings and skewers and it was exactly how a picnic ought to be – makeshift, haphazardly planned, with the kind of foods that do not require a lot of packaging or waste to be left behind. Hours passed and we barely noticed, except toward the end when the light began to fade.

Trying to rejoin the sea.

Small boys ruin bocce ball.


Friends on blankets.

Eating outside is messy and important. There is something very freeing about your toddler pouring a liter of pineapple juice all over himself and the ground and it not mattering. There is something very lovely about eating while not wearing shoes. And the first picnic you take delineates the grey and the green parts of the year; a picnic is a celebration of the few glorious months when the rain falls a little less and the nights get long. It is important to celebrate.


Potato salad.


So gather up some fresh fruit, some sandwiches, a blanket, and some people you like and celebrate. The winter is over, the light is back, and badminton is more fun than you remember. Some time outside will restore you, and it will tucker you out. Go. Eat watermelon outside.

Tuckered.You will sleep so well.

What’s in your picnic basket?

It’s not so dark.

I take back what I said about these being dark times.


A perfect picnic spot.

We found our way back to the garden yesterday and this evening, and were surprised to find it bursting with life and weeds and chard.


We came by in February, and everything was looking brown and dead, but the chard limped on. I didn’t plan to plant chard this year, because we had so much of it last year that I got kind of tired of it, but this is a plant with determination and I have to respect that. It lives. Its centre stalks are the thickness of table legs, and its leaves at the bottom look almost prehistoric in their size and curious colouring. But it lives, and we let it live on.

Garden cat. There is a cat now. This pleases us all.

Garden cat, sunlit.

Purple shed.

Toddler and purple shed.

A friend of mine lives across the street from us now, and she’s got a lot of garden space for us in addition to our community garden plot, so in this spot I’m focusing on growing things I can pickle. Plus chard. But mostly things that pickle, like beets, and hopefully some pickling cucumbers – from this point in the gardening season, I don’t think you can ever have too many of those. (Remind me of this when I am complaining in August.)

Digging it.


What have you planted, and what are you looking forward to?

Purple sprouting broccoli.

One of the things we pulled out of the garden was some purple sprouting broccoli, which grew where the regular broccoli we planted was supposed to be. It was ripe and ready, and it is so pretty it deserves a special dish. What would you do with it?

Dirty boy.

I am really looking forward to the gardening season, you guys.

A request and a winner.

At the risk of alienating breakfast mush enthusiasts … I’m kind of over oatmeal. I need a break on the whole slop for breakfast routine.

To be honest, I don’t want to do much about breakfast, because I am someone who can live quite happily from 6:30 am until almost noon on a single fat-free latte. My stomach doesn’t even notice this neglect until it’s time for lunch, and then it is an angry beast who demands carbs and cheese and I reward it handsomely for its patience. Unfortunately, Stomach and Metabolism aren’t on speaking terms so while Stomach is fine on a little bit of tea and frothy milk, Metabolism is like “Oh, really? Don’t you know about six small meals a day to maintain a healthy weight? HERE’S AN EXTRA FORTY POUNDS, SMUGGY.” So, breakfast. Jump-starting the day, and all of that.

I tried smoothies – both with yogurt and vegan-styles – but those are worse than eating nothing. It’s like that little bit of fruit and yogurt and flaxseed reminds my metabolism that I am awake and doing stuff in a way that a latte does not, and my stomach gets pretty angry about it. I have found myself eating broken, linty teething cookies from the dregs of my purse in fits of famished panic. I’ve swallowed gum. In trying to do something healthy, what I’ve done is turned myself into the kind of person who angrily eats beef jerky from a vending machine at 9:30 in the morning.

Bacon, eggs and toast are good, but they’re hard to eat when you’re trying to evenly apply mascara with one hand while fighting off a cat and a baby while the two of them battle over who gets to be the one to unroll all the toilet paper directly into the toilet. Cold cereal leaves me starving immediately after I eat it. I hate bananas so much. But I need options.

I’ve put my question out into the ether (the Googles) and it’s too much. I can’t read 80,000 blog posts and forum discussions about 80,000 slightly different recipes for green smoothies – it’s overwhelming, and I distract easily. Also my kale has wilted in the crisper. So, why not try a smaller sample group?

What do you eat for breakfast on your weekday mornings, and does it keep you from starving? Can you recommend a smoothie recipe, a breakfast sandwich, or some other magical, convenient (homemade) weekday-morning-friendly thing that will leave me full  until lunch(ish)? I suppose it could even be oatmeal, but maybe something new and different to do with it.

I should also announce the winner to that little photo giveaway we talked about last week. I was supposed to do it at 5:00 and then I set my oven on fire, as you do, and as a result lost track of time.


The winner is Aim Harder, who wants to prove to her new little person that it’s not so scary out there in front of the camera. Congrats, Aim, and all the best! Shoot me an email at and I’ll put you in touch with Bethany so you can schedule your session.

A sick day, a giveaway

Despite all of us having gotten our flu shots this year, the flu hit all three of us pretty hard this weekend, and we are only just now starting to recover. Well, Nick and I are starting to recover – the baby became energetic and noisy again just as we started to fall ill. It was the worst of times.

I had intended to share a recipe, but to be honest all we ate this weekend was take-out pho. Today we might leave the apartment and get some matzo ball soup, but at this point the tremendous effort required to put on something other than fleece footie pajamas is so daunting. I’m currently simmering a chicken and some veggies for broth, so that may be all that sustains us until I declare us ALL BETTER! and decide to move on.

Side note: If you’re ever not feeling very well, the best thing in the world is chicken soup made from a stock with a whole chicken as its base; simmer – don’t boil – the chicken with carrots and parsnips and celery and onion, plus whole cloves of garlic cut in half, a lemon halved, and a handful of dill pickles, and a couple of bay leaves, a sprig of thyme, and parsley bundled and tied in cheesecloth. Fill your stock pot with water to about ten quarts, and let it go for four hours. I learned that from Ina Garten, who is the person I’d most like to be when I grow up. I’m strongly considering painting WWID (What Would Ina Do?) in glitter across my hood fan lest I ever forget.

Baby and friend

Anyway. I had meant to give you a recipe, but today is not the day. Today is the day for a giveaway though; I’ve been sitting on this one for awhile. If you’re in Vancouver or the surrounding area, I’d like to give you a professional photo shoot from Images by Bethany, a really, really talented local photographer who I met through and who is also friends with my friend Jenna. She made me look like a normal person, which is no small feat – most of the time when I get my picture taken I do this weird thing I bare my fangs in an attempt to smile and tilt my head down, tripling the number of chins I have while also accentuating my grey under-eye bags.

Baby and Squishy Lion

I’m pretty lucky to have this sparkling personality to fall back on.

Baby and friend ... making out.

Right. Anyway, Bethany is amazing, and she has graciously offered to give one lucky local family a one-hour professional photo-shoot at Bethany’s studio in Gastown or at the location of your choice, followed by a viewing session and an 8×10 print of your favourite photo from the day. Your photos will be available for viewing online for three months; you can purchase additional photos if you love a whole bunch of them, but no purchase will be necessary. The thing I liked most about our session is that it was totally relaxed – it was very casual, and since everyone was comfortable the photos look natural. Better than natural, even – we look like better versions of ourselves … which is surprising because our shoot was at 8:00 am on a Saturday and we have a hard enough time looking normal at peak hours.

Me looking like a normal person, kind of, plus baby.

And don’t let the word “family” deter you here – I think family can be any combination of the people you like; whether that’s you and your little ones and that person you married or live with, or you and your parents, or you and your special someone, or you and your furry four-legged companion. If you roll solo, that’s okay too. Can you imagine blowing up an enormous photo of you and your cat looking regal and windswept – maybe on a cliff over the ocean – to hang in your dining room? I totally want to do that.

To enter, leave a comment below or on the photo on my Facebook page telling me who you’d like to be photographed with, or how you cope with having a camera pointed in your direction. The contest will run until January 14; when I get home from work that day, I’ll put all the names in Nick’s grimy old hat and pick a winner. I’ll pass your name and contact info along to Bethany, and she’ll contact you to set up your session, anytime between January and April. This contest is open to Metro Vancouver residents.

None of us looks weird here. AMAZING. You have no idea.

You CAN have too many giant turnips.

Every year I plant turnips because in late May and early June, I love (LOVE!) turnips. I think about sweet little baby turnips, steamed and tossed with fresh greens and maple vinaigrette, or cool fall evenings with turnips mashed with carrots and so much butter to accompany Bratwurst and grainy mustard. But I never remember to anticipate this.

I am a prolific grower of turnips. Maybe the picture doesn’t do her justice, but this pretty lady’s a D-cup. And she’s not the only one. There are probably 12 or 14 more of these, and I don’t know what to do. I love turnips. I don’t want to not love turnips. And I definitely don’t want to waste turnips, but I suspect very few of my neighbours want to walk out to find enormous turnips on their doorsteps – for some people, one turnip is too many turnips.

Do you have a creative use for turnips and (or) their greens? I’ve made them into gratins and mashes and gnocchi, but I’m running out of ideas. Help me. HELP ME.

Unrelated aside: if you have a minute, stop by and visit The Thirties Grind, where I’m featured as this week’s first REAL Real Housewife of Vancouver. Melissa’s blog is fantastic – her “Absurd Vancouver Property of the Week” feature regularly makes me laugh-sob and question my unhealthy relationship with this city.

But seriously. Tell me what you do with the turnips.