30 January 2010

Hot air 13 - Mixed media

had a lazy weekend in, in which we found some fun things to share:

-the documentary "anvil! the story of anvil" is about a heavy metal band from toronto who were big in the early/mid 1980s. they had more than their share of hard times but the two main guys have been best friends since they were 14 and are still trying to get back into the lime light. they are pushing 50 years old and are still dedicated. they have the energy and focus to try one last time to see if they can make it in the music world...we watched it and really enjoyed it. they are such considerate canadians that it is hard to believe they are heavy metal guys. but they have a passion and you really wanna follow through and see what will happen to them. it kinda feels like a real life version of the award winning movie "the wrestler" with mickey rourke. or others compare it to "this is spinal tap."

-movie remake of "ice castles." not sure if anyone saw the original 1978 "ice castles" movie about a skilled figure skater who goes blind and has to reteach herself how to skate, but they have remade the movie for direct release to DVD. why should you care? cuz it was filmed in halifax! the original director did the remake so it should be interesting. the DVD comes out february 9 and both are available on netflix. i recommend watching the original first. its actually good, in that cheesy fluffy kind of way. its no "cutting edge," but then again what is...

-recent episode of the tv show "anthony bourdain: no reservations." i know at least a few of my friends watch this show, but in case you arent familiar its a travel channel food show. the host is a chef and all around whiny, loudmouthed, gluttonous booze hound. i dont particularly love the show, but it has value. in this recent season he traveled to brittany (thanks for the tip mary ann)! he actually went to the rennes market! he hung out with famed seafood chef olivier roellinger in cancale! he ate oysters in bélon and had crêpes in quimperlé. we were bedazzled. waves of saliva and nostalgia washed over and i almost teared up. i wanna go back, but i wanna be unpregnant so i can eat all the food! if you cant find a way to catch it again on tv, you can find it on youtube: here is part 1 to get you started (you can click through once you are there to parts 2 - 5).

(yay france maps, to jog your memory. :) stops from the show: marker "A" is rennes, marker "B" is cancale, marker "C" is bélon, and marker "D" is quimperlé)

hodge podge:
-blog to book. i followed a link on my blog set-up area to this cool website that will take your blog (from blogger or other sites) and turn it into a bound book. it was really easy to set-up and it looks like the finished product would be fabulous. i am still contemplating how i want to chop things (life in france, life in halifax pre-monster, life post-monster, etc) but i think i am gonna go with this place to preserve my stories and photos.

-reading corps. facebook has had some benefits rather than just being a total time suck. saw my friend meg posted about a great minnesota reading program. and they have a similar volunteer reading program set-up in detroit. a great cause that links reading volunteers to young children to give detroit kids an academic fighting chance. not much commitment is required, and if i were back home id be checking it out. hopefully other cities have these kinds of programs.

and my usual ending to these things, some good new yorker articles:
-brief article about fox news and other cable news channels and peoples faith in reporting.
-brief article about glenn beck.
-brief article about architect jean nouvel. enough to get you interested, not enough to bore.
-brief article with a partial history of the fight for u.s. health care (back to the 1910s) and commentary relating the struggle to today.
-brief article about china and how they are our mirror opposite on spending. americans spend, spend, spend while the chinese save, save, save.
-brief article about a restaurant owner who brings the tastes of cincinnati (chili on spaghetti) to new york city. actually makes me want to stop in ohio.

-short article about u.s. predator drone targeted killings. didnt think our peace prize winning leader would still be authorizing this...(its continued from the bush administration).
-short article on the new "dis"information era of the internet and the ease with which people with extreme views can be connected with others like them, fueling the fear/skepticism/conspiracies instead of dispelling them.
-short article on famous LA food critic jonathan gold. second to actually eating and writing about good food yourself is reading about the people who get to do it for their job. good article.
-short article on how u.s. health care reform could learn from the agricultural reform history of pilot programs and evidence-based changes to the system. well researched and interesting.

-in-depth article about south african running phenom caster semenya. she runs races and lives as a female but her sex is under heated debate in the athletic world. she has chromosomal and developmental anomalies that blur the lines of "deciding" which sex she is. this debate has ultimately killed her running career, and undoubtedly at least part of her spirit. a thought-provoking article.

plus, pretty celeb pics:

(julia roberts and hubby danny in paris!; james franco and alicia silverstone. havent seen her in so long. lookin good!; tom ford and my mr darcy aka colin firth)

Thrilling theater

in an attempt to try something new around town, dave and i went to a dinner theater.

it was wicked ice-blasting windy on the short walk to the theater, so much so that i almost wanted to turn around and stay home. but, i had a date with michael jackson. we were going to see "off the wall" performed at the grafton street dinner theater. the "play" was about a bunch of mental patients being treated with music therapy...all michael jackson tunes to be exact. it seemed like an appropriate thing to check out in the winter, when other activities arent happening.

anyway, we arrived and waited in the lobby area to be ushered into "the room." the waiters/actors came out to the lobby in character and helped us get seated at our assigned tables. our waiters were the actors and they stayed in character all night. our person was actually fairly normal, she only had an imaginary friend. the soup course was served and eaten and then cleared before they began the real "play." it was a meager plot that relied mostly on the quirky characters (the hyperactive north dakotan woman was the best) and the random interjections of songs from the king of pop.

i figured it wouldnt be anything tony award winning, so i was mostly in it for a night of food, general amusement, and music. i was particularly interested to see if monster would react to the music. for the most part, during the songs monster laid low, moving around during the quiet times. however, toward the end of the night, the group sang happy birthday to a woman at our table and monster liked that (not sure if that means monster wants to come out soon and have a birthday or if monster was just being polite and playing along). also, one of the later songs the group did was "smooth criminal" and, you guessed it, monster enjoyed this one too. im frightened by what that means...

(i think this was during "smooth criminal"; and this was "thriller")

so, overall, the "play" itself was "meh" but the characters were good and the energy in the room was fun. none of the diners were taking themselves too seriously when the characters would come up to them and do something weird. the young couple who sat at our table were nice as well. but the food was very average. like banquet hall wedding food. but again, i wasnt expecting culinary wizardry. basically, we had a good time on an ugly winter night, so that was great. the price was a little painful ($120 total with tax, tip, and drinks), but it wouldnt stop me from trying the other dinner theater in town (yes, there is another one if you can believe it).

28 January 2010

Belly bonding

back-to-back prenatal days.

first up was a gathering at the local coffee shop uncommon grounds last night. the coffee shop is nice and spacious and has a large area with comfy leather chairs. perfect for pregnant people. there were eight of us who showed up so it was quite a group. we were calm and quiet but there was lots of conversation involving baby planning, body discomfort, advice, and thoughts on different topics. most notably for me, it seems almost everyone in the group had gone or is going to the UC baby clinic in town to pay to find out the sex of their baby. interesting. and weird, all of them who know their babys sex are having boys!! there must be something in the water.

and tonights prenatal gathering was again at that baby store called nurtured. they had a workshop on "depression and childbirth." among others, myself and four of our group attended. i dont currently have depression, nor did i really have it before, but not having social support/networks is a risk factor for post-partum depression so i wanted to cover my bases.

the woman who led the workshop was the least helpful to me. she was depressed before getting pregnant and dealt with it before getting pregnant. she did reach out and ask for help after the birth of her first child, but in general, she didnt share anything overly specific or helpful for pregnancy or post partum depression. plus, her depression solutions were a little self-help book new age-y for me. but, there were two other moms there who had had post partum depression and they felt comfortable enough to speak up after the lead woman. their experiences and advice were most helpful, although i really just hope to avoid that whole situation all together.

Healthcare corner #5 - Resources, delivery, and workers comp

a little bit of this and that in class today.

the human resources of the health sector:
- about 1.5 million people (or about 1 in 10) across canada work in the health sector (this includes not only health professionals, but also people in health research, management, teaching, as well as the medical facility food services, housekeeping...)

- in 2006, there were 350,000+ registered nurses in canada (this number included both employed and unemployed nurses and combined RNs, LPNs, RPNs, and NPs.)

- the nursing population is aging. for every RN aged 35 or younger there are 1.9 RNs aged 50+ (i think this is similar in the u.s.)

- in 2006, there were 62,307 physicians in canada (physician-to-population ratio: 190 per 100,000. and the general practitioner-to-specialist ratio is about 50:50)

- in 2005, 22% of the physicians in canada were international medical graduates (these could either be canadians who received their MD abroad and returned home, or foreign doctors who came to canada to practice)

health care delivery:
- the days of having lots of procedures done in hospitals are gone. there is a focus to get the elective and non-major surgeries/procedures out of the hospital and into day clinics or home care settings (similar in the u.s.).

- as i mentioned before, each province is broken down further into regional health authorities (RHAs). each province organizes them in different ways, but the idea is that each RHA receives a global budget from the province and is moderately free to spend it in a way that is custom fit to their population (maybe they spend more on nursing homes, mental health/addictions, public health, health promotion, etc). this is most parallel in the u.s. to our setup with a state health department that then funds smaller county health departments (and, where appropriate, city health departments).

- goals and potential benefits of the RHA system: able to align needs and resources, can integrate services, can monitor service quality, improve promotion and prevention, improve accountability, and increase public participation

- challenges of RHAs: balancing the relationship of authority and accountability (between the province and each RHA), involving physicians more, developing an environment with the flexibility for change

- just interesting to note, there are TONS of health organizations at all different levels of the government (and some are non-government) that function within canada. a sample: Health Canada (has many functions, one of them includes acting as their version of our FDA), Canada Institute for Health Research or CIHR (their version of our NIH), Statistics Canada (which is the infrastructure for all national data, including health data), Canadian Institute for Health Information or CIHI (collects, maintains, and studies health information on the nation), Public Health Agency of Canada or PHAC (their version of our CDC), Health Council of Canada (board created to monitor, through accountability and transparency, and report on the tenants of the 2003 Accord on Health Care Renewal), Canadian Health Services Research Foundation or CHSRF (non-profit that promotes the use of evidence to strengthen canadas health system), Canada Health Infoway (non-profit that develops and promotes the use of electronic health information), Canadian Public Health Association or CPHA, and Genome Canada...to name a few.

workers compensation boards (WCBs):
- pre-dating the canada health act (CHA) or anything resembling it, the government created these WCBs back in the early 1900s as part of a “historic compromise” between workers and employers whereby workers gave up the right to sue employers in return for defined levels of no-fault compensation for workplace injuries and illnesses.

- each province and territory administers its own WCB, though all share the principles of no-fault compensation, no worker right to litigation, full funding by employers, administration by public agency and benefits linked to pre-injury income.

- WCBs finance or provide three types of services and benefits to individuals who suffer a work-related injury or illness: healthcare, which aims to restore an injured or ill workers functional capabilities and allow a timely and safe return to work; vocational rehabilitation, which assists injured or ill workers in finding alternate employment when necessary; and disability benefits, which provide compensation to a worker for lost income (temporary or permanent) and, in the case of permanent impairment, compensation for pain, suffering and loss of enjoyment of life.

- in the 1990s, the WCBs underwent a major change due to: service delays and new evidence showing a link between workplace absence and long-term disability (basically the longer an employee was out of work due to injury, the more likely they were to stay on disability permanently...costing the WCB lots of money).

- new WCB strategies then focused on expediting care by: creating new service-delivery arrangements and providing financial incentives to health professionals to treat WCB patients quicker.

- while on workers comp, the patient is outside of the CHA provisions and you can see that people within the regular medicare system might get a little upset that these injured workers are "queue jumping" and not having to wait on the wait lists.

- however, the WCBs also point out some of the benefits reaped by the public: 1. they purchase special medical equipment with their funding and place it in public hospitals for use by WCB patients, but if their patients arent in need of the equipment, the general public and their providers have access to it. 2. any specialized personnel trained and paid for by the WCBs to operate special equipment or to perform special services are also available to the public and their providers if not in use by an injured worker. 3. also, the WCBs favor the use of evidence-based medicine which, in turn, can positively influence the practices and care of the public.

27 January 2010

FASCC 2 - dharma sushi

another addition of our franco-american sushi club of canada (FASCC), but i forgot my camera, grrr.

we chose a downtown place called dharma sushi. it was packed, but with mostly white people. and these werent just any white people, they seemed to be the alternative, artsy type of people...drawn to the hip, zen sounding name of the place? not sure.

anyway, we were seated at the actual sushi bar, which were the only available seats in the place. dave and matthias were intrigued by being able to sit and watch the sushi being made. i on the other hand, wasnt so sure. there was only one sushi chef and he was definitely hard working. he had a system and his hands were flying to create all manner of colorful creations for the packed room. it felt like i was staring at the hands behind the puppet. i think i prefer the mystery of the pretty little rolls that appear at my table to seeing the square chunks of dark red, yellow, white, or peach that my tuna or salmon items start out as.

for dinner i had the same thing i had last time: vegetable soba and a yam tempura roll. the soba was lame. boring noodles and one of the veggies included was typical stump broccoli, not even the asian type of broccoli. minus points. my yam roll was good though. dave got a similar sushi assortment as last time as well and mentioned the eel as being tasty but that everything else was "meh." i guess this is more a place to rub hipster elbows than to get top notch japanese. on to the next place...

25 January 2010

To the cape, birdman!

drove north today for some typical randomness.

our major motivator to head north was to see what was up with this "eagle watch" at sheffield mills. apparently wild bald eagles (and other eagles and hawks) spend november-march in those parts. according to eagle watch reading material, a major reason for this is due to the fact that this is the area that farms chickens...for 90% of nova scotias poultry supply. the mystery of why i cant find my chicken in the grocery stores: solved!! apparently these locals have two weekends in late january-early february each year where they invite people to stop and view the eagles, watch them "get fed" (we didnt arrive in time for this, but it appeared to be when they let rabbits and chickens loose to be hunted by the eagles), and to enjoy a community pancake breakfast.

(i may have created a map monster, but this just gives you an idea of where the eagle watch was in relation to halifax. the map marker is in sheffield mills. note the nearby town of wolfville, where we have been many times.)

we arrived in sheffield mills at around 11a. we pulled over at the mega eagle watch spot and stood out in the cold for a few minutes. there was a big open field bordered by some large trees which the eagles were roosting in. to get a good look required binoculars, which we dont have. there were also rows and rows of people with their fancy digital SLR cameras and tripods getting pictures of the birds as they left the trees to fly. luckily, there were actually a few bald eagles roosting in treetops right near the road, so we did get to see a few at fairly close range. id say the eagle watch was interesting, but probably better if you had the fancy equipment to really enjoy it.

(the long row of eagle watchers and tripods; the closest we came to a bald eagle. our little camera was hilarious compared to everyone elses)

after the birds, we checked out the eagle watch food. the community hall that served the pancake breakfast was warm and cozy. long tables filled with old people and families...and us. live music was playing as the local high school students served us pancakes. we had the choice of real maple syrup or acadia blueberry sauce. yum! i love this kind of stuff.

once fed, we wanted to stay in the area and explore because the sun was out and we hadnt been this far north yet. so, we drove the furthest north we could before stopping. at cape split. a very pretty area, very lacking in people. you can park and walk a hiking trail all the way out to the tip but its about 5 hours round trip and you walk along some dangerous cliffs...so, not for me today.

(oh joy, another map. the map marker is still on sheffield mills. where we went: the northern tip of land is cape split and you can see blomidon on the east coast. "the lookoff" is approximately where arlington is.)

heading back from the cape, we jogged east and stopped at blomidon provincial park. the red cliffs of this area can be seen all the way to wolfville and i have been wanting to go ever since i saw them in the distance. the color extends to the beach sand. the spot we parked and walked down to the beach was great. it felt a little like being on the d-day beaches with the cliffs and the peaceful silence. a really nice spot.

(us and the red cliffs; dave on the snowy red beach)

to complete the natural tour of the area, our last stop was a spot on the map called "the lookoff." it provides a panoramic view of the minas basin and the large tidal fields of the bay of fundy. it was quite a clear day so you could see a long distance.

(me at "the lookoff" with the minas basin in the background)

and, before we headed home, we stopped in the art village of canning to get a quick snack at the fireside grill. dave chose the grapefruit pie, which turned out to be rather bitter, and gross. ah well, you win some, you lose some.

back at home, dave kept up his sunday soup ritual (yay for me!) and made portuguese winter soup. yum!

24 January 2010

Drop dead wind

stayed close to home this saturday but we attempted to get outside because the sun was shining.

first, we needed fuel. we tried out a place in the north end for lunch that turned out to be really cool. the place was called FRED and the building is one half hair salon and the other half is an art gallery with seating and food (dont worry, the hair area is separated quite well from the food area). the art and atmosphere are actually really awesome and i love that the cafe is called "the whet cafe" (on the website, at the end of their cafe description it asks "are you whet yet?" love it.).

anyway, dave and i split the bacon corn chowder to start. it was really flavorful and came with a homemade biscuit. yum. then came our sandwiches. i got a croissant sandwich with prosciutto, mushroom, and gouda and a side barley and bean salad. dave got an open faced meatball sandwich with a side mixed greens salad. for dessert, we split a lemon cupcake. yikes. i did a phenomenal job with my food all week, and this was how i rewarded myself...

(me ready for soup at FREDs; dave is cute)

now loaded with gourmet goodness, we went off in search of some local activities we had heard about. actually, last night we were at the garrison brewery picking up some specialty beers for dave and while he was sampling their stout a dude wandered up and starting chatting with us. he is a halifax local but his wife is from virginia and he had lived for several years in DC. blah blah blah, and hes pulling out his iphone showing us pictures of two places he recommends we check out: fort york redoubt and duncans cove. okay guy, here we go...

(i love maps and i dont put enough on here. so, this one shows you the red dot where york redoubt is (and duncans cove is not labeled, but its a little to the right of fort york). it also helps you visualize the halifax area better. halifax is actually a small peninsula, so all aspects of the city are crammed in that small space. as you ooze out of the peninsula you start to get into the more shopping and suburb areas. you can also see the two areas where bridges go across the harbor to dartmouth, our first home here.)

driving along purcells cove rd (which we had driven several times in nicer weather) we actually did notice the small canada beaver signs this time that denoted we were near a national site. we turned toward fort york redoubt and parked inside the tall stone walls. built in 1793 it was a military command site because it has a panoramic view of the harbor which means its a good lookout spot. there are underground tunnels, cement bunker-type areas, cannons strategically located, and military barracks. they have retained these features in the site which is now open to the public. but, while the sun was out to make things look inviting, the wind was also there (50+ mph gusts) which made it unpleasant, especially when you are in an elevated area without any tree protection. the only people who seemed to be enjoying themselves there were the kids who were sledding. for me, the panoramic view on a clear sunny day was not enjoyable because i was frozen. we will come back in warmer weather to try again.

back on the road we continued south to duncans cove. we parked in the tiny village of about a dozen homes and started on what we believed to be the duncans cove trail. we had hoped with the slight change in locale that we might somehow be avoiding the wind, or the direct influence of the wind at least. wrong. when we came up to the top of the trail we were basically in a flat, open, barren area that was totally whipped by wind. we somehow missed the part of the trail that cut down to the water (where we heard tales of gorgeous coastal rocks and families of seals with their babies) and continued on this open top part. i think this is a bog area in nicer weather, but it was just ugly, flat, scrub at this time and there was nothing to see or enjoy, especially with the wind stealing the breath out of your chest. we made it to some ruined military outposts and collected our sanity to turn back into the face-blasting wind. back in the car, i still somehow hoped to come back in warmer weather and have a better experience.

(the only sign of life at duncans cove)

defrosting in the car on the way home, i was motivated to stop in to a new place on our route that sold comfort food: pot pies. the place is called heppys pies and the woman who runs it is of acadian heritage. their traditional food is very hearty and basic. she had several types of meat pies and dense quiche-like pies but she also provided a lovely array of organic turkey, chicken, and beef pies. we were able to nab four little individual-sized low sodium organic chicken pies for $14. she also made a smattering of other goodies and had samples out to try. we picked up some hermit cookies that were sinful.

then, i was ready to spend the evening in, bringing my body back up to warm temperatures, but we found a $30 glider chair on kijiji that an older couple was selling and they happened to be available that night to pick it up...so, back in the car. but, we did score a decent and cheap rocking chair for when monster comes, so thats good. and then we stayed in...eating pot pie and playing yahtzee. nerds.

23 January 2010

Healthcare corner #4 - Journalist views

this is the last one for a couple days, i promise. sorry, it was a busy and interesting work week.

the dalhousie law school hosts a "health law and policy" seminar series on fridays throughout the year. most times i skip it, but this week was a talk called "do we need a new canada health act?" so...naturally i would go check that one out.

the talk was given by national health reporter andré picard. he writes a column in canadas most respected newspaper, the globe and mail. for further clarification, he is a liberal-leaning journalist.

nothing too lengthy here because a lot of his talk revolved around laying out the history of the canada health act, which i had already learned in class (and have mentioned on the blog). his short response to the question "do we need a new health act?" was "no, but..."

his major points were:
1. the health act is like a piece of constitutional law. it sets up basic principles and contains the foundation of the ideals for the country to stand on. it is currently broad in scope and short on specifics. if you want to mess with specifics, he says, refine the delivery of the health act by creating smaller laws or bills that add in prescription drug coverage or long term care by name.

2. there is nothing in the health act that forces the provinces to provide healthcare to its citizens. it is followed by all of them because it is a good political thing to do because their citizens want this service, and the government is handing out a good chunk of money to do it. and if you want the money, you have to provide for at least the five stipulations of the health act. there are "penalties" set forth in the health act for any province that takes the money and then violates one of the principles. but apparently, historically, the government hasnt done much in the way of powerfully or swiftly enforcing those penalties.

3. so, while provinces may be seen as occasional (or frequent) violators of the health act principles, it has been done within a system that allows for it to occur (or at least look the other way). he argues that legally going in and changing the wording of the health act would do nothing if the end result will be for provinces to continue to follow some of the rules and not others...with little repercussions. he believes the health act could be much stronger if the political climate were to change, to pay more attention to the health act, and make it a primary focus. he thinks its been sitting under piles of dust for decades.
two side comments i absorbed while at the talk:

- the canada health act is something canadians are extremely proud of. many would say it defines the spirit and attitude of all canadians. they wear it like a badge of honor. kind of like americans who wear "freedom," "liberty," and "the american dream" as badges of pride/honor.

- so alberta and british columbia are the wealthiest provinces. and they tend to try and buck "the system." many "regular" canadians then like to point to those provinces as troublemakers and people who dont always represent "typical canadians." and then there is quebec, seen as notorious stubborn troublemakers in their own right, but for very different, historical, reasons. i love how "the typical canadian" can quickly get peeled away: well, not those people in alberta or BC, and dont get me started on the people of quebec...nice to know they do have some conflict among their own kind.

20 January 2010

Healthcare corner #3 - Financing and insurance

ugh, i hate economic stuff but todays class was actually more interesting than painful.

not sure how much interest in canadas health system there is anymore now that apparently the massachusetts election results will cause the outright death of the attempted u.s. health care reform :(, but i will continue in my weekly reporting anyway.

first important point: canada does not have a national health care system. it has 10 provincial and 3 territorial health systems with uniform federal guidelines. the canada health act lays out the five very broad and basic principles that each province is responsible for delivering to its citizens. money comes from the federal government in order to help achieve this.

second important point: only about 70% of the annual total health expenditures in canada are from public funds.
• in 2007, total health care expenditures were $172 billion
• so, about $5,170 per canadian
• and about 10% of the gross domestic product (GDP)

• top 3 places the health expenditures went: hospitals (28.2%), drugs (16.5%), and physicians (13.4%)

insurance system: canadians are publicly insured for "medically necessary" physician and hospital services. each province gets to define these boundaries (within reason) and can decide what else to cover, based on how much extra money is in their pot. typically, canadians are privately insured (often as a package through employment) for things like drugs, physiotherapy, dental, eye, and long term care.

tax collection: taxes fund much of the public health care system, but they come from several places. taxes that go to the federal government are collected as a "general" tax, nothing is pre-earmarked for health care. taxes are also collected from within your province.

money for health care comes from:
1. the federal government gives each province a yearly canada health transfer (CHT) which is basically distributed per capita.

2. "equalization" money also goes to the provinces from the federal government as a form of redistributing some of the wealth from rich provinces to the poorer provinces.

3. if you are a territory you do not get the "equalization" money, but you do get extra money from the federal government to recognize the higher cost of living in such a remote area.

4. provinces also use part of their province-specific taxes from their citizens to put in their health care pot.
money flow: from federal government to provinces. provinces then add to this pot of money. each province decides what package of services it will provide to its citizens. then provinces distribute payment to hospitals and physicians. for hospitals, most provinces break into smaller areas called "regional health authorities" that work with its hospitals to negotiate fees and payment methods. for doctors, provinces negotiate health care fees with physician group(s). the physicians are not government employees. they can opt-in or opt-out of the public health insurance system (though there are typically big disincentives to doing so). physicians are typically paid by fee-for-service, but there are also capitation and salaried payment methods.

student note: it seemed several students were unaware of this level of information about how their health system works. a couple were kind of surprised that only 70% of health care expenditures were paid by public funds.

19 January 2010

Equal societies

had the opportunity at work to sit in on a telecast of a fascinating talk from DC today.

not sure if anyone is likely to be as intrigued by this as me, but i thought i would try and put a concise little blurb here to stimulate the brain juices.

the title of the talk was "Why more equal societies almost always do better" and was given by british epidemiologists richard wilkinson and kate pickett who have a book out called "The Spirit Level: Why Greater Equality Makes Societies Stronger."

they have focused their research on the top developed nations of the world in an effort to better understand the differences seen between wealthy societies. thirty years of research combines thousands of data points from dozens of countries over many, many topics and time periods to tell a story. the case they make is that "the income gap between a nation's richest and poorest is the most powerful indicator of a functioning and healthy society."

of course, the way the data is collected (retrospectively) cannot prove a causal link, but they have amassed such a large variety of data over different time periods, topic areas, and geographic areas that the argument is pretty compelling, to me at least.

(income gap graph of some of the countries in the study; a historic look at the income gap of the u.s. and how and when it has grown over the decades. interesting.)

they start out by saying that third world and developing countries are NOT part of the study. there is a certain level of income and material goods your people need to have before they can hope to be afforded health and safety (according to the graph ive seen many many times in public health talks, this level is at least around $15K-20K average income per person). but, once this level of adequacy is achieved (as a population) more is just more and it doesnt provide massive benefits, especially if parts of the population disproportionately gain more than everyone else. their data also suggest that a large income gap in a society doesnt just harm the poor (as is most obvious to see), but that there are actually negative effects on the rich too (see graphs below, highly educated and "the rich" are often seen as going hand in hand).

(example of a low income gap country [sweden], a moderate income gap country [canada] and a high income gap country [u.s.] and how even the most educated in an unequal society have children who dont measure up to those at their same level in countries with a more equal society; even though england is just a couple steps "better" than the u.s. in being more equal, the most educated in their country have less disease in almost every category compared to our more unequal society)

listening to this talk in a small room filled with citizens of canada, japan, england, and possibly beyond, it was regularly embarrassing to see and have pointed out on graph after graph how the u.s. is routinely doing so poorly in virtually every measure. the u.s. was almost always doing the worst, along with singapore, portugal, and sometimes england.

(condensing data on several social indicators [see the list to the left of the graph] the line-of-best-fit is applied to the data and the u.s is doing so poorly that it doesnt even fit with the already increasing trend; the same procedure is done within the u.s. to see if the relationship holds. each u.s. state is now a data point, and indeed our more equal states [in terms of income gap] are doing much better than our less equal states.)

(so the argument for capitalism and the large income gap in the u.s. usually goes that our type of society will be more creative, to try to strive to be on top. yet, our rate of new patents is actually lower than almost all of the other more equal societies; similarly, there is the idea of "the american dream" that anyone can work their way up from nothing. yes that happens, but according to this graph...not often. this uses fewer countries for data points because it required more long term information. this graph shows the likelihood for change between a fathers income the day his son is born and his sons income 30 years later.)

anyway, i wanted to include a few graphs, before your eyes glaze over, but then leave you to explore the groups website yourself for more data should you be interested. you could also try the book, since it is kind of the full report/synthesis on their data so far. sorry if i tried to include too much and got confusing, or included too little and was confusing. i thought it was interesting enough to post, but didnt want to go too crazy.

17 January 2010

Doe a deer and drops of golden sun

good stuff today: a sunny walk outside seeing animals and an evening of celebs and awards and dresses.

upon daves convincing (thanks!), we drove out to the shubenacadie wildlife park. about 40 minutes north of halifax, this was like a mini mini skansen (the outdoor park in sweden we visited). the park was large enough to lay out large spaces for the animals to roam free in, very few animals were in confined caged-in enclosures. being the winter, we werent sure what kind of animals we would see out and alert, but actually with the sun shining and the wind to a minimum there were plenty of animals roaming around. the most active ones we got to enjoy were the: cougars, reindeer, wolves (timber and arctic), bobcat, lynx, snowshoe hare, beavers, and river otters.

the cougars were way cool. they were the first area we came to. one of the pair got up and jumped down from its perch on-high and stalked straight for us. if it was trying to be aggressive it failed miserably because it made the most wimpy little peeping sounds.

(the cougar was also smaller than excepted)

elsewhere in the park, the river otters were hilarious. those guys always look like they are smiling and having the best time playing their days away. they were flipping around in the open water hole of their icy swimming pool when they caught sight of us and bounded over. both of them came together and paused just in front of us. they moved their faces close together and posed for us like they were used to giving tourists camera perfect moments (alas, we did not have the camera ready at this time). they quickly became bored with us however and went back to their playing.

(stupid late afternoon winter lighting. but the river otters were so cute.)

what a nice little park though, a decent walk to get all the way around it and it was a great place to be outside in the sun. there were very few other people in the park with us and the entry was only $5 for the two of us combined. so, very doable.

back at home, dave prepared a pre-golden globes dinner from my recipe pile: turkey, kale, and mushroom pasta. it was quite good, ive been wanting to get some kale in a meal for a while now.

and then came the golden globes. dave found some weird facebook-ustream tv-digg.com live feed for the red carpet pre-show for me to watch but it was just too bizarre. nice try but i miss the nbc or e! broadcasts.

fashion break down: the rain made peoples hair look flat. there were a lot of purple dresses. and most all of the fashion was perfectly pretty. none really stood out as horrid to me, but very few people wowed me. i would have to say that my celeb fav, reese witherspoon, had the most gorgeous look of the night. she was sexy, fresh, sleek, and classy. love her. bummed she and jake are apparently not together, but she always brings her A game after break ups. my julia roberts on the other hand, blissfully in love, looked very dull and boring. a short black dress with a weird necklace, and casual hair. shes still got an electric smile and the 40+ year old mother of three showed off some nice legs...but i was still snoring.

(reese and her lovely sleek dress; julia and her ho hum attire)

award show itself: ricky gervais did a decent job. some embarrassing jokes, some good jokes. cant complain too much. i tended to agree with most of the nights winners, with a special shout out to the dexter crew wins: john lithgow was fabulous and michael c hall...you totally deserved it. i totally think the "best film: musical/comedy" category should just be dropped. it turns into some kind of third class citizen pat on the back to movies that dont get respected at the oscars. during years when comedy actually deserves the respect, the award is still weak, but this year to award it to "the hangover" was just absolutely absurd. the category is now meaningless. and they wasted reese witherspoon to present it! i am beyond appalled. as for speeches, i really enjoyed mo'niques (you go girl! i totally teared up) and even drew barrymores (rambling but very sweet and sincere). i really didnt care for meryl streeps overly long (how did they not play the music on her!?) weepy tangent that seemed to come from someone who wasnt supposed to drink with their medication. nor did i care for robert downey jrs boisterous and somewhat cocky speech.

(big winner michael c hall and his dexter co-star wife. michael is recovering from cancer treatment so he wore a knit cap. get better!)

and i could go on im sure, but i will spare those of you who actually made it to the end of this and say that i still love watching this stuff. im really not sure what it would take for me to quit tuning in because its the faces, the fashion, the movies(!), and the speeches that all work together. if one or two elements are off, i can still enjoy myself. anyway, thats all folks.

16 January 2010

Candlepin bowling, you light up my life

had several successes today in the realms of shopping, eating, and fun.

first, we headed to shoppers alley and hit up the shoe company (like the canadian version of dsw). i needed to see if they would exchange or repair my flowery rain boots purchased at the end of september that already had a leaky gaping hole in them! not cool. i brought them and the receipt back, unsure of whether there was anything they could do, or would do. out of sheer luck they still had my boot style and size available. to my surprise not only did they say i could take a new pair home but they also gave me a price adjustment because the boots were now on sale and i still had my receipt...from 5 months ago! win! good company.

next stop. zellers. they were having a "baby event" and, as luck would have it, our desired car seat was on sale. $150 for the first years "true fit" car seat of our dreams. lol. it is kinda cool though, and now we have one of the important baby items checked off the list.

now it was time for food. dave had read reviews for a little middle eastern place in a strip mall on our route. it was tricky to find, but we were finally able to sit down at issas saj house. their specialty is "ma'noosh" which are middle eastern flat breads. some varieties of them mentioned being filled with yogurt and/or honey. yum! sounds like a version of a crêpe to me. however, we chose to do our litmus test on the place and order our standard falafel and hummus to see how they measured up to other places. daves falafel platter was great, everything on his plate was better than expected and happily finished off. my falafel sandwich was large and tasty. everything on their menu was cheap too. and our dessert of baklava and a date square were great. we felt it was pretty authentic because we were the only anglos in the place, and we kinda like it when that happens. we feel that our tastebuds are vindicated. :) we shall be back.

fueled by falafel, we made our final afternoon stop. the local candlepin bowling alley. dave had recently found this place on-line and we were excited to try it out. we have fond memories of playing with friends while on a trip to boston a few years ago but that place has since closed down. :(

candlepin bowling is a game i am much better suited to than regular bowling. i have always had a hard time finding a light enough ball that could also fit my weird fat thumbs, and with candlepin bowling you get to avoid all that nonsense (and filth. if you ask me its gross to stick your finger into dark holes that other strangers touch several times a day). anyway, in candlepin you still have ten bowling pins, but the balls are small and wooden and fit in the palm of your hand. you throw them down the alley the same way, but you get three attempts per frame (instead of two) and you dont clean up the pins after each throw. you only clear and reset the lane after you finish a frame. makes for an exciting game with pins lying down in the playing field.

(love this pic of dave. looks like a scene from a movie. why is he making that face?; the only approved bowling pic of me. i have no idea what im doing but its blurry enough that you cant see how fat my ass is; dave being a kingpin)

anyway, we played three games...i beat dave every time. :) i consoled him by saying that monster helped me. although, i really dont think thats the case. i forgot that you stop your motion rather abruptly at the end of the lane...so my pelvis ended up being more sore than usual afterward. and i couldnt help but wonder what monster thought i was doing. to stop forward motion and throw the ball you end up flexing your abs (something i havent dont much of lately) and also the weird bowling alley noises must have sounded funny in utero.

(scorecard. our scores are abysmal, but i still won! and yes, i realize how easy it is to make fun of our nicknames on the scorecard.)

14 January 2010

Babywearing, the new accessory

tonight i attended the workshop i organized for my prenatal group. topic: baby wearing.

there is a cute, local baby shop called nurtured that has tons of cloth diapers, organic baby items, baby carriers/slings, and other goodies. they also organize workshops, in-store, to demo several of their products for people who are unfamiliar. i organized this one to learn about all the different baby slings, wraps, and carriers available (using one of these options falls under the category of "baby wearing").

i was a little late arriving and i was shocked to see eight of the women from our group (plus one husband) showed up! how fantastic. most did seem a little shy though, as i was the one asking most of the questions. but what else is new?

anyway, the lady demoed 2 cloth wraps (one stretchy and one tightly woven), 2 slings (one plain and one with a ring), and 3 mei tai carriers (one more traditional all-cloth mei tai, one called the "beco", and one called the "ergo"). so many to choose from but of course they each have advantages for certain purposes or personalities of the baby and baby wearer. she gave us helpful advice for each though.

wraps can be wrapped thousands of different ways (depending on to how "into it" you get) and are good for people with shoulder and back problems (because it distributes weight evenly). slings are good when the baby is smaller (gives a close hold against your body), but isnt the best for people with shoulder problems (because only shoulder is involved in the weight load) and tends to get uncomfortable for most people before the suggested weight limit of the product. mei tais are versatile and can hold even an older child quite comfortably, the weight is distributed to both shoulders, but is perhaps best for babies once they have control of their neck.

there were two types of carriers they did not have in-store and do not recommend. the first are the metal hiking pack carriers. these tend to be heavier and bulkier than other carriers that can do the same job (the ergo, beco, mei tai) and often the child sits much higher up the parents back, so they are usually seen with their heads bobbing around a lot which isnt the best situation.

also not recommended, perhaps surprisingly, are the baby bjorns and baby bjorn imitators. i had heard and read a little about this before but it was no less interesting to hear her reasoning for not carrying them in-store. first, she mentioned that on a regular basis she gets calls from people saying the baby bjorn is causing them serious shoulder and back problems and their child is only a few months old! the baby bjorns put the bulk of the carrying weight in the center of the carriers body, which forces all the weight to be borne by the shoulders, tugging them down and causing a bowing effect that then quickly hurts the back as well (all carriers demoed in-store put the load of the carrying weight as much on the hips as possible). many people also find that they can only wear their baby in the bjorn for 20-30 minutes at a time...what a great $70+ investment...

second, the bjorns are actually not good for a developing babys body. not sure how this one gets overlooked so often, but perhaps its the appeal of having the baby in the facing-out position. the bjorns and similars all suspend the baby by its crotch, with all the limbs dangling. this puts all the body weight on the bottom of the babys spinal column. the hip, leg, pelvis, and spinal column areas of an infant are all still forming and learning how to articulate together. the added stressors the bjorns put on the body may lead to back or joint problems later in life.

ive actually worn the bjorn with an 11-month old (one of the french twins) and i was in serious pain shortly after leaving their apartment. i ended up having to use my arms to support much of the weight of the kid so that my shoulders didnt rip out of the sockets. thus, it wasnt comfortable, convenient, or useful to wear. plus, there are ways of using slings and wraps to get the baby in a facing-out position, should you so desire. and, all the carriers we saw demoed kept the babys knees at the same level as the bottom of the spine, which is the safer, preferred positioning.

(mom with a wrap and baby in the facing-out position. babys legs are in the "buddha" pose)

anyway, it was an interesting and informative workshop and i was so glad lots of people came. some seemed less excited about babywearing than me, which is fine, and i think the price of some of the slings seemed a bit much to some people. thankfully we received a sling as a baby gift, and are possibly receiving a wrap from someone else. once monster gets neck control, im really interested in the ergo baby carrier. it seems so comfortable and functional.

funny thing, after the workshop i was on the celebrity baby blog area of people.com and saw several celebs pictured using carriers with their kids. also very timely, there was a post of a video spoofing a beyonce song with made-up lyrics about putting your baby in a sling.

(actress kelly rutherford carries her daughter in an ergo carrier. this is the carrier i want.)

(musician pete wentz carrying his son in a metal hiking pack; actress alyson hannigan carrying her daughter in a bjorn)

Gestational nutritionist

had my appointment with the nutritionist today.

it only took a week from my doctor visit (where i got the referral) to the time when i actually had my appointment with the nutritionist. the objective: to discuss why in the hell i might have gained eight pounds in one month...and how to stop it from happening again. the appointment was at the women and childrens hospital (where i will be having monster) which is called the IWK.

the nutritionist was very nice and enthusiastic and gave me her full attention and lots of time. i never felt rushed and had every question and concern discussed and answered. basically, she had plotted my weight gain on a graph that bounded the normal/expected weight gain for someone starting in the "normal BMI" category, pre-pregnancy. my last data point put me at 1-2 pounds outside of the expected gain graph. so, she wasnt overly concerned but thought it was good i came for the appointment to be proactive about changing future patterns.

we mapped out my typical eating day and she said she was pretty satisfied with it. she gave me a few modifications and tips to get more protein or dairy in but otherwise seemed to think my daily regime was good.

her thoughts for why i gained the weight: 1. holiday eating and/or too much deviation from my "normal day" may have occurred in december (and possibly november where i gained 5-6 pounds), or 2. possibly gestational diabetes.

follow-up: if the reason was #1, then it is likely if i simply stay on my good "normal day" eating plan then i can get future visits to fall back to normal and i will get myself back into the "expected" area of the graph again without much effort. if the reason is #2, then things could get a little more dicey.

first, my next doctor visit is when the blood test for gestational diabetes testing takes place (this would occur normally, even if i hadnt gained the weight). so depending on the blood test i will either "pass" or be put in the "suspicious" category. then i would have to do an additional test to better determine the likelihood that i have gestational diabetes.

of course i absolutely frigging hope i do not have gestational diabetes. although it wouldnt be a result of anything ive done or didnt do, it would just suck all around. it would mean a much more vigilant diet in order to keep monsters weight down so that i dont incur the typical complications: increased risk of c-section, baby born with low blood sugar or high insulin levels, baby at higher risk of being obese or diabetic. looking at the list of risk factors for developing gestational diabetes, i dont not find myself in any of the categories, which doesnt rule me out, but man am i crossing my fingers that i just stuffed my face too much and that i dont actually have this condition.

side note: the helpful nutritionist did say that i was now "in the IWK system," so i have even easier access to the doctors and services at the hospital. she can now be my point of referral if i feel (and she feels) it would be a good idea for me to see someone else. for instance, she suggested increasing my daily exercise. i mentioned that i stopped yoga because of my pelvis. she said she can refer me to a physiotherapist in the hospital. i think i will do this.

Franco-american sushi club of canada (FASCC 1)

looks like weve got ourselves a twice monthly sushi club of sorts.

the french colleague of daves who we went to sushi with back in december would like to do sushi dinner with us every once in a while to try different places in town. sounds fine and fun to us. so tonight was an impromptu gathering at shige.

the service was fast and attentive and we had a good experience. matthias (the french colleague) had a huge platter of nigiri pieces (3-4 different kinds, 2 pieces each) and maki rolls (at least 2 different kinds). he is like a bottomless pit for sushi! dave ordered a decent platter as well (2 river eel nigiri pieces, a rainbow roll, and a spicy tuna roll), and i switched things up from my normal routine and ordered a bowl of vegetable soba (buckwheat noodle soup) and got just one maki (sweet potato tempura). i inhaled the soup and enjoyed every bite, although the broth could have been a little less bitter.

(daves sushi platter; my veggie soba with sweet potato roll in the background)

overall, we thought that the rolls were simple but good, however they werent quite as fresh or thoughtfully made as at doraku, our favorite place. some of the rolls that ive come to enjoy warm at doraku were cold here, so its just a preference thing i suppose. and for me, while the wasabi was authentic and spicy, it was also a little too dry.

its a nice tradition we seem to be starting, as matthias seems eager to continue sampling the sushi of the city. this could be fun. plus, he orders some interesting things, so its good to get an eyeful of the possible options for the future, when i can enjoy those treats again. also, randomly at dinner, while eavesdropping on the table of men sitting next to us, we heard that one of their wives was pregnant. she was due at the same time as me. dave and i were amused.

13 January 2010

Healthcare corner #2 - History

todays class was a dry but very important session on: the history of canadian health care.

the most brief history highlight list i can create (its still interesting though):
1945 - post-WWII canada puts forth a bill for national health insurance. it gets shot down.

1947 - under the guidance of Tommy Douglas, the province of saskatchewan creates the first compulsory state-sponsored universal hospital insurance program in north america.

1957 - the canadian federal government creates 50-50 cost sharing between federal and provincial governments for the hospital insurance programs now going on in several provinces.

1962 - again under the guidance of tommy douglas, the province of saskatchewan creates the first compulsory state-sponsored universal medical care insurance program in north america. because this now involves all arenas of health care the doctors of saskatchewan strike due to fear of lost wages and in protest of government meddling in their profession.

1966 - the canadian federal government creates 50-50 cost sharing between federal and provincial governments for the medical care insurance programs now going on in several provinces.

1984 - after several permutations of programs for covering medical insurance for its citizens, canada passes the definitive "Canada Health Act" whose principles are still the foundation for their system today.

1993-1997 - due to recession, the health care budget was frozen or reduced for the first time since the canada health act was adopted.

2003 - 10-year health care plan to inject more money ($17.3 billion) into the health care system.

2004 - the public health agency of canada was established (disturbing to me that this happened so late. in fact, the SARS outbreak is what spurred the need for the agency to be created).

2005 - a quebec resident who didnt want to wait on the waiting list for a hip replacement sues the government to be able to have the right to buy private health insurance for procedures/care that is covered under the public insurance. he wins in the case called "the chaoulli decision."
okay, so thats about as brief as i could make it. a few extra points:

- the canada health act has five conditions: public administration, comprehensiveness, universality, portability, and accessibility. the act itself is fairly short (like 14 pages but only one of the columns on each page is in the english, the other is in french) and you can find it here, if you want to read the legal jargon yourself.

- the term "medicare" definitely does not reference the same thing in canada as it does in the u.s. here, "medicare" is simply the unofficial name for canadas publicly funded universal health insurance system.

- the CBC has a neat little archived video/audio area with a few clips related to canadian medicare history. if youre bored you should check it out; they are each quite short. we watched clip #7 in class, which is a clip i highly recommend. the people are from 1962 saskatchewan but they could easily be americans today (minus the wacky hair/outfits and the accents). if you watch it, youll see what i mean. other clips i thought were worthwhile: #1, 8, 9.

- an anecdote: before we went back to MI for christmas, i called our insurance company to buy travel insurance. being pregnant, i wasnt going to get caught with some huge medical bill from the u.s. if there were some reason that forced me to go to the hospital while i was back. canadian health insurance does actually cover its citizens internationally (part of the "portability" function of the canada health act) but the rate of international reimbursement varies and since the u.s. has notoriously high (or perhaps exorbitant?) health care costs, there is no way the canadian health insurance could or would cover all of your bill.

anyway, our insurance guy knew that we were american, so when i called for travel insurance for travel back to my "home country" he was confused about why we needed to buy the insurance. he wondered why we wouldnt we just be using our american insurance? i told him, "well, we dont have jobs in the u.s. and we dont live in the u.s. how would we have insurance there? we live in canada and are covered under the canadian health insurance." he understood the last part, but still couldnt believe that we had NO insurance whatsoever from america when we stepped back onto our soil. i said nope, none at all, so...please sell me some. and we did end up getting travel medical insurance for those days we were back in MI (total cost for dave and i: $54). to clarify, our insurance guy is younger (uh, and clearly not too "with it") so maybe he doesnt really care about what is going on politically in the u.s., but if he has heard about the american health care debate...i wonder what he thinks the debate is about? maybe its not a totally rare confusion that some canadians have?

12 January 2010

Car safety on a day of disasters

ironic to pick our car up from its safety inspection on a day when the disasters came in three.

thankfully the local mechanic could get us in quickly for the safety inspection we needed (see earlier entry when we got the license plate). i picked it up after work today. we didnt end up needing daytime running lights installed or anything specific for canada but we did need new brake pads and rotors which wasnt cheap, but as a basic car upkeep item its fine.

(official sticker that says we passed safety inspection. good for two years.)

the mechanic chatted with me while ringing up my bill. he mentioned a local fire that had happened earlier in the morning. i said i had heard about it but hadnt looked up any news about it. he quickly turned his computer monitor around and showed me a picture. he and his wife had been the building managers some years back and he had been a cook in the restaurant that the apartment was attached to. he seemed to have fond memories.

back at home i looked up some news about the fire. it was two blocks from our apartment and started sometime in the early morning. it seems everyone got out safely. either the fire or the fire department took our power out for about 30 minutes but other than that we werent affected. the affected apartment was attached to several linked restaurants, which are all now out of commission for a while.

while i was looking for the fire information, i saw some news about a large water main break that also happened a couple blocks from our apartment (in the opposite direction as the fire). one heck of an icy mess.

and then of course there was the serious, serious disaster in haiti. the two local "disasters" arent so important when you compare it to such massive devastation. it kind of makes me glad we dont have a tv to watch all the streaming news stories about it. when i had to see hurricane katrina images every day it was just so abysmally sad. i am happy and proud to see that halifax sent two boats of aid down to the island. they have a history of being helped out in a disaster, so its nice to see them extending the kindness and responding so quickly.

10 January 2010

Stew sunday

stayed close to home today.

for lunch dave made a recipe i found called "spicy lentil stew." we couldnt find the specific sausage they mentioned so we used hot italian sausage (a pork variety, not chicken of course). it was very tasty though. good job dave! :)

(the stew. i cant decide if this would look gross to someone who didnt get to try it. but it really was good.)

at some point between lunch and dinner we went for a chilly walk along the harbor front. tourist areas in the off-season are weird. plus it was sunday, so it was even more quiet than normal. we decided to stop off at the hart and thistle gastropub & brewery to sit by the water and let dave try some of their beers.

(me by the harbor. georges island in the background; tugboats!)

so the brewery was deserted because it was sunday, off hours, and in the heart of tourist land, but the place was pretty cool. dave really enjoyed the beers, the building is right on the water (im sure you can sit outside in the summer), the inside feels like a luxury cabin and brewpub, and the menu actually looks like something worthy of the "gastro" part of their name. after our good experience there we were left wondering why it was located in tourist land. those people will eat or drink anything, why bother with quality and ambiance when youve already got the waterfront and convenience? ah well, at least it ensures them business and thus a higher probability of sticking around.

(dave and his porter at hart & thistle)

also, while at the brewery, i happened to grab a flyer that mentioned halifaxs upcoming "dine out week." yes! i was so jealous when my friend sarah reported that ann arbor was having their restaurant week coming up, and now we get to have our own version here!

09 January 2010

Bedford baby go-round

tooled around bedford again today and without planning it, we went found several baby stores.

fueled by the promise of baked goods we went back to bedford. after a generic lunch we headed up to the counter at the gleneagle bakery. we picked out several goodies to eat throughout the day (lets be honest, this stuff just doesnt keep. what you buy today, you must eat). among the winners were the date smile cookie and the nanaimo bar. we had never seen a nanaimo bar before and we wont be forgetting it! apparently it too is an original canadian recipe/treat (along with the butter tart). chocolate crumble crust on the bottom, vanilla custardy filling in the middle, and a topping of fudge-like melted chocolate. win! seems simple enough but i would never attempt to make this at home, unless i wanted to continue on my weight gaining path.

after the sugar shock, we headed in to the large, original petes frootique grocery store to get some meat for future dinners. here is a major beef (pun intended) i have with canada so far: these people seem overly obsessed with red meat, game, and seafood to the point of excluding the "healthier" white meats. i cant tell you the number of times in a week we cant find chicken, and the noises i make at the grocery store when we see turkey are borderline mental. if you want beef cut a million different ways, step right up. veal and lamb to your heart attacks content. and pork, i think ive seen just about every variation of pork offered to the human race. but chicken...this is a rare commodity.

the lobster season is even experiencing a weird situation. the recession is harming luxury items, and lobster is a luxury item. the demand has gone so low that lobster is now cheaper than chicken here (about $5/pound for lobster vs. about $8/pound for organic chicken). lobsters are sold on road sides to cut the middle man costs from the profit of the lobster fishermen.

ah, anyway, i digress. we nabbed some chicken stir fry pieces, spicy pork sausage, and beef roulades. mmm. meat.

the rest of the afternoon was spent in baby stores. near petes was the uncommon kids store. nothing there was reasonably priced, though we werent surprised. i did get to play a round of my favorite game, "look at this and tell me how much do you think it costs to buy?" some stupid baby room freshener of essential oils (a small bottle that you add vinegar and water to) came to...$45! nice try.

then we got in the car to find some pet store dave was interested in and accidentally found the royal diaperer. cool store. three stories of baby/kid stuff, with the top floor being basically all newborn needs stuff. a helpful sales lady got me jazzed about a car seat and stroller. i think we are leaning toward the:

1. first years true fit car seat because it is reasonably priced, rates highest in safety, has a well thought out design, and can be used from birth until the kid is 65 pounds. canada has more strict child/infant car seat regulations than the u.s. so pretty much anything on the market here is held to a pretty high standard (there is an interesting government site dave found where they show videos of the car seat testings. scary.). my aunt used to be certified in car seat safety and had mentioned britax as another highly reputable, top safety brand, but the lady at the store noted that even though they say their seats can go from 5 lbs-40, 50, 65+ lbs, many people find that their newborn isnt tall enough to fit well in the shoulder area of the seat until they are a few weeks/months older. no thanks.

(the "first years true fit car seat." the top headrest is removable and is for when the kid is older and the lighter grey piece is an adapter of sorts for the newborn which is removed when outgrown.)

2. urban mountain buggy stroller because it is well designed, steers like a dream, has an adjustable handle area to suit short and tall stroller pushers, and can take the kid from newborn to 75 lbs. they are made in new zealand (win!) and seem really functional, versatile, and maneuverable while also collapsing easily and not being super heavy. there are some used ones out there and there are some older year models you can still buy new that are cheaper, so its a feasible option for us. since the car seat will stay put in the car, we arent looking to get a stroller that snaps a car seat into it.

(urban mountain buggy. love this color but i doubt we can find it. we like the minimal, three wheel design and the little storage bucket under the chair.)

so, we got some good help and advice and left with one small purchase. a sleepsack. ive been wanting at least one of these since i babysat the twins in france. their mom was british and i guess they use them regularly in england. they are highly recommended because they help in reducing the risk of SIDS. they are really cute too. we found a rad orange one.

(the pumpkin sleep sack we bought. 0-6 month size. cotton = good for warmer sleeping weather)

and lastly, we did locate the fancy pet store so dave could embark on spoiling nutmeg. the pet store happened to be right next to...a baby store. i had to go in, though i was a little worn out by this point. turns out "the bump, baby, and beyond" is also not my style...or my price range. so farts to them anyway.