Thursday, December 19, 2013

Seasonal Tips from the University of Guelph Faculty, Staff for Holidays

GUELPH, Ontario - December 19, 2013 - University of Guelph Campus News -  With the Christmas and holiday season upon us, University of Guelph faculty and staff experts have some tips and advice on meal choices and preparation, online shopping, healthy living and New Year's Resolutions, wine selection and moderation in serving, and seasonal sensitivities.

The Holiday Meal

The holiday meal is a staple for many Canadian families, along with get-togethers with family and friends.

Food choices become more diverse at this time of year, says University of Guelph food laureate Anita Stewart.

“Turkey is still very much the centrepiece of the Christmas dinner, but more and more the holiday table is set with creative other dishes,” she said.

“As more people reach the conclusion that shopping locally makes sense, you'll find an array of great dishes that speak to the bounty of Canada, from beautiful lamb roasts and the best lobster of the year, sweet from the cold salt water of the Atlantic, to tourtière and, likely the most traditional, roast goose. But whatever is selected, it's usually a tribute to the family's personal food story.”

Stewart suggests a number of ways for people to purchase delicious produce.

“Most grocery stores are open very early, but to really embrace the season, head to your local farmers’ market to experience the real spirit of celebration,” she said. “Revel in the array of ingredients and the opportunity to thank our farmers. It's also where you'll find lots of last-minute gifts.”

To ease holiday hosting stress, involve others in food preparation.

“Do as much as you can ahead, and let everyone pitch in. Potlucks can be fun, but cooking together is the best.”

Online Shopping

More and more shoppers looking to avoid crowds and find deals are looking online for the best bargains.
Prof. Sunghwan Yi, Department of Marketing and Consumer Studies, says online shopping is easy -- but sometimes too convenient.

“It is so easy to buy things that you don't need and often do not really want, one after another, while surfing on the web,” he said.

“Try to create mental and physical pauses that help you stop and deliberate. For example, remove your credit card number and shipping address from online shopping sites. This way, you will have a chance to think once more whether you really need this item while entering your credit card number and shipping address each time you buy something.”

Easy online buying can increase your debt, including extended interest payments that can eat into expected savings.

“Put your credit card bill from last month or bank account statement next to your computer. Better still, your credit card bill from last January. This will help you remind yourself about your financial situation and be reasonable,” Yi said.

He cautions against over-purchasing and getting caught up in emotion.

“Keep a record of how much you have spent on your Christmas shopping so that you are aware of how much you have spent so far. Give a look at your wardrobe and try them on before buying anything in this season. You have more clothes than you think.”

Yi prefers to purchase electronics online and shop for clothes in stores.

“Electronics items are relatively easy to compare online on different sites. In terms of the best sites to shop at, you can look at websites for stores or for online retailers. For the most popular items, you have to move fast, or items will get sold out,” he said.

“In some cases, price match guarantees, where certain stores promise to beat competitors’ prices, generally by 10 per cent of the difference, can lead to increased savings. This takes time, so you need to consider if that time is worth the savings.”

Healthy in 2014

New Year’s resolutions often involve a more healthy diet. But often that resolution is short-lived, says Lisa Armstrong, dietitian in the Health and Performance Centre at the University of Guelph.

Six out of 10 people quit their crash diets within the first week of January and often gain back any weight lost.

Ask yourself: Could I eat like this for the entire year? If not, your changes are likely too drastic.

“People look to make drastic changes immediately to their lives, and that can be the first issue.”

Reducing calories significantly can actually set your body into starvation mode. Your body will slow its metabolism in response, impeding weight loss.

“The big idea behind a New Year’s resolution that many people seem to miss is that you have the whole year to reach your goals. Set achievable goals, start small, and pace yourself. Where do you want to be at the end of 2014? Plan that now and take it slow — you will get there.”

Armstrong said the key to making a New Year’s resolution last is to make it enjoyable.

“Many of us seem to set harsh New Year’s resolutions that just never seem like any fun. No more chocolate, no more bread, no more wine! And no matter how hard we try, come the first of February, many of us find ourselves at the bottom of that box of chocolates we hid in the cupboard ‘for safekeeping.’”

Her diet resolution tips:

1. Aim for healthy weight loss of one to two pounds per week.
2. Reduce dinner portions by half and fill half your plate with veggies.
3. Don’t cut out every ounce of “junk” food immediately. Work out foods like candy and sugary beverages gradually, and replace them with more wholesome options.
4. Regular snacking on healthy foods such as fruit, vegetables and whole grains keeps your metabolism running on high.
5. Plan one large meal per week that you can portion into lunches or freeze for quick meals.

In January, Armstrong will begin a seminar on diet, weight and health. The Craving Change series offers three workshops and a workbook for $75. All are welcome to attend, but space is limited. To register or for information, email

Wine in Moderation

What is the best wine to take to a holiday party? Which wine to serve with my meal? How can I get the best value for my wine purchases?

Those are some of the questions Prof. Joe Barth, School of Hospitality and Tourism Management, and Guelph’s wine expert, expects to hear this winter.

“Sparkling wines are always welcome and set a festive mood for any occasion, and go well with most foods,” he said.

“That said, food and wine pairing is over-rated. People who don't like red wine will not like it any better regardless of the type of food with which it is served. So-called transition wines are an excellent compromise, as they incorporate the red colour and fruitiness of red wine with the crisp acidity and lighter taste of white wines. Examples include wines made from the Gamay Noir grape, such as Beaujolais, or lower-priced Pinot Noir wines.”

For value, consider buying cheaper wines or larger bottles.

“You don't need to spend a lot of money on wine, unless you wish to do so. A cheap wine with a ‘classy’ label will be just fine in most situations. There are many good wines under $15 in the LCBO.

“If you are hosting a large party and want to do something different, large-format bottles from magnum (two standard bottles) to rehoboam (six standard bottles) are often available from the LCBO during the winter festive season. The cost is often not much more than buying the same wine in standard bottles.”

Serve guests in moderation.

“Always serve water with meals; wine is for taste, water is for thirst. For wine served with dinner, plan on half a bottle of wine per person over a two-hour period. For longer evenings, most people can safely have one standard drink per hour when consumed with food, to a maximum of four drinks. A standard drink is a five-ounce glass of wine, a 12-ounce bottle of beer or a 1 ½-ounce shot of spirit.

“People who are small in stature should consume less, while those taking certain prescription medicines, or suffering from depression or alcoholism should avoid alcohol completely. When serving alcohol during the holidays, less is always better than a little more."

Celebrate Diversity

Although the holiday season has traditionally meant Christmas, there’s a growing diversity of faith expressions within our communities, says James Vanderberg, a Christian Reformed campus minister and member of U of G’s Multi-Faith Resource Team.

During this season, people celebrate Luut’aa, Masá’il, Sharaf, Christmas, Maunajiyaras, Hanukkah, Tohji-taisai, Yule, the death of Zarathustra and Kwanzaa.

Some consider it overly politically correct to use the greeting “Happy Holidays,” but seasonal sensitivity is a matter of respect, says Vanderberg.
“It’s important to recognize the faith-filled celebrations of other communities and grow in our understanding.”

Three ways to be both inviting and sensitive:

1. Don’t be afraid to ask, “What are you celebrating this time of the year?”
2. Don’t be afraid to invite someone for dinner or to a specifically religious celebration.
3. Recognize that Christmas is a celebration for a specific faith community. Not everyone is celebrating Christmas, and those who are may not want the occasion tied to the marketing strategies of North American toy companies.

Saturday, December 14, 2013

Canadian concrete companies running deceptive ad campaign against wood construction

by Lloyd Alter at
Design / Green Architecture
December 12, 2013

Wood construction is gaining in popularity around the world. New technologies have made it possible to build higher and stronger. Sustainably harvested wood stores carbon dioxide, while reforestation absorbs yet more CO2. That's why the new wave of wood construction is so exciting, and why so many jurisdictions are looking at changing the building codes to promote the use of wood and allow taller wood buildings. Particularly in North America, where the forests are  under attack by the pine beetle and will just rot if not cut and used, building with wood makes more sense than ever.

The manufacture of concrete, on the other hand, is responsible for almost  5% of the world's annual CO2 production. The aggregate that is mixed with cement to make concrete is another problem. Any switch from concrete to wood construction is going to be good for the climate. Who it is not good for is the people who make and build with concrete, like the Canadian Concrete Masonry Producers Association. . They have turned themselves into environmentalists, with headlines like If current deforestation rates continue, critical habitats could disappear within the next hundred years. Their full-page ads and press releases tug at the heartstrings and drop names of prestigious more  here

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Travel still high on retirement wish list, but becoming snowbirds is more of a myth than a reality: RBC poll

Not-yet-retired Canadians dream of wintering in the south, retirees prefer to stay home

TORONTO, December 10, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - While Canadians approaching retirement may think they want to spend their post-career years heading somewhere warm for the winter, the reality is that Canadians living in retirement find there's no place like home year-round, according to the RBC 2013 Retirement Myths & Realities Poll.

One-quarter (27 per cent) of not-yet-retired Canadians who are 50 and older responded that they expect to be snowbirds in retirement by "regularly going somewhere warm in the winter". In contrast, only 16 per cent of retired Canadians reported that they actually are snowbirds.

While the annual poll found that both men and women approaching retirement were equally interested in being snowbirds (28 per cent and 26 per cent respectively), there were marked differences between how the genders expect they will be spending their retirement years. Women were much more likely than men to say they will work as volunteers (63 per cent versus 52 per cent) or spend more time with their friends (50 per cent versus 39 per cent). Men, on the other hand, planned to spend more time with their spouse/partner (61 per cent versus 53 per cent). Despite these very different expectations, over one-third (36 per cent) of pre-retired couples have not talked to their spouses/partners about what they want to do when they retire.

"It's so important to discuss your expectations for retirement with the key people in your life, including a financial advisor who can help ensure you are prepared for this next phase," explained Bill Hill, National Retirement Planning Consultant at RBC. "We know from the work we do with our clients that the reality of retirement can be different from what people imagine it will be. If you are within five to 10 years of your ideal retirement date, it's time to focus on what's really important to you - your family, your health, your lifestyle, your legacy - and start preparing now for the retirement you have in mind."

About the Fourth Annual RBC 2013 Retirement Myths & Realities Poll

This annual poll examines Canadians' expectations and experiences in retirement. It was conducted via online interviews by Ipsos Reid from February 27 to March 12, 2013, using a national sample of 2,159 adults aged 50 and over with household assets of at least $100,000 from Ipsos' Canadian online panel. A survey with an unweighted probability sample of this size and a 100 per cent response rate would have an estimated margin of error of ±2 percentage points 19 times out of 20 of what the results would have been had the entire population of adults in Canada been polled. All sample surveys and polls may be subject to other sources of error, including, but not limited to coverage error, and measurement error.

The Salvation Army Christmas Kettles Need Filling

BARRIE, December 10, 2013 /Canada NewsWire/ - The Salvation Army 2013 Christmas Kettle Campaign in Central Ontario has only 14 days left to meet its fundraising goals.  Salvation Army Bell-Ringers are out in full-force in hopes to collect much-needed donations that will support its work for the coming year.

The first Salvation Army Christmas Kettle was used in 1891 on the docks of San Francisco by Salvation Army Captain, Joseph McFee. By 1906 they had made their way to Canada and are still an effective fundraising tool for the organization.

"The Christmas Kettle is a symbol of help and hope in each one of our communities" says Jeffrey Robertson, Spokesperson for The Salvation Army, "A donation to The Salvation Army is a positive step in helping to make your community stronger.  Your gift will provide practical help that can change a life, and can provide a real sense of newfound dignity."

The Christmas Campaign helps The Salvation Army provide direct, compassionate, hands-on service to more than 1.8 million people in Canada each year, restoring hope and dignity to the most vulnerable in society. The Salvation Army's annual Christmas Campaign has grown into one of Canada's most significant and recognizable annual charitable events. 

"Most campaigns in the region are behind where they were a year ago.  With more people looking for help, the need to fill the Kettles grows",

"For those who prefer not to carry cash with them, they can still give.  They can give to an on-line kettle at and receive an electronic tax receipt", says Robertson.

About The Salvation Army:

The Salvation Army is an international Christian organization that began its work in Canada in 1882 and has grown to become the largest non-governmental direct provider of social services in the country. The Salvation Army gives hope and support to vulnerable people today and every day in 400 communities across Canada and more than 125 countries around the world. The Salvation Army offers practical assistance for children and families, often tending to the basic necessities of life, providing shelter for homeless people and rehabilitation for people who have lost control of their lives to an addiction.

When you give to The Salvation Army, you are investing in the future of marginalized and overlooked people in your community.  News releases, articles and updated information can be found at