My Year By Design

The journey to living by design.

Art Assignment 23: Become Someone Else

I'm in my car at school but I feel like I've forgotten something...

I’m in my car at school but I feel like I’ve forgotten something…

There it is.

There it is.

This was a pretty big hit with the staff and students. A lot of people said, “Nice ears.” A few students told me I was “on point,” which means stylish, (I had to ask another teacher to decode that one for me). The cutest was when one of the other teachers asked me to be a guinea pig for something he was showing the students. One girl pipped up, “Don’t you mean guinea bunny?”

Be kind; these are about the fifth and sixth selfies I’ve taken…ever. Hoppy Easter! #theartassignment

Spring Cleaning Week 5

So this week I challenged myself to give up grains except in small amounts on exception days. As I explained in my review of the book Wheat Belly, I don’t believe grains cause all or even most ailments. However, I know that when I consume large quantities of grain products, I gain weight and feel more sluggish. I have also wondered if grains exacerbate my depression. I have head anecdotal evidence that wheat especially worsens depression, although I haven’t read a medical report that provides clinical evidence of this effect.

Before I got married, I reduced my consumption of grains, especially wheat, and found I felt a lot better. I slimmed down but more importantly, I had more energy. After the wedding, parties and honeymooning led to more rich meals complete with bread, pasta and treats like cake for dessert. Over time I noticed some weight gain, (about 5 lbs,) and a downward turn in my overall mood. These seemed like excellent reasons to remove most of the grains from my diet.

Now, because I struggled so much to reduce my sugar intake, I knew giving up my beloved bread would be a challenge so I wasn’t surprised when I didn’t succeed this week. I ate fewer grains but still more than two servings. I had a lot of stress this week and I had several weather triggered migraines. For those of you who don’t know, migraines can be caused by changes in barometric pressure. One of the most effective, non-medicinal ways to treat a weather migraine is to eat complex, whole grains because the digestive system will draw blood out of the throbbing head to help with the difficult task of breaking down grains in the stomach.

Excuses aside, next week grains and I are breaking up for good. I may still see them at parties and social events but I’ll just smile and keep my distance.

Goodbye bread. I like you a lot but you make me feel badly.

Cereal, you’ve always been there on the breakfast table for me but I need some space.

Pasta, it’s not me, it’s you.



Book Review: Wheat Belly

So to continue on with my New Year’s resolution, (yes, I’m sticking to it,) I listened to the audiobook Wheat Belly by William Davis.

Wheat Belly

I chose this book because I know that wheat has a negative impact on my own waist line and energy level. I have reduce my consumption of wheat but I have trouble completely eliminating it from my diet. I was interested to learn some of the science behind what wheat does to the body and to hopefully get some tips on beating the wheat cravings. Unfortunately, these expectations were not really met by Davis’ book.

Firstly, I found the health claims Davis makes a little far-reaching. Davis claims wheat consumption causes everything from celiac disease to asthma to rheumatoid arthritis to neurological impairment. I’m not sure I believe that every ailment we face is caused by wheat consumption alone, although I have no doubt it causes some. I have a Masters in history and as part of my schooling I was taught never to trust the ‘single cause’ theory, (e.g. events in history, science, health, etc. rarely have one single cause.) Perhaps that is the source of my mistrust of Davis’ thesis.

Another difficulty I faced was following the science Davis presented through all the jargon. This book used more medical terms than I’m used to and in an audio format it was confusing. I couldn’t keep track of the definitions of Glyadin, lymphocytes, advanced glycation end products, oxidated responses, and amylopectin A, just to name a few. Maybe I should have been taking notes? I simply couldn’t keep track.

I found Davis’ explanation of dwarf wheat much more interesting. Although I am aware of genetically modification of foods, I have not seen someone trace the evolution of modern wheat this way before. This family tree showed me the modifications and how they improved the economy of wheat. This historical overview appealed to me and I think this is the area of the book where I learned the most.
As I listened into chapters six and seven I kept thinking, “Where are the tips on how to reduce our consumption of wheat?” Even in the case studies provided there is no mention of how people stopped consuming gluten. Davis implies that wheat is so bad that we should just stop cold-turkey. If wheat is as addictive as the early chapters of this book imply, then how do we kick the habit? Overcoming addiction is no simple matter.
This was the most difficult audiobook for me to finish so far. I think it was because Davis made several statements to which I took offense. I deal with each below. Some of these may not bother you and if so, feel free to skip that section.
  1. Eating wheat is an extreme sport. Really? This seems like just another of the foods that are banned from diets as deadly one month and then embraced as a health hero the next. Now, I think that reducing our consumption of wheat is good for our health. However, Davis’ alarmist approach turned me off and made him seem less credible.
  2. Davis returns several times to the idea that eating a Snickers bar is less harmful than eating a piece of whole wheat bread. Really neither is a good choice. I believe in making my diet healthier overall, rather than just removing one ‘bad’ food.
  3. Davis claims that people on wheat free diets can endure 72 hours of  fasting with minimal discomfort. This seems like a ridiculous thing to suggest. Why would anyone need to fast that long for dietary reasons?
  4. I have no doubt we are not fully aware of what genetically modified foods do to our bodies. However, I resist the sense of panic imbedded in this book by the constant listing of diseases and symptoms. These lists were repetitive and boring to sit through.
  5. In chapter eight I was appalled when Davis personified wheat as an abusive husband. I was insulted by this glib use of violence against women to prove a point. This was the closest I came to turning off this audio book for good. This type of shock tactic does not work on me and I think many readers would have a problem with this section.
  6. Finally, there was an implication that every other medical professional was clueless when it comes to wheat. Davis makes some good points but he’s not the only professional addressing the impact of wheat on the body. It would serve him well to be a little less inflammatory.
Davis ends the book with sample menus. Finally, here was the sort of guidance I had been looking for to kick the wheat habit. Well, actually this plan also eliminates most other carbs, limits fruits and dairy. This began to sound more like a dressed up Atkins, something I know doesn’t work for me. I like variety and moderation. So, in conclusion, should you reduce your consumption of wheat? Yes. Should you read this book? Meh.

Spring Cleaning Week 4

This week’s challenge was water and herbal tea only.

This was not a very difficult one. I mostly drink water and herbal tea anyway. I avoid all caffeine because of my migraines and water is about the only way I can stay hydrated in my dry school. So this week I only had one exception drink and that was a Canada Dry ginger ale Friday night. Since this was an easier goal, I’ll have to attempt a more difficult challenge next week.



No food after 7pm – Accomplished.

No sweets except on exception days – Accomplished.

Stay tuned for a new goal next week!

Art Assignment 22: Encounters

Dear Danielle and Julie,

Let me introduce you to each other.

Julie is an important member of my London family. She and I have been friends since I moved to London and she was in teacher’s college at UWO. She is caring and open with everyone and she always has my back. She is also my perfect fake wife so if my Nick and her Garry are both hit by meteorites, we are moving in together. No adventure or challenge is too much for her so I thought of her immediately when I saw this art assignment.

Danielle is a brand new friend for me. We were room buddies in semester one but now we’re friends as well. She is funny and wildly creative. Her students adore her and I can see why. Although she is easily distracted at times, you always get her full attention when you need it. She is also engaged so I have been watching her joyfully plan her wedding and regaling her with tales of my own celebrations with Nick.

I am sending you a piece of paper and I want you to add something to it. Use any medium, any style, and any colour. Nothing is off-limits. Draw, cut, paint, and collage until it looks right to you. When you are finished, use the envelope to mail it to the other person. You will mail your art back and forth a few times each. When one of you feels the work is finished, mail it back to me so that I can put your masterpiece on my blog.

Thank you both for your help,


PS: You also both love minions. It’s a match made in heaven!


We are all teachers so we sent the art through inter-school mail using one of those inter-office envelopes. I was so excited when the envelope finally made its way back to my desk.

Here it is!

Here it is!

I can't wait to see it...

I can’t wait to see it…



I love the layering of text and images. I also really like the one border that looks like the edge of an unknown continent. #theartassignment

Spring Cleaning Week 3

I did it! I only had sweets twice this week. It was difficult given all the Easter treats floating around but I accomplished my goal. I feel so good about having stuck to my plan even when it was difficult. Now I can move onto a new goal and make myself even healthier.


No food after 7pm – Accomplished.

No sweets except on exception days – Accomplished.

Stay tuned for a new goal next week!

Breakfast for Dinner

I love having breakfast for dinner. It’s quick, it’s easy and it’s healthy. Plus there are so many great flavours. Case in point, my guacamole omelet. This recipe is gluten-free. I served my omelet with bacon, but if you pass on that then this recipe is also vegetarian.


All you need is a few eggs, some green onion, sweet pepper, cheese (I used Havarti,) and some leftover guacamole.


I heated the pan to medium high and threw in a pat of butter. I beat the eggs and poured them into the pan. Then I added the veggies, the cheese and the guacamole.


This was delicious! Next time I would turn the heat on the pan down as the outside of my omelet was a tiny bit too brown. Still, this is one of my favourite go-to quick dinners.


Spring Cleaning Week 2

Alright, changing my eating times went well so now it’s time to change what I’m eating. I’ve made no secret of the fact that I have a voracious sweet tooth.

This week’s habit was to stop eating sweets…delicious, delicious sweets.

So I was not successful with my second week goal. I ate sweets four times this week. By the rules I set for myself I could have had sweets on my exception days but I definitely ate more than that.My old habit would be to play the blame game at this point. I could point out I had a stressful week, (I did,) or that people kept offering me treats, (fours times this week,) but why should I justify my bad behaviour? The fact is that I didn’t achieve my goal because I didn’t want to. Let’s just leave it at that.

Now, I could easily think, “F*** it,  I’m done,” but a failure is no reason for me to quit. Instead, I will be revisiting this habit for next week. I won’t be adding another habit yet because I don’t want to feel overwhelmed. If I keep working at it I will be successful here, even if it takes me longer than one week to get there.

Week 1 – No eating after 7PM – Accomplished.

Stay tuned for the results of next week’s healthy habit.

Art Assignment 21: Movement Telephone

I decided to take a risk with this assignment and use this video for my movement clip:

I love watching people communicate using ALS. We have a deaf interpreter at my school and my favourite thing to see is when she and a student are signing rapidly back and forth and laughing at some shared joke. ALS is a beautiful language because it reminds me of dance. It seamlessly integrates gestures, body language and facial expressions into communication.

Let me be clear; I do not know ASL. My video is not meant to be offensive to speakers of ASL. Instead I was trying to show how difficult it can be to learn a new language. This was my attempt to learn the ASL alphabet in just a few tries.

I know, I made a lot of mistakes and some of my signs are backwards. Not bad for a first try though. I’ll have to keep practicing, just like when I first learned the alphabet by singing it.


Spring Cleaning Week 1

So I don’t mean my cabinets and closets, (although they usually get a once over this time of year as well.) Instead, I am going to clean up my eating habits. In the dark months of Winter we all tend to relax our eating habits a bit and Spring is my time to return to my healthier habits. By no means is this a simple task.

To ensure my success I’m going to borrow a technique I learned from some friends who are on a clean eating plan. Once a week I will introduce (or reintroduce) a healthy eating habit. I will take that week to focus on that habit and make it part of my daily routine until I don’t even think about it. Then the next week I will introduce another healthy habit and so on until I am eating much better. I figure I will take until my birthday at the end of May to get my eating habits where I want them. By adding one habit a week, I won’t feel overwhelmed each week but these small changes will add up to a healthier me.

I will also get exception days. These are vacation days where I am allowed to ignore my habits and have some fun. No one can eat perfectly all of the time so this is essential to sticking to my plan. I will start with two exception days a week and then scale it back to one day a week.

So on to Spring Cleaning Week 1. My habit this week was to stop eating and drinking anything but water at 7PM each night. According to this article on, eating after dinner can lead to weight gain, sleep disturbances, diabetes, and acid reflux. I am not interested in any of these. 7PM is late enough that I can ensure I get my dinner but far enough from bedtime that I’m not going to bed on a full stomach.

I chose a habit I would find easy for week 1 so that I would feel successful early. This encourages me to keep going. Most nights this week I actually stopped eating around 6:30PM. My one exception was Tuesday when I saw a movie with friends at 6:50. I did indulge in a few movie snacks but I stopped around 7:30 and made sure to eat slowly so I wouldn’t break my first rule too extremely.

Stay tuned next week when I add another healthy habit to my new eating plan.

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