Gratitude and the exercise groove

Dumbell

Since a string of minor physical ailments in January broke down my exercise routine, I’ve finally overcome physical and mental barriers and returned to the groove the past week or so. I’m glad of it, but whenever I do the intense resistance workout (three times a week), I still (as always) hear a whining inner voice: “I don’t want to do this. How many more seconds for this set? When will it be over?” Today it made think about the reasons I’m thankful for this routine.

With that thought….Bang!

I realized I’ve been missing one of the vital parts of my morning wake-up ritual: writing three points of gratitude when I arrive at my desk. I completely forgot about it. I don’t know how long ago: months probably. Despite the fact it was something I really liked doing.

I suppose this is part of the reason community rituals (as in churches) are so powerful: they remind us what to do. Unfortunately for me, community rituals trigger old trauma. I need to use pictures, words and the structure of routine to remind myself, and they’re not always foolproof. Tomorrow morning I’ll start again.

But for now, here are specific points of gratitude related to the resistance workouts. I’m thankful for having more energy, the support to good mental health, the long-sought improvement in my blood cholesterol, the subtle improvements in how my body looks and feels, the 20-minute midday music break long enough for five or six songs, and learning to stick with something I don’t necessarily enjoy doing.

Reducing cholesterol: my reluctant ban on cheese

Cheeses by Graeme Mclean on FlickrI just received excellent news from the doctor’s office.

For the past couple of years we’ve been struggling to bring down my blood cholesterol. In the fall, my doctor said I’d plateaued just below the level of moderate risk for heart disease and, with no sign of improvement, she wanted me to start taking statins to control it. She gave me a prescription.

I told her I didn’t want to take statins. So I agreed to sign up for a year-long health program through the clinic. In November I started meeting with a nurse, a nutritionist and a kinesiologist once every three months.

I think a lot about food. I prepare most of our meals from scratch and try to make them balanced and healthy, but as of November my cholesterol had not responded.

So I decided to give up cheese. Close friends will know this was a painful sacrifice. The foods I love best are fruit, mushrooms, shellfish and cheese. Unfortunately, when I’m tired (which happens every evening) I loose discretion about what I eat. I was easily consuming two pounds of cheese a week.

This is by no means an argument that people should cut out cheese for heart health. Cheese is a good source of protein, and not the worst culprit where cholesterol is concerned. The nutritionist expressed doubts about eliminating it while still permitting butter and coconut oil.

The difference is that a teaspoon of butter on toast can pack a load of satisfying flavour. Cutting back to an appropriate daily serving of cheese was not going to work for me, because I was using cheese to satisfy an emotional craving – one that was never satisfied.

The only practical strategy was an outright ban, to begin with. Danny agreed, good man, because he loves it as much as I do. Initially I had in mind that we could have cheese once a month for a special treat.

Two months into the experiment, I’ve found it possible to buy cheese if it’s dedicated for a specific meal, usually low-fat. For example, last week we bought half a pound of low-fat mozzarella for a lasagna that gave us two meals.

When I open the fridge in the evening, I still crave that cheese, but can remind myself of its purpose. Instead I reach for something containing less fat. For my daily fix of richness, I’m relying more often on high-protein Greek yogurt or toast with a little butter. No more giant pig wedges every night before bed.

Krista, the kinesiologist, has been particularly helpful in achieving my exercise goals, phoning every two weeks to see how I’m doing. My goal is exercise six days a week: three days walking and three days of resistance training: essentially a high-energy workout that combines cardio with light weights to develop different muscle groups.

With winter weather, house hunting and getting ready to move, I’ve had a hard time staying on top of it, but the accountability has helped. In reality, I’ve been exercising four or five days a week, and it dropped off completely when I was sick in January. But I keep getting back on the horse. When I went for an extra check-in with Krista a month ago, I had lost six pounds since November.

Now for the good news. In preparation for my appointment with the health program trio next week, I went for blood tests yesterday. The results already came back to my doctor this morning. Her assistant called.

My bad cholesterol has come down significantly. I’m on target! She asked if I was taking statins. No, I didn’t get the prescription filled. I don’t need to take them, she said. The doctor wants me to continue with the health program for the full year, of course, which I will gratefully do.

My low-cheese diet is working. The key is treating it as an ingredient instead of a main course. A wedge of nippy whiskey cheddar or a silky Camembert disc sitting in the fridge at night would be harder to resist. Even those are candidates for special occasions, parties and birthdays. I like looking forward to things, and few things are more delicious to anticipate than cheese. But my relationship with it has changed, and my heart is thanking me.

Photo courtesy of Graeme Mclean on Flickr via Creative Commons.

Oral hygiene versus the microbiome

toothbrush and toothpaste

Last week I went to the dentist to find out that a tooth, which chipped about two months ago, had indeed become abscessed. We can’t afford the root canal, but losing this molar would not be a good option because the adjacent premolar is already missing (since about 1986). I’d lose too much chewing capacity on the right side. A root canal it must be.

I don’t especially hate dentists. Though I must say, I’m skeptical about conventional hygiene, oral and otherwise, with its phobia about dirt and bacteria. Except for the previous emergency 10 years ago, when one of my wisdom teeth split in two and had to be extracted, I hadn’t attended a dentist in about 12 years because I couldn’t afford it.

As an experiment, I stopped brushing about eight years ago, and my previously very sensitive teeth stopped hurting. No one reported bad breath when asked. My gums stopped receding and nothing fell out. I still floss sometimes. I have two previously chipped teeth that were sensitive for a while, then stopped. I’d fix them if I could afford to, but the roots weren’t affected and they haven’t given me any problems in five years.

But until last week I hadn’t owned a toothbrush for years. At the moment I’m enjoying the sensation of having them clean, but aren’t we all trained this way ever since those regimental fluoride applications in grade school? How much is necessary and how much are we supporting an industry that has us all convinced we need to spend many thousands of dollars on our mouths over the course of a lifetime? This is so ingrained that I’m embarrassed to admit this rebellion in print.

I have come to believe that my mouth is healthier with a natural population of microbes. Probably most of our dental problems come from inappropriate diets. I’ve minimized my consumption of refined sugars and I’m working on reducing those starchy carbohydrates, the two main offenders against healthy enamel. This seems to me a more effective, economical approach.

It’s not only the teeth. I’ve reduced my use of other personal products as well. Some years ago, I stopped using any soap above the neck. This was not a private experiment, because I knew others who had done it. Soap goes only on those body parts that actually need it: armpits, genitals, crotch and feet. I have sensitive skin, too. Without soap, my face stopped getting adult acne.

I wash my hair with water alone. This adjustment was hard. At first it felt so greasy, it drove me nuts. But my scalp chemistry changed over the next six months. My fine hair became softer, glossier and healthier than before. Unfortunately I’m naturally oily (I’m one of those people who stains his pillow, though it was even worse when I used soap on my head), so my hair won’t take to growing long.

I even tried dropping my lifetime dependency on antiperspirant, but that experiment flopped. A yeast infection plagued me all last winter. Even corn starch and health store alternatives failed to do the trick. Apparently my pampered body was not ready to make the adjustment. Okay, I’m inclined to sweat, so I retreated to my Gillette stick. Maybe this would have been more successful were I more physically active and less overweight, but that’s an alternate reality. Everybody is different and this is one thing my body and lifestyle require.

Overall, I think we’re too obsessed with being clean. Medical research is only now revealing how much our bodies depend on the microbiome, that huge population of organisms that lives in and on us. In fact, we can’t survive without it. It effects our digestive, nervous, immune and other organ systems. I’ve been reminded of this by the regimen of antibiotics, necessary to bring down the infection in my tooth, and what harsh side effects it has had on my digestive process. I’ve been tired and dehydrated for 10 days.

There is even evidence that the bacteria living in plaques on our teeth provide protection against certain diseases. So maybe I’ll stop using the toothbrush again once this ordeal is finished.

No doubt, I need a dentist now. Without modern medicine I might die of infection or, at the very least, lose the tooth in a painful, undignified and risky way. Evolution didn’t design our teeth to last 75 years, but I do hope to live and enjoy meals for at least that long.

Maybe that’s why we’re so paranoid about filth. It’s the old fight against eternity, and the gnawing realization that bacteria will someday consume our bodies. The body’s slow decay during life and afterward is tragic, inevitable and natural.

Interview with gluten free expert Joe Murray

Joseph Murray photo courtesty of Mayo ClinicIn my research for Gluten-Free Living I’ve spoken with many experts, focusing particularly on celiac disease and non-celiac gluten sensitivity. I’ve had the privilege of several fascinating conversations with Joseph Murray, M.D., at the Mayo Clinic in Minnesota.

Most articles call for me to interview various people, then select a few smatterings of insight to include. This is one of the hardest parts of journalism: passing judgment on the relevance and erudition of other people’s words, and getting it right.

If I were writing a corporate publication I could let the person proofread my interpretation, but for a journalist this is inappropriate. Certainly, I check facts with the people I interview, but to some extent I must trust my own understanding of what was said. This requires serious homework beforehand and never being afraid to ask stupid questions, especially when discussing something as complicated as an auto-immune disorder.

Last year Dr. Murray wrote Mayo Clinic Going Gluten Free, a definitive volume for anyone who needs to follow the diet. The book became available in November. Gluten-Free Living asked me to do a question-and-answer format story with the author.

As I recall, I received a review copy about 48 hours before the interview. I’m no speed reader, but it was fascinating to wade through. Besides that, I had been following research in this area for a while, so I had some questions he didn’t address in the book.

I took more of his time than usual: a full hour. It was, for me, one of the most interesting interviews I’ve done. Big sections needed to be cut to fit the space available. Fortunately one of these cut questions inspired a further article slated to appear in the March/April issue of the magazine. But essentially, I was able to share with readers most of this stimulating conversation.

If you haven’t already seen it in the magazine, I hope you’ll enjoy it now. I’ve added the PDF to my portfolio page: Writing the Book on Gluten Free: Celiac Disease Expert Joseph Murray Pens a How-To guide.

One of the things I love best abut journalism is telling other people’s stories, and what they know. Dr. Murray is one of those fascinating people with great passion for their work, and it’s satisfying to be in a position of interpreting his knowledge for other people.

Photo of Joseph Murray courtesy of Mayo Clinic.

Grey Shadow, the cat who loved Christmas

Me and Grey Shadow

Christmas reminds me of Grey Shadow.

When I was growing up we had a lot of pets, but Grey Shadow was around longer than any of them. She began life outdoors near our cottage on Lake Erie, where we would later move permanently. Her mother was a feral cat, and the kittens were born on the bluff overlooking the beach. I was only three, but I remember the day one of the Salisbury girls from next door brought the long-haired grey kitten over to see if we would give her a home, and we did.

She took well to life as a pet. We had a beagle-hound cross named Snoopy, who became fast friends with Grey Shadow. In our house in Windsor we could run a circle from the kitchen through the dining room through the living room and back around again. Grey Shadow and I would chase each other tirelessly. Then she would dart to the sun room, hide behind the curtains and play with string I dangled over the back of the chair.

However, the outdoors remained part of her nature, and she preferred to be there. She was an expert huntress, so Mom always tied bells to her collar.

In grade three I went to the birthday party of a friend who lived on a farm, and brought home a baby white rabbit. I named it Cuddles, but the name could not have been less appropriate. He grew into a true bull rabbit who asserted his dominance over the household by biting our ankles and squirting us with urine. His nickname suited him better: Bun. Grey Shadow staunchly pretended not to see him, for two years. So did Snoopy.

Until one day. It was a Saturday morning and we were all around. Bun was loping around the living room floor and Grey Shadow was apparently napping on the mantle of the fireplace. When we were all safely at the far side of the room, she suddenly sprang toward the rabbit.

A good dog always defends the alpha male. Out of nowhere came Snoopy. Friendship took second place to peace, order and hierarchy. Faster than lightning she came between cat and rabbit, preventing murder. Bun hopped away as if nothing had happened, and the other animals ignored him for the rest of his life.

Eight years after Grey Shadow, we adopted another kitten Dad found on the side of the road. Smudge was half monkey, and loved to tease. This brought out Grey Shadow’s no-nonsense temperament. She would hiss and swipe at Smudge, leave the room and ask to be let out.

With age she became more of a carmudgeon, and her outdoor tendencies increased. By then we were living permanently by the lake, her native territory. She would spend all day outside, all night in the summer, coming in only to eat.

Curiously, Grey Shadow loved Christmas. Maybe it started when she was a kitten and liked to play with paper and hide in the boxes. But it persisted after she lost her playfulness. She was drawn to the Christmas tree, and not in any dangerous way. She would sit and look at the lights, then lie underneath and go to sleep.

In old age she became deaf and too arthritic to climb trees easily. This was a dangerous combination for a cat who lived outdoors. She took to sleeping in the sun in the middle of the lawn.

One day a large hawk swooped down at her, but Grey Shadow saw the shadow and leapt three feet into the air, all claws. She didn’t catch the hawk, but it arched swiftly into the sky and left her alone.

We had another cat killer in the neighbourhood, an Irish setter named Stanley, who would sometimes escape from his chain and come barreling around the corner of our house. Smudge would dart up the tree, but Grey Shadow couldn’t hear Stanley coming.

Snoopy was gone by then, but we had adopted another dog. Tanya was a golden retriever, Brittany spaniel cross, the best dog I’ve ever known. She was smart, energetic and gracious. She tolerated the trickster, Smudge, but watched over Grey Shadow dutifully. When Stanley would come around, Tanya would intercept and escort him off our property, giving the old cat a chance to make herself scarce.

My parents believed Grey Shadow would disappear when she died, but that was not the case. It was winter and she had spent most of the day inside, in more discomfort than usual. Then she went behind the TV table, let out a single yowl, lay down and died. By then I had graduated from university. She was 21.

Close encounter with a red fox

Red Fox 2

At the cottage a few days ago I had a close encounter with this red fox. From time to time over the years I’ve come across fox kittens torn between fear and curiosity, but never an adult that would give me the time of day. So I was thrilled to have the opportunity to inspect and photograph one so closely.

I was walking along the road behind the cottage on a mild, sunny morning and had just passed a big, sandy area on the side of the road, when I spied her on the top of a low ridge walking through the edge of the deep woods. She paused to watch me. I quickly and quietly began rummaging through my camera bag and switching on the zoom lens to take a picture, and had just successfully mounted it when she turned to disappear into the trees.

She didn’t seem alarmed or hurried, so I tried clicking my teeth to attract her attention. She immediately turned to take a closer look. Then she began edging down the hillside toward me.

Red Fox 1

Partway down, she found a warm place and sat, blinking at me in the sun. At this point I had the best photo op. She was about 8 metres (26 feet) away. She kept looking away to my right and back the way I had come, presumably the way she wanted to go.

Red Fox 3

After half a minute she got up and followed the ridge in that direction. This led into dense undergrowth. She didn’t seem to like it. She seemed to say, “Screw this!” Reversing course, she gave me another close look and began edging down the slope toward me and the road.

Strange behaviour in wild animals can be a sign of rabies. Rabid foxes in particular are noted for approaching and seeking contact with humans.

This animal looked remarkably healthy. She was larger than most foxes I had seen. She seemed more unconcerned than tame. I thought she was most likely healthy, but didn’t want to take any chances.

Down in the road she stood eying me. Now she was no more than 3 m (10 ft) away. She kept looking to one side. I couldn’t tell whether she was curious about my tripod, which I had set beside me, or just wanted to pass me on the road. Maybe I had just passed her den.

Red Fox 4

She was in shadow and I was too shaky to take a really clear picture. But here she gave me a great look at her beautiful coat. Her eyes looked quite red.

Red Fox 5

Finally, she started to approach me. Now I had had enough. I stamped my foot.

The fox kind of shrugged. She returned to her previous plan, trotted up the slope and disappeared into the undergrowth, leaving me trembling with excitement.

At this point on the road, the nearest neighbours are a couple of nature lovers who live all year at the lake. Previously I posted here a photo from their hummingbird haven, which I visited on a walk earlier this year. I suspect they or someone else along the road have made friends with this fox. She regarded me no more warily than a stranger would upon meeting me in the woods. For me it was a once-in-a-lifetime (so far) meeting; and what a beautiful animal!

Later the same day I was splitting firewood beside the shed when a ruffed grouse lighted on the ground not far away. These forest chickens are usually wary, but this individual didn’t seem to care that I was there. Unfortunately I didn’t have my camera at hand.

Mushroom foraging with Edible Toronto

Oyster mushroom

Check out the fall 2014 issue of Edible Toronto for my latest article, “Trumpets, hedgehogs and chanterelles: Tracking the elusive mushroom.” It relates my recent meeting with Patrick Louch, a caterer, healthy food guru and wild mushroom forager. One recent afternoon in Muskoka, he showed me how to find some of the most luscious fungi in Ontario’s woodlands.

Although some species appear earlier in the year, late summer until the onset of cold weather is the best time to forage for mushrooms. On the weekend I closed down the cottage for winter and took advantage of the opportunity to look around the woods, which is rich with fungi. Many are inedible and some are poisonous so if you try it, go armed with a good field guide and never eat anything you can’t positively identify.

I was lucky to come upon a stump offering a serving for one: my all-time favourite, oyster mushroom, Pleurotus ostreatus. This is the same as the one available in supermarkets, but more tender and flavourful plucked from its natural setting. These were a beautiful ivory colour. I’ve previously written more information about how to identify oyster mushrooms. Slugs are fond of them, too, so make sure you don’t accidentally cook anyone who might want to share your lunch. I sautéed the oysters alone in butter; it’s simply the best way to eat them.

My essay explores some other edible fungi I had never tried before, such as the Craterellus cornucopioides, also known as the black trumpet, black chanterelle or horn of plenty. I’m excited about the knowledge gleaned from my interview with Patrick, and look forward to more abundant foraging in future.

If you live around Toronto east to Haldimand County, the Golden Horseshoe, Guelph or Waterloo Region, look for Edible Toronto at farmers’ markets and specialty food stores. You can also subscribe via the website. I always enjoy working with editor Gail Gordon Oliver, who is not only knowledgeable about food and passionate about ethical eating, but seeks good storytelling. This issue also contains, among others, stories about getting started in farming by Montana Jones, and the groaning cake, a traditional nutritional cake for new mothers, by Aube Giroux.

Here are articles I’ve previously written for the magazine, now available online:

Oyster mushroom

Thanksgiving and hope for a transformative future

Hanlon Creek fall colour

I’m grateful to be able to step outside my backdoor and into green space. I had to work ahead on a writing assignment over this long weekend, but yesterday I took a break to walk through Hanlon Creek Conservation Area, otherwise known as Preservation Park, which I can enter through our back gate.

I came upon a man who was tending a bridge over one of the numerous small streams in this park. He was shoveling soil from the adjoining field and building up the bank to make it less messy and impassible in the spring. I guessed he was a member of Guelph Hiking Trail Club, which maintains trails in the area. But maybe he is just a walker who loves the woods and fields as much as I do. I thanked him for his work.

I don’t take these parks for granted. For a number of years living in downtown apartments, I experienced barriers connecting with nature. Guelph has ample green space, and within five minutes I could easily walk to the Eramosa River or Speed River. And yet something was missing. Living where we do now, I have started to get it back. It has to do with being able to look out the window and see trees and birds, get my hands dirty, grow my own food and walk to a place where I can’t see any buildings.

This is a privilege. More than half of the world’s population now lives in cities. Most of them are not this well designed. A large proportion of humanity lives in slums or on land that is poisoned or impoverished. It’s hard to care about the future of the world when you’re struggling to feed a family.

It is hypocritical for us to develop cleaner energy or protect endangered species in our own countries unless we also support the welfare of people everywhere. Here in Ontario, our migrating birds depend on dwindling Amazon rainforests. Maybe we have more fresh water than anywhere elese, but our farming practices are slowly poisoning the largest lakes on Earth.

This weekend I give thanks because I’m lucky to live with such abundance. At the beginning of the year I set out to deepen my connection with the land by gardening every day, and that ritual has brought a tangible shift in my perspective and mental health. I am grateful for my own determination and ability to grow, for a supportive community and the natural beauty that inspires and rewards me. It gives me hope for my own future, and that humanity as a whole can change its fortunes for the better.

Happy thanksgiving to my family, friends and readers!

Water strider on Hanlon Creek

A passion for places

Cover art: Why We Live Where We Live

It’s something many people take for granted, but it shapes who we are. Why We Live Where We Live is a new book for kids by Kira Vermond (Owlkids, 2014). I happen to live in the same city as Kira, and we both love it: Guelph, Ontario. If you live there, too, don’t miss her book launch on Saturday, Sept. 27, 2014 at 2 p.m. at The Bookshelf.

Kira writes regularly for The Globe and Mail, the National Post and national magazines. She has previously written two other books for kids, Growing Up, Inside and Out (2013) and The Secret Life of Money: A Kid’s Guide to Cash (2012).

As a child I never questioned why my parents chose to live where they did. On the shore of Lake Erie, it was incredibly beautiful, but far from my dad’s work and maybe not the most practical choice. This made me want to live in places with natural beauty. My priorities might have been much different if I had grown up in a highrise apartment, or if we had moved around a lot.

Did you ever wonder why so many people live in cities while most of their food grows somewhere else? Or why some choose to live near volcanoes or earthquake zones? Kira addresses these mysteries with energy, humour and insight about human nature.

I had a chance to ask Kira some questions about her newest book.

Kira Vermond

Q: You must have had some fun writing this book. It shows your passion for places and communities. How did the idea to write this come about?

Kira Vermond: Ideas for my books come from the weirdest places. For Why We Live Where We Live, I was sitting in the car travelling to my in-laws listening to a TED podcast about urban food transportation. It got me thinking that people are only able to live in cities, far from rural agricultural land, because we’ve figured out how to move food in large quantities from farms to urban grocery stores. We’ve learned how to store food, sell food and then dispose of its waste on a massive scale all over the world. That’s incredible. So what other human innovations have given us flexibility in terms of where we call home? It’s a fascinating question – and I think kids are the perfect readers to explore fascinating questions.

Q: Tell us about your collaboration with illustrator Julie McLaughlin.

KV: Here’s something many people don’t know about how kids’ books come together: the author and illustrator usually never talk during a book’s creation. For instance, I didn’t meet Clayton Hanmer, my illustrator for The Secret Life of Money (Owlkids, 2011), until the book was printed and we were in the middle of marketing that book. I still haven’t spoken to Julie, although I keep meaning to shoot off an email.

Editors will keep writers away from the illustrators so we don’t influence (or hamper) their vision and creativity. I do get that, but I’ve figured out ways to get around the blockage: I write a lot of notes to the illustrator in my copy. “Hey, this would be a great place for an illustration to highlight this point about living next to an active volcano!”

I think Julie’s illustrations are beautiful and so colourful. People say they want to pick up the book because the cover is so appealing. I agree.

Q: The book is bright, upbeat and thought-provoking so it will be fun for kids to read. I can also see it being used as a grade school textbook about social sciences. Is that something you had in mind?

KV: Absolutely. This book definitely has more of an educational, text-booky feel than my last two books, but that’s probably because I had researched the school curriculum for a few key Canadian and U.S. school boards before I pitched it. There were a number of points I needed to cover to make the book relevant at school. Even so, I still wanted Why We Live Where We Live to sound like (goofy) me and challenge kids to think critically about their world. Kids are so smart. They deserve books that make them stretch their brains a bit.

Q: As I recall, your family moved around a lot when you were a kid. Can you talk about how that experience shaped your ideas about where people live?

KV: You’re right. By the time I was 22, I’d lived in 20 different houses and in communities that ranged from villages of 300 people to cities of 3-million people. I’ve lived on a lake in Ontario and not far from the beach in California outside of Los Angeles. All that moving around taught me two things: how to make friends quickly (even though I’m an introvert at heart) and that there are so many incredible places to live on this planet. I do believe that many adults get stuck thinking, “I’ve lived in Toronto for 30 years, and so I should stay here.” Seriously? The world is big. Move somewhere new. Try a new place and see if it’s a better fit. Maybe Toronto really is for you, but you might be surprised that you feel more comfortable in a different community.

I do discuss the personality of place in the book and why that’s so important when choosing a place to live. Our road, town, or city needs to feel like home. I know from living in many different communities that some simply feel more natural than others. (For the record, Guelph is my comfy place. Not too big. Not too small. Just right. But I know people who find Guelph too quaint. A bigger city speaks their inner language. I try not to judge.)

Q: How about your experiences as a parent?

KV: Although I’m thankful that I was given the opportunity to see the world as a child, I did find all that moving around stressful. Now that I have kids, we’ve lived in this one house for 10 years. We have no plans to move, but we do travel with our two children a lot so they can discover for themselves that people are able to live almost anywhere.

Q: What three things matter most to you about where you decide to call home?

KV: It has got to have bookstores, theatres and cafes. I need to be able to walk to most places I’d visit daily. My neighbours have to be caring and engaged in what’s happening on the street. I am so lucky to have found a home that gives me all three things.

Q: Where is the best place you have ever lived and why?

KV: Every place has something special to offer us. I used to fish off my dock and catch frogs every day in the summer on Lake Scugog when I was 12. California had fabulous sushi, and the kids, being American, were super friendly and welcoming. I had my own forest to play in and acres of land to roam across as a small child in Guelph. Ottawa taught me that if you bundle up in frozen weather (and don’t mind having hat head all day) it’s easy to brave the cold.

But ultimately, it comes down to the people, No matter where you are and what’s outside your door, that’s just scenery. It’s the people you connect with, laugh with and come to depend on who matter most. They make every place you live, no matter where that is, feel like home.