What I Did This Summer

By , September 9, 2016 6:11 pm

No, this is not my back-to-school English assignment. This is an update for those who actually read my blog and think I do something interesting. Really, such people exist? I did not have a super thrilling summer but I enjoyed it a lot and got relaxed and ready to come back to school.

Highlights (most photos are courtesy of Val Dodge):

  • a week in Cornwall working on E learning CHY4U with our amazing team.


  • a week on Bowen Island, BC with  Val. We got the deluxe tour from my cousin Emilie and her family. Bowen is a beautiful, artistic place full of nature, scenery and relaxation! And very friendly people. I even went on a boat, four times: twice on the ferry, twice on the water taxi to Granville Island in Vancouver. The public market there is still one of my favourite places in Canada. Emilie is the curator at The Gallery at Artisan Square where she puts together incredible exhibits. DSC01615


  • One concert per summer: two years ago, Tom Petty. Last year, Def Leppard. This year, Chilliwack at the Dock Dance on Bowen Island. It was a complete surprise that they were playing while we were there. Val and I both like Chilliwack, who are from Vancouver, not said town. No, I did not get tickets to The Tragically Hip. Wish I had been there in Toronto. Kingston would have been far too emotional.


  • Olympics: I wasn’t going to watch – I just wasn’t into Rio. However, I did give in and watch a lot, minus opening and closing ceremonies. Like everyone else in Canada, I OD’d on swimming, athletics and volleyball. CBC did a really professional job, I thought. NBC was excessively pro-American, as usual. I thought Elliotte Friedman, York Mills grad, did a great job at the swimming and diving.



  • Lowlight – a pinched nerve in my neck that kept me in pain for a lot of the summer.  Thanks to my pilates instructor, Neesa Kenemy at Pilates Process on Danforth, for giving me custom rehab. Thanks to my chiropractor, Dr. Tim Marshall, and massage therapist, Sheila Sotto, at Bayview Chiropractic. These people are amazing at what they do.


  • Because my neck was in such good hands I was able to ride more than usual this summer. Thanks to Cyncee and Anne at Sunnybrook Stables.  My wonderful riding partner, Julie C., is a joy.





Reading Highlights

It was a mixed bag of books this summer. For school I read Smart and Scattered Teens, a guide to developing executive skills in teenagers (thanks to my amazing boss, Jenessa Dworet) , and Grit, a self-help book (which I don’t usually enjoy) on passion and perseverance (thanks to VP Mira Wong). I think I’m pretty gritty and organized – I read them for the kids.

For myself, I stuck to history.

I tend to enjoy single subject histories, such as Salt, so I was intrigued by Sven Beckert’s Empire of Cotton when I saw it on the New York Times Book Review’s list of 10 best non-fiction books of 2015 last Christmas. It didn’t disappoint. Incredibly detailed and broad in scope, the very thorough book traces the worldwide influences of this seemingly innocuous plant. It’s a story that meshes with slavery and imperialism so it’s not a happy one. But when do I ever read happy books?

Mary’s Beard’s SPQR: A History of Ancient Rome was also on the above-mentioned top ten list. She is a highly entertaining writer, even on a topic that could be seen as boring. It’s quite a feat for anyone endeavouring to write a manageable overview of Roman history. While she does leave a lot out, she grabs the reader’s interest with humourous stories that capture the mood of an era so that she doesn’t have to spill all the plodding (or, in Rome’s case, plotting) details. With a focus on a few characters, such as Tiberius Gracchus, she manages to paint a feeling of a time.  I think my interpretations of people such as Julius Caesar and Augustus have, in the past, been more generous than hers. Now I’m doing a bit of re-thinking. Too bad I won’t be teaching World History to 1500 this year.


  • Sudoku: I will admit that I am an addict. I spent a lot more time than I should have this summer playing. I told Val that if I ever beg him to put Sudoku on my laptop he should ignore me.


Illustration by Mark Stamaty. Click image to expand. (Slate)


Last Day of School and Canada Day

By , July 3, 2016 6:23 pm

Human-made March Break

By , March 16, 2016 9:41 am

I usually take a few pictures of whatever looks pseudo-alive on our visit to the cottage at March Break. This year I went in the opposite direction, searching out macro snapshots of manufactured items. See if you can identify the following:

reflectors, fence measurements, road safety sign, fence label, pattern on telephone box, wire coil, fence hinge, community mailboxes.

The Sixth Extinction – Book Review

By , January 31, 2016 5:48 pm



Elizabeth Kolbert’s book was a welcome Christmas gift from Mr. Mahoney. He knows I like science and the environment and good writing. I promptly read it in a few days after Christmas was over when I was recovering from eating so much.

Reading Kolbert’s book on mass extinctions of species, one must wonder whether the earth will ever recover from humans’ folly. Or rather, will species, who, through no fault of their own, find themselves out of luck, out of habitat, out of oxygen, out of adaptation techniques, whatever.

Ask the bats of North America, frogs and toads throughout the world, long lost mastadons, or coral in Australia’s Great Barrier Reef. Kolbert chooses an interesting array of animals and plants to survey in her quest to verify if we really are in the midst of another in a series of mass extinctions that have occurred throughout earth’s history. Accordingly, as a science journalist, not a scientist, she must seek out the advice and guidance of many leading scientists, including a lot of geologists.

I particularly appreciated the geologic angle given my interest in Charles Darwin. Darwin, the father of evolution by means of natural selection, was influenced by the work of Charles Lyell. Lyell was an early geologist that proposed that earth changes slowly over time. Kolbert brings him into the extinction argument as he was one of the first people to propose a theory of how extinctions actually work. She spends a lot of well worth it time tracing the history of the theory of extinction. One wouldn’t think that was interesting but it was.

I feel guilty about saying that I enjoyed this book immensely. A resident of this current world should not be happy about a book that makes it clear how much we have changed it, for the worse. While Kolbert doesn’t focus in on climate change specifically, she does give a lot of attention to ocean acidification, a topic not too many of us know about, and one that is a sort of correlation to climate change. I was never particularly interested. Now I’ll definitely want to watch David Attenborough’s Great Barrier Reef, recently on CBC.

It’s not a book that offers solutions. For that, readers might want to follow up with something like Mike Berners-Lee’s How Bad Are Bananas? The Carbon Footprint of Everything.  For a vegan such as myself, the book that really got me on the road to thinking about how the environment affects my daily life through food is Michael Pollan’s 2006 masterwork, The Omnivore’s Dilemma. I’m not critical of Kolbert for not suggesting how to solve our problem. What she is doing is changing attitudes, something that is absolutely necessary before behaviour can be changed. Near the end of the book she tells the sad stories of a certain raven and a very particular rhino. You really have to read the book to appreciate how poignant they are.

Like Mary Roach, author of Gulp: Adventures on the Alimentary Canal, an investigation into the human digestive system (previously reviewed on this blog), Elizabeth Kolbert knows how to use her talents as a writer along with her skill as a researcher to bring a subject alive (no pun intended in this case).

The Sixth Extinction: highly recommended.





Last Day of Class – January 2016

By , January 31, 2016 12:53 pm

Here are some pics from our last day, sadly. Great class:)

CHW3M Course Survey

By , January 25, 2016 1:58 pm

Please follow this link to the course survey.


Many thanks:)


Ms. G

Historical Thinking Concepts in an Inquiry-Based Classroom

By , January 19, 2016 12:22 pm

OISE – Jan. 19, 2016

Thanks for attending. Please feel free to email me at risa@cabal.org if you have any questions.

Here are the two parts of my presentation:



Tut’s Tomb?

By , December 7, 2015 6:57 pm

Speculation abounds on whether Tut’s tomb was just a rush-job and was really a part of a larger tomb, maybe Nefertiti’s.

Tomb Article

Scientists on the Verge of Finding Queen Nefertiti’s  Secret Tomb, Daily Mail Online, Nov. 7, 2015, http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-3308292/Scientists-two-hidden-chambers-King-Tutankhamun-s-tomb-testing-temperature-tomb-s-walls.html (Dec. 7, 2015)


Pan Am Games

By , November 22, 2015 1:38 pm

I attended and fully enjoyed many Pan Am and Parapan events this summer. The summer started out with a huge event on the Bloor Viaduct, one block from our house – the torch relay passed through and there was a concert and the reveal of the Luminous Veil (lighting of the suicide barrier). It was so cool to be on the closed bridge with so many other people. On opening day we went over to City Hall to watch the opening ceremonies. For actual sports I was lucky enough to go to beach volleyball, indoor volleyball, sitting volleyball (gold medal men’s game), women’s wheelchair basketball, dressage, and show jumping. It seems so long ago now but it was an amazing summer.

Things I Have Liked Lately

By , November 8, 2015 4:54 pm

I really haven’t blogged for a long time. So here’s a quick list of things I have explored and liked.


JMW Turner: Painting Set Free

  • exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario

An interesting exhibit that explores Turner’s later, more creative and diverse years as a painter. Highlights beautiful scenes from Venice (a place I would like to go) and his incredible work with light that inspired the Impressionist painters (who I love).


J.M.W. Turner, Light and Colour (Goethe's Theory) - the Morning after the Deluge - Moses Writing the Book of Genesis, exhibited 1843



Camera Atomica

  • photography exhibit at the Art Gallery of Ontario

A very interesting view of how photography and the media have both recorded and shaped people’s view on nuclear power and nuclear war since the dawn of the atomic age. One photo in particular stood out for me; a 1950s image of a navy admiral and his wife cutting a cake in the shape of a mushroom cloud. Were they really so superficial and short sighted?

U.S. Military, Operation Priscilla, taken at the moment of the shockwave, 1957 / Camera Crew at Exact Moment of Shockwave Arrival, Nevada Test Site (detail), 1957


East Side Players – Wonder of the World

We went to see this hysterical play by David Lindsay Abaire at the historic Papermill Theatre at Todmorden Mills, just down the hill on Pottery Road. Best part: assistant stage manager Felicity Cormier – Val’s sister.


Prime Minister Justin Trudeau

How refreshing – a cabinet that looks like Canada, a ministry named ‘science’, government members with brains that are allowed to speak to the media! That are allowed to speak, period. Change is amazing.

Image result for justin trudeau cabinet swearing in



Skating Season

Patrick is back – yay. However, the guy makes me nervous because I never know when this quad-committing wonder will double a jump. I’ve seen him skate a few times in Stars on Ice. He’s no Kurt Browning yet. Kurt happens to be my all-time favourite skater! I was happy to hear he won Skate Canada. I do truly wish him luck. I’m excited about Canadian ice dancers as always. And so far I like David Pelletier as commentator on CBC.

After a year away from figure skating, Patrick Chan is still committed to reaching the top of his sport once again. Jamie Salé and David Pelletier perform their pairs free skate to win the Olympic silver medal at the XIX Olympic Winter Games in Salt Lake City, Utah, Monday, Feb. 11, 2002.


Murdoch Mysteries

My favourite CBC show. My favourite show, period. I am very sad to see Dr. Grace leave. I guess it’s too much to have two women coroners in the early 1900s. While I’m very happy that Murdoch and Dr. Ogden are happily married, I hope her career won’t take a back seat.

Dr. Emily Grace



Pompeii: In the Shadow of the Volcano

  • exhibit at the Royal Ontario Museum

A really thorough look at life in the early Roman Empire. I saw it once on teacher appreciation day at the ROM and I liked it so much that I took my grade 11 world history class. Unfortunately the guide talked too much and the kids didn’t get to see enough of the exhibit. Though she was very informative, she didn’t allow them to discover anything for themselves. One of my favourite items was the carbonized bread. Rome was all bread and circuses.

A wall painting of a wealthy man


Pan Am and ParaPan Games, Toronto, summer 2015

I was lucky enough to be a spectator at beach volleyball (men and women), indoor volleyball (men and women), show jumping, dressage, wheelchair basketball, and sitting volleyball (gold medal match). I had an amazing time almost all summer long. When I get my act together I will post some of my own photos. Val tells me he has purchased some Pan Am items from the auction. That worries me.


Nathan Phillips Square


Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi’s Jerusalem

I often peruse cookbooks, stopping to admire the photos and check out potentially vegan recipes. Rarely do I read a cookbook from cover to cover. In preparation for this year’s Thanksgiving lunch at our cottage, I read this entire book. I ended up making green bean, eggplant and rice dishes from it. I don’t know how everyone else felt but I loved the green bean salad with capers and intriguing spices and the rice with wild rice and chickpeas. The eggplant took way too much of my time for little reward. The cultural similarities between Israelis and Palestinians is fascinating.


A Chef’s Life

I’m not addicted to Netflix. I may be addicted to the PBS channel on our Roku. It allows me to watch A Chef’s Life, a PBS  show following the life and work of North Carolina chef Vivian Howard. So far in two seasons there has only been one dish I could actually eat. But I keep watching because Vivian Howard and her husband Ben Knight are very real. I looked into how long it would take to drive to Kinston, North Carolina from Washington, D.C., but it’s too long for a side trip on a potential March Break trip.


Fruit Chart

In my latest attempt to lose weight I have been trying to reduce my sugar intake. I found this chart quite interesting. We’ll see if it helps me.

Plant showing fibre and fructose of popular fruits




I found another PBS show (actually, another Masterpiece  show) to fill in the void when Downton Abbey is not available. All I will say is that scenery is beautiful. But I am awaiting the final season of Downton. Please let Anna and Mr. Bates find some happiness!


Panorama Theme by Themocracy