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Whistler Cornucopia – celebration of food and drink

The hour and a half drive from Vancouver to Whistler was indeed a scenic one. I enjoyed looking at the breathtaking mountain and ocean views along the Sea to Sky Highway route. For the adventure seeker, one can stop in Squamish and take a 10 minute ride up the Sea to Sky Gondola. Once you reach the top there are hiking and walking trails for all levels of abilities.
It was still sunny skies when I arrived in Whistler, a place to participate in many activities from mountain biking and hiking in the summer to skiing and snowboarding in the winter.
My stay at the Fairmont Chateau was a pampering experience because of its luxury amenities with an upscale fitness and health club. There was plenty of workout equipment to choose from to participate in a free yoga class. I choose to relax in one of the three outdoor pools while soaking up the mountain view. I attended the 22nd annual Cornucopia: Whistler’s Celebration of Food and Drink this past November.  Every year, the event draws foodies, wine and whiskey experts. It is a two-week event, and a chance to rub shoulders with some of the top chefs from around the globe and learn about fine wine and whiskey. Even though I’m not a wine expert, I felt a warm welcome from everyone. And the events offered were extremely informative.
The first event I went to was called NOURISH: Plant-Based Deliciousness. This workshop offered multi-course tastings. Renowned chef and ultra marathoner Wolfgang Sterr served up a tasty lentil dish. And taught my group  about food presentation. By adding colour to your dish, it looked more appetizing. The lentil dish was not only delicious but colourful.
Lentils
The next stop was the Washington Wine Trade Seminar. DJ Kearney, the Director of Wine talked about the perfect mixing with the old and new world of wines. She was referring to the old world wines in European countries and the new world wines that are produced in countries such as the United States. I enjoyed tasting some of the wines such as the Benchmark Washington State Syrah. Then, there was the Spanish Wines seminar where I learned that Spanish wineries age the wine in barrels or bottles. At Turning Over a New Leaf: Oregon Weird and Wild Wines I was introduced to wines made with unusual grapes. The wine seminars were not only a great opportunity to sample wine but the small intimate groups attending the seminars made it easy for everyone to ask questions.
But by far the highlight was going to the Signature Event: Crush Grand Tasting. The gala was the place to sample some of the best wines in the world, as well as some Whiskeys. I enjoyed being introduced to some of food and wine pairings and it was a terrific cultural learning experience for me.
I had a fun and educational day attending this year’s Cornucopia. I watched and learned how some healthy dishes were made by world-renowned chefs.  I recommend this event for those who want to learn about healthy eating tips, and as well as some fine wines. For more information https://whistlercornucopia.com/.

Is the United States military prepared for war?

The United States is not prepared for war against either Russia or China. This is according to Senator Jon Kyl. The senator opined that the military superiority of the United States is not where it once was and this has left the existing troops unprepared for international threats.

In his report to congress, the senator attributed the unpreparedness to underfunding and budget instability. “The Pentagon needs more funding and more budget stability than it currently receives from Washington,” remarked the senator. He went on to further add, “The congressionally mandated reported by the National Defense Strategy Commission is a sobering analysis that puts the military at its lowest ebb since the end of the cold war.”

The United States defense has never been as fragile as it is at the moment. This puts the American citizens and the American economy at risk and has greatly reduced its global influence. Rival states are challenging America’s position as a global superpower questioning the states ability to defend its interests as well as that of its allies and partners.

Mixed reactions from the President

President Donald Trump has not been doing much to aid the situation. If anything, he continues to send mixed signals in matters state security. In August 2018, the President signed into law a national defense spending plan that would see American troops receive a 2.6 percent pay raise. The spending plan also included provisions for other purchases such as F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. Later in October, President Trump proposed the defense budget cuts in a cabinet meeting.

Unlike the U.S., rival countries such as Russian and China are investing heavily in National defense. This gives them a defensive edge when it comes to dealing with International threats. It is not clear as to why the President proposed budget cuts in National defense even in the face of increasing international threats from better prepared rivals.

According to the report by Senator Kyl, China and Russia were singled out as possible threats. The report also noted that the focus on counter terrorism did not give the nation a competitive edge in areas such as cyber operations, missile defense and anti-submarine warfare.

The senator’s report rightly concluded that there is a need for investment in National defense. America cannot afford to take risks with its defense especially not in the wake of increasing international threats.

Postcards to my grandmother

I love writing.  Besides having two daughters, nothing has impacted my life more.  I write all the time.  I think-write. While doing everything else, my stream of consciousness writes.  Occasionally, when stars align and time allows, I put pen to paper, fingers to keyboard, shoulder to grindstone, and there is rapture.

Eli The Musical Guy And Pearl The Shakespearean Girl, a musical comedy, I wrote, enjoyed success in Hamilton, our hometown, recently.  In his review, Julian Nicholson, a well-regarded theatre veteran said, “There’s not much else I can say about this farrago except that it is the most inventive and enjoyable musical I’ve seen since Spamalot.”   

My writing farrago started with postcards to my grandmother, three decades ago, on a magical journey.  From postcards, to a musical comedy, writing has taken me on another magical journey.  

After finishing university, in 1986, I worked for a while, then hit the road.  With a working-holiday visa, backpack, and $1200, I flew to London, England.  I didn’t have a credit card or clue, and no one had cell phone, back then.  I wasn’t sure how long I’d be gone, or where, or what I’d do, but made one commitment: to write my grandmother, who was housebound.

“A few months in Europe” became a six and a half year global odyssey.  Adventures included working in London, hitchhiking through Europe and Southeast Asia, working in Australia, sailing a homemade, cement boat to New Zealand and Tonga, working in Hawaii, sailing a small fishing boat to Alaska, working on a tugboat, staying with a friend in Victoria, living by the beach in Newport, California, teaching English in Japan, and riding a bike from Victoria, B.C., to Hamilton.

Each time I called, or got a letter from home, I was implored to keep writing Granny.  She loved the missives, I was told, and kept them in a box beside her.  She read them, repeatedly, and made guests enjoy /endure the communication, as well.

My grandmother was from Glasgow, originally.  She had a terrific accent and a great sense of humour, despite a hard life.  Janet Lindsey left a Glasgow slum at 17, sailed across the Atlantic, then travelled on trains, for just as long, to meet her older husband, on a dirt poor homestead, in the middle of Saskatchewan.  They had seven kids.  When my father, the second youngest, was seven, their father died. Then, things got bad.

All seven children grew to be honest, hard working, productive citizens.   

I tried to keep the postcards to my grandmother worthy of the high regard in which I held her.  After picking the perfect card, I’d plot for days before committing ink.  When I realized how quickly I’d forget “unforgettable” ideas, I started jotting them down and still do.  Writing, or getting lost in the thought of it, enhanced experiences and assuaged loneliness.  Like most travellers, I loved reading. Reading was one thing; writing another.

The lessons learned writing postcards to my Grandmother still apply: respect your audience; love your audience, be interesting; don’t be vulgar;  rhyme sometime; brevity is wit; levity’s a hit; don’t quit; have fun, son.  Go, girl.

My grandmother died, while I was on the road, and I stopped writing, temporarily.  I didn’t come back to Canada for the funeral, but, the next time I was home, I was given the box of postcards.  

In 1992, I was living in Nagoya, Japan, with a friend, talking about books, when he said, “You should write.”

There were two of us in the room.  I said, “Me?”  (Some people thought I was illiterate.)

“Yes,” he said.  “You see the world in an interesting way and have a funny way of expressing it.”  His comment changed my life.  A switch was turned on and hasn’t gone off, since. I thought of Granny’s postcards and the accompanying bliss.  

A week after my friend’s suggestion, I was cruising, on my beach cruiser, through a narrow Nagoya alley-street, when I said to myself, “I’m going to write a book,” and stood up, on my pedals, to accommodate the epiphany.

I knew one thing about writing: it required a pen and paper, which I bought, at a lush Japanese department store.  That was easy.  The next requirement was an idea, which couldn’t be purchased in the consumer economy.

“Write what you know” is a sound principal.  I was reading spy novels, at the time, but couldn’t write one.  All I knew was growing up, a caucasian male, in the suburbs of Ottawa: a blueprint for dull.

Nevertheless, that’s what my book is about.  It took me 14 years and hundreds of rewrites before I published it.   The first few versions were scrawled, with pens, into notebooks.  At various stages in its development, I’d send out waves of submissions and have received over 200 rejection letters.  

The Internet changed everything, and, in 2006, I self-published I’m Gretzky, You’re Gretzky, which some friends and family like.  Some love.

One of the publishing houses, which rejected my manuscript, was Insomniac Press.  Mike O’Connor, the proprietor, included a nice, personal note, so I called him and asked for advice.  He said, “Get published in newspapers and magazines to establish your name and credibility.”

Later, when the first edition of The Hamilton Examiner arrived at our door, I felt divine intervention.  It was January 1998 and the periodical was monthly.  Terrified, I vowed to write a submission, nevertheless.  In February, of that year, Team Canada was eliminated from the Nagano Olympics, in Japan, and Wayne Gretzky watched the final shootout, from the bench.  

I was crushed.  Such is my reverence for the man, I wanted to call my daughters Wayne and Gretzky.  My wife said, “No,” so I called my book, my other baby, Gretzky.  

After the Nagano loss, I wrote a piece called “Chasing The Dragon No More,” articulating my need to stop having Canadian hockey players determine the quality of my life.  I would find my own happiness, I wrote, through lottery tickets.  I printed the article and hand delivered it to Sarah Thomson (nee Whatmough,) the publisher of The Hamilton Examiner and later the Women’t Post. Sarah liked the submission and published it, which was the start of a long, wonderful relationship.  

Once a month, for the next 12 years, I’d write a 1000 word piece for Sarah.  I wrote about my kids, pets, gardening, traveling, writing…  It was perfect.  I worked hard to produce a piece decent enough to be published. I stumbled and fell, a lot, but there was always a hand to help up.  I started finding a voice and confidence.  

After five years, in 2003, Sarah asked me to write about art; once a month, 1000 words, which was another life changer.  The request came from nowhere: I knew little about art.  For three years, I would immerse myself in millions of words, hundreds of pictures, hours of thought, and countless rewrites to distill an article, worthy of the subject.  It was a surreal education, which honed writing skills, sharpened focus, and taught me about art, artists, fraud, and fraudsters.

Dr. Barry Allen, a guide on my artisan safari, said it best, “Art is an accomplishment.”

I interviewed Fred Eaglesmith, also in 2003, for The Women’s Post and ended up making two fan magazines for him.  Fred had an idea for movie, and he asked if I’d write the screenplay.  I never say, “No,” and tried to put Fred’s vision into a manuscript.  The script, Billy Rocker, about a aging, failing, murderous rockabilly star was well-received, but quickly buried.

The exercise was far from futile, because I discovered a love of writing dialogue, so acute, I wrote a play, Unethical.  When it was finished, I shared Unethical with a friend, who encouraged me to send it “somewhere.”  (Thank you, Pascale.)

I didn’t know what to do with a play, so mailed a copy to Luke Brown, at Theatre Aquarius, in Hamilton.  Expecting another letter for the rejection file, I was, joyously, surprised, when I got an email from Luke, wanting to meet.  Life changer.

In 2012, Luke invited me into the Theatre Aquarius Playwright’s Unit, which has been another surreal education.  The world of theatre is a howling, joyous one.  In 2013, I wrote a comedy, Jack And Jill Beiber Fever, and brought it to the Playwright’s Unit.  It was dissected and vetted beautifully, by Luke and the other playwrights.  

Ryan Sero, a member of the unit, brought the play to The Hamilton Fringe Festival.  Ryan, who directed and starred, assembled a great cast and they put on a terrific show.  Watching was delightful and instructive.  There is a quantum leap from page to stage and seeing actors take words from my script and make them dance and sing, was exhilarating.  

Playwriting is a gas.

In 2005, a friend suggested I write for a Hamilton blog, Raise The Hammer, a website dedicated to making Hamilton a better place.  Free, easy, and limitless, I fell in love with writing on the Internet and have been publishing articles, reviews, poems, short stories… on RTH, since. 

My earliest memory is my mother reading me Dr. Seuss.  I love rhyme and poetry.  In 1996, my oldest daughter was born and I started writing poems, all of which rhyme. 

Along the way, I started a series called 50, which are poems of exactly fifty words.  A play, poem, or article take forever, so when there’s a need to finish something, a 50 is ideal.

Life Write Life

Family, job, pets… sleep, read, write…

And hope that life, somehow, works out

If life didn’t get in the way so such

There’d be much more time to write, no doubt

But, if not for life and all its business

There’d be nothing much to write about

Right, Life?

Right

Combining a love of poetry and playwriting lends itself to musicals, so I wrote one.  I’ve blessed to collaborate with Becky Jackson, who writes beautiful music to accompany the lyrics.  

Eli The Musical Guy And Pearl The Shakespearean Girl takes the idea of stage parents, who live vicariously through their children, and blows it up.  Eli, who’s been pushed since conception, has lost touch with reality and sees life as a big musical.  Eli sings and dances all the time. Similarly, Pearl lives as if she’s in a Shakespearean drama, and always speaks the Bard’s tongue.  

It was fun to write, but more enjoyable watching the talented cast bring the loveable nuts to life.  Now, I’m writing a children’s musical comedy, Singerella.  It’s Cinderella meets American Idol and it is a pleasure to write.  Becky is writing great music, again.  

Someday, I hope, a large cast of children light it up and Singerella is a smash hit. If it is or isn’t, I’ll keep writing.  I hope to die with a pen in my hand.

The greatest joy I get from writing is sharing the love.  I’ve run a Writers’ Club for children, aged 8 – 13, for the last dozen years.  When we perform, I tell the audience they’re about to see a magic show, because students, using only pens and paper, make art, where there was none and everyone has fun.  My (writer) friend, Peter Gruner, wrote of his experience, watching children craft killer, rhyming poems, on the spot.

 Writing is a wonderful hobby: it’s free, fun, liberating, empowering, fun, therapeutic, fun, challenging, rewarding, disappointing, and fun.  You can do it, anywhere, anytime; think about it.  If you’ve, ever, considered picking up a pen or pecking away on a keyboard, I can’t recommend it enough.  

 

Like a Dr. Seuss character setting off with a backpack and a one-way ticket, you never know the places you’ll go.  If you’re not sure where to begin your writing journey, start with something small, like a postcard to your grandmother.  She’ll love it.  You’ll love it, too, Writer.

Write on.

A British girl moves to Barbados

In 2009, I took the bold step to move to Barbados after dreaming about it for years, and driving my friend’s crazy with my procrastination and excuses for not going.

You may ask what made me decide upon such a bold step; after all a holiday is one thing, but to live! My decision was made due to the cold. I wish it was something more romantic, but that’s for another time. Truth be told, I didn’t want to experience feeling SAD (season affective disorder) each winter and coming home from work when it was dark and damp. It made me depressed and it was getting worse. So, procrastination over, I made a plan, as it wasn’t a case (pardon the pun) of packing a suitcase, saying bye to my job and buying a one-way ticket to paradise. I’m adventurous, but a plan gives direction.

So, what did I do?

First, I built my savings as the cost of living in Barbados isn’t cheap and I had no idea of how soon I would secure work. I also told my family living in Barbados what I’d decided. Their reaction wasn’t what I’d hope. “Gail are you crazy? Barbados is a small island for a city girl like you. Wait a few more years (like when you’re about to retire) and then come.” However, no amount of dissuasion could deter me. Once they realized I was serious, my grandparents said I could stay with them, which meant I’d be able to save on rent until I got myself established with work.

With savings accumulated, I 

took flight. Upon arrival in Barbados, the first thing to hit me was the heat, had it always been this hot? I mean it was hotter than a volcano. In the past I’d always come as a tourist and loved the heat as a welcome change from the dreaded cold. Now I had to acclimatize.

I was fortunate to secure temporary work at a secondary school as secretary to the principal, and as my mother is Barbadian born, I was able to gain my citizenship through being a descendent, (thanks mom).

Eventually, I got used to the way of life with its slower pace, and less stress. Plus, the beaches were of course a bonus. I thought making friends would be hard, but it was actually quite easy. This was in part due to my philosophy of “when in Rome, do as the Romans.” I adapted and made myself fit in with the culture.

Today, the UK is just eight hours away and I fly back when I can. I’ve met some great Brits and we reminisce over a rum and coke (Barbados is famous for its rum), about how we miss fish & chips and pie and mash.

Barbados is truly the “Gem of the Caribbean” and I haven’t regretted my decision to live here.

My advice to anyone contemplating living abroad even for a short time is:

  • Plan and save.
  • Before the big move, visit the place and imagine it as home.
  • Allow time for a period of adjustment.
  • Don’t be a tourist. Immerse yourself in the culture.
  • Do it. Life is too short to live with regrets.

Havana-na-na-na

In 2017, I spent 5 days in Cuba on a whirlwind vacation with my older brother. The trip was the perfect mix of adventure and culture as I left the United States and ventured to a country far less traveled than popular, warm European destinations.

Arriving in Cuba was part of the adventurous vibe I love in my travel experiences. My flight departed at sunrise from Washington, D.C. with a short layover in Atlanta before moving on to Havana. In Atlanta, I purchased a visa, or “tourist card,” under the “Education: People to People” category at the departure gate and excitedly sat on the airplane waiting for the short flight that I had been told would practically take me back in time. I was ready for the place I had read about—one that is “frozen in time” with the 1950s cars, no internet access, no ATMs or credit cards, and a commercial-free atmosphere.

The first day consisted of a series of trials that I encountered primarily because I have never traveled in an age without cell phones or the internet. After going through customs in the Havana airport, I had the pleasure of my first bartering experience with an airport cab driver. He spoke only enough English to cover for my poor Spanish, but I managed to negotiate a ride to the area of my “casa.” Locals open up their homes and sell bedrooms to tourists looking for an inexpensive place to stay. I found a suitable “casa” on AirBnB but soon found it was nearly impossible to locate with the address provided and the internet connection in Cuba was too poor to message the host.

For the next 7 hours, while waiting for AirBnB’s assistance, I spent time in Habana Vieja, or Old Havana, exploring the sites. Plaza de San Francisco, El Capitolio, and Plaza Vieja were some of my favorites to check out. They were perfect places to see Cuban architecture, as well as people watch, to get a vibe for the city. During dinner, AirBnB managed to connect me with my host, and I was able to make my way to my casa for the evening. The cool air-conditioned room in the back of Maykel’s home was incredible after the warm July weather I had experienced all day.

The next day was an early wake-up call to catch a shared taxi to Trinidad. I spent just a day in the beautiful town located in central Cuba. There’s a ton to do with easy access to the beach, or “la playa,” incredible foliage, and beautiful natural waterfalls. In addition to a cute town with live jazz music, I spent time with a local guide horseback riding to and from the natural waterfall and grabbing beers, or cervezas, on rooftops.

When I headed back to Havana for my last few days, I had a few things still left on my list: take a ride in a 1950s car, drink mojitos at La Floridita, listen to jazz at a local spot, and eat traditional Cuban food. I managed to check everything off the list before hopping back on the plane to D.C.

Cuba isn’t a traditional destination, but if you’re looking for something unique, consider it for your next adventure! The experiential nature of this vacation was unparalleled. I learned more about flexibility in travel during my time in Cuba than I ever have before. Being disconnected from the internet and technology provides real opportunity to seek out a connection with locals and the culture and lives they have built.

 

Barbados Journal Nov 2018

I now have a rooster. Our gardener brought him to us to protect our hens. But he doesn’t give the normal cock-a-doodle-doo when the sun rises, instead he crows at 3am and it sounds more like err-accck-er- errr.  Although scrawny, he is a proud and ambitious rooster. He is scared of just about everything in the yard, but chases the young hens incessantly and pecks at them if they get too close to his food. I’ve tried to tell him to be gentle with them, but he is consumed with the arrogance and vigour of his youth.

The hens are maturing nicely, no longer cute little chicks they are growing feathers and their own personalities. There is a natural leader I’ve named Delilah, she is always first out of the hen-house in the morning. For fun she chases the mourning doves around the yard, and when the rooster (I’ve named Doug) gets too aggressive with the other hens, she will come to their rescue and get a few good pecks in at him.  The others hens tolerate Delilah because they need a leader, but her exuberance for life upsets their conventionalism.

I bought my first car with a right-hand side steering wheel.  It’s a pea-green Kia Soul and there are only a handful on the island. We discovered that one belongs to the math teacher at our kids school .   We call him Captain Holt because he reminds us of the character on the t.v. show Brooklyn99. He likes things just so and always parks his car perfectly between the lines on the tarmac. For some reason my husband and I have had the same desire to park our car directly beside his whenever we come into the school parking lot. They look so cute together and I’m trying to think of ways to amp it up a bit. Thinking of getting them matching outfits, maybe a bow for one and tie for the other. I’m a bit worried I’ll run out of ideas, but the kids are a great help. 

Barbados is filled with so many stories and so much beauty. When you turn a corner you never know what you might find. To date we’ve come across: a huge pit in the middle of the road that was later filled with a mound of rocks; a goat; a breathtaking view of the Atlantic ocean, a drunken man wielding a machete getting slapped in the head by an old man who took away the large knife and sent him on his way, oh and some adorable puppies.  In the parking lot of the grocery store I stood in awe while watching  the magnificent frigate birds soar and diving into the ocean. 

 

The beauty of the morning sun on a field glistening with dew can take your breath away. And the sunsets that stretch over the sky, painting it shades of red and orange that move over the clouds has become our evening television.

I didn’t realize how much I needed to get away from Toronto politics. The pecking order there reminds me of the hens in my yard – those who challenge the status quo are natural leaders in turbulent times, and they withdraw when times are calm. But there are always predators who circle in the shadows feeding off the droppings. Going 2000 miles away has put things into perspective, from a distance Toronto is much smaller.

The tourists have started to come to the island. The main beach highway is now busy and the grocery store is filled with people wearing bathing suits and flip flops. They seem so incongruous in a country where sleeveless blouses aren’t allowed in government buildings. The radio ads that promote the tourism industry repeatedly telling people that roads, water and yes even the air we breath “is tourism” have, thankfully, stopped. I was hoping the grocery stores might get a bit more consistent in what they offer, one week you can buy lettuce but then it’s gone for the next two.  I haven’t found green beans in 2 weeks but did find some President’s Choice salsa this week. Although with Tostito’s scoops priced at $23.95 a bag, it’ll have to stay in the jar until the local nachos appear on the shelves again.   I’m hoping there might be real cranberry juice instead of the sugar filled juice blends – but I know that might be a stretch.

The art-eco centre boutique hotel project I’m working on is being met with so much support and positive feedback that I was a bit surprised. One large plantation owner offered to give his 400-acre plantation as an investment in the project – but alas it has not ocean views!   I have found that the people here are well educated and want to build their community. Like Canada there is a mix of many cultures and the local Bajans embrace them all. Although people recognize the economic importance of tourism there is a desire to push Barbados beyond being completely dependent on it. 

I’m learning what it is like to be an “expat.” You become part of a community of people all adjusting to a way of life that is quite unique and different than what many are accustomed to. Everything here is slower, and some people let that frustrate them. The rural lifestyle blends into the urban areas – so that you can drive down the main highway  and see a cow feeding in the ditch between the warehouse and the road. Or walk along a busy street among people – and chickens.  Expats choose to be here, and unlike living where you were born that choice inspires more commitment. I’ve also found that expats are in the most part friendly, positive and adventurous people.

Every Tuesday there is a party at the local rum shop just down the hill from us. We sit by the pool listening to the crickets and whistling frogs, and can hear the music wafting up to us. They play old 70s songs, Rupert Holmes – If you like Pina Colodas, and now John Denver – Take me Home Country Roads. The words make me think about all the roads I have travelled and I realize that home isn’t one place, it is the space that Greg and I create with our family and friends.

Trust Loans programme to increase entrepreneurial activity

Entrepreneurship plays a huge part in the growing economy of many countries across the world, and the island paradise known as Barbados is no different. The island while preparing to celebrate its 52nd year of Independence on November 30th, is also giving more financial opportunities to local start-ups, small businesses and entrepreneurs, through the recently launched ‘Trust Loans’.

Recently, Government launched a $10 million trust loan programme, under which starting on Monday, Barbadians can begin to apply for collateral loans to further their business visions.

“We recognize that people need a start; if you recognize, this Government has started a Trust Loan Fund for small businesses . . . . Most persons are finding it difficult to obtain loans from the commercial banks. So, we have set the policy framework so that small businesses can come and start $5,000 trust loans and that gives you a start,” said Minister of Small Business, Entrepreneurship, and Commerce Dwight Sutherland.

Under this new and progressive programme, entrepreneurs can access loans of up to $5,000 at a minimal interest rate of 1.5 to 2%. Clients will be able to also borrow this amount once they have successfully repaid their initial loan.

Acting Prime Minister George Payne Minister of Small Business,  as he explained how the ‘Trust Loans’ programme would proceed, said that Government was seeking to provide ‘comprehensive entrepreneurial framework for small business development’.

He also announced that there would be a number of support mechanisms which included an alternative and user friendly website, a financial literacy bureau to assist entrepreneurs in becoming more financially savvy and a mobile phone app that help entrepreneurs complete loan applications and make payments among other features.

The ‘Trust Loans’ programme is set to provide in total $10 million dollars per year for the next five years that it will take to  seed a Trust Loans Fund.

“The revolving nature of these loans encourages successful recipients to abide by the repayment requirements, which in turn will continually permit the fund to be replenished so other entrepreneurs can benefit and prudent borrowers can reapply for additional financing,” said Minister of Youth and Community Empowerment Adrian Forde, as he spoke during the launch of the Global Entrepreneurship Week (GEW) 2018.

“Increased entrepreneurial activity will go a long way in building more entrepreneurial citizens and excite our young people about getting involved in business, a borderless world where the technology opens new opportunities that were unavailable to previous generations,” he said.

Not only is it possible that the ‘Trust Loans’ will yield increased entrepreneurial activity, but the Minister also assured that there would be initiatives geared towards the encouragement of an entrepreneur in every Barbadian household, in an effort to maximize income earning potential, stimulate economic activity and increase the focus and spotlight of the Barbadian brand in both the Caribbean and International markets.

Two such initiatives are the Prime Minister’s Innovation Award worth $250,000 and the Youth Innovation Award worth $150,000 of prize money which are intended to spark new ideas, innovations and new business, leading to the generation of new wealth, jobs and bringing foreign exchange into the economy.

Fungi eats plastics and benefits environment

Fungi that eats plastic seems like a plot-twist right out of a sci-fi book or movie; however, this particular species of fungus which was found at a landfill site in Pakistan could be the real life solution to the ever growing plastic waste problem.

The Aspergillus tubingensis, is the species of fungus that researchers have found to feed off of plastic, breaking it down in weeks rather than years.

This is the not the first time finding organisms that feed off of plastic waste, as there were discoveries of bacteria that could break down plastic as well as the wax worm which can naturally degrade plastic due to its similar structure to that of its natural food, beeswax.

One of the reasons plastic had ballooned into the human substance of choice was because it was inert and therefore sterile. This meant that it could be used as ubiquitous as needed around the planet from food packaging to pacemakers to aviation.

However, the problem with plastics was the fact that they did not degrade easily , leading to  billions of tons of plastic still hanging around in landfills, and in the oceans , with more being added massive amounts of plastics in continue to be in production globally.

The fact that there are organisms ‘evolving‘ to exploit this new plastic –filled environment, has caused some researchers both a sense of excitement to study how they are doing so, but also some alarm  as well.

Scientists at London’s Kew Botanical Gardens reported that these organisms are an important advance in a world where momentum is building to reverse the toxic tide of plastic that is killing marine life and polluting the ocean.

Senior Kew Gardens Scientist Ilia Leitch, said that they are exploring these organisms for their potential to degenerate different types of plastic, explaining that “by understanding how the fungi break down these bonds and what the optimal conditions are, you can then increase the speed at which they do it.”

There are also other uses of fungi, including using it to feed on pollutants such as oil spills, toxic chemicals like sarin nerve gas, TNT and even radioactive waste.

The first-ever State of the World’s Fungi report, also spells out that advances in the agricultural applications of the various species of fungi could translate into improved food security, environmental sustainability and increased production revenues.

Climate change however, are affecting the the ranges of species of fungi and biodiversity in ways that the UN Environment (UNEP) revealed were still not fully comprehensible.

The fungi themselves are also under threat in high latitudes areas, especially where average temperatures continue to rise, such as the Arctic. These changes are already affecting fungi reproduction, geographic distributions and activity, with possible knock-on effects for our ecosystems.

“Species react differently to climate change, which disrupts the delicate interaction between them,” says Niklas Hagelberg, a UNEP climate change and ecosystems expert.

“This further complicates conservation; we need to quickly add climate change to our ecosystem management effort.”

 

 

4 Tools for Handling Loss, and Gaining Resilience

Women’s resilience always seems to be tested; from doing the bulk of the care giving for children, families, and elders, being the multi-taskers, the nurturers, the drill sergeants and the compassion experts. It is any wonder that this leads to reporting higher stress levels than men do?

Resilience comes from a Latin word meaning to leap back or rebound. My own resilience was tested in the last decade during a series of hard losses – my dad and husband, who died within three months of each other, followed by my mom, my dog, and my only sibling.

As a psychologist, but also as someone doing lots of caregiving during this time and coping with grief, I had to develop a set of skills to increase my resilience. These four tools helped me better handle the losses and the stress:

  1. Engage in Meditation

Some believe that meditation may be the single most important tool for increasing resilience. A regular practice of meditation changes the brain, enhances the immune system, and induces a faster recovery from life stressors. Meditation induces calm and decreases ruminative thinking. Whether it’s a meditation that focuses on breath, or a mantra word like “Peace,” engaging in a bit of daily meditation makes a huge difference in being able to rebound from a challenging situation.

  1. Practice Self Care

Self-care involves paying attention to three important things that impact the body and moods: sleep, exercise, and nutrition. These three factors go hand in hand – one has a synergistic effect on the other. Sleep rests the brain and reboots the immune system. Lack of sleep results in being more prone to illness and just plain grumpy!

It also impacts the gut, and most people usually reach for junk food,- which impacts brain and guts functioning- when sleep deprived rather than healthier foods such as fresh fruits, vegetable and nuts. Exercise or some form of daily movement, like walking, biking, swimming, or dancing, helps with better sleep, reduces appetite, enhances the immune system, and releases hormones that help feelings and mood states more positive.

Lack of sleep or proper nutrition and exercise, sabotages the mental and physical well-being as well as the ability to rebound from stress.

  1. Recover and Recharge

It’s not enough to try and endure a stressful experience, as you develop resilience. Instead the focus must be on how to recharge in order to bounce back and move forward. Being in constant action is damaging to both body and mind, not to mention the spirit! When encountering a stressor, it’s important to take stress breaks or recovery periods that allow the time and space to heal, just like a runner does between training runs. Without these recovery periods, resilience doesn’t have a chance to grow.

  1. Find Social Support

Chronic loneliness (not to be confused with “alone time” or “me time”) increases the levels of stress hormones circulating in the body, and also impairs decision-making and problem-solving skills, which are often critical when faced with loss and life stressors. From birth, you are hard-wired to have several close confidantes with whom they entrust your secrets and worries.

This is a particularly important tool in healing from loss because grief can feel so isolating. Joining a support group, or seeing a therapist is a great initial step in combating loneliness and finding a safe place to share your concerns. Finding a tribe of likeminded people, whether it’s joining a yoga class, a hobby group, a book club, or a sports team is also a great idea. Rumi says: “There’s a secret medicine given only to those who hurt so hard, they cannot hope. It is this: Look as long as you can at the friend that you love.”

The next time you feel stressed or overwhelmed, remember these seeds of resilience, and recall that in a garden, a healthy seed grows into a beautiful plant. Even though the plant may get assailed from time to time by blustering winds and heavy rains, the plant can bounce back and still survive, often blooming more beautifully than before.

Sherry Cormier, PhD is a psychologist, consultant and public speaker. Formerly on the faculty at the University of Tennessee and West Virginia University, she is the author of Counseling Strategies and Interventions for Professional Helpers (Pearson Education, 9th edition) and coauthor of Interviewing and Change Strategies for Helpers (Cengage Learning, 8th edition). She has cowritten and coproduced more than 50 training videos for Cengage Learning. Her new book is Sweet Sorrow: Finding Enduring Wholeness After Loss and Grief(Rowman & Littlefield).

Warmth this cold season is still fashionable

November is here and with it comes crisper weather, shorter days and a need for even cozier clothes.

November in my mind is the official beginning of the winter season, the time when it’s no longer just a ‘chill in the air’, but the introduction of real cold.

As the weather becomes colder many have a decision to make. Do you sacrifice fashion for warmth and heat or can you have it all?

If your fall and winter wardrobe is feeling lack luster, with nothing but the same old huge coats, boots and warm garments, then it is the right time to add some heat to your winter looks.

Are ready to give the season for chunky sweaters, blanket scarves, booties and all things cozy a touch of spice and heat, other than the need to be warm?

This fall and winter street styles are all about creativity and with that comes the joy of jumping right out of the box and mix and matching your fabrics for a new and unique look. Wool, plaid, silk and leather can work together to not only keep you warm, but are the basics for fun creative ideas.

When you’re feeling a little down in the dumps because of the colder temperature and darker days, go right ahead and add a huge splash of sunshine!

Yellow was the colour of the year for 2018 and it adds such a feeling of warmth, daring and joy to any outfit. Whether it’s a sweater, jacket, handbag or if you’re truly daring and bold enough, shoes, then go ahead and raise your spirits with the colour of the sun.

If you’re thinking yellow is too much for me, then why not reignite your summer feels and add some floral into the dark mix?

Transition your floral wide-leg pants to a fall look with the help of a chunky, bold sweater and black boots that peek out from the hem.

Not into floral pants?

Then mix it up with a floral chunky sweater, boots and dark jeans.

Letting your socks show is all the rage this cold weather season. A trend that is mostly seen with men, but can be a fun  and creative boost of fun and warmth for those women who want to still wear their kitten heeled slingbacks or fun mules. Pair these shoes with thin, chic socks in bright colours, or shimmery metallic or even argyle… the sky is the limit, so go nuts.

One of the best things about overalls is that they are a year round go-to! They are easy to wear and easy to dress up or down.  This fall and winter season, take them out of the closet and pair them with a fitted turtleneck tee, some loafer heels.

There are so many things you can mix and match to add some spice to your winter looks that will leave you both feeling fresh, fabulous and most importantly warm!

The big take away here is to not be afraid to of colours, patterns or to let your creativity shine through regardless of the season!