Bon Cop Bad Cop

Bon Cop, Bad Cop (the first and the sequel) are comedic Canadian bilingual movies. Yeah you heard me, bilingual movies. They feature an Ontario officer and a Quebec officer who have to work together to solve a series of murders.

There are English subtitles if you don’t speak French, and French subtitles for the English sections as well. Or if you’re real fancy, you could enjoy the movies sans subtitles if you speak both languages. Warning: they speak fast.

“Ontario” is a by the book, up-tight hardass who has trouble communicating with those be loves. “Quebec” is a rough and tumble, charming, good ol’ boy who pays little observance to the rules. Anyone who knows anything about Canadian politics knows that Ontario and Quebec don’t usually play too well with each other and this is personified in Colm Feore and Patrick Huard’s performances.

The first film is one of my favourite comedies and I would highly recommend it for anyone to watch. The sequel won’t really make sense unless you have seen the first one, but I guess it might be ok on it’s own. I thought that #2 was just as funny as the first, but there were a lot of plot holes in it which I felt brought down the entertainment value. This leads me to rate the first film five stars and the second film three stars.

At the end of the day, these movies are not meant to be taken too seriously. They provide funny caricatures of Ontarians and Quebeckers in the first film, and Canadians and Americans in the second.

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xx

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Outside the Box by Jeannie Marshall

I have just finished reading an amazing book by local author Jeannie Marshall. It has been published under two titles so you might find it by looking for Outside the box: why our children need real food, not food products  or by searching The lost art of feeding kids: what Italy taught me about why children need real food.

I had read this book originally a few years ago and picked it up under the second title thinking the author had written another one. Well, a couple chapters in it was too familiar so I checked and it was exactly the same book! Fortunately it was so good that I decided to just keep going and will probably re-read it at least a couple more times in my lifetime. It is one of my favourite books and teaches you so much about food cultures and the art of looking at food as a whole, rather than just a compilation of different nutrients and vitamins to sustain the body.

Here is the blurb from goodreads:

When Canadian journalist Jeannie Marshall moved to Rome with her husband, she delighted in Italy’s famous culinary traditions. But when Marshall gave birth to a son, she began to see how that food culture was eroding, especially within young families. Like their North American counterparts, Italian children were eating sugary cereal in the morning and packaged, processed, salt- and fat-laden snacks later in the day. Busy Italian parents were rejecting local markets for supermercati, and introducing their toddlers to fast food restaurants only too happy to imprint their branding on the youngest of customers. So Marshall set on a quest to discover why something that we can only call “kid food” is proliferating around the world. How did we develop our seemingly insatiable desire for packaged foods that are virtually devoid of nutrition? How can even a mighty food culture like Italy’s change in just a generation? And why, when we should and often do know better, do we persist in filling our children’s lunch boxes, and young bodies, with ingredients that can scarcely even be considered food?

Through discussions with food crusaders such as Alice Waters, with chefs in Italy, nutritionists, fresh food vendors and parents from all over, and with big food companies such as PepsiCo and Nestle, Marshall gets behind the issues of our children’s failing nutrition and serves up a simple recipe for a return to real food.

—                    —

Marshall doesn’t come across as patronizing or elitist – something food writers and bloggers are often charged with. She doesn’t lecture you but instead inspires you to want something more for your family, and your community. She stresses the importance of societal norms in creating a food culture and its significance to overall health.

Having not grown up in a strong food culture the likes of which is common in Italy, the entire idea behind it was somewhat foreign to me but I love the idea and it is something that I desperately want to implement with my own family. I want my kids to grow up helping in the kitchen because through this they will develop cooking skills (from shopping and storage to preparing meals) as well as social skills, budgetary management skills, and will (hopefully!) associate good wholesome food with a fond, nostalgia for family and home that will carry the habit of healthy eating through the temptations of salty, fatty, sugary foods in adulthood.

The book begins with a short history of her childhood (which is to frame her experiences as an adult and make it easier for North Americans to relate to her) and how she and husband James arrived in Rome. The chunk of the book however follows her struggles as a mother to wade through all the BS and implement the healthiest choices for her son, from the introduction of first foods, to temper tantrums post-swimming lessons because little Nico wants a sugary treat from the vending machine … experiences any mother can relate to, regardless of where she lives.

Outside the Box is so much more than just a dietary ideal though. She talks about the role of advertising, particularly advertisements to children, and the subversive role they play in driving a wedge in between parents and children. Commercials and subtler ads, such as those in a television show, work on kids. Industry wouldn’t spend billions of dollars per year in America alone if they didn’t. And I can see it in the kids in my own life, how they beg, cajole and bargain to get a sweet or salty treat. To me, a treat like ice cream or McDonald’s should’t even be a once a week thing, never mind every day, or every trip to a store.

But you can’t raise your kids in isolation. Marshall uses examples such as these to explain why it is so important to have a societal food culture to raise kids in. If your child is the only one at swimming lessons to not get a treat from the vending machine, and you are the parent constantly saying no, it affects your relationship. If none of the kids get a treat, or if the vending machine isn’t there at all, it’s no big deal. Its normal.

Imagine a culture where everyone upholds a certain standard when it comes to food so that you can be sure that the food your child eats at school or his friends’ houses will be fresh and healthy rather than packaged. Advertising food products, particularly to children, subverts such a food culture.Though the culture supports healthy habits, marketing exploits your desires and weaknesses and encourages you to do what is bad for you. The traditional food culture incorporates opportunities to take pleasure in food with feast days for religious, seasonal or familial reasons. Marketing encourages self-indulgence, and when every day is special, nothing is special. Children have little defence against food marketers, and it doesn’t take long before these intruders define the culture to suit their needs.

Marshall, Jeanie. Outside the box. pg. 81

To me, protecting your children from food marketers is as important as teaching them not to accept candy from people in vans. Someone is coming into your home, through the computer or tv, and attempting to establish a relationship with your child, encouraging them to become consumers who enjoy a treat all the time. Children see commercials as factual and authoritative, according to the American Psychological Association; they can’t ignore or reflect critically on what is presented to them. And many companies go further, portraying parents as dumb old adults who don’t understand children or fun, rather than loving individuals who have to be the bad guys and make you eat broccoli instead of that cupcake because they care about your health.

One of the sections I was most interested in reading in Outside the Box was when Nico was a baby and Jeannie was introducing him to solid foods. In North America, it is still common to introduce foods one at a time in case the baby has a food allergy. In Italy, mothers make a pureed soup broth with veggies and a little rice or pasta for their baby. It incorporates the little into eating with their family unit, as they eat at the table at the same time as everyone else, and are introduced to a healthy and savoury combination of food that continues their introduction into the traditional food culture of their region.

outside the box

By the way, I read this book as a part of my 2016 Read Harder Challenge!

It was cool to see that Marshall offhandedly includes some traditional Italian recipes in her writing, ones that I am excited to try! I highly recommend this book. Try to find it at your local library or bookstore and give it a try if you have any interest in healthy living, cooking, food justice and sovereignty, or raising healthy children.

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xx

Saving for School by Gail Vaz-Oxlade

Gail Vaz-Oxlade is a Canadian personal finance guru. She was the host of television shows “Til Debt do us Part” and “Princess”, which is where I first learned some of her lessons. I am actually super passionate about both personal finance and national debt / state budgets, but I took a break from reading non-fiction because I went back to school around the time that I started this blog. I’m looking forward to reading more for learning over the next little bit, now that I don’t have to focus on boring old text books!

saving for school

I LOVE this book. It is perfect because it is super easy to read. Let’s face it – books about money can be intimidating to read. The average person worries that they won’t be able to understand it, or that they will be faced with some hard truths … maybe that they’ve messed up so bad they won’t ever be able to sort it out or that they are going to have to make big changes to create the future they want.

It’s easy to put aside for “later” and never really get into it. Don’t do that!

“Saving for School” is short and sweet. The book itself is small, like the size of a Harlequin Romance paperback. And it is only 84 pages. I read it in a couple of hours … in the same room where my parents and sister were talking and my nephew was (loudly!) watching soccer. There were a lot of distractions around. I promise you can get through it too.

Gail has a way of writing as if she is sitting down next to you explaining. Her books don’t come across as academic or “lectury” to me. It could be a friend or a parent trying to explain something, only with Gail, I’m sure it isn’t well-meant but completely inaccurate advice.

So who is “Saving for School” written for?

Anyone with an interest in post-secondary education. That could be a parent of a teenager or a pre-schooler, or someone planning to become pregnant.

It could be a grandparent, uncle, church leader, or the student himself (or herself).

I’ve already graduated from university, but even I found some tips to help me pay back my student loans in a way that reduces the interested that I pay, and how to do the calculations that will tell me how much interest I’ll pay based of different payment options.

Ideally though, the earlier you (parent/student) start planning for post-secondary expenses, the more prepared you will be, both in the knowledge of how to take advantage of the system and how much things cost, and in how much money you will have managed to squirrel away for tuition and other expenses.

“Saving for School” helps explain the ways to get free money from the government.

FREE MONEY FROM THE GOVERNMENT?!!! Is it possible?! Yes!!!

Truly. I’m not taking about OSAP, I’m talking about the Canadian Education Savings Grant money. You don’t have to pay it back. And you can earn interest on it in the mean-time. I did have an RESP from my parents, which covered the academic expenses for about one year of uni. But I didn’t have any idea of the CESG or whether my parents were able to take advantage of it or not. If a little bit of planning and strategic saving can give you $7200 (plus whatever interest you earn on that!) for each child’s education, you want to take advantage of it!

Other ways to save for university: apply for scholarships and bursaries. I’m not that smart (remember, I dropped out of school and it took me a while to go back … seriously, I’m not Harvard Med material over here) or that poor. I still got entrance scholarships that were renewable for each year, and bursaries. Apply even when you don’t think you will get anything. Easy money! You can apply directly to your university and to scholarship websites like… :

http://www.scholarshipscanada.com/

Scholarships, grants and bursaries for Canadian students

You can also make money by working during high-school and university, or borrow from a family member or the bank. Predictable response, I know. Sorry.

I like that Gail reminds the reader to make sure that a young adult goes off to university with lifeskills, like how to shop at the grocery store, or do laundry. Moms and Dads have a tendency to want to do everything for their child, but that isn’t actually helpful. A parent’s role is to raise a competent adult who knows how to do things for themselves so that they are prepared to handle what life throws at them.

I would add a point of my own here – it is awesome to have activities and hobbies as a child and a teenager and this should be continued through adulthood. It is fun and healthy! After all the purpose of life is to be happy, not to work that 9-5. But if you can guide a child into some activities that may be lucrative later in life …. not the worst thing either.

I feel that most of my hobbies are not something that I can market to make money in the “no-collar” economy when I need a little more. I had friends making minimum wage at McDonald’s and friends making twice that working as lifeguards and swim instructors during school. Guess who ended up with more money and fewer hours at a job?!

Yup. Splash splash.

Same with less organized hobbies, like sewing or knitting, playing a musical instrument … these are all things that a poor university student (or newly employed-broke-dying under student debt young adult) can leverage at certain times to make money, by selling a product or teaching others. My nephew loves hockey and soccer, but it would be hard to make extra money as a soccer instructor, especially mid-way through the academic year which would be January. In Canada. His sister could be a great swim teacher through, if she stuck with it. She is “artsy” too, maybe she could sell her skills in that division.

Probably getting a little off track of the book review, but I think the point is really important and as an Auntie, I try to hammer it into those kids’ heads. They think they understand now but they won’t really until they are halfway through university and eating Ramen noodles three times a day. I don’t want them to be without marketable skills when they realize it.

“Saving for School” teaches the reader the most effective ways to leverage your savings – whether it is $20.00 a month or $200.00, to put someone through university. It covers how to engage a financial institution to create an RESP (registered education savings bond) and get the CESP (grant money) and the great tool that TFSAs (tax free savings accounts) can be to keep your money out of the tax man’s hands. It gives some advice for how to prepare a child to become a responsible university student and how to establish a credit history as a young adult.

I HIGHLY recommend it and hope you pick up this book.  If you feel it wasn’t for you, you only wasted about two hours. And I’ve searched about five local library systems and they all had a copy. So you can go borrow it for free.

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xx

P.S. Gail has a website with tools on it. Check it out here.

P.P.S. Still stuck on that comment I made about paying off student loans and interest calculators? I copy and pasted this from Gail’s website for you. Credit to her please!

Let’s say, for example, that you have a $20,000 loan at 8%, and you want to have your student loan paid off in 3 years, which is 36 months.

First, the interest: $20,000 x 8% ÷ 12 (months) = $133,33. That’s the interest part of your monthly payment.

Now the principal repayment: Take your total principal of $20,000 and divide it by the number of months you want to take to pay off the loan, in this case 36.

So, $20,000 ÷ 36 = $555.55.

Add the principal amount of $555.55 to $133.33 in interest and your monthly payment is $688.88.

That’s a good indicator of what your monthly payment will be on the loan. It’ll actually be a little less since interest is calculated on a declining balance (as you pay off your loan, the principal goes down, so the amount of interest goes down).

The government of Canada has a website that offers a loan repayment calculator (http://tools.canlearn.ca/cslgs-scpse/cln-cln/40/crp-lrc/af.nlindex-eng.do) to take the math out of the exercise, if you’re number-challenged. You can enter up to three scenarios at a time to see how much you’ll have to pay monthly along with the interest you’ll pay over the life of your student loan.

Happy saving!

Television Bundles

I both bless and curse the CRTC at the moment.

I’m proudly Canadian. And one of the things I love about Canada is that early this year the CRTC passed a law to end bundling of television channels. Not sure what this means?

Television providers like Bell, Rogers and Compton all offer television channels in a bundle. So to get the two channels you want, you have to purchase them in a bundle with 15 other channels that you are also paying for but never watch.

And because they offer multiple bundles, your favourite ones are inevitably offered in different bundles. Which means you have to choose just one or two, or buy all the bundles.

Which sucks. It’s highway robbery.

So here comes the CRTC who agree with Canadians and outlaws bundling. If you have a basic or “skinny” package, which can cost no more than $25.00 a month, you get to pick and choose individual channels that are not considered basic, to add to your skinny package. Like HGTV, HBO, Showcase, the food network, the women’s channel… and you just pay for that channel you picked. Because its not part of a bundle anymore!!!!

Huzzah!!

Except, oh wait. This passed in March 2015 and I thought that it took effect at the end of the year …. aka now-ish. Apparently it doesn’t take affect until the end of 2016!  Not cool CRTC. Not cool.

Guess that means another year of no tv por moi. Darn. I was so excited too.

xx