Kudos to columnists today

Did you know that today is National Columnists Day? I didn’t know that either until I was searching for a topic for today’s column. When I run out of column ideas, I search for special or historical events that have happened on the date on which the column will be published. (So now you know my secret.)

I have been writing a weekly newspaper column since 1981, first as the Women’s Editor for Prince Albert Daily Herald and then, from 1997 to 2009 as editor for Rural Roots. Since retiring, I have continued as a contributor to the newspaper on  a freelance basis. But this is the first time I have celebrated National Columnits Day, probably because it is a US holiday!

The National Society of Newspaper Columnists created National Columnists Day. It was established on April 18 in memory of the life and work of columnist Ernest Taylor Pyle.

In this era of fake news spread at lightning speed by social media, traditional journalism is more important than ever. It is often difficult to find a trusted news source.

Columns fall under the category of opinion. A column may, or may not, be a balanced presentation of facts. Columns may be intended to inform, to entertain, to persuade. In journalism, columns are distinguished from hard news which ideally is a balanced and unbiased reporting of facts of interest to readers. 

I’m glad to see that my friend Lorna Blakeney has begun to write a monthly column for the Daily Herald. It is refreshing to have a multitude of voices contributing to this newspaper.

So how can we celebrate Columnists Day? If you see a columnist or journalist today, let them know you appreciate what they do and that you like their articles.

  • Send them an e-card.
  • Post a Happy National Columnists Day note on tr social media.

Read the newspaper and articles in other media.

CFUW book sale springs into action

For more than three decades, the University Women’s Club (CFUW Prince Albert) has been selling used books to raise money for local scholarships.

This local affiliate of Canadian Federation of University Women keeps a low profile. Members meet monthly for friendship and to learn about local and global issues. For example, at a recent meeting, members toured the new palliative care facility, Rose Garden Hospice.  Through the national organization, members learn about issues affecting women in Canada and around the world. 

CFUW is not a service organization and fundraising is kept to a minimum. The spring book sales is the club’s only means of raising money for a music festival scholarship and five $500 scholarships intended to help local female Grade 12 graduates who are furthering their education.

This year’s sale begins April 19 and 2010 a.m. to 5 p.m. at South Hill Mall.  The sale continues  Monday to Saturday, April 22-27, 10 a.m. to 5 p.m.

Anyone can afford to shop at this book sale because there are no fixed prices. Pick out the books you want and  give a donation to the scholarship fund. It is as simple as that.

In this age of e-readers, people are still eager to buy books.  The CFUW book sale is the perfect opportunity to pick up a few books that you think you might like to read.

Some people are even more eager to donate books. Books in  good condition can be dropped off during the sale.  An enthusiastic group of women and men volunteer their time to help put on the book sale. If you wish to volunteer contact Gail Syverson at (306) 764-3556. You’ll be helping a good cause and meeting lots of other people who love books too.

Today is World Carrot Day

Today is World Carrot Day, a day to spread knowledge about the carrot and its good attributes.

Carrots are part of the cuisine of cultures around the world. Everywhere I have traveled, carrots were on the menu in one form or another.

Carrots are the most popular vegetable in the UK, edging out the potato in popularity. China produces half the carrots grown worldwide. In 2022, approximately six kilograms of fresh carrots were available for consumption per person in Canada.

Carrots are used in many cuisines both cooked and in salads. For the past 40 years, baby carrots (carrots that have been peeled and cut into uniform cylinders) have been a popular ready-to-eat snack food in local supermarkets.

The carrots we grow today, Daucus carota sativus, have been cultivated for centuries. They are thought to have been selected from the wild carrot, Daucus carota carota (Queen Anne’s Lace), which originated on the Iranian Plateau, an area that now includes Afghanistan, Pakistan and Iran. Wild carrot grows in temperate regions around the globe, particularly Western Asia and Europe, and is widely distributed across much of North America.

Carrot flowers, seeds and roots were first used for medicinal purposes. The domestic carrot has been selectively bred for its greatly enlarged, more palatable, less woody-textured taproot.

According to Wikipedia, carrots appear to have been introduced into Spain by the Moors in the 8th century. In the 10th century, in West Asia, India and Europe, the carrot roots were purple. The Jewish scholar Simeon Seth describes both red and yellow carrots in the 11th century. Cultivated carrots appeared in China in the 14th century, and in Japan in the 18th century. Orange-coloured carrots appeared in the Netherlands and England in the 17th century. European settlers introduced the carrot to colonial America in the 17th century.

Carrots are a healthy vegetable, high in Vitamin A, but eating carrots will not help you see in the dark, contrary to what many of us were taught years ago. According to Wikipedia, this myth was propaganda used by the Royal Air Force during the Second World War to explain why their pilots had improved success during night air battles, but was actually used to disguise advances in radar technology and the use of red lights on instrument panels.

Carrots are relatively easy to grow. Because they take only 90 days to mature, carrots can be grown almost anywhere below the tree line in Canada. Pulling a carrot root from the ground and eating it fresh is one of the great pleasures of gardening. As you plan your garden this summer, don’t forget the carrots.

Washing machine tops the wish list

One of the first things we bought for our first house  was a portable washing machine. You rolled it up to the kitchen sink and attach a hose to the faucet to fill the tub on the left where you washed the clothes. The dirty water drain into the sink. Then you lifted the clothes into the tub on the right which spun water out of the clothes. They were fairly dry by that time and easy to hang on the line to dry completely.

Two decades later while we were vacationing in Cuba, we visited a store where the featured item was the same type of washing machine. Our Cuban friend told us that it was the most popular purchase when people could scrape together enough money.

Today much more elaborate washing machines are considered essential but a century ago most laundry was done by hand. Just ask Grandma about scrubbing on a washboard!

According to Wikipedia, a washing machine design was published in 1767 in Germany. In 1782, Henry Sidgier was issued a British patent for a rotating drum washing machine. In 1797, Nathaniel Briggs received the first US patent for his invention. His creation was his wife’s birthday present.

Romance artists painted scenes of groups of women washing their clothes in a stream. Laundry day might have been a rare opportunity to gossip with the neighbours, but it was cold, back-breaking work.

My mother’s first wringer-washer on the farm was powered by propane. Water was heated on the stove to fill the wash tub.  Square metal wash tubs were balanced on kitchen chairs for rinsing the clothes after they were passed through the wringer to expel the dirty, soapy wash water.

Even as a young child, while I watched my mother hanging heavy laundry on the line in freezing weather, I vowed never to do that job. By the time my first baby arrived, I had an electric washing machine and natural gas dryer for laundering the piles of wet and dirty diapers that tiny baby created.

It’s no surprise that families around the world purchase washing machines as soon as their economic situation improves. What will laundry day look like for my grandchildren when they become parents?

Melting snow reveals seasonal allergen

The snow mould season came early this year. On a lovely, sunny afternoon in early February I enjoyed a walk in the park. The birds were singing, the wind blew my hair and the sun warmed my face. The next day I felt terrible! My eyes were itchy, my nose ran constantly and I  felt tired despite a good night’s sleep. It was an allergic reaction to snow mould.

A University of Saskatchewan website says, “Snow mould is caused by several types of fungi that tolerate cold temperatures and like wet conditions. It appears in lawns after the snow has melted. It can vary from mild to severe depending on the year. It’s not toxic but is an allergen or irritant to people with breathing issues.”

Fuzzy, hairy looking threads called mycelium appear on the lawn where snow was piled up or compacted by footpaths. Snow mould will disappear on its own with warmer and dryer weather. Snow mould season will be over when the snow has all melted.

Snow mould can create bare spots in the lawn but they are easily mended with raking and light reseeding. The effect on humans, however, can be greater. My daughter has asthma, so the allergic reaction kept her coughing and sleepless for almost a week. Even though I was taking an antihistamine, the skin around my nose was rough and red from constant blowing. I was reluctant to go outdoors for fear of triggering the allergic reaction to the mould spores in the air.

I now live in a community of older adults. I was worried that I might have a cold that could spread to the people who sit across the dinner table. I researched the difference between a cold and seasonal allergies.

Allergies are our immune system’s vigorous response to an allergen such as dust mites or snow mould spores. Some common symptoms of an allergy are:

  • Itchy eyes
  • Sneezing
  • Runny nose
  • Stuffy nose

The common cold is a viral infection of the upper respiratory system. Unlike allergies, which are caused by a reaction to allergens, colds are contagious and can spread from person to person. For example, if someone who has a cold sneezes near you, you can catch the virus and become infected.

Common cold symptoms are:

  • Runny nose
  • Sore throat
  • Cough
  • Headache
  • Body aches
  • Sneezing
  • Fatigue

You may also run a fever with a cold, which is something that you won’t have with allergies.

Fortunately, I didn’t have to hide indoors from the allergens for too long because the snowfall in early March cleared the air and covered the snow mould on the lawns.

My recent battle with allergies helped me to be more empathetic toward people who battle year-round with allergies to pollen, dust or pet dander.

And yes, increasingly severe allergic reactions seen be just another aggravation as we grow older.

Test your St. Patrick’s Day knowledge

Wearing the green; kiss me I’m Irish; dancing a jig ….  all are ways to celebrate a bishop who lived 1,500 years ago in Great Britain. How much do you know about Saint Patrick?

  1. Why is St. Patrick’s Day on March 17?

  2. Of which country is St. Patrick the patron saint?

  3. Did Patrick banish the snakes from Ireland?

  4. Why is it customary to wear shamrocks or green clothing on St. Patrick’s Day?

  5. What are the odds of finding a four-leaf clover?

  6. Patrick was born in Roman-occupied Britain. At age 16 he was captured by Irish pirates and taken to Ireland where he worked for six years. What type of work did he do?

  7. How was Patrick changed by his years of slavery?

  8. Why did Patrick return to Ireland?

  9. How do leprechauns earn their gold?

  10. Green beer is not an Irish tradition. Green beer was created in New York in 1914. Why do we continue to drink green beer on St. Patrick’s Day?


1. Saint Patrick’s Day is a cultural and religious celebration held on March 17, the traditional death date of Saint Patrick ( c. AD 385–461).

2. Ireland

3. The absence of snakes in Ireland gave rise to the legend that they had been banished by Patrick chasing them into the sea after they attacked him during a 40-day fast.

4. St Patrick is said to have used the shamrock, a three-leaved green plant, to explain the Holy Trinity to the Irish.

5. One in 10,000

6. He cared for farm animals … some say swine, some say sheep.

7. Patrick’s family were Christian, however Patrick was not an active believer. According to The Confessions of St. Patrick, while he was a captive in Ireland he converted to Christianity. He returned to Britain and studied to become a priest.

8. Acting on a vision, Patrick returned to Ireland as a Christian missionary. He is considered to be the first bishop of Ireland. He is said to have baptized thousands.

9. By making and mending shoes.

March 8 is Women’s Day

Friday is International Women’s Day. Each year, International Women’s Day is celebrated around the world on March 8.

Prince Albert Council of Women will celebrate Women’s Day, but on Sunday, March 10 during a Tea at the Coronet Hotel. The celebration will include the induction of Jennifer Brown into the Prince Albert Women’s Hall of Fame. Tickets are $25. Call Patricia 306 764-5051.

Jennifer Brown, an art teacher at Carlton Comprehensive public high school, is  being recognized for her work as a teacher, her activism with the Métis National Youth Advocacy Council and time spent volunteering. The photograph of this year’s Hall of Fame inductee will be hung on the wall on the second floor at City Hall along with the photos of those who previously received this honour.

Around the world, thousands of events occur throughout March to mark the economic, political and social achievements of women.

In many countries it is a holiday with parades.  

The global UN theme for International Women’s Day 2024 is “Invest in women: Accelerate progress” The theme focusing on the fifth UN sustainable development goal of achieving gender equality and empowering all women and girls by 2030.

Prince Albert’s Women’s Hall of Fame is a great example of how women have provided leadership in our community. However, achieving an equal future for women and girls is an on-going challenge.

What makes today special?

Today is a special day because Feb. 29 appears on our calendar only once every four year. We call it a Leap Day and 2024 is a Leap Year.

The famous Julius Caesar is credited with standardizing the calendar in 45 BC. He created a calendar of 12 months with 365 days numbered sequentially within the month.

Most people today use the Gregorian calendar, introduced by Pope Gregory XIII in 1582.  Our year is the length of time it takes Earth to orbit the sun. Because our year is approximately 365 ¼ days, this revised calendar allowed for an extra day which we now know as Leap Day.

Leap Days occur in years that are multiples of four, except for years evenly divisible by 100 but not by 400. For example, 1896 was a Leap Year, but 1900 was not. Correcting the calendar with a Leap Day allows for the length of the Earth’s orbit at 365 days 5 hours, 48 minutes and 45 seconds.

The term “leap year” probably comes from the fact that a fixed date normally advances one day a week from one year to the next but inserting an extra day in February causes the date to advance two days thus “leaping” over one day in the week. For example Christmas fell on Friday in 2020, Saturday in 2021, Sunday in 2022 and Monday in 2023 but it will “leap” over Tuesday to fall on Wednesday in 2024.

A person born on February 29 may be called a “leapling”. In non-leap years they usually celebrate their birthday on February 28 or March 1.

Some famous leaplings include:

  • American singer Dinah Shore born Feb. 29, 1916;
  • Montreal Canadiens star Henri Richard was born on Leap Day 1936;
  • DC comics says Superman was born on Feb. 29..

An Irish legend allowed a woman to propose marriage on Feb. 29. If the man rejected the proposal he had  to pay her a fine … a kiss,  a pair of gloves or money for a silk dress.

In 1984, Pierre Elliott Trudeau took his famous walk in the snow and announced on Feb. 29 that he would be stepping down as Prime Minister. Should we await an announcement from his son, Justin, today?

Tea is timeless

Captain Picard, in Star Trek the Next Generation, orders Earl Grey tea, hot, from the food synthesizer. Although that television series is set 300 years in the future, the history of tea goes back 5,000 years, suggest that the popularity of tea is timeless.

According to legend, in 2737 BC, the Chinese emperor Shen Nung was sitting beneath a tree while his servant boiled drinking water, when some leaves from the tree blew into the water. Shen Nung, a renowned herbalist, decided to try the infusion that his servant had accidentally created. He went on to research the health benefits of tea.

Indian history of tea attributes its discovery to Prince Bodhi-Dharma, who founded the Zen school of Buddhism. In the year 520, he left India to preach Buddhism in China. To prove some Zen principles, he vowed to meditate for nine years without sleep. It is said that near the end of his meditation, he fell asleep. Upon awaking, he was so distraught that he cut off his eyelids, and threw them to the ground. Legend has it that a tea plant sprung up on the spot to sanctify his sacrifice.

The tea plant originated in regions around southwest China, Tibet and northern India. Chinese traders may have travelled throughout these regions often and encountered people chewing tea leaves for medicinal purposes.

It was not until the Tang dynasty (618-907), that drinking tea become widespread. We know this because the government imposed a tea tax on China’s national beverage.

A Buddhist monk, Saichō, is credited with introducing tea to Japan in the early Ninth century. While studying in China, Saichō discovered tea and brought back seeds to grow at his monastery. Over time, other monks followed suit, and soon small tea plantations sprouted up at secluded monasteries. However, due to the isolation of these plantations, tea’s popularity in Japan did not blossom until the 13th century.

The most popular method of preparing tea involved grinding the delicate green tea leaves into a fine powder using a stone mill. This powder, called Matcha in Japan, was a precursor to the traditional Japanese tea ceremony. Matcha is prepared with bamboo whisks and served in hand-crafted bowls.

It was not until the Ming Dynasty (1368-1644) that tea was prepared by steeping the whole leaves in water, like it is today. Instead of compressing tea leaves into bricks, or grinding them in a stone mill, the tea leaves were dried, rolled, and then heated in iron woks to stop the oxidation process. The brewing process simply involved steeping the tea leaves in hot water, without the need for a whisk.

Explorers and missionaries brought tea to Europe. Around the Ninth century, references in Arab trade documents refer to the process of boiling bitter tea leaves. Later, Marco Polo (1254-1324) alludes to his discovery of tea in his travel writings about the East.

Dutch merchants entered the picture in 1610. That year, the first shipments of Japanese and Chinese tea arrived in Europe via ships charted by the Dutch East India Company. The popularity of tea rapidly spread to Amsterdam, Paris, and London, although its high price limited consumption. In Shakespeare’s time coffee was the beverage of choice for men who met in coffee houses, but wealthy women drank tea at home with friends.

And what about Captain Picard’s favourite hot beverage? It’s named after Charles Grey, a British earl of the 1800s. This quintessentially British tea is a black tea flavoured with oil from the rind of bergamot orange, a citrus fruit.

How to enjoy Family Day in Prince Albert

In most provinces, the third Monday in February is Family Day, although some provinces use a differentt name for the holiday. Saskatchewan first celebrated Family Day in 2007; Ontario followed suit in 2008 and British Columbia in 2013.

Family Day got its start in Alberta when Helen Hunley,  then Lieutenant Governor of Alberta, proclaimed the Family Day Act in 1990 , on the advice of her premier, Don Getty.

Other provinces have similar events: Family Day  in New Brunswick,  Islander Day in Prince Edward Island; Louis Riel Day in Manitoba; Heritage Day in Yukon and Nova Scotia. In Newfoundland, Quebec and the there territories the third Monday in February is a regular working day.

In Prince Albert, Family Day signals the beginning of the spring school break and the last week of Prince Albert Winter Festival. There are lots of local events scheduled so it should be easy to find something to do with your family.

On Family Day, Feb 19,  there will be a sliding event on the toboggan hill at Liitle Red River Park,11 a.m. to 3 p.m. On Sliding Day you can take a ride on a horse-drawn sleigh and enjoy a hotdog and hot chocolate provided free by Lake Country Coop. Children must be accompanied.

Family Day wraps up with fireworks at 8 p.m. at the Art Hauser Centre.

The Prince Albert Winter Festival Family Cultural Days, at Prince Albert Exhibition Centre, are free with a Winter Festival Button. All children must be accompanied.

Family Cultural Days includes:

  • Feb. 20, 1-4 p.m , Jigging demonstration and learn to jig; story reading with Leah Dorion, beading crafts, games.
  • Feb 21, 10 a.m. to noon, sensory friendly activities for children. Register in advance at 306 960-6928
  • Feb. 21, 1-4 p.m., powwow dancing  with Jessica Rabbitskin and her children, story walk, horse-drawn sigh rides, dot-painting craft, ga,es
  • Feb. 22, 1-4 p.m., hoop dancing with Lawrence Roy Jr., storytelling, crafts and games. 
  • Prince Albert Winter Festival has almost daily activities for all ages, many of them free.

    See details at