Category Archives: from life experiences

On recommending (inexpensive) BC wine

Over the years, my husband and I have developed a knack for wine tasting, and particularly for enjoying BC wine. I like the challenge of confronting objective science with subjective experience, and the BC wine community is full of really great, smart people making, pouring, and drinking fabulous wines. If you want to know our faves, that’s another post entirely ūüėČ

I’m often asked to recommend palatable but inexpensive (ideally <$15) BC wine that is available in Vancouver (ideally BC Liquor Stores). This is a tough category to crack, and for folks without wine knowledge it can be overwhelming… and the results can be rather underwhelming! So I started a basic list and informally surveyed my Facebook friends in- and adjacent to the wine community for their feedback too.

I added to the post: “For many complex reasons, often it will end up being the bigger brands or their subsidiaries, and I think that will just have to be ok.¬†The idea is¬†to invite people into BC wine, not to frighten or snob them out of interest (e.g., “just increase the budget” isn’t helpful here).” *Please scroll down below the list for a thoughtful response to this.

In a nutshell, if you’d like to go local, it’s tough to go cheap (again, see * below). There are many reasons for this, such as space. There are single wineries in Australia that produce as many grapes as the¬†entire BC wine industry combined.¬†So if you need to stick to a strict budget (I understand! I’ve been there!), I recommend buying slightly fewer bottles of slightly better wine‚Ķ there’s a whole industry out there that gets a bad reputation because of the lowest end.

Here’s what came from the informal survey. What would you add? What questions do you have?

If choosing local on a strict budget, please consider:
Sperling The Market White ($16)
Hester Creek¬†Pinot Blanc ($15.50) — or their bag-in-box series (which looks kitschy but actually is acceptable wine!)
Gehringer Brothers¬†brand anything (these will be a bit sweeter as they’re done in a German style‚Ķ but without *adding* sugar — see below)
Conviction brand (any;¬†‚Ķ/wines-of-conviction-fro‚Ķ) — all seem to be $15 or less
Grey Monk L50 white ($13), Merlot ($15)
Mission Hill 5 Vineyards series ($15)
Ganton & Larson Prospect Series

If you can bump up a bit ($19-$24), try:
Arrowleaf Cellars
TIME Winery
Monster Vineyards

Please avoid these at all costs:
anything that says “Cellared in Canada” (long story)
Copper Moon
Sawmill Creek
Painted Turtle
Diabolica (there are piles of sugar added to this)

*Also consider this statement, from a friend and representative of the BC wine industry (ES):

“It‚Äôs hard not to say just bump the budget to $20 +tax because there are SO many more options at that price point and it will seriously pay off. You will be much less likely to find crazy high RS [residual sugar] in these wines, as well as way more interesting varieties, blends and styles. Remember that you‚Äôre supporting our economy when you buy B.C. and depending on which wineries you‚Äôre buying from, you‚Äôre supporting a small/family business! A lot of the wineries that can produce wine at that sub $20 price point are bigger wine corporations, so I personally think it‚Äôs easier to spend an extra $5-$7 knowing you‚Äôre getting more bang for your buck and supporting local.
There‚Äôs also something to be said for only buying at the BCL. If you go to the private stores, your selection for B.C. wines could be heavily increased (again, depending on where you go) and sometimes they are offered big discounts on already good-value wines which they then pass on to their customer. The whole supporting local, small/family business plays here too!”

Remembering my First Year as Faculty

Facebook “memories” are interesting. This one just brought me back to a dark year.





This post was from my first year as full-time faculty. For comparison,¬†currently I have 11 classes to prep in the next 5 weeks (each to be taught twice, so 22 classroom hours, about 180 students total) — a lot (a LOT!) of other work of course, but it’s not the same at all. Everything was new and uncertain back then.

Back then I was teaching a brand new class prep every single day of the week (6 brand new classroom hours a week, starting from opening the textbook to learn what the content was going to be, often unfamiliar for me) and I taught a night class for 3 hours once a week (at least I’d taught that before). Close to 800 students total. Overwhelmed doesn’t even begin to capture how I felt.

No one at work reached out with help or support (at least not that I can recall). Perhaps no one noticed. My husband¬†kept me fed and alive. I fell asleep about 10 minutes in to Friday night movie every single week, and was back on campus on Saturdays but “got to” work from home on Sundays. I took Christmas day off that year “because it was Christmas day dammit.” My friends were kind and patient as I walked around like a zombie. They intervened the next year:¬†you can’t do that again. How will you make this better?

I do not miss that year.

How do we treat our new faculty, especially those with high teaching loads? I hope it’s not like this.

Advice for Choosing Grad Programs

A former student of mine just emailed me asking for advice about how to go about finding graduate programs to apply to for a particular topic area. Here’s what I wrote. What do you think? What would you add/change/delete?


From my Psychology perspective, picking grad programs to apply for can be a bit tricky. Here are the tips that come to mind:

  • Choose an advisor whose work you like to read. Find *recent* articles on the topics you‚Äôre interested. Find out who the Principal Investigator was on those papers (i.e., whose lab it was). Make sure it wasn‚Äôt just a one-off side project, or that the person hasn‚Äôt moved on to other work. Find the PI‚Äôs website, read articles by them. (I think you still have access to the ubc library resources with your A-card.) If you like their work and their writing style, move on.
  • Find out about their lab. Do they seem to have a big lab with lots of grad students and undergrads working on lots of projects? There are pros and cons to many answers to these questions, so you‚Äôll need to get a sense of what you like. Red flag (IMO): very few students producing very few projects.
  • Consider the school they‚Äôre at. Depending on what you want to do later, the school might matter (e.g., large and prestigious vs. little known). Sometimes a great advisor matters much much more than a school.
  • As much as possible, city/province/country should be low on the list of priorities for choosing. Big cities cost a lot and have myriad distractions. Small university towns can be boring‚Ķ which is a good thing when you should be writing (which is *always* when you‚Äôre a grad student ‚Äď for many people it‚Äôs not usually an appropriate time in one‚Äôs life for ‚Äúbalance‚ÄĚ).

Hope that helps. I encourage you to talk with people who are currently graduate students, especially in programs (similar to) those you’re interested in applying to.


Reflections from Yoga Class

One of the gifts I have given myself this sabbatical is a commitment to yoga class. For the past 10¬†months or so, I’ve been going to yoga class pretty much twice a week (basically whenever I’m in Vancouver).¬†I’m not sure my mind is calmer for it (but maybe it is?), but it’s allowed me to sneak in stretching and core strengthening into my exercise routine — two things I have trouble doing on my own. Recently I’ve been thinking about my yoga classes as¬†adventures in teaching and learning.¬†Here are some of my observations:

  • I enjoy learning in the social context of a class. SURPRISE of the century, I know. But spending all this time in a class has given me the chance to really reflect on that, including my role as learner. I find¬†it motivating to share a physical space with other human beings who also want to learn something I’m interested in learning. I find it motivating to be guided by someone who has deliberately planned a sequence of activities to help me learn and practice skills (whether or not they’re fully “expert”). I’ve met people who are able to practice yoga on their own with videos, but that’s just not me and I’m ok with that. I probably have assumed that my students are motivated by the collective experience of class. What if they’re not? What options can/do I give for students who might be motivated like I am by the collective classroom experience, or motivated differently?
  • As a teacher, I can offer activities and opportunities, but I must do it in such a way as to allow students to go deeper or shallower depending on what they need out of that class/course. That also involves helping students learn to listen to their own needs and trusting that they will make the choice they need to make that day. What’s tricky here is that yoga is optional and there isn’t a final exam. That’s not true in my classes.
  • My regular yoga teacher is inspirational. Her best classes are creative, based in the fundamentals of hatha, and build an arc that begins with warming up specific muscle groups and finishes with a corresponding challenging pose. She explains how movements link to each other, making explicit her pedagogical choices. She brings positivity, and encourages students to listen to¬†their bodies carefully. Her prompts have helped me learn to accept where my body is and what it needs in each¬†moment.
  • Even she gets tired and overworked. She’s been teaching other novice yoga teachers recently on top of her regular teaching. Her classes are still good, and I can tell she’s choosing to focus on what she knows best: the basics of hatha. This is good,¬†but — and I say this lovingly as a fellow teacher — not her best most inspirational teaching.¬†Noticing this about her is helping me reflect on how burnt out I was a year ago and how much I needed a break from the classroom. I love teaching students. It’s fun and creative and in my best moments I’m helping my students create and re-create their understanding of the world. But it’s also exhausting. And after my Aunt died last February I was crawling every day toward sabbatical break. Now more than ever I’m certain it showed in the energy and creativity I wasn’t able to bring to class. Self Care isn’t optional in this line of work.
  • Learning from substitute yoga teachers, novice or experienced, helps me to think a bit differently about my practice. Always learning from the same person–even if she is incredibly skilled and I really enjoy her classes–doesn’t mean I can’t learn insights from someone else, even if I don’t fully love the whole experience (but sometimes I do and that’s great too).

I’ve signed up for a yoga pass that continues indefinitely. My goal is to continue making it to class on Mondays and Thursdays, even after my own classes begin in the fall. Please forgive me when¬†I won’t schedule a meeting that runs past 3pm on those days. I need to engage in this Self Care so I can keep bringing my best.

I missed a pottery class! Catching up weeks 5 & 6

A few weeks ago¬†I headed to Southern Ontario to meet with colleagues at five different universities. While discussing the 2nd edition of my textbook, I learned about the statistics and research methods courses¬†for psychology majors at the University of Guelph and Wilfred Laurier. I learned how psychology fits into degrees at Renison University College (within Waterloo) and Huron University College (within Western), and¬†how the curriculum has changed since I was an undergraduate student at Waterloo. Spending a day at McMaster was incredible! I learned about their introductory psychology machine (check them out on Twitter ) and amazing¬†Honours program. I also learned how different institutions incorporate (or don’t) teaching focused faculty members, which will be useful for the SoEL research project I’m working on as part of this certificate program.¬†Many thanks to all my hosts!

What I did *not* do during that week was go to my pottery class. Turns out we were learning how to make bowls. That¬†may sound easy after all the cylinders I’ve been making, but don’t fool yourself. Nothing is easy in pottery (at least not right away). I went in for an extra visit to try to make a bowl and the result seemed¬†reasonably bowl-shaped.

After missing the live demo, I attempted to create a bowl.

“Playing Catch-up.” After missing the live demo, I attempted to create a bowl.

I smudged the rim a bit after these photos were taken. Bummer. I also notice¬†some of my errors: for some reason I wasn’t pulling up enough clay from the outside, and somehow managed to create an edge instead of a solid rim because I was hanging on to the clay too long rather than stopping and compressing. But at least I had something bowl-shaped.¬†Unfortunately, timing was not my friend in this case.

The reason why bowls have a curved outside is because you scrape off that part of the clay when your bowl reaches a particular type of firmness (called “leather hard” because it feels like leather or cheddar cheese). I saw the demonstration for how to finish the bottom of the bowl before I had a bowl of my own to practice with. By the time I had returned to this bowl, it was past the point of leather hard, now too firmly set to make any cuts. Sigh. I decided to fire it anyway. It will be an ugly half-bowl half-cylinder creature. I can use it to practice glazing techniques.

I must admit I’m losing some steam for pottery. Part of this is because I’ve been travelling and have now missed a couple of classes.¬†Turns out it’s really difficult to learn how to do pottery without enough practice and without all the instruction possible. I’m having a harder and harder time remembering the steps and figuring out what I miss, I’m making ugly products, and the class is almost over anyway which further reduces my motivation to get closer to doing well at this art.

Do some of my students go through a spiral like this? I can imagine a parallel with a semester here: Starting out keen and ready to learn something entirely knew, hitting a few roadbumps, other required¬†commitments dragging attention away, not building in enough time to work with the material, and before you know it the course is almost over and you’re so far behind it’s not all that fun anymore.¬†Plus, for me anyway, I figure by now have the basics. I now¬†know some of what I don’t know about this discipline, which makes me appreciate it more when I encounter it in everyday life. I also know I’m not going to go any farther in it anytime soon, if ever. Although I’m not going to become a potter,¬†I value the lessons I’m learning about patience and being a novice, as well as the insight into motivation changes for a non-required class. And I’m going to have actual real tangible products to show what I learned.¬†Note to self: Think more on that.