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A QUILTER WHO MOVES TO AN AFRICAN BEAT: Dena Crain lives surrounded by breathtaking scenery, hippos, monkeys and elephants on the shores of Lake Baringo, 200 miles north of Nairobi.

When the quilt artist left the United States in 1990 to take up a teaching post at Egerton University in Kenya, she had no idea patchwork quilting would change her life.

Crain is on the faculty of Quilt University, an online educational facility for quilters.

Her new research found that patchwork quilting offered women:

  • an avenue for creativity and personal expression;
  • solace and relief from physical and emotional pain;
  • opportunities to hone their art through informal sharing with other quilters; and
  • an important source of income.

You can find the full study (How Patchwork Quilting Changes Women’s Lives), as well as fascinating insights into life in East Africa, at Dena Crain’s website.


MEN FEEL THE PRESSURE TOO: A new study has found that more men worry about their body shape and appearance – beer bellies, "man boobs" or going bald – than women do about how they look.

The study, which involved 394 British men, was conducted by Dr. Phillippa Diedrichs from the Centre of Appearance Research at the University of the West of England.

The research found that men have high levels of anxiety about their bodies and that some resort to compulsive exercise and strict diets in an attempt to lose weight or achieve a more toned physique.

The survey also revealed 38 per cent of men would sacrifice at least a year of their life in exchange for a perfect body.

Respondents blamed the media and celebrities for reinforcing unrealistic ideals of physical perfection." Girls want to be slim and males want to be big and lean, and while it isn’t a bad thing for people to want to look better, it has become more like a competition, which has a bad effect on most people’s mental health," one respondent said.




NOVEL CONVERSATIONS: Like the salons that flourished in France during the 17th and 18th centuries, the Abbotsford Salon in Ottawa, Ontario, is all about exploring big ideas and encouraging novel conversations.

The new salon is the brainchild of Pat Steenberg. "It’s a big ideas book club," he explains. "Most book clubs are about a book – a fiction – but I read a lot of non-fiction: science, neurology, politics, economics. I wanted to look substantively at different subjects. "

The group meets every few months at the Glebe Centre, a community centre for older adults.

The first salon was held last spring. The discussion was about the brain. Steenberg chose several books about memory and neurology for people to read prior to the gathering. It attracted attendees from 60 to 92 years of age.

The second salon in the fall was organized by Teena Hendelman and focused on money and retirement.

In the winter session, the conversationalists tackled another big idea: The Gods Story: Animists, Atheists, Diests and Humanists.

Talking points included:

  • where did we come from;
  • why are we here;
  • where do we go after we die; and
  • how should we treat one another?

Source: The OSCAR


BOOKS ON PRESCRIPTION: Imagine the scenario. You have been feeling anxious and out-of-sorts for months. You go to your GP and tell him your problem. Instead of a prescription for Valium or some other anti-anxiety medication, he recommends you read Overcoming Anxiety by Helen Kennerly or How to Stop Worrying by Frank Tallis.

The first book prescription scheme was started in Wales almost a decade ago.

In 2003, Dr. Neil Frude launched a government-funded two-year pilot project with 200 Cardiff GP practices. Physicians were given a list of 33 books to help patients learn cognitive behavioural therapy for 20 different conditions.

The Cardiff model was so successful that the scheme was rolled out across the country becoming Book Prescription Wales in 2005.

Since the first healthy reading scheme was set up in Dublin in 2007, thousands of Irish people have taken books out of libraries to help them gain insight into problems that are disturbing or causing them stress.

Senior psychologist Elaine Martin, who piloted Ireland’s first bibliotherapy scheme in collaboration with Dublin City Public Libraries, said the scheme has several advantages:

"Firstly, they can empower people to address their own difficulties through providing good quality information. It’s also a very low cost intervention compared with face-to-face therapy and there is no stigma attached. It has been found to be highly effective, in some cases as effective as medication and face-to-face therapy, depending on the clinical issue."

Martin helped compile a list of high-quality self-help books written by leading psychologists, psychotherapists and psychiatrists for the program. The recommended reading list: Bibliotherapy: The Power of Words is available for download at the website of the Irish College of General Practitioners and the Libraries Council of Ireland.