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Monday, July 16, 2018

Comvita Manuka Honey: Product Review


I freakin' love honey. And as I've written about in past posts, I tend to be loyal to the honey I  grew up with, produced on an apiary near my hometown. Its fantastic, and I've never found a honey as good!

But over the past few years I've heard all the talk about manuka honey and wondered what all the fuss is about. So I was happy to agree to sample some from Comvita.

Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand and comes from manuka trees.  It is valued for its antimicrobial activity and unique flavour.

Comvita brand manuka honey has a UMF® license with the UMFHA (Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association). In addition, genuine UMF® Manuka Honey complies with all five of the following criteria:

1.  UMF® is clearly stated on the front label

2.  It is packed into jars and labelled in New Zealand

3.  It is from a New Zealand company licensed by UMFHA to use the name UMF®

4.  It has the UMF® licensee’s name on the front label

5.  It has a rating of UMF® 5+ or more.

The UMF® trademark is a quality trademark that is internationally verified and recognised. It is backed by an industry quality standard, independent audits and a network of accredited laboratories around the world. You can be sure that you are buying the best quality Manuka honey and your rights as a consumer are protected.

The number rating (5+) represents three chemical markers that indicate the content of this honey to ensure purity and quality. This includes the key chemical markers DHA, MGO, and Leptosperin (antibacterial components). Apparently, manuka honey has more powerful antimicrobial activity than other types of honey. It is used to prevent infection topically to wounds, and for treatment of various infections and for ulcers. One study found that, despite manuka honey being a source of sugar, it also reduces plaque and gingivitis.

Though you should not give kids under 1 year honey of any kind, after that, its generally recommended as a remedy for sore throats and coughs for children, since they cannot take conventional medications. Conveniently, Big A has had a cold and when the jar from Comvita arrived, she'd lost her voice. She was happy to swallow a spoonful of the manuka honey to see if it would help soothe her throat. Almost immediately she felt some relief, and by the next morning, she had most of her voice back. This is an anecdotal experience, of course, but consistent with research on its therapeutic properties.

Of course, it can also be used as a sweetener in your tea, yogurt, on toast, etc.

In terms of how it tastes? Yummo!! Very different from my honey, but its amber in colour, and thick and creamy, with a really rich, floral flavour. I definitely like it a lot. Adam doesn't really like honey, and Big A doesn't use it that often, so it will probably be Little A and I who consume most of it.

Just keep in mind that while honey may have therapeutic properties, it is still pretty much sugar. It may not be safe for anyone with diabetes or blood sugar issues. It is also high in calories, at 60 calories a tbsp, so best to consume in moderation.

So do I recommend it? Absolutely!! Delicious and with some health benefits. But it doesn't come cheap. The company sells a kilogram of 5+ (it goes up to 20+ in strength) for $36 US (plus $38 shipping to Canada). I found it on Amazon.ca for us Canadians, but its even more expensive so better to buy direct.

Disclosure: The company sent us the product to test but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Kids Got Big!


This past spring Big A turned 12 and Little A turned 9. Parenting is never easy, but I do feel its gotten less hard. Partially, its because the girls are older, and thankfully, within the past 6 months, they have FINALLY stopped fighting as much. They used to fight 24/7 and it drove Adam and I bonkers, so its a wonderful relief for us all. I have even witnessed moments of tenderness between them. Whoa, I thought I might never see the day!

Bit A graduated from Grade 6 and is heading to middle school in the fall, but she is very mature for her age, and as you can see, also looks much older than she is:


People often mistake her for being anywhere from 15-18! I guess its good that she also behaves like an older kid...sometimes! But she really has come a long way this past year. She is obsessed with music and sports (like her dad), does extremely well academically, and is a free thinker. She is confident but likes to spend time alone. If she isn't playing basketball with boys in the neighbourhood, she enjoys being alone in her room reading, or listening to music, or watching sports.

Little A is frighteningly smart, but also very mischievous and funny. She too is very confident, and a little too competitive. She doesn't want anything to do with boys, but loves hangin' with her girlfriends. Unlike her older sister, she is in no hurry to grow up. This makes her sometimes absolutely adorable, and sometimes completely infuriating - because she tries to get everyone to do everything for her always claiming she isn't big enough/old enough/doesn't know how, etc. But the little monkey makes my heart melt:



Both girls are involved in a million sports and activities and not afraid to try new things. This makes me so happy, because I was such a shy, insecure kid, and when I look back on my life, most of what I regret are missing out on opportunities because of it.

Little A left for sleepaway camp last week for the month. One of the many things I didn't do because of lack of confidence is go to sleepaway camp. Though that's not something I regret. Camp = bugs, no air conditioning, etc. Not my thing! But I am really proud of her for being so brave. The house is so quiet without her, I already miss her like crazy.

Some 80% or more of my counselling practice is working with infertility clients, so I am reminded on a daily basis how lucky I am go have these girls. I am so proud of how both of them are turning out. Not sure how a couple of goofballs like Adam and I pulled it off!



Monday, July 2, 2018

Tracy Anderson Targeted Boot Camp: DVD Review


If you are a follower of everything Gwyneth Paltrow, (and really, who isn't?) than you have for sure heard of Tracy Anderson.

I'm joking, of course, if you are a GOOP fiend, you most likely don't read this blog as my penchant for empirical evidence clashes with her philosophy of claiming the most ridiculous things have health benefits (hello steaming your vagina???).

Anyways, Tracy Anderson is the celebrity fitness trainer that has her own *special* training method that will make you look like Gwyneth or Courtney Cox or any other waif-like Hollywood star (by the way, you actually need unusual genetics and a team of hired help to look like them). She also now has exclusive gyms around NYC, LA, The Hamptons,  London, and Madrid. Oh, and the gyms also sell her branded nutrition bars and other merch.

I have heard much about the Tracy Anderson Method: high repetition, low weight kinda stuff so you don't 'bulk up' of course. Its not my kind of thing, I like lifting lots of heavy weight and I don't find it 'bulks' me. I often buy clothes in children's sizes if that tells you anything. But I have been very curious to try it, especially because I just like lots of variety in my workouts. It keeps things from getting boring. So when I saw this DVD: Tracy Anderson Targeted Boot Camp for like $9 on Amazon.ca, I couldn't resist.

So its 20 minutes of abs, 20 minutes of glutes, and 20 minutes of hip and thigh exercises, almost all on the mat. You can add ankle weights, and for the standing few exercise/stretches, you can use hand weights.

The thing I like is that the exercise aren't same old, same old. She kind of invents stuff so its unique. What I don't like is some of the moves are kind of awkward and hard to follow, and even with a folded over yoga mat, my knees didn't like having so much pressure on them for so long (next time I will try it with our thicker gym mat).

My impression is that these types of exercises are actually better for rehab type purposes than transforming you into looking like a Hollywood actor.  If you have weakness in your core, glutes or hips, you may be able to improve performance, heal or prevent injuries by doing them regularly, but you are not going to drop 20 lbs and suddenly look like Courtney Cox.

I don't think I will be buying any more of her videos, but at least I now know what exactly Tracy Anderson's 'method' is.

Monday, June 25, 2018

IQAir Atem Personal Air Purifier: Product Review



I don't know if you've heard, but apparently, at least for us folks here in Canada, quite often the air in our homes is poorer quality than outdoors.

Since we are a congested bunch in this house, with various seasonal allergies, this concerns me. So I was thrilled to be sent an Atem air purifier from IQAir to try along with the IQAir AirVisual Pro thingamadoodle.

The Atem removes small particulate matter from the air that comes from outdoor pollution, and indoor toxins (cooking, cleaning products, etc.). The potential health risks range from eye and nose irritation, breathing problems, to asthma, cancer and heart disease.

In particular, I worry about our basement, because although we don't usually get any water seepage, it is humid, and Adam and I spend a lot of time down there because that's where we have our home gym, one of our bathrooms (where Adam and I usually shower), and Adam's study.

The purifier is about the size of a medium fan but is incredibly quiet. You have to assemble it when it arrives, but even I had no problem with it. They also sent a travel case for it, but I don't think I will be taking it anywhere...though it might be worth it to bring to my office now and again.


The AirVisual Pro is a pretty cool gadget (thingamadoodle), that can also be linked to your phone through an App. I don't really use Apps because, according to my children, I am an old person. But I know lots of people my age who do, and who will love this.


Here is all the info it provides:

PM2.5
PM2.5 are tiny particles that damage your throat and lungs. This pollutant is particularly dangerous as its small size allows particles to directly enter your bloodstream from your lungs.


Indoor & Outdoor Data
See your indoor air quality next to outdoor readings from the nearest official monitoring station.


CO2
High CO2 levels mean you need fresh air. Stagnant air has less oxygen, and more bacteria, mold, and other harmful fumes.


Forecast
Plan ahead to minimize pollution exposure and discomfort outdoors. We’ll keep you informed with air quality and weather data up to 3 days in advance.


Temperature
Make sure your environment is comfortable, as well as healthy.


Alerts
Receive notifications when air quality fails to meet standards. Smart integration allows you to control smart home devices with action-based rules.


Humidity
Dry air contributes to irritated sinuses, sore throat, itchy eyes and skin aging. Meanwhile, overly humid environments can bring about biological air pollutants such as dust mites and mold.


Advice
We take all of your air quality data into account so you don’t have to. The AirVisual Pro learns from your indoor and outdoor environments to provide you the most productive and cost effective recommendations.

This information is extremely important for people with compromised immunity, allergies or breathing issues.

Ironically, the person who loves this thing the most in our house is Little A, who is the only one who doesn't seem to have seasonal allergies. But she has to know the weather forecast and temperature every morning first thing, so she runs downstairs and turns it on to find out.

In Canada, the Atem retails for $489 and the AirVisual Pro is $399, so these are sizable investments. Do I recommend them? If you have the bucks and air quality is a concern for you, absolutely. I love how quite the purifier is and the AirVisual Pro is very useful to have, especially for me, since I cycle a lot, but try to avoid doing so and days with very poor air quality.

Disclosure: I was sent these products to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tips for Finding Happiness


As a therapist, I see clients on a daily basis, who are struggling with anxiety and depression. Sometimes its due to trauma or crises, but often its more existential angst. Its kind of ironic that here in Canada (and in the U.S.) there are so many affluent people living with many privileges that most of the rest of the world does not have (clean drinking water, abundant food, human rights, peace, etc.), struggling so much emotionally. It is, in some regards, 'a first world problem' but that makes it no less serious.

Just last week, two celebrities, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdin, took their own lives, shocking the world. Why would such wealthy, successful people kill themselves?? The answer, of course, is complex and multifaceted. Mental health issues often have a genetic component, and in the case of Bourdin, heavy substance abuse was also involved. But there is a type of misery epidemic that I think is both culturally and historically specific. Never before have we lived in an environment that encourages/requires us to put ourselves on public display. Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, online dating sites, etc., are public platforms we sometimes can't avoid (i.e. may be necessary for professional reasons). Everything about us has become subject to public scrutiny and given us various means of comparisons with others. Reality has become blurred. Like is anything about reality television real? Fake news versus real news, how do we tell one from the other? Social media...is it ever an accurate representation of a person's life? Can we ever trust an image we see, or has it been Photoshopped?

When I say existential angst, I am referring to my clients ranging in age from 20s to 40s, who are plagued with anxiety and depression due to perfectionism, self-doubt, low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority. Much of it is rooted in their (mistaken) belief that 'everyone' else is doing better than they are. Everyone else's lives are easier, happier, everyone else has more love, more money and more fun. Believe me, I have struggled with all of this...a lot! But I have managed to kick a lot of it to the curb through both personal growth and exploration, as well as from my experiences as a therapist. One thing I know for sure: no one's life is perfect! I don't think I have ever felt happier, but its not because I won the lottery or woke up one day looking like a supermodel (these are not things that lead to happiness anyways), its because I have changed the way I think.

Here are some things you can do, if you are struggling, to feel happier:

1. Stop aiming for perfection. Perfection is like unicorns, it does not exist!

2. Be flawsome. Since flaws/imperfections are inevitable for anyone and everyone, own yours, acknowledge that you can be flawed and awesome, and flaunt it. By flaunt it, I mean let go shame. We all have flaws, we all have weaknesses, we all fail sometimes, we all make mistakes.

3. Stop comparing yourself with others! OMG, social comparison comes up as a source of angst ALL THE TIME! Nothing good comes from it because few people look below at how much they have to be grateful for, instead, they only look up at who has what they do not....or 'seems' to have what they do not. Remember, you really know little about another person's life, especially if you are judging it based on Instagram images!!

4. Following from #3, Practice gratitude. We tend to fixate on what we do not have often dismissing all the blessings we do have. Force yourself to acknowledge them once in a while!!

5. Learn to accept uncertainty. I am not saying this is easy, but its critical because uncertainty is an inevitable part of life. Science and technology has given us control of many things we did not have control over in the past, but there are still many things we cannot control and cannot anticipate. This is a huge source of anxiety for many people. The more you can accept it, the happier you will be because the only certainties in life are death and taxes.

6. Stop Caring What Other People Think. This is hard for many people too. Ultimately, one of the things most of us worry about most is how we are being evaluated by 'them'. The irony is, everyone is so worried about this, that they are far more critical of themselves than anyone else. In other words, most people are so busy worrying what you are thinking about them, that they are not negatively evaluating you at all. And if they are, who gives a shit anyways?

So to quote Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Monday, June 4, 2018

Quinoaplex R3 Rapid Hair Renewal Formula: Product Review


I am a protein junkie. I used to be a carb junkie but over the past 6 or so years that's changed dramatically. I don't know why exactly, but I suspect its because of the shift in my workouts from more cardio to more strength based. I think my body is just craving what it needs.

Apparently my hair needs protein too.

I have curly hair, which is already dryer than straight hair, and its a wee bit damaged from all the flat ironing. So I use deep conditioners and have a bunch of hair products to try and compensate, but I am always looking to make my hair less dry and damaged (but not flat ironing is not an option!).

Is protein treatment for damaged hair legit? I did a bit of research and did find evidence in peer reviewed journals that it can, indeed, help repair damaged hair, which has lower protein levels.

Recently Art of Carer sent me their Quinoaplex R3 Rapid Hair Renewal Formula to try. It is supposed to rebuild damaged hair and guards against colouring/bleaching, heat styling, hair loss/thinning, UV damage, sea/salt/chlorine, and wind/pollutants.

Quinoaplex R3 Rapid Hair Renewal Formula is also:

  • Certified organic ingredients including quinoa protein and aloe vera
  • Free from silicone, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, DEA, and aldehydes
  • Gluten-free; GMO-free; Toxic-free
  • Hypoallergenic, suitable for asthmatics
  • Not tested on animals
There are several ways to use it:

1. Use as a scalp treatment- Apply several pumps, wait 10 minutes and rinse.

2. Restore protein - After shampooing, apply, lather, wait 15 minutes, rinse, condition.

3. Add a few pumps to your hair colour before applying.

4. On the go - Spray into clean hair.

Well you know me, I had spending time on fashion/beauty (the children call my fashion look, 'sporty'), so I chose the On the Go option. After my shower every morning, I spray a few pumps in a comb in through.

The claim is that you can see/feel a difference after one use. I did not. Because of the On the Go method? I did like the light fragrance, fortunately, because I was worried it would smell like quinoa, and I think the smell of quinoa while it cooks is actually putrid (as are quinoa flour and quinoa flakes).

But by about the 2nd or 3rd use, I did start to notice a difference. Its now been 2 weeks since I started using it, and even though its crazy hot and humid here, I have much less frizz and need less product in my hair. It truly does feel softer and healthier too!

You can purchase the Rapid Hair Renewal Formula for $55.00/4 oz online, though they seem to be only shipping to the U.S. right now.

So do I recommend this product? Absolutely...if you have the $$ for it.  Apparently you can make your own protein hair treatments at home using either eggs, yogurt, or avocado/mayo.

Disclosure: I was sent this product to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

More Cathe Fitness DVD Reviews

Yes, I am obsessed with Cathe! I do her workout DVDs several times a week for sure. They are what I usually do when I want a tough workout. Here are 3 more I've been enjoying.

Athletic Step

I got this one hoping it would be in the style of step aerobics that I used to teach: simple choreography with a focus on intensity.



Well...its got the intensity, but that is compromised by having to stop frequently to try and learn the choreography.If you are one of those weird people who likes complex choreography that takes weeks to learn, you may not even find this challenging enough in that way, but for an uncoordinated person like me, who also has difficulty focusing during workouts (I tend to daydream) it will be more than enough. I can follow it enough that I don't get super frustrated, and I like the challenge of forcing myself to focus rather than zoning out. Its a solid 45 minute workout. My only complaint is her cuing. In my opinion, the more complex the choreography, the more you need to cue moves ahead of time. I think she expects you to just stop and watch until you really know it, but to me, that defeats the purpose of doing a workout!

To the Mat: Legs & Glutes

On Saturdays I often do a leg focused DVD before doing my heavy lifting, because Saturdays my strength training is nothing but LEGS! I thought this would be a nice way to change it up, since I find myself doing my Jillian Michaels' Killer Buns & Thighs quite often, and I don't even like it.



I do like this one, but I do prefer ones that use heavy weights. This is mostly high repetition body weight work, however, resistance bands and a stability ball are also used. It definitely works your muscles though, so its good if you don't have any weights at home.

X Train: Tabatasize

Tabata, in case you don't know, is a type of HIIT training where you push all out for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. I don't know if all circuits are intense enough to truly be tabatas, but I do love this workout.


The moves are high intensity, and simple, so I can easily daydream 😀 . There are 5 rounds, with exercises all on the floor, but then a 'blast' on the step. The step blasts are also simple, so no getting confused by choreography. The DVD also has 2 rockin' ab routines and 2 back routines. Love this DVD!!

I have several more Cathe DVDs that I've purchased in the past few months that I will review in the near future. If you do home workouts, I urge you to check her out. They do have streaming for those of you who don't use DVDs.