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Monday, March 29, 2010

Pet Peeves

I'll admit I get irritated easily by things, so I have a lot of pet peeves. Here are some of them (in no particular order):

1. The stickers they put on produce
2. Overheated spaces (I HATE being hot, it gets me very agitated...I don't even like summer, it's too damn hot!)
3. Strangers on the street who give you parenting advice
4. Traffic - I am sure there are a lot of cities that have worse traffic, but the traffic here in Toronto drives me nuts. I hate sitting in the car going nowhere.
5. People who keep me waiting (Whether it's doctors or friends, I hate it when people are late)
6. Insect bites - I am extremely allergic to mosquitos so I swell up and get extremely itchy and miserable. Consequently, you won't ever catch me camping!
7. People who never ask you anything about yourself - I frequently meet people who will happily answer all of my questions about them and talk about themselves at great length but fail to ever ask anything about anyone else.
8. Trans fat - Like why are companies still using this crap? I know it is cheap and increases shelf life, but I don't think anyone wants to eat it anymore.
9. White flour products - Like why are people still eating this garbage? Stop eating it folks and then the food companies with stop making it!
10. Celebrity worship - Why do people care so much about what the idiots in Hollywood are doing? I don't get it.

Happy Passover!

P1: I was working on my 20 page paper for the Theories of Personality course today and something struck me: I've actually really ENJOYED writing all of the papers for this course. Like I actually look forward to sitting down and working. Now, I've always loved being a student but I am not sure I loved doing the assignments, it was more the class discussion that I liked. This time around I don't have true class discussions, since it's all online, but I have been really enjoying writing the papers. It's kind of cool!

P2: We had an uncharacteristically amazing weekend. Both girls were so well behaved, we just had a lot of fun. Saturday morning I took the girls to the Wychwood Barns farmer's market while Adam was at the gym. When we got home I put Little A down for her nap and Big A played quietly while I worked on my paper. When Adam got home we took them to Costco so we could purchase mass quantities of stuff. That place is addictive, but kind of disgusting at the same time. Where else can you purchase clothes, cds, books, vacuums, toasters, stereos, 1 kg of pickled herring and 2 kg of organic peanut butter all at the same time?

F1: I'm stuck making "Kosher for Passover" food for the next 8 days...blech! I'm just so grateful I discovered that quinoa is Kosher for Passover a few years ago. I just cook it up instead of brown rice and it satisfies my need for carbs. Here is a recipe for Tzimmes, one of the few Passover dishes I like:

Tzimmes

1 lb baby carrots
4 sweet potatos, cut up in bite sized pieces
4 baking apples, cut up in bite sized pieces
1/2 lb pitted prunes
1/2 lb dried apricots
1 tsp olive oil
Juice and zest of 1 orange
2 tbls honey
1 tsp cinnamon

Combine all ingredients pour into large baking pan. Cover with foil and bake at 400 degrees until carrots, potatos and apples are tender (approx. 45 mins).


F2: I thought I'd give you an "Exercise of the week" today...and come to think of it, maybe I'll try to give you one each week.

Ball Squat -

Lean against an exercise ball that is against the wall, so that the ball is positioned around your lower back. Grab two dumbells (the heaviest ones you can). Position your feet so they are parallel and out far enough so that your knees are behind your toes (i.e. you have at least a 90 degree angle in your knees). Bend your knees and bring your butt as low as you can and then straigten your legs (without locking your knees). Do at least 2 sets of 15 reps. I LOVE this exercise because it doesn't bother your knees the way a traditional squat can and it allows you to really work your glutes and quads.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

Tables, Chairs and Zebra Stew

P1: I can't seem to get started on my 20 page paper for school. Procrastinating is very unlike me. I guess I'm not really procrastinating as I have been doing the background research but now I'm dreading getting it started. So I know I should just get it over with and start already! My next term starts in May after this class is over, and by then, Sherma will be coming 4 days a week to watch Little A and life will be so much easier!

P2: I am really getting sick of Little A throwing food on the floor and eating so poorly. So yesterday, I finally decided to start her meals with the food already on the floor. I just plopped her on the floor beside the food (on a plastic mat we had under the highchair to keep the floor clean) and...voila, she eats voraciously! What a weird baby! I now want to feed her all her meals on the floor but Adam doesn't seem so thrilled with this idea. It certainly is messy...even moreso than when she was throwing everything...but she's eating so much better now!

This morning Big A was horsing around and she rolled under the coffee table and then kicked her legs. She ended up kicking the glass top right off! Luckily I caught it before it fell and landed on her. There was no need to get to upset with her as she was totally freaking out and instantly started crying and saying, "Sorry mommy". Adam says he can easily fix it tonight, thank goodness.

On the way to daycare today, Big A started to ask me all about the different animals people eat. So I said cows, pigs, chickens, fish, seafood, deer, moose, ostrich, alligator and then in some places horses, dogs, insects, etc. She wasn't grossed out by any of this but wanted to know if people eat zebras or giraffes. I said I didn't think so and she wanted to know why. I couldn't really answer that actually. She decided that she wants to try ostrich. Where the heck to I get ostrich? I had it a few years ago at a fancy restaurant that no longer exists. A mom in my mom's group suggested a butcher shop to try. What are the odds that Big A would actually eat ostrich if I bought it???

F1: In honour of Passover coming up, here is Adam's favorite Passover dessert that I invented. They are easy and decadent tasting.

Passover chocolate chip squares

2 cups whole wheat mazto meal
2 cups brown sugar
2 tsp vanilla
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
1 cup chocolate chips

Mix all ingredients together and press into a 8X8 greased pan. Bake at 350 until golden, about 20-25 minutes.

F2: Lululemon clothes are still the hottest thing in fitness attire but their stuff is pricey and I actually have been disappointed with the quality. Lots of my stuff has faded, shrunk and/or ripped down the seam. I much prefer the line by La Senza called "Spirit" but it seems that it has been discontinued. So here's a tip if you are looking for cute, affordable athetic wear: Joe Fresh. Their stuff is great and their prices are amazing.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Mmm, toilet paper!

P1: I finally feel like this course is under control. I've submitted my first 10 page paper and have completed a first draft of the second. I've got two more weekly quizzes and I now have to start wrapping my head around the 20 page paper. But I actually feel like it's all going to get done somehow. Yay!

P2: Big A has been pretty good lately and we've been having fun. Yesterday, she told me her best friend Grace had her nails painted and she wanted hers done. OMG, she's not even 4 yet! I told her I would paint her nails for her birthday (and clean them off the next day!!!). I can't believe how early this stuff starts.

Little A is still driving me crazy with her inconsistent food intake. One day she eats well, the next she simply throws everything on the floor. This morning's breakfast was a bad one. She only wanted to eat banana and blueberries. In fact, fish and fruit are really the only thing she will consistently eat. Sounds healthy, but a baby needs more calories and fat. I'm so worried that I'll get admonished at her 12 month appointment by the nurse, like I did at her 9 month appointment, because she hasn't gained enough weight. Meanwhile, as we speak, she is eating a small piece of toilet paper she ripped off the role in the bathroom (this is her new favorite activity) and sprinkling little bits of it all over the carpet in our bedroom that was just vacuumed by Maria, our cleaning person. Sigh! Since paper comes from trees, which are plants, can't I count this as part of Little A's vegetable intake?

F1: No cooking tonight because I'm going out for dinner with 2 girlfriends. Yay! This will be the first time Adam has ever had to do bedtime by himself. I'm not worried about Big A, who will probably be completely undisturbed by my absence. But Little A will have to get her evening breastfeeding at 7pm, before her bath, instead of at 7:30pm, after her bath. She can sometimes be a little needy of mommy at this time of day, so hopefully Adam will not have to deal with a screaming baby. I will pump some milk, but she is very inconsistent with her attitude towards the bottle these days.

Here is a recipe I plan to make this weekend. It is probably one of my favorite noodle recipes of all time. It calls for sesame butter, which is different than tahini, because it is made from roasted sesame seeds. I get it at health food stores. If you can't find it, you can use peanut butter instead. If you don't want to make it spicy, just eliminate the chili flakes. It will still be flavourful and delicious. Use whatever combo of veggies you want, if you don't like my choices. I don't add an extra protein source because there is protein AND calcium in the sesame butter. But you can easily jazz this up with the addition of tofu, chicken, beef or shrimp.


Spicy Sesame Noodles

1 lb whole wheat spaghetti, broken in half

1 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 cups snow peas, trimmed
2 dozen mushrooms, cut in half
2 yellow/red or orange bell peppers, thinly sliced
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced

Sauce

2/3 cup sesame butter
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 knob fresh ginger, grated
1/2 cup rice vinegar
1/4 cup soy sauce
2 tbls ketchup
Juice of 1 lime
Chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Cook pasta according to directions. Pour oil into frying pan or wok over medium high heat. Immediately add snow peas, mushrooms and peppers and stir-fry about 5-6 minutes. Stir together all the ingredients for the sauce until smooth. Just before draining pasta, add about 1/4 cup of cooking water to sauce to thin out a bit. Put drained pasta back in pot and pour in veggies and sauce. Mix until pasta and veggies are coated in sauce. Enjoy!

F2: The latest research has found that it is necessary to partake in at least 60 minutes of vigorous activity each day to stave off age-related weight gain. This weight gain can have a significant negative impact on health and risk of disease. Get moving everybody!!

Monday, March 22, 2010

Apple of My Eye

I had to take a break from my school work today to devote a whole post to the topic of apples. I LOVE apples, they are by far my favorite snack. Baby carrots come second. I am not a "snack food" eater as I believe most of it is garbage and is not even very tasty. I am a firm believer that you need nothing more than fruits and veggies to snack on, assuming you are eating hearty, well balanced meals. Anyways, back to apples.

As a kid I only knew of 4 kinds of apples: Mcintosh, Red delicious, Yellow delicious and Granny Smiths, none of which I particularly like. But as an adult, the whole world of apples opened up to me. And wow, what a world it is!

Honey Crisp apples are definitely the "it" apple du jour. I agree, they are fantabulous, but they are not my favorite. I also like Jona Golds and Fujis, but my absolute favorite, by far, are Mutsus. They are also called Crispins sometimes. They are large, pale green apples that have the perfect balance of tartness and sweetness. When young and green, they are quite crisp, but as they get older, they turn yellower and get sweeter and softer. You can bake with them, but I wouldn't waste a good Mutsu in a baked good, to me, they are best eaten on their own. I truly believe this is an underappreciated fruit so I urge you to try one if you see them. Whenever I find them, my heart beats faster and I quickly fill a bag with a bunch of them. In fact, I have a whole drawer in the fridge devoted to them. This irks Adam to no end, who feels I am unfairly hogging refridgerator space. I'm not sure, but I think perhaps he is a wee bit jealous of the passion that a Mutsu apple elicits from me...

Friday, March 19, 2010

Vegetarian Vittles

Here is the recipe I made on Wednesday, which turned out nicely. I'll call it, "Mediterranean Vegetable Stew". I served it over brown rice.

1 tsp olive oil
4-6 small zucchini, sliced into thin circles (the really small ones are most tender)
1 red onion, diced
1 28 oz can diced tomatoes, drained, or 6-8 roma tomatoes, diced
1 can chickpeas
2 cloves garlic, minced
Splash of red wine vinegar
chili flakes (optional)
salt and pepper, to taste

Sauce

1 cup plain yogurt
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
Couple handfuls fresh mint leaves, chopped
2 tbls spicy mint chutney (optional)

Saute zucchini over medium heat in large skillet or frying pan until golden. Add onion and saute until softened. Add garlic, chickpeas, tomatoes, vinegar and chili flakes, if using. Continue to saute until tomatoes are cooked. Season to taste.

To make sauce, simply stir everything together until smooth, then drizzle over veggie mixture.

This next recipe for African Groundnut Stew is absolutely fantastic. I am making it tonight and I am so excited. It also brings back fond memories of my childhood - My father had a graduate student from Nigeria, named Esong, who would make his family's recipe and bring us some and even as a kid I loved this dish. I have made the addition of shredded cabbage, which is not traditional, to bump up the nutrition. It is traditionally very spicy but you can simply eliminate the heat (the chili) and still enjoy this yummy meal. I serve this one with brown rice too.

African Groundnut (Peanut) Stew

1 tsp olive oil
1 medium-size yellow onion, diced
2 garlic cloves, minced
1 or 2 hot or minced chilli peppers, seeded and chopped (optional)
1 knob peeled and grated fresh ginger
1tsp ground cinnamon
½ tsp ground cumin
1 ½ pounds winter squash, such as butternut or Buttercup, seeded, peeled, and cut into bite-size cubes (about 3 ½ cups) (or one box frozen, pureed squash)
1/2 head of green cabbage
1 ½ cups water
¼ cup creamy natural peanut butter
Salt and pepper, to taste
1 ½ cups cooled black-eyed peas or one 15-ounce can, drained
½ cup chopped unsalted roasted peanuts

Heat the oil in a large saucepan over medium heat. Add the onion, cover, and cook, stirring a few times, until softened, about 5 minutes. Stir in the garlic, chiles, ginger, cinnamon, and cumin and cook for 1 minute. Add the squash and stir to coat with the spices. Stir in cabbage. Add 1 ¼ cup of the water and salt and pepper to taste. Bring to a boil, then reduce the heat to low. Put the peanut butter in a small bowl and slowly add the remaining ¼ cup water, stirring until smooth. Stir the peanut butter mixture into the stew, cover, and simmer until the vegetables are tender, about 30 minutes. Allow 10 minutes before the end of the cooking time, add the black-eyed peas and peanuts and simmer until heated through. Before serving, taste to adjust the seasonings.

Walk on, rock on!

It's been such a good week!

P1: I am feeling so good about my professional future right now. The one exception is I'm not sure I'm going to do brilliantly in my current course at school. I am finding it very interesting, but challenging and time consuming and I don't know if I can devote enough attention to it right now to do my best.

On the bright side, I got the job at the Toronto Athletic Club!! So end of April I will be teaching a Brazilian Butt Lift class on Thursdays, ha ha! As you can probably guess, it's a lower body strength training class which is perfect. I didn't really want to take on another cardio class as I prefer to do my own cardio at home first thing in the morning and aside from Sundays before my spinning class, I don't do much lower body work simply due to lack of time.

I also met with the infertility counsellor who works with my sister-in-law. She was so helpful and encouraging and provided me with some really great career advice. She confirmed my perception that there are few therapists who specialize in pregnancy loss/infertility and there is a real need for it. I am going to start taking her courses in May, which she offers through UofT's continuing ed program and we discussed the possibility of me doing my practicum for school with her (nobody will commit a year and a half in advance but now I have her and the counsellors at Mount Sinai as possibilities at least).

P2: Big A has been so much better this week. She's gotten a happy face on her "morning cooperation" chart every day. What a relief! She said the funniest thing last night. We were making up a bedtime story as we do every night. She decided she wanted it to be about a police officer (all her stories have to be about either cops, firefighters, doctors, dentists or hairdressers). I asked if the cop should be a man or woman and she replied, "Both! It will be a he/she and will have both a penis and a bagina." I couldn't stop laughing! I don't know where she got that idea and the fact that she called it a "bagina" was hilarious.

Little A did very well with Sherma both days this week. I am feeling much more confident that she will eventually get over her seperation anxiety. And getting out a few times on my own without her to do some career development stuff (audition for the class at the Toronto Athletic Club and meet with the infertility counsellor) felt very liberating. I actually feel like I have a life of my own again.

F1: I'm going to post a few recipes later today, stay tuned!

F2: I wanted mention how useful walking can be for staying in shape. If you cannot run or do other high impact activities, walking is a wonderful option because it is low impact but still weight bearing. Just make sure you walk briskly. Using a treadmill is ideal because it forces you to keep pace. If you walk on a significant incline at a fast enough pace, you can actually work harder than if you were jogging. Walk on, I say, walk on!!!

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Daylight Saving Grace

P1: Audition today at Toronto Athletic Club!! I am so swamped with this new course, but the material is really interesting. Tomorrow is my meeting with the miscarriage/infertility counsellor to seek career advice and chat with her about the course she teaches through continuing education at UofT.

P2: This week has started off MUCH better than last week. I've had 2 great mornings with Big A. She is such a delight when she is behaving, I just wish it happened more often. Little A has also been great, she is at such a good age. But I am getting sick of how picky she is with food and how much food she throws on the floor. Every day she changes her mind about what she wants to eat, with the exception of kiwi fruit and fish, which seem to be her favorites.

F1: I'm making a new recipe tomorrow and if it works, I'll post it. It's got chick peas, zucchini, red onion and tomato in a yogurt based sauce flavoured with garlic, lemon and mint.

F2: I'm consistently up to 4 chin ups...still working on it!

Hope to have more time to update later this week.

Friday, March 12, 2010

TGIS - Thank Goodness It's Spring!

P1: I called my "phone pal" today for the first time. Well...it's not really what I would call counselling, but I think it will probably still be a worthwhile volunteer job. The woman is from Jamaica and has 3 daughters: one in Montreal, one in New York and one here in Toronto. She didn't mention a husband. I don't think she entirely understands my role because she wanted to know if I would drop by sometime, which I don't believe is allowed with this particular program. It was difficult to understand her and, unfortunately, she was unwilling to turn off the "Dr. Oz Show" blaring on the television in the background. Oh well, if just shooting the shit is helpful to her and makes her feel less socially isolated, that's good enough for me.

On Wednesday I met with the CEO of the corporate fitness company. It looks like we will be collaborating on a seminar about fitness in June. But the big news that day was Sherma came to watch Little A and she didn't cry the whole time! Just part of the time. But it's clear that Little A will survive being without me and, I'm sure, will eventually love Sherma too. Whew, what a relief! Now I'm much less stressed about next week when I have a fitness class audition on Tuesday and a meeting with the miscarriage/infertility counsellor on Wednesday and have Sherma coming to watch Little A both days.

P2: On the whole, Little A has been a delight this week. However, she is at this annoying stage where she does something that gets her scared or frustrated (let's say, pulls herself up to standing on a piece of furniture) and then cries, so I go get her but she goes right back and does it again...and again. I know it's just a stage, but aarg! She has also suddenly decided that she likes only fruit and proteins (cheese, fish, meatballs) and now throws bread, bagels and any other carb except cheerios (Barbara's Breakfast Os, actually) on the floor. This is a complete reversal and so frustrating! I now don't know what to feed her for breakfast because she was having toast with almond butter but she just throws that on the floor and screeches now. She won't eat eggs or anything from a spoon so I don't know what kind of protein I can give her that's "breakfasty".

A bit of bathroom humour: One night this week Avery pooped in the bathtub. I heard Adam yelling and came up the stairs. He pulled her out of the tub, drained the tub, cleaned it out and then had to refill the tub. All the while, she was happily sitting on the bath mat and pooping again. Ha ha! I thought it was hilarious, although Adam was much less amused.

Big A has been a real challenge this week. I think we've had conflict every morning and I'm just at the end of my rope. Please, someone tell me that the terrible twos end by age 5!!! I've given up hope that they end at 4 seeing as she'll be 4 in May.

We did get good news about her schooling, however: Big A was accepted into the junior kindergarten at the bilingual alternative school in our neighbourhood! AND, although she does not yet have a spot at their daycare, she does have a spot at the daycare in the community centre where she takes swimming and where Little A and I go to music class, and they will bus her to and from the school each day. This means we are guaranteed care for her Monday to Friday from 7:30am until 6pm. Yippee!! Meanwhile, Little A will start in September (hopefully) at Big A's current daycare. This will be a bit of a schlep seeing as these two places are in opposite directions from our house, but ultimately, it's not too bad and definitely much better than our other options.

F1: I'm making this pasta dish this weekend. Another that uses silken tofu instead of cream, but it tastes really rich. I use canned wild salmon because it is fast and economical, but you could certainly use poached fresh salmon instead. I always serve it with steamed asparagus with a squeeze of lemon. And although it's not authentically Italian to serve cheese on pasta with seafood (not authentic to use tofu either!), I love this dish with a liberal sprinkling of parmesan.

Creamy Salmon and Dill Pasta

340 grams silken tofu
1 tbls dried, or 4 tbls fresh dill
2 cloves garlic
1 can, undrained, wild salmon (skinless and boneless)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/2 tsp sea salt
pepper, to taste
1 lb whole wheat penne or other short pasta

Throw tofu, dill and garlic into food processor or blender and puree until smooth. Pour into medium sauce pan over low heat and add salmon, along with liquid from can, lemon juice and zest and salt and pepper. Simmer about 5-6 minutes and add some cooking water from pasta until desired consistency is reached.

F2: You have probably read conflicting things about when it's best to exercise: morning, afternoon or evening. The truth is, whenever you are most likely to do it is the best time! For most people morning is best because there are fewer things likely to interfere, but if you are a committed afternoon exerciser, that's just as good. Late evening can interfere with your sleep, but if you do it at least 2 hours before your bedtime, you're probably fine.

Oh, and a misconception that really irks me is people thinking that you are more likely to gain weight if you eat after a certain time of day. That is ridiculous and NOT supported by research. The problem with evening eating, is people are more likely to sit in front of the television and eat unhealthy, snack foods. But if you eat 2,000 cals a day, it doesn't matter when you eat them. In terms of energy levels, however, it obviously makes more sense to spread out your food intake over the course of the day. Anyways, Adam and I rarely eat dinner before 8pm (horrors!) because we like to wait until the girls are in bed.

Tuesday, March 9, 2010

Are you kidding me?

P1: My new course is overwhelming! I may not have time to update as much for the next few weeks. Hours of lecture to listen to, readings, a weekly quiz, two 10 page papers and a 20 page paper crammed into a 5 week course! Yikes!

P2: Big A no longer complains about a sore throat or any other physical ailments so I am no longer worried something is seriously wrong. She had a great day today while Little A had a bad one. She was grumpy grumpy grumpy. And threw all her food on the floor at all 3 meals. Who knows what's up? Yesterday Big A asked me why Adam doesn't carry a purse. I love the odd, random questions she often asks me. I didn't know how to respond without reinforcing gender stereotypes. I told her men don't carry purses and she asked why. I said I didn't know but they generally preferred back packs and brief cases. There is already a gender divide at daycare. At 2, most of her friends there were boys and she had a major crush on a 5 year old. Now she says she hates boys and only wants to play with other girls. I wonder when this will change again?

Sunday, March 7, 2010

Going Green

Like most people these days, we have made an effort to reduce our "carbon footprint" and to, generally, find healthier ways to live. We buy organic food as much as we can (i.e. what we can afford) and use the car as seldom as possible. We replaced our toilets with water efficient ones, we got a tankless hotwater heater, we got a digital thermostat, we use canvas shopping bags and non-toxic cleaning products.

I am totally in favour of all of these changes but I will admit there are a few things I really miss. One is my favorite perfume that I wore religiously for years: Angel by Thierry Mugler. I love, love, love the scent but was getting increasingly uneasy wondering what kind of crap was actually in it. According to info I found through a Google search, some very, very bad crap. That, in addition to the fact that it is now politically incorrect to wear heavy scents thanks to all the (annoying) people who have sensitivities, finally convinced me to give it up. The crystal bottle remains hidden in my underwear drawer because I cannot bear to throw it away. Now I wear all natural perfume oil (vanilla) and body lotion (lavender) from Whole Foods. It's just not the same.

I also miss regular hairspray. I will admit, due to my fine, curly hair, I am a hairspray junkie. But it did start to concern me that I was inhaling toxins everytime I sprayed it. So I switched to an all natural one from the health food store. Frankly, it does nothing. Today I found a bottle of my old favorite under the sink in the downstairs washroom. Feeling as guilty as if I was secretly snorting coke, I spritzed my lid a few times. Oh glorious hair product! I am having the first good hair day since...well since I started using the all natural stuff. Now I'm feeling rather ambivalent...do I go back to the wonderfully effective toxic product or stick with the useless all natural stuff? I think I'll have to sleep on it.

The other thing I miss is plug in air fresheners. They work so well! Too bad they are incredibly carcinogenic. But as someone who is often trying to get rid of strong cooking smells (curry smell can linger for 3 days!!), I lament the end of the plug in air freshener era. The grapefruit oil spray from the health food store just doesn't work as well.

I may get struck down by lightening for saying this, but humans DO make some things better than nature. They just have some nasty and unfortunate side effects...

Saturday, March 6, 2010

Progress

P1: I am very excited to report that it sounds like I will get to do some volunteering at the hospital in the spring. Dr. M. suggested I write up a proposal about what my role will be. I am proposing that, since I am not yet a certified counsellor, I simply provide patients who are going through miscarriage with moral support, as someone who has been through it, and access to information and further support resources.

I also got my "phone pal" from Circle of Care. She is a 61 year old woman who is apparently lonely and socially isolated. She is legally blind and needs dialysis. I am going to call her next week to kick off our relationship. Supposedly she is very excited to have someone to talk to. I used to do a lot of volunteer work when I was younger - I had wanted to be a social worker or counsellor - and I am beginning to remember just how rewarding it can be.

This coming Wednesday I have a meeting with the CEO of the corporate fitness company to discuss doing lunch and learns and fitness classes for their clients. Sherma comes to watch Little A for the first time...I hope it all works out!

P2: Little A is having a blast exploring with her new mobility. She is now fixated on climbing stairs. Her new skills are definitely causing Big A some jealousy and resentment. We have finally started having disputes between them for toys. I think this is probably the reason for the regression in Big A's behaviour lately.

F1: Tonight we are having my new favorite fish meal (recipe below). It is easy and so, so good. I make it spicy but you can make the whole thing without any heat if you don't like spice. Tomorrow I am making pasta with rapini (again!), portobello mushrooms, kalamata olives and sundried tomato/basil turkey sausages I got at Whole Foods. Yum!

Rainbow Trout with Mango Chutney Sauce

1.5 lbs rainbow trout fillets (or wild salmon)
1 250 ml jar of your favorite mango chutney (spicy or sweet)
1.5 cups of plain yogurt
1 small knob of fresh ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
2 tbls cider vinegar

Throw chutney, yogurt, ginger, garlic and vinegar into blender and puree until smooth. Pour over fish and bake at 400 degrees until done (approx. 14 minutes, depending on how you like your fish).

I serve over brown rice pilaf (basmati rice mixed with sauteed onion, garlic, ginger and some garam masala) and pour any extra sauce over the rice, and make roasted cauliflower as an accompanyment.

Indian Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into pieces
1 tsp olive oil
1 tsp garam masala (this is an Indian spice blend that has no heat, it is sweet. It is really aromatic and delicious and great for people who don't like spicy foods)
1/4 tsp sea salt
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

Toss cauliflower with other ingredients and cook on non-stick baking sheet at 400 degrees for 25-35 minutes, or until soft and slightly carmelized.


F2: My muscles have been sore all week. Possibly because I knew I was going for a massage today? I tried a new place since the gym cancelled my appointment and it was well worth it. The woman brought tears to my eyes with some of the things she did, but I feel so much better now. I will definitely go back - this place is right in the neighbourhood too! Anyone who has massage covered by their private insurance plan should really use it as much as possible. Massage is so therapeutic. I always think if I were really rich, one if the few big indulgences I would have to have would be my own personal massage therapist. Oh what a fantasy!

The Cereal Square Crisis

Big A and I often make cereal squares. She loves them and they are very easy to make. I make them a bit healthier by using organic puffed brown rice or other puffed grains, instead of traditional Rice Krispies. We often add peanut butter and/or chocolate to them too and they are always a big hit. Unfortunately, they caused chaos with Big A this time. I made some peanut butter and chocolate ones last week because I was hosting my mom's group on Thursday. Big A saw the leftovers Thursday night and asked if she could have one in the morning. I said she could have one in the stroller on the way to daycare if she behaved all morning (mornings are so stressful I'm willing to do anything to encourage cooperation!). She was very well behaved Friday morning so I told her she could have a square once we got out of the house. She asked for two. I agreed, and cut one square into two (I can still outsmart her...sometimes!). She ate one on the way and gave me the other when we got to daycare. I wrapped the foil back up and put it under the stroller but she said she wanted to take it with her. I explained that she could not do that due to the no peanut policy. This led to a complete meltdown. Even explaining that it could make a child very sick did nothing to calm her down. Her teacher ended up having to carry her into the room kicking and screaming while I escaped with Little A. Her teachers helped her make a "Sorry Mommy" card for me but when I asked if she knew what she was saying sorry for, she shook her head. So on top of the dolls and playing cards we already confiscated due to her bad behaviour recently, we decided that she can't watch the new DVDs I rented her from the library until Monday. I really hope that age 4 brings some of this stuff to an end, I'm getting really sick of the tantrums!

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Squares

1 heaping cup peanut butter
500 ml mini marshmellows
6-8 cups cereal
1 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Melt peanut butter over low heat in large pot. Add marshmellows and stir until they are melted and mixture is smooth. Turn off heat and add cereal, mixing to coat. Remove pot from heat, stir in chocolate chips and then turn mixture into two 9x9 pans and press down evenly. Chill about 30 minutes and then cut into squares.

Thursday, March 4, 2010

Crying Wolf

Something is definitely going on with Big A, but I really can't figure out what. I worry she is not well, only because she occasionally STILL is complaining about a sore throat and after seeming to be through the worst with her tantrums, we have had a relapse. But there are also signs that she is faking the sore throat. When she mentioned it yesterday morning, I offered her a Tic Tac, explaining that it is the new medicine we have for sore throats, warning her it was "minty". She declined the offer - this is the only time she has refused medicine - It's a mixed blessing that they make kids medicines taste like candy, I tell you! However, after munching on her favorite organic chocolate dipped brown rice cakes in the stroller on the way to daycare (another ploy I was using to determine if the sore throat was real), she claimed they had made her sore throat all better. So I'm thinking she's faking the sore throat.

But something IS going on. She was great last night until about 5 minutes after she was in bed and Adam and I had sat down to eat our dinner and watch Law & Order. She started whimpering for us. Adam went up to find her complaining that she needed help getting her blankets on properly - but I spent 5 minutes getting them perfect for her when I tucked her in. Another 5 minutes later she started crying and calling for us again. We ignored her for a while but she started getting to Adam to he went back upstairs and got angry with her. She got even more upset and started calling for me but Adam told her that I was not going to come up. She wailed for over 30 minutes until we finally gave up, Adam cleaned up dinner and I went upstairs to see what the problem was. Once again she said her blankets were not on properly. I tried to help her but was getting impatient so she got indignant and started screaming. Adam raced up the stairs and scolded her. She continued to scream after he slammed her door. I went back into her room one more time and this time she said she wanted a hug. I hugged her and told her to go to sleep because it was late. Finally she did.

Adam thinks she is feeling neglected because of all the extra attention Little A is now getting. I guess he could be right...I hope it's nothing more serious. I wish there was some way to know!

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Eating My Words

P1: I spoke with the director of volunteer services at Mount Sinai today and it looks like I may be able to start some volunteer counselling with patients starting in the spring. I am very excited! I will have to go for an orientation session and provide a reference, which is not at all a problem. The bigger issue is defining exactly what I am going to be doing. I will have to discuss this with my ob/gyn, Dr. M. She sees a number of high risk patient groups so it will be interesting to see how she can use my help. She sees pregnant women with cancer and obese pregnant women, among other groups.

The director of group fitness for the Toronto Athletic Club also asked me to move my audition up a few weeks. So it's now booked for March 16th. I am very nervous about this, not only because I haven't taught anything but spinning in a few years, but also because Sherma is going to come and watch Little A that day and I will have to leave before she wakes up from her nap. It will only be the second time she watches Little A so I can only imagine how much Little A will freak when a stranger comes to get her from her nap. Oh well, she has to get used to other people at some point. Right???

P2: Things with Big A did not start out well again this morning. She came out of her room and sulked on the floor in the hallway for about 15 minutes, saying no to everything. So I continued to get dressed and ready and basically ignored her sulking and eventually she snapped out of it. She was great for the rest of the morning. Adam thinks she is reacting to the increased attention Little A is getting due to her new found skills of crawling, standing and climbing.

I am now starting to rethink this whole "hating babies" thing. I think I will qualify it by saying I hate babies under 10 months old. Every day Little A is becoming more delicious and a pleasure to be around. I finally remember why I didn't go back to work until Big A was 14 months old and was so ambivalent about it. And Little A is now a happier and easier baby than Big A was (due to the fact that she can entertain herself with just about anything...one of her favorite things to play with right now is a bag of baby carrots...that can keep her going for almost an hour!). Little A is also eating much better and I am less worried about her nutritional status. She loves fish, cheese, almond butter, bagels with hummus, meatballs, most fruit, french toast, puffed corn, cheerios, her protein bars, fruit leather and she will even eat steamed carrots now. Really, the biggest challenge we currently face with Little A is her seperation anxiety and hopefully once Sherma starts sitting for us, she'll get over that too.

F1: Tomorrow I am making a creation I call Bulgarian Chicken Stew. It is one of our favorite dinners and is easy and healthy. I am actually using turkey tomorrow, either chicken or turkey works just fine. The sauce calls for a jar of Pindjur, a Bulgarian roasted red pepper puree (that also has eggplant, onions, tomato paste, sunflower oil, garlic, parsley and vinegar) available at specialty food stores and some grocery stores.

Bulgarian Chicken Stew

1 large onion, diced
1 tsp olive oil
1 lb ground chicken or turkey
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/2 head green cabbage, thinly sliced
500 ml jar Pindjur (or simply puree a jar of roasted red peppers if you can't find this ingredient)
1 can tomato paste
Hot chili flakes, to taste
Water

Saute onion in oil over medium heat until softened. Add chicken or turkey and saute with onion until almost cooked through. Add garlic and vinegar and cook another 1-2 minutes. Add cabbage and cook another 2-3 minutes. Add Pindjur and tomato paste (and chili flakes if using) and turn heat down to medium low. Add a little water to thin out sauce and simmer for about 20 minutes. Serve over brown rice.

F2: I did a kick-ass weights workout at the gym Sunday and paid for it with sore muscles yesterday. Even an hour in the saltwater pool with Little A didn't help to soothe the pain. So I made a massage appointment at the gym for Saturday when Adam can watch the girls (not helpful for my sore muscles now, but craving a massage made me realize that I should get as many massages as possible for the next couple of months while I still have health insurance from my old job!). Unfortunately, they just called and cancelled the appointment. Sigh! I will have to try and get one somewhere else if possible. I am a BIG believer in massage. I think it does wonders for both physical and mental health. The only problem with it is the more I have it, the more I crave it. I also have a husband who HATES giving massages. I really wish I'd known that before we got married!

Monday, March 1, 2010

One Step Forward, Two Steps Back!

P1: I was not offered the job at the gym where I teach spinning that I spoke to the director about a few weeks ago. Even though I would have turned it down anyways, it still seems absurd that I can't even get a job I am ridiculously overqualified for. But she wanted someone to start on March 1st (today!) and I think it would require too much of a time commitment, given all the other things I want to do. As much as I bitch about being home with Little A, I have to admit, the thought of leaving her right now freaks me out, I would never have been prepared to start a new job today.

I finally heard from my ob/gyn, who apologized about not being able to connect with me, and she said she was going to speak with the head of volunteer services at Mount Sinai to see what restrictions there may be at the hospital in terms of patient contact. Even if I can't start volunteering there now, I really want to do my practicum placement there so I hope that is a possibility.

P2: Something is going on with Big A but I don't know what. She has been sick so it's possible she still isn't feeling great, but she often fakes it so I don't know for sure. I've decided to go out and buy something she doesn't like the taste of (she hates mint, so probably some mints...my friend Jenny suggested Altoids!) and tell her it's medicine. I figure if she doesn't like the taste, we will at least know for sure if she's just trying to get some medicine or if she really is under the weather. In any case, she was moody and uncooperative all day yesterday. In fact, it was the worst day we've had with her in a while. When Adam left for his book club in the late afternoon, she almost immediately had a meltdown which involved kicking me in face and hitting me with her hands. We have taken away all her dolls and her playing cards for 2 weeks. This morning was no better, she came out of her room at 6:40am and immediately had a fit because Adam had left for work already. She hasn't pulled that one in a few months. She screamed so much she woke up Little A. I eventually left her in the upstairs hallway and went down to the kitchen telling her to let me know when she was ready to behave. She eventually calmed down and then was great for the rest of the morning until I got her to daycare. When I asked her why she was so upset, she initially kept saying it was because she wanted daddy, but then said her throat really hurt again. I agreed to give her some Advil liquid and that made her happy...so again, how do I know if she's telling the truth??? She didn't complain about not feeling well again after that.

In contrast, Little A, at 10 months now, is at a great stage. It's so ironic that as I get closer to the end of my mat leave, she is getting more and more fun to be around. She babbles, like most babies her age now, making the cutest "doy doy" sounds. She is exploring more and more and enjoying her new found freedom that her crawling and standing providers her. Last night while Adam was at book club, we had a great time while she was in the bath. So after counting down the seconds until my mat leave ends these past 10 months, I am finally feeling somewhat emotional about it ending.

F1: As a fitness professional, I never recommend "diets" to anybody, because no one can sustain a diet long-term. I believe the key to weight control and health is establishing a balanced lifestyle you can maintain for the rest of your life. Weight Watchers is useful for some people, I will admit, because it teaches you about portion control and healthy eating. But, in general, I promote a "philosophy" of eating, rather than a diet. That philosophy is called "Volumetrics", and is based on scientific research by Barbara J. Rolls, Phd, and others. The concept is based on the fact that most people cannot control their eating if they are constantly hungry. We are biologically programmed to eat when we feel hungry, so the best way to manage your weight is by eating the greatest VOLUME of food with the lowest calories. This also promotes good health seeing as most foods with a low caloric density are fruits and vegetables, whole grains and lean proteins - the basis of a healthy diet. The idea is simple, eat low calorie foods in the greatest abundance and higher calorie foods (fats, etc.) in smaller quantities. For example, you could eat 10 French fries for the same number of calories as a large baked potato with salsa. The baked potato is a larger amount of food and will thus fill you up more than the fries. Another example is that for the same number of calories in 1/4 cup of raisins, you could eat 2 cups of fresh grapes. Foods with lots of water or air in them inherently have fewer calories. Another example is that a whole orange has fewer calories than a glass of orange juice. The orange also has fibre in it that the juice doesn't have, so it will keep you feeling full while the juice does nothing for your satiety. As a matter of fact, I recommend never drinking your calories for that reason. Stick with water, tea and coffee and get your calories from whole foods.

F2: Whoa, it's almost time for mom and baby aquafit and Little A is still asleep, I gotta go make noise outside her bedroom door!