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Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Otter Bottles

Who knew that what you choose to drink your water from can be such a complicated issue?

I was not a water drinker as a kid (preferring juice and diet pop) until I was about 17 and the doctor suggested that my IBS symptoms could be due to the fact that I was dehyrated (I was already working out every day by then) and was not drinking enough water to move my high fibre diet through my system. Many years later I discovered my tummy troubles (intense pain and bloating) was due to my morning bowl of cereal with milk (except when I'm pregnant or breastfeeding, I am extremely lactose intolerant). Anyhow, when I finally started toting a water bottle to the gym, it was the soft plastic kind that makes any fluid it touches taste "plastic-y". It always bothered me and I worried that it was toxic. So, like many other people, I eventually switched to the hard plastic Nalgene bottles which have no smell or taste. I figured this had to be healthier. Ha! Then it was revealed that these bottles are chock-full of BPA and scramble our endocrine systems. So out went all the hard plastic bottles and in came the stainless steel Sigg bottles. But the story didn't end there. Then Sigg revealed that there is a trace of BPA in the lining of their bottles produced before 2008. Adam and I thought about returning them in the mail to the company like others did, but I was really just sick and tired of the whole business by then. Maybe I'll just stick my head under the tap from now on.

The situation is even worse for kids because for some reason, the bottles and cups aimed at kids are crap. I have bought probably 20 BPA free plastic or stainless steel sippy cups and water bottles for the girls and almost every single one, regardless of price, ends up leaking. Adam and I recently bought new stainless steel water bottles for them and Big A's leaks heavily, so it can't really be put in a bag, and the spout on Little A's broke altogether and it had to be thrown out.

Well this is my last attempt to find water bottle bliss for them. I went to a local eco-friendly store and purchased bottles from a company called "OtterBottle" (www.otterbottle.ca). Cute name AND a Canadian company AND some procedes from sales go to the David Suzuki Foundation. I'm not so optimistic that the tops won't break or leak, but you can buy replacement tops for them, at least. Although they weren't cheap, they were cheaper then Sigg bottles. I'm hoping these are the last water bottles I have to buy for a LONG time!

If You Dream it You Can Achieve it? Really?

I have started to feel a bit discouraged lately. Dr M hasn't had time to review our revised ethics proposal but she said she hopes we can get everything going by mid October. I'm worried that we won't get approval from the ethics board at the hospital. And then what? Doubt and anxiety that I will ever achieve my dream of being a psychotherapist have re-emerged. But one thing is for sure: I cannot go back to a job I hate. It will kill my spirit and destroy my soul.

Now that my mat leave is over, the only income I have coming in right now is my one weekly spinning class at the JCC...so really nothing. This is the first time since I was an undergraduate student that I have not had a fairly steady income...and I really don't like it. I have decided that if the research project at the hospital doesn't come through, I am going to try and get a job. Actually, I am trying to see if I can start a business. My business idea is something I have been thinking about for a while. I was planning to use it as a way to supplement my income after I finish school and start trying to build a practice. Then I realized it is something I could start working on now.

I don't really know what to call the service I want to offer..."Family Fitness Coaching" or "Family Health Intervention" are a few ideas I've come up with so far. Basically, the idea is that I would go into a home where the parents and/or children are facing health problems due to an unhealthy lifestyle (poor nutrition and lack of physical activity, not enough sleep, too much stress, etc). I would do a personalized assessment of their lifestyle and routines (each family member's schedule, how long it takes them to get to work, school, etc., what they eat, how much leisure time they have, etc.) and then come back to them with a detailed report of recommendations in terms of how to make easy, economical changes to allow them to improve their diet, fit in more physical activity into their daily lives and leisure time, get more sleep and better manage stress. This might include better time management skills, re-vamping schedules, walking to work and school instead of driving, better sleep hygiene, changing bed and wake up times, purchasing home exercise equipment, utilizing available community resources (community centres, parks, trails, etc.). Essentially, I would give them recommendations on overcoming all the real or perceived logistical barriers to improving their lifestyle and their health. Other services they could purchase from me would be a guided supermarket tour to educate them about reading labels and how to prepare quick, easy, healthy and economical meals, a detailed family dinner meal plan with recipes, individual or group personal training, etc.

Since I know nothing about the "business/accounting/marketing/advertising" side of starting a business, I'm meeting with my friend Jennifer in a few weeks for some advice. She runs her own in-home personal training business and seems to be doing very well. I actually don't want to do the personal training myself, and would prefer to refer clients to others for that, but we'll see how it goes.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Double Chocolate Sneaky Snack Muffins

My friend D broke her ankle recently. She had surgery but will probably have to have more. As a result, she is going to be off her feet and off work for a long time. I brought her some whole wheat penne with basil pesto and grape tomatoes a few weeks ago but I thought I'd bring her these when I go to visit tomorrow. She is a very picky vegetarian who doesn't like a lot of healthy foods and loves chocolate. I thought these would be a good compromise.

1 lb carrots, steamed and cooled, pureed in food processor or blender
1/2 cup (or one small jar baby food) prune puree
1/2 cup sugar or Splenda
2 large eggs
1/2 cup canola oil
1 cup milk or water
1 tsp vanilla
2 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup cocoa powder
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup semi-sweet chocolate chips

Whisk together wet ingredients in large mixing bowl. Stir together dry ingredients in smaller bowl and then add to wet ingredients, just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Fill 12 greased muffin cups right to the top and bake at 400 for 16-20 minutes or until toothpick comes out clean. Cool and then remove from pan. Makes 12 jumbo muffins.

Monday, September 27, 2010

Pumpkin Ginger Pancakes

Nothing says fall like pumpkin and to me, pancakes are the ultimate comfort food. If you aren't a big fan of ginger, you can omit. In fact, you can play around with all the spices and add your favorites or replace them all with 1 tbls pumpkin pie spice. I LOVE all the "sweet" spices so I add a lot.

2.5 cups whole wheat flour
1/2 cup oat bran
2 tbls baking powder
2 tbls sugar (or 2 packets stevia)
2 tsp cinnamon
2 tsp ground ginger
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/2 tsp cloves
1/2 tsp sea salt
1 cup canned pumpkin (not pumpkin pie filling!)
2 eggs or 4 egg whites
1 tsp vanilla
2 tbls grated fresh ginger (optional)
1/4 cup finely chopped crystallized ginger (optional)
3-4 cups water

Combine dry ingredients in large bowl. Add wet ingredients to bowl (start with just 2 cups of the water so batter doesn't get too runny) and whisk together. Ladel batter onto greased skillet and cook, flipping once, until golden on both sides. Makes 8 large or 16 small pancakes.

Serve with plain maple syrup, cranberry maple sauce or vanilla yogurt

Cranberry maple sauce

1 lb fresh or frozen cranberries
Juice and zest of 1 orange
cinnamon stick
2 cups pure maple syrup

Add cranberries, juice and zest and cinnamon stick into saucepan over medium heat. Cook until berries start to burst, about 15-20 minutes. Turn down to low and simmer another 10 minutes. Add maple syrup and simmer another few minutes. Remove cinnamon stick before serving.

Friday, September 24, 2010

Who's the Boss?

I've known for a while that my kids are not the least bit scared of me. Sure, Little A cries if I yell, but she cries if Big A yells or anyone else for that matter too. Big A, in particular, has no fear of me nor, as I've complained before, does she have any respect for me. And I take full responsibility for that. I simply suck at discipline. Adam is much better than I am, which is probably why Big A prefers him. I end up negotiating and then usually being manipulated, which means that I am also not consistent with my threats and repercussions. I try...really hard, but what I've recently realized is that I'm scared of my kids. I end up doing whatever it takes to avoid tantrums and defiance from Big A and screaming fits from Little A. In my defense, this is partially because I am alone with them in the mornings and there is a limited amount of time that I have to wait out or ignore bad behaviour. Sometimes I simply have to get the ball rolling somehow...anyhow possible!

But it's really getting out-of-hand. Little A screams until she gets what she wants ALL THE TIME and Big A, although she is having fewer tantrums now, talks back and constantly defies me. When I ask her to stop doing something she completely ignores me, and usually just laughs in my face. She also is disrespectful and rude. For example, this morning she wanted cereal, an omelet AND toast for breakfast. So I started making everything and I asked her if she wanted to eat her cereal first while the toast and omelet were cooking. She said she did, so I brought a bowl of cereal and milk to her in the living room while she was watching her Angelina Ballerina DVD. "I want lots of cereal, give me more cereal mommy", she yelled. I explained that I was making her a big breakfast and if she finished everything, she could have more cereal. She replied with, "No, I'm not eating anything until you bring me more cereal, bring me more cereal NOW." I did stand my ground and refused, and sure enough, she did not want more cereal once she had finished her whole breakfast. But her rudeness left me frustrated and upset and this is how she talks to me all the time now. She constantly tells me that I'm not the boss and when I ask her to do something, for example, "Please clean up the mess," she will shout, "No, YOU clean up the mess!"

Little A has also started biting and pinching kids at daycare, after being well behaved for the first few weeks. I feel terrible about this and don't know what to do. The teachers said they think she will get bored of it after a while but, again, I don't understand where this behaviour comes from. We certainly didn't teach it to her!

I'm feeling so ineffective and desperate that I am, once again, considering getting outside help to assist me in improving my parenting skills. Why do I suck at this? I just want to run into the street most mornings and yell, "Somebody help me please, tell me what to do!!!" I went to the Supernanny website again to see if I could get Jo Frost to come and do an intervention, but the show is still not in Canada, only in the U.S. and Britain. Hmm, maybe we can move in with some of my American relatives for a few weeks and pretend that's where we live...

Wednesday, September 22, 2010

Spaghetti Squash with Turkey and Fall Vegetable Meat Sauce

I thought this would make a comforting fall meal...too bad it's hot and humid here today! Oh well, it's delicious anyways.

2 spaghetti squash

1 tsp olive oil
1 large onion, diced
4 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp fennel seeds
1 tsp dried, or 2 tbls fresh basil
1-2 tsp hot chili flakes (optional)
2 zucchini, diced
4 portobello mushrooms, chopped
1 lb ground turkey (or chicken)
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 bunch rapini, ends trimmed and chopped

For squash:
Cut squash in half, remove seeds and roast in oven, cut side down at 350 for 45-60 minutes, or until skin is tender. Scrape out flesh with fork, so it is in spaghetti-like strands. Mound on 4 plates. Season with salt and pepper.

Sauce:
In large skillet or saucepan, add oil and saute onion, over medium heat until translucent. Add garlic, fennel, dried basil (add fresh basil at the end), chili flakes (if using), zucchini and mushrooms and saute until tender. Add turkey and stir occasionally until meat is just slightly pink. Add crushed tomatoes and salt and pepper, to taste. Simmer over low heat about 5 minutes. Add rapini and simmer until tender. Pour sauce over spaghetti squash.

Earaches and Bad Booboos

Well Little A was sent home with her first "daycare fever" yesterday. The daycare teachers scared the #%*$ out of me though, because on the phone they said she had a very high fever of one-hundred-and-seven and she was shaking. I knew it couldn't really be 107, but even if it was 103, it was serious. I raced down there thinking I would pick her up, get big A and subway it down to the Hospital for Sick Children (our car was in the shop) but when I got there her teacher said, "I was wondering why you seemed so upset on the phone and then I realized you must have thought I meant 107, but I meant 100.7 (though she admits sayiing 107 and repeating it 6 times to me on the phone!). So she was clingy and grumpy but not lethargic or anything. Sigh! I took her, walked over to Big A's school, picked her up and went home. At home Little A nursed for over an hour and basically insisted that Adam or I hold her all night until we put her to bed. Advil got rid of her fever but she was clearly not 100%. So this morning we headed for the doctors and sure enough: An infection in both ears. Of course she hates the antibiotics so giving her the first dose resulted in both of us being covered in fluorescent yellow banana-flavoured liquid. Hopefully some actually got into her. I told the doctor they should make all kids meds into gummy bears, like the girls' vitamins. She said it would be helpful but most pharmaceutical companies are weary of that kind of thing in case a child gets ahold of the medication and gobbles down an overdose since it looks and tastes like candy. Good point, I guess, but you could just put them in child-proof bottles, I can't even open those bloody things!

I put Little A down for an early nap today and proceded to get dinner prepped because Big A has her best friend, G., coming over this afternoon. I figure trying to get anything down with 3 girls running around might be a challenge. So while conversing with Maria, our cleaning woman, I sliced 2 of my fingers really badly cutting onions. Like really badly. I probably need a stitch in one finger but seeing as it's not nearly life threatening, there is no way I'm heading down to the ER just so I can wait for 8 hours. Besides, I've cut myself worse before and not gone for stitches. It'll heal eventually. I just have 2 REALLY bandaged up fingers...and it HURTS. Of course, now I'm worrying that I'll get flesh-eating disease like the chef that was on Oprah who ended up losing one arm and most of the right side of her torso because she caught it when she cut her finger chopping celery...

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Getting to the Source of the Problem

After a whole day of walking without my MBTs yesterday my feet were rather sore. I realized that I really need to get to the root of all my lower body problems, which I suspect stem from the fact that my pelvis is twisted (something numerous doctors, physiotherapists, massage therapists and acupuncturists have commented on over the years). My pregnancy with Little A, which is really when the sciatica and serious problems with my feet began, somehow must have worsened it. I've made an appointment with a sports med doctor at a clinic I've been to in the past to get an assessment. I don't think I'm game for surgery, but perhaps there is some other non-surgical solution to getting me untwisted or at least in better biomechanical alignment to alleviate some of these problems. The osteopathy and acupuncture have helped, but they're only band aid solutions I think and I don't want to be living with this the rest of my life.

Ironically, the way my body is designed (I can't run because of my knees, have problems with my feet and hips, etc.), I was probably meant to be an overweight, sedentary person. I am so envious of people who say they can run 5 miles a day or do other intense high impact activities without any pain or injury (There was an article in the Globe and Mail today about a 62 year old woman training for the Ironman!). Oh well, even with the limitations my body impose on me, I am determined to fight my destiny of being a couch potato. One way or another I'm going to keep moving for as hard and as long as I can!

Monday, September 20, 2010

Doctor in the House

I am lucky to have a sister-in-law who is a physician (OB/GYN). After reading my blog a few weeks ago she called me with some advice. First, she said I was the last person she could think of who should be restricting my sodium intake since I exercise (and sweat) so much and drink a lot of water. A sports nutritionist I saw years ago had said the same thing. YAY! So I've reintroduced soy sauce, miso, turkey and "veggie meat" sandwiches, and some of my other favs back into my diet, but am trying to have them less often. Adam is relieved, to say the least. He wasn't so thrilled with the low-sodium kick I was on. She also recommended that I try wearing my MBT shoes less often, since they are intended to tighten you hamstrings and calves, she thought they might be exacerbating my sciatica. Hmm, that hadn't occurred to me. The problem is, I have bad feet and most other shoes leave my arches and the balls of my feet sore if I do any walking in them. But I have a pair of ballet flats, that are quite structured (and a heck of a lot cuter than MBTs!) and I've been wearing them a lot more. So far so good. Perhaps wearing my MBTs less often and periodic acupuncture will keep me going.

This morning my mother-in-law and I got to be audience members at a taping of Cityline. Cityline (http://www.citytv.com/cityline) is a show that features local experts on topics including home, garden and decor, cooking, fashion, health and parenting. It typically airs on City TV in Toronto at 10am but since we have a satellite, I've been watching reruns from the previous day at 6am from City TV Edmonton when I'm on the treadmill. Unfortunately, they aren't showing it at that time anymore so I can't say when I'll get to watch it again. Anyhow, I've tried for years to get tickets but was only successful a few months ago at scoring these ones. It was interesting to watch how they film it (it's taped, not live) and put the whole thing together. Tracey Moore, the regular host, is on mat leave, so it was guest hosted by Trish Stratus and another woman (I have no idea who she is...). Sometimes they give away incredible prizes and have draws for things like a new washer and dryer. Today we weren't so lucky. My mother-in-law and I walked home with big gift packs of Orville Redenbacher products (I hate popcorn) and a bag of GUM oral hygiene products. Oh yeah, and 2 weeks of unlimited yoga classes at Trish Stratus's studio. That WOULD have been great for me if it wasn't located a 45 minute drive away...

The show airs next week so I have to remember to either tape it or watch it. We were in the front row of the audience. Too bad I look tired and crappy today and I'm having a bad hair day.

Exercise of the Week: Knee lunges

This exercise works the glutes, quads and hams and also requires a lot of core strength to help you balance. If you have a step or bench, you can also place your supporting foot on it while lunging and lifting with the other.

Stand with feet shoulder distance apart (holding dumbells, the heavier the better, in your hands). Step back with your right foot into a reverse lunge then bring that leg in front into a knee lift. Repeat with left leg. Do at least one set of 15 lunges (on each side).

Saturday, September 18, 2010

Healthy Homemade Granola

Big A has fallen in love with the classic combo of yogurt and granola. Once in a while I manage to find some granola on sale at the health food store, but lately I have not been so lucky and all the granola I've seen, even the commercial ones at the grocery store, are like $5 for a tiny box (which would disappear in our house in 2 days!). So I thought, "Why not make some ourselves?". Big A loves cooking and baking and since it's so simple to make, it seemed like a good project for us. Last night Adam was at Shul for Yom Kippur so I had the girls to myself. Fortunately, Little A managed to entertain herself while we were busy making this. You can add in whatever you want, but we made ours nut/seed free (with just dried cranberries and raisins) so that Big A can take it to school as a snack and not worry about the nut-free policy.

1.5 lbs rolled grain flakes (I used a mix of oats, spelt, rye, barley, etc.)
1/2 cup agave syrup (or maple syrup or honey)
1/4 cup canola oil
2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tsp ground cinnamon

Mix ins

Raisins
Dried cranberries, cherries, blueberries, gojiberries, or raspberries
Dried apples, pineapple, dates, figs, apricots, pears or peaches (chopped)
Sunflower or pumpkin seeds
Flax seeds
Chopped almonds, hazelnuts, pecans, walnuts, etc.
Crystallized ginger
Coconut
Banana chips

Toss together flakes with sweetener of choice, oil, vanilla and cinnamon. Spread on 2 cookies sheets. Bake in oven preheated to 325 for about 30 minutes, until golden. Stir every 10 minutes and make sure you don't let it burn! If only one cookie sheet fits on each oven rack, alternate each one from top to bottom every time you stir the granola (i.e. switch the top one to the bottom and vice versa). Let cool (will continue to get more crispy over time) and then mix in desired dried fruit, nuts, etc. Keep in air tight container for 2 weeks.

Friday, September 17, 2010

The Quick Fix

I think humans will probably never give up trying to find magic bullets for health and weightloss. Unfortuntely, there is no substitution for healthy living. You can't take a pill that will make up for lack of sleep, poor diet, inactivity, smoking, and/or drinking. Some of the things we will try, especially in the name of weight loss, are truly astonishing. The latest I became aware of it the use of a drug meant to treat respiratory problems in horses, called clenbuterol. It purportedly can health boost muscle gain and fat loss in humans. At a cost, of course. It is extremely dangerous. Is there any safe product that can accelerate weight/fat loss? Not really. Science backs the use of things like caffeine and green tea, but the effects are very modest and if you O.D. on these substances you just end up jittery and peeing all day. The only healthy and effective way to keep your body working as efficiently as possible is getting enough sleep (this has a major impact on your metabolism), exercising, including strength training, and eating healthy, well-balanced meals at regular intervals. Oh, and cigarettes do increase your metabolism, so as long as you don't mind dying prematurely of emphysema or lung cancer, go ahead with it.

Yesterday I did a power (ashtanga) yoga class for the first time in years. I was scared I would leave frustrated like I sometimes used to, because I am simply unable to twist myself into a pretzel and do half the poses. But I was surprised by how much I enjoyed it! The level was not advanced and the teacher was not pushy. She showed different variations depending on your ability level and she didn't do some of the poses I hate (like the tree...I hate the tree and I am certain I will NEVER be able to do it). I remembered what it is about this type of yoga that I used to love - there are actually a lot of poses which feel great, including some of my favorites like the fundamental asanas. The following is a link to a document that shows graphics of the whole series.

http://www.ashtanga-yoga-canada.com/support-files/ayc-primary-combined-sm.pdf

My fitness recommendation this week is to try something completely new, a new class, a new activity...or do something you haven't tried in a long time, you might rediscover a love for an activity you have not done in a while.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Rush Hour

Much like on the city streets, rush hour in our household takes place twice a day: 8am and 6pm. Getting out the door in the morning is even more stressful now that Big A is in school because she absolutely has to be there by 8:45am. The last thing I need is her new school thinking I'm a delinquent parent because I can't get her there in time. But this morning we cut it as close as it gets. The morning started off great. Big A woke up at 7:15am and Little A at 7:20am. I actually was able to shower, get dressed and finish my coffee before Big A came downstairs. Big A was also in a good mood. I thought it was a sure sign of a great day ahead. Unfortunately, Little A was in a strange mood. She was clingy and obsessed with nursing. I couldn't distract her or comfort her in any other way. So I spend most of the morning on the couch with her on the breast. This meant I was really behind getting out the door. At 8:20am I finally got Little A to stop nursing and I called out to Big A who was in her room playing. She had promised she would come down when I told her it was time to leave. But she was not ready to stop playing. After much screaming and many threats on my part, she finally came downstairs at which point we battled over brushing her teeth and putting on her shoes. It was so late at this point and I was so stressed out, I let Little A bring "Pink Bear", her beloved stuffy with her. Once we got out the door with Little A in the stroller and Big A on her bicycle, it began raining. But Big A insisted she ride anyways. I got her to her classroom at 8:45am on the nose.

In the evenings, the pressure is on too. Most of it comes from Little A, who, unlike her sister who usually eats a massive four course breakfast, barely eats in the morning and is, instead, starving for dinner. The minute she sees me making her supper, she runs over to her booster chair and starts screaming. Even if the dinner takes just 10 minutes, she will howl until it's ready. Trying to feed her a quick snack while dinner cooks doesn't work. No matter how hungry she is, she will only eat what she's in the mood for, and it always seems to be whatever is not ready yet. Big A, on the other hand, has to be dragged to the dinner table and then picks at her food. Little A sometimes finishes her meal for her, especially if I've made scrambled eggs or meatballs, which are her favorites.

I am trying to accept the fact that these will never be relaxing times of day for, probably, many more years and 8pm, when the kids go to bed, will continue to be the hour I look forward to when Adam and I can finally relax and have a little time alone together. Then again, I bet once they are grown up and out of the house I'll miss the noise, chaos and excitement at least a little bit...

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

And Year 37 Begins

P1: I got a note from Dr. M that she received my amendments to our research proposal to comply with the feedback from the Mount Sinai ethics board but she's been too busy to contribute her part. Understandable. So it may be a while before we can resubmit our proposal. Oh well, we're one step closer at this point.

My birthday party was a success and lots of fun. It made me realize just how seldom Adam and I do adult-only social things. I guess that is partly because we usually go to bed about an hour after the kids do so that doesn't give us much of an opportunity to go to many adult events.

P2: Sunday was a very up and down day. It started great - both girls were in fabulous moods and Big A seemed to really enjoy her first day of Hebrew school at the JCC. We took the girls to our neighbour's Back to School party at the local indoor playground (a favorite location for both girls). As soon as we arrived, they instantly sped off to play in opposite directions and were so hyper one might have thought we'd fed them crack-laced espresso shooters for breakfast. After dragging them out to go home for naps, Little A fell asleep in 2 seconds while Big A had to be negotiated with in order to get her into bed. I hate the nap battle but she STILL can't make it through the day without one.

Unfortunately, after naps, Little A was in a terrible mood. We went to Value Village to buy Big A a new Halloween costume. She wanted a doctor costume but there were none and the minute she saw the Disney, hoop-skirt princess consumes in pink or purple, she wanted to be a princess. Barf! Luckily, I convinced her to go with the fire fighter costume instead, which suits my somewhat feminist sensibilities much better.

We then went to the drug store so I could get more Coppertone sunblock. I also found that my favorite protein bars - Isoflex, which, I kid you not, taste just like a candy bar but are very low in sugar (and high in protein, of course) - were on sale. But the sale price wasn't programmed into the cash so the cashier had to get a manager, etc, etc. To make a long story short, it took a long time and Little A was into everything, eventually finding a big basket of lip glosses which she dragged from the shelf into the middle of the floor and then started flinging them everywhere. Adam took it all away and she started shrieking so while Big A and I paid for the merchandise, Adam had to throw Little A over his shoulder and carry her kicking and screaming to the car. I guess it's unrealistic to think a whole day can go smoothly...

F1 & F2: My Uncle Ed sent me this email about diet and exercise and I thought it was hilarious.

Good Doctor's Advice


Interview With Dr. Chung


Q: Doctor, I've heard that cardiovascular exercise can prolong life. Is this true?


A: Your heart only good for so many beats, and that it... Don't waste on exercise. Everything wear out eventually. Speeding up heart not make you live longer; it like saying you extend life of car by driving faster. Want to live longer? Take nap.

Q: Should I reduce my alcohol intake?


A: No, not at all. Wine made from fruit. Brandy is distilled wine, that mean they take water out of fruity bit so you get even more of goodness that way. Beer also made of grain. Bottom up!

Q: How can I calculate my body/fat ratio?
A: Well, if you have body and you have fat, your ratio one to one. If you have two bodies, your ratio two to one, etc.

Q: What are some of the advantages of participating in a regular exercise program?
A: Can't think of single one, sorry. My philosophy is: No pain...good!

Q: Aren't fried foods bad for you?
A: YOU NOT LISTENING! Food are fried these day in vegetable oil. In fact, they permeated by it. How could getting more vegetable be bad for you?!?

Q: Will sit-ups help prevent me from getting a little soft around the
middle?
A: Definitely not! When you exercise muscle, it get bigger. You should only be doing sit-up if you want bigger stomach.

Q: Is chocolate bad for me?
A: Are you crazy?!? HEL-LO-O!! Cocoa bean! Another vegetable! It best feel-good food around!

Q: Is swimming good for your figure?
A: If swimming good for your figure, explain whale to me..

Q: Is getting in shape important for my lifestyle?
A: Hey! 'Round' is shape!

Well... I hope this has cleared up any misconceptions you may have had about food and diets.

And remember:
Life should NOT be a journey to the grave with the intention of arriving safely in an attractive and well-preserved body, but rather to skid in sideways - Chardonnay in one hand - chocolate in the other - body thoroughly used up, totally worn out and screaming "WOO-HOO, what a ride!!"

AND...

For those of you who watch what you eat, here's the final word on nutrition and health. It's a relief to know the truth after all those conflicting nutritional studies.

1. The Japanese eat very little fat and
suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

2. The Mexicans eat a lot of fat and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

3. The Chinese drink very little red wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.

4. The Italians drink a lot of red
wine and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans..

5. The Germans drink a lot of beer and eat lots of sausages and fats and suffer fewer heart attacks than Americans.



CONCLUSION: Eat and drink what you like. Speaking English is apparently what kills you!

Monday, September 13, 2010

Sensitivities

There was a series of stories in the Toronto Star some months ago about a woman with severe "environmental sensitivities". Scents of any kind, personal care products, cleaning products, various building materials and a host of other things apparently cause her serious illness. Because of this, she cannot work and is on long-term disability and is practically house-bound. She was living in a rental unit of an old building in the High Park area of town, but the building was sold to new owners and slated for demolition. With a letter from her doctor and help from friends and supporters, she lobbied to fight her eviction. Although she lost this battle, the company that bought the property, offered her a variety of options, including relocating her to a paid-for home at a very reasonable rent either nearby or just north of the city. Even city hall stepped in and offered her help. She claimed none of the options offered to her were sufficient and chose, instead, to live on the balcony of her aged father's apartment. Reading about this woman irritated me (see the full story here http://www.healthzone.ca/health/newsfeatures/article/806414--can-linda-sepp-possibly-be-helped). I admit, I have, in the past, had little tolerance for this issue. It annoys me enough that I can't wear perfume to certain public places anymore. But, despite the note from her doctor, I was skeptical of this woman's claims. I was convinced that real allergies cause rashes, hives or anaphylactic shock, not migraines or muscle pain or other ambiguous symptoms.

Well no longer. I've mentioned before that I have very sensitive skin and wear Coppertone oil free sunblock because most others cause me to break out in a rash. Well last Monday, I realized I was completely out of my sunscreen. We went to the drug store but they didn't have any. I stupidly decided to try Aveeno. Tuesday morning I tried it and inspite of my face tingling and burning a bit, decided it was okay because I didn't break out into a rash. Tuesday I developed a horrible headache, fatigue, blurry vision and muscle pain. By Thursday I was worried and thought it was due to a sinus infection (I was also still congested from the cold I was recovering from)and went to see my family doctor. She said she wasn't sure it was a sinus infection but gave me a prescription nasal spray to try. My congestion cleared up but the headache, blurry vision and muscle pain continued until yesterday. Yesterday morning I skipped putting on my sunscreen before biking to the gym to teach my spinning class (it was cloudy). I felt better than I had since last Tuesday. I was full of energy, pain free and my vision was normal again. After I came home and showered, I put sunscreen on my face and body as usual. Instantly, my skin started stinging and burning, the headache came back, my vision blurred and my muscles started aching. I kid you not, it was seriously instantaneous! All of a sudden it clicked that the sunscreen was to blame. I insisted that we go to the drugstore so I could find my Coppertone ASAP. Thank goodness I figured it out because I feel so much better!

Now although I now understand the full range of symptoms that can be associated with an allergy or sensitivity, I still wonder if this woman is justified given the great lengths so many people have gone to in order to accomodate her needs. I don't know, as I get older I truly believe more and more that you really do have to walk in someone's shoes to understand them.

Friday, September 10, 2010

Candy and Cocktails

This is a posting about some not so healthy treats. Autumn always makes me think about candy because of Halloween, of course. And it is the time of year when some of my favorite sugary treats become available. I used to be a total candy junkie, having convinced myself, as many of us did in the 90s, that if something is fat-free, it can't be bad for us. Adam always asks me, "Do you remember when you used to eat huge bags of candy?" I cringe to think about how much sugar I ate. I finally gave it up when I got pregnant with Big A and could no longer kid myself about how bad my candy habit was. Fortunately, I don't really miss it, but on the odd occasion when I feel like a treat, these are the ones I love most. You'll notice that I like "chewy" candy only. I actually can't stand hard candy or squishy candies, like gummy bears. Ick!

Licorice Allsorts - I inherited a love for these from my dad. I don't understand why so many people dislike black licorice (the good kind, not Twizzlers), it totally rocks.

Wine Gums - I love these. Can't stand jujubes, gum drops or any other cheap imposter though.

Candy corn/harvest mix/cream pumpkins - These are all the same candy, just in different flavours, shapes and colours. They are only widely available this time of year. I didn't discover them until I was an adult actually, because I always thought they were hard candies. They are actually soft and chewy and best described as tasting like cake frosting. Yes sickly sweet and delicious!

I rarely drink alcohol and when I do, it's a glass or two of wine or a beer. But I thought it would be fun to create some cocktails for my party tomorrow. Recipes each fill a large pitcher for a thirsty crowd.

Blueberry Lemonade Punch

Crushed ice
2 lemons, thinly sliced
Juice of 8 lemons
12 ounces blueberry liqueur
1 litre club soda
1/2 cup frozen blueberries

Place ice and lemon slices in bottom of pitcher. Pour in fresh lemon juice, liqueur and club soda and stir. Drop in blueberries and serve.

Pomegranate Mojitos

Crushed ice
10-12 fresh mint leaves
8 limes, cut into 8 pieces
12 ounces white rum
1 litre pomegranate juice

Place ice, mint and limes in pitcher and muddle with a muddler or food masher. Pour in rum and juice and stir. Serve!

Welcome to Fall!

Autumn is my absolute favorite time of year. I love the moderate weather, fresh smell in the air and the beautiful fall folliage. I love Thanksgiving and Halloween. I love the feeling of a new beginning - which, I know is the opposite of how most people view this season, but I hate, I mean absolutely despise summer, so the beginning of fall is a welcome time of year for me. Although September here can be just as steamy as August, this year the cooler weather has come early and I am blissfully happy. I can sleep with just a window open and no a/c and I can sit out on our back deck with a coffee in the morning doing my readings for school.

I am pleased to say that, so far, all of the transitions in our household seem to be going well. My course on counselling ethics is interesting, but not too demanding (weekly discussions, two assignments and an open-book exam) and I am not feeling the intense pressure to work like I did all spring and summer. I'm wondering if this is because I now have a quiet house to myself all day or because I cleared some things off my plate (no more corporate fitness seminars booked and no more Thursday afternoon Brazilian Butt Lift classes to teach). The interview I had booked for this week at the North JCC ended up being cancelled...They hired someone else for the position before even meeting me. I guess I shouldn't be quite as hurt as if this had occurred after they met me, but it's as bit weird. Adam suggested that they had someone in mind the whole time and were just booking other interviews in case they were not able to hire this individual. Who knows...but the reality is, that if my research project at Mount Sinai is approved, it will likely take over a bit part of my time so I wouldn't be able to take on such a position anyways. I just wish I could be bringing in some money right now...

Big A is doing great in school and her new daycare. I am so proud of her! She has adjusted so quickly and I think she will really flourish in her new environment. Little A has also surprised us with how well she has adjusted. Aside from when I leave her each morning and at pick-up time when she sees other parents coming to get their kids before I arrive at the end of the day, she is apparently happy and well-behaved. So it appears as if she is following in the foot steps of her older sister, so far, and is saving all of her bad behaviour for her parents. No temper tantrums, no throwing food, no biting, no scratching and no pushing the other kids. Unfortunately, when I come to get her, she acts out with me, which I believe is her way of expressing her anger at being abandoned. She flings her snacks out of the stroller on the way home and then when we get home she wants to nurse but insists on changing breasts every 2 minutes (I think this is her weird way of bossing me around). She also is back to throwing her food at suppertime, even if its her favorite food like scrambled eggs or meatballs.

Although it's challenging for Adam and I, I do prefer that the girls misbehave for us, rather than for other people. It just makes me wonder why they do so. Is it because they have such secure attachments with us and know our love is unconditional? Or is it because Adam and I are both have OCD/control-freak tendencies and they are reacting against this? Or is this aspect of their personalities simply biologically determined? I suspect all of these things may be factors.

Tomorrow, September 11th, is my 36th birthday. I don't really feel bothered by that. I'll admit I still think of myself as somewhere around 28 and have to remind myself when I am with people in that age range, that I am not, in fact, still in my 20s. Actually, the fact that my older brother turned 40 a few days ago seems weirder. I have a brother who's 40! My parents have a child who's 40! It still blows my mind that each of us have 2 kids now and my parents have 4 grandchildren. When did we all grow up? Have we grown up? Some days I'm not so sure.

I am excited for my cocktail party tomorrow and the opportunity to see some of my friends sans children. Unfortunately, many were unable to get babysitters and thus are not going to be able to make it. Oh well, that's how it goes. My in-laws are taking the girls all day tomorrow so we can prepare for the event. There is lots to do, but it is going to be lots of fun.

Thursday, September 9, 2010

More of My Favorite Things

I got such a positive response from my first posting of this kind that I thought I would add some more.

Food

Ginger Gold apples - The past few weeks I've been frustrated by the fact that my beloved mutsu (a.k.a. crispin) apples have been replaced in all the markets with ginger golds. I remembered them as having a bland, watery taste. Nevertheless, since I dislike most of the alternative types of apples available in the markets right now I bought a few. Either my memory is inaccurate or the crop this year is exceptional, but all I know is they are delicious. Crisp and sweet. Yum!

Wildwood Pastaslim - Who doesn't love pasta? Although whole grain versions are nutritious, they pack a calorie wallop. A serving is a mere half cup, which I think even a toddler could devour in seconds. Now these will never replace real pasta for me, Pastaslim noodles are a great alternative when you want an extremely satisfying/filling AND low calorie meal. If you are trying to lose weight these an be very helpful. They are made from tofu so they are also wheat and gluten free and a WHOLE BAG has just 40-50 calories!!! I think they work better in recipes where you would use rice noodles, rather than wheat noodles because the consistency is closer to rice noodles. Two warnings though:
1) They smell a bit funny when you first open the bag, but rinse them well under warm water and it disappears.
2) They don't absorb sauce like wheat or rice noodles do so if you have lots of veggies in your sauce, it may get watery. For Asian style dishes, just use some corn starch to thicken up your sauce.



Organic Food Bars - Getting the girls to eat veggies is always a challenge. These bars are not particularly appealing to me, but for some reason both girls love them. The Active Greens variety actually are a bit icky to me, but they adore them and I feel really good feeding them this product. The ingredients are pretty impressive and often it is the only green food substance they are willing to ingest.



Beauty Products

Burt's Bees - These all-natural personal care products for babies, kids and adults are wonderful. After we bathe the girls with the shampoo and body wash, I can't stop smelling them.

Books

Ruth Reichl Biographies - Ruth Reichl is the former restaurant critic for the NY Times and editor of Gourmet magazine. I've read the first three (Tender at the Bone, Comfort me With Apples, and Garlic and Sapphires) and I can't wait to read the fourth: For You, Mom, Finally. They are extremely funny and interesting and a great light read, if, like me, you sometimes get sick of reading heavy, depressing literature.

Television

Rookie Blue - Another Canadian show shot in Toronto! This is a new show in its first season and each episode I like it more and more. It airs on Global in Canada and ABC in the U.S. Some say it is like the Grey's Anatomy of cop shows, but I disagree...I can't stand Grey's Anatomy! I find most of the characters in this show much more likeable. At first I thought the actor, Missy Peregrym, who plays the main character, is far too beautiful, but I actually think she's really good and am really enjoying her character.

Movies

Seven Pounds - Adam and I recently rented this DVD and I thought it was interesting and thought-provoking...and Will Smith always does a great job.

Clothes

HUE Jeggings - Right now jean/leggings are all the rage. I don't really care about that, all I know is they are very comfortable and fit me well and it is generally difficult for me to find pants that fit because: (1) I am 5'2, and (2) I have no discernable hips or waist (Adam teases me that I am "tubular"). They come in capris and full-length skinny jean styles) and I believe they are available at most major department stores.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Adjustments

P1: I finally heard from Dr. M at Mount Sinai and we got feedback from the ethics board. I shouldn't be surprised that they want a host of revisions to our proposal -that's pretty standard in this situation, as I found out when trying to get my PhD dissertation research approved by the ethics board at the University of Toronto. Most of the changes were related to wording on our consent form and no big deal. The one thing that worries me, however, is they wanted to know more about my qualifications to perform counselling. Nevertheless, this is specifically why I designed the study so that I am not actually performing formal counselling. I meet the women who have had a pregnancy loss, I offer moral support (i.e. I am sorry for your loss, etc.) and I provide them with a list of resources in the community that they may choose to seek out if they do want emotional support or counselling. In my response, which I worked on diligently this morning, I tried to explain this. I only hope that they accept my explanation and approve the study. It is so key to my future professional success!!!

P2: Big A was a trooper today on her first day of school. Adam and I dropped her off and she hugged us goodbye without a fuss. I can't wait to pick her up and hear how the day went. Little A is not doing as well. When Adam and I dropped her off at the daycare, she immediately went to go play and didn't notice us slip out. But by the time we were at the exit, I could hear her wailing. I called about 2 hours later to find out how she was doing and one of the teachers told me she had been crying on and off the whole time.

Even though I know she will eventually adjust and be absolutely fine, I'm still a mess. I have a stomachache and headache, which I finally realized is because I am clenching my jaw, as I have a tendency to do when I'm stressed (I have to wear a hard, plastic mouthguard at night and I've done extensive damage to my teeth because of this habit).

Our trip to Kingston to visit my folks this weekend was fairly successful. Not nearly much napping happened in the car as we would of liked, but what can you do? The most difficult part of the trip was when we went out for lunch before leaving yesterday and Little A threw a fit at the restaurant. She wanted a glass water glass like we all had, rather than her bottle. When the waitress gave us a paper cup for Little A, she flew into a rage and knocked the cup and all the water onto the floor, making a big mess. At that point she was screaming so loud, my mom had to take her outside to calm her down. Adam was extremely angry and started muttering about how this was not normal behaviour. I had to remind him that this is, in fact, normal TODDLER behaviour. Normal versus abnormal for most aspects of human personality (as I have learned in school) lie on a continuum. Little A may be more towards one end of the continuum in some ways than other kids her age, but she is definitely within the normal range. Of course, that doesn't make it any less frustrating or stressful when she misbehaves. We had a rough ride with Big A from about this age until...well sometimes we still do. I think we are in for possibly an even rougher ride with Little A for the next while. I just keep reminding myself of 3 things: (1) This will end,(2) We are extremely lucky that both girls are healthy and have no developmental problems we have to contend with, and (3)Some of the things that make the girls so challenging to parent (being extremely intelligent, strong willed, etc.) are the characteristics that we want them to have as adults.

F1: While we were in Kingston, my parents made us a delicious steak dinner with all the trimmings. My mom made squash with crystallized ginger in it that was outstanding. I love ginger in all forms AND it is very healthy. Try baking with candied (in syrup) or crystallized ginger. It makes an excellent addition to gingerbread, ginger-molasses cookies, pumpkin pie, fruit crumbles and quick breads. In fact, I'm thinking next time I make my pumpkin pancakes, I'm going to throw some in. When I make gingerbread cake or cookies, I usually use fresh, dried ground, and crystallized ginger. Mmmmm! For cooking, always use fresh, there is absolutely NO substitute.

F2: Speaking of adjustments, I have decided that, in the end, the osteopathy did not significantly help my piriformas syndrome (sciatica). It improved it a bit...but not nearly enought. But I have finally got relief! Two weeks ago, I went for a massage but after I told the therapist about my piriformas syndrome, he asked if he could do acupuncture instead. He used needles that run a current through the muscle. Frankly I'm open to anything so I agreed. To my surprise, I have been pretty much pain free ever since. YAY!!!

Friday, September 3, 2010

So Here We Are

I didn't cry today when I picked up Big A and she hugged all her daycare teachers goodbye. I didn't even cry when Big A and Little A hugged Sherma goodbye. Yet as I write this I have a lump in my throat and all day I've had a horrible stomachache and I wonder if it is simply because I am overwhelmed with emotion. My first baby is starting school next week! This is quite a milestone. And my other baby starts full-time daycare which, for all intents and purposes is pretty much "toddler school".

Ironically, I was a little sadder about leaving the TAC than I thought I would be. The participants were very sweet and told me how much they had been enjoying my class and they were sorry to see me go. I had to sub an athletic intervals class there for the boss today (something I agreed to do weeks ago), so I guess today was officially my last day. I haven't taught step, which used to be my absolute favorite fitness class to teach, in years. I was reminded today why I used to love it so much. It is exhilerating, cathartic, and fun. And you know what? I'm damn good at it! I think that is the crux of it really. It is a healthy, enjoyable activity that really boosted my self-esteem. I don't see myself as someone who has many skills or talents, but I really excelled at teaching step and for some reason that was really important to me. Years ago I would have told you without a doubt that I would NEVER give it up. And yet I have. I think maybe this is a sign that I've grown up. I'm really an adult now. I was able to put this aside because it doesn't fit in with the needs of my family or my full-time career now. So that's that.

Thursday, September 2, 2010

Happy and Sad Goodbyes

Today is the last day I teach the BBL class at the Toronto Athletic Club. I am so incredibly glad I quit. The 30 minute bike ride through the searing heat and humidity in downtown traffic, the interruption to my workday, having to come home and take another shower in the middle of the day...it's just not workin' for me. The participants are nice but I will remain on the sub list so hopefully I can teach the occasional class or two there and see them again. Will I no longer have a Brazilian butt? I guess not, but that was bound to happen at some point, ha ha!

Tomorrow is Sherma's last day watching Little A. I don't know who is going to miss her more, Little A or me...or Big A, who adores her and has been quite resentful that Little A has gotten to spend so much time with Sherma while she is at daycare. Sherma is one of the strongest women I have ever met and I have the utmost respect for her. I am sure we will call her on occasion when we need a sitter for the girls, but I've gotten quite used to seeing her on a regular basis and I'll miss our funny discussions about Little A and her weird and wonderful antics as well as our chats about food, exercise, movies, friends and whatever else is on our minds. The saddest part is that Little A is too young to understand that tomorrow is the last day. I know I'm going to cry when Little A hugs her good-bye...

Wednesday, September 1, 2010

A New Year Begins

I have always thought of Labour Day, rather than January 1st as the mark of a new year. Perhaps this is because I have been in school for the vast majority of my almost 36 years and because my birthday is right around the same time.

This year there are many significant changes occuring in our household the day after Labour Day. First, Little A starts full-time daycare. I am keeping my fingers crossed she settles down quickly and stops the biting/pushing/hair-pulling behaviour. Big A starts kindergarten and begins at a new daycare. She also starts Hebrew school on Sunday mornings at the JCC from 9:15am until 11:45am - which seems like a long time for a 4 year old.

Because Big A starts school, she will no longer be able to spend Wednesdays with my mother-in-law as she has been doing since she was a baby. I am sad for her and wondering how she will handle it. They did a grandparent/grandchild program at a local synogogue for a few years and then when Big A graduated, they took cooking classes and began baking together every Wednesday. Now Little A will go every other Wednesday with my mother-in-law to the program at the synogogue (my niece of the same age will go the alternate weeks) and I wonder how this will make Big A feel? I think she is really going to miss her bubby.

Yesterday we sold our double stroller. This also marks a new beginning. Absolutely no more stroller for Big A - she must either walk or bicycle everywhere. Fortunately, her new school is a 10 minute walk, but I am sure I am going to get a lot of resistance from her, especially in the winter time.

Even though my new course - Ethical Standards for Mental Health Service Providers - doesn't officially start until next Tuesday, they posted to course syllibus yesterday so I kind of have to start working. They recommend you work one week ahead and besides, with our trip to Kingston this weekend to visit my parents and my birthday party next weekend, I don't have a lot of spare time to work. The first assignment is due September 12th too!

I caught Little A's cold and once again I'm reminded how precious health is and how deeply connected are the mind and body. Yesterday I felt awful (very sore throat, headache and bad congestion) and I was miserable and depressed. Today I woke up feeling somewhat better (just bad congestion now) and my mood is markedly improved. I just hate to think what kind of icky bugs the girls are going to pick up this fall in their new environments and pass on to Adam and I. I never used to get sick before I had kids...