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Monday, November 29, 2010

It's a Good Thing Not ALL Dreams Come True!

Do you remember your dreams? I have remembered mine vividly since I was a very small child. And they have always been extremely bizarre. So much so, that I would not disclose the details of some of them to anyone I do not know well, for fear that they would think I should be institutionalized.

Take for example last night's slumberland escapades. I can't make sense of the first part but I think I had adopted a little boy with some sort of behavioural/developmental challenge and I had hired Sherma to help me take care of him. It was night time and I didn't want him to see me so he would go to sleep...there was also a huge, long slide involved, like a mega water slide.

Then Little A and I were at the Boulevard Club (where my bro and sister-in-law have a membership) along with my parents. The club had a pain management clinic and I was there for my sinus headaches. The place was full of all sorts of very rich, important people and I felt out of place. There was an old woman there (remember Charlotte's mother-in-law on Sex in the City when she was married to Trey?) with her grown son and she looked at my face and announced, "Disgusting"! I was mortified and terribly insulted. Then I was sitting with the whole family in the dining room of the club and my mom asked me to get snacks for everyone from the self-serve buffet table. I kept trying to fill little bowls with fruit, nuts, yogurt and granola, but each time I did, someone would take the bowl for themself or it would fall on the floor and make a huge mess. After an hour, I returned to the table and told everyone I could not get them snacks. At that point, I realized I had left Little A alone in a room (in my dream the club also had hotel rooms you could rent) for several hours and I became hysterical. Then my brother was there pushing her in a stroller and reassured me she was fine. We walked to a nearby dive/diner/bar where my sister-in-law had a part-time waitressing job (on top of her full time job of being an ob/gyn). I decided I had to get Little A home ASAP, so I started trying to hail a cab. A cab (that looked like a traditional British taxi) pulled over abruptly but then flipped over and burst into flame. The driver got out unhurt but then a fellow cab driver/bystander discovered the guy was hiding stollen jewellery in the trunk and I decided I didn't want to take a ride with either guy. So my mom and I found a rented car (somehow) and started driving. We eventually became lost and pulled over to ask an old bearded man to give us directions. He informed us that we had driven all the way to London, Ontario (several hours from Toronto), which was astonishing since we had only been in the car for 20 minutes. Then I woke up. As far as my dreams go, this is far from the weirdest. But it was, for some reason, somewhat disturbing and very intense and I woke up feeling kind of exhausted.

At school we have studied dream analysis from the perspective of several psychoanalytic theorists. I have to say, I do not really think there is a lot of significant latent meaning to dreams. Dreams are just the outcome of various neurological processes. Of course I have had weird coincidences where I dream of someone I haven't consciously thought about in a long time and then I see them or hear from them a few days later. But I think those are just coincidences. If the content of our dreams really does tell us something about who we are as a person, then I probably should be put in a straightjacket.

Friday, November 26, 2010

Coconut Layer Cake With Buttercream Frosting

I don't often cook or bake with butter or white sugar, but I volunteered to make a few things for the bakesale being held by Big A's daycare, so I thought I would go whole-hog. Big A and I made chocolate cereal squares, however, I also felt like playing around with coconut so I created this recipe. For a layer cake, use 2 8-inch round pans. I have to carry this to her school while pushing a stroller, however, so I made it a big single flat cake. You could also make it in a bundt pan, if you wanted.

2.5 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 cup sugar
2 eggs
2.5 cups coconut milk
1 tbls coconut extract or vanilla extract
1 cup unsweetened, finely shredded coconut

Mix together dry ingredients in large bowl and set aside. In medium bowl, beat together butter, sugar, eggs, milk and extract. Add dry ingredients and coconut and stir, just until mixed. Pour into greased pans. Cook at 350 for about 25 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean. You will likely need more time if you cook in a bundt pan.

Frosting:
1 cup unsalted butter, softened
1 teaspoon coconut or vanilla extract
4 cups confectioners' sugar
2 tablespoons coconut milk
1 cup unsweetened, finely shredded coconut

In a large bowl, cream together the butter and extract. Blend in the sugar, one cup at a time, beating well after each addition. Beat in the milk, and continue mixing until light and fluffy. Keep covered until ready to ice cake.

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Occam's Razor

It is bitterly cold, grey and rainy today. But it might as well be warm and sunny with birds singing. This is the fourth consecutive day without a sinus headache and significantly less congestion because of my new regime of frequent saline rinses. I finally feel like I have my mojo back! And yet I am also feeling somewhat sheepish about the fact that the solution was so simple, painless and much less risky than the approach I was taking before. If only I had really listened to my brother's advice a few months ago!

Actually this seems to be a theme in my life lately. The solution to what seems to be a major problem is quite simple. Look at what happened with Big A? Things between us have been so much better since the consultants came. It really is quite astonishing!

It makes me wonder if all sorts of common problems and dilemmas we face really have very simple solutions - weight loss, marital problems, debt, etc. and it is just our emotions, prejudices and cognitive distortions that complicate things and inhibit us from reaching our goals. It's a weird paradox that humans have an innate survival instinct but are also somewhat self-destructive. Of course, one problem is that as pleasure seeking beings, it doesn't help that we derive pleasure from all sorts of things that are destructive to us (junk food, cigarettes, unprotected sex, etc.). But that doesn't explain why we often do things that cause ourselves pain. I guess no matter how smart or educated we are, we all have a limited awareness and cognitive understanding of the world around us and we are complex emotional beings who do not always behave rationally, even if we do possess all of the relevant information. I'm not arguing that the Middle East crisis could be solved with a handshake, I'm just saying it may be worth considering small, simple solutions to a problem you are facing before you try more drastic ones or give up and conclude it is unsolvable.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Pilates

There was an article in the Globe and Mail last week that made me very happy. Titled "The End of Pilates As We Know It" http://www.theglobeandmail.com/life/health/is-this-the-end-of-pilates-as-we-know-it/article1797501/ , it discusses the drop off in popularity of pilates classes and a resurrgence of popularity in intense cardio classes at North American gyms.

Now don't get me wrong, I love pilates. I have now replaced my biweekly yoga with pilates sessions in my living room and after a few weeks, I am seeing a real improvement in my pelvis/hamstring. In fact, this past week is the first time that the pain did not increase between physio sessions. Nevertheless, I was very frustrated when pilates became the new fitness trend 5 years ago. Why? Because people replaced cardio classes with it and it is not a replacement for cardio. Sorry folks, you still have to sweat. With the number one problem for most of us being too many calories in and too few out, you cannot overlook the importance of cardiovascular exercise for weight maintenance and prevention of a myriad of chronic illnesses. Pilates is functional exercise that is ideal for (1) rehabilitation, (2) prevention of injury, (3) facilitate everyday activities, and (4) improve sport performance. Do not replace cardio, or even resistance training with pilates.

Should you add pilate to your workout routine, if you have time? Absolutely! But be clear on what it is and what it is not. According to the Globe article, the reason interest in pilates is waining is because former devotees have realized that (1) it does not really help you lose weight/fat on its own, (2) results are gradual and slow.

That leads me to my review of pilates DVDs. I currently own 6 and some are excellent while others not so much. I've ordered them from best to worst.

Denise Austin - Hit the Spot Pilates
I cannot tell you how much I love this DVD! It is broken up into 7 segments, all 10 mins except the last one which is 15 minutes. If you do them all, it is a KILLER workout for your core, you can REALLY feel it. The segments are titled by what body part they supposedly focus on (thighs, buns, etc.), but really just ignore this BS, all the exercises are designed to primarily target your core, and they are really effective for that. It is fast paced and ideal for people with previous pilates experience. There is no focus on breathing and very little discussion of pilates principles or techniques, so not very suitable for beginners. I actually find Denise Austin very annoying (she comes across like an infomercial host), but you can actually mute her out of every segment. I guess I'm not the only one who is irritated by her! The last segment is done standing and is a very creative twist on traditional pilates exercises, I really love it!! I have started using this DVD most often and am not sick of it yet. I highly recommend it to anyone who is intermediate/advanced.

10 Minute Solution Rapid Results Pilates
This DVD is also broken into 10 minute segments based on body parts it focuses on. Unfortunately, one section is arms and shoulders, which is useless to me because that is not what I need to focus on. Nevertheless, it is straightforward and effective and I like the instructor, Lara Hudson. This workout is good for intermediate level folks as it also does not go through basic pilates principles and techniques, although Lara does cue breathing.

Stott Pilates Intermediate Matwork
This DVD is one integrated workout just under an hour. It is very true to classic pilates. Moira Merrithew and the Stott Pilates company are widely known as being a leading authority in the pilates world...and their head office and studio are in Toronto! Pretty much any Stott DVD is guaranteed to be high quality. This is a good, solid workout, but I got bored of it pretty quick.

Pilates for Life - Pilates on the Ball
This is produced by another studio in Toronto! I like the option of using a stability ball for the exercises and some of them are extremely challenging. What I don't like about this DVD is it claims to have 2 20-minute workouts, one beginner and one intermediate, however, it is the same workout both times, you can just focus on the instructor doing the beginner or the advanced option either time. False advertising, if you ask me!

Kathy Smith - Peel off the Pounds Pilates
I realized once I viewed this DVD that the reason it claims to help you lose weight is, it includes a 20 minute cardio workout! Well okay, but that's not pilates! In fact, I'd say that only 10 minutes of the whole DVD (the lower body and core mat workout segment) is actually pilates. So I would say this DVD is good for a beginner who wants a total body workout with low intensity cardio component. Useless for me, unfortunately.

Kathy Smith - Fat Burning Pilates
This one also has a cardio component. But it also has two other segments that are pilates focused. I like Kathy Smith and she does a good job going through the basic principles and techniques so I think this is a good DVD for anyone who is new to pilates. Unfortunately, this one is also just not very useful for me.

Live and Learn

When I was a kid my parents used to always tell me that you continue learning throughout your life. I doubted it though, as I thought of learning only as something you do sitting in a classroom with a teacher blabbing at you. Of course, now I know they were right and I marvel at how much I learn every day. Some of the learning is from school, of course, but lots of it is simply from life experience.

Take the past two days, for example. One lesson I learned was that sometimes it makes sense to suspend your own doubts and listen to someone else's advice. When my allergies and sinus headaches re-emerged this fall, I called my brother, who also suffers from the same thing. He recommended I take an antihistamine and decongestant, but he stressed the importance of regularly flushing out my sinuses with a saline rinse. He did not mention any pain relievers.

I get the antihistamine and decongestant in the Claritin, however, I was doubtful that a simple saline rinse could do much good. I did buy one and have been using once a day. As my past posts have shown, however, I have continued to be plagued by serious sinus pain and have been popping handfuls of various painkillers, which aren't even effective. Sunday morning I woke up feeling great and decided to see what would happen if I skipped the rinse. BIG MISTAKE! By 1pm I had intense pressure in my sinuses and it was just getting worse. Still nervous about taking the Tylenol 3s, I tried the Excedrin Migraine, my mother-in-law gave me to try. They had seemed to help last week one day when I had some mild pain. This time no luck and the pain continued to worsen but because the Excedrin has acetominophin and aspirin in it, I could not take the Naproxen, Tylenol 1s or 3s at that point. In desperation, I took 2 of the oxycontin. BIG MISTAKE #2. We got in the car to do our afternoon activities with the girls and I became severely nauseous. I don't know if that was from the meds, the pain or simply the car ride. But I felt absolutely horrible until about 8pm at night when the nausea finally subsided. Yesterday I decided to take the opposite approach. I took no pain meds and simply flushed my sinuses with saline about 4-5 times. To my surprise, by yesterday evening I felt so much better. And today, even though I was woken up by Little A 3-4 times last night (she has a bad cough that seems to only bother her at night), I feel fine. I just keep flushing my sinuses out. I am so happy! Not only do I feel better, but the cure is much healthier than handfuls of pain meds. Looks like big brother was right! To my sister-in-law, Elin - if you read this, don't tell Dan, I don't want him getting a swelled head (no pun intended, ha ha!).

I also had to admit to Adam that he was right about something. I attended the seminar for small businesses/entrepreneurs yesterday. I learned a lot of valuable information and it was very helpful. But I was advised to forget my idea of developing the fitness consultant business. The facilitator said the number one mistake small business owners make is becoming fragmented/unfocused from their original vision. This happens because they start to have doubts about their primary goal and begin moving in multiple different directions. She recommended I focus exclusively on developing my psychotherapy practice. Adam had been saying this right from the start. Actually, I am relieved. Unlike therapy, where there is a proven need for the service, I was trying to develop an untested service for which there is no proof of a market. Would people actually pay for that service? Who knows. So the problem is that the majority of my time would have to be spent on the marketing and that's really not what I want. Besides, the facilitator also said to put your energies into what you do best and spend as little of your time as possible on the stuff you hate/aren't good at.

There was a social worker in the seminar who has a counselling practice. She was also very helpful. She said the fact that my services will not be covered by OHIP or private insurance should not be a problem and will not prevent me from getting clients. She also suggested we have coffee because she said counsellors often network with each other so that if someone comes to them with a particular problem outside their area of expertise, they can then refer to someone else.

I also learned about some websites and women's groups that provide networking opportunities for female entrepreneurs. It never occurred to me that I should do this, but given the area of counselling I intend to focus on, it makes perfect sense.

I realized on Friday after my meeting with J.S. at Women's College Hospital, that my anxiety over not having an income right now has more to do with simply feeling ineffectual because of my inability to get my career aspirations moving forward in the way that I desire. Now that I know I have the opportunity to get directly involved in counselling and get some critical experience, my passion and drive for my original goal has been re-ignited and the fact that I have no paid work right now seems to matter a lot less. After all, if I can get the experience and networking opportunities I need now to ensure the viability of my future career, I'm more likely to actually have some income from doing what I want to do, sooner rather than later.

Friday, November 19, 2010

Salmon Burgers 4 Ways

At least twice a week we have "low cook" dinners which consist of burgers, sandwiches, salads, etc. and/or leftovers. Burger night used to be veggie or chicken burgers but lately I've become addicted to the wild salmon burgers from our local grocery store. On a whole wheat bun with a side of steamed veggies, it makes a relatively healthy and very quick meal. If you don't like the idea of frozen seafood, you can just get some wild salmon fillets from your fishmonger. Personally, I can't afford that - fresh wild salmon is exhorbitantly expensive.

Here are several ideas for how to top your salmon burgers/fillets. Each makes enough for one serving, so simply multiply by number of servings that you need. Simply slather sauce on both sides of bun or if you want to go bunless, just dollop on top of fish or brush it on before broiling/pan frying your burgers or fillets.

Sushi Style
Sauce:
2 tbls low-fat/fat-free mayo
1 tsp wasabi paste

Garnish:
Thinly sliced cucumber
Thinly sliced avocado
Pickled ginger

Indian Style:
Sauce:
2 tbls low-fat/fat-free mayo
2 tsp regular or spicy mango chutney
1/2 tsp good quality curry powder

Garnish:
Organic baby spinach leaves

Classic Seafood Style:
Sauce:
2 tbls ketchup
1 tbls prepared horseradish
pinch cayenne pepper (optional)

Garnish:
Organic spring mix

Horseradish Dijon:
Sauce:
2 tbls dijon mustard
1 tbls prepared horseradish
1 tbls lemon juice
1 clove garlic, minced

Garnish:
Thinly sliced tomato

Good Friday

I had two meetings today that made me very happy. First I met with Big A's kindergarten teacher for our first parent-teacher meeting. She is doing fine with her numbers and learning to read and write, but what the teacher spoke at length about was her empathy. She said Big A has a knack of finding the children in the class that need help/companionship/guidance and then she takes care of them. She emphasized what a good person she is and also mentioned that she is very independent. She said that she plays by herself a lot because she is very specific about what activities she likes to do. So unless any other kids want to play her games - and apparently she is always happy to let them join - she just does her own thing. She won't do something she doesn't really want to do just because the other kids are doing it. Wow, empathetic and independent. I'm definitely not a perfect mom, but we must be doing something right. I am so proud of her!

Later today I met with the miscarriage/infertility counsellor at Women's College Hospital. All I can say is, I LOVE THIS WOMAN! We connected on a cultural (she's originally a New York Jew just like my folks!), professional (both particularly interested in helping women who have experienced early term miscarriage and feel this is a population that is particularly neglected), and personally (she is an interesting and lovely person and was a pleasure to talk to). The best part is...I've got it! What's it, you ask? Well, basically she is giving me whatever opportunity I want. One-on-one patient contact ASAP (or as soon as I feel ready to start), developing a miscarriage support group, AND a practicum placement for my program at school. I am jumping up and down right now!!!

Adam made it home in one piece today so my single-parenthood is over for now. My parents arrive tomorrow and we have a lovely weekend planned. The only way today could have been better is if I hadn't woken up with a wrenched shoulder (how did I do that in my sleep??) and a headache. The doctor gave me Tylenol 3s yesterday and said I could combine them with the Naproxen (I'm taking way too many meds now!), but I was afraid to try that so I have been taking Tylenol 1s I have from the pharmacy with the Naproxen and that seems to be helping my head. At least my pelvis/hamstring has been feeling better this week. Happy Friday ya'll!

Thursday, November 18, 2010

Quality Time

I am so tired. I don't know how single parents survive. They must be superhuman. I am counting the SECONDS until Adam gets home tomorrow. Unfortunately, I don't actually know when that will be since they cancelled his flight from Victoria to Calgary today and if he doesn't make it to Saskatoon in time for his flight booked for tomorrow, he may not get back to Toronto.

The first night alone this week Big A had a HUGE tantrum. It took over an hour for her to get it out of her system but she finally did. Then Little A got crabby and was screaming at the drop of a hat.

This morning Big A got up right after I got on the stairmaster for my workout. I ended up having NO "me" time at all. The good news is she was in a great mood and relatively cooperative. The bad news is she talked a mile a minute all morning and wanted my full attention the whole time. I had had a bad sleep (I can never sleep well when Adam is away) so I was exhausted and grumpy. I tried to remind myself that she was behaving and that I should at least be grateful for that.

The Elmo sticker trick was a one shot deal in terms of getting Little A to brush her teeth. She hasn't been consistently cooperative with the daycare teachers on that front either. However, when they were doing painting using toothbrushes today, Little A was more than happy to paint the entire inside of her mouth.

Tonight Big A is at my in-laws for a sleep-over. It feels like a semi holiday just to have one child. I haven't been able to give Little A much attention lately. At bedtime, I have been plopping her into her crib with no story and just shutting the door to her cries so I can attend to Big A. So tonight we hung out just the two of us. It was going great (aside from when she dumped her bowl of grapes onto the kitchen floor and danced on them) until bath time. She now insists on making pee pee on the toilet. Great news except she just wants to sit on the toilet all the time now even if she doesn't have to go. She made a pee pee before dinner but she didn't have anything come out before bath. Nevertheless, she refused to get off. After 20 minutes I plucked her from the toilet and put her in the tub. She had a mega mega meltdown. When she finally calmed down I put her in her crib and at least got to read her a story.

She hasn't pooped in 4 days which is a record for her (normally she goes at least once a day). Maybe she's saving it all up for Adam when he comes home. Hee hee!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Thank Goodness for Small Victories

The weather is beautiful and I am feeling better about life thanks to a few little developments. On the career front, I have an important meeting on Friday that could get me moving along in my desired direction. J.S., is a well-known therapist in Toronto who works in the miscarriage/infertility field at Women's College Hospital. I didn't contact her before because I was busy getting things moving (or so I thought) at Mount Sinai and have been trying to arrange my placement with S.D., the therapist who is teaching my miscarriage/infertility counselling course. But no one so far is coming through for me so I've got to keep my options open. I emailed J.S. last week and told her I was looking for volunteer counselling opportunities and a practicum placement. She emailed me back yesterday and was VERY enthusiastic. I can't wait to meet her on Friday and see where this goes!

Also, Little A will now open her mouth for the tooth brush in exchange for an Elmo sticker. She doesn't really let me do a thorough job, but this is still a huge improvement from before. Maybe her teeth won't all rot out before her 2nd birthday after all!

Adam is away again for work this week. Sigh! But then he has no more trips until after the Christmas holidays...I think. Fortunately, although the weather report is calling for rain, it is a beautiful day. I woke up with pressure in behind my eyes which usually means a killer sinus headache is coming on, but I have been okay so far today. Thursday I see my doctor again at which point I will ask for a new prescription since the Naproxen is useless. My butt/hamstring has been feeling better since physio last week and my physiotherapist confirmed yesterday that my alignment and muscle tension seems better.

If I can just make it to the weekend on my own, there is lots to look forward to. My parents are visiting and it is my nephew's first birthday. We're having a party for him at my brother's on Saturday.

A big victory for me is looking at where I am now relative to a year ago (when Eli was born). I was overwhelmed with postpartum anxiety and depression and desperately counting down the days of my mat leave. It's good to remind myself of this whenever I'm feeling mopey. Both girls are now in full-time care during the day so I am free to pursue my own interests. Then again, I guess that's why I get so down and frustrated when I don't feel like I'm accomplishing as much as I should. Glass full, glass empty.

I'll take some small victories...

Sunday, November 14, 2010

Singapore Noodles

I have made this a few times and each time I make it a bit differently, but I think this version turned out best. It is a fusion dish that did not originate in Singapore, that has a million different recipes. I like the addition of coconut milk, but you can substitute chicken broth instead. Traditionally it is made with chicken, bbq pork, shrimp, and/or scrambled egg, but I've opted for just chicken here. A vegetarian version could simply use tofu. Do NOT overcook these noodles or you'll get mush. Use whatever veggies you like best.

250g brown rice vermicelli, soaked in boiling water for 1-2 minutes and then drained
1 tsp peanut or canola oil
1 lb minced chicken, (or chicken breasts or thighs sliced thinly)
2 sweet red bell peppers, thinly sliced
4 cups bean sprouts, rinsed
6 baby bok choys
1 bunch green onions, sliced

Sauce

2 heaping tbls curry powder
4 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup minced or grated fresh ginger
1 tbls soy sauce
1/4 cup rice vinegar
1/4 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/2 cup coconut milk (or chicken or vegetable broth)

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a bowl and set aside.

In a wok, add oil and cook meat. Remove when no longer pink and set aside. Add veggies, one at a time and removing when done how you like (i.e. crisp-tender, etc.) and set aside with meat. When all the ingredients are ready, throw them back into the wok with the sauce and noodles, and cook until sauce is absorbed.

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Be Proactive

Inspite of all my positive self-talk, I am still feeling increasingly disheartened and pessimistic about my professional life. I passed up several valuable opportunities over the past months, such as applying for a counselling position with Planned Parenthood, because of the Mt Sinai research project, which has still failed to materialize. With no counselling experience yet, I am still very unqualified for my new desired career path. I have so much damn education and so little experience, what a waste of my life...and here I go again with the negative spiral of self-criticism and doubt. Sigh! Many thoughts and ideas have been swirling through my mind in terms of how to improve my situation. My family fitness coaching idea is percolating and I am attending a seminar for small businesses run by the business consultants my friend connected me with. They very much liked my idea and felt they could help me refine my business plan. And yet, like the million of business ideas I have had in the past, I fear this one will fail to come to fruition because of, well my fear of failure I guess. I never have the guts to follow through.

One thing I am following through with for sure is my recent other idea. I am starting a miscarriage/infertility peer support group. Although I do not yet have any formal counselling/therapist designation, there is nothing stopping me from doing this since I am doing it simply as someone who has been through these experiences myself, yet there is also nothing stopping me from adding to my resume in the future that I ran support groups. I feel like I'm stuck in the frustrating position of not having the experience to get the job I want and yet not being able to get the experience because I don't yet have the experience. Like WTF? I just want to help people damnit!!! I know I'll get experience from my practicum for school, but I also know it would be advantageous to have more than that. I would say the majority of other students in my Masters program are already working in the counselling field. Well, it's time for me to take matters into my own hands and direct my fate. So I've designed posters announcing my support group and I'm putting them up all over the neighbourhood. I figure I'll hold the groups in my living room, unless I can possibly convince someone at the JCC to let me borrow some space there for free.

Aside from my career issues, I am still tied up in knots about my children's dental health. Little A refuses to let us brush her teeth. Period. Big A refuses to even try the fluoride rinse the dentist recommended. I now agonize over everything they eat, not from a nutritional perspective, but from a dental health perspective. When Big A was little and fought us brushing, I always thought of asking the daycare for help, but was too afraid (I thought they would see me as too demanding). Finally, this morning I decided to try for Little A. To my surprise, the daycare said if I bring a toothbrush and paste for her, they are happy to give it a try. Just goes to show, no matter how big or small, we really shouldn't let fear get in the way of trying things or getting what we want/need. I must make this my mantra as I work at building my new career...

Monday, November 8, 2010

Headaches and Digit Disasters

After last Wednesday's sinus headache from hell, I made an appointment with my doctor. Taking handfuls of Advil and Tylenol is a bad idea AND it does nothing to lessen the pain. Time to get help. She took one look in my nose and said she could see a lot of swelling in my nasal passages. She gave me more steroid nasal spray, which I'd run out of, and a prescription for Naproxen. I woke up today feeling great but now I feel another one coming on so it may be time to see if these babies work. I don't like the fact that I'm a walking pharmacy right now (Claritin, Nasonex, Naproxen, etc.) but I'll do anything to get relief.

On Saturday, I stupidly slammed the car door on my pinky finger. The bad news is, it was my left hand, and I'm left handed, the worse news is that I think it might be broken. As stubborn as I am though, I haven't gotten it looked at. No way I'm waiting hours at the ER and what will they do anyways, splint it? But after icing it last night for a while, it feels better today and I have more range of motion in the knuckle joint...so maybe it isn't broken? I am going to have my physiotherapist look at it today and tell me what she thinks. Perhaps I'll call my doctor again this afternoon. Stupid finger!

Big A had another huge tantrum on Thursday night. Adam was still away for work so it was just me and the girls again that evening. It all started on the way home from picking her up at school when I gave her dinner options she didn't like. She screamed all the way home and then continued for an hour. At one point she grabbed my face and pinched me HARD. After mostly ignoring her screaming up to that moment, I lost it and picked her up, carried her upstairs and threw her in her bedroom, telling her she better not come out until I got her. I think she realized she crossed the line at that point and she started to calm down. Eventually I got her to apologize. One of the punishments I doled out for this behaviour was no treats whatsoever for the whole weekend. This actually turned out to be a good idea because she was extremely upset, and the parenting consultants emphasized that punishments need to mean something to her. While I've threatened this punishment many times in the past, we've never fully carried it out because we seem to always end up in circumstances where treats get offered to her and we cave in. This time, as per the parenting consultants, I was determined to follow-through. So I called my mother-in-law, who was having the girls for dinner Friday night. I warned her that under no circumstances was Big A allowed any dessert (not one cookie or piece of cake). Although this led to a huge meltdown Friday evening, Big A got no dessert. Nor did she get a single treat Saturday or Sunday, even when she and I made chocolate cereal squares. I wouldn't even let her steal a single marshmellow. Luckily, by then she had accepted her fate. The weekends are usually when our nutrition plans fall by the wayside anyhow (she always goes to her grandmother's or great-grandmother's for Friday dinner and gets treats that never see the light of day in this house), so I was thrilled to see her forced to forgo the junk food for a few days.

Little A, our picky little eater, has actually grown into quite a good eater. In fact, she will eat a lot of grownup food that Big A won't go near. This weekend she surprised us by gobbling down some of the spicy sesame noodles I made (and they're quite spicy!) and she shared a Perrier with me (Big A hates "bubble" water). At the grocery store yesterday, Big A insisted I buy them some cucumber rolls from the sushi counter. Then she proceded to tell me she doesn't like seaweed and just wanted to eat the cucumber and a bit of the rice. Thankfully, Little A was more than happy to devour the entire rolls, as well as the leftover scraps from Big A. She also ate the whole pile of accompanying pickled ginger in one bite and would have drank the packet of soy sauce if I'd opened it for her (I confiscated the large ball of wasabi because I thought the heat bomb from that, while short-lived, might be a bit much). Perhaps if there is 3-1 in favour of my cooking, Big A will eventually come around to eating the spicy, ethnic dishes I usually make.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

Caribbean Chicken, Pumpkin and Collard Green Stew

This turned out as an exceptionally delicious way to use up some of our Halloween Jack-o-lantern, but you can always use butternut squash instead. Serve over brown rice or fill a roti shell/whole wheat tortilla and roll up.

1 lb ground chicken or turkey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 onion, diced
1/4 cup minced fresh ginger
4 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls curry powder (preferably West Indian style)
1 tsp ground allspice
1/2 tsp sea salt
Scotch bonnet hot sauce, to taste (optional)
3-4 cups cubed pumpkin or squash, lightly steamed
1 can light coconut milk
Large bunch of collard greens, leaves chopped, stems removed

Place onion in large skillet or fry pan with vinegar over medium heat. Cook until onion is softened and translucent. Add ginger, garlic, curry powder, allspice, salt and hot sauce (if using). Cook 1-2 minutes. Add ground meat and stir with spice mixture, cooking until meat is no longer pink. If it gets too dry, add another couple tbls of cider vinegar. Next, add pumpkin/squash and coconut milk and simmer 5-10 minutes. Last, add the greens and continue simmering until then are wilted (about 10 minutes).

Thursday, November 4, 2010

Thai Seafood Curry

Since Adam is away this week, I used his absence as an opportunity to make something he won't eat: seafood! The fact that I made this on a night I was alone with the girls, is a testament to how easy it is. Although I made is super spicy, to suit my tastes, Little A gobbled up a lot of the shrimp! It was sooooo good, especially over organic brown jasmine rice.

1 lb fresh or frozen seafood (shrimp, scallops, mussels, clams, calimari, etc.)
1 bag fresh vegetable slaw (broccoli, carrots, cabbage)
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls grated, fresh ginger
1 tbls green Thai curry paste
1 cup coconut milk
2 tbls fish sauce
1 bunch green onions, thinly sliced
hot chili flakes, to taste (optional)

Whisk curry paste with coconut milk in large frying pan, over medium heat. Once smooth, add in veggies, seafood, garlic, ginger and fish sauce and cook a few minutes until seafood is cooked (but be careful not to overcook!). Sprinkle in green onions and chili (if using). Serve over rice.

Pain and Suffering

P1: I FINALLY heard back from Dr. M at Mount Sinai, who promised she will get her part of our ethics proposal completed and will submit to the ethics board ASAP. I feel a bit better but am still anxious to get the project under way. I also inquired about doing my practicum for school with the counsellor who teaches the miscarriage/infertility certificate program I'm doing. She works out of one of the cities most prestigious fertility clinics and also has her own private practice. She would love to take me on but needs to get approval to do so. Fingers crossed!!!

P2: The dentist was a nightmare on Monday. Big A screamed through the whole procedure. In fact, she was so hysterical, the dentist would only fill the cavities on one side of her mouth and we have to go back AGAIN. Adam commented that they must have accidently given her crying gas instead of laughing gas since it seemed to have no positive affect on her. The dentist was actually getting pissed with her and kept snapping at her to stop crying. Since then, she has been milking this thing for all it's worth. She is still claiming her mouth hurts and she can only eat certain foods. Now, I would be more inclined to believe her if she wasn't claiming that the only food that she can eat are the pumpkin chocolate chip cookies I baked. Then again, it's impossible to judge another person's suffering. Maybe the freezing and the laughing gas didn't work? Maybe her teeth are still hurting? I might be convinced if she said broccoli was the only food she could eat.

At 18 months, Little A is absolutely delicious right now. I've whined a lot about wanting my kids to grow up, but I have to say, I would be relatively happy if she stayed just like she is for a while. She is so funny and affectionate and happy most of the time. I just want to eat her up. By this age, Big A and I were already entrenched in regular battles over everything. Aside from refusing to brush her teeth or wear mittens (or put on her Halloween costume), Little A shows few signs of defiance at this point. I just wish she would learn so talk better. Her comprehension is amazing (Adam told her last week that he was disappointed in her because she wouldn't let us brush her teeth and she burst into tears as if her feelings were deeply hurt), but her pronunciation is far off. Somehow bagel gets translated into "meemyl" and mango into "mamo". Yet she can say "pizza" and "eyeglasses" coherently. We still struggle to understand her a lot of the time which leaves us all frustrated.

F1: I've been thinking a lot about sugar lately. Some researchers believe that sugar in our diets is more harmful than sodium. Yet many people malign "artificial" sweeteners in favour of "natural" sugar. Should you avoid saccharin? Well yes, of course, but I don't see it that often anyways anymore. I remember in the 80s when we would go to the U.S. to visit family I would always buy "Chewels" gum, which was filled with this sweet liquid centre that would squirt out when you bit into it. It had a warning on the label that it contained saccharin, which has been shown to cause cancer in laboratory experiments. Huh? Why was that on the market? And a better question is, why was I buying it? The flavour ran out after 2 seconds of chewing anyways.

But there are much better alternatives to saccharin (and aspartame) available now. Sucralose (Splenda) is really no more processed than regular table sugar and has been shown to be safe in over 100 peer-reviewed scientific studies. It is also recommended by the Centre for Science in the Public Interest. It has no after taste and is as sweet as sugar with zero calories. I use it in my oatmeal and coffee and tea and sometimes for baking.

If, for whatever reason, using Splenda gives you the heebeejeebees, there are more "natural" options to sugar. Organic Zero, made from erythritol, a sugar alcohol, is organic and "natural" but it is less sweet than sugar, so you have to use more and it is insanely expensive. I used up a whole $18 bag in one week when I was doing my cleanse. Or there are Xylitol products available that are similar, but they are also pricey. There are also a number of stevia products you can use as an alternative sweetener. I used to use stevia for years until I switched to Splenda while Adam and I were family building because there was limited research available about it's safety during pregnancy. I've tried to go back, but have not been able to tolerate the after-taste. Admittedly, I haven't tried Truvia or any of the newer product lines that are supposed to have no after taste.

In any case, the reality is that even if you are eating "natural" and organic foods, if you are taking in too many calories, you are going to have excess body fat and associated health problems. Using a low calorie sweetener is a good way to cut out empty calories. If you are going to use a natural sweetener, avoid the granulated white sugar and at least try something that has some nutritional value and great taste such as agave syrup, honey, maple syrup (the darker the better for a rich flavour!!), or molasses.

F2: This has been a bad fitness week for me. My workouts have sucked because (1) My butt has been hurting more than it has since I started physio, and (2) Yesterday I was plagued with a horrid sinus headache. Fortunately, my physio yesterday improved things in my bottom half. The therapist confirmed that my pelvis and twisted again, which is why I was in so much pain. She yanked it back into place again and said the rehab exercises should help keep it from shifting back. My rehab involves doing core exercises including ones to target the back extensors. These are so effective and low-tech. You don't need ANY weight or equipment. If you haveany postural issues or lower-back pain, I urge you to make them a regular part of your routine.

Performing the back extension:

Lie on your stomach, facedown, arms straight out in front of you, palms down, and legs straight out behind you. Keep your chest, shoulders and hips in contact with the ground and lift your left arm and right leg about one inch off the floor, and stretch out as much as you can. Hold this position for five slow counts and then lower your arm and leg back down. Repeat the same move with your right arm and left leg. Continue alternating sides until you complete 3 sets of 15 repetitions.

Monday, November 1, 2010

Pumpkin Chocolate Chip Cookies

Last year I chopped up a ton of pumpkin after Halloween but the frozen chunks sank to the bottom of the freezer and were forgotten. I recently turfed them. This year I vowed not to let our entire jack-o-lantern go to waste. Pumpkin is so incredibly versatile, healthy and delicious. So I've put some aside for a Caribbean stew with chicken and collard greens I'll make this weekend and I made these cookies today to share with my mother-in-law (who is kindly taking Little A to her 18 month check-up today while I take Big A to the dentist).

These are huge, soft, cakey cookies my mom used to make us after every Halloween with our left over pumpkin. I don't have her recipe, but these actually taste pretty much the same although I am sure they are healthier (nobody I know was using whole wheat flour or agave syrup back in those days!).

1.5 cups cooked, pureed pumpkin (or canned)
2 eggs
1/4 cup organic canola oil
1/4 cup agave syrup
1 tsp vanilla
2.5 cups organic whole wheat flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup mini dark chocolate chips

Whisk together wet ingredients in large bowl. Combine dry ingredients and add to wet. Stir just until combined. Stir in chocolate chips. Drop large mounds on a non-stick baking sheet. Bake at 375 for 15 minutes, cool on wire rack.

Roasted Pumpkin Seeds

These are easy, healthy and yummy.

Savoury
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed (we scooped them all out of our Jack-o-Lantern)
1/2 tsp chili powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
Pinch cayenne pepper (optional, if you want some heat)

Sweet
2 cups raw pumpkin seeds, rinsed
1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1 tsp sugar

Toss seeds with seasonings and spread in single layer on non-stick baking sheet. Roast in oven at 400 for 15-20 minutes, checking regularly to prevent burning.

Trick or Treat

As I had feared, Little A refused to put on her Halloween costume last night. Any mention of it and she would run the other way yelling, "Noooooooooo!" Big A looked terrific as a Fire Fighter and we basically had another great weekend with her. She was relatively cooperative and I was very impressed last night when she told us she would have one treat (a lollipop) and she didn't even ask for any more. On Saturday when we were at our friends' place for dinner and she was having a blast playing with their daughter, she didn't even have a tantrum when we said it was time to go home (she resisted a bit, but nothing too serious).

Anyways, back to Halloween. We decided to feed the girls an early dinner before Trick-or-Treating. Big A had a nice healthy dinner of roasted pumpkin seeds we made, a big salad of shredded cabbage with "pink" dressing (i.e. Thousand Island dressing)and some mango chunks. Little A became hysterical when we put her in her high chair and refused to eat a thing. Adam and I realized that she is teething again and was feeling miserable (she was chewing on her fingers and really only ever gets like that when she is uncomfortable). Great, more teeth that are going to rot away from lack of brushing! Adam gave her a bath and put her in PJs and had given up on the idea of taking her out, however, I insisted because I suspected that it might cheer her up. So we put aside her puppy costume and simply put her winter coat and shoes over her PJs and I headed out with the girls while Adam stayed home to give out candy.

I explained to everyone that she was dressed up as, "a stubborn toddler who refuses to wear her costume." It only took a few minutes for Little A to figure out what was happening and she was delighted. When one of our neighbours handed her a peanut butter cup, she started yelling "tweet, tweet (treat treat)!" After I unwrapped it for her, she just started licking it and it lasted her until we got home at which point she squished the rest into a ball and we threw it out. Oh well, she enjoyed it in her own way! Between the two of them, the girls got a bounty of candy. Ugh! Fortunately, neither remember what they got, so I banished it all to the storage room to join all the other candy from Halloweens past that are getting stale. The really junky stuff (cheesies, etc.) we put back in our candy bowl and gave back out.

Boy, I can't believe how much Halloween has changed since I was a kid though. I don't think I saw a single home-made costume. Every kid was wearing a store-bought one. In my day, we just rummaged through our parents closets or our own. Also, kids are more haughty I think. We stopped going out by the time we were 13 or 14, but now you can sometimes see 16-17 year olds ringing door bells well after their younger counterparts are in bed, holding open backpacks (yes, I was getting backpacks last night!). I also had two boys, probably not older than 8 or 9, yell, "more, more" at me after I dropped 2 pieces of candy in each of their bags. I was appalled and told them I had given them enough. Like WTF?

Today, the day after Halloween, I take Big A back to the dentist to have her cavities dealt with. I've now spoken to a bunch of my friends who have admitted their kids of the same age have some cavities so I'm not feeling like quite as neglectful a mother. Still, I wonder what I can do to improve the situation. Change her diet? Have her use a fluoride rinse? Get sealants put on her teeth? I suppose I'll ask the dentist.