Pages

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

SOME Things in Moderation

A few years ago a friend of mine, who is such a health nut she makes me seem like a real slacker (she never eats sugar OR artificial sweeteners and eats exclusively whole, organic foods!), said she hates the "Everything in moderation" motto because it just encourages people to eat everything bad in moderation.

At first I thought she was just being a bit of an extremist, but I have started to see her point.

First, there are lots of things that are NOT okay in moderation. Things like:

*Smoking
*Heroin/crack/cocaine
*Unprotected casual sex
*Suntanning
*Sniffing glue
*Drinking and driving
*Listening to country music
*Watching any television show called "The Bachelor" or "The Real Housewives of..."
*Ha ha, just had to get that in there!

Of course, most people associate the "Everything in moderation" philosophy with food. But even when it comes to food, this doesn't really hold true. For example, health experts and researchers have been warning for a while now that there is not really any safe intake level of trans fat.

But the other problem with this way of thinking, as my friend pointed out, is that people use it as an excuse to eat lots of DIFFERENT types of crap in moderation. In other words, if you eat a buttery (white flour) croissant once a week, every Sunday, as part of your regular brunch ritual with friends, this is not necessarily problematic. But if you also drink a bottle of wine once a week, eat a steak once a week, eat just a slice of bacon every day for breakfast, just one chocolate bar from a vending machine at work every day, just a beer after work with colleagues a few times a week, and a bag of chips on the way home from work on the subway a few times a week, well...then that's another story.

I am not saying you should never indulge. Who can live a life without the occasional splurge, dietary or otherwise? Perhaps a better philosophy when it comes to nutrition is the 80:20 rule. Eat healthfully 80% of the time, and splurge a bit the remaining 20% of the time...or better yet, got 90:20!

One thing I LOVE is fudge. But I don't need it every day and I would say I probably only indulge 2-3 times a year. The following 2 recipes are EASY (complicated candy-making involving boiling sugar has never been my strong suit!) and delicious. The chocolate ginger one is particularly good if you don't like things super sweet and you like the bite of ginger.

Cherry, Pistachio and Cardamom Fudge

1 lb white chocolate chips
1 can low-fat or regular sweetened condensed milk
2 tbls butter
1/2 cup dried cherries
1/2 cup chopped pistachios
1/4 tsp ground cardamom

Melt chips, milk and butter over double boiler.* Once smooth, remove from heat and stir in cherries, pistachios and cardamom. Pour into a 9x9 pan, spread evenly and then refrigerate for 2+ hours. Keep in air tight container (should last a few weeks).

*Make your own double boiler by placing a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.


Chocolate Ginger Fudge

1 lb 70% cocoa dark chocolate chips
1 can low-fat or regular sweetened, condensed milk
2 tbls grated, fresh ginger
1/4 cup finely chopped chrystalized ginger

Melt chips and milk over double boiler*. When smooth, stir in fresh and chrystalized ginger. Scrap evenly into 9x9 square pan. Refrigerate for 2 hours. Can be stored in sealed container for a few weeks.

*Make your own by placing a heat safe bowl over a pot of simmering water. Make sure bottom of the bowl does not touch the water.

Monday, August 29, 2011

Falafel Pizza and Middle Eastern Kale and Roasted Veggie Salad

Adam rarely gets excited about vegetarian food, so when he raved about this meal the other night, I knew the recipe was a keeper.

Don't worry if you don't have some (or any) of the herbs and spices I used, it will still turn out great.

Falafel Pizzas

1 box falafel mix (or use fresh or frozen from the health food store)

4 small zucchini, cut into thin rounds
2 sweet red bell peppers, cut into quarters
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2-3 cloves garlic, minsed
1 tbls za'atar seasoning mix (or 1/2 tsp each ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, cumin, and coriander)
2 tsp olive oil
1/4 cup red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 can tomato paste
1 can of water
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp za'atar seasoning mix (or 1/4 tsp each ground dried thyme, oregano, marjoram, cumin, coriander, and salt)
Hot crushed chili flakes, to taste (optional)

2 tbls tahini
Juice of 1 lemon
1 clove garlic, minced
1/4 tsp ground cumin

6-100% whole grain pocketless pitas

For the pizzas, follow directions for falafel mix - I had to add water and let stand 1 hour. If desired, season mix with extra fresh garlic and/or ground cumin. Using a large spoon, Drop large balls of batter onto a baking sheet that has been lined with foil and sprayed. Flatten into pucks and bake at 450F for about 12-15 minutes. This can be done even a day or two ahead of time and they can be refrigerated or frozen.

Combine veggies with oil, vinegar and seasonings. Spread out on baking sheets and roast at 350F for about 45 minutes.

Meanwhile, combine tomato paste, water and seasonings in small saucepan over medium heat. Once it starts to bubble, turn off heat.

In a small bowl, whisk together tahini with lemon juice and seasonings and set aside.

Place pitas on a baking sheet. Spread with tomato sauce. Take a falafel and crumble one onto each pita. Top each with a drizzle of tahini sauce and some roasted veggies. Bake at 425F for about 10-12 minutes until pitas are crispy and falafel crumbles have some crunch.


Salad

1 head kale, washed and patted dry, torn into small pieces, tough stems removed
Roasted veggies

2 tbls tahini
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup white wine vinegar (or more)
2 cloves garlic, minced
4 tbls nutritional yeast
1/4 tsp ground cumin
Salt and pepper, to taste

Throw all the ingredients into a blender for a few seconds until combined. Thin out with extra vinegar, if desired.

Toss kale with dressing and refigerate for 2+ hours, or if you are short on time, massage dressing into leaves to soften and then refrigerate for 10 minutes.

Roughly chop roasted veggies you made for pizzas and toss in with kale. It's fine to do this warm and eat the salad warm/room temperature.

Leftover falafels can be frozen. Leftover tomato sauce can be frozen or refrigerated for a few days. Leftover pizzas can be frozen and then reheated again by placing them in the oven or toaster oven. Salad should be eaten within 24 hours.

Friday, August 26, 2011

Better Blondies

I love chocolate. But the truth is I have always been more of a vanilla (and butterscotch/caramel/spice) gal. Maybe I'm weird but please don't hate me.

Ever since I was a kid I have preferred: pralines and cream over chocolate ice cream; vanilla or maple fudge over chocolate fudge; oatmeal raisin or gingerbread cookies over chocolate chip; and, carrot cake or vanilla cake over chocolate.

So when I first discovered the concept of a blondie, a vanilla brownie, I was immediately smitten. Full of butter, vanilla, and brown sugar, it has all of the super sweet, vanilla/caramel qualities I love. But not so healthy.

In the 1990s I perfected a zillion fat-free recipes for baked goodies by replacing the butter or oil with fruit purees and eggs with egg whites and using only whole grain flours. I even had a spectacular blondie one, which was chewy, sweet and delicious...and full of sugar. Two cups of packed brown sugar, to be exact.

Because we know now that sugar is likely as harmful to our health as saturated fat, it's been a long time since I made blondies. It was the brown sugar, after all, that gave these treats it's caramely, chewy, gooey goodness.

I thought my blondie days were over. Boy was I wrong.

Today's kitchen success proves that a little perseverence goes a long way.

After much consideration, I decided to try using dates - nature's candy - as well as mashed banana, to emulate that brown sugar/butter yumminess, and folks, it worked! Not only are these sugar free, but they are also fat free!!

Please don't be turned off by how healthy these sound. They are so good that Big A, who helped me whip these babies up, couldn't wait for them to cool down before digging in. AND, as someone who usually can't eat any cake or brownie-type thingy unless it is smothered in a thick layer of sugary icing (yes, my extreme sweet tooth often betrays my healthful inclinations!), I think these are just dandy as is. Of course if you want to up the ante, you could frost them with peanut butter, or any nut butter and I think that would take them over the top.

Blondies are, by nature, super sweet, but if you want something less sweet, you probably don't need any sweetener, since the dates and bananas are sweet all on their own.

2 cups dates (get pitted ones unless you want to waste time pitting them yourself like I did!)
1/2 cup water, divided

1 large or 2 small ripe bananas, mashed
2 egg whites
1/2 cup stevia (or stevia equivalent to 1/2 cup sugar) or Splenda*
2 tsp pure vanilla extract

1 cup whole wheat flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp salt

Place 1/4 cup water and dates in saucepan over medium heat. Bring water to a boil and cook until all the water is absorbed. Set aside and let cool slightly. Transfer dates to food processor and add 1/4 cup cold water. Puree until there are no large chunks (doesn't have to be perfectly smooth).

In large bowl, whisk together banana, sweetener, egg whites, and vanilla. Add dates and whisk until combined. In small bowl, stir together flour, baking powder and salt. Turn dry ingredients into the date mixture and stir just until combined. Batter will be quite thick and sticky. Spread batter evenly into square 9x9 pan that has been greased. Bake at 350F for 20-25 minutes. Let cool and then cut into squares. Makes 16 blondies. Freezes well.

*The whole sugar vs "artificial sweetener" debate involves a lot of misconceptions. Granulated sugar is hardly a "natural" or "unrefined" product. I consulted with Yoni Freedhoff, one of Canada's leading obesity experts, and his take is that ideally we shouldn't consume ANY sugar OR artificial sweeteners, however, given that there is tons of research on sugar and a great deal of it proves it is harmful, and relatively less research on Splenda (sucralose) but none of it provides any evidence it is harmful, he prefers sucralose over sugar.

Note that there is very little available research on stevia, but most people feel more comfortable using it because they consider it a "natural" substance. I use both stevia and sucralose, as well as xylitol (a naturally occurring sugar alcohol). Just keep in mind that the food industry often misuses the term "natural" and that arsenic and plutonium are natural substances but you wouldn't put those in your food!

Strawberry Balsamic Chicken

If you think my kids eagerly fill their dinner plates with spicy tamarind chicken or thai curries, you'd be drastically overestimating them!

Nope, like most kids they are pretty picky. They almost always get offered a seperate dinner than whatever I am making for Adam and I. They usually eat pasta, chicken, eggs, grilled cheese, or pancakes (with broccoli!) for dinner, and if I'm lucky, a side of some veggies or salad.

I also admit to frequently resorting to my favorite "Life Choices" frozen foods because they adore their multigrain coated chicken nuggets, fish sticks, organic whole-wheat mini pizzas and all-beef, nitrite-free hotdogs.

If I dare place other foods on their plate, I am often faced with screams, protests and tears. They will, however, try the food off of OUR plates. Little A, in particular, will always request a taste and shows a surprising affinity for spicy, exotic dishes. On a good night, she'll end up eating quite a bit of our food.

In any case, I am quite hesitant to try making THEM new recipes since the reception is not usually very good. But last night's experiment was a huge success.

Along with the Alexia potato wedges and roasted cauliflower (which Big A picked at but Little A gobbled down in huge quantity!), I made them baked chicken breasts smothered in a strawberry balsamic glaze. Simple to make too!

2 tbls all-fruit strawberry or seedless raspberry jam
1/4 cup of balsamic vinegar
1 clove garlic, minced

Whisk ingredients together and pour over 3 chicken breasts. Bake on a foil lined baking sheet at about 425F for approx. 20 minutes, or until cooked through. Leftovers freeze well.

Thursday, August 25, 2011

Perspective

I could say today sucks. I could feel pretty grumpy and frustrated.

One week since my cortisone injection and my tendonitis isn't showing a huge improvement. The doctor did warn me to give it a full 2 weeks, but I'm feeling kind of pessimistic since apparently once this type of problem has become chronic it is very stubborn to get rid of. Also, even if the cortisone does decrease the inflammation, it doesn't address the anatomical/biomechanical cause, so it's not likely to be a "cure". Over 2 full years of pain and counting.

To make matters worse, I am having killer tooth pain. When I called the dentist yesterday she said it was likely the tooth she has suspected of having a crack, and I better go see my father-in-law (an endodentist) first because I may need a root canal. Ouch!

As if it couldn't get any worse, yesterday after my cardio workout I got down on the ground to do some core training and during the first rep of using our ab wheel felt searing pain...at first I thought I had fully ruptured my rectus abdominus (a grade 3 strain) which usually requires surgery, but I think it's just a grade 2 strain that JUST causes intense pain and limited mobility. Running is out. Plyometrics are out (no more Insanity Cardio DVDs), a lot of weight training exercises are out, and even yoga is out - I can manage downward dog but trying to get even close to an upward dog causes severe pain. Seriously, if you have any doubt how important your core muscles are to most movement, just try injuring one!! I haven't had so much difficulty sitting up or lying down since I had my 2 c-sections! And from what I've read, since you can't splint an abdominal muscle or really fully rest it, it can take at least 6 weeks to heal! Man, this SUCKS.

The thing is, it could be worse. A lot worse.

If there is anything I have learned from studying and practicing counselling over the past few years, it's that it is important to keep perspective. This is easy to say but not so easy to do. It's too easy to become mired in the minutiae of our lives, after all, this is what we face every day.

But after just a few months of working as a counsellor, I have met many people who have experienced unspeakable trauma and loss. I am always most fascinated by the ones who show optimism and resilience in the face of enormous hurdles and challenges and I always question whether I could cope as well should I be so unfortunate.

Outside of the fertility clinic, a lot of the work I have been doing is anger management training. This often involves using cognitive restructuring. After all, one of the ways to avoid losing control of one's emotions and getting angry requires putting things in perspective. Like if the guy driving the Toyota cuts you off, and you miss the light, is it really a big deal in the grand scheme of things?

So this is what I tell myself today. My tooth will get better. My abs will get better and maybe, hopefully so will my tendonitis. None of these things are serious and I am blessed with so many things, it really makes little sense to ruminate about these minor inconveniences.

Lately, just to remind myself how lucky I am and to be inspired on a daily basis, I have been reading the blog: The Great Balancing Act (http://thegreatbalancingact.com/) written by Susan, a 25 year old fellow Canadian health professional, who recently found out that she has cancer. Her strength and courage are truly amazing and each time I read her blog, I am reminded how important it is to maintain perspective and gratitude.

Monday, August 22, 2011

Superfood Muffins

Some days my girls will gobble down bowls of coleslaw, or battle for the last baby brussel sprout, carrot or broccoli spear. Some weeks neither of them will allow ANYTHING in the vegetable family to pass their lips. If you are a parent, you know this is par-for-the-course with young children.

I have learned not to worry (too much) about their nutritional intake when the girls have declared a moratorium on veggies. But I do still try to compensate, when I can, by throwing pureed greens into their pancakes or muffins or serving them kale chips as a snack.

Or I make them foods I know they enjoy using superfoods from the other food groups. Like these muffins, which may not have spinach in them, but thanks to the quinoa, flax, chia seeds, and blueberries, are chock full of protein, omega-3 fats, fibre, vitamins and minerals.

You can easily make them vegan by replacing the eggs with flax eggs and the milk with a dairy-free alternative. They are already gluten-free if you use quinoa flour like I did.

3 ripe bananas, mashed
2 omega-3 eggs
2 tbls organic canola oil
3/4 cup-1 cup sugar or sugar alternative (I used 1/4 cup stevia that measures equal to sugar, plus 1/2 cup xylitol)*
1 cup milk
1 tsp vanilla extract

2.5 cups organic quinoa flour (or other whole grain flour)**
1/2 cup organic ground flax seeds
2 tbls chia seeds
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

1 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Stir together dry ingredients in a large bowl and toss in blueberries. In medium bowl, whisk together wet ingredients. Make a well in dry ingredients and add the wet. Stir until mixed. Scrape batter into greased mini muffin tins and bake at 350F for about 15 minutes. If you use larger muffin tins, you will have to bake for a bit longer. Makes about 20 mini-muffins.

**There are lots of sugar substitutes out now besides aspartame and sucralose. So far sucralose is considered perfectly safe, but if you have issues about using it, try some of the others like xylitol or stevia, which I suppose you could argue are more "natural". Just read labels carefully to make sure how they compare to sugar in terms of sweetness because this can vary drastically from one brand to another!

**If you do use quinoa flour, you might want to use a bit more sweetener as it is a bit bitter. If your kids are really picky, try using kamut flour which looks like white flour and produces a tender crumb. Quinoa flour products smell like quinoa when warm, but this dissipates once they cool.

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Spin, Bounce and Glide

This weekend was the 2011 Can-Fit-Pro conference here in Toronto. It attracts presenters and fitness professionals from around the world.

Unfortunately, as I mentioned last year, I don't always enjoy it. The quality of the presenters and the sessions and workshops varies dramatically, and spending 24/7 for 3 straight days with thousands of other fitness professionals and fitness-related retail companies (in the tradeshow) can be psychologically (and financially) draining.

To make matters worse, this year Adam didn't attend so I was on my own. At least this meant childcare wasn't an issue.

As per usual there were highs and lows during my conference experience. The biggest low was a spinning session with a presenter who lacked any dynamism and didn't offer any new information at all. The lecture was a waste of time, but the workout she gave was worse. It was so boring I almost hung myself from the rafters of the room with my towel. Imagine 45 minutes of generic, techno (thump-thump music) which sounded identical for the entire class, with very little variation in terrain. We were seated in the saddle for all but 45 seconds of the whole class. I'm not exaggerating! This was not ideal for my butt, which is still somewhat tender from my cortisone shot.

There were also fewer "free samples" at the tradeshow. That's usually the best part! I did manage to snag a few boxes of Vector cereal for the girls - They LOVE eating cereal out of little boxes - as well as a Larabar, a Weider energy bar, some Lakota and LivRelief muscle pain relief creams, a one day supply of vitamins and supplements, super-oxygenated water, protein drink, smoothie shaker cup, and caffeine gum (for Adam), 10-calorie Vitamin Water, 2 workout towels, and unlimited tastes of various protein bars and sugar-free energy drinks. They also had veal sandwiches, hard-boiled eggs, and chocolate milk samples available. Now that I put it all down on paper, I guess I did pretty well in the "free" swag department afterall!

I also managed to score a few times in the sessions. I did two sessions with one of my favorite fitness preseters - Mindy Mylrea (http://www.mindymylrea.com/). What an inspiration! She is 50 and has 3 sons ranging in age from 19-26 and is astonishingly fit. She is also smart, hilariously funny and very creative.

She is the creator of the Gliding workout series. It's a very simple concept and one of those things that makes me think, "Damn, why didn't I think of that?" It's little disks you place under your hands or feet to allow you to slide your body in various ways giving you a multitude of options for building muscle strength and endurance. I used them when I was teaching my Brazilian Butt Lift class at the Toronto Athletic Club and loved them. I did a fantastic session on using them for core exercises and was blown away - my core is @#$%* SORE today!! Immediately afterwards I purchased a pair for myself. My physiotherapist has been telling me to try and find ways to increase the difficulty of my core training and I think these are perfect for this purpose.

Mindy has a vast array of fitness DVDs, including a bunch using Gliders as well as some for the BOSU ball. Immediately after the Core session I did with her, I did a BOSU session. We have a BOSU ball at home and I love BOSUs so I purchased one of her BOSU workout DVDs for an extra $5 along with the Gliders for $20.

If you are sick of doing the same exercises and activities, I highly recommend trying a workout using the BOSU (they cost about $135) or the Gliders. If money is an issue, you could probably use paper plates (seriously!) to get the same effect as the Gliders.

Mindy's philosophy is that when it comes to exercise, more isn't better, better is better. In other words, do the most efficient exercise possible to get the biggest bang for your buck. But I would also add that variety is better. When you challenge your body in new and different ways, you can achieve greater fitness gains. So try something new, there are endless options available these days.

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Shot in the Ass

After 2 years of chronic pain I finally got some answers:

The MRI of my pelvis shows swelling in the tendon that attaches my left hamstring to my pelvis and in the pelvic bone where the tendon attaches!

By the way, I'm kind of being sarcastic about the significance of this. It's not surprising there is swelling in that exact area since that's where I'VE BEEN FEELING PAIN FOR 2 YEARS!!

I guess the good news is it tells us what it isn't: it isn't a tear or a fracture or a joint problem. It also meant that I am a good candidate for the cortisone shot. So I got a huge needle in the ass today. It hurt like hell, but I'd be willing to do it 50 more times if it will take the pain away permanently. Unfortunately, I can only get one more shot if this first one doesn't take and I have to wait a few weeks to see if it has been successful.

What bugs me is we still don't know the why. But the doctor said that given the nature and location of this injury it is very likely that as my pelvis shifted position to accomodate my pregnancy with Little A, this area became more vulnerable and I somehow injured it and once it became injured, it became continuously irritated by any pressure on the area (i.e. sitting).

Ah well, at least I now have ammunition to use for future guilt trips on Little A: Look at what I endured for you!!!

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Get the Most Out of Your Cardio Machine

For most people, exercising on a cardio machine is not their favorite way to work out, but it is often the only, or at least most realistic option.

While these machines do not provide the most stimulating, scenic route to cardiovascular fitness, they can provide an excellent workout. Here are some tips to get the most out of them.

1. Wear a heart rate monitor to gage your intensity.

Don't rely on how much you sweat or your speed alone. The more stationary the activity, the less of a chance your sweat has to evaporate. In addition, the amount you sweat is determined by genetics, the temperature of the environment, your fitness level, hydration, etc.

Speed is only one factor that determines intensity. For example, walking on a steep incline can require more energy output than jogging on a flat surface.

2. If you use an elliptical, ensure you are using it efficiently.

I am not a big fan of elliptical machines because they are not a functional form of activity (they don't mimic a type of movement we use in everyday life) and most people don't use them efficiently. Unlike a treadmill where if you don't keep up you'll fly off the back of the machine and smash into the wall behind you, there isn't much of a penalty on these machines. In addition, most people are not actually fit enough to push hard on them, so they either use too little resistance, or too much resistance so that they are not able to move fast enough to get their heart rate up. If you do favour the elliptical, at least use a HR monitor so that you can make sure you are working in your target HR zone.

3. Change it up.

Don't do the same workout every day, particularly, if you tend to only use one kind of machine. Most machines offer a variety of programs, like hills, intervals, etc.

4. Don't pay attention to the calorie reading.

These machines are notorious for being inaccurate. This is partly because calorie usage depends not only on your weight, but your body composition (ratio of fat mass to muscle mass), fitness level, and familiarity with the activity). If weight loss/maintenance is one of your goals, simply aim to burn as many calories as you can and don't worry what the actual number is.

5. Don't cheat.

Holding on and leaning your weight on these machines can significantly decrease the amount of energy you are expending. On something like a stairmaster or stepmill, keep your hands lightly resting on the upper handles (never place your hands upside down with fingertips facing the floor on the lower rails). When your palms get sweaty, place a towel on the upper rails so you don't slip and start having to hang off them.

When doing interval programs on stairmasters and stepmills, try taking your hands off the machine and pumping your arms to really push on the intervals and lightly rest hands on upper rails during recovery periods.

You should never hold on when on a treadmill, unless you absolutely have to do so for safety reasons. Pump your arms to increase intensity.

6. Use entertainment wisely.

Studies show that music can increase the intensity of a workout by motivating us to keep up with the beat. So if speed is one of your goals and you enjoy listening to music, use songs with a faster beat.

Save reading for the stationary bike or low-intensity workouts/warm-ups, otherwise trying to focus on the words will likely interfere with your performance.

If, like me, you need television to be entertained, just ensure it is not compromising your performance. Use a HR monitor and don't spend so much time fiddling with the remote control, etc. that you aren't pushing as hard as you could.

Monday, August 15, 2011

The Truth About Cats and Dogs

If you ask me, there are 4 types of people in the world:
1. Cat lovers;
2. Dog lovers;
3. Cat and dog lovers (these folks generally like most animals), and
4. Folks who don't like cats or dogs (these people usually don't like any animals all that much).

I have ALWAYS been part of the cat lover camp and this seems to be a trait that I was born with.

Neither of my parents grew up with cats and we did not have cats when I was very young. Nevertheless, by 18 months of age, I showed an unusual affinity for cats.

I was very attached to my stuffed cat, "Chiggy". Little did I know that over the years I had 3 Chiggies because my over-zealous love for this object destroyed these toys rather quickly. Unfortunately, when the third Chiggy lost its' head when I was 3 years old when I wacked my taunting brother with her, my grandmother - who had purchased all 3 - discovered that the manufacturing company was no longer making this doll. I was stuck with a decapitated kitty that my mom was unable to resuscitate with a needle and thread. Eventually, Chiggy looked like she had stepped on a landmine because it took a heavy dose of duct tape to keep her together and as time went on, she developed "wounds" all over her body.

But I did not care. Chiggy was still the love of my life and I took her with me everywhere and slept with her every night until I was about 6 or 7.

Even though I had Chiggy as my loyal companion, I wanted a real cat. I must have begged my parents for a cat almost every day for the first 10 years of my life. Unfortunately, my older brother suffered from a host of serious allergies including cats and dogs and asthma. So we were stuck with goldfish and hamsters as pets. Although I generally liked all animals, these were poor substitutes for the pet of my dreams.

Then when I turned 11, my dream came true. My parents agreed to let us get some kittens. My brother had outgrown most of his allergies by then and my mom's colleague, who lived on a farm and had a cat that had just had a litter, offered us a perfect deal: we could take 2 kittens home for a few weeks, and if my brother showed any signs of an allergic reaction, she would take them back. Of course, I knew immediately that would never happen, fate could never be so cruel!

And I was right!

I will never forget the day I first laid eyes on the first real feline love of my life. The litter included 3 grey tabbies, a marmalade cat (who had already been spoken for) and a calico. We walked into the farm house and I quickly spied the calico sleeping on a pillow. I immediately went into a trance and started pointing and repeating, "THAT ONE IS MINE". And so it was.

My mom's colleague had named each of them after a rock and roll song. The calico was Maggie Mae and the tabby my brother chose was Ziggy Stardust. But because Maggie Mae had 3 extra toes on her front paws, it looked like she was wearing enormous, white furry mittens. So I renamed her "Miss Maggie Mae Mittens" but she quickly became known as just "Mittens" or "Mitty".

Every waking minute I was home, I spent smothering Mittens with hugs and kisses. Sometimes this was welcomed, but other times she hid from me to get some rest from the constant attention.

Nevertheless, all this affection paid off. Mittens grew into an incredibly affectionate animal. She loved to snuggle and had a funny habit of licking people's eyes with her rough tongue. She also loved to lie on my dad every night while he watched the late news and gaze lovingly into his eyes. We speculated that she had fallen in love with his fuzzy (bearded) face.

Ziggy was very affectionate too, however, he preferred to sit at the bottom of my mom's bed each night while she read.

Both Mittens and Ziggy were very responsive animals with distinctive personalities and funny qwerks. They both LOVED people food. Some favorites were not surprising (meat, fish, etc.) while others were simply bizarre. Ziggy favoured green leafy veggies and, in particular, the leaves from broccoli. If you dared to leave a salad out, half of it would be gone before you knew it! He also loved Haagen Daz vanilla almond fudge, hummus, and matzo. Mittens loved all bread and sweets. These items had to be well hidden or they were quickly devoured. I once left a batch of muffins cooling on the counter and when I returned to the kitchen, the top of every one had at least one bite out of it. Mittens also loved anything with a tomato sauce, such as pasta or baked beans. Both cats adored Stoned Wheat Thin crackers, and could identify the particular sound of that package being opened.

When I left for university, I reluctantly left Mittens living with my parents. But my devotion to her and Ziggy remained strong, so much so, that more than one boyfriend over the years accused me of caring more for the cats than I did for them. I did.

It was a very sad day when she was 16 years old that my mom called to tell me that Mittens had been put to sleep because of chronic illness. I was heartbroken. She was such a loving animal that she had become a favorite at the vet's office and my mom told me that even some of the staff cried. Ziggy had to be put down shortly thereafter.

A few years later in 1998, I decided it was time for me to get more cats. I purchased a pure-bred Siamese kitten (Lester) from a breeder, and a Russian Blue (Milo) from a cat rescue. These tiny animals were beautiful and I instantly fell in love all over again, particularly with Lester, who quickly became my new baby. My love for them was so strong, that when Adam showed up to pick me up for our first date, the self-professed animal hater with a severe allergy, claimed to "like" cats because he instantly sensed my devotion to them. On our second date, he tried to tell me that the sudden onset of congestion, sneezing and wheezing he developed was a cold. On our third date, he reluctantly admitted the truth. But he tolerated the cats for years, even after he moved in with me.

Unfortunately everything changed about a month before Big A was born. Adam's allergist told him that living (and sleeping) with cats was damaging his health. He warned him that he may not be able to live with them much longer and most certainly had to get them out of our bed at night. Although I was devastated, things were going south in other ways too. When we moved into our house, Lester did not adjust to the change. Both cats - particularly Lester - objected to being banned from our bedroom at night. They sat at our bedroom door meowing incessantly and scratching at the carpet. We weren't getting any sleep. When Big A arrived things got worse. They weren't used to having to share my attention. Lester's fur began to lose its lustre and started falling out in clumps. He became extremely skinny and sick looking. He was clearly depressed.

None of the suggestions our vet gave us helped. It was clear, both for Adam's sake, and for the cats, they had to go.

But finding a good home for grown cats is tough. The Humane Society would not take them. The one cat shelter I found was disgusting and was raided and shut down less than 2 weeks after we visited. I emailed everyone I knew, but there were few hopeful solutions.

Then a miracle happened. Hours after posting a plea on the Chatelaine magazine pets forum, a woman - K - contacted me. She had been looking for a Russian Blue, and was happy to take both cats. She had 3 daughters, one with autism, who benefits from being around animals and having grown cats was more appropriate for this purpose. She was willing to drive 3 hours from their home to Toronto to pick them up. I instantly knew in my heart that this was the perfect solution.

K and her husband turned out to be "salt-of-the-earth" folks and we loved them and trusted them right away. I became Facebook friends with K and she frequently posted pics of the cats with her girls. I could tell from the photos that they were happy - snuggling with the kids and prancing around their house and garden. Lester's fur became radiant and he filled out again. K provided me with periodic updates on their daily antics.

So it was somewhat surprising for me when she sent me a note yesterday to let me know that Lester had been put to sleep. He had developed kidney failure and was clearly suffering. It felt like a punch in the gut.

To be honest, I don't think about cats much anymore, and have no desire to have any pets. It isn't possible because of Adam's allergies, but I also feel no need for the added responsibility.

Interestingly, Big A has followed in Adam's foot steps and exhibits more fear than affection for animals, but Little A is already smitten with all living creatures...particularly with kitty cats! Although I realize that her heart may be broken one day when she discovers that until she leaves our home she will never have one of her own, it warms my heart to see her shrieking with delight as she pets the soft fur of one of the neighbourhood cats.





RIP Lester!

Friday, August 12, 2011

Chocoberry Crumble

What better way to celebrate the bounty of fresh fruit during summer than with a crumble? Maybe one that includes chocolate??

Berries are ridiculously healthy and delicious, but also highly perishable. They generally only last in the fridge a few days. Just DO NOT throw out your over-ripe, mushy berries! They are still perfectly good for baking with.

For most recipes, you can always use frozen berries if you don't have any fresh available.

1 lb strawberries, halved
1 pint blueberries
1 pint raspberries
2 tbls whole wheat flour
1/4 cup dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

1.5 cups oats
1/4 cup cocoa powder
2 tbls whole wheat flour
1/4 cup agave syrup
2 tbls coconut oil, melted

In large bowl, toss berries with flour and chocolate chips. Turn into large, greased baking dish.

Combine dry ingredients for topping in medium bowl. Stir in syrup and oil and mix until combined. Spread topping over berry mixture. Bake at 350F for about 30 minutes. Serve plain or with chocolate ice cream or frozen yogurt.

Thursday, August 11, 2011

Israeli Bulgur, Chickpea and Veggie Bowl

Last night's dinner experiment was a success!

I should point out that the 20% of the time that my experiments don't work, it's not because they taste bad, it's usually that they are bland or not exciting, for my tastes. You really should not be afraid to experiment in the kitchen, that is often how wonderful discoveries occur!

I realize that those of you in less cosmopolitan places than Toronto may not be able to find "Amba", but you could easily substitute mango chutney, abricot jam, (and omit the pomegranate molasses or other sweetener) or simply puree a mango with about 2 tbls cider vinegar. Remember that recipes are just a guide, and you always have the freedom to adjust to what you have available and to your own personal tastes.

1.5 cups medium bulgur
2.5 cups water
1 can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
4 small zucchini, cut into thin strips
2 red bell peppers, cut into quarters
1 onion, cut into chunks
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp olive oil
4 tbls red wine vinegar
Salt and pepper, to taste

Sauce
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp kosher salt
2 tbls pomegranate molasses (or honey or agave syrup)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
4 tbls Amba (or other options mentioned above)
1 cup plain yogurt
Dash cayenne pepper (optional)

Optional: Chopped green onions, fresh mint and/or parsley

Toss veggies with oil, vinegar, garlic, salt and pepper. Either grill until tender, or roast in the oven on baking sheets for about 30-40 minutes. Place water in saucepan and bring to a boil. Stir in Bulgur, turn off heat and cover. Allow the water to absorb (10 or so minutes) and set aside.

While veggies and bulgur is cooking, prepare dressing. Whisk together all the ingredients in a medium bowl. Adjust sweeteness, and seasoning to taste.

When veggies are cool enough to handle, roughly chop. Use a fork to transfer bulgur to large serving dish, making sure to seperate grains. Add chickpeas and stir in sauce. Mix in veggies and green onions and/or fresh herbs (if using). Serve warm or at room temperature. Serves 4 as a main course meal or 6-8 as a hearty side dish.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Flava Flave

What is food?

In simplest terms it is essential fuel for our bodies. A purely physiological need.

But for humans, as opposed to animals, it is also much more than that.

As social beings with complex cognitive abilities, we often meet emotional and psychological needs with our food too.

Since food is usually a key part of culture, ritual and celebration, this is natural and healthy.

It can also be unhealthy if social and emotional cues to eat override our physiological needs leading to obesity and chronic illness. Occasional overeating or eating foods with little nutritional value because we feel social pressure to eat or are celebrating or are trying to fill an emotional void are part and parcel of life. It's when this type of behaviour becomes habitual that it usually begins to negatively affect our physical or mental health and is problematic.

But the reality is, most of us eat with our eyes, noses, hearts and brains, as well as our stomachs. If we didn't, we would all be satisfied to get the exact nutrition we need from a neutral source, like a pet hamster who eats the same dry pellets every day. Now, I have met a few people in my lifetime who feel eating is merely a chore and claim they wish they could get by by just popping vitamin pills, but for most of us, food is a source of pleasure and enjoyment. We want to eat a variety of foods that look good, smell good and make us feel good inside and out.

Personally, I have to love every bite I put in my mouth. If I don't, I find that even if my belly is full, I am still not satisfied.

We typically think of comfort food as heavy, high fat foods that contain butter, cream, bacon, sugar, and/or refined carbohydrates. But I would argue that there is much pleasure and comfort to be had in healthy food. You just need great flavour and aroma...and presentation helps too!

This is where herbs and spices come in. They are a fundamental part of cooking and eating AND they are nutritious and health promoting. Every day researchers seem to be discovering more health benefits of herbs and spices. Cinnamon, for example, helps to balance blood sugar. Turmeric has anti-inflammatory and anti-carcinogenic properties. Oregano is full of nutrients, is a potent anti-oxident and has anti-bacterial properties. And most herbs and spices are low-calorie and fat-free!

What's more, there are a gazillion herbs and spices out there that can tantalize your taste buds and add excitement and variety to your cooking.

If you are not a fan of 'spicy' food, please understand that it is primarily just chili peppers that provide heat (although warm spices, like cinnamon and ginger can add some bite if used in large enough quantity - like really large!) so don't shy away from using anything called a 'spice'.

Spice simply refers to: any dried seed, fruit, root, bark, or plant substance used in nutritionally insignificant quantities in food to impart flavor, aroma, and/or color.

Herbs are leafy, green plant parts used for flavoring in food.

If you are not sure what you like and don't like, don't be afraid to experiment.

If you don't know what spices and herbs go well together, it's easy to find this information. You can buy a cookbook that teaches you the basics of a particular type of cuisine (i.e. Thai, Indian, Italian, etc.) or look online. Start with a recipe, if you need to, and then let your creativity loose.

I rarely use recipes. Instead, I create my own, inspired by a particular ingredient: fresh produce at the market, some meat or fish I purchased, or a new herb, spice or condiment I want to experiment with.

For example, last week I was shopping at the No Frills here in Toronto at Bathurst and Wilson. Canadians know that this is the down-scale version of Loblaws, that is less expensive and usually offers a much smaller selection of products. This location, however, is an exception. I recently discovered that because it caters to the surrounding Orthodox Jewish community, it is well-stocked with all sorts of brands and products I have never seen elsewhere.

I found a product with a Hebrew and English label called "Amba". The ingredients included mango and spices. Hmm, I was intrigued. I bought a jar and Googled it when I got home. It is apparently a common condiment used in Israeli and Middle-Eastern cuisine. Unlike most chutneys I find, it has no added sugar, which is always an added bonus. Instead of just using it along side falafel, shawarma (which I don't make anyways), pita or eggs, as is typically done, I decided to create my own "Israeli inspired" dish and use it as a flavouring.

I did a bit of research online to see what flavours and ingredients are commonly used in Israeli food (aside from the obvious chickpeas, lemon, bulgur, etc.) and found that cumin, coriander, garlic, and pomegranate are also ubiquitous.

Sooooo, for tonight's dinner I am putting together a meal with grilled zucchini, red peppers and onions, mixed with chickpeas and bulgur in a yogurt-based dressing flavoured with some of the Amba, fresh lemon juice, pomegranate molasses, garlic, cumin and coriander. Will it be a success? Honestly, I would say that at least 80% of my experiments turn out great. If this one is successful, I promise I'll post the recipe tomorrow.

To be honest, I sometimes come up with fantastic concoctions but don't post the recipes because they include rather exotic or obscure ingredients - one of the BEST things about living in Toronto is the access to such a wide variety of ethnic foods. If you are interested in some of these, feel free to contact me.

Some of my favourites that I have found around town are currently:

*Chinese five spice powder (look for a good quality one made with star anise)
*Fennel seeds
*Malaysian curry powder
*West Indian curry powder
*Fennugreek seeds (which I toasted and ground myself)
*Whole cardamom pods (which I ground myself)
*Ground cinnamon from Costco (I swear it is yummier and more flavourful than any other brand I've tried!)
*Tuscan herb and spice blend from Costco (amazing on Italian pasta dishes, pizza, marinated veggies, meats and fish, etc.)

Grinding your own seeds and making your own spice blends is simple. You can use a mortar and pestle or simply buy a spice grinder or coffee grinder. You won't regret it!

Even if you never try making one of the crazy, experimental recipes that I do post, I urge you to play around with herbs and spices to elevate your own meals to a whole new level. They can make, what otherwise seems like ordinary foods such as oatmeal, chicken, rice or beans, exciting, comforting, satisfying and delicious.

And don't forget about aromatics like citrus zest (lemon, lime, orange and grapefruit), fresh and dried fruits, beers and wines, and the myriad of available vinegars to liven up your cooking without adding excess salt, sugar or fat.

As the saying goes: "Variety is the Spice of Life."

Monday, August 8, 2011

Mango Strawberry Crumble

I brought this dessert to the BBQ last night and it was a hit so I thought I'd share the recipe.

4 cups fresh or frozen mango chunks
1 lb fresh or frozen strawberries, halved
2 tbls whole wheat flour

Topping
1.5 cups oats
1/4 cup packed brown sugar
4 tbls whole wheat flour
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp ground cardamom
2 tbls coconut oil, melted

Stir fruit with flour and turn into a greased oven-proof dish. In a large bowl, combine the ingredients for the topping and then pour it evenly over the fruit. Bake at 350F for 30 minutes or until top is golden. Serve warm or at room temperature either plain or with vanilla yogurt or ice cream.

Friends, Siblings, Countrymen

Who is your family? What does "family" mean to you?

Counselling in the family-building industry has taught me that genetic ties are only one kind of kinship. We see clients who are close with their parents and siblings and are desperate to create a family with genetic links. We also see people who are completely estranged from their biological families and are completely unconcerned with having biological ties to their children. Adoption, egg donation and sperm donation are common scenarios.

So family can mean blood or it can mean emotional ties that we build. But this is a lesson I've learned in my own life too.

This past weekend was fabulous. My mom was visiting, because like every summer, my dad is in Cambridge, England for a few months collaborating on various academic projects with a long-time friend and colleague at the university there.

Saturday we went to my brother's house for dinner and had a great time while the kids played together.

I love that the girls have so many cousins nearby. They adore my brother's kids as well as Adam's sister's daughter who also lives in Toronto, and his brother's son (who unfortunately live in Vancouver).

My kids are so fortunate to be able to see some of their wonderful cousins on a regular basis. This is a privelege that my brother and I never had growing up. My parents came to Canada with my brother a few years before I was born, leaving their entire extended family scattered across New York state, and on my dad's side, in Los Angeles.

We were lucky to see many of them once a year.

Nevertheless, I consider myself extremely fortunate because we grew up as part of an incredible, tight-knit community in Kingston, the small city where my parents still live, who, for all-intents-and-purposes are like family to us.

Yesterday afternoon, my friend Sheri, who is one of the most loyal, sincere, and generous persons I know, came by with her two boys. I have only known Sheri for about 12 years, but I feel like she is virtually family too (we met at a gym I used to work at while running beside one another on treadmills). When she moved to a house a 10 minute walk from ours a few years ago, I was over-joyed. In a city the size of Toronto, one doesn't always get so lucky.

I am also still very close with friends I have known since I was a baby. These friendships are so incredibly special to me. Even when we haven't seen each other for months, when we do get together, it's like no time has passed.

Yesterday evening, my friend Jess, who I have known since grade 2, hosted a BBQ at her house because my friend Em is visiting with her family from Vancouver. Even though Jess lives in Toronto, we don't see each other as often as we would like because we live across the city from each other, and when you have kids and busy lives this is enough to make it difficult to connect. Yet when we do get together, we always have a great time and Big A and her daughter, who is 6 months older, play together beautifully.

Em, who I have known since kindergarten, I see maybe once or twice a year, but that doesn't matter, she will ALWAYS be one of my best friends. She brought her whole brood to Toronto and we got to meet her 11 month old daughter for the first time, and see how much her 4 year old son had grown.

How cool is it that I got to sit and visit with special friends last night, while our children played together having a fabulous time like we used to do when we were their age?

As a kid I always wanted a sister. Now I feel like I have many sisters. Friends of mine like Em and Jess, who I have known most of my life, and people like my 3 amazing sister-in-laws (Adam's sister, my brother's wife, and Adam's brother's wife). Does it matter that none of them are biologically my sister? Of course not!

So I am doubly blessed. I have a wonderful extended biological family AND a huge extended non-biological family. I try to keep this in mind when the girls fight, which lately is all the time. I desperately want them to grow up to be close friends, but the reality is, that may not happen. Their personalities may clash or circumstances might interfere, like they may find themselves living half a world apart. I only hope that if theirs is not a tie that binds, hopefully they will have others to fill that role - their cousins or closest friends. I hope that they are as lucky as I am.

Saturday, August 6, 2011

Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights?

Do you find it confusing to make sense of all the health information floating around out there?

If so, don't feel bad, there's a good reason for that. First, the information changes quickly, second, the media often does a poor job of interpreting research accurately. Even the most intelligent, well-read individuals can end up having serious misconceptions about fitness and nutrition facts.

Take my own mother, for instance, who happens to be one of the smartest persons I know. She often has slightly inaccurate beliefs about this stuff, like when she recently told me she's almost completely given up eating rice because it is so high in calories and replaced it with quinoa.

Huh? I tried to explain to her that rice and quinoa have comparable caloric values. Quinoa is higher in protein, but replacing rice with quinoa is not going to change anything from an energy intake perspective unless one finds quinoa more filling, and therefore eats less.

But I am sure she is not the only one who holds misconceptions about fitness, nutrition and health.

Fortunately, if you are looking for a source of information that will cut through the confusion and tell it to you straight, do I have the book for you! Written by Alex Hutchinson, PhD, who also writes a great weekly column for the Globe & Mail, Which Comes First, Cardio or Weights? is perfect for fitness/nutrition newbies and seasoned athletes alike.

The book contains chapters on:

1. Getting started in an exercise regime
2. Fitness gear
3. Exercise physiology
4. Cardio
5. Strength and power
6. Flexibility and core strength
7. Injuries and recovery
8. Exercise and aging
9. Weight management
10. Nutrition and hydration
11. Mind and body
12. The competitive edge

Alex does an excellent job of clearly explaining the latest research findings. He debunks many common myths about fitness and nutrition and provides a lot of useful information.

The book is available through Amazon.ca and Amazon.com and I highly recommend it for anyone interested in improving their knowledge about fitness and/or their health and physical performance.

Friday, August 5, 2011

The Pain in My Ass

Its now been about 2 years that I've had pain in my glute/hamstring insertion area.

At first it was annoying but now it's ridiculous.

Over 18 months of physio and while the pain has improved because I now know how to manage it, the frequency of the pain has become all the more constant. I don't think there is a person in the world who has done more planks and bridges (rehab to strengthen my core and pelvis) and where has it gotten me?

Sitting without pain is impossible unless I sit on a yoga block or roll up a towel to sit on. Lying in bed on my left side even causes pain now.

Nothing showed up on the MRI of my spine, but we're still waiting to hear back about the MRI of my pelvis.

Nevertheless, I am hopeful for the first time in ages that things might improve. I saw another sports med doctor yesterday and he has several new approaches that we are going to try. When he suggested trying a totally different treatment strategy I nearly kissed him. If he'd suggested I just go do more planks and bridges, I would have kicked him in the kneecaps (he's a very tall man).

First we are going to do cortisone injections. If that doesn't work nitroglycerin injections, if that doesn't work, glucose water injections, if that doesn't work, freezing the area with injections. My bum is going to look like a pin cushion! The idea is to either numb the pain, or create a new irritation in the tissue to stimulate my body to do some healing because he feels my body just isn't recognizing the area as something that needs to be healed. Frankly, I'd agree to have just about ANYTHING injected into my butt if I thought it would help.

Cross your fingers for me, hopefully SOMETHING will work!

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Objets D'art

Are you artistic?

As an adult when people ask me that I always answer with an emphatic "Not at all!"

Which is ironic really, because until I was about 11 or 12 years old, I was artistic. I was happy to spend literally hours drawing, colouring or painting. My parents were convinced that I was going to be an architect or interior designer.

But by the time I started highschool, that all changed. I don't really know why. But everything became about academics. Drawing, painting and colouring was replaced with reading and writing.

In fact, the only visual arts course I took was photography and I only took it because I had to in order to get my diploma.

Nevertheless, I have retained my interest in architecture and interior design...I could watch HGTV for hours!

So perhaps because of this, something's been bugging me for a long time now.

When we moved into our house a month before Big A was born, we painted the entire house. I purposely left the two smaller bedrooms plain white. We didn't know the gender of Big A during the pregnancy, and I was reluctant to commit to some colour scheme or decor knowing that those two bedrooms would one day be inhabited by two children with their own taste.

When Big A moved out of the nursery to the bigger of the two second bedrooms, I still didn't want to commit or to invest a lot of money in art or decor so I settled on wall stickers. But I was never happy with how they looked (mostly because I did a crappy job of arranging them on her walls).

For several years now I have been contemplating what to do. We don't have money for REAL art and I can't do anything myself...can I? Eventually I started to think about trying to do some art projects myself. After all, I spent more than the first decade of my life engrossed in arts and crafts. These are kids rooms, after all, they call for simple things: lots of pink, Dora, Elmo, flowers, butterflies and sparkles...lots of sparkles!

So when we moved Little A out of the crib and into a bed a few weeks ago, I decided it was time to take a crack at this.

Could I pull off making anything decent enough to hang on the girls' walls?

This last one is just a shot of Little A's new bed. Cute huh?
Okay, this stuff is not going to end up in a museum some day, I doubt it will even follow them to their university dorms. But all the supplies cost about $125, the girls are absolutely thrilled AND I have rediscovered a love for art!

Now that the pieces are all complete, I am going into withdrawal. When I paint or draw, time flies by. I feel neither hungry nor thirsty nor tired nor stressed. I become completely engrossed in the work. I am completely IN LOVE.

Unfortunately, we lack much extra wall space for me to keep decorating our house. So you know what that means my precious loved ones? All birthday presents from now on are going to be handcrafted works of art. Hee hee!

Monday, August 1, 2011

The RSVP

Last night I surprised Adam with a little birthday get together with his friends at a pub.

Adam's friends mean so much to him, but like a lot of men, he doesn't reach out to them as much as he'd like to. I knew that he would like nothing more than to see them in a relaxed setting to celebrate his birthday.

Unfortunately, it being a long weekend in Canada, MOST of the people on the invite list had already made plans to be away. Can't fault folks for trying to make the most out of the last long weekend of the summer before Labour day.

What I DO fault people for, however, is not even giving me an RSVP! With the exception of our wedding, every event Adam and I have thrown since we've been together has been plagued with the problem of people failing to respond to the invitation.

Seriously, WHAT IS UP WITH THAT?

Am I the only person who sees that as horribly rude and inconsiderate???

The exception last night was Adam's friend Dave, who lives an hour outside of Toronto and we haven't seen for 2 years since his wedding. He didn't RSVP but showed up, giving both Adam and I a lovely surprise.

I just don't get it. Is it the medium? I always send "Evites" because I figure that makes it easiest for people to respond. How hard is it to take 2 seconds to click a button with your mouse?

Am I wrong? Should I be calling people? Should I be sending invitations in the mail?

Or am I just out of the loop with modern social customs and it is now completely acceptable to not respond to a party invitation?

If you have any insights on this, PLEASE LET ME KNOW!!