Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Diabetes is Becoming an Epidemic. So Why Should You Care?

I am sure you must have heard by now that Type II diabetes has become an epidemic.  It is one of the many chronic health conditions associated with obesity and a poor lifestyle.  In Canada, experts estimate that there will be 4.2 million of us diagnosed with diabetes by 2020.  Many people (1-in-5)have prediabetes and don't even know it, and what's scary, is that 70% of people with prediabetes will go on to develop diabetes.  You could be one of them!!

So what?  You'll just pop some pills or take a few needles?  Or start eating cinnamon buns instead of donuts?  Not so fast!  Here are some of the things that can go along with being diabetic:

- Vision problems/blindness
- Greater risk of dementia
- Greater risk of gum/oral infections
- Greater risk of heart attack and stroke
- Neuropathy
- Digestive problems
- Kidney failure
- Foot/leg amputations

Doesn't sound fun, does it??

So who is at risk of Type 2 diabetes?  You have a greater risk if you are:

- Older
- Male
- A woman diagnosed with gestational diabetes
- A person with a parent or sibling with diabetes
- Have ever been diagnosed with high blood pressure
- Sedentary
- Overweight

So what should you do?  Getting screened for prediabetes might be useful if you have any risk factors, and here is what you can do to lower your risk:

- Maintain a healthy weight
- Exercise regularly
- Limit sugar and carbs
- Eat lots of fresh vegetables
- Eat foods containing magnesium
- Avoid saturated fat and trans fat
- Avoid processed meats
- Take a vitamin D supplement

Source: Nutrition Action Health Letter, July/August, 2014

Monday, September 29, 2014

Apple & Honey Upside Down Cake: A Sweet Start to the Sweet New Year!

My heart is very full right now.  It's my favorite time of year, and I feel so incredibly grateful.  We had such a great weekend.  Rosh Hashana and belated birthday celebrations for me Friday with family.  A trip out to the Beaches neighbourhood on Saturday with the girls and a relaxed Sunday.  Adam took the girls swimming at the JCC after their Hebrew School and then we had a girls evening while Adam went to his book club.

The weather is gorgeous and just makes you want to be outside!

For dinner Friday night I made the crumble and this cake.  For the apple lovers, this was a smashing hit.  I am going to be making it again for sure!  Rich, moist apple-y cake covered in spiced apple and honey caramel topping...delish.  But I still managed to make it pretty healthy.  No oil in the cake and the topping is a lot healthier than most frostings!

The picture doesn't do it justice.  It actually looked beautiful but the camera on my phone totally sucks...on top of me being a crappy photographer. 

Apple and Honey Upside Down Cake

1/3 cup coconut oil, butter or Earth Balance
1/3 cup honey (or agave syrup or maple syrup)
1/4 tsp cinnamon
2 lbs apples, peeled and sliced

2 eggs (or flax eggs)
1 cup unsweetened vanilla or plain non-dairy milk + 1 tbls lemon juice
1 cup xylitol or other granular sweetener
1 cup unsweetened apple butter
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 apple, grated

2 cups spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp salt

Bring oil/butter, honey and cinnamon to a boil in a small pot over medium heat.  Remove from heat.  Pour into the bottom of a springform pan, lined with parchment paper.  Arrange apple slices evenly. 

Grate (grind) apple in food processor or blender, or by hand if necessary.  Add remaining wet ingredients to blender and blend until smooth.  Add dry ingredients and pulse until completely mixed.  Pour over apples and bake at 350F for at least 1 hour until toothpick comes out clean and centre is set.  Cover top with foil if it begins to brown too quickly.  Let cool.

To serve, place on a large plate.  Release sides of pan and remove.  Place another plate on top of cake and flip over.  Remove bottom of springform pan and parchment to reveal apple and honey topping.

Friday, September 26, 2014

Apple & Honey Crumble: Have a Sweet New Year

Good morning!  Its Friday and its going to be a hot one!  Weather has been so all over the place, and right now we're back at summer.  As you know I prefer the cooler temps, but at least its sunny...

We are spending the morning at shul again today but then the girls are going back to school for the afternoon.  Tonight we are going to Adam's parents' house for dinner for Rosh Hashana and a belated birthday celebration for me.

The girls were disappointed I didn't make a birthday cake for myself, so Little A asked demanded I make 2 desserts for tonight: an apple crumble and an apple cake.  Okay, why not?

Here is the delicious crumble recipe...

Rosh Hashana Apple & Honey Crumble

6 apples, cored and chopped (I used large Galas)
2 tbls honey
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon

2 cups oats
2 tbls chia seeds
2 tbls coconut flour
1/4 cup coconut oil, butter or Earth Balance, softened
1/4 cup honey (or maple syrup for vegan)

Toss apples with cinnamon and honey and place in a greased baking dish.

Combine topping ingredients with a fork until oil and honey are evenly distributed through dry ingredients.  Bake at 375F for about 40 minutes, or until apples are tender and topping is golden.  Cover with foil if top begins to brown too quickly.  Serve hot or cold with yogurt or ice cream.

Thursday, September 25, 2014

What I'm Loving: Age 40 Edition

Shana Tova!  Its very appropriate that I celebrate Rosh Hashana as I have always felt like September is a time of change and renewal more so than January 1st.

Its also around my birthday, of course, so it really is a time of change for me personally.  I can't really believe that I'm 40 now!  But its fine, no different than 39 or 38 really...

Admittedly, I had a little breakdown a few weeks ago prior to my birthday.  All the old insecurities I have reared their ugly heads and, while assessing just what I've done with my life up until now, I convinced myself that I was a big, worthless failure.

Fortunately, I used my counselling knowledge to reason with myself and was able to drag myself out of it...partially...and was feeling a bit better when my actual birthday rolled around.  Then, miraculously, I woke up the day of my birthday and was all back to normal.  Seriously, I don't know what that was all about, but I've totally bounced back.  Moving on...

I wanted to share with you some of the things I am loving these days.

I wish I could say I was at a point of complete self-acceptance, but I'm not, so this stuff helps, as it really does minimize the appearance of the lines on my forehead!!
L\'Oreal Revitalift Deep-Set Wrinkle Repair Night Creme
I spent the summer in these new compression pants from Pro Compression (I bought 2 pairs).  Love them!  You can wear the waist up (to suck everything in), or roll them down.  They are really flattering and comfy and have a little pocket just big enough for a key and a credit card ;)  I wear them, not only for workouts, but just around on days I am not seeing clients in the office.

Black with Black Piping

I know I've mentioned it a few times already, but I am so loving Essentrics

I no longer do ANY static stretching or yoga and do this program a few times a week instead.  Its taken 10 years+ off how I feel!

These Litre containers of egg whites from President's Choice are a must for me.  I always have at least one in the house.  They are so economical and convenience for adding some protein to my morning oatmeal and for baking.

PC® Blue Menu® Liquid Egg Whites 1kg
One word: Blendtec!
I use this thing several times a day, whether its to make coffee frappes for myself, hummus, or smoothies for the kids.  So awesome and a cinch to clean!!

President's Choice Stevia-Sweetened Water Enhancer

PC® Peach Mango Liquid Water Enhancer

I have no problem drinking plain water...if its ice cold.  If it can't be ice cold, I need a little something in it and this stuff does the trick.
I also can't get enough of Nuts To You tahini and sunflower seed butter...I feel like I am always running out!  My favorite thing to do is make spicy, savoury sauces with them.  Oh so good!
Nuts To You Organic Fair Trade Sesame Tahini

Finally, while I try to snack mostly on fruits, veggies and cheese, something I need a snack that  is a bit more indulgent and for that, I love Quest Double Chocolate Chunk bars.  YUM!

Quest Bar Double Chocolate Chunk (12 Bars)
There you have it...some of the little things that make me happy!  Hope you have a happy day.

We're heading to shul this morning as well as tomorrow morning, so we'll get some family time together with the girls - who are just excited to miss some school!

Happy new year to anyone celebrating.

Wednesday, September 24, 2014

Vanilla Iced Baked Oatmeal Squares (Gluten-free, Sugar-free & Vegan)

Pie R Square? No, Pie is Round!

I know, I'm hilarious.

If you have little kids, you know how important shape, colour and appearance are to them when it comes to...well, everything, but to food, in particular.  Cut a sandwich wrong and you are likely to have a tantrum of epic proportions.

One morning Little A was in a snit because...well just because.  Oatmeal was on the menu for breakfast, and even though she loves it, she was screaming and claiming to hate it.  I offered her one alternative: I could make her baked oatmeal squares.  She refused and continued to rant and rave for another 15 minutes.  When she realized she might be going to school without any breakfast at all, she finally gave in and I made her a regular bowl of oatmeal.  This led to another major meltdown as I had misunderstood and she was saying yes to an oatmeal square, not to a regular, round bowl of oatmeal.  Sigh!  I explained that I had not been able to interpret her true wishes with all the yelling and screaming, and anyways, it was at that point so late, I would not have had time to make oatmeal squares.  She gobbled down the entire bowl of oatmeal but continued to sulk all the way to school.

The following week I figured I had better have both oatmeal options available, so I whipped up these baked oatmeal squares the day before.

These are perfect for breakfast on the go and are a yummy, satisfying balance of protein, carbs and fibre.

They disappeared really quick, but they were so convenient to have on hand in the mornings, they may just have to make them a regular staple around here.  The girls love them and I feel good serving them because they are so nutritious.

Vanilla Iced Baked Oatmeal Squares

1 large, ripe banana, mashed
1/4 cup flax meal + 1/2 cup hot water
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scoop vanilla vegan, stevia-sweetened protein powder
1/4 cup granulated stevia, or to taste (optional, depending on sweetness of your protein powder)
2 cups oats (not instant), gluten-free, if necessary
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Pinch of salt
1 cup water

Icing: 1/2 cup powdered erythritol, 1 tbls melted coconut oil, 1/2 tsp vanilla extract, approx. 3 tbls water or unsweetened plain or vanilla non-dairy milk.

Whisk together banana, flax mixture, and vanilla.  Add protein powder, additional sweetener and whisk again until smooth.  Add remaining ingredients and stir until completely mixed.  Scrape batter into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Cool. Ice oatmeal squares and then refrigerate until icing sets.  Cut into 16 squares.  Serve cold or warm.  Refrigerate for up to 3 days or freeze.

This recipe has been added to Urban Naturale's Healthy Happy Natural Green Blog Hop and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

Freetoes: Product Review

Freetoes Brand Inc

I am always envious of people who are able to take good ideas and turn them into a successful product or service.  If I do say so myself, I've had some pretty awesome million dollar ideas, but I've just never known what to do with them.

So its extra humbling to hear a story like this one.

Freetoes, these toeless socks were dreamt up by a little (Canadian) kid!  Ironically, I recently saw her on Dragon's Den (Canada's version of Shark Tank), so I was happy to review her product when the offer came.

I like them for around the house when I want something on my feet.  I often find regular socks make my feet too hot, but these are perfect. 

I don't wear flip flops or any shoe with a thong because I find them very uncomfortable, as does Little A, but Big A loves them, so she was thrilled to try out the kids' Freetoes we were sent.

They are also great for yoga and for pedicures. They come in a wide variety of colours and fun patterns and both Big A and I find them to be extremely soft and comfortable.  At $6.99/pair they are very affordable and you can buy them online.

Disclosure: We were sent complimentary pairs of Freetoes but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, September 22, 2014

Paint It Black

Hi there and happy Monday!  Sorry if Mondays bring you down and my peppiness makes you nauseous, but since I love what I do, I no longer hate Mondays.  Every day is a blessing.  And this week is supposed to be absolutely favorite fall weather!  I want to enjoy every last minute of it because it never lasts long.

We got our new front door this weekend and it looks fantastic.  I am so happy with it.  Its black with custom made wrought iron.  Very elegant and so much nicer than the builder's basic our house came with. 

We still need to update our house numbers and mailbox because they now look even crappier beside this lovely door. 

I am very proud to say that I repainted the bench on our front porch and our garage door all by myself!  No biggie if you are handy but I am no DIYer.  I hummed and hawed about doing it myself and even went so far as to book our handyman to do it instead because I so doubted I could pull it off.  Finally, I got sick of being such a chicken and decided to try my hand at it was super easy and I think I did a pretty good job!

Next up, I'm thinking about refinishing our dining room table.

Do you always doubt yourself?  If you are a woman, chances are the answer is yes.  We tend to second guess our abilities more than men do.  Can you imagine how different the world would be if we didn't give in to these fears and we had more confidence?

Now that I've reached 40, I am trying hard to push past my fears and take risks.  Painting a garage is a small one, but I'm working my way up.  Baby steps!

What do you wish you had the confidence to do?

Friday, September 19, 2014

Happy Fudge Day!

Its not really Fudge Day, but its kind of an inside joke with  Little A and I.

Last June her JK teacher sent an email to parents that was supposed to be titled "Happy Father's Day" but autocorrect changed it to "Happy Fudge Day".  For some reason, we both find this hilarious.  Every time we say it, we giggle like crazy.  Recently I googled it and found that there actually IS a fudge day - June 16th - which is around Father's Day.  Both of us found that even more hysterical.

I love that we have the same silly sense of humour.  Laughing is so important.  Its good for the body, mind and soul.  Its one of the ultimate stress relievers.

One way Adam and I have been getting a good laugh lately is watching Brooklyn 99, a very funny and silly sitcom.  There have been a few scenes that have had me in absolute hysterics. 

We have a busy weekend coming up. I work tonight and tomorrow and tomorrow evening we have dinner plans with our friends, Holly and Graham, and their kids, and these dinners always involve a lot of laughter.

Have a healthy, happy, funny weekend!

Thursday, September 18, 2014

Is Modern Parenting Killing Marriage?

Its Thursday!  Know what that means?  Its almost Friday!

No recipe today, just a little food for thought.

If you have children, than you likely already know that they can be a real buzzkill to romance and intimacy in your marriage.

I know the pain and anguish of experiencing miscarriage and infertility, and I see others in my counselling practice grappling with it every day.  The irony is, raising children is one of the most difficult things to do.  Believe me, it comes with its own set of challenges, even for the strongest of couples.  Fortunately, our innate drive to reproduce causes most of us to disregard this reality...otherwise human beings would have died off centuries ago!

A recent article in Psychology Today, raises the question of whether modern parenting styles are creating even greater marital discord than existed in the past.  A study by researchers John and Judy Gottman found that two-thirds of parents in their study were very unhappy after the birth of their first child.  Many studies have found that marital satisfaction drops precipitously after the birth of the first child and only improves significantly after the last child leaves for school.

The article suggests that our increased focus on our children is having a negative impact on marital relationships. One study found that 9-in-10 new parents report serious sexual problems soon after having children.  The Gottmans' research has found that the couples who are most likely to transition well to parenthood, are those that are least child-centered!  They claim that most of us expect more from our marriage and relationship but we actually devote less time and attention to it.

Now, as a parent of young children, I know the idea that we are devoting too much time to our children sounds shocking.  After all, we have been told it is impossible to spoil a baby, and socialized to go to whatever lengths necessary to get our children a leg up.  That's what being a good parent is, right?

Author of the article, John Gartner, however, argues that children nowadays are overly coddled and it would do them some good to not have us hovering around all the time, giving them an audience for everything they do.  He also points out that if you devote some of that time to nurturing your relationship with your spouse, which leads to a stronger marriage, than this is beneficial for your children as well.

What do you think? Should parents spend more time on the marital relationship and less time obsessing over their offspring?

Wednesday, September 17, 2014

Maple 'Bacon' Granola (Vegan + Gluten-Free)

Oh yes, I did.  I dreamed up this tasty little granola treat that is beyond belief. I knew it would be magnificent so I munched up the rest of my Gingerbread Granola so I could cook up a new batch.  All I have to say is OMG!!

This was my first time making coconut bacon and it was as easy as it is delicious. 

And is there any flavour more fall-like than maple?  Perfect for the gorgeous autumn weather we're very favorite (18 Celsius and sunny).

The girls, unfortunately, are not fans.  I don't blame them though, as a kid I hated anything that tasted remotely 'smokey'.  But the good news is, I get all this granola to myself...unless the husband dares to share.

Maple 'Bacon' Granola

1.5 cups coconut bacon (homemade like this or purchased)

1 cup unsweetened apple sauce
1/2 cup pure maple syrup (the darker the better!)
2 tbls coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon (optional)
1/2 tsp sea salt

6 cups unsweetened, puffed brown rice or millet cereal
4 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
1 cup uncooked millet

Optional add-ins: 1/2 cup raisins, chopped dates or figs, dried apricots, etc.

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Pour dry ingredients into bowl and mix well until completely coated.  Spread onto 2 large baking sheets.  Bake at 350 for 30 minutes, switching position of pans and stirring half way through.  Let cool and then toss with coconut bacon and 1/2 cup of desired dried fruit.

Keep in air tight container for up to 3 months.

This recipe was brought to Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot-Luck Party Blog Hop and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Tuesday, September 16, 2014

Quebec, Je T'aime

So I guess Quebec City is a pretty cool place after all.  He he!

The weekend could have started out better.  I was still feeling yucky and my flight was delayed 45 minutes after we boarded.  But I was the only one on the whole flight with an empty seat beside me :)  I wonder if it was because it was seat 13 and some people avoid sitting in a seat of that number?

After getting to my hotel, I discovered my room wasn't ready yet, which really got me steamed as I really wanted to drop my stuff and get to the conference.  Fortunately, there was a very nice staff person there who hurried things along and got me checked in.

The room was large, clean and lovely!  Check out this cool goldfish sink that was in the bathroom:

I headed over to the conference and joined the seminar in session.  Fabulous as always!  I love the CFAS conference.  Its so nice to connect with others working in the field of infertility.

I presented my poster presentation at the reception and hobnobbed with the industry folks.  It was from a bartender at this event that I experienced the only snootiness, which I had dreaded, due to being an Anglophone.  I ordered a Quebec beer and apparently it must be pronounced as if you are a cat horking up a hairball.  He grumpily corrected me both times I ordered (I just drank 2, I swear!).

That night all the infertility counsellors went out to dinner together.  There are such nice folks from around the country that do what I do.  Such a pleasure!  Unfortunately, I thought the food at the place we went was meh.  But it was very reasonably priced- and I had requested they choose a budget-friendly place- and the restaurant was very close to my hotel.

I was exhausted so I left a bit early and went back to the hotel.  I was asleep by 10:30pm and had the most amazing sleep.  I usually hate hotel beds, but this one was great, as was the pillow, the room was dark and quiet, and I had the a/c blasting to keep me comfortable.  I woke up utterly shocked at 9:30am on Saturday morning.  Pretty insane for someone usually up by 5am!  I felt a bit better but took the morning to walk around and explore, then headed back to the conference for the rest of the day.

In Quebec City, the small independent book store industry appears alive and well.  There are lots of them housed in cosy, little historic buildings.  Lots of tourist trap places too, however, selling the usual cheesy souvenirs.

Afterwards, I went back to my hotel and called Adam and the girls, and then headed out in the rain to a Greek restaurant, Le Mezze that got rave reviews online.  It deserves it!  Amazing service, fantastic food and great prices.  Cosy little spot too.  Since I was a party of one, even though it was totally booked (make reservations!),  I was able to sit at the bar.  Its too dark to really see, but here is my gorgeous plate of grilled calamari and ratatouille.  I also had a plate of grilled beets and beet greens on the side that is not in the picture.

Sunday morning I checked out the city's 7-day-a-week farmer's market and picked up some apples I've never seen before (Lobo), and maple syrup lollipops for the girls.  Then I explored another area of the city and took some scenic shots, before heading back to get my stuff from the hotel and grab a cab back to the airport.

Its kind of hard not to fall in love with such a beautiful, historical city.  Its so old, compared to Toronto.  It blew my mind that there are people who live in homes and apartments in structures that are like 200 years old!  In Toronto, the oldest homes most people live in are 90 years old or so.  And the cobblestone streets are so cool...but not good for high heels!

I also didn't realize just how English the city is.  I wanted to practice my French, but the minute the locals figure out you're English, they switch to English.  As my mom pointed out, its probably too painful for them to listen to us struggle through our French.  But I guess its a necessity for most of them to be fully bilingual given what a popular tourist destination it is.  There were tourists everywhere!

So there you have it, I eat my words, Quebec City is a pretty great place!

Monday, September 15, 2014

Lunchbox-Friendly Chocolate Chip Toffee Oatmeal Squares (Gluten-Free & Vegan)

Good morning!

How was your weekend?

I am eating my beret right now because I had an amazing time in Quebec!  Guess I shouldn't have been so grumpy.  I'll recap the whole thing for you tomorrow.

For now, I'll share a tasty little recipe.  I was trying to come up with a new treat for the girls' lunch boxes and was stuck on the idea of something oaty and chocolatey, but hadn't much gotten beyond that.  Then this recipe was published on Oh She Glows, and it was like Angela had read my mind.  Only problem was her recipe uses almond flour and nuts are not allowed at school.  So I tinkered a bit and came up with a nut-free version that is safe for school and got all thumbs up from the fact, they LOVE these!!!  I am sure you will too.

I replaced the almond flour with gluten-free buckwheat flour, which also binds better compared with most gluten-free flours.  I doubled the original recipe, but also lightened it up by using a bit less coconut oil and adding a mashed banana.

Admittedly, these were such a big hit, they disappeared before they could make it into any lunch boxes...guess I have to whip up another batch sometime soon!

Lunchbox-Friendly Chocolate Chip Toffee Oatmeal Squares (Adapted from this one)

2 flax eggs (2 tbsp ground flax mixed with 3 tbsp boiling water)
1/2 cup coconut oil, softened
1.5 cups coconut sugar
1 ripe banana, mashed
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 teaspoon fine grain sea salt
2 teaspoons cinnamon
1.5 cups gluten-free rolled oats, ground into a flour (Or use 3/4 cup + 1 tablespoon oat flour)
1.5 cups gluten-free rolled oats
3/4 cup buckwheat flour
1/2 cup stevia-sweetened chocolate chips

Whisk together flax eggs, oil, sugar, banana and vanilla (hot flax eggs will help melt coconut oil).  Stir in remaining ingredients until well mixed.  Divide between 2 square parchment-lined 8x8 pans and press down, smoothing top to even out surface.

Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Cool completely before cutting into squares.  Makes 32 squares.  Keep in air-tight container in fridge for up to 1 week or freeze.

This recipe was entered into Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green Blog Hop.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

Oh Mon Dieu!

Hey there. I'm a bit grumpy today.

Today is my 40th birthday.  Happy birthday to me!!

That's not why I'm grumpy.

I'm grumpy because all week I've been fighting some stomach bug that has left me nauseous and with a very upset tummy.  Oh, and tomorrow I leave for the CFAS conference which is being held in Quebec City.  I don't want to go to Quebec City.  I've been there before when I was 11 years old.  I don't care if its historic and picturesque. I don't like French food. I don't feel like being humiliated by how poor my French skills are after not using them for so long (at one time I was basically bilingual). 

If I have to go to La Belle Provence, I would rather go to Montreal. 

On the bright side, I usually have a good time at this conference.  I'm presenting a poster again based on the research we presented last year, which at that time was incomplete.  I'm also staying at a very nice hotel, and as any parent knows, a few nights alone in a hotel can be a very good thing.

So wish me luck...on finding some good NOT French restaurants...and on not sulking too much on my 40th BIRTHDAY WEEKEND...and I'll be back on Monday.

40th birthday gag gifts caution sign

Wednesday, September 10, 2014

Black and White Cheesecake

My dad-a big cheesecake lover- nearly wept when I told him about making this cheesecake with the girls and then giving most of it to the neighbours.  Adam just didn't want the temptation in the house and the girls realized it wasn't their thing.  I am not usually a big cheesecake fan, but I have to admit this turned out pretty awesome.  Probably a good idea we gave it away...

Black and White Cheesecake

2 cups cookie crumbs, regular or gluten-free (I used whole grain oat biscuits)
1/4 cup coconut oil, softened
1/4 cup agave syrup

2 lbs light cream cheese, softened
4 eggs
1 1/4 cup granulated stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract

350g unsweetened chocolate
1/2 cup agave syrup
1/2 cup unsweetened plain, vanilla or chocolate almond milk

Combine crumbs, oil and agave in food processor.  Press into parchment lined 9 inch springform pan.

Combine cream cheese with eggs, stevia (or other sweetener) and vanilla in blender or processor and blend until smooth.  Pour into crust.  Bake at 350F for about 40-45 minutes, until centre is set and top starts to turn golden. 

Melt chocolate with agave and milk in saucepan over medium heat.  Stir until smooth.  Pour over cheesecake.  Refrigerate for at least 4 hours.  Keep refrigerated up to 5 days or freeze.

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

DIY IUIs: The Stork Conception Aid

30 Best + Snarky Someecards for Infertility and IVF
Intrauterine Insemination (IUI) is generally one of the first treatments fertility clinics offer to patients.  It is less invasive and less expensive than IVF.  But it is still expensive and has a very low success rate relative to the cost.

 Sad truth #sigh
So I was intrigued when I was recently sent information about a new product called The Stork, that basically allows you to do an IUI yourself in the comfort of your own home.

This is also an interesting option for same sex couples using a known donor!

One thing I will caution you of, however, is that it is important to get fertility screening done first if you have been struggling to conceive.  Because if the issue is low ovarian reserve/poor egg quality, blocked fallopian tubes, severe endometriosis and/or uterine abnormalities, than this won't likely help.  You'd be wasting your money on this.  Similarly, if there is a serious sperm issue, something like IVF and ICSI would likely be required. 

This is actually a great option for couples with sexual dysfunction.  Believe me, it is more common than you think that either the man is unable to ejaculate during intercourse or the woman has vaginismus or another issue making penetration difficult or impossible.

Whoever said 'Money can't buy happiness' has never learned they can only have children through IUI, IVF, Injections, etc.
Here's the scoop:

The Stork® lands offering a new at-home conception aid to help Canadians conceive
September 8, 2014 – Toronto, ON – For many Canadians, conceiving a child and becoming a parent is a dream come true; however, what happens when infertility issues arise? For the approximately one in six Canadians who struggle to conceive, the road to parenthood can be costly – not only financially, but also psychologically and emotionally, often taking a toll on intimacy.[i]
In fact, according to a recent survey of Canadian men and women aged 30-44 who had been trying to conceive for at least 12 months, the effects of infertility extend far beyond parenthood and the bedroom with one in four stating that they rarely talk about anything other than infertility.[ii] Further, over half of respondents (52%) say that they no longer have spontaneity in their sex life as a result of infertility and 41 per cent outline that all forms of intimacy in their relationship have gone down.2
Now, The Stork®, a new at-home conception aid is bringing together cervical cap insemination, a well-established technique used by healthcare professionals, with new innovative technology, to help couples conceive naturally and in the privacy and comfort of their home. The introduction of The Stork helps bridge the gap between natural intercourse and in-clinic, assisted treatments such as intrauterine insemination (IUI), in vitro fertilization (IVF) or clomifene.
“Starting a family is an important milestone for many Canadians, and for those trying unsuccessfully to conceive, the impacts can be devastating,” says Dr. Michael Pelekanos, MD, obstetrician and gynecologist. “As healthcare professionals, we want to ensure our patients get support in their journeys toward parenthood, which can often be lonely, stressful and isolating. The practice of cervical cap insemination, for instance, is a viable first approach for us to consider for our potential moms-to-be.”
Eighty per cent of those surveyed have already tried at least one treatment option; one-quarter of those experiencing infertility express a willingness to invest at least $10,000 in treatments. A majority of those experiencing infertility selected functional outlets for the money if it weren’t to be spent on treatments – paying off debt, buying a home and saving for retirement. Currently, universal IVF is not publicly funded in Canada and only 15 per cent of couples affected by infertility can afford IVF treatment.[iii] Consider further that access to IVF services outside of major urban cities is often difficult and the average out-of-pocket costs of treatments generally range from $8,000 to $14,500.[iv] 
Combining science and innovation, The Stork offers a cost-effective, over-the-counter approach to the well-established practice of cervical cap insemination.[v],[vi] The Stork is designed to be used as a “first-step” for couples when trying to conceive before advancing into further assisted reproductive treatments – and costs.[vii] Cervical cap insemination has a recorded success rate of between 10-20 per cent,[viii] which is comparable to IUI - with recorded success rates between 15-20 per cent.[ix] The Stork is favourable for couples experiencing common fertility difficulties such as low sperm count, low sperm motility, unfavourable vaginal environment, ovulation timing and unexplained infertility.9
“Research demonstrates that alternative options are highly welcome among Canadians with three-quarters of individuals struggling with infertility being likely to try an at-home conception aid available without a prescription,” says Stephen Bollinger, President and CEO of Rinovum Women's Health and the creator of The Stork. “We’re delighted to launch The Stork in Canada as it provides couples with a feasible, non-invasive option to support natural, at-home conception.”
The Stork (containing one device to be used in one ovulation cycle) is available at Rexall™ and London Drugs® pharmacy locations. More information about The Stork, including demonstration videos and resources for couples trying to conceive, can be found online at www.
About The Stork 
The Stork works by collecting semen into a cervical cap, which is located at the bottom of a condom-like sheath. The applicator then delivers the cervical cap, containing the semen, to the entrance of the cervix. The cervical cap is left next to the cervix for four to six hours and then removed using a tampon like pull chord. The cervical cap keeps the semen as close to the cervix as possible, to allow sperm to swim up to the egg. Normal daily activities can be carried out whilst the cervical cap is in place. It is recommended that The Stork be used just before and/or during ovulation.
Rinovum Women's Health
Rinovum Women's Health, Inc. is a privately held women's health company dedicated to bringing products into the market that will enhance women's lives and empower them to take charge of their health. Their first focus, The Stork, is a conception aid for reproductive health to assist in natural fertility and conception in the privacy of the patients' home. Rinovum Women's Health aims to provide products that are easy-to-use and safe, as well as a more economical way for a couple to address some of these issues. More information about Rinovum Women's Health, Inc. can be found at  

Monday, September 8, 2014

The Weekend to End Women's Cancers

We did it.

Its over.

It was amazing, but admittedly, I don't know if I'll do it again.

I am proud to say that my team, the Teal Magnolias, raised over $7,000!

Here's a brief recap.

I got up at my regular 5am hour, showered and ate my usual massive bowl of oatmeal with egg whites and chia seeds and downed 2 iced coffees.  We caught cabs at 7am and got down to the Rogers Centre at 7:20am to get organized.

At about 8:45am they started getting us out on to the street.  At the beginning it was very slow walking because there were over 3,000 of us, and they don't close down the streets like they do for marathons, so we were on the sidewalk, maneuvering around pedestrians, etc. in the downtown core.

The route was extremely winding, not a big loop, so we were all over the place, but eventually got out of the downtown, headed west to Roncesvalles, and then way north and west again, through Bloor West Village, and out to Etobicoke, where finally things were less crowded. 

Next we stopped for lunch and then headed south, all the way down to the Humber River area and the waterfront, past Exhibition Place, Ontario Place and they back up north and east to the Rogers Centre.

We were done at 5pm.  It was a very long day!

Half way there! With Erica Berman, Laurie Smith and Diane Peters

They did take good care of us, however, with numerous pit stops with plentiful port-a-potties, snacks and drinks.  Some of the snacks were even healthy, like baby carrots, fruit, and almonds (there was also chips, cookies, muffins, granola bars and juice).  There were also musical performers out for us in each neighbourhood playing different kinds of music (the African band down on the waterfront was the best!).

What was amazing was the support from the community we received.  This was the 10th year of the walk, so I guess folks on the route know to expect us.  So many people were out on their front lawns cheering us on, holding up signs, and offering us food and drinks.  Volunteers periodically drove past us in vans playing music and shouting encouragement to us.  It was awesome!

It was also inspiring.  There was a 102 year old woman doing the walk!  There was a pregnant woman doing the walk.  There was a woman in her 70s whose t-shirt read, "11 year cancer survivor, 10 year walker".

And there were whole families walking for a relative, whole offices of coworkers walking for a colleague.  Amazing!!

I am pleased to report that I got through with just a blister on one foot.  My hamstrings are absolutely fine, and my bad foot that gets achy is also completely fine.  I did feel like heck that evening and the next morning, and was seriously questioning having to go teach my spin class, but I actually felt much better afterwards.  Wow, what an experience!!

A big thank you to all who donated and helped support our fundraising efforts.

Friday, September 5, 2014

Its TIFF and Who Gives a Crap?

Celebrity worship, It's an epidemic

We are nearing the end of the Toronto International Film Fest!  Know what?  I could give a shit.

Don't get me wrong, I enjoy a good film as much as the next guy, but I find our obsession with celebrities to be perverse.

Every year at this time, people become obsessed with catching a glimpse of the stars when they come to town.  I really don't care if I see any of them.  They are just human beings like you and I.  Some talented, some just lucky or in the right place at the right time.  Some have big hearts and minds while others are just assholes. 

Speaking of celebs, RIP Joan Rivers...

If there is one thing Robin Williams' suicide should tell you, its that all the money and fame in the world doesn't make you have a perfect life. And it doesn't make you happy.

You know what makes me happy?  This was a great first week back to school.  Big A got top results on a word test and loves her new class and teacher.  Little A has eased back into kindergarten well and continues to explore her curiosity about the world.  She asked me how water gets on earth, about the moon and if there is any life on other planets, and whether we could fly if we blew a bubble big enough to climb into.  This kid cracks me up!

I'm nervous today...tomorrow is our big walk!  I am thankful that the extreme temperature and humidity is supposed to blow better as otherwise I will be complaining bitterly for 32 kilometres!!  Wish me luck.

Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, September 4, 2014

Vanilla Spice Plantain Power Cakes

Its been ages since I baked with plaintains, so I snatched up a massive one at the market this past weekend. I am trying to figure out how I am going to fuel myself the day of our big walk and I am thinking these might be a good bet, along with some Quest bars and fresh fruits and veggies. 

We were told they supply snacks and lunch, but I have no faith they'll come through with anything that meets my nutrition needs and standards (I'm guessing juice and bagels or other high carb, low nutrition crap).  But maybe I'll be pleasantly surprised.

In any case, these turned out so well, I don't think I need to save them for any special occasion or event.  These taste so much like they are made with grain flour, its amazing.  I couldn't even detect the plantain taste.

Vanilla Spice Plantain Power Cakes

1 large plaintain, somewhat ripe (i.e. not green)
1/2 cup egg whites
1 scoop vanilla protein powder (I used Vega)
1/4 cup granulated stevia (optional)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 tsp baking soda

Puree all ingredients in food processor or blender.  Pour into 2 mini loaf pans lined with parchment, or muffin tins with parchment linings.  Bake at 350F for 40 minutes for loaves, or 25-30 minutes for muffins.

I have added this recipe to this week's Gluten-Free Friday link up.

Wednesday, September 3, 2014

Beat the Gym: Book Review


Okay, I'll admit right up front that I met Tom Holland in person and we really connected, but I still think I was as objective as possible when I reviewed this book.  Little did I know at the time, however, that Adam had just finished reading his book about marathon training!

Tom is a spokesperson for Nautilus retail fitness equipment and I was invited to come check out their latest cardio machines, the Bowflex Treadclimber and the Max Trainer.


As far as cardio machines go (I'm currently on a cardio machine-free life), these are top notch.  Both offer low impact but high intensity workouts on sturdy equipment that have all sorts of connectivity options to allow you to track your progress.

I spent a while chatting with the Nautilus company reps and Tom about fitness and health promotion and just how tough it is to get people on the exercise bandwagon.  They're from New York, so we had a fun discussion about our favorite healthy restaurants in Manhattan and we complained about how tough it is to get brown rice at any Asian restaurants in Toronto.  Not sure why we Canadians are so behind in that area, but then again, I think NYC is unique because I've been to lots of other cities in the U.S. that are not nearly so health and nutrition conscious.

Anyways, back to the book.  I had no idea what to expect, but I was really pleasantly surprised. This book will be very useful for anyone who currently has a gym membership or anyone who is considering joining a gym. 

I guess it should come as no surprise, since we seemed to be on the same page about most things when we talked, that Tom echoes almost all of my own observations and opinions about fitness and gym culture in this book.

He starts by giving you insider tips on how to choose a gym and on how to get the best deal on a gym membership.  One point he makes that I never considered, but is so true, is that purchasing an overnight locker rental can help you stick to your fitness routine.  It makes life a whole lot easier and gives you extra incentive (because of the additional investment) to go and keep going.

In the second chapter he debunks various fitness myths, explains how to get the best results from cardio machines and squeezes in little gym etiquette tips. 

Just like me, he favours the stepmill and stairclimber, when used leaning all your weight on the handlebars folks!

In chapter three he focuses on strength training and explains, with photos, how to properly use all the strength training machines you typically see at the gym.  Tom also includes an entire section on free weight exercises and another on core training, which also has photos and detailed instructions for proper execution.

Tom also suggests doing low-level aerobic activity like walking to minimize Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness (DOMS), and I have definitely found this to be most effective...followed by Epsom salt/lavender oil baths.  After my heavy lifting routine and spin class on Sundays, I feel way better if we get out and active with the kids in the afternoon rather than being totally sedentary.

A rather unique feature of this book is that he evaluates group fitness classes typically found in gyms and explains the aspect of fitness they best address (i.e. strength, cardio, mind/body, etc.).  He says all the things I've been saying on this blog for years, like HOT YOGA IS NOT CARDIO and PILATES IS NOT A WEIGHT LOSS ACTIVITY!).

I laughed hysterically when I got to his section on Woo-ing.  This is the call and response motivational yells often heard between instructor and participants...I think it was a bigger thing in the 90s when we were all doing step aerobics.

His section on nutrition is sound too.  Basically he gives the general advice I always give: eat real food and the appropriate amount of calories for your energy levels.  But I don't happen to fall into his definition of what trainers eat: Egg whites. Chicken breasts. Tuna. Fruit. Oatmeal. Salad. Protein Shakes.  Okay, I do eat all those things except protein shakes, but I also eat a ton of other foods too...and I generally prefer cooked veggies to salad.

I agree with his take on carbs, which is, we shouldn't eliminate them, just eat the right ones (whole, unrefined, like oatmeal, sweet potatoes, fruits and veggies).

In chapter six, Tom offers over 20 training programs based on the exercises outlined in the book, that you can follow and concludes with a short section on how to stay motivated and stick to your routine.  As a bonus, the Appendix has recommendations for choosing a personal trainer, and how to build a home gym.

Overall, Tom really does deliver what he promises: pretty much all the knowledge you'd get from a personal trainer without the cost!  The only thing that's missing is having someone counting reps and yelling at you to keep going while you're working out.  But if you ask me, unless you CAN afford to workout with a personal trainer 3+ times a week, than you should learn to motivate yourself.  This book is a great resource for anyone who currently works out and is looking to get better results and/or someone who wants to start an exercise program.

Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Successes and Lessons Learned

Is it seriously the first day of school?  How did this happen?  The summer flew by!  I don't usually feel that way.  Usually the heat and humidity make if feel like it is dragging, to me.  But with the delightful weather this year, I am really sad to see it go...even if this past weekend was really stinking hot and sticky!

This weekend was filled with successes and, um, learning opportunities.

What was successful:

Trip to the Ex - We took the girls and Big A's boyfriend and had a blast.  We were there on Friday from 11am until 3:45pm and we only left because we had to get to Adam's parents' house for dinner.  The kids could have stayed a few more hours!

Family fun - the girls had a great time with Adam's siblings' kids Friday night and with my brother's kids and my parents on Saturday.

Sunday the weather was extreme so I insisted we go to Vaughan Mills mall.  We managed to find the girls leotards for gymnastics, a new lunch bag for Big A and these boots for both girls (except in brown, not pink), which they both fell in love with on first sight:

fringe bootie
Monday Adam took them swimming at the MNJCC and then they had a playdate with our neighbour's girls, whom they get along with beautifully.

Yesterday the girls had a very successful playdate with our neighbour's kids.  They have 2 girls, each 1 year younger than ours and they played together beautifully for several hours.  So nice to have friends in the neighbourhood!

What we "learned":

The girls don't like cheesecake - Little A randomly decided we had to make cheesecake. I don't like it and Adam is lactose intolerant, but I figured, what the hell.  Adam went out and bought a boat-load of cream cheese, and Saturday afternoon I baked with the girls (recipe to be shared soon).  It turned out great (if you like cheese cake), but after 1 piece, the girls decided it was too 'cream cheesy'.  The whole thing went to our next door neighbours (who don't seem to have any dietary concerns and are great for getting rid of any unhealthy stuff we don't want in the house).  They were happy to take it.

Little A isn't big on bowling - We started our Vaughan Mills visit with a stop into Lucky Strike bowl.  After paying the ridiculous fee, we got the girls a lane.  Big A was thrilled but after a few rounds, Little A laid down on her back and refused to play anymore.  Big A ended up playing for both of them.

Ah well, we had some fun and we're a whole lot wiser now!

Off for our first day of senior kindergarten and third grade!!