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Friday, October 31, 2014

Halloweenie


Thank goodness it is Halloween because Little A has been asking when it will finally arrive since September.

This year Big A is going as...I am so not kidding...a hotdog!  I have to admit the costume, which I absolutely did not make myself, is pretty awesome.  Little A is Rapunzel.  Sigh.  Hopefully she'll outgrow the this whole princess thing.  She did originally want to be a bat, but I was having trouble finding a bat costume that she found acceptable in her size.  So then she spied this Rapunzel one and the rest is history.

They are having dinner with some neighbourhood friends and then trick-or-treating with them, so that will be extra fun.  This leaves me to give out candy.  I guess I am a whole Halloween Scrooge or something, but I've started to hate it.  The doorbell ringing every few minutes.  Bratty teenagers too old to be out, demanding candy and leaving with nary a smile let alone a thank you.  Sorry, not much fun in my book.  Fortunately, when the girls get home, they will take over as they love handing out candy.  Until then, I might just leave the candy bowl on the front porch and let folks help themselves.  Goodness, I really am a grumpy old fart, aren't I?

Here's hoping you have a not too scary Halloween and a happy, healthy weekend.  Remember, if the treats are a temptation...get them out of your house!!

Thursday, October 30, 2014

Secondary Infertility


Good Morning!

Please check out my latest article in the Huffington Post about secondary infertility.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

What I Ate Wednesday: My first WIAW


A lot of bloggers participate in this link up started by Peas and Crayons.  What I eat may not be all that thrilling to some - I am not into haute cuisine or really complicated raw vegan dishes that take a long time to make or anything else that extraordinary.  But I thought it would be a good idea for me to share an example of what I eat because a lot of people don't seem to understand what being a healthitarian means (that's the label I give myself).  I am into promoting my health and well being through proper nutrition.  But this does not mean I am vegetarian or vegan, gluten-free or grain-free.  I just try to eat mostly whole, real foods.

People are also flabbergasted to see just HOW MUCH I eat.  I have always had a healthy appetite...and seeing how my kids eat, that must be partly genetic.  Being super active helps, especially weight lifting.  Muscles demand fuel to grow!!  Nonetheless, I guess I eat a whole lot for such a tiny person.  Or so I'm told.

Here you have it.  A typical day of eats for me:

Breakfast is ALWAYS a massive (made with 1.5 cups of oats) bowl of oatmeal with either chia or flax seeds, egg whites, cinnamon, nutmeg and stevia.  The bowl I use for it is so big, Adam refers to it as the "flower pot".


Lately I've been into my homemade coffee frappes instead of hot coffee, and usually have about 3 of these a day.  Don't worry, there isn't much coffee in them as I put a ton of ice in.


Lunch was grilled chicken breasts, an entire roasted delicata squash and 3 zucchini roasted with olive oil, garlic and seasonings. 


Admittedly, I probably could have eaten less, but I was really hungry at lunch.

Snacks were cheese and 2 Honeycrisp apples the size of my head (oh be still my beating heart, these apples are to die for!).


Dinner was shiritake noodles with scallops and veggies in a creamy sesame miso sauce.


Mmm, I love what I eat!

Honestly, I really love healthy food.  Adam thinks I'm nuts (he claims he would live on chicken wings and chocolate if he could), but, my body craves freshness.  So many of my clients live on fast food and I can't imagine that.  I can't even stand the smell of fried and fast food.  It just doesn't seem like food to me.  So its not a struggle for me to avoid these things that others see as temptations.

Also notice that I am not a grazer.  That might work for some people, but eating little bits all day just leaves me edgy and hungry.  I like to eat 3 big meals plus a few small snacks.  If I don't feel FULL after a meal, I get grumpy and have difficulty concentrating.  It also helps me avoid the "See Food Diet" trap.  I find a lot of people (like my father!) are prone to eating whenever food is offered or available, either because they have not planned ahead and ended up going too long without eating, or because they are totally out of touch with their body's energy needs.  I make sure that I am either full from a big meal or prepared with healthy snacks so that I am not tempted by whatever crap is around...and the unfortunate reality is that in our society, there is always crap around.

Tuesday, October 28, 2014

Curried Almonds


When making my last batch of almonds for Adam, I realized I hadn't made curried ones before.  Even though Adam is pretty happy with repetition (he eats the same breakfast and lunch EVERY day during the week), I always like to change things up.  These are very yummy and you can make them spicy or mild, depending on the curry powder you use.

Curried Almonds

2 lb almonds
1 tbls olive oil
1 tsp salt
2 tsp curry powder (mild or hot)
1/2 tsp turmeric

Toss almonds together with oil and seasonings and spread in a single layer on 2 baking sheets.  Bake at 350F for 10-12 minutes, rotating position of pans half way through.  Be careful not to burn.  Let cool completely and then transfer to airtight container.

This recipe has been shared with Urban Naturale's Happy Green Healthy Blog Hop.

Monday, October 27, 2014

Slumber Party


Good morning! Or is it?  Chances are, if you didn't get a good night's sleep, it isn't such a good one  for you.

I know I spend a whole lot of time talking about the importance of exercise and nutrition, but I truly believe that adequate sleep is just as critical to our health.  If you are not getting enough sleep it compromises your cognitive abilities, increases the chances you will be in a driving accident, negatively affects your mood, increases stress and decreases your coping abilities, impairs your body's metabolism, drives hunger, and increases your risk of developing obesity, and the list goes on.
Tough love guide to getting sleep. #SleepEasy
All last week while Adam was away, I didn't sleep too well.  I was having nutty dreams, as always, but was just not getting the deep restorative sleep I need.  Even this weekend, my sleep wasn't ideal and I totally felt it.  By yesterday I felt ruined.  Last night though, despite some really wacky dreams, I had a great sleep and I am now back to my old self, thank goodness.

The past few days Little A has been a little nightmare.  Absolutely impossible.  Grumpy and difficult.  Emotional and out of control.  Adam and I were trying to figure out just what was eating her.  Well, last night we discovered the answer.  For the past few evenings, after we put the girls to bed, Little A has been getting back up and going into Big A's room to play.  Big A is allowed to stay up and play or read quietly in her room, but little did we know that Little A had been staying up with her.  Ah ha!

Last night we put an end to this and made sure Little A stayed in her bed and went to sleep.  So guess what?  She woke up this morning in a delightful mood!  We haven't had such a smooth Monday in a long time.  Normally she kicks up a huge fit about having to go to school.  This morning she was happy and playful and there was so sulking, whining or complaining. 

I am telling you, sleep can be absolutely transformational.  I see this with my clients too.  Often they are not getting enough sleep, often due to anxiety, and/or not practicing proper sleep hygiene and spending too much time in the evening on their devices or in front of the television. Once I get them giving sleep a greater priority, that alone can help them with stress, anxiety and boosts their resilience and coping abilities. 

So please, don't short change yourself, make sleep a priority and I promise you will benefit in many ways!

Friday, October 24, 2014

Be Grateful for Each Day

 
This has been quite a week!  Adam was away in Ottawa since Sunday and is only getting back tonight. 

In case you didn't hear, there was a soldier killed in Ottawa, near Parliament Hill, right where Adam was having his meetings!  Luckily he's just fine and sent us a message almost immediately to reassure everyone he was okay.  Unfortunately, the soldier's family now have to deal with his loss.  Such a senseless crime, regardless of whether it was politically motivated or not, an innocent life was lost.

It certainly put into perspective the minor challenges I faced being alone with the girls this week.  There were good times and bad (each of them had to be put into their rooms because of major screaming fits Monday evening), but overall this annual trip Adam takes is becoming much less traumatic for me as the girls get older.

But I am still very glad he's back tonight!    I am also very frustrated by the girls' sense of entitlement and lack of gratitude.  There is a constant demand for 'more' and I know this is something a lot of parents struggle with.  Maybe they aren't old enough yet to 'get' it, but I really wish I could figure out a way for them to understand just how fortunate they are.

Discover The Power Of Gratitude To Unleash Unlimited Abundance And Happiness In Your Life
 
We have a packed weekend that will be busy but fun and I'm looking forward to it.

Have a happy, healthy weekend and eat your vegetables!!

Thursday, October 23, 2014

Peanut Butter Chocolate Baked Oatmeal


Who says peanut butter and chocolate can't be for breakfast?  Not my kids, that's for sure.  No surprise, but these were an instant hit with them.  Again, I am loving oatmeal squares as a quick, healthy breakfast and they are loving them too.  Its a total win-win!

I made these with quick cooking steel cut oats.  No, that is not an oxymoron.  I found them at Costco...Bobs Red Mill Organic Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats!
Quick Cooking Steel Cut Oats

These make a hardy baked oatmeal that is sure to satisfy all your chocolate cravings and power you through your morning.

Peanut Butter Chocolate Baked Oatmeal

2 cups quick cooking steel cut oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
4 tbls flax meal
1/2 cup natural peanut butter
1/2 cup non-dairy milk
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 cup stevia, xylitol or erythritol (or 1/2 cup coconut sugar)
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
1/2 cup chocolate chips (preferably stevia-sweetened)

Place oats and flax meal in a large bowl  Pour 2 cups boiling water over top and let sit for 20 minutes or until all water has been absorbed.  Let cool to prevent chocolate chips from melting.  Stir in all remaining ingredients.  Scrape batter into greased 9x12 pan and bake for about 22-25 minutes or until centre is firm.  Let cool and then cut into squares.  Makes 24 squares.  Keep refrigerated up to 1 week or freeze.

I have brought this dish to Urban Naturale's Plant Based Pot Luck Link Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, October 22, 2014

Powered by...Licorice?



Back in my addicted-to-sugar days, I ate a lot of licorice.  Not the red kind.  That's just gross candy, its got nothing to do with licorice!  No, I'm talking the real stuff.  Black. Soft.  Oh, and sweet...not the weird European, salty kind.  That stuff is just nasty!

While indulging my sweet tooth, I don't think I ever wondered what licorice actually is.  I knew it was a botanical thing, but not much beyond that.

As it turns out, this yummy (in my opinion, anyways, I know there are lots of haters out there) plant has a whole heck of a lot of health benefits.  Not in candy form, unfortunately, but in its natural form.
Licorice root is an anti-inflammatory.  It is often used to treat stomach ulcers, heartburn and chronic gastritis.   It is also used to treat a sore through, coughs, and both bacterial and viral infections.  Some people use licorice for sore throat, bronchitis, cough, and infections caused by bacteria or viruses.  Licorice also controls cortisol production and helps to regulate the body's stress response.
I discovered all this recently when I was telling the naturopath at work about how my blood pressure is too low for me to donate blood.  She said she often works with athletes with crazy low blood pressure and recommends they take licorice.  Not just because it can elevate blood pressure a bit and control cortisol, but also for its anti-inflammatory properties.  She said it really, "puts the wind in your sails." I was completely intrigued since I wake up in the morning very fuzzy and light headed.  She told me to get the concentrated syrup, which she had at the office (this brand), and use 1/4 tsp made into tea each morning.  I love the taste, so why the heck not?
You know I'm always skeptical of remedies if there isn't evidence they work, but she was so enthusiastic about its efficacy, I immediately went out to buy some.  Unfortunately, I went to 5 different health food stores, including Whole Foods, and none of them even had heard of the syrup.  They all sold the tea and tinctures but no syrup.
Finally, I found it on Amazon.  Good ol’ Amazon!
Well, I have to tell you, I did just as the naturopath said and boy did the stuff ever put wind in my sails.  I felt like I had a whole lot more oomph for my spinning class Sunday morning.  Not in a jittery, anxious way like caffeine makes you feel, just in a, I-could-climb-a-mountain good way.  And it tastes awesome…at least if, like me, you love the taste of black licorice!
Who needs pre-workout drinks or creatine powders, this stuff is power in the bottle. 

Please do not take licorice before speaking with a health professional.  It is not appropriate for everyone.  Licorice interacts with many prescription medicines and should not be taken while pregnant. Talk to your healthcare provider if you plan to start using licorice.

Tuesday, October 21, 2014

Squash it! Sweet Roasted (Delicata or Kabocha) Squash


I fell off the orange veggie wagon for a while.  For some odd reason, during my child bearing years I lost my taste for squash and sweet potatoes just like I lost my taste for pink fish.  Weird huh?  I was into red meat and white potatoes.  Did my body need stuff in those things?  Who knows?? 

Fortunately, I am back to my normal self and have now lost my taste for red meat again...white potatoes I no longer crave, but squash and sweet potatoes?  Oh yeah baby!!

I've mostly been gorging on sweet potatoes, but I have also recently been demolishing mass quantities of squash. 
When I was a kid, my mom made squash a lot, but usually only Butternut and Acorn.  Always mashed with a bit of butter and cinnamon.  I loved it.  But now there are so many more varieties widely available.  I've heard so much about Delicata and Kabocha, both extra sweet varieties with skin you can eat, but didn't often see them around. 
 
This autumn, however, they're everywhere!  I've been making both and loving them.  They are denser and drier than the squash of my youth, so mashing isn't really what you want to do with them.  Instead, I toss them with a bit of coconut oil and cinnamon, and a pinch of salt and stevia and roast them.  So so so so good!  So good!!

I like Delicata more than Kabocha because: (1) Its even sweeter and not as dry as Kabocha and a little lighter, and (2) Its a heck of a lot easier to cut.  Although, cut a Kabocha squash and you can really skip your upper body workout at the gym that day!

This isn't really a recipe, since I don't measure anything, but basically, take squash, wash, cut, discard seeds (or season and roast them separately!), toss with oil or butter, cinnamon or pumpkin pie spice and whatever else you desire (pinch of salt, cayenne for a kick, etc.), and roast for 30-40 minutes until golden and tender.  Open mouth. Insert.

This post has been submitted to Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy Green Party Blog Hop.



Monday, October 20, 2014

What If...Lightening Strikes?

Anxiety....humor? This use to be a big problem for me. Learn to shut it off!


Its Monday.  For some people, this means 5 days of stress and anxiety.  Others may feel this way 7 days a week.

I have openly discussed my struggle with anxiety.  I has been there since I was a child.  Its been better at some points and worse at others, but it will probably always be an area of vulnerability.

I am certainly not alone.  So many of my counselling clients describe themselves as 'worriers'.  Worry and anxiety lay along a continuum.  Some anxiety, believe it or not, is a good thing.  It is a motivator.  It encourages us to be vigilant.  But too much wreaks havoc on your mind and body.  It can cause panic attacks, chronic insomnia and even generalized anxiety disorder.  I have had the insomnia and I've had the generalized anxiety disorder.  It ain't fun.

Part of what often fuels anxiety is the fear of uncertainty.  Few people cope well with it.  We all feel better when we feel we are in control and know what to expect.  The problem is, in reality, we never are truly in control or can anticipate the future.  Ever.

Those who struggle the most are those that catastrophize (Guilty as charged!  But I'm much better about this now and can stop when I start going down this path).   For example, many of my infertility clients will become consumed by anxiety and depression before they even start treatment because they start imagining the worst case scenario.  Women seem to do this more than men.

Often we tell ourselves that if we imagine the worst, either it will be less likely to actually happen, and/or we will be more prepared if it does happen.  Neither are really true.  We end up spending a great deal of time suffering needlessly.

Although I don't meditate, in the strict sense of the word, I try to practice what I consider the most useful tenets of the Mindfulness tradition, which is to try and make peace with uncertainty and to not stop striving for what we want to change, but to accept that things are not as we want them right now.

Stay in the present.  Don't write a story that hasn't happened yet.  As my favorite fridge magnet says,

                                      Today is the tomorrow you worried about yesterday

Remember, most things turn out okay.  And when they don't, crisis is an opportunity. Have a lovely start to the week.

Friday, October 17, 2014

Glass Half Full, Toronto Runeth Over

toronto flood

Good morning and happy Friday!

Wow, if I look at the glass half empty, I will tell you we had a crazy-ass, massive thunderstorm last night.  I got caught in it on my bike on the way home from work and (waaaaaaaaaaaaaa!) I think my new (and favorite) leather boots were completely destroyed.  It was the heaviest rain I have ever been in on my bike ever.  By the time I got to our street, there was flooding everywhere.  The water at one point was up to my knees.  I think my bike is probably in rough shape too.

The glass half full perspective would be at least I didn't get hit my lightening.  Really!  There was a whole lot of it and I was kind of getting worried.  Riding your bike is not what you want to be doing in a Thunderstorm.

Well, hopefully my boots and bike survive but if they don't, I will try to be positive and focus on the fact that they're just things and I made it home unscathed.  It truly was quite a storm!

Fortunately, the weather this weekend is supposed to be okay.  We have no set plans, just the usual stuff. I work tonight and tomorrow and the girls have gymnastics, swimming, and Hebrew school. I promised them we'd go pumpkin shopping for Halloween and they want to try and go to Snakes and Lattes again.  This time we'll be sure to sign up 2 hours ahead of time!

Have a happy, healthy, weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2014

Cactus Pineapple Chili


It's chili season!  As soon as it gets chilly, is there anything more comforting?  Okay, forget the fact that it almost feels like summer this week...

I am always trying to come up with variations on recipes...as they say, variety is the spice of life!  It took me a bit of thinking with this one but one meandering down the aisles of Fiesta Farms and it struck me like lightening.  Aha!

Cactus, you say?  Yes, absolutely!  Now, I used the jarred kind, but maybe you could use fresh, if you can find it.  Don't worry, they aren't prickly, and the taste is quite mild.

Serve this alone, or over brown rice, quinoa or millet, or stuff into a tortilla.

Cactus Pineapple Chili

1 tsp avocado oil or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tsp cumin seeds
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp salt
1 jalapeno pepper, diced (optional)
1 green pepper, diced
1 red pepper, diced
1 carrot, diced
2 zucchini, diced
1 cauliflower, cut into small florets*
1 yellow plantain, diced
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 lb ground turkey or chicken (or crumbled tempeh)
1 jar cactus, drained
2 cups tomatillo 'green' salsa
2 cups pineapple chunks, with juice (if from a jar) or 1 fresh pineapple, cut into chunks
1 can white kidney beans, drained and rinsed**
Juice of 1 lime
1 can tomato paste

Saute veggies and spices in oil in a large pot over medium heat for 3-4 minutes.  Add vinegar, meat or tempeh, cactus and tomatillo sauce and stir until meat is cooked through.  Add pineapple, beans, tomato paste and lime juice and simmer for about 20 minutes, or until ready to eat.  Keep leftovers in the fridge for 3-4 days or freeze. 

*I roasted cauliflower ahead of time to maximize flavour, but throw in to chili raw if you like.
**If making this vegan you can skip tempeh to replace meat and just add an additional can of beans.

I have submitted this recipe to Urban Naturale's Plant Based Pot Luck Party Link Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Wednesday, October 15, 2014

Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffins



Are there any foods that make you think of your childhood?  In terms of purchased foods, for me, its bran muffins.  My parents weren't strict about junk food, but they didn't buy us Hostess Twinkies or that kind of thing.  They did, however, buy us Sunmaid raisin bran muffins from the locally grocery store in Kingston.  Oddly, I never saw them sold elsewhere, and I haven't seen them sold in many years.  Nevertheless, they were a family favorite.

They came in packs of 4, and even though we were a family of 4, we always fought over them.  Despite the name, like most muffins you buy, they weren't remotely healthy.  Sure the bran and raisins gave them fibre, but they were full of white flour, sugar and trans fat.  We just weren't aware, at that time, how bad they were for us. If they were in the house, you can be certain I was grabbing one for breakfast.  I remember them being very moist and sweet, with a hint of cinnamon.  Mmm!

I thought about those muffins as I baked these, much healthier ones, for Adam to take to work.  I wasn't sure he'd love a raisin bran muffin, but I know he loves apple/cinnamon treats, so that is why I chose this combo.  Apparently its a favorite with the girls too, as before I could put them in the freezer, they gobbled down as many as I would let them.

These too are moist, tender and sweet, but without all the sugar, white flour and saturated fat of those Sunmaid ones. 

Apple Cinnamon Bran Muffins

2 cups bran
3 cups buttermilk (or non-dairy milk + 2 tbls vinegar or lemon juice)
2 eggs (or flax eggs)
2 cups granulated stevia (or xylitol or erythritol)
1/2 cup oil
1/4 cup blackstrap molasses
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 Yellow Delicious apple, chopped

2 cups whole spelt (or other whole grain) flour
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Place bran in a medium sized bowl and pour buttermilk over top.  Stir and let sit for 30+ minutes.

Whisk together remaining wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Add bran and mix together.  Combine dry ingredients, mix well and then add to wet.  Stir, just until combined.

Scrape batter into greased muffin cups.  Bake at 350F for 18-22 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool completely and then remove from pan.  Makes 18 muffins.  Keep in air tight container for up to 4 days or freeze.




Tuesday, October 14, 2014

You Can Go Home Again


Well well, its Tuesday and the girls and I are home safe and sound.  I did it!  I drove to Kingston and back, with just the 3 of us!

Its interesting...now that my parents sold our house and live in a downtown condo, I get a different perspective on the town.  I mean that both literally and figuratively, of course.  They have great views from their 12th floor condo of the waterfront and they are in the centre of the downtown core.  For some reason, I found myself marvelling over what a lovely town it is. 


It used to be the capitol of Canada before Ottawa.  Its absolutely full of historic, beautiful buildings.

 
It seems like a lifetime ago that I lived there, and yet in some ways like only yesterday. 
 
 
So the drive there was pretty seamless.  Very little traffic and the girls were very well behaved.  Nevertheless, every muscle in my body was sore when we arrived from tensing the whole time.  I think I am now comfortable with driving at fast speeds, but its the other (psycho) drivers on the highway that scare the crap out of me.  Perhaps its not so different on any major highway, but I find on the 401 there is no slow lane.  There is fast, faster and truly, fucking insane.  I just try to keep my distance from the asshole aggressive drivers who are obviously a danger to everyone.
 
When we arrived, the girls wanted to swim in the condo pool almost immediately.  Then we went out to dinner for gourmet pizza, followed by gelato.  For a smaller city, Kingston has some pretty amazing restaurants actually.
 
Then the fun ended.  I decided to share the bed in the guest room with Little A.  I thought it would be nice to snuggle together.  Oh my was I wrong!  The kid tossed and turned like an octopus on a bad acid trip...ALL NIGHT!!  Neither of us got a wink of sleep.  I was very concerned about driving home when I was so tired, but what choice did I have?
 
My parents made the girls challah French toast for breakfast and then we went for another swim.  Unfortunately, I don't think the girls ate anything with any nutritional value the whole trip.  My mom felt it was important for grandma to spoil them.  I turned a blind eye...
 
After we all showered, my mom and I wanted to go for a walk with the girls but they just wanted to sit on their butts and play Ipad games.  Sigh!  So we made lunch and then packed up the car.
 
The drive home was slow.  Between Kingston and Cobourg, it was start and stop the whole way.  Traffic was nuts.  Little A was also grumpy because she was so tired.  I was darn tired too!  At one point she spilled popcorn all over the back seat and started having a freak out.  I wished we had a roof rack I could strap her too for the rest of the ride.  But despite all this, we made it home safe and sound.  I'm proud of myself!  I honestly feel like (in decent weather) the drive to Kingston is now no big deal for me.  Ha, a few years ago I would never have thought I'd have the confidence to do it.  But I did!

Friday, October 10, 2014

Live Life to the Fullest and Gobble it Up!


Hello!  It is Friday.  Before a long weekend.  The weather is beautiful!  Life is good.

I am both excited and nervous for the weekend.  I am driving with the kids to Kingston alone!  This will be only the second time I've done this drive alone and the first time with the girls in the car with me.  Gulp!

Adam needs some time to catch up on work but the girls are dying to visit my parents and see their new condo (and check out the indoor pool!).  Funny thing though, I used to adore traditional Thanksgiving dinner, but seem to have lost my taste for it.  I told my mom not to bother doing the whole turkey thing, so we're going out to this cute gourmet pizza restaurant instead.  Besides, the girls will prefer it to turkey, etc.

So even though I'm really scared for this trip, I am glad I am doing it.  I actually like challenging myself.  It always pays off in the end.  Even though its a cheesy tag line...often found on Lululemon bags...I really do think everyone should, "Do one thing that scares you every day."  As I always tell my clients, its not taking risks we usually regret, its missed opportunities.

By the way, I tried to donate blood again yesterday because Canadian Blood Services is in dire need, but my blood pressure was once again below the cut off.  It has to be at least 90/50 and mine was 91/49.  I asked the nurse if she couldn't just move the 1 from the 91 and add it to the 49, but apparently its against the rules.  Sigh!  So maybe, if giving blood is something you're scared of, you can give it a shot this weekend.  What do you say?

Have a fabulous Thanksgiving Canadians!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

BLT Salad With Avocado Buttermilk Dressing


Say hello to my new favorite salad!

This is going to be on the menu for lunch a lot I think.  Quick, easy and incredibly delicious!!
I serve it with a roasted sweet potato or pile of winter squash on the side.  Mmm...

Salad

8 cups greens (I used baby kale)
1 pint grape tomatoes
Bacon (I used turkey, but you can use coconut bacon, tempeh bacon, etc.)

Combine salad ingredients in a large salad bowl.

Avocado Buttermilk Dressing

1 ripe avocado
1 cup buttermilk (or non-dairy milk + 1 tbls lemon juice)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 garlic clove
1 tsp salt
1 tsp salt-free seasoning blend
Cracked black pepper, to taste

For the dressing, place all ingredients in food processor or blender.  Puree until smooth.  If you find it too thick, add a bit more buttermilk.  Pour desired amount onto salad.  Store remaining dressing in the fridge for up to 1 week. 

I have submitted this recipe to Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Natural, Green Party Blog Hop.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

Breast Cancer Awareness Month


It's time to think pink.  October is Breast Cancer Awareness Month.

Rethink Breast Cancer is an awesome organization aimed at providing information and support to young women dealing with the disease.  Here is some info on their latest offerings:


                            

RETHINK BREAST CANCER LAUNCHES ONLINE SUPPORT FOR BREAST
CANCER PATIENTS THIS OCTOBER WITH BOLD NEW DIGITAL CHANNEL

Breast Cancer Awareness Month marks the launch of two new online resources for women: the LiveLaughLearn video series and Cancer Fabulous Diaries 'zine 


(Oct 1, 2014 – Toronto, Canada) Breast Cancer Awareness Month kicks off today with the launch of the first ever digital breast cancer channel. Rethink Breast Cancer’s “boob-tube,” hosted on rethinkbreastcancer.com and YouTube, will focus on inspirational and informative content for young women concerned about and affected by breast cancer. The launch will feature a brand new collection of 90-second videos with helpful tips for navigating a woman’s journey with breast cancer from young women who have gone through it.  In conjunction with the videos, Rethink is also launching Cancer Fabulous Diaries, a first-of-its-kind, bold, beautiful new ‘zine available in both print and online format.

The first series of new videos released on Rethink’s digital channel are titled
LiveLaughLearn – an evolution of the in-person support groups with the same name Rethink has hosted since 2009.  Each stylishly-produced video shares a personal tip from a young woman who has gone through breast cancer, as told by the women themselves. The topics of the inaugural series, directed by Jessica Edwards of Clark Stanley, cover everything from the benefits of physiotherapy to aid recovery, to coping with chemotherapy, and finding a cute bathing suit that can hold a breast prosthesis. These new videos are the first of a new wave of digital content Rethink will produce to offer education and support to women across Canada and around the world. Watch the LiveLaughLearn videos here.

“We are extremely proud to launch the first ever breast cancer channel featuring sophisticated resources for young women affected by breast cancer,” says MJ DeCoteau, Executive Director, Rethink Breast Cancer. “We know that young women facing breast cancer have different challenges than older women and want to be spoken to in their own voice. These days that communication is happening online and by utilizing a digital platform to share compelling stories and helpful tips we are able to foster this conversation and reach an even wider audience of young women.”

As an additional digital resource for young women with breast cancer, Rethink will be unveiling the inspirational
Cancer Fabulous Diaries zine. This personal memoir meets practical handbook is based on the diary of Sylvia Soo, a woman diagnosed at 25 who chronicled her experience with breast cancer on her blog cancerfabulous.com. Rethink’s Cancer Fabulous Diaries features seven sections of interviews, essays, tips, tricks and life-affirming stories of how to navigate the experience of breast cancer. Featuring candid detail, striking photographs and chic editorial design, it was created to be a refreshing alternative to the traditional stack of impersonal, clinical and often overwhelming pamphlets a newly diagnosed woman is barraged with. Read the Cancer Fabulous Diaries e-zine here.

In addition to the digital channel and ‘zine, this October, Rethink Breast Cancer is hosting the fun
#BattlePink challenge for Breast Cancer Awareness Month, where influencers across Canada compete for the most votes on their styled pink product benefitting the organization. The charity’s annual banner fundraising event, Boobyball, will also take place in Toronto, Calgary and Winnipeg.

Please Share!
LiveLaughLearn Videos:
bit.ly/LiveLaughLearn #LiveLaughLearn
Cancer Fabulous Diaries:
bit.ly/CancerFabulousDiaries #CancerFabulousDiaries

About Rethink Breast Cancer
Rethink Breast Cancer’s mission is to empower young people worldwide who are concerned about and affected by breast cancer. Rethink is the first ever Canadian charity to bring bold, relevant awareness to the under 40s crowd; foster a new generation of young and influential breast cancer supporters; infuse sass and style into the cause; and, most importantly, respond to the unique needs of young women going through it.  By taking a breakthrough approach to all aspects of breast cancer – education, resources, advocacy, community building, and fundraising – Rethink is thinking differently about breast cancer.  To find out more about Rethink Breast Cancer, visit
rethinkbreastcancer.com.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Blueberries & Cream Baked Oatmeal Squares


Since the oatmeal squares went over so well, I had to make them again.  Big A has had cross country practices twice a week at 8:15am and this is the perfect thing to give the girls to eat for breakfast when we are rushing to get out the door early.  This time I changed things up with berry good results!

Blueberries & Cream Baked Oatmeal Squares

2 cups non-dairy milk (vanilla or plain, unsweetened)
1/4 cup granular stevia
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/4 cup flax meal
1 scoop(28g) berry flavoured vegan protein powder (I used this one)
2 cups oats
1/2 tsp baking soda

1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Bring 1 cup of the milk, stevia and vanilla to a boil in a small pot over medium heat.  Remove from heat and whisk in flax.  Set aside. Combine oats and baking soda in a large bowl.  Pour in flax mixture and remaining 1 cup of milk and stir until well mixed.  Scrape batter into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for 18-20 minutes, until centre is set.  Let cool.  Ice if desired, and then cut into 16 squares.  Keep refrigerated for up to 7 days, or freeze. Serve warm or cold.

Icing: 1 scoop berry flavoured vegan protein powder, 1/2 cup powdered erythritol, 1/2 tsp beet juice powder (for colour, if desired),1/2 cup non-dairy milk.  Whisk together all ingredients in a small bowl and spread over top of squares before cutting. 

I have added this recipe to Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Link-Up and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Soul 7: Feel Like a Buddhist Monk in the Middle of the Big City

 
Does the fact that its Monday have you wishing you could run away to a Buddhist monastery?

Ah, the irony of the times eh? We have created a world for ourselves so full of stress that most of us struggle with serious mental and/or physical health issues.

Modern medicine has led to some miraculous treatments and cures, but in many cases, it still has a long way to go.  When Western medical practices fail us, we often turn to what are considered to be alternative treatments.  Some, like acupuncture, have begun to be integrated into conventional treatment protocols as evidence of their value and efficacy increases.

One area where Western medicine often falls short is in dealing with stress, anxiety.  When we report struggling with such issues, as most of us do, we are usually given a prescription for medication.  When we are struggling with another health concern, often the treatment itself causes additional stress and anxiety.  It rarely takes into account our individual needs and circumstances, rather, follows a generalized protocol.  Our health care system focuses on treating the body often at the expense of the whole person.

Hospitals are a great example of some of the oversights inherent in our health care system.  I am fortunate in that my only experiences with hospital stays have been to give birth to my two daughters.  Even though I was there for happy, joyful events, both 4 day stays for my Caesarian sections were absolutely miserable.  In what is considered the top obstetrical hospital in Canada, the maternity ward was a nightmare (even if it was no worse, I am sure, than most wards of any kind of hospital.)  Having just had major abdominal surgery and very little sleep, I desperately needed rest.  This was next to impossible.  Hospitals are filled with noise and light.  It was impossible to sleep let alone even relax.  The ideal sleeping temperature is 18 degrees Celsius.  My hospital rooms must have been closer to 25 .  I was hot and uncomfortable.  I can recall when my youngest was born, drenching myself and my newborn with perspiration as I tried to nurse her in that hot, stuffy room.  All I could think about was how doubly awful it must be to be stuck in such an environment when dealing with a life threatening illness or severe pain and be dealing with unfathomable stress and anxiety on top of the physical discomfort.  How could anyone heal in that hell?
Funny humor cartoon of bureaucratic hospital reception
 
 
 
 

There is increasing acceptance, even in conventional Western medicine, of the integral connection between mind and body.  We know that pain and illness can affect the mind and that the mind can affect physical health.  There is empirical evidence that some of the mind-body healing techniques used for centuries in other cultures are effective.  Meditation, for example, has consistently been shown to have positive health benefits.

Now I do not believe that meditation alone can cure serious illness like cancer, multiple sclerosis or diabetes, but it can lower physiological and psychological stress indicators, and improve depression, which, in turn, can increase immune function, which is critical for fighting disease.  This makes it a perfect practice for anyone struggling with stress or depression alone, or in the face of chronic pain or a critical illness.

Soul 7 is a new wellness and relaxation centre in Toronto that I would describe as a meditation and healing spa.  Opened by Bob Berman, it offers a number of treatment therapies using mind/body balancing technologies.  Berman (no relation to me!), discovered these technologies after he lost his own wife to cancer.  She tried conventional treatment but due to several blunders in her care, she succumbed to her disease.  Berman was devastated by her death, which led to him to a spiritual awakening.  Travelling all over the world, he researched a variety of treatments routinely used in Europe but largely ignored here in North America.  Therapies supported by research and scientists around the world.

Some of the therapies offered by Soul 7 include: guided imagery and meditation, neuro muscular vibration (biomechanical stimulation), light therapy, Pulsed Electro-Magnetic Field (PEMF) therapy, brain wave therapy, and bio-energetic water.

Now I’m a sceptic, and had I not spoken with Berman to understand the purpose of these treatments and done a bit of my own research to confirm their legitimacy, I likely would have turned down the opportunity to visit his centre.

I was treated to a session at Soul 7, along with my good friend who just completed cancer treatment.  Just one month after undergoing two surgeries, including a total hysterectomy, followed by 3 rounds of chemotherapy, and 25 straight days of radiation, her treatment might have been ‘done’ but her body and mind were still feeling the effects of her journey.  As it turns out, Berman runs a special 10-week healing program just for individuals undergoing or having completed cancer treatment.  It is FREE for friends or family members of Soul 7 clients who sign up for one of their 10 week programs.

The space is peaceful and elegant and designed to be calming.  Both of us experienced the Guided Imagery along with the Nero Muscular Vibration therapy.  This involved guided meditation with headphones while lying in what was basically a contoured bed with a canopy over top and eye mask to keep out light.  Acoustic vibrations, creating sounds very much like meditation music, are used to reduce chronic pain and alleviate stress.
The experience was very pleasant and relaxing. All I could think was, “This is what it should be like in the hospital for people trying to heal!”  I was then treated to PEMF therapy, which is often used to promote faster healing from sports injuries, because I have a stubborn shoulder injury that has been bothering me.  This involved a PEMF pad being placed under the affected area for 20 minutes.  I couldn’t really feel anything and wondered how something so subtle could really help.  But sure enough the next morning my shoulder really did feel better.  This therapy can improve injuries in just a few treatments.

Soul 7 customizes your treatment depending on whether you are dealing with chronic pain, cancer, depression or stress.  As a counsellor and therapist, I have many clients who could benefit from the therapies they offer.  While not everyone may be dealing with a mental illness or serious disease, just about all of us are negatively affected by the stress created by our fast paced and toxic lifestyle.  If you live here in crowded, traffic-clogged Toronto, there is a good chance you could benefit from a visit too!

For more info, check out their website.

Friday, October 3, 2014

The Day of Atonement


Its Friday and its also Yom Kippur.  I am working tonight, but Adam is taking the girls to Kol Nidre.  Tomorrow morning we will all attend synagogue. Adam will fast and the girls have decided they will do a kids' fast (i.e. giving up one thing they enjoy).  Sunday the girls have Hebrew School while I'm teaching my spin class, then Big A has a birthday party, then we are all going to a Rosh Hashana/Yom Kippur/Sukkot celebration with all the Jewish families in our neighbourhood.  Its going to be a busy but wonderful weekend.

Now that the girls are really old enough to participate, I am experiencing a new found appreciation for the Jewish holidays. Being Jewish has never been a religious thing for me, always a cultural thing with the significance being around family and community.  I am so glad the girls are growing up in such a diverse and multicultural environment, which is very different from my own experience being Jewish in a small city where it just made me not fit in.

If there is anything I have to atone for this year, its for not being sufficiently grateful for everything I have.  I am as guilty as anyone else for fixating on what isn't perfect in my life.  Being a perfectionistic, worrier, I can also quickly fall down the rabbit hole of negativity and feel like one imperfection discounts everything else.  Its an easy trap to fall into.  For my weight-loss clients, it becomes the belief that being overweight makes them worthless, despite all their other accomplishments and qualities.  For my infertility clients the inability to conceive diminishes everything else in their life. 

My current angst is about career and money.  I have established a career I love and a solid name for myself.  I am proud of my work and I know I do it well.  But none of this has translated into an income that is anywhere near what Adam and I had hoped when I decided to pursue this career path.  While my income may grow, I highly doubt I will ever make 'a lot' of money, although that's a relative term.  I am just grateful Adam has been so supportive of my career change, which really affects us all.  I can't help but feel guilty sometimes when there are bills to pay and children to raise and I cannot contribute equally to the household income.

Its so easy to compare myself to others in this regard and feel I don't measure up.  Most of our friends are professionals well established in their careers, with household incomes far beyond what Adam and I can probably ever hope to achieve.  They have bigger, more expensive houses, fancier cars, and they take more holidays.  If I focus on all this too much, it is very easy for me to feel like a complete failure.

But what I've realized is, if I avoid focusing on these comparisons, I am actually perfectly happy.  I have a job I love and am passionate about.  We have a lovely, cosy house.  We live in a wonderful neighbourhood near the girls' school. We have a car that drives well (even if it does have a few dents).  We have two happy, healthy kids.  We have loving families.  Adam and I both have jobs we enjoy.  I am actually happy...like really happy, when I stop making comparisons between how much we have and how much others have.

Also, its all relative.  While we may have less than most of our peers, we are still very fortunate.  We have more, and a better quality of life than probably 90% of humans on this planet.  Failing to acknowledge that is shameful.  On my 40th birthday, as the love poured out to me from friends and family, I realized how absurd my depression about all this was and how lucky I am to have everything I have.  Do I need a bigger house? A fancier car? Expensive jewellery?  Not at all.  I need the love of friends and family and I've got that in spades.

Have a lovely weekend and a good Yom Kippur, if you are celebrating.  I hope your name is inscribed in the book of life!

Thursday, October 2, 2014

Mexican Lentil and Fruit Stew



This recipe came from 150 Best Indian, Asian, Caribbean and More Diabetes Recipes and Adam and I both loved it.  The secret to getting Adam on board with vegan dishes is adding fruit, so I knew this one would be a winner with him...and I just love sweet/savoury combos.

Admittedly, I didn't follow the exact recipe...because I never do...and I simplified it down a bit.  Khan's recipe would be a lot more time consuming as she uses dry lentils and Spanish Brava tomato sauce (another recipe in the book) made from scratch.  I also used brown lentils because that's what I had on hand.  Hey, even with all my shortcuts this still turned out great! If you want the original recipe, you'll have to buy the book!

After taking the photo, I added in more veggies that weren't in the recipe (a whole whack of diced zucchini), but that isn't necessary.

I kept it as a very thick stew and served it in whole grain tortillas, but you can add water to thin it out a bit and serve over brown rice or quinoa instead.

Mexican Lentil and Fruit Stew

2 cans green lentils, drained and rinsed

1 tsp olive or coconut oil
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 roasted red peppers, finely chopped (use jarred, if necessary)
1 tsp salt
1 tsp sweet paprika
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tsp cumin seed
1 large yellow plantain, cubed
2 cups pineapple chunks (fresh or jarred, if using jarred, use juice too)
1 can tomato paste
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped
Cayenne pepper, to taste (optional)

In a large pot over medium heat, saute onion, garlic, peppers and spices in oil and vinegar for about 5 minutes.  Add plantain, pineapple and lentils and turn heat down to medium-low. Cook another 10 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste, cilantro and cayenne, if using.  Continue cooking on low heat for another 10 minutes.  Season to taste.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.

I have brought this recipe to Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Party Link-Up and Vegetarian  Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.