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Wednesday, December 31, 2014

2015 Goals

Here's to trying to stay awake until midnight on New Year's Eve...
So, what are your plans for tonight?  Going out?  Partying hard?

We are lucky if we go out at all, but tonight we are.  Nothing wild and crazy though, we're heading to our friends' house and bringing the girls (kids are welcome), so we'll likely be leaving by 9:30pm.  This is as much for Adam and I as it is for them, however, because we have our big New Year's Day party tomorrow and neither of us want to be tired and hung over for it.

Do you have any goals or resolutions for 2015?
Funny new years resolution via someecards.com
 

I have only come up with one so far: get better at standing up for myself.

I am a pretty outspoken person and if there is something going on that I feel is unjust on someone else's behalf...watch out!  My problem is standing up for my own rights.  I have never been good at this and it means I often end up being a doormat.  This is, in general, more often a problem for women, who are socialized to look after the needs of others.  It's always bitten me in the butt and it still does.  Especially in the professional sphere, I easily get taken advantage of. 

I was discussing this with a friend and colleague, and she urged me to take this on as something to work on in 2015.  So I am!

Of course, just stating you are going to do something is unlikely to be successful, you need a plan to be able to achieve your goals.  So I am going to start by doing some research about HOW exactly to become more assertive and then then develop an action plan.

Have a wonderful New Year celebration tonight...and don't drink too much!!!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

Club Med Sandpiper Resort - Florida

It already seems like our trip to Florida was a lifetime away! Its hard to believe just 2 weeks ago we were soaking up the sun there.

If you are looking for a place that will give everyone in the family a true holiday, Club Med Sandpiper is the way to go!

We all had such an amazing time.  The food is great, the facilities are amazing, and there are activities for children of all ages as well as adults from morning to night.

First, we got a suite with 2 bedrooms, which was awesome, because sharing beds or rooms with our kids never turns out well.  The girls even had their own half bathroom.  The rooms are definitely not luxurious, but there are some nice touches like chocolates on your bed every night, bathrobes and slippers for the adults and decent toiletries.  There is also a mini fridge stocked with pop, a coffee maker and a selection of coffee and tea.

The food can accommodate even the pickiest of eaters with everything ranging from pizza, French fries, hot dogs, chicken nuggets and ice cream, to steak, duck confit, curries, stir-fries, pastas, a bazillion salads and veggie dishes, fresh breads and fancy pastries.  The food is served buffet style and is all you can eat, and there is a bar to serve all your beverage needs that opens at 10am.

There are 3 pools, one salt water that is not heated (was too cold for us!), one where you can do laps, aquafit, or just horse around, and one for adults only that also has a hot tub.  There is also a splash pad for the little ones.  In addition, there are paddle boards and sailboats, a golf course, tennis courts, volleyball, basketball, trapeze and circus!!

Below is the adult only pool.


There are camps from 9-5 for kids, which the girls loved, which kept them busy doing circus, trapeze, swimming and arts and crafts.  There is even babysitting for babies and activities specifically for teens 11-17.

Below is Big A, with a new friend, performing at a kids evening talent show.  She had such a great time!

 
 

This one is of my niece and Little A on the beach.

 
Adam and I are not usually impressed by fitness facilities, but the gym at Sandpiper is pretty awesome!  I was able to keep up my weight lifting most days we were there.

 

 
There are also fitness classes such as muscle conditioning, Zumba, Pilates and yoga every day.  I did the Pilates a few times and didn't think the instructor was very good, but it was fun. If you have big bucks, you can hire a personal trainer to work with you while you are there.

Also, for additional cost there are spa treatments available at the spa, from massages to facials.

I can't stress enough how much I recommend this place for a visit, we all thought it was the holiday of a lifetime.

Monday, December 29, 2014

My Brain...On Holiday

 
Hello!  How have your holidays been?

We had a truly fabulous time in Florida! It was really amazing.

One thing that made it so great was I was far more disconnected than usual. As it turned out, the resort had spotty Wifi and I could not get any Internet on my Ipad, except if I went and sat in the reception area.  Because of this, I ended up checking my email every other day, only because I'd left a voice mail telling clients I would be reachable by email, and checked Facebook once a day on Adam's computer.  Aside from that I was totally offline and out of touch with the whole world.  I barely watched television, and didn't read a newspaper once (I usually read 2-3 a day).  It was the most stress-free I think I've been in years.  It felt awesome.

This photo was taken by Little A, with me wearing a dress of Big A's and my hair, in its naturally curly state, pulled back...and I am sandy, smelling of chlorine from the pool, and utterly relaxed.  Bliss!

 
 
Unfortunately, its now back to reality and one cannot hide away forever.  But it was a good reminder how important it is to periodically get away from it all and completely disengage.
 
Here is Big A and I on our last day in Florida.  Don't I look relaxed???

 
Stay tuned for a full review of the resort and all the details of our amazing week!

Friday, December 12, 2014

Hiatus


Ah, don't you just love Grumpy Cat?  Not sure why he's so grumpy though, apparently he's made millions!

I am going on a little blogging break.  We've got family stuff, a trip, and I have a lot of business stuff to work on over the next few weeks, so I will be back December 29th.

If you want to get a jump start on your health resolutions for 2015, there are still 44 days to be first to try konjac powder and experience all its health benefits.  If you contribute to my campaign, you get to try some at a discount and, for those in the GTA, you get to try some goodies too!!

Until then, I hope you have a safe, happy, wonderful holiday!!

Thursday, December 11, 2014

Smokey Southern Bean and Bacon Stew (Vegan Option)


This is a super yummy, comforting hot meal, perfect for chilly winter days.  Of course, besides being delicious, it is also packed with nutrition, guaranteed to fuel you for your busy life.

Smokey Southern Bean and Bacon Stew (Vegan Option)

1 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
A few drops liquid smoke or 1/4 tsp smoked paprika
1/2 tsp real maple extract or 2 tbls real maple syrup
2 lbs Brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 onion, sliced
2 slices turkey bacon, tempeh bacon or 1/2 cup coconut bacon
1 lb okra, trimmed and sliced
1 can black eyed peas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked)
1 can navy beans, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked)
2 tbls creole seasoning, or chili powder
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1 can tomato paste
Cayenne pepper or hot sauce, to taste (optional)
Salt and pepper, to taste

Toss sprouts, cauliflower, onion and bacon with oil, garlic smoke and maple.  Spread on a foil-lined baking sheet and roast at 350F for about 40 minutes.  Simmer okra, beans spice and vinegar in a large pot or deep skillet.  Add roasted veggies and bacon and stir in tomato paste.  Cook for an additional 15 minutes.  Season to taste.  Eat alone, in a wrap, or on top of brown rice, quinoa or other grain.  Keep leftovers refrigerated for up to 4 days or freeze.


Wednesday, December 10, 2014

Inner Strength: How and Why to Keep Your Bones Strong

  The way I easily learned the humerus bone (in anatomy, for massage therapy) was by recalling how NOT humorous it was back when I broke my right humerus.

If you are under age 50, you probably aren't terribly concerned about your bones.  But you should be!  The latest issue of the Nutrition Action Healthletter summarizes the latest research findings.
 Your bones generally reach peak mass in your 30s and by your 50s most folks start to lose a significant proportion of their bone mass (men too, although women lose bone more rapidly).

A million and a half Canadians have osteoporosis and many more have low bone mass and don't even know it.  Not only does this put you at risk for fractures, it also costs our health system millions of dollars.  Among frail, elderly, a fracture can also mean death.  Osteoporosis is referred to as the silent disease because often people don't know they have it until they experience a serious break.

Genes play a role in your risk of osteoporosis, but lifestyle also has a significant impact on risk and is the one thing you can control.  Uncontrollable risk factors include being over 50, being female, having a small/thin body type, and a family history of weak bones or fractures.  So how can you minimize your risk of osteoporosis and associated bone fractures?

1. Strength training - Keeps both bones and muscles strong and reduces the risk of falls.
2. Consume sufficient calcium, mostly from food sources rather than supplements.
3. Take a Vitamin D supplement.
4. Don't smoke and limit alcohol consumption.
5. Avoid medications that are linked to bone loss, if possible.

Another thing to watch is the amount of acid you get through your diet.  This does not mean avoid acidic foods like citrus, etc., it refers to foods that have a high potential renal acid load when they break down in your body.  The ones with the highest load are proteins, particularly animal proteins, as well as grains.  Those that have a high negative potential renal acid load (i.e. are good for bones) are veggies and fruits.  That being said, it is important for older adults to get sufficient protein to avoid muscle loss so older adults most at risk should consider limiting their consumption of cereals and grains instead.

Even if you are young and don't think osteoporosis will ever effect you, following all the tips for minimizing your risk make good sense anyways.  Exercise, eat a healthy, plant-based diet, don't smoke and limit alcohol. Capiche?



Tuesday, December 9, 2014

Festive Kale and Quinoa Salad With Cranberry Orange Dressing


Ironically, while this yummy salad is festive with the colours of Christmas (okay maybe more pink and green than red and green, but close!), I took it to our family Hanukkah party...hey it's pretty hard to come up with a blue and white salad...blueberries and cottage cheese maybe?

Anyways, this is great for a pot-luck because it is served at room temperature and balances out some of the super 'healthy' ingredients with a bit of sweetness.

Salad

1 cup quinoa

1 lb organic baby kale
1/2 cup juice-sweetened cranberries/cherries and goji berries
1/4 cup pepitas (pumpkin seeds), or sub sunflower seeds

Dressing

1 cup cranberries
2 tbls orange rind
Juice of 2 oranges
2 tbls maple syrup or honey
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup olive oil
1/4 tsp salt

Cook quinoa according to package instructions and let cool.  Toss with kale, berries and seeds.

For the dressing, place cranberries, rind, juice and sweetener in a small pot and bring to a boil.  Turn heat down to low and simmer until cranberries begin to burst.  Let cool.  Pour into a food processor or blender and add vinegar, oil and salt.  Puree until desired consistency (personally, I like it with small pieces of cranberry still intact).  Pour desired amount of dressing over salad and mix well.  Refrigerate leftover dressing for up to 2 weeks.

This recipe was submitted to Vegetarian  Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Lisa's Kitchen No Croutons Required.

Monday, December 8, 2014

Things I'm Lovin': December 2014 Edition

Its Monday!  No doubt about that.  Little A was in Monday morning mode which is always delightful...not!  The girls just wanted to stay home and do all the crafts they got at the Hanukkah party yesterday.  I tried to put things in perspective for them and explained that they are damn lucky they get to go to school because in some countries only boys get to go and girls have to stay home, aren't allowed to learn to read and have to do nothing but have babies and scrub toilets their whole life.  Surprisingly, it actually worked and they were so flabbergasted by my preaching that they forgot all about complaining.  Ha!

Anyways, on Mondays its particularly important to appreciate the little things.  Here are the little things bringing me joy right now.

First, my new winter jacket I got on Black Friday for 50% off.


It is the lightest, warmest and most flattering winter coat I have ever owned.  LOVE IT! By the way, that is not me in the picture ;)

For some reason I am craving hot drinks, but I am suddenly not into drip coffee or tea.  Its weird actually...but what I'm guzzling these days are homemade mochas made from espresso powder, NuNaturals cocoa syrup and a bit of milk.  Sometimes I will even add a chai tea bag to spice things up a bit. Guilt-free mochas that warm the soul! 

 
Tricking my kids into eating secretly healthy foods while they believe they are decadent treats...like these frosted chocolate cupcakes (they ALL got devoured in one evening, no joke!).  Unfortunately, I can't share the recipe, although it may go on my new business website ;)
 
 
Winter Squash and sweet potatoes.  For some odd reason I was turned off squash and sweet potatoes during my pregnancies and even for a few years after my distaste lingered.  But gradually my love for them has returned and now I'm kind of obsessed. 
 
 
Unfortunately, no sooner had I decided that delicate squash is my absolute favorite, it suddenly disappeared from all the store shelves.  Sigh!
 
Body Shop Shea Body Butter.
 
Click for enlarged view
This is the only stuff I use in the winter.  I love it, I love the smell and it keeps my skin feeling moisturized all day!
 
What are the little things making you happy these days?


Friday, December 5, 2014

Working at Home


You may think it odd that as a therapist, I do a lot of work from home?  Well naturally I do all my paperwork and report writing at home, but I also do a lot of my counselling.  No, I don't have clients come over to my house...while it would be awesome to have a home office, we don't really have an appropriate space nor are we close enough to subway stop to make it realistic.  Actually, I do a whole heck of a lot of counselling by phone. In person is best, of course, but sometimes it just isn't possible.

You see, there are few infertility counsellors in small towns outside of the Greater Toronto Area, so I get many clients from north and west of the city...and a few from east - I've even had clients from my hometown of Kingston!  Also, sometimes clients that start out seeing me in-person, switch to phone counselling.  Why?  Because if they don't live downtown, it can be a nightmare to get in and out of the city core.  Its getting really difficult to get around this city!

I feel very fortunate.  It certainly saves me a whole lot of time going to and from the office, and I can wear sweatpants and drink tea all day.  Today, I was somehow fortunate enough to book 4 consecutive phone sessions, which means, yep, sweatpants and tea!  There is nothing better on a cold winter day.  Tomorrow, unfortunately, I have to go to the office, but I am looking forward to our pre-Hannukah party at my mother-in-law's on Sunday (because everyone is away over Hannukah).  Its our annual tradition of all the cousins getting together and is crazy chaos. 

Have a healthy, happy weekend!

Thursday, December 4, 2014

Sugar-Free Teriyaki Sauce

 

This is a photo of a yummy teriyaki chicken and cabbage stir-fry I made for Adam and I using home-made teriyaki sauce.

I am very careful about what sauces and condiments I purchase because most of them are pretty much pure sugar and other crap.  If you think its too much work to make your own, you're wrong.  Most are very easy to make yourself, just like this teriyaki sauce which is sugar-free and corn-starch free and can be gluten-free if you want.

Sugar-Free Teriyaki Sauce

1/2 cup, packed dates
Boiling water
Chunk of ginger, peeled
2 cloves garlic
1/3 cup soy sauce or coconut aminos
1/4 cup rice vinegar (unseasoned)
Optional: 1 tsp konjac powder

Place dates in measuring cup.  Cover with boiling water up to 1 cup line.  Meanwhile, place remaining ingredients in blender.  Add dates and water and blend until smooth.  Keep in fridge for up to 3 weeks.

Wednesday, December 3, 2014

Doorframe Pull-Up Bar Workouts: Book Review

Doorframe Pull-Up Bar Workouts

Back when I was a gym-rat, I really didn't think it was possible to get fit without going to a gym.  Working out at home just gave me images of someone lying on the ground doing side leg lifts with Jane Fonda or jogging on the spot for a few minutes. 

But when life no longer allowed me to get to a gym regularly (i.e. I had kids), I had no choice but to keep active by working out at home.  I now much prefer doing it that way.  No having to look presentable.  No waiting for equipment.  No wasted time getting to and from somewhere else.  I love it!!  And I've realized you don't even need much equipment or space to become a lean mean fighting machine right in your own space.

One of my must-have home gym items is a doorframe pull-up bar.  I use ours 2x week when I do my back/shoulder/chest strength workouts.  There is really nothing better for building upper body strength!  So I was more than happy to review a copy of Doorframe Pull-Up Bar Workouts by Ryan George, a U.S. based personal trainer.

George starts with an introduction to this apparatus and the benefits of doing home workouts. He provides a guide of the major muscles you utilize and different types of movement (i.e. Concentric vs eccentric vs isometric muscle contractions).  He lists the components of a healthy lifestyle and addresses common fitness and training misconceptions.  George also gives some general nutrition tips and addresses myths related to food and diet.

After an explanation of how to use this book, George gives guidance on how to design a workout program, set goals and get baseline measures for yourself.  Next, he provides different workouts based on specific goals, for beginner to advanced ability levels.

Part III of the book describes each exercise and provides photos of each, as well as an explanation of the muscles you are trying to target.  Most are pretty straightforward, but he does show one (sideways facing, one hand in front of the other) that I'd never thought of before, and have been doing ever since I caught it.  Similarly, he suggests using yoga straps on it to function like a TRX suspension system...I hadn't thought of that either! 

One thing I will warn is this, if you don't already have some upper body strength, you may not be able to do even 1 pull up.  When I train people I otherwise consider super fit (i.e. people who work out regularly and have been doing so for a long time), I am often surprised by their lack of upper body strength and they are usually unable to do a single pull up.  This is especially true of women, unfortunately.  But don't be discouraged, you have to start somewhere!  He does show modifications (using a chair and resistance bands) that may make it easier for folks not ready to do a full pull-up.

The type of pull-up bar you have will affect how many of these you can do, as will the width of your door.  The door in our rec room I use for our bar is quite narrow, so I can't do any of the super wide grips, nor can I do some of the others because of the design of our bar, which sits relatively flush to the doorframe, so I would just bonk my head if I tried them.  You actually might want to buy the book first to determine which bar to buy.

What might surprise you is just how many body parts you can work with this baby.  Not just back and shoulders, but core, chest, legs, biceps and triceps too!  George also includes some exercises not using the pull-up bar, and some cardio moves so you can get a total-body workout with his programs, or for those you put together yourself.

If you have nothing but a doorframe in your home and a wee bit of space, you can still get ripped.  Seriously if you are consistent and work on your pull-ups its almost impossible not to see results.  So no excuses! If you want a great workout you can do anytime, consider getting a pull-up bar and this book as your guide.

Disclosure: I was provided with a review copy of this book by the publisher but all the opinions on this blog are my own.




Tuesday, December 2, 2014

Persimmon Five Spice Granola


I am always looking for new flavours, particularly when it comes to granola.  Just when I thought I'd exhausted all the possibilities my puny brain could think up, I was inspired by the juicy, orange persimmons at the market, which are now in season.  Being an Asian fruit, they team up perfectly with Chinese Five Spice.  If you aren't a fan, just omit and stick with the cinnamon.  Either way, this granola is sweet and fragrant, and, of course, healthy and delicious!

Persimmon Five Spice Granola

3 ripe persimmons, chopped
1 tbls lemon juice
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp Chinese Five Spice powder (optional)
1/2 tsp pure, uncut stevia powder (or other sweetener, to taste)
1 cup water
3 tbls coconut oil

4 cups large flake oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
6 cups puffed millet
1 cup uncooked millet

1 cup raisins  (and/or almonds, cashews, dried apricots, etc.)

Place persimmons, juice, spices and water in pot and bring to a boil over medium heat.  Turn heat down to low, add coconut oil, and simmer until fruit is soft and oil has melted.  Remove from heat and let cool.   Transfer to blender or food processor and process until smooth.  If it is really thick, add another 1/4 cup water. 

Place dry ingredients in a large bowl and pour fruit puree over top.  Mix well.  Spread out onto 2 large baking sheets and bake at 350F for 40 minutes, stirring granola and rotating position of pans every 10 minutes.  Let cool and add in dried fruit and/or nuts.  Store in an airtight container for up to 3 months.

This recipe has been added to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, December 1, 2014

Making Waves

funny swimming picture - pool lanes

Hi and welcome to the start of a new week!

This weekend Big A officially passed Swim Kids 10!  In case you are not familiar with these levels, this means she is now ready to start Bronze Star level...even though at age 8, she isn't eligible to pass Bronze Star for another 3 years, until she is 11.  I am so proud of her, she is such an amazing swimmer.  Something I can never say about myself.  So far, she has no interest in joining a swim team, and I can't blame her, I was never interested in competing either.

I did love swimming as a young kid, but then there was a point where I stopped enjoying it.  I actually remember the moment.  The swim instructor threw weights into the deepest part of the pool and asked us to retrieve them.  I dove down and remember if felt like miles just to get to the bottom.  I struggled and ended up having to come up for breath before I got the weight.  In the end I got it, but something about the whole experience freaked me out.  And that was it.

Then, of course, add all the appearance-related insecurities of puberty to the mix and getting into a bathing suit because something I had no interest in doing.  Even now, I hate getting into a bathing suit, though pulling on tight spandex workout clothes to teach a fitness class is no problem for me.  But seriously, spandex pants and tank are one thing...a bathing suit is like wearing nothing but underwear and a bra!

I do get the benefits of swimming though and I actually love aquafit.  I did mom and baby aquafit with Little A for months when she was an infant and was really surprised how challenging it can be.  But its also very therapeutic to be in the water. If my muscles are really sore from a workout, soaking in a pool for a bit always makes me feel better.

The kids both adore swimming, but I still don't.  Aside from having to wear a bathing suit, I also find most pools too cold (which is weird because I am usually always too warm), and get grossed out by dirty pool decks and change rooms.  Blech!  Oh, and I absolutely hate the smell of chlorine.  Like it makes me gag.  Luckily for the girls, they have an awesome dad who will pretty much take them swimming whenever they want.

Swimming is the only activity we insist the girls do, so its good they love it.  Adam and I believe it is an important life skill to have.  I am really hoping Big A will go on to do her life guarding training because that is such a great job for a kid.  Here in Toronto, there are tons of pools and splash pads that offer youth summer jobs that pay relatively well.  But I know if she isn't interested in that, I will have to not push it.

I fully intend on bringing my bathing suit to Florida and this year the intention is to even get in the pool and swim with the kids at least once.  That's the intention, anyways!

I am so glad both girls enjoy being active, and I hope that Adam and I are setting a good example for them.  My parents had little interest in physical activity as adults, so in some ways its surprising that my brother and I are both so active (he's more into sports as opposed to fitness though).  That being said, its important not to push kids too hard and turn them off, so aside from swimming, we let the girls choose what they want to do, if anything.  Big A loves extracurriculars and is doing dance (tap/jazz) and gymnastics along with swimming, while Little A also does gymnastics.  I think Big A would do more if we let her, but frankly its too challenging to fit all these activities in, especially now that getting around Toronto is such a complete nightmare.

Have a great Monday.