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Thursday, December 31, 2015

2016


Well well, how is your 2016 shaping up so far?

I apologize for the dearth of posts lately, things have just been super busy.  I have a list of meaty posts I have been wanting to write but haven't had the time.  But I promise I will get to it!

Looking back, was 2015 a good one for you?

It was a great one for me actually...especially compared to 2014.  The year I turned 40 was one that was full of existential angst.  I went through some hard times asking myself hard questions that most of us find ourselves asking from time to time: Am I enough?  Should I____ What if____? Most of it revolved around my professional self.  I grew up in a home where academic achievement was everything.  There was great pressure to excel in intellectual endeavors and financial stability was highly valued.  Its ironic then, or perhaps its the result of, that both my brother and I dabbled in well paid, stable jobs and ran the other way screaming and, instead, ended up in highly unstable, self-employed careers.

But its difficult, even as adults, to shake off that desire to get validation from your parents and reject their value system that may not be true for you, and develop your own. As I looked around at all our friends and family who followed the path I was expected to take, I was left with feelings of guilt, shame and self-doubt.  Oh my, we are going to live in a semi and only own one car forever while everyone else is moving into larger homes and driving nicer, and multiple cars! It seems absurd when I said it out loud, of course.  The things that really matter were all right in my face: my kids, my husband, my health, my work, living in a peaceful country, etc.

Also, my cynicism about the world has started to lift.  For a while there it felt like everything was going to complete hell.  Toronto had a pathetic, psycho mayor, Canada had a pathetic Prime Minister, and technology and social media seemed to be destroying true human connection and empathy. The fact that we replaced that joke of a mayor with a good guy and the butt-face Prime Minister with a great guy, has given me (and most of the country) a renewed sense of optimism.  Although 2015 saw many tragedies play out across the world, finally seeing so many people open their hearts to the many Syrian refugees is wonderful.  Of course, Donald Trump is a huge blemish I still hope we can erase from the political scene in 2016.

In terms of my own personal situation, its not like I pine for any material things we don't have, I just feel responsible for the fact that we don't have them. I also love what I do for work. I am passionate about being a therapist and especially my work as an infertility counsellor. I feel blessed to have the opportunity to do what I love, because a lot of people are not so lucky, no matter how much money they make or how many things they can buy.

Ultimately, what matters most, for anyone, is to feel a sense of purpose and to feel like you matter.  After a year of thinking, reading and reflecting, I have realized I do feel a sense of purpose, not only as a therapist, but as a mom, daughter, sister and wife too.  I matter because I help people and that makes me feel fantastic. There is no money in the world that can compare to the feeling I get when people tell me I have positively changed their lives. 

Thank you all for continuing to read along in my journey and I hope in some small way I have had, or will have a positive impact on your life!

Reality Strikes and Winter Hits

 
Even though every Torontonian knew the green, mild weather wouldn't last, the snow storm this week still feels like a shock to the system.

Really, we are still doing well relative to most years at this time.  We seriously only got our first snow this week, at the end of December, about a month later than usual.  And its still pretty mild, with temps above freezing.

What gets me though is the greyness and bleakness of the landscape. 


Toronto skyline on Feb. 1, 2015

I am going to try my mood light again this winter, but I don't hold much hope it will make me feel any sunnier.  For me I don't think it is an actual physiological need for sunlight that gets me down so much as just needing a nicer view. You know how there are television stations that just broadcast a fireplace or fish tank to help people relax? Well, I am sure there must be something like that with beautiful landscapes.  At one place where I used to go for massages they have a big television in the waiting room and play a tape of views of the gorgeous Maldives, with calming music. I need something like that playing in a loop over and over from now until April!

I wish I could look out my window and see this:


Or this:


Despite the crap climate we have here, if 2015 showed me nothing else, it proved that Canadians are incredibly lucky.  We live in an otherwise amazing country and I have never felt more proud to be a Canadian.  My wish for 2016 is that some of our good fortune permeates to other parts of the work where people are not so lucky...although they may have better weather.

Happy New Year, I hope the sun is shining where you are! I'll be back on January 4th.

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

The Last Hurrah

introvert humor - Google Search:
 
Friday we are throwing our annual New Year's Day party. For the last time.

I realized that for the past few years I hate hosting it.  Actually, I have grown to hate hosting parties period.

I love other people's parties though.  You see, I can leave whenever I want.  The problem with hosting is you can't tell people to get out.

I am an extroverted introvert.  This means that I adore socializing until I don't.  I hit a limit with how much interaction (especially large group interaction) I can handle and then I need solitude.  I think having children has increased this tendency in me because, as any parent knows, you rarely get solitude, even in your own home, when you have kids.

Adam is even more of an introvert and basically hates parties.  So when we finally admitted to each other how much we were dreading the event this year, we happily agreed this would be the last one.

You say you've had a big night and people think you're hung over.

I also hate all the work involved, so I've switched to a low effort hosting strategy this year: I am not cooking or baking a single thing.  Unless you count heating up the frozen appetizers I bought.  Just sticking to the standard fruit and veggie trays, chips, popcorn, munchies, etc., which tend to be the most popular items anyways, at least with the kids.  I will still be making mulled apple cider, as always, as well as mulled wine, for a new twist...and serving some craft beers...more for my own pleasure than anything else ;)

Here's to all the introverts out there! We can all bump mugs and cheers from the privacy of our own homes!!

People don't understand that you really are too busy to hang out.

Monday, December 28, 2015

Christmas Miracle


Good morning, I hope you have had happy holidays so far!

We were in Florida last week at my in-law's place near Orlando and had a wonderful, relaxing stay.

It was way too hot and humid for me - caused a few killer headaches - but it was great for the girls who spent a lot of timing swimming with their cousins and having a blast.

I will miss the view from our condo though...


Sitting out on the screened in porch was lovely, even with the heat. I will miss the sunshine too.  Toronto is still uncharacteristically mild for this time of year, but it is so grey and blah.

Adam and I both feel refreshed, having eaten well, exercised and slept a lot. 
I made it to one of the resort gyms 3 times to lift weights, and did some of my Tae Bo videos.  Of course, I brought along Essentrics, because doing my stretching is a must!

Eating nutritious food is easy because we stay in a spacious condo with a full kitchen and cook most of our meals.  I made us gigantic egg white omelets for breakfast every day, filled with kale or spinach, salsa, turkey sausage and (in mine) cheese.  Lunches were sandwiches and salads and dinners, even those eaten out, were fish, chicken and salads.  I will definitely miss the amazing ruby red Florida grapefruits!!

My big indulgence were trying some special drinks including a sparkling wine, Chinese amber beer, and this freakin' amazing hard cider we found at Trader Joe's (yes, they now have Trader Joe's in Florida!!):

Henry Hotspur’s Cider
 
I got the ginger variety that really had some bite and isn't too sweet.  It was awesome!

We flew home on Christmas Day and it was quite the trip.  The flight was delayed an hour, but that wasn't a big deal, especially because we knew ahead of time and could hang out in the airport, rather than in our seats on the plane (which is what happened on the way to Florida).  Free WiFi kept the girls entertained and Adam and I read.

After boarding our almost empty plane (another bonus), we discovered that the crew was in a jolly good mood and in an uncharacteristic display of generosity from Air Canada (I despise airlines!), we were offered free wine, chocolate and Ipads for the kids to play with while onboard.  Believe me, if you have every flown with Air Canada, you know why I am calling this experience a Christmas Miracle.

Oh, and then there was the other issue.  Just as we began our landing, the plane reversed direction and came back up.  The pilot made an announcement that he had to abort the landing because the plane was having a technical difficulty. Oh yeah, great news for someone like me that already hates to fly!!

Fortunately, it was resolved, but as per airline regulations, we still had to be met on the runway by emergency crews.

I guess our safe arrival could be considered another Christmas Miracle.

Just a few busy work days this week and then the New Year.  Hold on to your hats folks, you've almost made it to 2016!

Friday, December 18, 2015

Healthy Travel

5 Tips for Healthy Travel

Too often when we travel, whether its for business or pleasure, we derail our healthy lifestyle with all or nothing thinking.  Because we can't stick to our exact eating and/or exercise plan, we throw in the towel completely and make poor choices.

Most of the time it is very doable to stay on track, even if you have to adopt a new and different routine from your usual. Perhaps you won't get in as much cardio as you normally would, or you'll have to pack some resistance bands rather than using free weights, but as long as you get in as much activity as you can, you're good.  Maybe you can't drink your daily green smoothie for breakfast, but no doubt you can find an alternative to eat that is yummy and nutritious.  Just because you can't be perfect, doesn't mean you need to stop trying.  Its all about doing your best in every situation. You can't ask any more of yourself!

Planning ahead is key.  Pack healthy snacks for the plane/train/car.  Don't waste calories on crap food, save your indulgences for when its really worth it.  If you can stay in an apartment or suite hotel with kitchen facilities, this is a great way to save money and stick to a healthy eating plan.  Its fun to discover new foods at local grocery stores and markets and cook up a feast for yourself and family!  If kitchen facilities aren't available, don't forget that many grocery stores and food markets now have extensive prepared food options, many that are healthy, like salad bars.  Sit-down restaurants are not your only choice!

If you do prefer eating out, research healthy restaurants in the area.  Choose a hotel with gym facilities, or bring fitness DVDs or resistance bands, which can be used right in your room.  If you don't want to workout, plan to walk as much as possible, or rent bikes, which is often the best way to explore a place.

Try to avoid letting yourself get too hungry.  Make sure you get enough protein at every meal, and even try to incorporate some into your snacks.  Carry a water bottle to make sure you are hydrated and not mistaking thirst for hunger.  Prioritize sleep so fatigue is not spiking your stress hormones and driving your cravings for sugar and carbs.  Make sure you are getting enough veggies, which are easy to neglect when eating out. Have a salad as one of your meals, or grab precut veggies and a small tub of hummus for a snack.

Its everyone's worst nightmare to get sick while travelling.  If you do and you're in the U.S., Amino has a service that can help you find a doctor.  We travel to the U.S. a lot, so this very helpful.

Remember, crappy food, alcohol and inactivity do not make for a healthy body and mind.  You will have a better mood and more energy if you treat your body well, even when you travel.

Well fellow health seekers, I hope you have a fabulous holiday.  I'm taking a break but I'll be back on December 28th.

Thursday, December 17, 2015

Oral B SmartSeries Toothbrush with Bluetooth: Product Review

 
One of the hottest trends right now is health tracker devices.  It seems even barely health conscious people have gotten hooked on tracking their daily steps, sleep patterns, calorie intake, etc.

Apparently this type of quantitative feedback can help motivate some people to stick to their health goals.  Personally, I've never been interested, but maybe that's because the one area where I never lack motivation is my health, especially in terms of nutrition, exercise and sleep.

One frequently overlooked but critical aspect of personal health care is oral hygiene.  Keeping your teeth and gums healthy is not just a matter of keeping your pearly whites beautiful and preventing bad breath.  Gum disease has been linked to cardiovascular disease and other systemic inflammatory responses. 

If you need a bit of a kick in the pants about your oral hygiene and love gadgets, you will want to check out Oral B's new Smartseries electric toothbrushes with Bluetooth.  If you download the free Oral B app, available for both iOS and Android, you can track all your oral care habits electronically.  This can help you identify shortcomings in your behaviour, and problem zones in your mouth.  You can also share the data with your dentist.  Now, admittedly, this would be helpful for me as my dentist always asks how long I brush for, and how hard I brush (because I have a lot of enamel wear). While I know how many times per day I brush, I never bother to time myself nor remember to do so. And how hard am I brushing? I dunno! The pressure sensor alert is going to be the most useful thing for me, and I certainly like now clean my teeth feel afterwards.

Here is a little bit more info about these brushes:

  • Removes up to 100% more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush
  • Clinically proven superior 3D Cleaning Action oscillates, rotates and pulsates to break up and remove more plaque than a regular manual toothbrush
  • Rechargeable with 5 modes: Daily Clean, Gum Care, Sensitive, Whitening, and Deep Clean
  • Senses when you brush too hard with pressure sensor alert
  • In-handle timer pulses every 30 seconds to let you know when to switch areas of the mouth
  • CrossAction round brush head with perfectly angled bristles for a precise clean

  • Of course, these cost more than your usual toothbrush, generally retailing for at least $130, but if you think it will really make a difference in your oral hygiene habits, it may be worth it.  Also, since the brushes are replaceable, it can last you a very long time.

    If you have a hard-to-buy-for person on your holiday gift-giving list, this might just be the perfect thing!

    Disclosure: I was sent this product at no charge but all opinions on this blog are my own.

    Wednesday, December 16, 2015

    Quinoa Salad with Kale, Pomegranate Seeds, Persimmon and Cranberries


     
    For her annual Hannukah party, my mother-in-law asked me to make a quinoa salad.  I instantly decided I wanted to come up with a new recipe...something really unique.  Something kind of special.  I think this fit the bill, and it was definitely a hit.

    Not only is this salad delicious, its full of superfoods to keep you feeling fabulous.  If you want to make it a main course salad, just throw in some chickpeas for protein. 

    Its very quick and easy to make too, which I am sure you will appreciate for the busy holiday season.  If you're entertaining, this salad will look lovely on your table and impress your guests.

    Salad

    1 cup uncooked quinoa
    1 bunch black kale (lacinato kale), finely chopped
    1 persimmon, diced
    1/2 cup pomegranate seeds
    1/2 cup roasted, sliced almonds
    1/4 cup dried cranberries

    Cook quinoa according to package instructions and let cool.  Transfer to serving bowl, along with the rest of salad ingredients.

    Orange Maple Dressing

    Zest and juice of 2 navel oranges
    2 tbsp. olive oil
    2 tbsp. maple syrup
    2 tbsp. pomegranate vinegar or white wine vinegar
    1 tsp salt, or to taste

    Whisk together dressing ingredients and pour over salad. Toss well.

    Salad can be refrigerated for up to 4 days.

    This recipe has been shared with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday. It has also been submitted to the No Croutons Required January Edition.

    Monday, December 14, 2015

    Nutrition Action Healthletter Canada No More :(

    Tell Nickelodeon to follow Disney's lead and stop marketing junk food to kids! https://secure2.convio.net/cspi/site/Advocacy?cmd=display=UserAction=1367:
     
    Whew, normally I feel great Monday mornings, but I'm bagged today.  It was a crazy busy weekend of holiday parties and working and visiting with family.  This week is also packed work-wise, so there won't be any reprieve until next Sunday when the winter holidays begin.  It will be nice for us all to have some time off together. Anyways...

    A few weeks ago I got some disappointing news in the mail.

    I have been receiving the Canadian Nutrition Action Healthletter for many years now.  I love it because it is unbiased information about health and nutrition that is evidence based.  This means no misinterpreted research reporting to get a headline, or fraudulent claims about products made by companies or representatives just trying to make a buck.

    Unfortunately, they are discontinuing the Canadian edition.  Apparently the costs are too high for this non-profit publication from the Centre for Science in the Public Interest in Washington, D.C.

    I may look into getting the digital version of the American publication, but due to the vast differences in the health and food industries between Canada and the U.S., it won't be as useful for us Canadians. Nevertheless, information from an unbiased source like this is a great idea for anyone who has difficulty distinguishing fact from fiction when it comes to nutrition information. RIP Nutrition Action Healthletter Canada!

    Friday, December 11, 2015

    How to Have a Healthful Holiday

    Here's an excellnet position for relief from holiday overindulgence: A pose to Help You ‘Stomach’ the Holidays .......:
     
    Between American Thanksgiving, which just passed, and New Year's, there are almost 6 weeks when North Americans tend to overindulge and let their healthful habits fall to the wayside. It doesn't have to be this way!  You can still enjoy the holidays without remorse or negative health consequences come January 1st.

    Here are some tips:

    • Avoid all or nothing thinking - Most people decide that if they can't adhere perfectly to their usual routine, they might as well just let it all go completely.  Hogwash!  Do the best you can and that's all you can ask of yourself.

    • Do something active every day - You don't have to get to the gym, but try and move your body for at least 15 minutes every day.  Make it a challenge and enlist the participation of coworkers or loved ones.  Exercise is critical, not only for health and fitness, but for mental health and stress management.

    • Don't drink your calories - The easiest way to gain excess fat is by consuming liquid calories. If there are desserts and other special foods that you only get at holiday time, spend your calories on those items and forgo the alcohol, etc. which is around all year round.  If you have to have egg nog, have just a wee bit.

    •   Manage stress using active coping strategies - Too often we use alcohol and/or food as an avoidant coping strategy.  Unfortunately, these are neither healthy nor effective ways to manage stress or solve problems. Instead, exercise, talk to a friend or therapist, meditate, practice yoga or some other mindfulness-based activity, or write/paint/colour/sing/dance or use another creative outlet for your feelings or to help you relax.

    • Avoid the See-Food diet - Just because food is available, it doesn't mean you have to eat it.  Try to stick to your regular eating plan (i.e. 3 meals + 2 snacks, etc.) and don't eat if you aren't hungry. 

    • Resist social pressure - Loved ones pushing you to eat or drink are not doing you any favours even if they mean well.  Politely decline what you don't want or need.  If you can, be honest that you are trying to stick to your health goals.  Nowadays people should be understanding about this.  If they're not, screw 'em. Just kidding...sort of.

    • Be forgiving - If you mess up or overindulge...Bigones! Tomorrow is another day.  Just get back on track as soon as possible.
    This weekend is sure to be full of temptation.  Both Adam and I have family visiting. We have our huge annual Hannukah party, plus another Hannukah party the same day, plus dinner out the night before at a nice restaurant. 

    I hope you have some fun plans for the weekend.  Enjoy this holiday season healthfully and happily!

    Wednesday, December 9, 2015

    Prana Organic Coconut Snacks: Product Review


    Do you pray to the coconut gods?

    I am being sarcastic, of course, but there are a lot of folks out there that think coconut is the supreme wonder food that will cure everything that ails you.  That's bull.  Its definitely not bad for you, but whether it is really a miracle fruit...or nut, or whatever it actually is, has not yet been proven.

    That being said, I do love the taste.  I love sauces made with coconut milk, or coconut in baked goods or curries.  I think coconut sugar is the bomb...YUM! Unlike most folks, however, I am not a huge fan of coconut oil because its super heavy, and its a big pain in the arse to use in winter when it hardens so much, trying to chip any out to cook with is incredibly frustrating. Coconut water tastes gross to me and is pointless.  Unless you are an endurance athlete, don't drink your calories.  Stick with regular water.

    In this house, it is Big A and I who are the coconut lovers.  Adam is neutral about it, and Little A despises it.

    Given my love of coconut, I was excited to receive samples of Prana's new organic coconut chips in all the available flavours: Classic, Hula (salt and pepper), Charleston (BBQ) and Jive (Spicy).

    To my surprise, everyone was eager to try them.  Unfortunately, not even Big A liked them.  She found the Classic too plain, and the others too spicy.  I enjoyed all of them though.  I love the spicy flavours, of course, but don't love that they have added sugar in them (rice syrup). That being said, they aren't something I would snack on but they are perfect for adding to salads, stir fries and other dishes, and that's what I've been using them for, like my Hawaiian Fried Cauliflower Rice!

    If you like them as a snack, go for it, but just keep in mind they don't have much protein or volume to them, so you can easily it several servings (a serving is 1/4 cup and 90 calories) without feeling full.  I say better to use as a garnish or as an ingredient in a recipe.

    Disclosure: I was sent these products for free but all opinions on this blog are my own.

    Monday, December 7, 2015

    The Hidden World of Infertility

    Infertility is doctors, specialists, blood work, testing, needles, invasive procedures, medications, pain, vulnerability, waiting, constant ...:
     
    Hello and good morning!

    Today I am excited to share a podcast I did with journalist and writer, Brandie Weikle as part of her The New Family blog about all things parenting and family related.

    I am very passionate about my work as an infertility counsellor, so I hope you will give it a listen:

    Podcast Episode 25: The Secret World of Infertility

    Friday, December 4, 2015

    Time Flies...Except During Winter

     
    Is it Friday again already? Is it really December??

    Why is it that time goes faster and faster the older you get? I swear, sometimes I feel like someone pressed fast-forward on my life.  In some ways its good, I think its because I love my work and have lots of awesome stuff that keeps me busy and my mind occupied.  When I'm bored, I am totally miserable and because I am so impatient and get bored easily, the fact that I feel like life is so full is just what I need.  But sometimes I worry I'm missing something, you know?  Like I'm forgetting to do something and I'll only remember on my death bed. Ha!

     
    Of course, when you have kids, it seems like they grow and change so quickly.  I try to remind myself, when getting annoyed by the constant, "Mommy, mommy..." requests, that one day the kids won't need me at all and that will be a very bittersweet day.

    We are already beginning the first week of December and if there is one month that flies by, its this one.  Unfortunately, then its the hard days of winter without much to look forward to.  Its at this point every year when I am hoping time flies.  Perhaps I can do a better job of focusing on the positives to get through winter without too much misery.  It seems sinful to want to speed through life even faster than we already do.  Every day is precious after all and we shouldn't waste a second.

    I do have to mention that we are having unseasonably mild weather and have had no snow that's stuck yet, so I'm super grateful for that!!

    Have a lovely weekend, I hope it feels really long ;)




    Wednesday, December 2, 2015

    Umcka ColdCare: Product Review

    15146 - Umcka ColdCare Soothing Hot Drink Lemon
    A few weeks ago Adam started freaking out because he felt himself coming down with something. It was one of his busiest times at work and not a good time to be getting sick.  Fortunately, Nature's Way recently sent us a box of their Umcka ColdCare to try.  Adam starting taking it immediately to try and stop his symptoms from worsening.  In his case, it seems to have worked to have at least prevented him from developing a more serious illness, though he's still coughing a bit.  It comes in little packets that you mix with hot water and drink like tea.

    It contains a homeopathic compound that supposedly shortens the duration and reduce the severity of cough, congestion, sore throat, nasal and bronchial irritations. If truth be told, I have read almost nothing that supports the efficacy and validity of homeopathy, however, I did find a number of studies that have found some evidence that it's active ingredient (EPs 7630), an extract of extract of Pelargonium sidoides (a plant native to South Africa) has anti-viral properties and can improve immune function (I actually did find some scientific studies supporting this).

    Here is some info about Umcka from the website:

    • Pelargonium sedoides extract, Umcka’s main ingredient, is from a South African geranium plant, and has long been popular in Europe and Africa as a cold and flu remedy.
    • Umcka has been proven to be more effective than echinacea, zinc, or even vitamin C for treating upper respiratory infections.
    • Umcka products work with the body’s immune system to help support the natural defenses fighting cold and flu symptoms.
     I do like that they don't add sugar, and use xylitol instead. It also contains citric acid, maltodextrin, natural lemon flavor with other natural flavors, silica,and, yellow color (from turmeric).

    Its always nice to have a soothing hot drink when you are feeling sick, but Umcka ColdCare can also be taken cold. Its safe for both children and adults and you can take several a day.

    So what do I think? Well apparently it can't hurt, and its definitely a better option than NeoCitran, which aside from the OTC meds also contains:



    • ascorbic acid,
    • citric acid,
    •  D&C Yellow No. 10,
    •  FD&C Yellow No. 6,
    • flavours,
    • malic acid,
    • sodium citrate,
    • sucrose,
    • titanium dioxide,
    • tribasic calcium phosphate.
      Yuck!
    So if you enjoy a hot lemon drink when you are feeling under the weather, this is definitely superior to the conventional drug store products and might lessen the severity and duration of your illness.

    Disclosure: I was sent a sample for free but all opinions on this blog are my own.

    Monday, November 30, 2015

    Tex Mex Tuna Salad


    Good morning and welcome to Monday!  Looking for some yummy, healthy, quick and easy lunch ideas for this week?  Check out this one!

    As the weather has cooled, so too has my craving for cold salads.  I still eat them, but definitely not as often.  This was supposed to be a warm salad, but as I was getting ready to make it, I realized I was missing a crucial ingredient.  Don't you hate when that happens? Anyways, that recipe is forthcoming.  Not one to let food go to waste, I decided to come up with an alternative on the spot to utilize all the fresh veggies I'd bought.  The result was this salad, which I think is now going to be made again and again, regardless of the season.  Its just simple and yummy and quick to throw together.

    To make it vegan, just use black beans as your protein, instead of tuna, and use a non-dairy yogurt in your dressing.  Some avocado would also be great in this and/or corn kernels, if you so desire.

    Tex Mex Tuna Salad

    1 iceberg lettuce, chopped
    4 Roma tomatoes, cored, seeded and diced
    1 red, yellow or orange bell pepper, diced
    1 bunch green onions, sliced or half a red onion, sliced
    1/4 cup sliced black olives
    1 can chunk light tuna packed in water, drained, setting aside water

    Dressing

    1/2 cup plain yogurt
    1/4 cup salsa (your favorite kind)
    2 tbsp. cider vinegar
    Water from tuna
    1 tsp taco seasoning, purchased or homemade


    Whisk together dressing in a medium sized bowl and set aside.  Combine veggies and tuna in a large serving bowl and toss with the dressing.  Serves one monster eater (like myself), 2 regular eaters as a main, or 4 as a side.

    I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

    Friday, November 27, 2015

    Happy Shopping Season!

    Shopping!:
     
    As soon as Halloween is over, Christmas shopping season begins.  When Black Friday hits (i.e. today!), things really get nuts.

    A few years ago, despite the fact that Canada celebrates Thanksgiving in October, we adopted the Black Friday tradition.  I guess retailers will use any excuse to get us spending.  Honestly, it probably benefits Canadians, like myself, who don't celebrate Christmas, most. 

    It used to be we got our shopping jollies on Boxing Day, but now we start opening our wallets for great deals on Black Friday (and Cyber Monday).

    I will admit I have been eager to join in on the discounts, and have already gotten a few good ones.  All year 'round I tend to be an online shopper.  In fact, Canadians love online shopping.  That's why Target failed here, because they didn't address that fact.  Is it because we like to avoid going out in bad weather? Or because this is such a geographically huge country and we often have to drive far to get places? Or is it because we are less aggressive than Americans and don't want to elbow (or trample) each other for the prize? An article in yesterday's newspaper actually said this is true!

    I definitely prefer online shopping because of the convenience factor, but also because there are all sorts of things I buy online that I just can't find in stores.

    Now as any Canadian knows, as online shoppers we have to be cautious.  If you don't ensure you are buying from a Canadian site, you will waste a lot of time filling a shopping cart with items that can't be shipped to you, or items listed in Canadian dollars, that will also have an additional shipping fee and duty charges.  Been there and done that!

    I thought I would share with you my favorite Canadian-friendly sites for shopping:

    Food/Supplements

    www.lowcarbcanada.ca This place has tons of products you can't find in stores.  Its where I get powdered erythritol, for example, which is a must if you want to make sugar-free frostings and glazes.  They also stock tons of sugar-free condiments, other sweeteners, low-carb bakery items, protein powders and bars, etc.  Some of their prices are good while others are alright, but they always have stuff on sale and that's when you can really score big.  If you spend $100 or more (which isn't hard), shipping is free.

    www.fitshop.ca This one has very competitive prices and good sales on health foods, supplements and sports nutrition products.  Orders of $50 qualify for free shipping.

    Kids' Clothing

    My kids (especially Little A!) wear out their clothes, and outgrow them, super fast.  So I refuse to invest a lot in their wardrobes (they get nicer, more expensive stuff from their grandparents).  The best for great deals on everything are:

    www.childrensplace.com/shop/ca/home

    https://www.joefresh.com/ca


    For Adult Clothing and Investment Pieces

    The Bay's regular prices are meh as they transformed themselves some years ago into an upscale department store, however, their sales are insanely good.  But Adam and I have realized that going into the stores for the sales are waste of time unless you get there for opening, which is a pain.  Going online is so much easier, however, stuff still sells out really fast!

    www.thebay.com

    We use Bay for shoes, boots, coats, dress clothes and suits.  Shipping is free on orders over $100.

    Books/Fitness Equipment/Supplements/Food

    Well, it should come as no surprise, but www.amazon.ca tends to beat out most other places.  I also can only seem to find certain things through them, like my licorice supplement.

    Toys

    I like the offerings from Chapters/Indigo better than what you usually can get at Toys r Us and they often have good sales at https://www.chapters.indigo.ca/en-ca.

    Kitchen Supplies

    For small appliances, www.costco.ca is pretty good, but www.amazon.ca also sometimes has good deals.

    Kitchen equipment, appliances and housewares are delivered free from http://www.kitchenstuffplus.com/# on orders over $75.

    So there you go! If like me you can't tolerate the lineups and crowds in the stores and malls this time of year, curl up in your PJs, drink a cup of tea, and do all your shopping online.

    Have a lovely weekend and Happy Thanksgiving to all you American readers!!


    Wednesday, November 25, 2015

    Hawaiian Fried Cauliflower Rice


    I still shudder at the amount of rice I used to eat.  Don't get me wrong, its very nutritious, its just all the warnings about the arsenic content...which is apparently highest in brown rice, my absolute favorite! I ignored the headlines for a while because the media loves to cause panic, but finally when credible sources began to warn about limiting rice intake, I decided I needed to cut down.

    I never thought cauliflower rice would cut it as a substitute for me, but was pleasantly surprised to find I really enjoy it.  What's more, the last time I indulged in real rice, I found I wasn't loving it as much as I used to. I don't even miss it in most dishes!

    So I now make all sorts of dishes with cauliflower rice.  I can't say how I came up with this recipe, it just came to me like a bolt of lightening, but I am sure glad it did, because its a standout.  I love the sweet, sour, spicy combo. 

    You can make it vegan by using tempeh bacon, tofu or other substitute for the turkey bacon if you wish, and if you don't like heat, just omit the jalapeno pepper.

    Hawaiian Fried Cauliflower Rice

    1 tsp coconut oil
    1 onion, diced
    2 cloves garlic, minced
    1 chunk of fresh ginger, finely chopped
    1 small jalapeno, seeded and finely chopped (optional)
    2 green bell peppers, diced
    1/4 cup cider vinegar
    2 cups golden pineapple chunks, pureed
    1 can tomato paste
    6 strips cooked nitrite-free turkey bacon (or alternative)
    1 tsp salt
    Toasted coconut for garnish (optional)

    2 riced cauliflowers

    Saute onion, garlic, ginger, and peppers in oil until softened.  Add vinegar and pineapple puree and cook another 10 minutes over medium-low heat.  Add tomato paste, bacon and season, to taste.  Continue cooking for another 5 minutes over low heat.  Stir in desired amount of cauliflower rice (for me this recipe made with 2 riced cauliflowers is 2 servings, but if have a smaller appetite, use one cauliflower and freeze half of the recipe for later).  Serve and garnish with toasted coconut.


    I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday link-up.

    Monday, November 23, 2015

    The (Fall) Party is Over

     
    There is no denying my favorite season is over.  We already had the Santa Clause parade, and yesterday the temperature dipped dramatically and it actually snowed! Fortunately, it didn't stick on the ground.

    I have to admit, we had a pretty awesome fall.  Perhaps a bit too much rain, but also some absolutely spectacular, and unseasonably warm weather.  But the trees have lost most of their leaves and I am sure that it won't be long until the temperatures drop even more and snow starts to pile up. Blech!

    As my brother said the other day when we were complaining about the climate here, "Where else in the world does it go from 30 Celsius and -30 Celsius?" Good question!  Sucks for me since I hate temperature extremes.

    Also, like lots of people I can get the winter blues.  I am really really hoping that doesn't happen, and perhaps the fact that I honestly have never felt better (no idea why...but I think its connected to starting to take CoQ10), will keep me buoyed throughout the dreary winter months.

    On the bright side, with the freezing temps come a few positives:

    - No more frizz. If I straighten my hair, it stays straight all day!
    - Beer stays cold in our cold storage room.
    - I sleep even better in the cold.
    - No more having to slather sunscreen on every inch of my body, because virtually nothing is exposed.
    - We get to go to Florida in December!!

    With work being busier and the holidays approaching, my posts might be a bit sporadic.  I have lots of topics I want to cover, just not enough time right now! 

    That's it for me, now go enjoy your Monday.
     

    Friday, November 20, 2015

    Busy is Better Than Bored

     
     
    Its Friday but I'm not really feeling TGIF.  I work until really late tonight, and then again tomorrow morning. Then its a whole lot of chaos trying to get the girls to activities, and 2 different parties.  Sunday there are more activities and then we are supposed to go to my brother's house to celebrate my nephew's birthday...except Adam will be at his book club and I will have to leave my brother's half way through to get Big A from theatre school.  Its going to be nuts.  But I guess at least its not Monday, right? Then again, this coming Monday is quite sane, though the rest of the coming week is also a bit nuts because besides work, there is the girls' daycare fundraiser on Thursday I am helping sell tickets for, and then, of course, attending.

    In reality though, I am not complaining. Being busy is good.  We all complain about it endlessly, but most of the time its with stuff we enjoy.  At least in my case, I am very fortunate because I love my work and I love socializing with friends and family on weekends.

    So off you go, have a happy, healthy and busy weekend!

    Thursday, November 19, 2015

    Chewy Chocolate Chip Protein Power Bars


    Need some extra protein power? Look no further.  These bars are choc-full.  They are also very high in fibre, packed with nutrients, gluten-free, sugar-free and vegan.  Oh, and my kids adore them!

    I am so pleased with how these turned out.

    The problem I've always had when making protein bars or granola-type bars is that they usually rely on either a liquid sweetener (and there are none I like to use in abundance) and/or nut/seed butter as binders.  This makes them high in sugar and calories and the nut/seed butters makes them kind of greasy.

    This time I used...pureed chickpeas!

    Seriously!

    Even I wasn't sure how they'd taste, and, in particular, whether they would pass the kid-friendly test.  I am happy to say the exceeded my expectations!! Or perhaps I should say, ex-seeded my expectations, because they are full of good-for-you seeds like chia and hemp.

    I used a bag of Nature's Path Q'ia Superfoods Cereal, but you can use any chia-based cereal or similar product.  Its basically a mix of chia, hemp, buckwheat groats and some extras, depending on the flavour. I used the Cranberry Almond Vanilla, because that's what I had, but can use another kind and keep it nut-free.

    Chewy Chocolate Chip Protein Power Bars

    1-14oz can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
    2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. ground flax + 6 tbsp. hot water)
    1 cup baking stevia (or coconut sugar or xylitol or erythritol)
    1.5 tsp vanilla extract
    2 scoops vegan vanilla protein powder
    1 bag Q'ia Superfoods Cereal
    2 cups oats (gluten-free, if necessary)
    1/2 cup stevia-sweetened, vegan chocolate chips

    Puree chickpeas and flax eggs in blender or food processor until smooth.  Add everything except chips and pulse until dough forms a ball.  Add chocolate chips and pulse just to mix in.  Spread evenly, pressing firmly, into greased 9x9 square pan.  Bake at 350F for 16 minutes.  Let cool and then cut into bars.  Makes 16 bars or 32 squares.  Store in air-tight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  Warm a bit before eating if you want the chocolate melty (like Big A does!).

    The girls love these so much, and I love that they are getting so much nutrition from them, I will definitely be making these regularly.  Especially since they go through them so fast!!

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

    Wednesday, November 18, 2015

    Monk Fruit

    Krisda Monk Fruit Natural Sweetener

    Nope, I am not referring to a silent and celibate fruit.  Just a really sweet one!

    Monk fruit, also called luo han guo and Siraitia grosvenorii, is a type of fruit native to China and Thailand that has been used for medicinal and sweetening purposes for centuries.

    Its been available as a sweetener in North America for some time, but still doesn't seem to have caught main-stream awareness yet.

    I have tasted things where its used as a sweetener, but never bought the sweetening products itself until recently, because they used to be so expensive.  But the price seems to be coming down, probably due to growing demand.

    So far, there is no evidence that it has any side-effects and actually has health benefits, it is zero calorie, and will not raise blood sugar (is safe for diabetics!).  The research I checked out was actually quite impressive!  As usual, we folks in the West are slow to catch on to all sorts of goodies they've been using in the East for ions.

    I bought the Krisda brand because I like their products (they make lots of stevia products) and they are Canadian.

    The sweetener is granular, kind of looks like unrefined sugar, rather than a powder, like most stevia products.  Unlike stevia, this one has no after-taste that I could detect, however, I also don't find it as sweet as sugar.

    In case I haven't convinced you yet, quitting sugar is really something you should do.  It doesn't matter what form it comes in or what fancy name a company puts on the label, if it spikes blood sugar, it will harm your health.  So this includes corn syrup, honey, maple syrup, agave, brown sugar, organic sugar, sucanat, dried cane syrup, brown rice syrup, evaporated cane juice, and more.

    If you are dead-set against artificial sweeteners and don't like stevia, I suggest you try monk fruit, and stick to using it, or coconut sweeteners, which are much lower on the glycemic index.  Ditch the sugar!!

    Tuesday, November 17, 2015

    Warm Mediterranean "Pizza" Salad


    I got totally addicted to salads this summer.  Unfortunately, come winter, the body craves warm, comfort foods, not cold, refreshing salads.  Rather than abandon my new appreciation of salad, I am going to spend the colder months experimenting with warm salads.

    This recipe came to me when I was thinking of what flavours to add to a salad base of baby spinach (one of my favorites).  Instantly I thought of my favorite pizza toppings: spinach, garlic, sundried tomatoes, kalamata olives, and feta cheese!  Hmm, that could be a salad!

    What better way to get all the yummy ingredients in a healthier way than traditional pizza?

    Of course, you can take this idea and modify it based on your favorite pizza toppings. 

    Not pictured is the cut up sundried tomato and basil chicken sausage I added for extra protein! But keep in vegetarian if you wish and just add chickpeas for extra protein.  Vegan is possible too if you want to use a non-dairy cheese substitute. 

    The recipe calls for 2 boxes of spinach (1 per person for a main dish), assuming you are, like me, someone who can easily eat that much spinach.  Keep in mind the warm sauce wilts it a bit! But feel free to half the recipe if you wish.

    Warm Mediterranean "Pizza" Salad

    1 tsp olive oil
    1 red onion, sliced
    2 cloves garlic, sliced or minced
    1/4 cup kalamata olives, pitted
    1/2 cup sundried tomatoes, sliced
    1/2 cup red wine vinegar
    1/2 tsp dried oregano
    Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
    1 can tomato paste
    1 cup water
    Salt and pepper, to taste
    2-5oz boxes organic baby spinach
    4 tbsp. feta cheese, crumbled

    Saute onion and garlic in oil for 2-3 minutes.  Add olives, tomatoes, vinegar, oregano and chili and continue cooking until onion is soft.  Add tomato paste and water and simmer over low heat for 10 minutes.  Pile spinach onto plate or in a bowl and top with sauce.  Sprinkle with feta cheese (about 2 tbsp. per person).  Serve.  Makes 2 main dishes or serves 4 as a side dish.

    Monday, November 16, 2015

    Most Horrible Day of the Year


    Grumble grumble, bah humbug!  Yesterday was the annual Santa Claus Parade here in Toronto.  Oh, and you know how I feel about that!! 

    I tried so hard to stay positive this year. I knew it was coming but I kept telling myself that it isn't that bad.  Oh but it is!

    A million persons turned out to watch the stupid thing.  Yes stupid.  Personally I think all parades are stupid because all they do is disrupt entire cities and that annoys me.

    It started with Adam leaving to take Little A to swim lessons. He decided to be smart, since the JCC is on the parade route, and take public transport.  Ha! The bus he took - many blocks west of the parade route - got stuck in traffic for so long they had to abort the mission and Little A missed her lesson.  Adam recommended I leave very early to take Big A to her theatre class.  We left 40 minutes early.  I decided to go way way west and south of the parade route and managed to get her there early.  No parking anywhere, however, so had to just stop outside the theatre school with my blinkers on until it was time for her class to start. 

    This is when the fun really began. 

    I drove south to avoid the parade and traffic, but thought since the parade had passed already, I'd be safe not going quite as far south as when I came, but boy was I wrong.  I couldn't move more than 10km/hour for blocks and blocks and blocks, and finally had to turn south and return to my first route.  Unfortunately, the street I had taken south to get there was, at this point, very backed up going north.  At this point I was nauseous from being in the car that long, hangry because I hadn't eaten lunch yet, and my butt cramped from sitting. 
    When I finally got to our street, I wanted out immediately but had to parallel park...and some of my neighbours were sitting outside (it was an absolutely spectacular day, weather-wise).  I can't parallel park when people are watching...I get too nervous...so I did a real crap job. Embarrassingly bad!  Then when I got out of the car, my butt was so cramped I couldn't walk properly.  They must of thought I was totally insane!

    I'll be honest, I don't care how many antler-wearing Torontonians enjoyed the parade.  I'm pissed!  Not even the friggin' Pan Am games disrupted the city as much as this dumb parade does!

    Okay, I'm done my rant.  Go have yourself a good Monday now.

    Friday, November 13, 2015

    Week of Wonders (WOW)

    So let's see...Monday Little A had her usual morning meltdown, only a cookies and cream Quest Bar for breakfast could break her out of it.  Go ahead, judge me for what I feed my kids!

    I made it through a dental cleaning without too much suffering and even agreed to go back in a few weeks so my dentist can fix my chipped tooth. But so not looking forward to that!

    Monday afternoon when I went to pick up the girls early so they could get ready for Girl Guides and Sparks, Big A melted down because I had my bike with me and dared to suggest she carry her trombone from band class home herself.  We ended up negotiating by having her walk my bike for me while I carried the darn instrument.

    After dinner, Little A melted down again because she wanted to just wear pink tights and her Sparks shirt (no pants). Not only do they have a dress code to which this doesn't comply, but it was her official enrollment ceremony.  She demanded I go up and find her some pants, which I did, however, I dared to choose a pair she hates.  Yep, another meltdown.  By the time we got to Sparks, she had lost her voice from screaming. Yes, she is 6.5 years old!

    Tuesday morning Big A piddled around in her room for over half an hour after she got up, before finally getting dressed and coming downstairs.  I warned her several times she wouldn't have time for breakfast.  By the time we had to leave for school, she had ONLY eaten one bowl of cereal and was, apparently, "Starving!".  Tough S*#T! She screamed the whole way to school that she was going to die of hunger.  Yes, she is 9.5 years old!

    Wednesday I got on a plane to Tahiti.

    Kidding! But it did feel like a holiday.  Adam went in late to work and took the girls to school so I got a break. Yahoo!!

    Yesterday was back to rainy, crazy windy weather. 

    Today is absolutely nuts, just packed with clients and I have to work tomorrow too.  Oh, wait, and I have clients on Sunday this week as well!

    So what's keeping me afloat? 

    My favorite coffee (steaming hot, first thing in the morning after my shower!)


    Yummy lunches like this falafel bowl:

     
    
    Mmm, with sautéed red onions, beets, fresh cilantro and tahini sauce over cauliflower rice.  I cheated and didn't make my homemade falafel, but used Yves' brand. They're good and don't have any crap in them.
     
     
    Friends :) Its so therapeutic to catch up with a good friend, and since Adam was working late Thursday and I, therefore, couldn't see clients, I hooked up with one of my besties for tea.  Ah, love her and love how full I feel after spending time with her!

    The high of the week was that the hot lunch program at the girls' school is awesome.  The girls love it and Big A ate quinoa and chickpeas, and Little A ate quinoa (she drew the line at chickpeas)! They both ate broccoli that was served too!

    I am also trying to convince myself that the children can't continue to have tantrums forever, right? Like, when they leave for university, they'll be past this for sure, right? When they get married?

    Have a lovely weekend...relax, enjoy some good coffee and the company of great friends!

    Thursday, November 12, 2015

    Gooey Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes


    I was motivated this year to actually utilize our Jack-O-Lantern after Halloween.  It was a very large pumpkin, so there was plenty to work with.  I roasted the seeds, and roasted all the flesh, after removing the skin.  Then I pureed the flesh and made a batch of pumpkin butter, as well as these cupcakes for a party.  They are super moist and rich, even though they are also low-fat and vegan.  The only 'unhealthy' thing is the frosting (which also contain dairy from the white chocolate), but you can ice them any way you like.

    Because I had so much pumpkin puree, I decided to use it all, so this is a big-ass batch of cupcakes.  Half the recipe if you don't want as many.

    Pumpkin Spice Cupcakes

    10 cups pumpkin puree
    2 flax eggs (2 tbsp. flax meal + 6 tbsp. hot water)
    1 cup coconut sugar
    1 scoop vegan vanilla or chai vanilla protein powder
    1.5 tsp pure vanilla extract
    3 cups whole grain flour (spelt, etc.)
    1 tsp cinnamon
    1 tsp Pumpkin Pie spice
    1 tsp baking soda
    1/2 tsp salt

    Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Combine flour with other dry ingredients and mix well.  Add to wet ingredients and stir until combined.  Scrape batter into greased muffin cups and bake at 350F for 18 minutes.  Let cool and then remove from pan. Ice as desired.

    Pumpkin White Chocolate Frosting

    1.5 cups pumpkin butter*
    1/2 lb white chocolate chips

    Melt chips with pumpkin butter in double boiler (or bowl set over simmering water).  Stir until smooth.  Refrigerate until cool and then ice cupcakes.

    *Pumpkin Butter

    In a small pot combine 1.5 cups pumpkin puree with 1/2-1 cup baking stevia, 1/2 tsp cinnamon, 1/2 tsp pumpkin pie spice, and a pinch of salt.  Set over low heat and stir in 2 tsp konjac powder.  Stir until thickened.  Transfer to a glass container and store in the fridge for up to 1 week.

    Sorry that I didn't take a nicer picture but I was in a rush, and as you know, I hate food photography.  Although they have a rather insipid beige colour, they were still a hit, even with the kids.

    I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy Green & Natural Party Blog Hop.

    Wednesday, November 11, 2015

    Remembrance Day

    title

    Happy Hump Day!

    The sombre drizzly weather seems appropriate this morning seeing as its Remembrance Day.  The girls have their poppies and the school has an assembly this morning.  Make sure you take a moment to remember at 11:11am! Unfortunately, I just realized I'll be in the middle of an interview about infertility with a journalist friend right at that moment.

    I saw this story on the news this morning about a Canadian veteran and it warmed my heart.  There is a lot of concern for veterans in this country right now because its come to light (far too late!) that there is a mental health crisis among our troops.  Due to PTSD, a staggering number of soldiers end of taking their own lives after their tour of duty.  As a therapist, and one that worked with a member of the Canadian Forces who suffered PTSD due to his time in Bosnia, this is an issue close to my heart.  I will be thinking about all of the soldiers and their families struggling with the fallout of combat-related PTSD today too.

    Tuesday, November 10, 2015

    Sambucus Gummies: Product Review

    10486 - Sambucus Gummies
     
    As I am sure you well know, if you live in the Northern Hemisphere, it is flu season.  It is also the time when lots of people are frequently hit with colds and other viruses.

    The best way to avoid getting sick is to get the flu shot, and wash your hands and surfaces frequently.

    Making sure your immune system is healthy is also a good idea.  General self-care including exercise, proper nutrition and sufficient sleep are key. 

    Can certain supplements boost your immune function?  There actually is data showing that elderberry juice has anti-viral properties and can help ward off infections. I've wondered about this, because elderberry products are now everywhere, so I went and found some peer-reviewed journal articles.

    Recently, I was sent a bottle of Sambucus Gummies to try.  They contain elderberry juice, Vitamin C and zinc.  Vitamin C can shorten the duration of colds and flus, and zinc can also boost immune function.

    They taste awesome, which isn't a surprise, but I don't love that they are made with sugar.  The company does make a sugar-free liquid form of this product, however, and that would be my preference.

    Over the past few weeks both Adam and the girls have started getting mild symptoms and tried the gummies to see what would happen.  Nobody developed a full-blown cold or flu.  Is this the work of the gummies? Who knows, 3 people does not make for a scientific study!

    Both Adam and Little A seem to have picked up another bug this week, so we're back on the gummy wagon and hopefully both of them will fight it off.

    It is nice to know that there is a product that is safe to give kids, since it is not permitted to give them standard cough or cold remedies. If you're a parent, you know how awful it is to have to look at your sick child and shrug your shoulders because there is nothing you can offer them for relief.  At least with Nature Way's Sambucus products, you know what your are giving your kids is safe, and may shorten the duration of their illness or ward off a full-blown infection.

    I recommend going with the sugar-free liquid, however, as these are essentially candy, which my kids are only too happy to eat, regardless of whether they are coming down with something.

    Disclosure: I was sent these products at no charge but all opinions on this blog are my own.

    Monday, November 9, 2015

    Real Food for Real Kids

     
    This morning, despite it being Monday, I am jumping for joy.  It is the first week of the new hot lunch program at the girls' school!

    I am sure I must have mentioned how much I hate dealing with packing lunches. It was a definite improvement some months ago when Adam decided they should make their own lunches, but there is still related stress because we have to police them about doing it.  Believe me, its not like they come home from school each day and run to the kitchen.  Nope, we have to remind them and forbid them from doing anything else until the lunches are made.  The manipulative little buggers also find ways around it, like asking for things that they aren't capable of making and downloading responsibility to me.

    Having the girls make their own school lunches also hasn't cut down on waste.  Even when they choose what they will eat, they find all sorts of reasons why it wasn't edible (too soggy, to hot, too cold, etc.). I hate food being wasted, it makes me crazy!

    So last year when our school sent out a survey asking parents if we were interested in a catered lunch program, I responded with enthusiasm.  Not just to cut down on the whole lunch packing thing, but also to hopefully expand their taste buds.  When they were in preschool the daycare had hot lunches and we were always amazed by what they were willing to eat: all sorts of fairly adventurous dishes that if I served it to them at home, would result in mutiny. 
    I am also excited because their school is going with the Real Food for Real Kids program.  Many friends of mine have kids in this program at their schools and say its fantastic.

    Now when I look at the menus, I have my doubts that my children will touch many of the dishes, but I am hoping they will be receptive due to peer pressure, as they were in preschool.  To my surprise, they've seen the menus and are excited, so that's a start. 

    Unfortunately, the program is only running Monday to Wednesday, but Friday is pizza day, so at least its now only one day a week we have to deal with packing lunches.

    Have a great start to your week...and I hope you packed yourself a good lunch!

    Friday, November 6, 2015

    A Cat Cafe?

    I know I've been talking about cats a lot lately.  I have been a cat lover since I was old enough to communicate this preference (according to my parents it was definitive by the time I was about 18 months old).

    While this may be because of a beloved stuffy my grandmother bought me, it certainly wasn't exposure.  We didn't have cats, and my parents had not grown up with cats themselves.  Sure, friends and neighbours had cats, but many had dogs too, and I never became a dog person. I begged for cats, as the story goes, just about every day, until I was 11, at which point, my parents finally gave in.  They were always worried about my brother, because he had asthma and a plethora of allergies, but he didn't turn out to be reactive to the cats. Thank goodness, because at that point I was thoroughly sick of hamsters and fish! The two kitties we got, Mittens and Ziggy, were awesome.  Very gregarious and affectionate.  Amazing cats!  They both lived about 15 years I believe.

    Ironically, I have had many people, over the course of my life, tell me I remind them of a cat, or have cat eyes.  I take this as a compliment!

    I haven't owned cats of my own for 9 years, since Big A was about 6 months old, and we had to give away my 2 sweeties because of Adam's allergies.  Adam has never been an animal person period, and has no desire for a pet. Ever. He merely put up with them during the time we lived together with my boys, Lester and Milo. I was lucky to find a great home for them, however, they both passed away a few years ago.


    For a while, when the girls were little, I was too overwhelmed with caring for them to think much about cats.  But slowly, my obsession has started to creep back.  I've always found cuddling cats to be therapeutic, and to be honest, I miss it.  I try to get my fix by cooing over adorable Internet photos of cats, and playing with cats I run into in the neighbourhood, but, of course, it isn't quite the same.

    My girls have sort of picked up Adam's nervousness around animals, particularly dogs, but I love of cats is obviously infectious, because they both now name cats as their favorite animal and often ask if we can get one.  No.  Not just because Adam is allergic (people always tell me to get the hairless cats), but because I am not sure I want the responsibility.  Pets are also messy, and I know that would make Adam nuts.  As much as I love cats, I love Adam more!

    Nevertheless, I sometimes worry the girls are missing out on the valuable experience of having pets.  They really are good for mental health and wellbeing, there is no doubt about that.  I am also fascinated by the recent research suggesting that children who grow up around dogs and farm animals are less likely to develop asthma!  I  guess the girls will just have to wait until they have homes of their own.

    In any case, we are excited that Toronto is supposedly getting a cat café, that will allow patrons to fraternize with kitties. I have also heard about visiting pet services that let you 'borrow' an animal for cuddles.  I think I'll have to look into that!

    For now, it works for me to gush over photos of cuteness, but if the girls ever do get cats of their own, I'll be going to visit...a lot!

    If you have cats, give them some cuddles for me this weekend!
    

    Thursday, November 5, 2015

    Setting Boundaries

     
    One thing I really suck at is setting boundaries.  This means I am really bad at disciplining my children and asserting myself with others for my own sake.  Both issues are due to my inherent lack of ability to stand up for myself.  I am a total doormat, whether its with my children, clients or salespeople. 

    Funny thing though, I am very good at advocating for the sake of others.  After all, I have dedicated my career to helping others.  This is something I am passionate about.  I can think of many situations in the past where I've confidently gone to bat for others.  But even the idea of confronting people in order to assert my rights, or setting boundaries to protect myself, gets me anxious. I have spoken out several times in workplace situations, on my own behalf, but only because (1) I felt I had nothing to lose, and (2) I was speaking out against something (or someone) that affected not only myself, but many others too. This, I have come to realize, is due to low self-esteem issues and that nasty, negative voice in my head that always says, "You are not deserving of this (whatever it is I want to ask for)!"

    On a daily basis, this affects me most with my parenting.  The girls don't respect my authority at all, and its only recently I've realized just how obvious it is that I lack confidence in my parenting abilities.  They obviously have picked up on this as they don't listen to me, are not scared of me, and often don't even pay attention to me.  I have noticed that when they are really pushing me, I become really anxious, my mind goes blank, and often I will defer to Adam (either call him to intervene virtually, or to ask his advice about what I should do). Ugh, this is not good!

    How true is this...:

    In general, I would describe myself as someone who highly values kindness.  I cringe at the idea of being perceived as unkind.  This is what makes it difficult to assert myself outside the home.  While I don't think this is the issue with my parenting struggles (although Adam sometimes tells me I'm being too nice), I do think my general inability to assert myself has left me with inadequate skills in this regard with my kids. 

    So what am I going to do about this? Well, like most things I am seeking help with, I am going to start by researching and reading everything I can get my hands on. 

    I hope to find some answers and as soon as I do, I'll get back to you!

    Wednesday, November 4, 2015

    Foam Rolling

    This is Why You Foam Roll - see what research is saying and our recommendation on purchasing a foam roller:
    Like the idea of being able to have a massage whenever you want...for free?  That's kind of what you get with a foam roller.

    These things are amazing.  If you're a runner or serious fitness fiend, you already know about them, but even if you're not, they offer tons of benefits. 

    I started using them when I developed hamstring tendonitis after Little A was born.  But now that I religiously do Essentrics after my workouts, I am pain-free.  Nevertheless, I still get tight hips and nothing is better for that then a foam roller.

    I recently introduced the roller to some personal training clients of mine who are pretty sedentary and both have quite a few injuries and limitations, which has resulted in a lack of mobility and a lot of tightness and stiffness.  They couldn't believe the relief these rollers offer!

    So whether your discomfort is due to strenuous activity, or lack there of, I highly recommend you try one.  The basic stretching techniques are shown above.

    They cost about $40 depending on size and foam density, but are totally worth it (despite the fact it probably costs $0.25 to make them!).

    Happy rolling!

    Tuesday, November 3, 2015

    Fall Favorites

    Right now we are having absolutely glorious weather.  The air is fresh, the trees are changing colour, and all week its going to be around 18 Celsius...unseasonably warm for November!

    november weather toronto

    Its got me rediscovering the joys of cycling. Despite the annoyances of biking on the city streets, its hard not to love being outside these days. I am taking advantage of it while I can since once winter hits, my biking days will be few and far between.

    Here are some of my other little, everyday joys right now...

    I love baby powder scented stuff, and Live Clean has a relatively chemical-free one:

     
    This is perfect as a light moisturizer until winter really hits and I have to haul out the heavy artillery (i.e. body butter).
     
     
    I know I go on and on about apples and how much I love them...particularly my favorites: Mutsu (sometimes called Crispin), bit this year there is a great bounty!
     
     
    Some years they remain hard to find, which makes me very, very sad :( So while they're available, I'm hoarding them.
     


     
     
    I am also devouring squash like crazy.  Scrumptious delicatas are back in season, and I also found RED kabocha which, when roasted with cinnamon, were heavenly.
     
     
    Remember when I did that bootcamp back in the summer and got the whole Under Armour wardrobe as swag?  Well, I am adoring my Under Armour shoes!
     
     
    I don't experiment much with shoes, since I have such bad feet, I just tend to stay with what I know works.  For many years now, I've only worn Asics and New Balance.  These shoes are extremely light, and I would have assumed they weren't cushioned enough for me, but I love them.  They are so comfy!!
     
    And to counteract all this healthy living, my one indulgence is good, strong, hoppy, craft beer.  My favorite is this one:
     
    I try not to have more than 2 a week...you know what I always say, alcohol should be considered a treat and enjoyed in moderation!
     
    To be honest, this is my beer of choice year round as I don't like weak, light beers, but since it is a bit heavier, its perfect for colder weather.
     
    I know winter is right around the corner, so I'm trying to appreciate the beauty and bounty of autumn for the short time it lasts!!
     
    Happy Tuesday, now you go out and enjoy it too.