Tuesday, June 30, 2015

Warm Spinach Salad with Sauteed Mushrooms, Red Onion and Blue Cheese

This salad rocks.  It is so yummy and flavourful, yet incredibly healthy too!  Spinach is, of course, a nutrition superstar, as are mushrooms, and you only need a little bit of blue cheese because it packs so much punch.  I've already made this salad a bunch of times and its a favorite.  Maybe not the most 'summery' salad, but so good, I'm happy to eat it all year round.

Organic baby spinach

2 lbs mushrooms, sliced
1 red onion, diced
2 cloves garlic
1/4 cup sherry vinegar
2 tbsp. balsamic vinegar
2 tbsp. Worcestershire sauce (regular or vegan)
1 can tomato paste
Salt & pepper, to taste

Crumbled blue cheese (about 2 tbsp. per serving)

Saute onions, mushrooms and garlic with vinegars and Worcestershire sauce for 3-4 minutes.  Turn heat down to medium low and allow mushrooms to cook down.  Add tomato paste and season to taste.  If too thick, add water as desired.  Spoon desired amount of spinach and top with crumbled blue cheese.

Makes 2-4 servings.

I have submitted this recipe to the July 2015 No Croutons Required.

Monday, June 29, 2015


Boy the past few days have been a real mixed bag! 
Of course, I have to mention that FINALLY same-sex marriage has been legalized across the U.S.!  Its about freakin' time!

It also happens to be pride week in Toronto, and unfortunately, along with all the rainbow flags came torrential rain on the day of the big parade this weekend.  In fact, it poured all weekend.  There were a whole lot of very disappointed folks!

For me, however, the weather was okay.  The antibiotics have me feeling pretty lousy so having to stay in and not do very much was a good thing.  I bailed on my book club but did push myself to do everything else.  Its just this sort of blech feeling which sometimes worsens to full-blown nausea.  I am not surprised, I often get this way from antibiotics.

Nevertheless, I an ecstatic that my girls will grow up in a world with more acceptance of diversity.  While there is still a long way to go, major strides have been made since I was born in the 70s, that's for sure.

So happy proud of who you are and who you love!

Friday, June 26, 2015

School's Out for Summer

Oh my, its been quite a week!

Tuesday I had to take Little A to the dentist to get some fillings (insert mom guilt here).  At her last check-up they found spots on her 2 molars that are just coming in. "Its not my fault," she told me, "I'm not the one who brushes my teeth!"  So true.

I was a wee bit concerned because when Big A was 4 she had 4 cavities (but at least they were in her baby teeth) and she howled through the whole procedure, the laughing gas did nothing.  But Little A was a total trouper.  She didn't make a single peep, she lay still and the whole thing was over super quickly.  When they stood her up she was in a big of a laughing-gas trance, so they gave her a juice box to stop her from getting too woozy.  Man, though, was she in the best mood.  I gotta get me some of that laughing gas!

This week I also developed gruesome infection in my right middle finger.  How, you ask?  I have no idea. But I will admit I have a bad habit of chewing on the skin around my fingers.  In fact, I do that so much that when my finger started hurting, I thought nothing of it.  Until it was so bad that if I even bumped it, I went to the moon.  Oh boy, this was serious!  I know enough to soak it in hot water and apply antibiotic ointment.  Unfortunately, our ointment expired in 2012.  Typical! So it wasn't until Wednesday when I was able to pick some up.  By Wednesday night though, my glands had swollen to the point where it hurt to swallow or talk.  Thursday I got in to see my doctor and she confirmed we have to treat this aggressively and put me on a course of powerful antibiotics.  She also warned that if it got worse, not better, I have to take myself to the ER ASAP.  HOLY SHIT!

By last night though, I was feeling much better so I am confident the antiobiotics will be enough. This morning I feel even better, although my finger is still very tender and looks incredibly gruesome.

On the positive side of things this week, Little A graduated from kindergarten and Big A finished grade 3.  I can't believe how fast they are growing up!

We have another crazy busy weekend with social events and I have clients both Saturday and Sunday, however, its nice to know that starting Monday, we will be on a more laid-back summer schedule for a bit.  I think we all need it!

 Have a lovely weekend.

Thursday, June 25, 2015

Lifeway Kefir: Product Review

New Lifeway Kefir now available in Canada (PRNewsFoto/Lifeway Foods, Inc.)

Lets talk kefir.  And I am not referring to the Sutherland variety.  Ha ha! I'm talking about the super nutritious probiotic dairy food. More specifically, it is a fermented milk that is low in lactose and high in beneficial bacteria which may include Lactobacillus acidophilus, Bifidobacterium bifidum, Streptococcus thermophilus, Lactobacillus delbrueckii subsp. bulgaricus, Lactobacillus helveticus, Lactobacillus kefiranofaciens, Lactococcus lactis, and Leuconostoc species.  Probiotics promote healthy digestion and immune function.

Lifeway Kefir is a family run company from Chicago that has brought their products to Canada.  They generously sent me their original and peach varieties to try.  Their kefir are described as a tart and tangy cultured milk smoothie that is high in protein, calcium and vitamin D. Thanks to our exclusive blend of kefir cultures, each cup of kefir contains 12 live and active cultures and 7 to 10 billion beneficial probiotic strains.

Lifeway Kefir is extremely creamy but just slightly higher in calories than skim milk (120 calories per cup instead of 90).  The peach has added cane sugar, which I don't love, but the girls - particularly - Big A, really enjoyed it and the whole jug was gone in 48 hours.  The plain variety, is very strong tasting and, in my opinion, best suited for cooking, salad dressings, marinades, etc.  I froze it in cubes and attempted to make the family strawberry vanilla softserve, but they found the tang a bit overwhelming.  It definitely is an acquired taste so if you don't love it the first time you try it, try it again or try using it in a different way. 

If you like the taste of kefir and don't like overly sweet things, you may like this recipe, otherwise I would stick to using it for savoury recipes.

Strawberry Vanilla Kefir Softserve

Plain Lifeway Kefir, frozen in ice cube trays
1 cup frozen strawberries
1 scoop vanilla protein powder
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 dropper full of vanilla stevia liquid
1/2 cup baking stevia
1 tsp konjac powder

Drop about 8 kefir cubes along with strawberries, protein powder, vanilla, and stevia into high powered blender.  Use ice cream setting.  Add milk, as needed to get desired consistency.  Serve immediately.

Wednesday, June 24, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday: Hot Weather Edition

Thanks to Peas and Crayons for hosting another WIAW. 

There is no doubt that summer is finally here, so hot meals have taken a back seat and meals are becoming no-cook or low-cook.  In fact, when I look at this day, I realize its definitely not the healthiest example of nutrition, but that happens some times.

I am so loving the option of my Chocolate Protein Mousse for hot weather I don't even drink hot coffee!

On this day, my version of Chocolate Covered Katie's Nacho Cheese Hummus was the star, along with refreshing cucumber tomato salad with dill.

Snacks were baby carrots (not pictured) and this to die for frosted chocolate mint plantain cake...oh man, so good.  I have one left in the freezer and I will definitely be making more!

A few of these coffee frappes may have been consumed as well...

Dinner was veggie burger and steamed broccoli.  This is about the smallest, simplest dinner you'll ever see me eat.  The Nutrition Action Healthletter rated Sol Cuisine's veggie burgers #1 so I decided to try them, and though they don't look like much, they are very tasty! 

I know these are processed, but they make a great quick and easy meal. I definitely don't eat perfectly and I am very okay with that.

Have a happy hump day! 


Tuesday, June 23, 2015

Don't Tell Her to Relax: Book Review

Don't Tell Her to Relax by Zahie El Kouri

I do counselling for all sorts of issues but probably 80% of my practice is related to infertility/family building using Assisted Reproductive Technology (ART).  I am passionate about supporting and advocating for individuals dealing with infertility and pregnancy loss because I know how devastating it is.

One of the things that makes it so tough is that others, who have not experienced infertility, don't know how to support someone going through it.  There are so many myths and misconceptions out there about fertility and infertility and a lack of awareness about what dealing with infertility is like.  In addition, there is still significant stigma, so few people talk about it, which just perpetuates the myths, misconceptions and lack of awareness.

There are many books out there for individuals going through infertility that talk about how to cope, what you can expect with various treatments, etc. But there are few geared towards the loved ones of individuals dealing with infertility.  For this reason, I was thrilled to receive a review copy of Don't Tell Her to Relax, by Zahie El Kouri.  El Kouri is an American writer who went through infertility herself and now has 3 children.  Because loved ones don't know how to support someone with infertility, which can make the experience even more isolating and difficult, this is a much needed resource that is long overdue.

I am actually disappointed that I did not think to write this book myself.  I have touched on many of these issues in the articles I have written for Huffington Post, but El Kouri does a better job of empathizing with individuals struggling to support someone through infertility.  I tend to take a more "You're a dumb-ass, why would you say such a stupid thing" approach, perhaps because I spend so much of my time comforting people who have been hurt by someone saying something callous or misinformed.  She presents the information in a way that conveys recognition of why others may be tempted to say the (dumb-ass) things that they say to someone with infertility.  Obviously, this is a better way to try and engage the target population.

The book is short and succinct which is perfect since most people will likely not be motivated to read a tomb.  Basically it advises what not to say to people going through infertility and makes suggestions for what to say and do to support someone.
I love that she starts the book by suggesting you never ask someone, "When are you going to have kids?" which is both presumptuous and, if you ask me, none of your business.  As you may have guessed from the title, she tells readers not to say, "Just relax and you'll get pregnant" since this is total bullshit.  Most of the time infertility is a medical issue and just like cancer, it can't be overcome just by relaxing.

El Kouri warns against telling people that they will for sure have a child one day as this is not always the case for everyone, and not to tell people to "Just adopt". Lots of people try IVF, adoption and/or other means and are not successful.  By the way, if you think adoption is like ordering a pizza, you just pick up the phone and a baby is delivered to your door in 30 minutes or less, well you couldn't be more wrong.  It is often a very long, expensive process and many people dealing with infertility may not meet the criteria needed to become adoptive parents (age, marital status, etc.).  Believe me, if someone is struggling with infertility, they've thought about adoption and perhaps even started to explore it.

Rather than giving useless advice or empty platitudes, El Kouri suggest that you support an individual going through infertility with tangible things like rides to and from medical appointments, magazines to provide distraction when in the waiting room, assisting with administration of injectable medications, childcare for those dealing with secondary infertility, or even just your company.

The author also provides some basic, straightforward facts about fertility treatments (IUI vs IVF, third party reproductive techniques, the side effects of fertility meds, etc.) which may help loved ones understand what the person is really going through.

This is a great book and I think it will accomplish exactly what it sets out to do: empathizes with people who have a loved one dealing with infertility, and providing explanations for why many of the things we think to say are unhelpful, while offering sound alternatives that will make this person feel supported.  I will be recommending it to my clients as something to give to their families and friends!

Disclosure: I was sent a copy of this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, June 22, 2015

Simply Spectacular Roasted Cauliflower

Oy it must be Monday!  The day began with a major meltdown from Little A because Big A wouldn't lend her a swim cover up for her school field trip today...even though its too small for Big A.  We resolved it, but because I had to be at the office to see clients fairly early this morning, it added to my usual morning stress of trying to get these kids out the door.

I also can't avoid complaining about the weather.  Its hot and humid and I HATE THAT!  Yes its now officially summer and all that crap, so what?

Oh, and then there is the fact that I tried to arrange my day around our cleaning service, which usually comes on Wednesdays but cancelled on us last week, which was just fabulous because we'd just had a bunch of minor home repairs done and there was debris all over the place.  They always come in the afternoon, but they came in the morning instead.  Arrg!  I hate being home when they're here but I came home to have lunch before taking the car into the shop to have our tire patched (we got a flat this weekend) before going back to work.

I don't know about you, but I have a food hangover from the weekend and I am sure my kids do too. When I complain about how much junk they eat, people say, "Oh once in a while its not a big deal."  It's not once in a while!  Big A reported getting treats at school on Friday (I don't even remember the reason), then they gave out popsicles after her performance of the Lorax that evening.  Saturday my mom visited and bought the girls chocolate, Sunday they got treats at Costco when they went with Adam in the morning and then big ice creams at Dairy Queen when we went so Adam could get his Father's Day Blizzard.  At our family BBQ they ate huge burgers and hot dogs in massive squishy white buns and made themselves ice cream sundaes for dessert covered in candy and sprinkles.  And this is actually a pretty typical weekend for them.

If you have kids, you know how challenging it is to get them to eat healthy.  Little A isn't bad - she enthusiastically eats a lot of cheese, eggs and fruit - except she will barely touch any veggies except cucumber.  Big A can usually be convinced to eat veggies, but left to her own devices would get all her protein from hot dogs and then eat nothing else but carbs and candy/junk. 

The reason why food companies market food specifically to kids is that it works.  Associate a product with a cartoon character, etc. and they are more likely to want it.  So I decided to try and use that to my advantage with Little A.  She used to like cauliflower but lately has been rejecting it.  So I came up with this simple recipe and served it to them along with a big fat lie.  I told the girls I found it on the Internet and its supposed to be SpongeBob's favourite recipe.

Sadly, my kids freakin' love that show, which, apparently, research studies have shown, lowers your IQ if you watch it regularly.  But I don't know if its that much worse than the other crap they watch.  Man, my parents used to warn us that we would rot our brains with the tv shows we used to watch, and I don't think they were nearly as bad as what's on now!

So did it work? No, not at all.  Despite Adam and I thinking this cauliflower is totally amazing, and Big A even admitting its good (she asked me to see if there is a Sponge Bob broccoli recipe), Little A began screaming before she even tried it that she hates cauliflower.  I made her take the requisite taste but she maintained that she still hates all cauliflower including this.  Oh well, more for the rest of us!

Anyways, between you and me, we'll call this recipe Simply Spectacular Roasted Cauliflower, but whatever you want to call it, its damn good!

Simply Spectacular (Sponge Bob Square Pants) Roasted Cauliflower

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
1 tbsp. avocado or olive oil
1 tbsp. nutritional yeast
1 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp salt

Toss cauliflower with the rest of the ingredients and spread on parchment-lined baking sheet.  Roast at 350F for around 40 minutes, or until golden.

I shared this recipe with the Healthy, Happy Green and Natural Party Blog Hop on Urban Naturale and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Friday, June 19, 2015

I Don't Wear Beige

Encouraging #Quotes, #Grief, #Bereavement Walker Funeral Home Cincinnati, OH

I am definitely happy it is Friday today.

Adam was away in Ottawa again for work.  Big A came down with a bug on Tuesday.  My mother-in-law was lovely enough to pick her up from school so I could work, but I then stayed home with her Wednesday.  At least Big A is very easy when she is sick, especially compared to Little A who is a whiny miserable mess anytime she isn't feeling good.  Big A just reads or plays quietly and really doesn't complain much.

Little A got very jealous of the fact that Big A spent part of Tuesday with their bubby, who spoiled her with French toast and popsicles.  She was in a total snit about it when we picked her up from school Tuesday and I was not impressed with this behaviour given what a lovely privileged life she leads (she never complains when she gets spoiled when she is sick!).  When we arrived home, there was a package for her from my mom.  Inside was a beautiful sundress.  Little A took one look at it and said, "I don't like this dress. Sorry, it's just not my style" and she handed it back to me.

Although frustrated with her, I was also very amused, and this incident made me think about my dear grandmother Ruth, who passed away almost exactly a year ago at age 95. 

When I was 3 years old, my grandmother knit me and my brother sweaters.  I took one look at the one she made for me and said, "I am sorry, I don't wear beige."  My grandmother was so surprised to hear such a thing come from a 3-year-old that rather than be offended, she (and everyone else) started to laugh.  It became a well-known story in our family and my dad even told it at my wedding (to illustrate how early on my strong personality developed).

Of course, when Little A said this, all I could think about was how much I wished I could call my grandma and tell her this story because she would have been so amused.  Instead I called my mom, who at first was hurt that Little A didn't like the dress, but eventually realized how funny it was, given the incident with me and the beige sweater, and agreed how much my grandmother would have enjoyed this story.

I miss my grandma Ruth so much.  I've been dreaming about her a lot lately.  Sometimes at night right before falling asleep I think of her and get like a pain shooting through my heart when I remember that she's gone.  Yet I am grateful to have so many wonderful memories of her, which I know I will keep with me forever.

I have the weekend off of work, which is nice but its still going to be a busy one.  Tonight we go to see Big A star in her school's play of the Lorax.  Tomorrow my mom is visiting for the day, and we have dinner plans with friends.  Sunday is Father's Day which means Adam gets his annual Blizzard from Dairy Queen and then we go to his sister's place for a BBQ.  Somewhere in there we have to fit in a trip to Costco and other errands.  Have a safe and healthy weekend!

Thursday, June 18, 2015

The Joy of Real Food: Book Review

Rowena Jayne Real Food Yogi Raw Chef Author Yoga instructor

Raw food diets have definitely increased in popularity over the last decade.  Toronto had a number of raw food restaurants and I've tried a few.  I like them because they are made from fresh, whole foods and healthy ingredients. 

That being said, I have never aspired to eating an entirely raw food diet for several reasons: (1) No evidence it is better for you (despite what some people claim) than a healthy diet that includes cooked food, (2) I like hot foods...especially during Canadian winters! (3) If you want to make it interesting, it can be both expensive and time consuming.

But since I enjoy raw food, I was happy to accept the offer to review The Joy of Real Food by Rowena Jayne.

The book starts with a synopsis of Jayne's own journey to a raw food diet.  Like so many women, she experienced years of body shame, low self-esteem and disordered eating.  Adopting a raw food diet helped her develop a healthier relationship with food and her body.

Next, she outlines the principles of Ayurveda and the associated dietary guidelines.  Addressing the amount of work involved in creating many raw food recipes, she also has a section where she gives tips for using your time efficiently.

A list of pantry staples is also provided, which, interestingly includes only a few things (bee pollen, agar agar, berry powders, a SCOBY for kombucha, etc.) that I don't already have, along with a list of essential kitchen equipment.  You will absolutely have to purchase a food dehydrator!

The rest of the book is the recipes.  There are lovely photos of many of them, which are separated into the following sections:

Juices, Smoothies and Nut Milks
Entrees and Mains
Ice Cream & Desserts
Breads, Cakes, Biscuits & Slices
Wraps, Crackers, Dips & Cheese
Chocolates, Truffles & Special Occasions
A Little Big Cooked
Condiments, Ferments & Extras

Jayne also includes various resources at the back for further exploration.

From a nutrition perspective, these recipes all get an A+, after all, they are made entirely from whole foods.  But don't assume that a raw food diet will necessarily help you lose weight.  A lot of it is very calorically dense thanks to liberal amounts of coconut, avocado, nuts and seeds.  In fact, in most of these recipes the only source of protein is nuts and seeds.  I am not sure a lot of people could get enough protein without going over their energy needs.  If you do want to attempt this type of diet, I would definitely consult a dietician to make sure you are getting an appropriate balance of macronutrients as well as calories.

Personally, juices and smoothies don't interest me, but the salads sound fantastic and very doable to make.  The main courses also look amazing (she has a lot of kelp noodle recipes and I like kelp noodles!).  The desserts are decadent, and again, definitely not low-cal.

Given that Jayne lives in Australia I don't think she fully realizes how unpleasant it would be to eat a raw food diet in a cold climate, but that being said, Victoria Moran, author of The Good Karma Diet, who lives in NYC, gives tips on how to minimize the chill of raw food in a cold climate.  I guess you get used to it.

If you currently eat processed foods, than switching to a raw food diet will undoubtedly improve your nutrition intake, so if this appeals to you, its worth trying. But as I said, definitely get some help from an expert if you aren't sure how to appropriately structure this type of eating plan.

As far as the book goes, her candid description of her struggles with food and body image will resonate with many readers and the recipes themselves sound delicious.  Even with her time saving tips, however, this type of diet is not for folks who hate the kitchen.  If you do hate the kitchen, however, I suggest you start liking it as the first step towards better health and nutrition is ditching the take-out and convenience foods.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, June 17, 2015

Vegan Nacho Cheese Hummus

Those are not pizzas! They are whole grain pitas smothered with as much of this divine hummus as I could squish on.

I receive delicious looking weekly emails from the very famous Chocolate Covered Katie blog.  Mostly desserts, Katie also has some savoury recipes too, and her recent hummus variations piqued my interest.  I was particularly excited by her Nacho Cheese Dorito Hummus, because it is made with nutritional yeast, which I adore.

Of course, I NEVER follow a recipe exactly, because I like to customize it to suit my tastes.  That's one of the reasons I love cooking!  I really don't get how, if you like food, and I think most people do, you can not like cooking.  My favorite food is the food made by me, because I make it how I like it best.  I think most people simply don't have confidence in their ability to cook things well, or don't think they can learn.  But you can, and you should!!

Anyways, back to the hummus.  Its amazing!  It made several days worth of lunch, along with pita and salad and it is really tasty.  In fact, its so good, I might try serving it to the girls, who are generally hummus, and generally bean/legume haters.  I just won't tell them its hummus, I'll call it nacho cheese dip or something.

Nacho Cheese Hummus (adapted from this recipe)

1 540ml can chickpeas, drained and rinsed
1 can tomato paste
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup nutritional yeast
1 tsp avocado oil (or olive oil)
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp onion powder
1/2 tsp salt
1/4 cup water

Throw everything into food processor or blender and blend until smooth.  Use spoon, pita, veggies or other vessel to shovel into your face.  Yum!  Keep refrigerated for up to  5 days.

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

Tuesday, June 16, 2015

Omron Electrotherapy Pain Relief Devices: Product Review

I adore working out and always have, but I will admit, I am not a huge fan of DOMS (Delayed Onset Muscle Soreness).  You know, the pain you feel within 48 hours of a workout due to the tears you've created in your muscle fibres?  Its different from injury pain, its just your muscles repairing themselves and getting stronger.  But it sucks!

I started having a much more difficult time recovering from my workouts after age 35, and DOMS became a regular thing.  Taking L-Glutamine helps a whole lot but who doesn't love a good message?  Unfortunately, even though Adam's health plan has a bit of coverage for massage, its not much, so I can't afford to be having massages regularly.

So when Omron asked if I'd test out their Pain Relief Pro and Max Power devices for home use, I was, of course, game.

Essentially it sends electrical pulses to massage the muscles through skin pads you stick to the affected area.  I have had similar devices used on me by physiotherapists. The Pain Relief Pro has 8 different message modes and 10 power levels.  The Max Power has 9 modes and 15 levels of intensity.  Don't underestimate its strength, I like a hard massage, but I found level 6 to be enough power!

I did a 15 minute session for my biceps, and another 15 minute session for my hamstrings after one of my arm/leg workouts.  It was awesome.  I will totally be using one of these babies regularly as I have never found anti-inflammatories or the topical muscle creams to be of much use for DOMS.  Being the good wife that I am, I will let my sweet husband use the other one.  Note that the pads are reusable for about 150 uses, and then you can purchase replacements.

I have also been using it in the evenings on my bad left hip/hamstring.  By that time of day when Adam and I sit down to watch a show together, it is generally achy and sitting is often uncomfortable.  I little session with the massager and I feel much better.

The big test, however, was yesterday.  By Monday afternoons I am usually pretty darn sore from my Sunday morning weight workout, but using the Omron on my glutes and biceps preventing me from getting as sore as usual.  Sometimes Tuesday morning I am even more sore, but today I have no soreness at all.  I have to tell you, I am already addicted to this thing!

Even if you don't get DOMS but have muscle strain from your job or an injury, this is a great tool to aid recovery.

Thank you so much to Omron for the products, we will be enjoying them a lot!!

Disclosure: We were sent the units free-of-charge, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, June 15, 2015

#MotivateMe Monday

This is my first contribution to Motivate Me Monday, hosted by Fitness Cheerleader.

You know when you discover a food you love and you eat so much of it so often that suddenly you can't stand the sight of it?  I don't do that actually, however, my kids do all the time.  But it did happen to me with cardio.

I used to love nothing more than spinning, running, and other hard-core endurance activities.  Until I didn't.  For the last 2 years I have been doing very little, and focusing much more on strength training, my martial arts fitness programs, and a bit of HIIT, with only my Sunday morning spin class I teach as endurance work.

A few months ago I almost barfed running a short distance to get the bus and realized I may have let my cardio endurance slid a bit too much.  Also, the brutal winter took a toll and I fell into a bad habit of driving or taking public transport everywhere.

Since the weather improved this spring I am back to walking and biking a whole lot more, but I am definitely not the fittest I've been.  Certainly injuring my lat muscle didn't help things.  For most of the month of May I really couldn't do much in the way of martial arts or weight lifting.

So my goal this summer is to get back into fighting form.  I've mixed up my workout routine adding in a bit more endurance work.  I have been at this for a few weeks now and am already feeling and seeing a difference.  I am also so happy that my lat is healed and I am back to lifting, punching and striking.

So here is my summer fitness plan:

Monday - Martial arts and abs
Tuesday - Tapout XT Legs & Back/UFCFit/Insanity cardio DVD (will alternate between 3-4 different workouts) plus back and chest
Wednesday - Tapout XT Cardio plus arms
Thursday - Same as Tuesday
Friday - One of my UFCFit DVDs plus arms and legs
Saturday - One of my UFCFit DVDs plus core
Sunday - Full body weights and teach spin

I love that my various fitness DVD programs come with so many workouts that I can change it up.  Honestly, one of the best ways to stay fit is including as much variety in your routine as possible.  I am adding in some more cardio/endurance workouts into the mix but will rotate regularly so I don't get bored.  I stopped doing my Insanity DVDs ages ago, so its been fun to bring them back.  Maybe I will even incorporate the Asylum series, which I never really got into, but has some cool drills using the ladder, etc.

Doing different things every day also means you don't 'have' to take a rest day. Frankly, even most people who go to the gym a few times per week don't need to take a rest day, especially if they have a sedentary job.  If you're doing heavy duty training for a weight lifting competition or marathon, than that's different though, and rest days are critical.

For stretching, I try to do my Eccentrics every day, and I'm still loving it.  I haven't done any yoga or pilates in almost a year.

So there you go, what's your fitness goal for the summer?

Friday, June 12, 2015

I Don't Have a Bucket List

funny pics pictures pic picture image photo images photos lol humor

I just realized recently that I DON'T HAVE A BUCKET LIST.  Should I? Am I the only one who doesn't?

Last year I had a goal of doing the Princess Margaret Walk for Women's Cancers in honour of my friend J, who was diagnosed with ovarian cancer.  I did it and me and my team raised over $7,000!  I am proud of that and glad I did it as a way to end my last year before turning 40.

But now what?  Do I need to be making a list of things I feel I must do in my lifetime?  Is this something we should all do so we don't squander away the precious time we have on this earth before we leave it?  After all, research shows that people who take risks are happier and lead more fulfilled lives.  Truthfully, I have never been a risk taker, although others tell me a mid-life career transition was pretty risky!

I do want to go to Israel, but honestly even with that, I don't feel like it will be a tragedy if it doesn't happen.  I love exploring cities and, theoretically, I would love to visit places like Hong Kong, Tokyo, and Bangkok in Asia, and Prague, Rome and Athens in Europe.  Australia would be cool, as would some cities in South America.  Remote/rural places don't interest me that much.  The problem is my hatred of flying, my motion sickness and my huge aversion of extreme heat, bugs, etc.  A lot of tropical places, even in the most urban of environments might be too much for me.  Right now I am reading the autobiography of Amanda Lindhout and her accounts of travelling to various places and the challenges and discomforts she faced make me never want to do any high-risk travel! And I'm not even talking about her famous kidnapping, but just the backpacking she did before she got into being a journalist.

Skydiving maybe?  Well now that you can simulate the experience, I think I'd rather do that, and have actually been thinking about it.  But if I never do it, I won't be broken up.

Do I want to run a marathon, a 1/2 even?  Nope.  An Ironman? Nope.

I briefly thought of doing one of those 'figure' competitions...actually my sister-in-law was telling me I should.  While I pretty much train like one of those women already, there is no way I could follow the necessary restrictive diets.  I'd lose my mind!  Also, those competitions aren't really about fitness at all, just appearance, and I want nothing to do with that, its actually disgusting to me.

Really, all I want to do is continue to grow my counselling practice, my business, stay as healthy and fit as possible for life, and raise two healthy, happy children.  I also want to, hopefully, retire comfortably with my wonderful husband and have grandchildren.  That's it! 

Is that enough? I don't know.  Maybe I need to set some more goals.  Publish a book?  Write an article for the New York Times? Be on television?  Bench press 150 lbs? Create a fitness DVD?  Teach a course? These are more like life goals than bucket list items though.

For now, I am going to set the goal of spending the summer figuring out my goals and whether there really are some other things I need (or want) to start working towards. Yep, my goal is to figure out my goals, ha!

This weekend isn't going to be much of one. I am going into the clinic to see clients both Saturday and Sunday, but at least I love my work, and I'll have the afternoons with the family and hopefully the weather will cooperate.  Have a healthy, happy and safe one!

Thursday, June 11, 2015

The Good Karma Diet: Book Review


Its kind of ironic that this book was sent to me to review recently, because it addresses a topic I've been thinking about a lot lately. Should people be eating animals?

I have never been a vegan or vegetarian.  This surprises even me because as a kid I was obsessed with animals.  Now, my obsession was primarily focused on cats, which, in North America, we do not eat.  But I loved most least cute ones, yet I never was compelled to stop eating them.  Is this because my parents are staunch omnivores?  Certainly they are very intelligent, knowledgeable, socially conscious citizens, yet they never once raised the issue of the ethics of eating animals.  In fact, my dad would pretty much eat anything...and he has eaten all sorts of weird animal and insect things I would never touch!

It seems that this issue of whether or not to eat animals and animal products has become an increasingly contentious issue.  Especially now, when we have dietary trends that run in opposition to each other: raw/vegan diets and the whole paleo/high-protein/high-fat thing.

After mulling over the whole eating animals thing, even before I read this book, I had concluded that no, it is not really ethical in this day and age.  Even ethically treated animals are killed for our consumption and we really can live, and live well, without eating them.  As for things like dairy, eggs, honey, etc., I do think if we practice their production ethically than perhaps this is okay, but most of the time we don't do so.  In addition, the ethically raised/produced products are extremely expensive, way beyond what most people can afford.  Nevertheless, despite my conclusion, I have no plans to become vegan or vegetarian right now.  Why?  Honestly, I don't know.  Yes, I do find a lot of animal products very yummy, but it isn't just that.

At first I was worried this book would be very preachy.  I am not a big fan of radicals and there are certainly fringe groups within animal rights and eco circles that go right off the rails (I've heard of vegan bloggers who made the decision to start eating meat again and received death threats because of it).  But I was extremely pleasantly surprised by this book.

Author, Victoria Moran, is an author, health counsellor and vegan lifestyle coach in New York, who does a good job considering many factors relevant to our food choices that are often overlooked by health and diet 'experts."

The book starts with a summary of her own journey to veganism, and then a description of what The Good Karma Diet is.  Moran describes the theory behind a raw diet and tips for how to keep this dietary approach doable.

Moran sprinkles the book with anecdotes from various well-known vegans about how they found their way to veganism and what its done for their lives.

What impresses me most, is how Moran covers all different issues related to veganism. She spends time distinguishing between healthy versus skinny and emphasizes that being healthy does require avoiding obesity, but does not require conforming to a body image ideal shoved down our throats by the media.  Moran, herself, was obese at one time, so she does know first hand about fat-shaming, and about the challenges of losing weight.  She stresses that self love has to come before positive lifestyle change, and I have to agree.  I see this with my weight-loss clients all the time.

Also, like me, she recommends eating 3 meals and 2 snacks daily, and suggests people load up as much as possible on leafy greens and most other veggies, at some fruit, and then smaller ratios of proteins, whole grains and good fats.  Moran also urges readers to avoid striving for perfection.  That too, is key to developing a healthy relationship with food.  We all make less than perfect choices sometimes, and that's okay!

There is a chapter that focuses on the unethical treatment of animals in our food industries, and it is hard to read.  I knew all this beforehand, but it is very disturbing.  That being said, while she would love to see the world become vegan, she sagely advises readers, at the very least, to cut back drastically on the amount of animal products they consume.  Did you know that North Americans eat more meat than any other folks in the world???

Also, in case you weren't aware, one of the best ways to have a smaller foot print on the environment is not throwing your pop can in the recycle bin, but eating less or no meat.

Now, one thing that always pisses me off, is when people drone on about how everyone should be eating X diet, without considering the cost.  So many people, even in North America, live with food insecurity.  Many of them have little to no control over what they eat.  You think folks using food banks can say, "Sorry I only eat organic/paleo/vegan/raw food"?  Actually, Toronto just opened its first vegetarian food bank, which is a good thing!  Anyways, Moran discusses the issue of cost in chapter 18 and provides some nice suggestions of how to eat a vegan diet on a budget. 

Moran also spends some time addressing all the conflicting information out there about vegan versus animal-based diets and our health/waistlines.  I am pleased to say she provides a very evidence-based, balanced perspective.  She admits that we can be healthy eating small amounts of animal products, but of course, for her that still violates her personal code of ethics.  The information she provides about the risks benefits of soy protein and of eating meat are very consistent with the research I have read (i.e. unprocessed soy is fine; red meat, regardless of whether its grass-fed, organic, etc. still contains compounds that increase risk of disease).  She also points out the dumb-ass faulty assumptions upon which the whole paleo diet is built.  That made me smile!

I also like that Moran discusses the importance of eating a vegan diet based on whole foods, and not just being a 'cupcake vegan'.  As she points out, a few decades ago, being vegan inevitably meant eating whole foods, but now we have all kinds of vegan crap out there, and that is not an ideal way to eat either.

On the topic of health, Moran mentions the importance of fitness too.  She admits not loving purposeful exercise, but points out that being able to push herself through a treadmill workout builds a mental strength and resilience that helps her push through other tough things in her life too.  I couldn't agree more, that's just one of the millions of benefits we get from physical activity!

Moran provides a list of vegan online shopping resources and cosmetic companies to help individuals transform their lifestyle.  In addition, there is a whole section of recipes in the back, created by a dietician.

Overall, this book is a very interesting read for anyone and a necessary read for anyone considering shifting to a vegan lifestyle.

So why am I not planning to become vegan myself.  I just don't know, but I have come up with a theory.  It isn't just that my husband would be annoyed and my kids devastated (dairy and eggs are their primary sources of protein!) because I could do it myself without them if I wished.  It also isn't just that I love them and feel they do my body good.  I could live without.  My theory is that humans are omnivorous animals and that for some of us, perhaps me, this instinct to eat animals is more ingrained.  I came to this theory because this issue of primal instincts comes up all the time in my role as infertility counsellor.  We always forget that we are, ultimately, mammals, often driven by the same instincts as other species.  Some people do not have the instinct to procreate, but most of us do, and if it is blocked, it literally makes us bonkers.  Of course, I have no evidence, this is just my working theory. It could simply be that it wasn't something my parents discussed when I was a kid. Perhaps one day I will feel compelled to become vegan, but at least for now, I am content with my already very plant-based diet.

Disclosure: I was sent this book to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own. 

Wednesday, June 10, 2015

Japanese Green Salad with Simple Sesame Dressing

This salad was part of our dinner when we had the Sunday power outage.  Even if you have electricity, this makes a great meal for a hot day.  The edamame provides a great source of protein so this can be a main, if you prefer.  I made a large amount to have leftovers for the next day (just don't dress the salad you aren't eating right away), but feel free to half it if you wish.  I love seaweed, and love it, especially, in salads, but if you aren't a fan you can easily leave it out.

Umeboshe plum paste, used in the dressing is an amazing sweet, salty condiment, perfect for dressings, that is just 5 calories per teaspoon. If you can't find it, you can use miso instead.

Japanese Green Salad

1 package organic romaine hearts, chopped (or iceberg lettuce or other greens)
1 sweet bell pepper, thinly sliced
1 cucumber, sliced
1/4 cup wakame seaweed, soaked and drained
2 cups shelled edamame

Simple Sesame Dressing

1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1/4 cup tahini
1 tbsp. umeboshe plum paste (or miso)
1/2 cup unseasoned rice vinegar

Combine salad ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk together ingredients for dressing and pour desired amount over salad.  Toss well.

This recipe has been shared with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Link-Up Party and Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2015

Egg Head

Eggs are healthy.  No they aren't.  Yes they are.  No they aren't.

Are you confused yet? 

Health experts have been going back and forth on this issue for a long time. In the 90s they fell into the 'unhealthy' category that included anything high in fat.  Also, because they are high in cholesterol, it was assumed they raise the risk of heart disease. 

But then you have the proponents of high-fat, high-protein diets that extol their virtues.  In addition, health experts have realized that it isn't the cholesterol, but the saturated fat in foods that raises our cholesterol levels.  Um, yeah, so which is it???

Should you eat them or not?

Well according to the June 2015 issue of the Centre for Science in the Public Interest Nutrition Action Health Letter, it depends on your current state of health.

Individuals with Type 2 diabetes, should eat less than 1 egg per week.  For anyone else, limit egg consumption to 5 or less per week.  So like most things, everything in moderation.

Personally I limit myself to about 4 whole eggs a week, at most, and the rest egg whites.

Monday, June 8, 2015

Adventures in Toronto

Um, hello, on a rainy, crazy Monday morning in Toronto!

It was quite a weekend, and it looks like the nuttiness continues today.

Saturday, I am happy to say, Big A's slumber party went off without a hitch.  The girls were very well behaved.  Little A tried to stay up with the big girls and found she couldn't get comfortable down in the rec room, so Adam ended up having to put her to bed in her room.  I slept through all this, but still had a crappy sleep.  I think I was just tense being the worry-wart mom, anxious something was going to go wrong.  The one weird thing was the pizza delivery guy (the girls had pizza and ice cream cake) came to our back door for some unknown reason (you have to go through a back alley to get to it...), so he scared the shit out of me.  Adam was so peeved, he called the pizzeria and screamed at them.  It was just so bizarre!  I think it freaked me out because of the break-in we had years ago through the back door.

Then yesterday, right after me and the girls got back from having our hair cut, the power went out around 3pm.  I was so annoyed as I couldn't do anything I had planned (laundry, cooking, etc.).  It then didn't come back on until 10pm.  So we ate cold dinners and played board games by candle light and went to bed early.  We discovered that a huge portion of south central downtown Toronto had no power, but we still don't know the reason.

As if that wasn't all weird enough, the entire subway system went out for several hours this morning, causing absolute chaos.  Adam waited for almost an hour, before coming home and getting the car.  The girls and I walked to school in absolute pouring rain, only to discover the traffic lights all out.  Man, its scary enough to cross streets in this city when they're working, it was rather hair-raising to get the girls safely across the main street, just counting on the kindness of the drivers not to mow us down!

Still no info on what the heck is going on around her, but at least the rain has slowed a bit. 

An nutty as this has all been, I just keep reminding myself how minor it all is and how fortunate we actually are.  It isn't the middle of winter, its not the dead of summer, we have our power back, everyone is okay...

Have a lovely Monday folks, hope yours is a lot less weird.

Friday, June 5, 2015

Tooth Fairy Tales

I would say thank goodness its Friday, except today is totally nuts, packed full with clients, and I work tomorrow.  Then Saturday night Big A is having her first sleepover party at our place (wine, sleeping pills and ear plugs anyone?).  Oh, and there's this douche-bag cold I have.  Colds always feel worse in warm weather don't they?

Its not been the greatest week.  Adam away until Wednesday and I was not at my best.  Monday night I set the wrong alarm at bedtime (Adam usually does it, and turns it off in the morning as he gets up first), and ended up setting it off when I came down the stairs at 5am.  Somehow it didn't wake the girls.  Tuesday I was tired and grumpy from a bad sleep and had to pick up Big A from school because she said she wasn't feeling well.  I am pretty sure she was faking, but I wasn't torn up about missing the school concert, which my mother-in-law diplomatically described as, "...somewhat less painful than waterboarding." Ha ha!

Little A lost a front tooth Tuesday but we all went to bed at the same time that night so I had to do my Tooth Fairy duty in the morning...another task usually left to Adam.  I was nervous about pulling it off and it went as terribly as I'd thought it might.  When I opened her door I woke her, which surprised me, making me knock her tooth box on the floor and the tooth disappeared.  Luckily she had to go pee, so I was able to flick the light on and recover the tooth, leaving $2 in its place.  I told her I'd heard a noise in her room and came to see what it was.  She seemed to buy this explanation when she got up a few hours later and we agreed I probably scared to Tooth Fairy away.  Adam and I don't really care if the girls believe these things, but its kind of fun to see what you can convince them of.  Later, however, she said to me, "I think the Tooth Fairy is you and daddy...there aren't any fairies, just in fairy tales."  Ha, smart kid!

The good ness is I woke up today feeling much better.  I've noticed that I get sick much less often compared to when the girls were younger, and when I do get sick, it only lasts a few days, compared to a few weeks. 

Well, gotta start my crazy busy day, so enjoy your Friday and have a happy, healthy weekend!

Thursday, June 4, 2015

Feeling Like Crap

Sick Season

Blech! Last night I developed a tickle in my throat, and sure enough, I woke up with a full-blown cold.  Unfortunately, I have a full schedule of clients the next 3 days and, as you know, colds don't usually qualify as a reason to lie in bed all day...especially when you have kids!

So have a lovely Thursday and I will be back tomorrow...hopefully feeling better.

Wednesday, June 3, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday: Grumpy Hump Day Edition

Another day of meal inspiration thanks to WIAW at Clean Eats Fast Feets!

Adam has been in Ottawa for a conference this week, so its been just me and the girls.  Sigh!  Of course, I had lots of evening clients booked before realizing he was going to be away, so Monday the girls actually had to come to the office with me and sit in the board room while I did a session.  Then Monday night I had a horrible sleep, so was tired and grumpy yesterday. As luck would have it, last night was the girls' school spring concert. I will be honest, I never look forward to it. Its in an overheated, overcrowded school gym, your own kids only perform for a few minutes out of a few hours, and they are far away on stage where you can't really see or hear them well.  At the end, the kids are wired, tired and whiny.  Fun stuff!  So as horrible as it sounds, I was relieved when the school called in the afternoon for me to pick up Big A because she had a headache (no fever or anything).  I had a sleep-deprivation headache myself and all I wanted to do was sleep myself.  Thankfully, my mother-in-law was also planning to come, so she was able to bring Little A and watch the show.  She is also covering for me this afternoon while I see clients, and picking up the girls and feeding them dinner.  Yes, I know, I'm very lucky to have in-laws that help out so much! Me, Adam and the girls will probably all get home around the same time tonight.  Of course, no matter what's going on in my life, I make sure to eat well.  So here is yesterday...

Breakfast was the usual oatmeal with ground flax and egg whites (in my favorite, huge, chipped bowl).  I am sometimes branching out and using cinnamon and this apple pie spice, instead of just cinnamon and my usual fresh ground nutmeg on my oatmeal.  This spice blend has fenugreek in it, which gives it a unique taste and maple-like aroma.


Snacks were these Jona Gold apples, which I only got because the market didn't have my favorite Mutsus.  They were alright.  I also love these spicy vegan sausage snack sticks:

Lunch was a standard green salad with tuna and Italian dressing, and a vanilla spice plantain cake, with a sweet cinnamon sunflower butter spread (sunflower butter, powdered erythritol & cinnamon).  I've discovered I love sunflower butter more than peanut butter!

Dinner was a random saute of kale, roasted cauliflower and chicken feta spinach sausage that I found at Costco, in a vegan cheese sauce I am working on for my new website.  It was actually even better than I expected!

There you have it!  At least we're half way through the week already, huh??

Tuesday, June 2, 2015

Grab a Handful

So if you've had children, than, like me, your bra size has probably changed a bunch of times, and like me, you probably have a drawer full of bras that don't fit properly.

Not only do I have a bra drawer to clean out, but I have a great deal of difficulty finding bras that fit properly and are comfortable.  I have a small band size and larger cup size, and this particular combination is impossible to find anywhere except expensive bra boutiques, but then the available styles are usually butt-ugly and/or uncomfortable due to underwire, hooks, clasps, etc.  I have very sensitive skin and easy get irritated from lace, tags, etc.  I've discovered that I favour the wireless pull-over-your-head kind of bra instead of the ones that you undo.  Unfortunately, most of the ones you find in stores are 'bralettes' and meant for women with a very small cup size, offering almost no support.  Definitely not what an active, ehm, top-heavier person like me needs.

A few years ago I bought a bunch of Genie bras, and while they are comfortable, they have very wide straps which means I can't wear them with a lot of things (tank tops, boat neck tops, etc.).  But the rest of my bras are either too big, too small, or just plain uncomfortable.  So, out with the old, in with the new!

After some extensive research, I decided to buy some Handfuls.  Yep, silly name, but I LOVE THEM!  They are super comfy and fit perfectly, offering a lot of support  I can wear them with more of my clothes too.  They come in a ton of colours (I got white, grey and black because I'm boring) and tank tops too.

There is only one place selling them in Canada, a store in Calgary, but they arrived fast and they included a personal thank you for my business and some chocolate (!).  Wow.

Not cheap these babies, but good bras never are.  Anyhoo, I highly recommend.

Monday, June 1, 2015

Catch Some Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz

Funny Bed Earlier Tired Owl | Funny Joke Pictures

Its Monday morning.  Are you feeling anxious? Tired? Depressed?

So what's your poison? Alcohol? Drugs? Food? Online gaming?

Everyone these days seems to have a dependence on something.  Not an addiction, per se, but a tendency to 'misuse' either a substance or an activity.

Among my clients it tends to most usually be food or alcohol that is misused. What do I mean? I mean they are used as a coping strategy.  Sure, every one of us will reach for Haagen Daz or Merlot on occasion to release tension, but for some people this becomes a habit.

In psychological terms, we refer to this as an 'avoidant coping strategy' because you are essentially numbing yourself to the distress without directly addressing the source.  Unfortunately, it doesn't tend to work well long-term.

Based on my own experiences, and my observations based on my counselling practice, I have come up with a theory: Most of the time when we are reaching for whatever it is we tend to use as an avoidant coping strategy, what we actually need is sleep.  Yep, sleep. I am not saying sleep is the cure for everything, not at all.  But believe you me, if you are tired or sleep deprived, then your resilience and ability to cope using active, constructive, functional strategies is greatly diminished.  In addition, many mental health issues cause insomnia (anxiety, depression, PTSD, etc.).  As a society, research has shown, most of us are chronically tired and sleep-deprived.  This has a significant impact on our physical and mental health.

When I suggest this to clients, many of them admit that they are indeed feeling exhausted and overwhelmed when they start eating/drinking/smoking.  People also tend to use such substances/activities as a reward.  But they are not rewarding themselves with this behaviour, they are usually perpetuating problems.  This reward seeking behaviour tends to be driving by a lack of sense of purpose.  If our lives, ultimately, seems to lack purpose or innate fulfillment, we start to seek it out in other ways.  But, as I tell my clients, true reward is giving ourselves what we truly need, which is rarely alcohol, excess food, or drugs.

So next time you find yourself reaching for something that you know, deep down, is actually self-destructive, ask yourself, "What is it I actually need?"  I can guarantee you it isn't what you are reaching for.  You are worth taking care of.  So get rest, take a vacation, get a massage, go for counselling to address your anxiety/stress/depression/trauma, etc.  Its only when you actively address the underlying issue that you will actually experience relief.