Pages

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.