Friday, December 23, 2016

Welcome 2017!

Most people see 2016 as a pretty crappy year. Globally it certainly has been for all sorts of reasons!

Just to name a few...

War in Syria
U.S. presidential election
Orlando nightclub attack
Dakota pipeline protests

And a lot of celebrities and public figures died too, like:

David Bowie
Alan Rickman
Gary Marshall
Gene Wilder
Arnold Palmer
Florence Henderson
Fidel Castro
John Glenn
Alan Thicke

Oy vey!

But on a personal level, I really can't complain. Life always has ups and downs, but overall I am blessed. Though the girls still make me crazy (I think they probably always will), I am so proud of them. They are good kids, super smart and very athletic.  They are doing so well with all their endeavors. I have a supportive partner and we are financially comfortable.  Adam's career is flourishing, I have a job I love, I have had several new opportunities, and I have had many great times with great friends.

Nevertheless, I hope 2017 is a better one for the millions of people worldwide who are not so fortunate.

Stay happy and healthy and I'll be back after the new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Healthy Plate for a Healthy Holiday

We humans hate being told what to do. If you are a parent than you know that all too well! But its also true of us adults. Too many restrictions on our actions or choices and we will start to rebel. This is one of the reasons that strict diets rarely work long-term.

One thing that can be helpful, if you are trying to cut down or eliminate an unhealthy behaviour, is to change the way you think about it. Researchers consistently find that if dieters tell themselves they 'can't' have something, they are far less likely to adhere to this rule, than if they say, I 'don't' eat that. In other words, its a personal choice, not an imposed restriction.

When I read about this, I realized that I have naturally always done that. I don't eat sugar or refined carbs. I don't eat fried foods. I don't regularly consume red meat. And I never feel resentful. Actually, I don't really ever think about it. My diet just doesn't include these things.

Now I have lots of clients, and friends and family, who are unwilling to give up anything, when it comes to their diet. Even then, there is a simple way to keep some of your less healthy foods in your diet, and that is to ADD to it. Add large quantities of veggies and some fruit, and keep those not so nutritious foods portion controlled.

A super simple strategy to losing weight or simply improving your diet, is to use the healthy plate approach. This means filling half your plate with veggies at each meal, and one quarter each with protein and starch. You can even buy sectioned plates to help you do this!

This works so well because while you may be cutting portions down on carbs and protein, you are heaping your plate full of high fibre, low calorie goodness, so you won't be hungry!

If you are on a weight-loss plan, or are simply worried about gaining weight over the holidays, try this approach. It means you can still have small portions of your favorites (ham, turkey, stuffing, etc.), but won't be going overboard, and will still feel satisfied and energized by all that good veggie nutrition.

If your holiday table doesn't usually include many healthy veggie dishes. Make some to add and create new traditions! Vegetables need never be boring. One caveat though, avoid preparing your veggie dishes with lots of oil, butter, cheese, etc., or they are no longer low-cal.
ere are 2 flavour-packed veggie recipes to try:

Molasses and Soy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

6 medium sweet potatoes, diced
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free)
Grated fresh ginger, about 2 tbsp.
2 cloves garlic, minced

Toss sweet potatoes with all other ingredients. Spread on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 375F for 45 minutes, or until tender.

Roasted Veggies with Gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) and Orange

You can use whatever veggies you prefer, so modify as desired.

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 celery spears, sliced
1 cup dried and rehydrated shitaki mushrooms
1 onion, sliced
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange
1-2 tbsp. Korean hot pepper paste
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

If Brussels sprouts are large, cut them in half and discard tough outer leaves. Toss veggies with the other ingredients and spread out onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 375F for about 30 minutes, or until tender.

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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Zero Water Filter: Product Review

A few months ago I was asked to review the Zero water filter, and it seemed like timing could not have been more perfect. We were in the midst of our home renos, and had just found out the fridge we ordered didn't fit through our doors so it had to be returned. One of the key features I had looked for was a built in water filter/dispenser and ice maker, like our old one. While searching for a replacement, it didn't seem like I was going to find one with this feature that would fit our space, so this seemed like an ideal alternative. But we did end up getting a new fridge with a water filter. 

We are fortunate to live in an area with good water quality, so its not an issue of being concerned about what's in the water. But where ever you live, you may just not like how your tap water tastes.

In any case, I passed the Zero to my lovely neighbours who don't have a fridge with a filter and, until now, have been using a Brita. They have shared the following review:

-10 cup water filter pitcher
-comes with its own water meter

Five stage filter
Water meter holder on cap
Spigot on the back is a cool idea
Blue tint looks nice
Premium appearance

Slightly heavy
Spigot can get caught as you're putting it away in the fridge

Water meter testing:
Brita filtered water (last filter change date unknown): 159 TDS (total dissolved solids)
"Real Canadian" bottled water: 227 TDS
Tap water: 167 TDS
Zero water: 001 TDS
Black coffee (Cuisinart coal filter): 449 TDS
Black coffee with mocha Coffeemate: 485 TDS

  • Street price of product tested $47. Brita for comparison is $30. Zero water filters are $18 each or $55 for four pack. (Online-not sure if they're on store shelves.)
  • An extra $20 at the store gets you an evidence-based water jug with a number that only it can reduce, but gives you a hard time fitting it in the fridge and makes you feel bad about drinking coffee. In Kid tested taste testing, (not blind testing), an 11 year old and 9 year old each preferred the Zero water over tap or bottled water.

    Overall Rating
    : 3.5 out of 5 (They have a 6 cup version that would score a half point higher: 4 out of 5).

Wow, so I would say the crucial piece of info is that 2 picky kids preferred the Zero over tap or 
bottled water!  If you have a child resistant to drinking water, maybe this is the answer?!?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Flying to New Heights

After 10 years of doing our New Year's Day drop-in party, we decided that last year was going to be the last one. We weren't enjoying it anymore, it just felt stressful. This year we are doing a low-key games night and dinner with friends on New Year's Eve, but then doing something sort of exciting on New Year's Day. New Year's Day we are all - yes all of us, even the kids - going indoor skydiving!

I have been fascinated by this since I heard about iFLY setting up shop just outside Toronto a few years ago. It seems relatively safe, and unbelievably exhilarating and fun! The only downside is the cost. A typical package is $100/person, and includes 4 'dives' that generally last 60 seconds long, over 2 hours (I guess the rest of the time is watching while others take their turns).

I cleared the idea with the family (Big A is super excited), but then immediately got cold feet. Its expensive! One of us could get hurt! The kids could be traumatized! I could get motion sickness and barf in front of everyone!

All of a sudden, despite my initial urgency to book, since you need to reserve spots weeks in advance, I started dragging my heels.

Then I remembered what I always remind my clients: Research shows that people rarely regret taking risks or trying new things, but they usually regret missed opportunities. So I bought tickets and booked.

I'll admit it, I am still a bit nervous, but I like that we are all doing it together. At the very least it will be 'interesting'.

Have an exciting, interesting weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DIY Blush/Bronzer/Eye Shadow

Remember when I reviewed this book?

I finally got around to making another recipe from it a few weeks ago. While I was home with both girls, who were sick, I figured making something would be a nice, quiet activity to do with them.

The girls each had a few recipes they most wanted to make, but in order to keep them from fighting, I told them I was making the choice. My choice, to be honest, was simply based on the fact that I already had all the ingredients in the house.

The recipe in the book is called "Shimmer Blush" but modifying it a wee bit to adjust the colour, I am actually using it as more of a bronzer. But I see no reason why you couldn't use it as a blush, or a bronzer, or an eye shadow, frankly, based on the hue you give it.

I doubled the recipe, which probably wasn't necessary, because I find so little is needed (I literally shake the container to get a tiny bit on the lid, then gently dip the brush into the lid. Like you really need just a tiny bit, if you are using it as a bronzer! So this is going to last me FOREVER!

Now admittedly, I didn't intend to make this for myself - it was going to be for the girls for playing dress up at home - but after I tried it, I loved it so much, I added it to my daily makeup regimen.

Here is the original recipe for Shimmer Blush, and my modifications, in brackets:

1 tsp beet powder or hibiscus flower powder (1/2 tsp - I didn't want a really pink colour)
1/2 tsp arrowroot powder (1 tsp)
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used 1 tsp raw cacao powder)
Pinch gold mica powder (I used bronze mica powder)
3-5 drops lavender essential oil (I omitted this)

Whisk together beet, arrowroot and cocoa powder in a small bowl, adding a little at a time, until desired colour is achieved. Add mica and oil, if using and pour into a jar. Keep at room temp for up to 6 months.

What's awesome is, not only is this makeup non-toxic, it is so much less expensive than buying something similar! Its also eco-friendly as I used an old foundation pot I had kept and cleaned out.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Costco Quest-like Protein Bars

Good morning and welcome to a new beginning. Beginning of a new day, and of a new week.  So winter finally arrived this weekend. The snow is pretty and its not bitterly cold yet, but already I am dreading the February/March blahs that always come after a few months of this.

I'm talking protein bars again today. So now you know how to make your own Quest bars.

But if you're not into that, I just discovered another awesome option that is also cheaper than real Quest Bars: Costco's own brand of protein bars!

This is the first time I've ever seen them, but maybe they are just new to our Costco location. In any case, they are $25 for a box of 20 bars, compared with $42 for a box of 12 Quest bars!!

The macros are pretty much the same: 60g bar with 190 cals, 21g protein, and 15g of fibre. They are sweetened with erythritol and stevia and are gluten-free.

The box has half Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and half Chocolate Brownie flavours. The Chocolate Brownie is good, and more comparable to Quest Double Chocolate Chunk flavour because it has chocolate chunks. I like the Quest ones better though. The Kirkland ones are not very sweet and the chocolate is unsweetened chocolate. If you prefer a less sweet bar and like dark, bitter chocolate, this is the one for you.

The Cookie Dough is fantastic! It also has chunks of unsweetened chocolate but the base of the bar is quite sweet so they balance each other out. These ones are so good! Honestly, I may switch since the price is so much better than Quest! I just wish that you could get a box with just the Cookie dough flavour.

Way to go Costco, nice job :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Winter 2016 Faves

It is December and we still have had no snow. It only really started to get cold yesterday. That means we are probably going to get our butts completely kicked by winter when it finally arrives. Us Canadians never get off Scot-free.

In any case, here are a few of my favorite things this winter...or pre-winter, I guess. I will do another round up once we get to "When will this fucking winter end" point in time around February/March.


This healthy sweetener rocks. I bought the syrup, but I am sure you can do great things with the powder too. Its the base of my homemade Quest bars, and you can use it to make cereal bars, fudge, etc.  I am so excited to continue experimenting with it!

BWC Nourishing Eye Gel and Make-up Remover


The skin around my eyes gets red and irritated as the weather gets colder because my eyes tear a lot. The eye gel is so soothing and the eye make up remover super gentle. I love these products!

Vega Hydrator

I stay away from 'sports' drinks. Most of them are just soda pop in disguise, full of sugar and unnecessary things. I don't do the whole coconut water thing either because (1) it tastes gross, (2) its still empty calories. Remember, unless you do high intensity endurance exercise (i.e. run for 90+ minutes) or workout in very extreme conditions, you don't need to rehydrate with carb/sugar drinks. I love this vega hydrator because it has the electrolytes but no sugar or calories, and it tastes pretty good, in both the lemon lime and berry flavours. No artificial colours, etc. either!

Buttercup Squash

Until recently, I was all about the kabocha. But suddenly they became impossible to find yet their fraternal twin, buttercup, was everywhere. I finally decided to give one a try and, wow, I loved it. Like I may actually prefer these guys to kabocha now.  Sweeter, moister flesh, and more consistent (i.e. sometimes I would get a great kabocha and sometimes I would end up with a very disappointing one).

These oatmeal cookies!

I am devouring these cookies as breakfast, snacks and dessert. I love, love, love them. If you are an oatmeal cookie lover and want a healthier, lower cal option than your standard cookie, these are perfect!! They are super quick and easy to make too.

Just some of life's little pleasures I am enjoying right now. Have a healthy, happy weekend and go find some pleasures!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Big A the Book Reviewer: Good Reads for Tweens

Publishers have been sending me all sorts of youth literature, which I have been giving to our little book worm. I am so thrilled that Big A has embraced reading to the same extent as Adam and I. There is only one difference though: she is a much faster reader than either of us! She is in the top 95th percentile for speed of reading!!

As useful as this will be for her, it means she is going through books fast, and always begging for more.

Here are a few reviews she's done for me on books were were sent:

Spies in Disguise: Boy in the Tutu (by Kate Scott)

Its about a boy who's parents are secret agents and they get found out, like their cover gets blown and the boy needs to find this computer chip to save his parents. I liked the part about how the two main characters had to take ballet lessons. The only thing I didn't like is maybe there could have been more conflict.

Rating: 9.9/10

Earning my Spots (by Mark Eastburn)

Its about this boy and his family are shape shifters, and he has to save his parents who were kidnapped. Its very detailed and a long book, so it took me a while to read. I found it hard to keep track of all the characters because there were so many things going on.

Rating: 3/10

Blind Guide to Normal (by Beth Vrabel)

I just read it again, like for the 12th time. Its amazing. I like Rider's point of view, the main character. He lost one of his eyes to cancer, I like that you get see what things are like for him. I would love a future book to be from Jocelyn's point of view, because she is an interesting character too.

Rating: 10/10

Okay, so she's not the most eloquent reviewer, even she says this isn't her strong suit. Despite being a fast and voracious reader, Big A's favorite subject in school is actually math. I don't see an English degree in her future.

So its the Blind Guide to Normal for the win. You may recall Big A reviewed Vrabel's book Blind Guide to Stinkville, and loved that one too. She is determined to read every single thing Vrabel has ever written or ever writes in the future. So, wow, that's a pretty strong recommendation!

If you are looking to buy a book for the tween in your life, it sounds like any of Vrabel's books are a good bet.

Monday, December 5, 2016

Homemade Quest Bars

If you are feeling a little blue because its Monday, this post might cheer you up. I have a simple way to make your own Quest bars at home!

I love Quest bars as a little treat, but, boy are they expensive! Most protein bars are pricey, actually.

So when I got my first order of Vitafiber, I knew they were the first thing I had to try making.

Vitafiber, by the way, is a sugar-free, natural, low glycemic and lower calorie sweetener made of Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO).

It is high in fibre and a prebiotic, and is a main ingredient in real Quest bars.

I used the basic recipe for a dozen bars posted by Busy but Healthy but I skipped putting the hot batter into a plastic bag, and I am happy to say it still worked perfectly.

For these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bars I used:

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest-Style Bars (based on this recipe)

1.5 cups Vitafiber
3 cups vanilla whey protein powder (use plant-based for vegan bars)
8 tbsp almond flour
1/3 cup stevia-sweetened chocolate chips

Heat Vitafiber in pot on medium until bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in protein powder and almond flour. Mix well until it starts to stick together. Stir in chocolate chips. Dump batter into parchment-lined 9x9 square baking dish. Refrigerate until firm. Remove bars using parchment paper to lift out. Cut into 12 bars.

Keep in air tight container, or refrigerate for firmer bars.

You can make different flavours by using different kinds of protein powder and different mix-ins.

If you add any fresh fruit, bars will have a much shorter shelf life.

I think I might try making chocolate mint ones next!

No one is happier about these homemade bars then the kids. They actually like them MORE than the store bought kind! I don't usually allow them my Quest bars because they are so expensive, but I suspect this means they will be nagging me to make them on a regular basis. No biggie though, because they're so quick and easy to make!

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

Friday, December 2, 2016

Parenting Pickles

One of the most stressful things about parenting is when kids get sick. First there is the worry that its something serious. Then there is dealing with who cares for them. I can only imagine how challenging it is for people with low income jobs that are not salaried. Having to stay home to care for your child for an extended period of time could be catastrophic!

So I am very grateful that we are comfortable, financially secure, and I have job flexibility because Monday afternoon I had to pick up 2 very sad looking girls from school. Big A barfed and Little A's tummy was hurting because she'd been coughing so hard.

Apparently there are several nasty viruses going around their school and we've managed to get more than one of them. Yeah, we hit the jackpot!

Since I had a work commitment, Adam's mom was nice enough to take Little A to the doctor, just to rule out bronchitis and pneumonia. Fortunately, we got the 'its just a virus' response, which means its not serious, but also there is no treatment. Just lots of fluids, honey, a humidifier and lozenges. But the poor kid is miserable and when her coughing gets really bad, she panics, which only makes it worse.

Nevertheless, the doctor reassured us she isn't contagious and can go to school, so she went back Wednesday. Big A stayed home another day to make sure she had all the barfing out of her system. I was feeling worse than her though, I had a migraine and when I went to refill my Rx at the pharmacy, they informed me I didn't have any more refills. I basically had to just endure the pain until I went to bed that night.

To top things off, on Wednesday Adam had a work trip so I was on my own with the girls. Oy!

Needless to say, this week didn't go as planned.

Today is a PA day for the girls and a reasonably quiet day for me. I am going to Costco this morning, yay! But the weekend is busy as usual. At least we are all on our way back to being healthy. Little A and I just have to get rid of our cough!

Have a healthy, happy weekend :)

Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Dressed by Dresslily

I have a hard time finding clothes that fit me well.

You see, I am not only petite (vertically challenged), but I also have, what is diplomatically called by fashion experts, an 'athletic' body shape. This essentially means I have no shape. No waist. No hips. I am shaped like a toilet paper roll. Since losing 3 bra cup sizes to breast feeding, its even worse!

So I really have to be careful what I wear or it just looks all wrong and/or is very uncomfortable. Since I am so cylindrical, things often ride up, or slide down, etc. It's maddening!

I am on a constant quest for dresses. I love dresses because they can be very comfortable, they are an all-in-one outfit, and they look professional. I don't even mind biking in them. But it is always hard for me to find one that will be flattering and suits my tastes (i.e. no bright colours or huge, loud prints). I also don't like to spend tons on clothes. Oh, and because I am always hot, I refuse to buy any long sleeved dresses. In winter, I find my offices so overheated that I am practically melting, so it doesn't matter the season, it can't have long sleeves! So seriously, its been years of unsuccessful looking.

Until I recently discovered Dresslily!

The selection is almost overwhelming! Its also easy to find what you want because you can search by colour, length, sleeve length, size, etc. They have a wide range of styles from 20-something single clubbers (not my thing!) to professional and conservative.  I was able to find several dresses in the few styles that flatter my figure (or lack there of). And...the prices are insanely good. Like so good, that even though they are in U.S. dollars, they are still a bargain.

Though it took a long time for my order to arrive, the 4 dresses I bought are lovely. The quality is good and the fit amazing. I am thrilled.

If you are looking for some new outfits for the holiday season, you might want to check them out!

Monday, November 28, 2016

Hold On to Your Marbles with these Diet Tips

Good morning and welcome to a new week! I am certainly hoping this one is better than the last one. Unfortunately, we are still without a working oven, but I've been able to do quite a lot in our toaster oven including roasting veggies, baking cakes and cookies. I am feeling better but still not 100% but poor little A is still suffering from this cold and has a wet, hacking cough. Anyways...

Let's talk about brain health today.

Taking care of your body is not just about increasing longevity, its about improving and maintaining quality of life.

A good example is dementia and Alzheimer's disease. Some individuals do experience early onset, but most cases happen to to the elderly. If you are thinking that you need not worry about cognitive decline, because, after all, eventually you won't even be aware you are in it, then just think about the devastation that these diseases will cause your loved ones.

If you are thinking that its just an inevitable part of aging, you are wrong. There is increasing evidence that lifestyle plays a big part in our risk of Alzheimer's. Remember, only a very small proportion of cases are genetically related. Moreover, according to a recent article published in Psychology Today, prevention should begin early in life.

The BAD diet (Basic American Diet), high in red meat, fried foods and refined carbohydrates is BAD for your brain. So if you are on a low carb diet, for goodness sakes, get your protein from fish, poultry and eggs, not red meat!

Research has found that just 6 months on a diet that is rich in fresh veggies, fatty fish, and low in carbs can attenuate memory decline, speed up mental processing, and boost executive function.

The key nutrients for brain health are vitamin B12, D, Omega-3 fatty acids, vitamin E, mono- and polyunsaturated fats, carotenoids, vitamins A and C, and fiber. But the benefits only come from getting these from food, not from supplements.

Conversely, saturated fats, trans fats, cholesterol, and sodium are bad for your brain. So if you are chowing down on bacon because we no longer have strong evidence these things are associated with heart disease, here's a reason to continue to limit consumption!

So, what's a healthy brain diet? Surprise, its similar to a diet that's good for every other part of your body too:

  • Leafy greens
  • Cruciferous veggies
  • Yellow/orange veggies
  • Nuts (almonds, walnuts)
  • Berries
  • Legumes and beans
  • Extra virgin olive oil
  • Fatty fish
What may surprise you is that WHEN you eat is also important. This is when supporters of intermittent fasting get to act smug! Fasting for 12 hours is very beneficial for your brain! If this sounds impossible or extreme, remember, this can include the 8 hours your are sleeping and be as simple as quitting eating before 8pm and not having breakfast before 8am,

Of course, physical activity is also extremely important for brain health so don't forget to move!

Friday, November 25, 2016


Hello and Happy Friyay! Happy Black Friyay, in fact! Even here in Canada, though we don't celebrate Thanksgiving in November, we do celebrate the retail craziness of Black Friday.

While I've been offline I've been super busy.

When I say busy, I am not even referring to being sick, to Little A getting sick, to still having no working oven, or to the power outage we experienced Wednesday morning. Whew!

Nope, I am referring to the intensive professional training program I was doing...and only part 1 of 2!!

Adding to my repertoire of therapeutic modalities I offer, I am training as an EMDR therapist. EMDR stands for Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing. Ever heard of it?

Here is some info:

Eye movement desensitization and reprocessing (EMDR) is a type of treatment primarily used for PTSD, or other anxiety-related disorders. The theory is that trauma or other experiences that overwhelm normal coping mechanisms cause pathology when they are inadequately processed by the brain and stored as an isolated memory network.

 EMDR can reduce or eliminate the long-lasting effects of distressing memories (or negative cognitions) by engaging the brain's natural adaptive information processing mechanisms, thereby relieving present symptoms. The therapy uses an eight-phase approach that includes having the patient recall distressing images while receiving one of several types of bilateral sensory input, such as side to side eye movements, auditory beeps or hand pulses.

According to Francine Shapiro, who developed EMDR, the official definition of EMDR is:

EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) is a psychotherapy that enables people to heal from the symptoms and emotional distress that are the result of disturbing life experiences.  Repeated studies show that by using EMDR therapy people can experience the benefits of psychotherapy that once took years to make a difference. It is widely assumed that severe emotional pain requires a long time to heal.  EMDR therapy shows that the mind can in fact heal from psychological trauma much as the body recovers from physical trauma.  When you cut your hand, your body works to close the wound.  If a foreign object or repeated injury irritates the wound, it festers and causes pain.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  EMDR therapy demonstrates that a similar sequence of events occurs with mental processes.  The brain’s information processing system naturally moves toward mental health.  If the system is blocked or imbalanced by the impact of a disturbing event, the emotional wound festers and can cause intense suffering.  Once the block is removed, healing resumes.  Using the detailed protocols and procedures learned in EMDR therapy training sessions, clinicians help clients activate their natural healing processes (Source: EMDR Institute, Inc.).

In other words, when disturbing information gets stored in the nervous system, it causes chronic pain, distress or dysfunction, EMDR helps people reprocess the information in a way that eliminates the suffering. It is not hypnosis, it does not involve the client losing awareness or consciousness, and it does not eliminate the actual memory. It simply removes the physical/emotional charge or stimulus that accompanies the memory.

It is used primarily for PTSD, but also for generalized anxiety, grief and loss, phobias, and dysfunctional negative cognitions (I am worthless, I am stupid, I am powerless, I am in danger, etc.).

I first encountered EMDR when doing the practicuum for my counselling degree. I did 2 and one was in a fertility clinic, with my mentor, who has been doing EMDR for years. I'd never heard of it before and frankly, I was skeptical. But only until she had me sit in on a session.

We were working with an infertility patient who, after several years of unsuccessful treatments, was using an acquaintance as a gestational carrier. It was a rare situation where we did not feel the fit was ideal, as our interview with this acquaintance suggested she was offering to carry the pregnancy for self-serving reasons, which might be harmful to the patient. We then found out our client was not opting to use a G.C. due to medical reasons. In other words, she had no medical evidence that she couldn't carry a pregnancy if she were to become pregnant. More work with her revealed that she had been raped years earlier and lasting trauma from the rape made her feel her body was damaged and that's why she was unable to carry a baby. She agreed to try EMDR to address the trauma from the rape, and I have to tell you that what I witnessed in that session was nothing short of a miracle. She literally made peace with the experience in one session! An experience she had never told anyone except her husband about before this time and caused her enormous suffering. 

Now, I should add that it is not always the case that breakthroughs like this happen in a single session, but even for the most severe PTSD, results occur usually in less than a year.

Since then, when I have clients with severe trauma or phobias, I have been referring them to my mentor for EMDR. They almost always contact me afterwards and tell me it was 'miraculous'. Now, I am so excited that I can work with my clients doing EMDR myself!

I wish this weekend was quiet, but I work both tomorrow and Sunday, and there are lots of errands to do. At least I am feeling better. Aside from a very runny nose, I've kicked this cold and I have my voice back. Thank goodness. I like to talk!

Have a happy and healthy weekend.

Friday, November 18, 2016

Temporary Radio Silence

Hello and happy Friday!

I am glad its the end of the week, it felt like a tough one. I came down with a cold which has left me with a headache and tons of mucus. I get sick so much less often than I used to that when I do catch something, I feel even more frustrated. But obviously expecting to never get sick isn't realistic!

On top of that, its been a crazy busy week between work and the girls' and their activities and our related commitments (last night was parent-teacher night at their school).

To make matters even more complicated, our brand new oven died. I know, like WTF? Our research suggests that it needs its electronic panel replaced AND that this is a common problem with this model. Unfortunately, the company we bought it from is offering servicing, not a replacement. If this becomes an ongoing problem with this oven, I am going to lose my shit.

Oh and if you think that's bad, last night our downstairs toilet overflowed. Oh yes it did! We had to call the plumber for an emergency visit. So $250 later (took him 5 minutes to fix it) and a very long and disgusting cleaning process and that mess is thankfully over.

On the bright side,  I have never been more proud of my kids. Their teachers spoke so highly of them both. They are both very strong in math, as well as most other areas, but more importantly, they are good people. Wow, somehow we seem to be doing something right!

This weekend isn't going to be any slower. Tonight I am going to a friend's party. Not my usual Friday night plan (usually I work late and then go to bed early). But I am sure it will be fun.

Tomorrow I have to work. A lot.

Sunday I start the first part of an intensive professional training program. I promise I will tell you all about it when its done!

I have not managed to write any blog posts ahead of time, so this will be the last you hear from me until next Friday, so have a wonderful week and we'll catch up then.

Stay happy and healthy friends!

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Low Calorie Creamy Caesar Dressing

Good morning and happy Wednesday! Its rainy here but I'm not letting that make me feel gloomy. Its pretty amazing how gorgeous and mild this fall has been. Like I rode my bike to work on Monday and didn't even need gloves. In fact, I was sweating by the time I got there! I am still enjoying salads and have not needed to transition to entirely hot foods yet. I am sure that time is coming, it always does here in Toronto! As my brother says, where else does the temperature range from +30 Celsius to -30 Celsius on a regular basis??

Speaking of salad, I have a great recipe for you today.

I know fat is all the rage right now, and while long gone are the days where any health experts recommend a fat-free diet, the researchers I trust agree that fat should still be eaten sparingly.  Why? no matter how healthy the fat you eat, it is extremely calorically dense and most North Americans don't burn enough calories to justify eating much of it.  Sorry, there is no evidence that you can eat even the most 'miraculous' oil in unlimited amounts without packing on weight!

Also, despite what many high fat diet proponents preach, the research I have read indicates that protein and fibre help you feel full, not fat.  Certainly I have found that to be the case for me.  If I dress a green salad with a fat free dressing or a high fat dressing, there is no difference in how long it will keep me full (not long unless there is a big fat serving of protein in it!).  Besides, I prefer to get my fats from food (nuts, nut butters, fish, avocado, cheese, etc.) instead of from oils.  I just find that solid food always makes me feel more satisfied than liquids, including oils (which are often highly processed, by the way!). They also tend to add more flavour.  The only oil I use for flavour is toasted sesame oil, which, because it is so potent, has to be used in small quantities anyways.

So I generally prefer to make oil-free dressings and then add a healthy fat to my salad like nuts or avocado, or as my protein.  Caesar dressings are usually calorie bombs full of olive oil.  This one is super low in calories but also really flavourful.  When I make Caesar salad, I skip the croutons - I hate them - and often add some extra veggies in like grape tomatoes and cucumbers.  You can add a few tbsp. of parmesan cheese into the dressing, but I just sprinkle it on top before serving.

You can veganize this recipe by using non-dairy yogurt and umeboshi plum paste in lieu of the anchovy paste.

Low Calorie Creamy Caesar Dressing

1 cup low-fat or fat-free yogurt
2 tbsp. Dijon mustard
2 tbsp. anchovy paste
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
Juice of 1 lemon
Salt and pepper, to taste

Whisk together yogurt, mustard, anchovy paste and garlic.  Add vinegar, lemon juice and whisk again until smooth.  Season to taste.  If you find it too thick for your liking, thin out with a few extra tbsp. of vinegar.  Keep refrigerated for up to 5 days.

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

Monday, November 14, 2016

Aladdin Beverage Bottle

Good morning and welcome to the beginning of a new week. I can't say I am feeling more optimistic about the state of the world right now, but talking it out with friends and family does help.

Alright, lets move on to talking water bottles.

After smashing my Lululemon water bottle, I was all set to buy another one and try again.  But on my way to the store, on a trip we took to Yorkdale Mall a few months ago, I made a detour into Home Outfitters.  I decided to just see what my other options were, as I suddenly started having doubts I can handle another glass water bottle.  So far I'm 0/2 in keeping them longer than a few weeks before I break them.

After perusing all the options, I decided stainless steel was a better choice for me.  I chose an Aladdin Flip and Seal, though it looks like its for hot drinks, it can be used for both, and it promises to be leak proof.  Not that many of my past water bottles haven't broken that promise! Well, so far so good! No leaks, even when I've filled it with bubbly water from our Soda Stream, and its turned upside down in my lunch bag on the way to work!  It also keeps my cold drinks super cold. When I open it hours later, often there are still a few ice cubes at the bottom.  Even months later, it doesn't leak!! It also hasn't warped like the stainless steel bottles I bought the girls did after several weeks. I have also used it for hot drinks and its great for that too. I am very happy and confident I will have this bottle for a long time...unless I lose it. I definitely recommend!!

Friday, November 11, 2016

Fear for the Future

Since Wednesday I have been stumbling through life feeling like I keep waking up into a nightmare that is not going to end. I could write 8,000 posts all about my thoughts and feelings relating to the U.S. election results, but this isn't a political blog, so I won't.

I have a list of posts I plan to write, but right now my mind is blank, I can't really focus. One thing that troubles me is explaining what's going on to my children, and I know many parents who are going through the same thing. So here are a few resources to help.

This one is serious. And this one is for a laugh (because I don't know about you, but I need one!).

I have a busy work day today and tomorrow, but Sunday I am having coffee with a good friend I haven't seen in a while. She is coming to see our new renos, and I will be seeing her for the first time during her current pregnancy (she also has a toddler). For me, there is almost nothing more therapeutic than hanging out with good friends!

Have a happy, healthy weekend.

Wednesday, November 9, 2016

Body Punishment: Book Review

Are you like so OCD, that you have to arrange all your clothes by colour?

Just because you like things organized or tidy, does not mean you have OCD, which, by the way, is not an adjective, its a mental illness.

OCD stands for Obsessive Compulsive Disorder and its nothing to laugh at.

Unfortunately, there are a lot of myths and misunderstandings around the condition, and a lot of silly misrepresentations in the media. Its not something cute and quirky, it is potentially very serious and disruptive to a person's life.

Obsessive-compulsive disorder (OCD) is an anxiety disorder in which people have unwanted, uncontrollable and repeated thoughts, feelings, ideas, sensations (obsessions), or behaviors that make them feel driven to do something (compulsions).Often the person carries out the behaviors to get rid of the obsessive thoughts, but this only provides temporary relief. Not performing the obsessive rituals can cause great anxiety. OCD is often associated with eating disorders, depression and generalized anxiety disorder and/or panic attacks.

Note, however, that OCD is distinct from OCPD (Obsessive Compulsive Personality Disorder). OCPD is is a personality disorder characterized by an overconcern with orderliness, perfectionism, excessive attention to details, mental and interpersonal control, and a need for control over one's environment, at the expense of flexibility, openness to experience, and efficiency. There is some overlap with OCD, however, those with OCD see their symptoms as unwanted and shameful whereas those with OCPD see their behaviour as rational and advantageous.

There are also many people who do have some obsessive compulsive 'traits' or tendencies, but would not meet the clinical criteria for a diagnosis of OCD. But just because you are a perfectionist does not mean you have OCD traits.

Now that we've got that all out of the way, I will review Body Punishment, a memoir by writer Maggie Lamond Simone which details her life long suffering from OCD that wasn't diagnosed into late adulthood.

Her tragic story - which fortunately ends well - is a perfect example of the harm caused by the shame and stigma associated with mental illness. This talented, intelligent woman had no idea she was suffering from a mental illness, suffered by many others like her, for most of her life to-date. Why? Because we don't talk about it enough!

Recently, many initiatives, like Bell's Let's Talk campaign, have started to bring attention and awareness to mental illness, but much of the focus has been on depression.  Very seldom does OCD get mentioned. This is despite the fact that OCD and other anxiety disorders are often associated with depression.

I applaud Simone for her courage to not only admit her struggles with OCD, but to detail the symptoms, which seem odd to others, and are a great source of embarrassment and shame.

You probably think of excessive hand washing when you think of OCD, and that can be the way it manifests, but it can also manifest in a wide variety of behaviours. For Simone, it was through pulling out her eyelashes and eyebrows, and self-starvation (hence the title of her book). Though there are pharmacological treatments for OCD, along with counselling strategies that can help, Simone just thought she was broken and self-medicated with alcohol.

Here is an excerpt from Body Punishment:

Its a vicious circle: I have obsessive thoughts and uncontrollable urges that seemingly no one else has, which cause my self-esteem to plummet; since I have such a low opinion of myself, I feel I don't deserve to be with other people, to love other people, or to let other people love me; the loneliness and hatred cause anxiety, which kicks the OCD into high hear, compelling me to do things to myself that will further my isolation because I make myself ugly by scarring my face or plucking out my hair.

...When I'm plucking, or picking at my face, or stepping o and off that scale, or counting, the world is on hold. I'm completely away. My brain shuts down and I'm focused on my task. It's as though I'm able to shut myself off from life entirely for those few minutes. I escape. And nothing hurts.

In fact, it's almost like meditation--a distorted, perverse, self-destructive medication technique...

One of the reasons I have chosen these passages to share is that her description of the mental state while performing the rituals is something I can relate to.

I have always known I have obsessive compulsive tendencies. How? I have no idea. But even as a kid, I was always prone to various mental games and tasks, like counting how many steps I took or bites of food, etc. I also am a compulsive picker. Since childhood I have chewed at my fingers and cuticles (not my fingernails though). It sounds weird but I feel like it helps me think. Unfortunately, it often ends up with me drawing blood and hurting myself and it totally grosses out Adam and the kids.  I've actually much cut down on how much I do it, not even on purpose except maybe perhaps because as I've gotten older, my skin has gotten dryer and chewing on my fingers leads to more cracks in them, especially in cold weather, which are extremely painful. Pain, at least for me, is a good deterrent!

I have also had OCD. After Little A was born, I felt so overwhelmed and incapable of caring for a toddler and an infant that I developed generalized anxiety disorder and OCD. I did, in fact, develop the hand washing kind. This fear of contamination I developed was directly linked to my anxiety around taking care of the kids: I feared I'd come into contact with some germs that would make them sick. I also became overly worried about something happening to them. Any time Adam would take one or both girls out without me, I had to tell him to be careful and drive safe, or I would be plagued with extreme anxiety that there would be an accident.

Luckily, I knew things with me were not right and I sought help.  Medication and cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) helped me get over it.

Simone is a good writer and though I am sure she could have filled many more pages full of her experiences and insights, she manages to keep the book focused and concise. There is some jumping back and forth in chronological time, but she manages to prevent the story from getting confusing, despite this.

Do I recommend this book? Absolutely. If you think you might have OCD or that a loved one may have it, you will find this book extremely enlightening. If you know so, even more so!

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

Monday, November 7, 2016

Healthy Hacks to Satisfy Your Sweet Tooth

Good morning, how was your weekend? If you're like many people, the weekend is when you fall of the wagon with your healthy habits. You may not get to the gym, you go out and have a few (or too many) drinks, and you indulge in rich, sugary treats. If this is the case, you may start every Monday with feelings of regret.

Well fear not! I've got you covered, at least in terms of indulging your sweet tooth while staying on track with a healthy eating plan!

Here are a bunch of ideas for you.

For those of you who cannot give up the real thing, find a way to incorporate it into your diet regularly. Most people try to eliminate their weakness altogether, which leads to feelings of deprivation, and usually bingeing. Instead, give yourself permission to have a small amount of said item as often as is necessary to make you feel satisfied (i.e. a small square of the best dark chocolate every day after lunch). Just be aware that not everyone is good at doing this, and are vulnerable to eating excessive amounts or consuming said food due to hunger, boredom, or emotional numbing. If you are one of these people, it may actually be beneficial for you to keep your trigger foods out of your environment and look for healthier options.

Don't fret my friends, there are lots of ways to have your cake and eat it too when it comes to sweet treats.

When you really want to feel like you are indulging your sweet cravings, one strategy is to healthify your favorite goodies. Believe me, you can find a recipe to create a healthy version of just about any treat whether its a brownie, cookie, pie, ice cream or even candy. Moreover, most of them are online and available for free!

Just check out the recipes on this blog! Or, check out my other site . Believe me, I eliminated sugar from my diet years ago and I never feel deprived!

Like how about some dark chocolate espresso cake???

The caveat is you have to make your own food, but everyone should be cooking and baking at home most of the time anyways. Its never too late to learn!

Just keep in mind that nutritious, and even sugar-free, doesn't necessarily mean low-calorie! Some healthier alternatives can be calorie bombs because they are full of coconut, avocado, and/or nuts.  For low cal options, I really recommend you check out my site .

Making sweet meals is another strategy that can help you satisfy that sweet tooth in a healthier way. Instead of eating a cold salad and chicken breast and then gorging on cookies a few hours later, make a meal (any time of day) of whole grain pancakes, French toast, or waffles with fresh fruit. Or a smoothie, or nice cream (frozen pureed bananas - with other frozen fruit, if desired), Greek yogurt bowl or oatmeal. If you need the additional decadence, throw in a few chocolate chips to any one of these things (preferably stevia sweetened or at least dark chocolate).

Another strategy is to simply capitalize on the natural sweetness in foods like fruits and veggies.

Some fruits are naturally super sweet, like mangos, pineapples, melons and grapes. Some people find these high sugar fruits fuel sugar cravings if eaten alone, in which case just pare them with some protein like Greek yogurt or a handful of nuts, or add them to salads, stir fries, curries, salsas, etc. If you make meals that have a sweet note to them, you may not crave something sweet afterwards.

Other less sweet fruits get much sweeter when cooked, like plums. Many other fruits are also delicious sauteed, roasted or stewed, such as apples, pears, peaches, etc.

Orange veggies are also fantastic substitutes for sugary treats. My favorites are kabocha squash, delicata squash, and sweet potatoes.

Of course, there is also pumpkin and many other squash varieties out there that are also sweet and delicious! Enhance their sweetness with sweet spices like cinnamon and nutmeg and you get something very dessert like. I kid you not, sometimes I actually will eat them as dessert!!

Dried fruits are very sweet too, but higher in calories, so watch your portion size, and be sure to avoid the ones with added sugar (usually berries, pineapple, mango, etc.).

Remember if you are adding sweetener to your recipes, to avoid sugar and all its fancy named friends. You can get a whole variety of alternative sweeteners now, online, at health food stores, and even in many grocery stores. For my suggested choices, see my previous post. You can even healthify many of your favorite recipes, simply by replacing the sugar with an appropriate alternative.

Have a sweet Monday my friends.

Friday, November 4, 2016

Ditching Sugar

Though many of us love our salty, fatty foods, it seems that most people have an insatiable sweet tooth.

Unfortunately, while we once thought that avoiding fat was the key to health, we now know that sugar is quite possibly more harmful than are even saturated fats. You may have heard the recent headlines about how the sugar industry manipulated research to exaggerate the health risks of fat consumption to minimize the risks of sugar consumption? This doesn't mean we should start gorging on fatty, fried foods, but it does reinforce the point that low fat diets are not necessarily the ideal, particularly if they are high in sugar.

So if sugar isn't our friend, how do we satisfy that sweet tooth? Is there a way to do it healthfully?

Fortunately, the answer is yes!

The ideal is to wean yourself off of sweetened foods altogether and start just enjoying the natural sweetness from fruits and veggies. Ha, ha, right? I know, this is absolutely something we should all strive for, but it may take a long time to get there, if ever. At the very least, cutting down on consuming anything with unnecessary added sugar (pasta sauce, salad dressing, etc.) is the first step. Switching to healthier alternatives is the next.

Which sweetener should you use to replace sugar? This is a question that gets people up in arms (generally over the whole natural versus artificial debate, which is largely meaningless). Well, here's my perspective on it:

Avoid fancy named sweeteners that are really no better than sugar:

Agave nectar
Barbados sugar
Barley malt
Barley malt syrup
Beet sugar
Brown sugar
Buttered syrup
Cane juice
Cane juice crystals
Cane sugar
Carob syrup
Castor sugar
Confectioner's sugar
Corn sweetener
Corn syrup
Corn syrup solids
Date sugar
Dehydrated cane juice
Demerara sugar
Evaporated cane juice
Free-flowing brown sugars
Fruit juice
Fruit juice concentrate
Glucose solids
Golden sugar
Golden syrup
Grape sugar
HFCS (High-Fructose Corn Syrup)
Icing sugar
Invert sugar
Malt syrup
Palm sugar
Powdered sugar
Raw sugar
Refiner's syrup
Rice syrup
Sorghum Syrup
Sugar (granulated)
Sweet Sorghum
Turbinado sugar
Yellow sugar

Minimize your use of these 'natural' sweeteners:

Coconut sugar
Raw honey
Maple syrup

Minimize use of these 'artificial' sweeteners:


So what should you use to sweeten your food? Here are the products I recommend:

Monk Fruit
Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO)

People tend to assume that if a sweetener is artificial, it is toxic, and this is not true. While Saccharin and Acesulfame-K are definitely ones to avoid, there is little research (I AM TALKING CREDIBLE RESEARCH FOLKS, NOT THE CRAP YOU FIND ON DR. MERCOLA'S WEBSITE!), that Sucralose or even Aspartame are harmful. On the other hand, there is reams of research showing how harmful 'natural' sugar is.

Is it better to use no sweetener? Of course, but sometimes its just not going to happen (I don't think I will ever be able to drink unsweetened coffee!).

For diabetics, the issue is how it affects blood sugar, which means that natural versus artificial is irrelevant. They also need to watch their consumption of coconut sugar, honey and maple syrup.

Anyone trying to reduce calories should consider nutritive content, and again, natural often loses out here. Xylitol has slightly fewer calories than sugar, while stevia, monk fruit and erythritol are essentially calorie free.

So, it really boils down to this: you should drink plain water. If must have pop/soda, have diet (yes!) and for the love of your body, do not drink sweetened drinks! In terms of other foods, same idea applies: avoid sweetened foods, but when this isn't possible, look for foods using the healthiest sugar alternatives. Yes, this may mean cooking/baking your own food! Well you should be doing that anyways!

Have a sweet weekend!

Wednesday, November 2, 2016

Spinach, Potato and Cheese Scramble

Are you still in a sugar coma from Halloween? The girls are enjoying their daily treat from their Halloween stash, but to my surprise, we didn't have to cull them down after all. The girls volunteered to give Adam and I a huge portion of the candy they collected. After Adam devoured a pile of mini chocolate bars from their donation pile, I took the rest in to the office. Though I hate encouraging unhealthy food consumption, I've found that if you bring anything junky to an office, it always gets consumed in record time.

Now lets talk potatoes.

If you love potatoes but avoid them at all costs because you think they are unhealthy, well I have good news for can (and should!) eat them!

Potatoes, in and of themselves, are not unhealthy, its just that most people prefer to eat them prepared in unhealthy ways (fried or mashed with a ton of butter and cream). They are high in fibre and full of nutrients. They are also very satiating, meaning that relative to their caloric density, they are very filling.

Starchy potatoes (i.e. baking/mashing potatoes) are fairly high on the glycemic index (GI), but when eaten with fat and protein, the effect on blood sugar levels is dampened. Waxy potatoes are lower on the GI, and Canada now grows, Carisma potatoes, grown to be lower GI, which I tried for this recipe. They taste just like any other potato, by the way: yummy!

Eggs are also very satiating, so if you are looking for a very satisfying meal that will keep you going for hours, this is it! Its perfect for any time of day, for either breakfast, lunch or dinner.

So go ahead and have a spud...just make sure its prepared healthfully. Oh, and consider it a starch/carbohydrate, not a vegetable (i.e. don't add another starch or carb to your meal, and watch portion size).

Spinach, Potato and Cheese Scramble

1 cup egg whites

2 cloves garlic
Huge amount of organic, baby spinach (it will cook down to nothing!)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
2 large potatoes, steamed or boiled, and diced
1/2 can tomato paste
1/2 tsp salt
Pepper, to taste
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste

1/4 cup grated or diced cheese

Saute garlic, spinach and potatoes in vinegar.  Add tomato paste and seasonings and cook until spinach is wilted. Set aside.  In large non-stick pan or skillet, pour egg whites and let cook a few minutes over medium heat.  Add potato-spinach mixture and stir. When eggs are almost set, sprinkle cheese over top and stir again. As soon as cheese melts, remove from heat and serve. Makes 1 serving for me...probably 2 for normal people.

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

Monday, October 31, 2016

Have a Healthy Halloween

As you know, I can rant endlessly about what a toxic, obesogenic environment we live in. Everywhere you go, there is encouragement to eat and to eat crap. This is especially true for kids. I am not exaggerating when I say not a day goes by where my children are not fed garbage food by people outside our home: almost all the school teachers reward with candy (I've finally taken this up with the principal), daycare (snacks are not always that healthy and crafts often involve crap (marshmallows, Froot loops, etc.) which they shovel into their mouths ASAP, samples at Costco, grandparents, birthday parties, Hebrew School, extracurricular activities, it goes on and on. Each person doling it out reasons that its just an occasional treat, but obviously its not when its done regularly and done by practically everyone children come into contact with!

So when every day is bad enough, what do you do about Halloween?

Every year Adam and I have adopted a different rule: as much as you want on the night of, and then the rest is given away; 10 treats over the first week after, no more; 1 piece a day until its gone, etc. But I never really know which is the best strategy.

After all, my preference would be to change Halloween so school supplies, instead of candy is given out. Yes, I know, I will never be well liked by kids!

So this year I am going to follow obesity expert, Yoni Freedhoff's strategy with his own kids, which involves letting his kids have several treats the night of Halloween (though his kids self regulate to 3 treats and mine, will not, so we might have to impose a 3 treat max.), and then 1 treat a day until its gone (with secret goblins paring down the amount each night...).

Its such a hard balance between being too restrictive and too lenient. My parents had no restrictions for us on Halloween, but getting candy like that was a once a year event (we almost never got candy or treats from teachers) and we had the sense to let it last (I distinctly remember chucking the end of my candy months later, when the good stuff was gone and the rest had gone stale). Oh, and one of my favorite treats as a kid was always the tiny bags of salted peanuts! I know that's now verboten due to allergies, but just pointing out that a relatively healthy snack was a winner for me!

By the way, if you are looking for ways to entice your kids to eat healthy snacks this time of year, the Internet is full of cute ideas that uses the Halloween theme to dress up nutritious foods.  Here are some to check out.

What strategy do you use to minimize the damage of Halloween for your kids (or yourself!)?

Hope you have a Happy, Healthy Halloween and safe Trick-or-treating tonight!!

Friday, October 28, 2016

Load Up Your Cardio

Welcome to Friday! Today its Fitness Friday on the blog. Lets talk about doing weighted cardio.

Though I applaud anyone who makes the effort to exercise regularly, most folks don't do what is necessary to maximize their results. I am not just talking weight loss, but overall fitness too. People tend to focus on one aspect of fitness (cardio or flexibility) and neglect the rest, or they do the same workout over and over.

Our bodies like variety and our bodies need incremental increases in intensity to continue getting benefits (law of progression). Whether you are doing cardio, or strength, you need to continuously change things up and up the level of difficulty.

With strength training you can increase weight, add more sets, etc. With cardio you can increase speed, duration or switch to a more intense activity (i.e. walking to running). You can also add weight to your cardio!

Back in the 80s when STEP aerobics exploded onto the fitness scene, it was done holding 1-2 lb hand weights. But after a short while this practice was discontinued, due to joint injuries. I suspect the issue is it quickly went from a fairly basic/athletic style workout to much more dance-y, choreographed workout with more complicated arm movements.

But the idea of weighting your cardio is great if you are looking for a way to make your cardio more intense.  It takes more energy to move more weight. That's why the more you weigh, the more calories you burn when you exercise.

Now, not every cardio activity can safely be done with weights (i.e. Zumba or anything with fast, swinging arm movements), and weighted cardio is not appropriate for everyone, but if you are fairly fit and have no back/shoulder/joint problems, it can be a great way to boost your workouts.

Some MMA style workouts use weighted gloves. I haven't been able to find weighted gloves so I have started adding wrist weights and it definitely makes these workouts more intense, not only in terms of heart rate and for the arms, but for the core too. Its also a great way to bump up the intensity of HIIT intervals. Like do a standing mountain climber holding 5 lb weights, or do a jumping jack with a leg band around your ankles.

For some workouts, I wear both ankle and wrist weights. But you can also get weighted vests. If you are a runner, I would go for a vest over wrist or ankle weights.

Regardless of your age or current level of fitness, you should always be changing things up as soon as something feels easy. Even just tiny incremental changes add up over time and will ensure you are getting the most bang for your buck from your workouts.

Have a healthy, active weekend folks!

Important Note: Not all activities are safe for everyone. Before starting any new activity, speak with a health professional to make sure it is safe and appropriate for you.

Wednesday, October 26, 2016

B-Up Protein Bars

Welcome to Wednesday! You're half way to the weekend!!

Today I'm talking protein bars.

Right now the only protein bars I am smitten with is Quest's Double Chocolate Chunk. Not even any other flavours of  Quest really do it for me.  The problem is, they are really expensive! When I look around though, all similar products are pretty much around the same price.

Recently, however, I found some B-Up bars on sale, and noticed the regular price is a wee bit lower than the Quest bars. I figured I should give them a try, especially since I've heard their birthday cake flavour is good. So I bought 2 boxes.

They are a few grams bigger than the Quest bars but clock in at the same number of calories, and approximately same macros as Quest.

I like the firmness of my Quest flavour of bars, and I LOVE the chocolate chunks. These don't have chunks (none of their flavours do) and they are quite a bit softer. But they are tasty and I will definitely be eating them until they are gone. Will I be replacing my Quest bars? Nope. But neither will I be sampling Quest's 2 latest new flavours: Blueberry Muffin or Rocky Road. I am now pretty confident my bars really are the best.

None of these bars is health food folks, just a less guilt-inducing treat.

By the way, check out this hilarious website where you'll find reviews of tons of protein bars, oddly, along side the most gruesome junk food products. The write ups are hysterical.

Monday, October 24, 2016

Wayfair for the Win

Good morning and welcome to a new week!

Until recently, I was a reno virgin. Having just redone 2 floors of our 3 floor house, I learned a lot!

First of all, here are a few tips to keep in mind if you are planning a renovation yourself (and living through it):

1. Consider time of year - It was frickin' hot and humid while ours were being done, so despite having A/C, we were very uncomfortable. The workmen had the doors open a lot, and we were living on the top floor where the A/C is weakest. On the flip side though, if you do them in the dead of winter, your house may get really cold, and I'm guessing, the work may take longer because of snow, wet and other stuff making it trickier to move big equipment, furniture, appliances, etc. Our workmen did a lot of sawing and drilling in our front and back yards, and that wouldn't have been possible in winter.

2. When thinking about budget, think beyond the actual labour costs, equipment costs, and furniture costs - Since our house is only 18 years old, there were no unfortunate surprises in terms of wiring, plumbing, structural problems, etc. But a huge cost was incurred in terms of our day-to-day expenses. For example:
Food - Adam got a food service, and we were getting a lot of take-out and prepared food for the kids.
Utilities - The men were using our hydro to the max during the most expensive hours (running saws, drills, etc.)
Other - We had to store half our house in our garage and park our car on the street for almost 6 weeks, which meant we had to buy weekly parking passes from the city, which aren't cheap!

3. Protect your valuables/remove from space entirely - While packing up our first floor, I made a point of getting everything valuable and breakable out of the house and to the garage, I had a feeling there would be some collateral damage, and there was. The front door was the biggest one and though the workmen likely won't admit it, I am sure it was damaged by some piece of equipment smacking into the latching system, or simply because they opened and closed the door 5,000 times a day. Both our mezuzahs (front and back door) were broken. The plastic cutlery holder from our dish drainer broke (no biggie, but very inconvenient), a hallway light fixture (the men replaced it for us).

I also learned that when it comes to buying furniture, one of the best places to order from is

I'd saw ads that this company was coming to Canada for months, but paid little attention. I'd never even heard of them before. But when I started shopping around for furniture (online, of course, because I would rather eat toenails then drive around Toronto from one store to another), I kept finding great products and good prices on their site.

The first thing I purchased were 2 of these armchairs for our basement for the kids when they want to watch tv.

They arrived within a week and were dropped in boxes on our porch.  I LOVE that if you're not home, they don't make you go pick them up at some inconvenient warehouse! Of course, you may not love this if you live somewhere where packages get stolen off your porch. They were light enough for me to move inside myself and only the legs needed to be assembled, and I actually opted not to put the legs on.

We also got our television stand and living room rug from them, and love both.

Admittedly, the tv stand required us to get the contractor back to assemble as it was WAY beyond our capabilities (or patience, at least). Our bedding for the spare room in the basement also is from Wayfair, as is the new bedding Big A begged for.

In contrast, our experience with Bouclair was crap. I found a coffee table I loved. Our designer told me to order it along with the matching side table. I attempted to do so but discovered the side table was out of stock. I ordered a similar table set, along with a  floor lamp, but our designer told me the table set was too dark in colour. I called to make the change to my order (5 minutes after placing it) and was on hold for 53 hours. I gave up and called back later, finally getting through. They were good about me changing the order (to just the original coffee table, no side table, and the lamp). Unfortunately, the whole transaction process sent alarm bells to our credit card company which ended up frozen for a day or two. Then we waiting for weeks and the table and lamp never arrived. Finally, I got an email from Bouclair asking for me to call them. They informed me the coffee table is no longer available. Frustrated as heck, I cancelled the whole order.

Going back to Wayfair, I found a very similar coffee table and lamp (I decided I didn't want a side table anyways) for less! I should also add that while every order over $75 from Wayfair gets free shipping, Bouclair told me free shipping didn't apply to my order because it was "oversized". Um, you sell furniture folks! So our order from Bouclair was going to cost $130 to ship. Well guess what Bouclair? FU!

Our coffee table should arrive this week, our lamp in the next 2 weeks. And then, the reno/redecorating will be complete!