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Monday, July 16, 2018

Comvita Manuka Honey: Product Review


I freakin' love honey. And as I've written about in past posts, I tend to be loyal to the honey I  grew up with, produced on an apiary near my hometown. Its fantastic, and I've never found a honey as good!

But over the past few years I've heard all the talk about manuka honey and wondered what all the fuss is about. So I was happy to agree to sample some from Comvita.

Manuka honey is produced in New Zealand and comes from manuka trees.  It is valued for its antimicrobial activity and unique flavour.

Comvita brand manuka honey has a UMF® license with the UMFHA (Unique Manuka Factor Honey Association). In addition, genuine UMF® Manuka Honey complies with all five of the following criteria:

1.  UMF® is clearly stated on the front label

2.  It is packed into jars and labelled in New Zealand

3.  It is from a New Zealand company licensed by UMFHA to use the name UMF®

4.  It has the UMF® licensee’s name on the front label

5.  It has a rating of UMF® 5+ or more.

The UMF® trademark is a quality trademark that is internationally verified and recognised. It is backed by an industry quality standard, independent audits and a network of accredited laboratories around the world. You can be sure that you are buying the best quality Manuka honey and your rights as a consumer are protected.

The number rating (5+) represents three chemical markers that indicate the content of this honey to ensure purity and quality. This includes the key chemical markers DHA, MGO, and Leptosperin (antibacterial components). Apparently, manuka honey has more powerful antimicrobial activity than other types of honey. It is used to prevent infection topically to wounds, and for treatment of various infections and for ulcers. One study found that, despite manuka honey being a source of sugar, it also reduces plaque and gingivitis.

Though you should not give kids under 1 year honey of any kind, after that, its generally recommended as a remedy for sore throats and coughs for children, since they cannot take conventional medications. Conveniently, Big A has had a cold and when the jar from Comvita arrived, she'd lost her voice. She was happy to swallow a spoonful of the manuka honey to see if it would help soothe her throat. Almost immediately she felt some relief, and by the next morning, she had most of her voice back. This is an anecdotal experience, of course, but consistent with research on its therapeutic properties.

Of course, it can also be used as a sweetener in your tea, yogurt, on toast, etc.

In terms of how it tastes? Yummo!! Very different from my honey, but its amber in colour, and thick and creamy, with a really rich, floral flavour. I definitely like it a lot. Adam doesn't really like honey, and Big A doesn't use it that often, so it will probably be Little A and I who consume most of it.

Just keep in mind that while honey may have therapeutic properties, it is still pretty much sugar. It may not be safe for anyone with diabetes or blood sugar issues. It is also high in calories, at 60 calories a tbsp, so best to consume in moderation.

So do I recommend it? Absolutely!! Delicious and with some health benefits. But it doesn't come cheap. The company sells a kilogram of 5+ (it goes up to 20+ in strength) for $36 US (plus $38 shipping to Canada). I found it on Amazon.ca for us Canadians, but its even more expensive so better to buy direct.

Disclosure: The company sent us the product to test but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, July 9, 2018

The Kids Got Big!


This past spring Big A turned 12 and Little A turned 9. Parenting is never easy, but I do feel its gotten less hard. Partially, its because the girls are older, and thankfully, within the past 6 months, they have FINALLY stopped fighting as much. They used to fight 24/7 and it drove Adam and I bonkers, so its a wonderful relief for us all. I have even witnessed moments of tenderness between them. Whoa, I thought I might never see the day!

Bit A graduated from Grade 6 and is heading to middle school in the fall, but she is very mature for her age, and as you can see, also looks much older than she is:


People often mistake her for being anywhere from 15-18! I guess its good that she also behaves like an older kid...sometimes! But she really has come a long way this past year. She is obsessed with music and sports (like her dad), does extremely well academically, and is a free thinker. She is confident but likes to spend time alone. If she isn't playing basketball with boys in the neighbourhood, she enjoys being alone in her room reading, or listening to music, or watching sports.

Little A is frighteningly smart, but also very mischievous and funny. She too is very confident, and a little too competitive. She doesn't want anything to do with boys, but loves hangin' with her girlfriends. Unlike her older sister, she is in no hurry to grow up. This makes her sometimes absolutely adorable, and sometimes completely infuriating - because she tries to get everyone to do everything for her always claiming she isn't big enough/old enough/doesn't know how, etc. But the little monkey makes my heart melt:



Both girls are involved in a million sports and activities and not afraid to try new things. This makes me so happy, because I was such a shy, insecure kid, and when I look back on my life, most of what I regret are missing out on opportunities because of it.

Little A left for sleepaway camp last week for the month. One of the many things I didn't do because of lack of confidence is go to sleepaway camp. Though that's not something I regret. Camp = bugs, no air conditioning, etc. Not my thing! But I am really proud of her for being so brave. The house is so quiet without her, I already miss her like crazy.

Some 80% or more of my counselling practice is working with infertility clients, so I am reminded on a daily basis how lucky I am go have these girls. I am so proud of how both of them are turning out. Not sure how a couple of goofballs like Adam and I pulled it off!



Monday, July 2, 2018

Tracy Anderson Targeted Boot Camp: DVD Review


If you are a follower of everything Gwyneth Paltrow, (and really, who isn't?) than you have for sure heard of Tracy Anderson.

I'm joking, of course, if you are a GOOP fiend, you most likely don't read this blog as my penchant for empirical evidence clashes with her philosophy of claiming the most ridiculous things have health benefits (hello steaming your vagina???).

Anyways, Tracy Anderson is the celebrity fitness trainer that has her own *special* training method that will make you look like Gwyneth or Courtney Cox or any other waif-like Hollywood star (by the way, you actually need unusual genetics and a team of hired help to look like them). She also now has exclusive gyms around NYC, LA, The Hamptons,  London, and Madrid. Oh, and the gyms also sell her branded nutrition bars and other merch.

I have heard much about the Tracy Anderson Method: high repetition, low weight kinda stuff so you don't 'bulk up' of course. Its not my kind of thing, I like lifting lots of heavy weight and I don't find it 'bulks' me. I often buy clothes in children's sizes if that tells you anything. But I have been very curious to try it, especially because I just like lots of variety in my workouts. It keeps things from getting boring. So when I saw this DVD: Tracy Anderson Targeted Boot Camp for like $9 on Amazon.ca, I couldn't resist.

So its 20 minutes of abs, 20 minutes of glutes, and 20 minutes of hip and thigh exercises, almost all on the mat. You can add ankle weights, and for the standing few exercise/stretches, you can use hand weights.

The thing I like is that the exercise aren't same old, same old. She kind of invents stuff so its unique. What I don't like is some of the moves are kind of awkward and hard to follow, and even with a folded over yoga mat, my knees didn't like having so much pressure on them for so long (next time I will try it with our thicker gym mat).

My impression is that these types of exercises are actually better for rehab type purposes than transforming you into looking like a Hollywood actor.  If you have weakness in your core, glutes or hips, you may be able to improve performance, heal or prevent injuries by doing them regularly, but you are not going to drop 20 lbs and suddenly look like Courtney Cox.

I don't think I will be buying any more of her videos, but at least I now know what exactly Tracy Anderson's 'method' is.

Monday, June 25, 2018

IQAir Atem Personal Air Purifier: Product Review



I don't know if you've heard, but apparently, at least for us folks here in Canada, quite often the air in our homes is poorer quality than outdoors.

Since we are a congested bunch in this house, with various seasonal allergies, this concerns me. So I was thrilled to be sent an Atem air purifier from IQAir to try along with the IQAir AirVisual Pro thingamadoodle.

The Atem removes small particulate matter from the air that comes from outdoor pollution, and indoor toxins (cooking, cleaning products, etc.). The potential health risks range from eye and nose irritation, breathing problems, to asthma, cancer and heart disease.

In particular, I worry about our basement, because although we don't usually get any water seepage, it is humid, and Adam and I spend a lot of time down there because that's where we have our home gym, one of our bathrooms (where Adam and I usually shower), and Adam's study.

The purifier is about the size of a medium fan but is incredibly quiet. You have to assemble it when it arrives, but even I had no problem with it. They also sent a travel case for it, but I don't think I will be taking it anywhere...though it might be worth it to bring to my office now and again.


The AirVisual Pro is a pretty cool gadget (thingamadoodle), that can also be linked to your phone through an App. I don't really use Apps because, according to my children, I am an old person. But I know lots of people my age who do, and who will love this.


Here is all the info it provides:

PM2.5
PM2.5 are tiny particles that damage your throat and lungs. This pollutant is particularly dangerous as its small size allows particles to directly enter your bloodstream from your lungs.


Indoor & Outdoor Data
See your indoor air quality next to outdoor readings from the nearest official monitoring station.


CO2
High CO2 levels mean you need fresh air. Stagnant air has less oxygen, and more bacteria, mold, and other harmful fumes.


Forecast
Plan ahead to minimize pollution exposure and discomfort outdoors. We’ll keep you informed with air quality and weather data up to 3 days in advance.


Temperature
Make sure your environment is comfortable, as well as healthy.


Alerts
Receive notifications when air quality fails to meet standards. Smart integration allows you to control smart home devices with action-based rules.


Humidity
Dry air contributes to irritated sinuses, sore throat, itchy eyes and skin aging. Meanwhile, overly humid environments can bring about biological air pollutants such as dust mites and mold.


Advice
We take all of your air quality data into account so you don’t have to. The AirVisual Pro learns from your indoor and outdoor environments to provide you the most productive and cost effective recommendations.

This information is extremely important for people with compromised immunity, allergies or breathing issues.

Ironically, the person who loves this thing the most in our house is Little A, who is the only one who doesn't seem to have seasonal allergies. But she has to know the weather forecast and temperature every morning first thing, so she runs downstairs and turns it on to find out.

In Canada, the Atem retails for $489 and the AirVisual Pro is $399, so these are sizable investments. Do I recommend them? If you have the bucks and air quality is a concern for you, absolutely. I love how quite the purifier is and the AirVisual Pro is very useful to have, especially for me, since I cycle a lot, but try to avoid doing so and days with very poor air quality.

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

Monday, June 11, 2018

Tips for Finding Happiness


As a therapist, I see clients on a daily basis, who are struggling with anxiety and depression. Sometimes its due to trauma or crises, but often its more existential angst. Its kind of ironic that here in Canada (and in the U.S.) there are so many affluent people living with many privileges that most of the rest of the world does not have (clean drinking water, abundant food, human rights, peace, etc.), struggling so much emotionally. It is, in some regards, 'a first world problem' but that makes it no less serious.

Just last week, two celebrities, Kate Spade, and Anthony Bourdin, took their own lives, shocking the world. Why would such wealthy, successful people kill themselves?? The answer, of course, is complex and multifaceted. Mental health issues often have a genetic component, and in the case of Bourdin, heavy substance abuse was also involved. But there is a type of misery epidemic that I think is both culturally and historically specific. Never before have we lived in an environment that encourages/requires us to put ourselves on public display. Linkedin, Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Pinterest, online dating sites, etc., are public platforms we sometimes can't avoid (i.e. may be necessary for professional reasons). Everything about us has become subject to public scrutiny and given us various means of comparisons with others. Reality has become blurred. Like is anything about reality television real? Fake news versus real news, how do we tell one from the other? Social media...is it ever an accurate representation of a person's life? Can we ever trust an image we see, or has it been Photoshopped?

When I say existential angst, I am referring to my clients ranging in age from 20s to 40s, who are plagued with anxiety and depression due to perfectionism, self-doubt, low self-esteem and feelings of inferiority. Much of it is rooted in their (mistaken) belief that 'everyone' else is doing better than they are. Everyone else's lives are easier, happier, everyone else has more love, more money and more fun. Believe me, I have struggled with all of this...a lot! But I have managed to kick a lot of it to the curb through both personal growth and exploration, as well as from my experiences as a therapist. One thing I know for sure: no one's life is perfect! I don't think I have ever felt happier, but its not because I won the lottery or woke up one day looking like a supermodel (these are not things that lead to happiness anyways), its because I have changed the way I think.

Here are some things you can do, if you are struggling, to feel happier:

1. Stop aiming for perfection. Perfection is like unicorns, it does not exist!

2. Be flawsome. Since flaws/imperfections are inevitable for anyone and everyone, own yours, acknowledge that you can be flawed and awesome, and flaunt it. By flaunt it, I mean let go shame. We all have flaws, we all have weaknesses, we all fail sometimes, we all make mistakes.

3. Stop comparing yourself with others! OMG, social comparison comes up as a source of angst ALL THE TIME! Nothing good comes from it because few people look below at how much they have to be grateful for, instead, they only look up at who has what they do not....or 'seems' to have what they do not. Remember, you really know little about another person's life, especially if you are judging it based on Instagram images!!

4. Following from #3, Practice gratitude. We tend to fixate on what we do not have often dismissing all the blessings we do have. Force yourself to acknowledge them once in a while!!

5. Learn to accept uncertainty. I am not saying this is easy, but its critical because uncertainty is an inevitable part of life. Science and technology has given us control of many things we did not have control over in the past, but there are still many things we cannot control and cannot anticipate. This is a huge source of anxiety for many people. The more you can accept it, the happier you will be because the only certainties in life are death and taxes.

6. Stop Caring What Other People Think. This is hard for many people too. Ultimately, one of the things most of us worry about most is how we are being evaluated by 'them'. The irony is, everyone is so worried about this, that they are far more critical of themselves than anyone else. In other words, most people are so busy worrying what you are thinking about them, that they are not negatively evaluating you at all. And if they are, who gives a shit anyways?

So to quote Bobby McFerrin, "Don't Worry, Be Happy."

Monday, June 4, 2018

Quinoaplex R3 Rapid Hair Renewal Formula: Product Review


I am a protein junkie. I used to be a carb junkie but over the past 6 or so years that's changed dramatically. I don't know why exactly, but I suspect its because of the shift in my workouts from more cardio to more strength based. I think my body is just craving what it needs.

Apparently my hair needs protein too.

I have curly hair, which is already dryer than straight hair, and its a wee bit damaged from all the flat ironing. So I use deep conditioners and have a bunch of hair products to try and compensate, but I am always looking to make my hair less dry and damaged (but not flat ironing is not an option!).

Is protein treatment for damaged hair legit? I did a bit of research and did find evidence in peer reviewed journals that it can, indeed, help repair damaged hair, which has lower protein levels.

Recently Art of Carer sent me their Quinoaplex R3 Rapid Hair Renewal Formula to try. It is supposed to rebuild damaged hair and guards against colouring/bleaching, heat styling, hair loss/thinning, UV damage, sea/salt/chlorine, and wind/pollutants.

Quinoaplex R3 Rapid Hair Renewal Formula is also:

  • Certified organic ingredients including quinoa protein and aloe vera
  • Free from silicone, sulfates, parabens, phthalates, DEA, and aldehydes
  • Gluten-free; GMO-free; Toxic-free
  • Hypoallergenic, suitable for asthmatics
  • Not tested on animals
There are several ways to use it:

1. Use as a scalp treatment- Apply several pumps, wait 10 minutes and rinse.

2. Restore protein - After shampooing, apply, lather, wait 15 minutes, rinse, condition.

3. Add a few pumps to your hair colour before applying.

4. On the go - Spray into clean hair.

Well you know me, I had spending time on fashion/beauty (the children call my fashion look, 'sporty'), so I chose the On the Go option. After my shower every morning, I spray a few pumps in a comb in through.

The claim is that you can see/feel a difference after one use. I did not. Because of the On the Go method? I did like the light fragrance, fortunately, because I was worried it would smell like quinoa, and I think the smell of quinoa while it cooks is actually putrid (as are quinoa flour and quinoa flakes).

But by about the 2nd or 3rd use, I did start to notice a difference. Its now been 2 weeks since I started using it, and even though its crazy hot and humid here, I have much less frizz and need less product in my hair. It truly does feel softer and healthier too!

You can purchase the Rapid Hair Renewal Formula for $55.00/4 oz online, though they seem to be only shipping to the U.S. right now.

So do I recommend this product? Absolutely...if you have the $$ for it.  Apparently you can make your own protein hair treatments at home using either eggs, yogurt, or avocado/mayo.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2018

More Cathe Fitness DVD Reviews

Yes, I am obsessed with Cathe! I do her workout DVDs several times a week for sure. They are what I usually do when I want a tough workout. Here are 3 more I've been enjoying.

Athletic Step

I got this one hoping it would be in the style of step aerobics that I used to teach: simple choreography with a focus on intensity.



Well...its got the intensity, but that is compromised by having to stop frequently to try and learn the choreography.If you are one of those weird people who likes complex choreography that takes weeks to learn, you may not even find this challenging enough in that way, but for an uncoordinated person like me, who also has difficulty focusing during workouts (I tend to daydream) it will be more than enough. I can follow it enough that I don't get super frustrated, and I like the challenge of forcing myself to focus rather than zoning out. Its a solid 45 minute workout. My only complaint is her cuing. In my opinion, the more complex the choreography, the more you need to cue moves ahead of time. I think she expects you to just stop and watch until you really know it, but to me, that defeats the purpose of doing a workout!

To the Mat: Legs & Glutes

On Saturdays I often do a leg focused DVD before doing my heavy lifting, because Saturdays my strength training is nothing but LEGS! I thought this would be a nice way to change it up, since I find myself doing my Jillian Michaels' Killer Buns & Thighs quite often, and I don't even like it.



I do like this one, but I do prefer ones that use heavy weights. This is mostly high repetition body weight work, however, resistance bands and a stability ball are also used. It definitely works your muscles though, so its good if you don't have any weights at home.

X Train: Tabatasize

Tabata, in case you don't know, is a type of HIIT training where you push all out for 20 seconds and rest for 10 seconds. I don't know if all circuits are intense enough to truly be tabatas, but I do love this workout.


The moves are high intensity, and simple, so I can easily daydream 😀 . There are 5 rounds, with exercises all on the floor, but then a 'blast' on the step. The step blasts are also simple, so no getting confused by choreography. The DVD also has 2 rockin' ab routines and 2 back routines. Love this DVD!!

I have several more Cathe DVDs that I've purchased in the past few months that I will review in the near future. If you do home workouts, I urge you to check her out. They do have streaming for those of you who don't use DVDs.

Monday, May 21, 2018

Crispy Chocolate Squares


Do your kids claim they love some food, and gobble it down like little hippos for a few days or weeks, only to one day shriek at you for daring to serve it to them because its so gross? Well bully for you if they don't. Mine do.

This is the reason for this recipe having such large quantities. I was trying to use up all the brown rice crispy cereal we had in the house after Little A decided she no longer likes it. Feel free to half recipe, but I will tell you, these squares will disappear quick, so you might want to make a lot. These were a huge hit in our house. Nevertheless, I will not be making them regularly. They are definitely healthier than the marshmallow kind, but these are still a treat. For those on a restricted diet, you will be happy to know they are both vegan and gluten-free.

Crispy Chocolate Squares

12 cups brown rice crispy cereal
1/2 cup coconut oil
2 cups chocolate chips (semi-sweet, vegan if necessary)
1 tsp pure vanilla extract

Melt oil in a very large pot over low heat. Stir in chocolate chips and vanilla and keep stirring until smooth. Leave pot on burner but turn off heat and let cool a few minutes. Stir in cereal and mix until well coated. Firmly press mixture into 2 8x8 square baking pans. Refrigerate until firm. Cut into squares. Keep stored in a sealed container in a cool, dry place, or in the fridge. Makes 24 squares.


Monday, May 14, 2018

Can You Workout Everyday?


The vast majority of North Americans don't even come close to getting the MINIMUM recommended physical activity to maximize health. We are not even talking training level exercise, we are just talking about movement that includes walking!

As you know, this makes me nuts. The number one way to lower your risk of pretty much most physical and mental illnesses is to exercise regularly! But research has shown that even educating people around the risks of being sedentary, and the benefits of exercise does not do much to motivate people nor increase adherence to exercise programs. As cynical as it sounds, I've pretty much accepted that humanity's future is grim when it comes to our health. The only way to really promote lifestyle change of populations is through changing the way we live from the top down (i.e. government, institutions, and business completely changing policies and infrastructure). I don't see this happening. Too many people are profiting off of us getting fatter and sicker.

The problem is, we humans adapt to our environment and look for ways to conserve energy, and we currently live in an environment that encourages consumption of high calorie/low nutrition food and a sedentary lifestyle. If our environment doesn't change, we never will (though some are able to resist the temptations through human agency, but this is not the norm).

Because of all this, over training is not really a major public health issue. It is relevant to a very, very, VERY small segment of the population. It primarily effects high level athletes and those with eating disorder/body image issues who may over exercise to manage their weight.

Anyone educated in fitness/physiology knows the importance of rest in a training program. Not only does it help prevent injury, it is essential to get maximum gains, since muscles rebuild during rest phases, and this is necessary for building strength.

So how much exercise is too much?

The answer is, it depends on numerous factors.

In the fitness industry, we design exercise programs around the FITT principle (in parentheses are examples of each):

F = Frequency (5x week)
I = Intensity (Moderate)
T = Time (30 minutes)
T = Type (cycling)

These variables are key in determining how often is appropriate. Also, it depends on how you define a rest day. Some people only think in extremes, so its either go to the gym and spin and lift weights, or do nothing at all except drink Manhattans and eat tacos. It doesn't have to be so all or nothing!

I believe most people should be trying to exercise every day if, as most do, they work sedentary jobs. But in most cases, it is best to vary your activities. A lot of people who do decide to begin a fitness program tend to focus exclusively on one thing (i.e. cardio, or yoga, etc.). Ideally, you want to incorporate all the components of physical fitness which includes:

Agility
Balance
Cardiovascular Endurance
Coordination
Flexibility
Muscular Endurance
Muscular Strength
Power
Reaction Time
Speed

Don't let this long list intimidate you! You can work on more than one in a single workout.

One of the reasons people often get injured is not the number of hours they are exercising, but because they are doing too much of one type of exercise, and not cross training. Like even someone training for a marathon can benefit from doing strength training and yoga, instead of doing nothing but running.

Does exercising every day mean going to the gym every day?

Absolutely NOT!

In fact, I think its better if you can seamlessly work activity into your day instead. Perhaps you only go to the gym and strength train twice a week. Then one day a week you walk 5km home from work. Perhaps another day you do a yoga video at home. Another day you and a friend go jogging together and the other 2 days you do a 30 minute ab video when you get up in the morning.

Or you never set foot in a gym at all.

So exercising every day can definitely lead to overtraining, if, say, you are doing a spinning class 7 days a week, or running 12km every day. But exercising every day can be extremely beneficial if you have a balanced workout program that varies the FITT variables and has a good balance of physical fitness components.

When it comes to strength training, you should give a muscle 48 hours rest before working it again. But you can still strength train every day, you just work different body parts on different days ensuring sufficient recovery time for each. For example, you do shoulders, back and chest one day, arms and legs the next.

Capiche?






Monday, May 7, 2018

Spring 2018 Favorites

Good morning! Here is a roundup of the things I am enjoying right now.

First off, given all the horribly disturbing things going on in the world, including in my own city (i.e. Yonge St. Van Massacre), I have been grateful for this hilarious book:




Its about a guy with Tourette's syndrome who works for a Brooklyn gangster. Every night while I read it in bed, I am in tears, laughing out loud. But you need a certain sense of humour for it. My neighbour gave it to me and she didn't like it at all.

Given that I get up at 5am to workout most mornings, I am a bit fuzzy when I start my workouts. Since I am a freak who has vivid dreams every single night, whenever my alarm goes off, I am ALWAYS deep in REM sleep. Coffee is not an option to shake out the cob webs at that point because I find it dehydrating and hard on my stomach, but this Mr. Hyde Zero does the trick.


I am not particularly responsive to caffeine, so it must be the other ingredients that give me the kick in the pants I need.

I recently realized that I can't find about 2/3 of my lipsticks. Now that the weather occasionally allows me to bike to work, I am often switching between a purse (when driving) and my backpack (when cycling) so I am transferring things back and forth and this leads to things going missing. Thank goodness I am not one of those women who has a million different purses and bags and changes every day depending on their outfit! I would never be able to find anything!! In any case, I bought this lipstick recently and it rocks:

Not only is it very reasonably priced, but this NYX Liquid Suede stays on better and longer than any lip product I have ever owned. The only thing I will warn you about, is that it dries fast, so if you apply it wonky (which I usually do), you gotta fix it up ASAP or it will stay that way until the day you die!

I am also obsessed with this Power Fruit Blend from PC. Frozen fruit is a life savor for anyone who lives in the northern hemisphere. Winter is not a time when buying fresh berries makes any sense at all. They will be imported, cost a fortune and taste like crap. Our freezer is always full of various frozen varieties. This is my latest favorite:

You could use it for smoothies, but as you know, smoothies make me want to barf. I make compotes and sauces with this using konjac. Then I top waffles or pancakes, or mix it with Greek yogurt and homemade granola. Amazing! I love the combo of cherries, blackberries and blueberries. Most other brand similar mixes have strawberries, which I don't always want in the mix.

So here you go, the little things that are making me happy these days. And hopefully, now that we are into May, spring is actually here...and here to stay!

Tuesday, May 1, 2018

What We're Watching


As you likely know, we are old school in this house when it comes to technology and media. It was very recently we stopped using our VHS recorder.

We are the only people I know who do not have Netflix. That's right, we don't have it and never have. First off, we were born in the 70s, and secondly we definitely NOT early adapters. Obviously. Third, there is some great television you can get without Netflix thank you very much!

But Adam and I love television. We PVR (we finally PVR!) a whole whack of shows and then usually watch an hours worth an evening as our unwinding time together.

Here are the shows we love, some which we've been watching a long time, and some that are brand new to us:

The Good Fight
Law and Order SVU
The Good Doctor
The Resident
Criminal Minds
Blue Bloods
How to Get Away with Murder
S.W.A.T.
Black List
Code Black
Chicago Fire
Blackish
Brooklyn 99
Kim's Convenience

Here And yes, because we only watch either 2 of the half hour shows, or one hour long show a night, on the nights we are both home to do so, we are generally months behind what is airing live. But we don't really care. These are all great shows.

I figure by the time we are grandparents we will have Netflix.

I highly recommend every one of these shows, though if you have Netflix, I don't know if you have access to them. I don't anything about that kind of stuff. So figure it out for yourself.

Monday, April 23, 2018

Nuts or Seeds: Protein Bar Review

I don't have much time to eat during the day when I am at the office and busy seeing therapy clients. I've discovered that even doing 3 hour long sessions in a row without a snack can leave me hangry.

Since I need something satisfying, portable and quick, I frequently reach for protein bars. As such, I've been trying some different ones lately just to mix things up.

On a whim (and because they were on sale on Amazon.ca), I bought some Pegan bars.

This was an unusual choice for me because I am neither paleo nor vegan and that's the whole 'thing' with these bars. Also, the only flavour available was sunflower butter which is kind of weird. They have other yummy sounding flavours though, like Ginger Snap Cookie, Cinnamon Vanilla, Cinnamon Raisin Roll and Chocolate Lava.

In any case, I have to say I like them. They taste exactly like eating sunflower butter (surprise, surprise). So if you like it, you will like these. It isn't sweet or candy bar tasting, so I didn't even bother offering one to Adam or the girls because I know they won't like them.

The ingredients are pretty impressive, as are the macros, if you are looking for a relatively healthy bar:


I also found a clearance sale on Quest Peanut Butter Supreme bars and decided to give them a shot. They are similarly less sweet and candy tasting compared to other flavours, but definitely yummy if you are a peanut butter lover. They are pretty firm and chewy but I prefer that to a bar that's too soft.


The macros and ingredients are typical for Quest bars. This particular flavour does have sucralose so if you are one of those people who gets hysterical over artificial sweeteners, than these are not for you.

So, will I buy either of them again? Nope. They still don't compare to Quest Double Chocolate Chunk, or the Costco protein bars, which are also the cheapest of any I've found. But hey, its nice to have some variety.

Monday, April 16, 2018

DermaWand: Product Review


I despise the fact that once women look over 35, they are no longer considered beautiful. Okay, sure, there are exceptions for the genetically gifted, such as Christie Brinkley, but for the rest of us, normal aging is just not acceptable.

The expectations for women to 'age gracefully' are ridiculous, especially considering the double standards we have for men. Men can be fat, balding, bags of wrinkles and no one says boo. Health-wise, women tend to age better since men generally do such a poor job of looking after themselves.

Given the ridiculousness of all this, I hate that I let this pressure affect how I feel about my own appearance. I have never felt physically better or fitter. I think its the wisdom that comes along with aging that has helped me learn what works best in terms of diet and exercise for feeling my best, unfortunately, I believe my outside doesn't match the way I feel on the inside. I feel  like I am 25, but I definitely look my age thanks to lines on my face.

I know many women, some younger than I am, who have done Botox, and believe me, it is very tempting! But I have resisted for a few reasons. One, the cost. If it was a one and done thing, maybe, but the effects only last a few months, so you have to keep it up, and that adds up real fast! Two, it kind of scares the crap out of me. The potential negative side effects are a bit creepy.

I've tried all sorts of creams and serums promising wrinkle reducing miracles but never seen much difference no matter how much they cost.

So when DermaWand offered me an opportunity to try out their product, something non-invasive, I figured, why the heck not?

The DermaWand uses radio technology to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. The supposed benefits are:

THERMAL ENERGY
The gentle microcurrent delivers thermal energy to the dermal areas under your skin's surface and increasing dermal skin temperature may help support your skin's natural healthy look.

INSTANT STIMULATION
DermaWand® delivers gentle microcurrent at 100,000 cycles per second, producing a massage effect. Massage helps improve circulation and bring fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to the skin's surface.

ENRICHED OXYGEN
DermaWand® gives off enriched oxygen which bathes your skin while you're using it. You'll recognize the smell; it's that fresh, clean "after a rainstorm" fragrance. Enriched oxygen will help breathe new life into your skin’s surface and with DermaWand®, you will see a reduction in pore size.

So I have been using it on my "Number 11" (my friend's term for the 2 vertical lines we get between the eye brows) because I had them the most, since January 2018 (with a 3 week break while we were in Israel and during my 2 weeks of flu). At first I was using it twice a day, up until our trip, but afterwards, and after recovering from the flu, my motivation to make it happen twice daily waned, so since then I have being doing it once  daily. In case you're wondering, no, it does not hurt at all. You just massage the area using the motion directed in the instruction booklet (it depends which area you are focusing on). You apply a moisturizer first, though they sent me the gel the company makes to use with it so that's what I have been using.

Has it worked? I think so.

Before



After



I think my 11s are not quite as deep now, though they are still there. But hey, I will take any degree of improvement!

So do I plan to keep using it? Hell yes! Maybe my wrinkles and lines will continue to diminish so that if I am consistent, by the time I'm 80, I will look 30!

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

Game On: Board Game Reviews

I have always adored board games. As a kid I played Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Clue and Scrabble regularly with my family.

As I got older I became hooked on games like Pictionary, Scattergories, Taboo, Cranium, etc. In fact, as often as possible I would invite friends over for game nights and Adam and I once hosted a board game New Year's Eve party (long before kids!).

The girls love them too and we've amassed a good collection. Unfortunately, I work a lot on weekends, so its usually Adam and the girls who play them. We always prefer getting the girls playing a board game instead of doing anything on a device! Board games are a great way to hang out as a family.

Recently we were sent 2 new ones to try out, and that's just what Adam and the kids did over March break.

The first, Rubik's Race, was new to Adam and I but the girls had played it before and already were fans.



Essentially, you shake the Scrambler to create a Rubik's pattern and then slide the tiles to match the pattern on your board to the pattern in the Scrambler. The first player to complete the match and slam down the center frame wins!

Its a simple concept and easy to set up and Adam and the girls really enjoy playing it together.

The other, Bob Ross: The Art of Chill, was new to us all. This one, unfortunately, bombed. Now we knew it was a gamble to play as a family because it is recommended for people over age 12, but ironically, it was Adam who got frustrated with it first and threw in the towel, feeling it is much too complicated and not at all enjoyable.


Since it was so complicated they couldn't even figure it out completely, I found a link that describes the game accordingly:

For The Art of Chill, each player starts with three art supplies cards, with each card showing one of seven paints and one of four tools. You take one of the large double-sided painting cards, place it on the easel, and place Bob on the first space on the painting track.

Each player takes a turn to roll the die and either draws an art supplies card, plays a paint to their palette, receives an extra action for the turn, or both draws a "Chill" card and advances Bob on the painting track.

The player then takes three actions. Actions include drawing an art supplies cards, discarding two matching cards to claim the matching technique card (which is worth 2 points and 1 bonus point when used), sweep the art supplies card row, place a paint on their palette, wash half their palette, or complete a section of a painting. To take this latter action, the player needs to have all of the paint needed for one of the painting's three sections on their palette with no unneeded colors mixed in! The player scores points equal to the number of paints used, bonus points if they're the first or second to paint this, and additional points if they've painted this feature before Bob (i.e., did you paint this before the Bob figure reaches this space on the painting track.

When someone has completed all three features on a painting or Bob has reached the end of the painting track, this work is complete! Remove it from the easel, and start a new painting. Players continue to take turns until someone reaches a maximum chill of 30 points, at which point they win the game instantly.

So, do I recommend these games? Well, Rubik's Race I recommend for sure, especially for kids. The Art of Chill might appeal to people who have a lot of patience, but it was not a good fit for our family. Nevertheless, board games are a great way to spend time with your kids, especially when relegated indoors due to weather conditions. There are also games out there that will appeal to people of all ages. Personally, I have always favored word games. Get your Scrabble on!

Disclosure: We were sent these games to review but all the opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, April 2, 2018

Israel: Part 3 (FOOD)

The first thing anyone said to me who had been to Israel before about the country is, "You will love the food"!

I can't argue with that.

The traditional cuisine is all things I love: lots of fresh fruits and veggies, grilled meat and fish, hummus, tahini galore (and you know I am the tahini Queen!), dates and other dried fruits and nuts.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the breakfast buffets at the hotels (we were at Dan Panoramas in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) were spectacular. Here is a, probably incomplete list of what was on offer:

Breads, bagels, croissants
Fresh vegetables and fruits and locally grown Medjool dates
Yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir
Oatmeal, granola and cold cereals
Smoothies and juices
Eggs hard boiled, scrambled and custom-made omelettes
Pancakes and waffles
Hummus, tatziki, tahini and falafel
Rotating offerings of dim sum, stir fried veggies or other Asian foods
Pastries and desserts including halva and baklava

It was seriously amazing!

I was also impressed with the coffee at the hotel, and at the few cafes where I grabbed one. And you know how picky I am about coffee!

The best dish I had was at a restaurant in the Carmel market in Tel Aviv. It was roasted cauliflower with beet tahini sauce, raisins and pumpkin seeds (dish on the right). I definitely have to recreate this, it was fantastic!



Unfortunately, the other dish I ordered, chicken and roasted veggies, was bland and dry. We had wanted a fish special they had, but they were out of it.

Roni, our guide, took us to an Arab falafel/shwarma restaurant that I thought was just okay. My favorite part about it was that you eat outside on a patio, and there were a million cats everywhere offering snuggles in exchange for food scraps (I don't care if that's not hygienic, I will take any excuse to snuggle cats!). It wasn't bad, but I found the falafel and hummus underseasoned compared to how I like it.


While out and about on our own, Adam and I ate at Aroma Cafes several times. It was just easier than trying to figure out restaurants with no English menu. We both got variations of this chicken salad each time.



In Jerusalem, we discovered The First Station, a funky area near our hotel with shops and restaurants. We had a good meal at an Italian place, and met a lovely couple in their 80s visiting from British Columbia. We had a nice chat with them about touring Israel and life in Canada.



The last 2 days we had in Jerusalem were tougher because of so many things being closed for Shabbat, but we managed to find a great restaurant open called Focaccia on the Friday. On the Saturday, we found a sushi restaurant right near Focaccia and got take out to eat at the hotel before the cab came to get us to take us to the airport. It was decent, though they didn't have the meal on the menu I had originally wanted, so, in fact, I got a Thai chicken curry.

The markets in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were also amazing. Huge varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables were on offer, as well as vendors selling candy and chocolate (our kids would have gone nuts!), halva (in like 50 different flavours!), baklava, falafel, fresh pita/breads, dried fruits and nuts. I didn't end up buying anything there for us, but brought home chocolate, halva, and Turkish delight for relatives.

Now I do have to admit that you can definitely have too much of a good thing. By the end of the trip I was kinda sick of olives and marinated vegetables because I was eating so much (even at breakfast!). One thing I didn't get sick of is the dates. In fact, Roni was telling us about how the Israeli Medjool dates are so large and sweet, that Israelis can't eat more than one at a time. Nevermind that I was stuffing my 4th into my mouth as he said this, that I'd snatched off the hotel's breakfast buffet 😆😆

Also, a visit to Israel is not a ticket to weightloss, even though the cuisine is healthy. Its definitely not low-cal. There is a ton of olive oil and tahini used in the cooking, as well as nuts and seeds. So, yes, nutritious, but also easy to overdo.

Vegans can definitely find stuff to eat pretty easily, as long as you don't mind most of your protein coming from beans, nuts and seeds. We didn't see much tofu at restaurants or cafes, though health food stores carried lots of it, as well as a good array of tempeh and soy or wheat-gluten meat alternatives.

My one complaint, that would probably not be a concern for most people, is that it was hard to get a COLD drink. Maybe its because we were there in winter so Israelis aren't so concerned with drinking things iced cold, but that's how I like my beverages always. I found whether it was beer, water, or Diet Coke, nothing came chilled enough for my taste, and our hotels didn't have ice or water machines, which I found frustrating. Tepid tap water does not quench my thirst!

Also, tons of people smoke, and smoking is allowed on restaurant patios, so Adam and I often had to strategically seat ourselves where smoke wouldn't waft in our direction.

As for the food on El Al, the Israeli airline, it was...airplane food, maybe a bit better than average. You definitely got more food than other airlines, but I would not say it was stellar. We bought dinners to take on the plane at the airports, so it was mostly the breakfasts we ate on board. Both times we got vegetarian omelettes and they were accompanied by some sort of fruit, a bit of coleslaw, a (white) bagel and cream cheese.

Well that's all folks! The only destination I've had on my (non-existent) bucket list was Israel, and now I can cross it off. It is definitely a wonderful place to visit with lots of interesting things to do regardless of what your preferences are.

Monday, March 26, 2018

Israel: Part 2

Probably the most interesting thing for me about visiting Israel is not being a minority for the first time in my life. That being said, I don't necessarily feel I've got a lot in common with ALL Jews. Not being religious, and being extremely socially liberal, I can't say I understand the Hasidic Jews beliefs or way of life at all. But according to our guide, Roni (roni_tours@walla.com), who was fantastic, by the way, most Israelis don't understand them much either. Nevertheless, they have a lot of power in Israel, which is why they don't fight in the Israeli army, and insist on businesses shutting down for Sabbath in Jerusalem.

Of course, the other amazing thing for me was just the ancient history of the place. Coming from a new country like Canada, where any structure over 100 years old is considering 'historical', it was mind boggling to see so many buildings over 2000 years old still standing. If the history interests you, then definitely visit places like Ceasarea, Acco and Old Jerusalem.


Below is a photo of Old Jerusalem I took:


Though Israel is a Jewish country, it is a place considered sacred to many religions including Muslims, Christians and Baha'i. Roni took us to see many of the Christian holy sites in Old Jerusalem, which was fascinating. There were many, many Christians visiting and praying all over the place! He also took us for a brief visit to Haifa, which is the holiest site for the Baha'i.
We also went to the wailing wall, which is where the Jews pray. I stuck a little prayer on a folded up piece of paper into a crevice in the wall, as is tradition, even though I don't pray.

We also went museum mad during our visit. You definitely have to visit some museums if you are in Israel!

The Herzl Museum was a lot more interesting than I thought it would be. Its interactive, so I think even kids age 12+ might enjoy it.  In fact, it had a profound impact on me, especially when Roni told us some personal information about Theodor Herzl. He was the first one to propose the idea of a Jewish state, after witnessing the ongoing anti-semitism in Europe in the 19th century. Sadly, he died in his 40s, long before Israel became a state. Even more tragic, is that none of his 3 children or his grandchild (murdered in the Holocaust) lived to see it. But his remains were eventually moved from Europe to Israel and you can visit his tomb on the grounds of the museum.

If you are interested in archaeology or ancient and/or biblical history, than you definitely have to visit the Israel Museum. As an added bonus, its one of the few places open Fridays and Saturdays in Jerusalem!

If you can stomach it, a visit to Yad Vashem, the Holocaust museum is also a must. It is the best Holocaust museum of have seen yet, even better than the one in Washington, D.C. We were trying to fit in a lot the day we went, so our time there was limited. I think its one of those places you could go many times and still feel like you learn a lot more each time.

Below is a monument honoring Janusz Korczak, a Polish teacher at an orphanage, who refused refuge and went to the gas chambers with his Jewish students.


Below is a shot of the Dead Sea. We didn't actually go in it. First of all, it was a bit too cool for outdoor swimming while we were there, but also, we didn't bring bathing suits.


To be honest, though Israel has a lot of natural beauty, that's not what I was really there to see. I wanted to focus on the history and culture.

If you are interested in doing outdoorsy stuff, there is a lot of that too: swimming in the Dead Sea, beautiful beaches, hikes in the desert, etc.

Our guide, Roni, told us he has led tours focusing on the plants and trees in Israel, and bird watching ones too. There are lots of birds!!


Monday, March 19, 2018

Israel: Part 1


I am finally getting around to writing about our trip to Israel!

As you might expect, many Jews from around the world visit Israel. Many go as children or youth because there are programs like Birthright that facilitate this. I never took advantage of anything like this, nor was I in the least bit interested until a few years ago.

After my Bat Mitzvah at age 13, I threw in the towel on having anything much to do with Judaism. One reason was that I just wasn't religious or interested in being observant of traditions, but in hindsight it probably had more to do with being Jewish in a small, relatively homogeneous town. I was eager to rid myself of any traits that made me 'different'.

It was only a few years ago, after reading The Lemon Tree, that I realized how little I knew about Israel's history and I felt an interest and connection to it. Adam had been as a teen on the March of the Living, and wasn't eager to go back, but after I talked about my desire to visit for a long time, he offered to go with me. It was a belated 15th anniversary gift.

This trip was a huge leap out of my comfort zone as I hate flying and hadn't done such a long flight since I was 3-years-old. As I have said before, I am very happy to read about places around the world from the comfort of my home, rather than visit them in person. Especially if they are really, really far, dangerous, hot, and/or have huge, scary insects). Israel is definitely far...and potentially dangerous.

It took months of research for me to figure out what kind of trip we would do. Lots of people I know who have spent lots of time in Israel, told me its really easy to travel and explore there, and recommended renting a car or just devising our own itinerary. Um, wrong! I am very glad I did not listen to this! Maybe for someone already extremely familiar with the country, otherwise, I definitely recommend a tour!

I struggled to find an organized tour, however, that really appealed to me, so finally after a long chat with the Israel experts at Aufgang Travel, we booked a private, custom tour. Yep. Just me, Adam and our own tour guide. I specifically asked for a focus on culture and history. I was not particularly interested in seas or deserts. So sue me, but that's just not all that interesting to me. Water is water (even if the Dead Sea is somewhat unique) and sand is sand.

So our tour included the following:

  • Caesarea
  • Acco
  • Old Jerusalem
  • Hertzl Museum
  • Israel Museum
  • Yad Vashem (Holocaust museum)
  • Qumran Caves where the Dead Sea Scrolls were found
  • Mahane Yehuda Market
  • Masada (but we never made it due to road there being flooded out)
I was very nervous about the flights even though my doctor gave me some Ativan to help me sleep. The flight there ended up being alright. Getting through security at Pearson Airport in Toronto was horrid though, as the wait and lines were very long. We flew with El Al airlines and they have their own, lengthy security check system. Of course, its good to feel secure when flying to Israel 😐😐

I did manage to sleep, but even with our upgraded (but not first class) seats, I found it ridiculously uncomfortable. Given how small a person I am, I can't imagine what it was like for anyone bigger. 

We arrived in Tel Aviv, settled in to our hotel (The Dan Panorama), and went exploring. We found the wonderful Carmel Market nearby, and got dinner at an Aroma Cafe. Though we have them in Toronto, we never go, and it was nice at this point to find something familiar and with menus in English. We went back to our hotel and slept about 11 hours. 

Our next day in Tel Aviv was free before our tour guide picked us up the next day. After sleeping in, we had an amazing breakfast at the hotel (they are known for their buffet breakfasts!), and then went for a run along the waterfront (our hotel was right on the Mediterranean Sea). After showering, we went exploring, and ended up at an upscale fashion mall. Though we didn't buy any clothes, we had lunch there and met some lovely locals who offered advice on sites to see.

We ended up wandering rather aimlessly, just getting a sense of the city, and then had an amazing dinner at a restaurant in Carmel Market.

Part 2 of my posts will describe the tour, and 3 I will devote the entire discussion to the FOOD.

Monday, March 12, 2018

Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine: Book Review


The topic of Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) comes up a lot with my counselling clients because many folks dealing with infertility are drawn to it as a way to try to boost their fertility naturally. A few of the fertility doctors I work with even support clients in their decision to incorporate it into their treatment.

For this reason, I was eager to check out Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine to learn more about TCM and how nutrition can be used therapeutically.

What is TCM? It is an ancient holistic healing approach. The basic principles are balance, connectedness and wholeness. The focus is on yin and yang, qi (energy/vital force), blood and other body fluids, and jing and shen (internal interactions with external environmental influences).

Dietary therapy is an integral part of TCM, and is based on the thermal nature or qi of foods. Foods are categorized as hot, warming, neutral, cooling or cold. It is believed that different flavours (sweet, salty, sour, bitter, etc.) have different thermal properties. TCM food groups include:

Whole grains/legumes/nuts/seeds
Animal foods
Vegetables
Fruits
Condiments

Parts 1 and 2 of Nutritional Healing with Chinese Medicine gives detailed information about TCM and nutritional therapy. Though the information is extensive, it is provided in a very accessible way so even if you have no background, it will give you a fairly solid understanding of the basics.

There is even a chapter in part 2 that provides food recommendations for various common health concerns from coughs, to diabetes, to insomnia. Perusing through this section my impression is that the advice is all pretty sound, though I think you need to avoid looking at these things as 'cures'. Like for stress and tension you are advised to avoid late night eating, overeating, spicy foods, excess alcohol and coffee. It is recommended that you focus on eating leafy greens, nuts and seeds, bitter greens and seaweed. Of course, that all makes sense, but if you work a super high stress job, have major personal problems contributing to your anxiety, and a sedentary lifestyle, then just making these dietary changes will not completely eliminate the stress in your life.

Part 3 of the book contains instructions for stocking your kitchen for TCM nutritional therapy and a chart classifying foods by their nature, flavor, and therapeutic value in TCM.

And then there are the recipes, which are divided by seasons, along with blood tonic and condiment recipe sections.

Now nutritionally, I have no issue with these recipes. They are generally very nutritious. Diabetics may have to alter them, however, because the sweetener used most often is honey.

If you have stocked your kitchen ahead of time with the necessary spices, herbs and condiments, you will find most of them very simple and straightforward. There are meat and seafood recipes, but also a lot of vegan recipes. Each recipe has a tip section and health information about the ingredients. There are no photos, however, so you have to use your imagination about what the final product will look like.

Though many of the recipes are infused with Asian flavours like fresh ginger and tamari, many others are not at all, so there is a lot of variety. They mostly sound very tasty too, so this is not about gagging down various substances in order to cure what ails you.

There are lots of yummy sounding and nourishing soup recipes which would be perfect for anyone suffering from a cold or flu and even some fruit based desserts that sound delicious.

So do I recommend this book? I certainly do for anyone looking for some sort of framework to improving the quality of their diet, or experimenting with different ways of eating to see how it makes you feel. Following the TCM nutritional philosopy could just help you feel less bloated, get rid of your stubborn cough, or make your PMS less severe. Just don't think that you can cure cancer by preparing these recipes. We have chemotherapy for that!

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

Monday, March 5, 2018

One Flu Over the Cuckoo's Nest


I apologize for the absence of blog posts recently. The reason is that, first, we were away on an epic trip to Israel, which I was very excited to share with you, but the day we came back, I was struck with an even more epic case of the flu (a very special variety that included both gastro and respiratory symptoms!). And yes I did get a flu shot, but it's not a guarantee, obviously.

In case you think the flu is just a bad cold, I am happy to clear up the misconception. It is not, it is HELL ON EARTH! I can tell you I have never been so sick for so long probably in my life (and I had strep throat and mono simultaneously as a kid!). Last week I spent many days basically in a fetal position. My days were full of chronic diarrhea, painful abdominal cramping, nausea, lack of appetite, throbbing head pain, fever (chills/sweats), coughing, congestion, and sore throat. At no time was I actually worried for my life, but I did think about ending it! Goodness knows if I didn't support the idea of assisted suicide before, I do now! (I always have, actually). Even though I knew I would get better, I felt so miserable that it became hard to imagine feeling normal and healthy again.

Even now, I am still not 100%. I still have several bouts of diarrhea every day, but I am able to eat more foods (I went 2 weeks without eating vegetables!). I am also still super congested, have the pounding head, and the cough. I would say my energy isn't back to normal yet either. I also am weak since I've missed so many workouts. But I know I will get that back eventually.

So, given that I got the flu shot and still got the flu this year, will I get it again? Hell yes! This was a horrible, horrible, horrible experience, and even if I only decrease my chance of getting the flu again by 1% its worth it!!!

Go get your flu shot 💉💉

Monday, February 19, 2018

Blood Flow Restriction (BFR) Training


What the heck is BFR, you ask?

For everyone you ever want to know about it, this site covers it. As a basic explanation, BFR is:

Blood flow restriction (BFR) training is a training strategy involving the use of cuffs or wraps placed around a limb during exercise, to maintain arterial inflow to the muscle while preventing venous return. BFR can be used with resistance training, or with other modalities, including walking.

Programs of resistance training with BFR and low loads (20 – 30% of 1RM) appear to increase strength. BFR programs appear to increase strength more than resistance training without BFR when using matched (low) relative loads but are either similar in efficacy or slightly less effective than conventional resistance training with unmatched (high) relative loads.

Programs of resistance training with BFR and low loads (20 – 30% of 1RM) appear to produce hypertrophy. BFR programs appear to increase muscular size better than resistance training without blood flow restriction when using matched (low) relative loads but are similar in efficacy to conventional resistance training with unmatched (high) relative loads.

There is some evidence that resistance training with BFR might be able to improve muscular power, sprint running speed, and endurance, and that non-resistance training methods (like walking) with blood flow restriction can cause hypertrophy, although there is more limited research in these areas.

After reading about BFR, I almost immediately ordered these BFR (occlusion) cuffs.

Why was I so eager to start this type of training, you ask? For the following reasons:

1. I am always trying to increase my strength.

2. Since I work out exclusively at home and our dumbbells only go up to 50 lbs, I saw this as a great way to increase strength without having to spend the money on heavier weights, and find room for them!

3. I thought this would be a great way to stay fit while travelling, if I also bring some resistance bands (because I generally hate hotel gyms).

I brought them to Florida over the holidays, and was very glad I did. I had zero interest in going to the gyms at the resort. They have mostly cardio machines and only very scanty weight equipment, and so if even 1 other person is trying to lift at the same time as you, its very annoying. I skipped the gym entirely and a few days over our stay, I did a resistance band workout in our condo with the occlusion bands on.

Without door attachments, etc., it is often difficult to make a band workout tough enough, but the cuffs definitely made my exercises more challenging. It was awesome!

 Back home, I have been using the cuffs 1-2x week, once for legs, once for upper body. I really like being able to work with lower weights, but still being challenged.

If you are looking for a way to jack up your training, or if you workout at home and have limited equipment, this is a great way to give your training a boost without spending a lot of money or buying big equipment.

Tuesday, February 6, 2018

Kinin Bioactive Aromatherapy: Product Review


I am embarrassed to admit something about the back story to this product review. Initially, the Kinin company contacted me, and asked if I would be interested in reviewing their aromatherapy pens. I thought they meant writing pens that contain essential oils. So, you know, you're sitting at your desk working, or writing out your to do list or grocery list and relaxing with a lil' aromatherapy. Um, no, they meant pens like a vaping type device that you inhale. Oh, that kind of pen! 😜

I was a little suspicious since vaping is not really my thing, um, at all. I even contacted them just to confirm there is no tobacco or nicotine or anything in them. They assured me that there is none. The pens contain safe, organic, essential oils that the pen simply vaporizes and you do, indeed, inhale.

As you know, I am very scent-ual...as in, I love perfumes, and scented products! Though I would not say I regularly practice 'aromatherapy', I do see its value. Even research has supported the link between certain scents and our moods. Things like peppermint and citrus can invigorate, while lavender can enhance relaxation. In fact, I keep lavender essential oil at my counselling office and sometimes sprinkle a few drops around because of its therapeutic benefits.

Anyways, back to Kinin.

The company sent me a selection of their pens:

1. Focus - Nootropics, Cinnamon, Tangerine
2. Relax - Kava Kava, Valerian, Copaiba
3. Recover - Eucalyptus, Peppermint Clary Sage

Apparently these products are generally safe for everyone though their website warns:

We recommend that women who are pregnant or nursing, or people who have specific allergic reactions to any of our listed ingredients avoid our products. There is no age requirement, but if you’re under 18, you should check with your parents.

I had never heard of nootropic before but apparently it is a general term for cognitive enhancer, which could mean anything from caffeine to ginko biloba to prescription drugs. The fact that they don't give any more info about this ingredient is a bit worrisome to me.

Copaiba is another plant derived stimulant.

Apparently clari sage has a myriad of benefits including anti-depressant, anti-bacterial, anti-inflammatory, blood pressure lowering, anti-anxiety, and ability to improve mental function. Not a ton of scientific research to back this up, however.

I found all of them pleasant smelling. I would describe the physical experience when you inhale as similar to when you first pop a piece of strong minty gum into your mouth and you get that cold, fresh burst.

My first thought is that this might be a good replacement activity for people trying to quit vaping or smoking. You get the same action with your hands and mouth, and none of the detrimental health effects.

Does it work? Who the heck knows. I suspect it works if you believe it does. But hey, even placebo effect is real.

Do I recommend them? If you believe in the benefits of aromatherapy and essential oils, or are looking  to quit smoking/vaping or for healthier ways to get a boost (instead of sugar, coffee, weed, etc.) than absolutely. It is kind of a cool concept. Its also good as an aromatherapy-on-the-go tool, though you might get strange looks if you pull it out on the subway and start inhaling from it.

The pens are $22 USD, and for $45 they are coming out with a refillable/reusable one.

Disclosure: The company sent me the pens but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, January 29, 2018

Dead of Winter Favorites 2018

If you get SAD in the winter, than you know how important it is to find joy in small pleasures. Here is what I am loving right now...

Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick

My lips always feel dry in winter (along with my hands!), so I have to have something moisturizing on them, but I also like lipstick when I'm going out (to make me look a wee bit presentable). All of the lipsticks I've tried up to now, haven't moisturized enough. So ironic as it is (isn't Florida like the most humid place in the U.S.?), I picked up this Neutrogena MoistureSmooth Color Stick and adore it. It is super moisturizing and I love the colour I picked up! Of course, as my luck would have it, I don't think its available in Canada 😭

Old Navy Mesh Compression Leggings


I have bought many brands of compression leggings, and though these are the least expensive, they are also THE BEST! As a petite woman, I also love that the XS size actually fits me, and is the perfect length!! Oh, and I may or may not wear them to work sometimes...

The Girl Who Saved the King of Sweden



I just finished this book and it was hilarious. I read so much heavy literature, that sometimes reading something funny is essential. This fit the bill perfectly. Its as clever as it is funny. I loved his first book too, The 100 Year Old Man Who Climbed Out the Window and Disappeared.


Hot Lemon Water


I have already told you how addicted I am to drinking cold lemon water throughout the day right? Well its awesome hot in winter too! I discovered hot lemon water when pregnant with both girls. I couldn't stomach coffee or regular tea, so this was my warm beverage of choice and I really enjoyed it. Afterwards, I went back to drinking coffee and teas and kind of forgot about it. But lately I just find that aside from my morning coffee, drinking coffee or tea later in the day gives me a dry mouth and an unsettled tummy. Hot lemon water warms me up without those nasty side effects. The only trouble is, even in winter, I don't need much warming up. I am a human radiator, as always, and it seems to be getting worse as I get older 😱😅

If you can't escape the winter or you're feeling low, pamper yourself with little pleasures until the sun comes back out.