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Monday, September 17, 2018

Stuff that Works

Happy Monday! I thought I would share some things I've tried lately that have made little (or big) improvements in my life.

400mg B2 (Riboflavin) for Migraines

So its been now about 20 years that I've been suffering from atypical migraines. I eventually tried medical marijuana (CBD oil with no THC), prescribed by my doctor. I think it helps them from getting as severe as they used to if I take it as soon as I feel one start but what has made the biggest difference has been taking 400 mg of B2 every day. It has drastically cut down on the frequency of them. A counselling client of mine told me about it and I have to say, once I did my research and saw all the data on its efficacy, I had to wonder why no one in all my years of consulting experts, ever suggested it to me??

Microfibre Hair Towel

I'd heard they help your hair dry faster and are good for preventing frizz in curly hair. Since having the kids, my hair has gotten even curlier and I have found that I just despise wearing it curly now, it just gets out of control. So though I straighten my hair most days, this towel does help it dry faster and makes it easier to brush out and blow dry.

Silk Pillow Case


I am all for anything that helps keep hair and skin looking healthy (especially if it is neither danger nor expensive). Apparently silk pillow cases can prevent wrinkles (though no scientific evidence of that), and damage/breakage of hair. I can definitely attest to the fact that it is good for hair. Usually even if my hair is perfectly straight and silky at bed time, I wake up looking like Medusa and my hair feels dry and fuzzy. Not when I sleep on these pillow cases!!

If you are someone who showers and does your do at night, you need these as your hair will look much better in the morning.

L'Oreal Infallible Waterproof Eye Liner

The kids are always teasing me because by the end of the day my eye makeup has often melted. Even in winter, I am a big sweater (as in I sweat a lot, not as in I am a wooly thing you wear). I despise waterproof mascara and have not gotten waterproof eye liner in the past because they are usually liquid and I do not have a steady enough hand to apply those! But I just discovered the pencil waterproof eyeliner from L'Oreal and its amazing. It really does stay put all day, but comes off relatively easily with make up remover. A total game-changer!!


Monday, September 10, 2018

Thermacell Patio Shield: Product Review


Shana Tova to all those celebrating Rosh Hashana today!

Wow, the weather here in Toronto in nuts. Last week we hit a 70+ year record high and it felt like you could boil your blood within seconds of stepping outside, and today we woke up to rain and cool air. Frankly, I prefer the cool wet weather. The heat here this summer has been horrific!

Summer may be over, but we are talking about mosquitos today.

I have always hated mosquitos with a passion. Unfortunately, the feeling is not mutual. A room full of people and they always bite me. Sadly, this is not just an annoyance. I react rather violently to mosquito bites. Hot red welts develop and the itch from just one is enough to drive me completely insane. One of the many reasons I will NEVER be a camper.

But staying in the city doesn't guarantee I won't get bitten by mosquitos. The stupid things are everywhere! So I was thrilled when I was offered a chance to review Thermacell's Patio Shield, a mosquito repellent that is a portable gadget rather than something you apply to your skin. From everything I have read, the only thing that is really effective to repel mosquitos is DEET, which is a pretty nasty chemical. But its also important to avoid them, especially since mosquitos can carry West Nile Virus, etc. Its a health issue as much of an inconvenience to get bitten!

Truthfully, however, its been such a hot, humid summer, the whole family has been spending even less time outside than usual. So when my lovely friends and neighbours, L&J offered to test out the Patio Shield while away on a 2 day camping trip, it made perfect sense to get them to review it.  So hear you go:

 Thermacell Patio Shield:

It promises "mosquito protection you don't spray on" and delivered.  It was effective, portable, odour free and silent as the front of the box suggests.  The box contains everything you need to get started:  the device itself, three petroleum mats that last "a maximum of four hours" each and a butane cartridge.  We required the instructions, which were well written, to set it up.  The parts fit together well and the loading was effortless, as was turning it on.  The "on" light indicator was appreciated, as was the warning that vapour would appear.

We decided to take the Patio Shield camping in Bracebridge because the directions inside the box suggest that it's also suitable for campsites.  At home we already have a dining tent (which takes up a large part of our small backyard) to protect from all flying insects, especially wasps.  The Patio Shield does not claim to protect against anything except mosquitos.  We started the Patio Shield the recommended 30 minutes prior in order to let it take effect.  Although we envisioned staying on our campsite, within the 4.5 square metre area (wind, heat and humidity may affect the performance) that the Patio Shield claims to protect, our natural inclination was to keep wandering off.  We had decided not to trust the kids to the Patio Shield until we had tested it on ourselves, so they had repellent on their skin while biking and wandering.  Although the evening was hot and humid, my husband and I did not notice any bites.  (We did see one large, sluggish mosquito inside our cabin, so they did exist!)

In conclusion, we feel that the Patio Shield lived up to its promises, but is probably better suited to backyards than using it as your only source of protection while camping.

If you felt the need to use additional protection, such as spray on protection or other devices from the Thermacell line, the $45 price (on Amazon) of the repeller kit that we had (and $40 for 48 hours worth of refills) could seem prohibitively expensive.  The Precautions, First Aid and Toxoicological Information may scare anyone who is already wary of repellents that you spray on your skin.

So there ya go! Right from the campers' mouths.

Disclosure: I was sent the item to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Everyday Enzymes: Product Review


Do you struggle with digestive issues? It seems most people these days do. This is likely due to a combination of a low fibre, low nutrition diet, sedentary lifestyle, and chronic stress.

My dad was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) way back in the early 90s before anyone had really heard of it. Now its frighteningly common. It isn't so much a disease as a label for various idiopathic symptoms. I was diagnosed with it in high school and have struggled with it on and off since. In a very weird turn of events though, ever since recovering from that horrible flu back in February, my symptoms have been much much better. That left my doctor scratching her head! Who knows...I couldn't eat for 2 weeks, everything was going right through me...probably everything in my gut good and bad was killed off and then perhaps I grew back a healthier microbiome.

I have taken probiotics for years and still do, but also available are digestive enzymes that are supposed to improve your gut health. Recently I was sent Everyday Enzymes to try, a broad spectrum supplement created by gastroenterologist, Liz Cruz.

Everyday Enzymes claim to help treat:


  • Wellness and prevention
  • Sensitive GI Tract
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disorders
  • Weak Constitution
  • Gall Bladder Stress
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Burping / Belching / Indigestion
  • Chemical / Environmental Sensitivities
  • Infant Colic

The capsules contain: Amylase, Protease, Lipase, Cellulase, Invertase, Diastase, Lactase, Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium longum, cellulose and water

They help break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins and it is recommended 2 capsules be taken with meals 3x per day.

As for the science? I wasn't able to find any peer reviewed studies that prove their effectiveness in humans. Everyday Enzymes do come with a 100% 60 day guarantee. So if you do not feel they are working for you, you get all your money back.

At this point I have been taking them for several weeks. Do I feel better? Well I have been feeling better since February overall, but I think there has been a bit of a reduction in gas and bloating for sure.

Should you take them? I recommend them, but only if you have first made any necessary lifestyle changes first and you still have digestive issues. So that would be, getting regular exercise, eating unprocessed, high fibre foods, and eliminating any trigger foods and beverages, as well as finding ways to manage excess stress/anxiety. These capsules won't perform magic if every other aspect of your lifestyle compromises gut health!

Also, I would not use them to treat infants, or any serious illnesses without first speaking to your physician.

Happy Labour Day! Or Labor day for you folks south of the border. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with no digestive upset!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Insanity Max 30: Workout Program Review


Another fitness post!

Its kind of ironic that I have gone from being someone who worked at, and worked out in, gyms for hours a day, to someone who hates gyms and would much rather work out at home. Gone are the days I have much interest in teaching fitness classes (I still personal train out of our home), and long gone are the days I have any patience for having others around while I workout. But I do love doing fitness videos to mix things up. Though I can certainly put together a workout for myself, I like having someone else do the work and push me while my mind and body wake up at 5am. The only problem is I get bored quickly, and I also like to continuously stay challenged.

My boredom a few months ago led me to purchase Shaun T's Insanity Max 30 program. I got it for an insane deal from Amazon.ca for $49.99. This is pretty frickin' awesome because I got 12 DVDs plus a bonus Live Insanity Sweatfest DVD featuring the cast from the original Insanity program. As you know, I have Insanity and The Asylum, so I am obviously a Shaun T fan.

The workouts are all exactly 30 minutes long (duh!), plus 2 minute cool-down/stretch. The only exception is the 2 Max Out 15 workouts that also have 15 minute ab workouts (so total is 30 minutes). I LOVE that there are 3 ab workouts included (1 10 minute, and 2 15 minute) and all are killer!

They are even more intense than the original Insanity workouts, but similar in terms of the moves/exercises. There is more variety though, which I like. They are all easy to follow, with no complicated choreography. So think burpees, jumping jacks, lunges and push ups.

You also get a nutrition guide, calendar and program recommendations, but I always toss that stuff out. The workouts are divided into month 1 and month 2, but honestly I don't find month 2 workouts all that much harder than month 1 workouts. They are all hard though!!

The idea is that you go for as long as you can without having to take a break, and when you do, you mark down your time, and that's when you've "Maxed Out". The next time you do that workout, you try to go longer. I can make it to the end of all of them without taking a break (aside from the ones in the workout - there is always at least one short water break). But not everyone is a beast like I am 😝. Seriously though, the fact that the workouts are short really gives me the motivation to push hard. I love knowing I will be done in 30 (plus 10-15 min if I do abs).

Here is a list of the workouts:

Month 1: 

1. Cardio Challenge: 30 minutes of the hardest cardio sequences you’ve ever tried. Welcome to INSANITY MAX:30.
2. Tabata Power: Your muscles will beg for mercy as your strength training starts with Tabata-style “20 seconds on, 10 seconds off” power moves.
3. Sweat Intervals: Get ready for 30 minutes of screaming, sweating, calorie-scorching madness.
4. Tabata Strength: Shaun T takes it up a notch in this NO REST, Tabata-style strength workout. You heard right...30 minutes, no rest.
5. Friday Fight, Round 1: It’s a battle between your body and your mind as you fight for time in this Max Out Challenge. And this is just Round 1.

Month 2: 

6. Max Out Cardio: This may be the craziest cardio workout you ever tried. Just wait till you get to the first Power Move. What minute are you Maxing Out at now?
7. Max Out Power: The intervals are longer in this “45 seconds on, 15 seconds off” Tabata-style plyometric power madness.
8. Max Out Sweat: The more minutes you make it through, the more you sweat and the more calories you burn. Now you know the meaning of “twice the sweat in half the time.”
9. Max Out Strength: Your arms, shoulders, chest, and core will be toast after this upper-body-focused, “45 seconds on, 15 seconds off” Tabata-style routine.
10. Friday Fight, Round 2: The new “hardest workout ever.” Every move is a minute in this final fight between your body and your mind. Who’s going to win?


11. Pulse
Shaun’s version of a recovery workout, this is a low-impact combo of stretching and small “pulsing” movements that’ll definitely make you feel the burn.
12. Ab Attack:10
This 10-minute routine will feel like an attack on your abs, but you’ll love the rock-hard results.

Now, given the intensity of the program, you may think this is only for advanced folks, but actually, it is better for beginners than the original Insanity program. First off, there is a participant showing low impact/intensity modifications for every exercise, and, secondly, if you select the Modifier Track on each DVD, there is a split screen so you can see the modifier for the entire workout.

This program is very much cardio, though a few of the workouts have quite a lot of strength exercises. Nevertheless, I wouldn't forgo strength training even if you are doing this program as they recommend. Since it is all body weight strength work, it is primarily focused on chest, triceps and core. You don't really hit a lot of back, shoulders or biceps. But because no equipment is required, it does make it ideal for travel!

It is fast-paced and high impact (unless you are modifying), so I don't do these workouts more than 2x a week, but am really thrilled with the program. It took me several months to work my way through all the DVDs (I would try one new one each week, and do it 2x), so I am still not even close to being bored of it.

I definitely recommend this DVD set if you are looking for a fun, butt-kicking workout.

Thursday, August 16, 2018

The Latest in Fitness: World Fitness Expo 2018

If you don't know what World Fitness Expo is, its the new name for the annual CANFITPRO conference in Toronto. Apparently the biggest fitness conference in North America.

If you are a long time reader, than you know I've been attending it for about 20 years. Not because I want to, but because I basically have to. It provides me with the necessary continuing education credits to maintain my fitness and personal training professional certifications. I attended the conference on Saturday, August 11th.

The reasons I hate it aren't because there is anything so terrible about the conference itself. I just hate being in big crowds of people I don't know. I also hate going way downtown in the heart of tourists and traffic. I hate spending a whole day in sweaty workout clothes and the discomfort and fatigue that comes from exercising, than a break, than exercising, etc. as you go from one seminar to another and spend the waste of time in between spending money you shouldn't at the trade show. Probably the worst part of all is that inevitably at least one session will involve having to be in a group or with a partner (i.e. getting real cozy with strangers...sometimes even having to involve touching). Ugh, the introvert in me HATES THIS!

Though I didn't enjoy it this year, as expected, in some ways it wasn't as bad as I anticipated (though in others it was disappointing).

My itinerary this year was:

1. Core Without Crunches - 2 personal trainers and a pelvic floor physiotherapist talking about pelvic floor health. I actually learned a lot in this session about diastasis (something I have from pregnancy as do many of my clients), and incontinence, prolapse, and exercises/treatments for all of it. I plan to get a referral to the physio so I can see if she can help me with my diastasis. One of their key messages was that any woman who has ever had a baby is postpartum, and it is never too late to improve things!

2. Grit Strength - I have NO idea how I ended up registered for this session. Its one of these Les Mills prechoreographed classes that I despise, don't teach and never plan to. Did I make a mistake, or how did this happen? Anyways, it was interesting since I'd never been to one of these sessions before to see what they are like. What they are like is going to a freakin' night club. Very dark with strobe lights, loud music, and instructors 'performing'. It requires a barbell like Body Pump and has lots of the expected overhead presses and squats, interspersed with mountain climbers, etc. Its supposed to be HIIT I guess.

3. Step KUSHH! - This is a new product from The STEP Company, but really why I took this session is it was led by Gin Miller!! FYI, she is the brilliant woman who invented the original STEP, and she invented this product too. She generously allowed me to take her photo:


The KUSHH! is a platform similar to the original, but with a soft top. This makes it ideal to use as a weight bench but also makes it an unstable surface to stand on. Doing cardio on it requires more stability and a lot more energy (i.e. calories!). The specially designed risers allow you to set it on an angle and it will remain stable for stepping/standing/laying on (unlike the original STEP).

Gin Miller is 62, but looks about 20 years younger, and is incredibly fit and fiesty. I love her and felt so fortunate to finally be able to take a session with her! I desperately wanted to take a KUSHH! home as they were selling them off at a discount, but I was taking the subway home and it is just too big and heavy and awkward to lug on public transportation.

4. Beyond Boot Camp with Mindy Mylrea - Mindy is always a great and absolutely hilarious presenter. The only thing I didn't like was all the team/partner stuff. Ugh!

5. My last session of the day was an Essentrics class. I do Essentrics every day in lieu of static stretching following my workouts, so I thought it would be perfect to finish the day with it since I knew I would be stiff otherwise. Though I had been more than ready to leave at 2:30pm (having started the first session at 7:30am), I pushed myself to stay to the end even though this session didn't begin until 5:15pm. It was a good move because I think I would have been super sore on Sunday otherwise.

What was most disappointing was the trade show. There seemed to be many fewer vendors than in past years and prices sucked.  I guess the upside is, I bought nothing except a bottle of detergent that is guaranteed to get smells out of workout clothes. The only other thing I wanted to buy on the spot was this massage chair:


Too bad they cost $16,000 😂😂. If I had one of these at home, I would seriously use it every day...possibly all day! My 3 minutes in it were the best 3 minutes of the whole conference!!

The most exciting news I got was that a company has finally come out with a home/retail version of electro-myo-stimulation method (EMS) training! I have tried the commercial systems from EMS and X-Body and fantasized about getting one for our home gym, but since they cost upwards of $20,000, its always just been a fantasy. At the trade show this year, there was another company, Vision Body, advertising their products. I inquired as to whether they had a retail version for home use, and they said it had just been created and they are about to launch it. Believe you me, I will be trying to get my hands one one!!

So overall I guess this year's conference was worth the pain. I got to meet Gin Miller, try her new cool STEP out, and discover that there is an EMS system I may be able to get my hands on 💪.

Monday, August 13, 2018

CozyPhones: Product Review


Listening to music can make just about anything better. Music can positively affect mood, and boost motivation and endurance. Since the advent of the Walkman, we have been coming up with more and more convenient ways to allow us to listen to our favorite tunes on the go. Thankfully, things have come a long way since the Walkman (and and even longer way since folks used to mosey down the street with a huge boombox on their shoulder!).

In this house, its Big A and Adam who could listen to music 24/7. Personally, there are times I need it quiet, but they'd be happy to have tunes on all the time. Headphones are bought in bulk since they tend to die fairly quickly. So when CozyPhones offered to let us try their product, I jumped at the chance. I knew someone in this house would love them. That someone is Big A.

They sent us one of their Lycra Headband Headphones from their active line. Its made from Lycra mesh that keeps your head cool and is perfect for use while exercising. But because of the way its designed, you can also use it in bed if you like to fall asleep listening to music.

Big A found it very comfortable and loved that it stays put. For her, she found it came down a wee big low on her forehead. But overall, she is very pleased with it. They are a more comfortable option for most people's ears than ear buds or regular headphones.

CozyPhones have a 100% money back guarantee and have:

...a flexible and durable 1.5 meter braided cord and strudy 3.5 mm stereo plug. Will not kink, twist of break under normal use. Use with all your favorite devices like Apple iPhone, iPad, iPod, Android, Samsung Galaxy, Blackberry, Nokia, LG, HTC, Google Nexus, Lenovo, Asus, Sony, Dell, Toshiba, HP, MP3, MP4 and other audio devices.

Do I recommend CozyPhones? Absolutely! They even have a line of cute animal ones just for kids and another intended exclusively for sleep.

You can purchase them online for about $30 CAD.

Disclosure: The company sent us a sample to try but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Tuesday, August 7, 2018

Jarlsberg Cheese: Product Review


Is there any food more crave worthy than cheese? Maybe ice cream, potato chips and chocolate, or so say many of my weight loss clients. But cheese certainly ranks up there!

Little A and I are the cheese eaters in this house. I keep a handle on how much I eat, but that little kid, she can eat her weight in cheese! Sometimes I tell her she must be a mouse!

As you know, I am not someone who thinks dairy is unhealthy. Its a good source of calcium and protein. I come from a long line of cheese lovers. In fact, when I was asked if I would sample and review Jarlsberg cheese, I immediately thought of my childhood, and of my dad. When I was a kid, he would eat a deli sandwich with meat and cheese and a can of Chunky soup almost every day for lunch. Often it was Jarlsberg cheese. So I likely ate it too, but I don't remember.

They generously sent me coupons for free Jarlsberg products and I picked up a wedge at our local grocery store.

Jarlsberg, is a cow's milk cheese originally from Jarlsberg, Norway, but now it is produced in Ireland and the U.S. as well. It has holes like swiss cheese but a milder flavour that I would describe as buttery, sweet and a bit nutty.

I grated some and melted in on to sandwiches I made with turkey bacon on my low-carb cauliflower biscuits. It was absolutely delicious.

Do I recommend Jarlsberg? Yes!! Great for sandwiches and cooking, and even salads (though I only like soft cheeses in salad). Thank you to the company for the samples.

Monday, July 30, 2018

Honoring Victims of the Danforth Shooting

Canadians are probably all aware of this, but for those of you International readers, I will share that there was a mass shooting here in Toronto last week. It happened on a Sunday at 1030pm, when many folks were out enjoying a warm summer evening. It also happened 2 blocks from my brother's house.

Many people were injured, some very seriously, and 2 were killed including an 18-year-old woman, and 10-year-old girl.

Not only the city, but I think the whole country is shocked, especially after the van attack that left many dead here just last April.

So when I was asked to post information about this yoga class taking place tomorrow in honor of the victims of the shooting, I was happy to oblige. If you live in the city, do think of dropping in.


A result of this incident, Canada is thinking of banning the sale of hand guns altogether. Maybe some day the country down south will do the same (yeah right!).

Monday, July 23, 2018

Watermelon, Cucumber and Smoked Tofu Salad




They say that as you get older you get worse at regulating your body temperature. This is bad news for me, because my whole life I have been too hot most of the time. Now its out of control. Basically between April and November I am a sweaty mess. And yes, I live in Canada. We get freakin' hot, humid summers folks.

I have also found that what I eat makes a big different to how I feel in different seasons. I crave hearty, warming meals in the dead of winter (I do occasionally get cold too), and cool, refreshing foods in the summer. This salad is one of my favorites because it is light, hydrating, and satisfying. I am not a big melon fan, but I do like watermelon in salads. If you don't like tofu, you can use feta cheese, which is also amazing in this salad (along with kalamata olives!), but the tofu boosts the protein even more. If you can find it, use this Soyganic brand tofu. IT IS THE BOMB:

Besides how yummy and nutritious it is, this recipe is also quick and easy to make. You have to try it!

Watermelon, Cucumber and Smoked Tofu Salad

4 cups seedless watermelon, diced
1 English cucumber, sliced
1 box smoked tofu, diced
Juice and zest of 1 lime
Chili lime salt, to taste

Toss everything together. Eat.

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.