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Showing posts from August, 2014

Happy Labour Day Weekend

Happy Friday! Its a 4 day weekend for us here since the girls' daycare is always closed the last Friday of August.  So as per our family tradition, we're taking the girls, along with Big A's boyfriend, to the Ex. 

I am glad that it is not supposed to be too hot today as that will make it a whole lot more tolerable for me, but hopefully the crowds won't be too bad.  I am grateful that the girls are old enough that Adam and I don't have to go on the rides with them.  My days of roller coasters are long gone, unless I was to hurl all over the place.

Tonight we have dinner with Adam's folks and then a quiet but busy weekend is ahead as we plan for school.  I can't believe it starts next week!  I don't work tomorrow, so its truly a long weekend, which is nice.

Have a happy, healthy holiday!!

PNF Stretching

Image source I have big news folks: I've broken up with yoga!  Possibly permanently!

The results I have been getting from doing Essentrics are no short of miraculous.  But its no miracle, its actually based on science that's been around for a long time.  One of the fundamental components of this exercise program is PNF stretching, or proprioceptive neuromuscular facilitation stretching.  But don't let the fancy name scare you, its actually quite simple.  Basically, it involves  a shortening contraction of the opposing muscle followed by an isometric contraction of the target muscle. So in other words, you activate  or shorten the target muscle before lengthening it in order to increase range of motion and flexibility.  It has been used as a performance enhancing therapy and rehabilitative technique for a long time already.  Well, it seems this type of dynamic movement is far more helpful for me than deep static stretching such as those you perform in yoga.  After more than…

The Latest on Breast Health

Given that 1-in-9 women in North America get breast cancer, I am always shocked how little most know about the risk factors.  In Canada, 24,4000 women are diagnosed with breast cancer each year, and about 5,000 die from the disease.

While breast cancer does not have as clear cut a cause as, say, lung cancer, most breast cancers ARE PREVENTABLE!

The Centre for Science in the Public Interest did a great article in their Nutrition Action Newsletter about this recently.  Now, none of their findings are news to me, the data has been out there for a while, but perhaps it will clear up any confusion you might have, thanks to the myths and misunderstandings floating around out there.

Here are controllable risk factors:

1. Post-menopausal weight gain (even 5-10 lbs!)
2. Alcohol consumption (just 3-4 drinks per week increases risk by 17%!)
3. Inactivity (exercise can lower risk by up to 25%!)
4. Minimize radiation from CT scans if possible (if prescribed by your doctor, make sure its absolutely…

The Essential Guide to Home Herbal Remedies: Book Review

I was very excited to be sent the The Essential Guide to Home Herbal Remedies to review.

Admittedly, I am hot a huge herbal remedy user, but I do use some already.  I spray the girls' hair regularly with water mixed with tea tree oil and lavender oil to keep lice away.  I use oregano oil to treat a sore throat (I haven't found it prevents colds or flues though), and I use tea tree oil for bug bites.  I am in love with making an Epsom salt and lavender bath to soothe my muscles when they are sore.  I was hoping I would pick up a few more ideas for using these types of products.

Unfortunately, I found this book very disappointing.  I don't see myself using very many of these recipes. 

I will start with what I do like.  In the first section, there is a table of vinegars (and I am a huge lover of vinegars!) and their various health benefits.  Unfortunately, many are varieties I have never seen (pineapple vinegar? honey vinegar? whey vinegar?).  There is also a table suggesti…

Some Assembly Required

Oh my goodness, I cannot believe we are nearing the end of August already!  Have you noticed I've hardly complained about the weather lately?  This has been the best summer weather-wise I can remember...ever!  No heat alerts.  No smog. Just loveliness.  All you folks whining that it hasn't been hot enough...suck it.  And just for you, tomorrow is supposed to be 30 Celsius.  Blech!

Nothing too exciting happened this weekend except for our new couches arriving, but that was accompanied with a huge nuisance: they required some assembly.  Couches.  Really?  We had to put together the legs and bases and attach them to the bottom of the couches. 

The guy at Structube assured me it was easy as pie.  Well I guess he didn't realize I hate pie!

The instructions said to use a screwdriver only.  While Adam took the girls swimming at the JCC on Saturday afternoon, I tried to assemble everything.  By the time they got home I had a broken screwdriver, a missing screw and my arm had cra…

Out with the Old, In with the New

Well, there have been some major changes around here...and more are coming! 

No, we are not welcoming any new members into this house. Ever. Again.

Nor are we moving to a new house.

But we are making some much needed changes and improvements.

First, we finally got some lovely new curtains in our bedroom.  We had Blinds to Go make black out shades for us when we moved in, but they did a super crappy job and didn't fit the windows properly.  Never using them again!  So we got some blackout drapes to go overtop.  I am not kidding you when I say I started sleeping better almost immediately.  Believe me, making your sleeping space as dark as possible at night is very important!

We also purchased new couches for our living room!  Until now, we have been using the leather ones Adam's folks generously gave us when we moved in here.  They are probably close to 30 years old and have seen better days at this point.  I have 2 lovely new ones coming from Structube this weekend.

After arr…

Olive Oil Lemon Loaf (Sugar-Free & Vegan)

This is lusciously moist and lemony. For real lemon lovers only!  Oh, it also happens to be sugar-free and vegan. This is great for breakfast or a snack, either plain or with some (sugar-free) blueberry jam.

Olive Oil Lemon Loaf (Sugar-Free & Vegan)

2 whole lemons, chopped and seeded
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup non-dairy milk (plain, unsweetened)
2 flax eggs
1 cup granulated stevia or erythritol
2 tsp pure lemon extract

2 cups whole spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Puree lemons in blender until smooth.  Pour into mixing bowl.  Add all other wet ingredients and sweetener, and whisk together. 

Stir dry ingredients together and add to wet.  Mix just until combined.  Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  cool before removing from pan.

This recipe has been brought to Urban Naturale's Pot-Luck Link Up Party.

Special Forces Fitness Training: Book Review

Nowadays there is no shortage of variety in fitness.  Back in the 80s it was aerobics.  Leotards.  Leg warmers.  Sweatbands.
Thankfully, we now have many more options and better fashion sense. I am amazed by how much my own fitness routine has changed.  Back when I first joined a gym...which would have been in 9th grade in 1989, all I did was aerobics classes.  It wasn't even until a few years later that step aerobics was introduced. Now, not only do I prefer strength training, HIIT, and Muai Thai, but I also prefer to workout at home.  No wasted time getting there and back, no worries about having to look presentable, no need to wait for equipment.  Win win win.  If you have similar preferences to me, than you may really like Special Forces Fitness Training by Augusta Dejuan Hathaway.  It certainly may appeal to guys looking for a 'manly' workout, but I dismiss that characterization as silly.  This is just as much for women as men.  Fortunately, the workouts are geared …

Chocolate Chip Banana Blondies (Vegan, Gluten-Free & Sugar-Free!)

So last week I got a bee in my bonnet about making blondies using chickpeas.  My Black Whole Brownies were such a huge hit with everyone, I wanted to create a blondie using some legumes too.

The first batch, which I ate entirely myself (they weren't good enough to share, he he), I made with dates.  They were good, but the date flavour was too overpowering. Oddly, I used to absolutely adore dates, but I'm not loving them as much these days.  I am not sure why.

For this batch, I added bananas and the result was amazing.  Even my picky little munchkins both loved these.  Again, I am surprised that I liked these so much as, in general, I am not a huge fan of bananas.  But they work here.

What I love so much about cooking, is that it is such a creative process.  I love experimenting.  I also love how cool it is to discover new (and healthier) ways of making something.  Like these babies have no flour/grains, no sugar, and no butter/oil but look and taste like they do.  How freakin…

Game Over

Good Monday morning!  Can you believe its the middle of August already?

We had a lovely, quiet weekend, albeit with some minor disappointments, booboos and battles.

My plans to take the girls to Snakes and Lattes for a fun afternoon of board games was a total flop.  Little did we know that on Saturdays, particularly rainy Saturdays, there is generally a minimum 2 hour wait list...and they don't take reservations. 

I ended up with 2 very sulky children trying to find something to do in the pouring rain.  There isn't much of interest to them in that area though, and Adam took the car to his office, so we were on foot.  A trip to the dollar store so Little A could buy sugarless gum with her allowance money ended with a major hissy fit because they didn't have the kind she wanted.  A trip to a second-hand bookstore ended with Little A getting 2 books and Big A sulking because she didn't want any books...she wanted to play games! 

We were near the JCC where they love to …

Summer Berry Crumble

Having picked 5 lbs of blueberries (with a few raspberries mixed in for good measure) when we went to the farm a few weeks ago, we needed to get cookin' ASAP.  First up was this berry crumble.  So, so, so yummy!! It disappeared very quickly.

My version uses much less sugar and fat than many recipes out there and still tastes decadent and delicious.  The amount of sweetener you add to the berries depends on how sweet your berries are, so really its up to you.

Summer Berry Crumble

2 litres berries (any), about 6 cups
1/4 cup granulated stevia (or to taste)
1 tsp konjac flour or 1 tbls arrowroot starch
1 cup oats
2 tbls spelt, kamut or all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 tbls chia seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup butter, Earth Balance or coconut oil, softened

Toss berries with stevia and starch and pour into greased oven safe dish.  Combine dry ingredients and then blend in butter or substitute with a fork.  Pour oat mixture over top of berries and bake at 375F for about 4…

Essentrics: The Essential Addition to My Workouts

I haven't mentioned my hamstring tendonitis is a long time because I've found a way to 'manage' it.  But its far from healed.  I've come to accept it could be a life-long thing that will have better and worse periods.

For the most part, if I roll my acupressure ball under my thighs while sitting at my desk, avoid sitting for too many hours, use my foam roller and do at least 2 yoga sessions a week, I keep it under control.  But take away that routine and boom, the pain gets bad.  When I went to my grandmother's funeral in NYC, all the extra sitting I did (in the airplane, limo to and from the cemetery, etc.) left me in pain for a few days.  Its very frustrating.

Lately I've been (gasp!) getting tired of yoga.  What can I say, I get bored easily!  I have been looking for an alternative type of therapeutic movement and particularly for one that can also help with foot pain.  My feet suck.  Ever since I was pregnant with Little A they have given me problems. …

Fabulous Fitness Finds

I have to start off my post today by saying what a loss it is that Robin Williams passed away yesterday.  I have loved him since I was a kid and have always thought he was one of the funniest, most brilliant minds.

As promised, here is a run down of some of the cool stuff I saw at CAN FIT PRO this year.

First off is this Nexersys, an awesome computerized boxing machine. 


As a new devotee to MMA style training, my fantasy is to have one of these one day.  Its basically like having personalized DVD workouts, but with pads that give you something to punch and kick for a super-powered workout.  Love it!!

I also discovered Medistik Dual Hot + Cold for sore muscle relief.

I find that cooling gel crap you get at any pharmacy as pretty useless, but this stuff really works.  I am super impressed!

And RockTape, which I actually discovered at last year's conference. 

Not sure why this stuff works, but I find it does help prevent injury and post-exercise soreness.  I picked up 2 rolls this …

Edamame, Cucumber and Shitaki Mushroom Salad

I haven't had time to write up a post about all my fabulous fitness finds from the conference, so I thought I'd give you some helpful info about the benefits of mushrooms and a super tasty recipe today.

Did you know that mushrooms are really a superfood with a ton of health benefits?  I didn't realize their nutritional value until recently.  I think its fabulous because I love mushrooms, especially shitaki mushrooms like the ones in this dish. 

This salad is so delicious, and also comes with the added bonus of being healthy and super quick and easy.  I brought it to Adam's birthday dinner at my in-laws and wasn't sure how it would go over, but it was a huge hit.


Edamame, Cucumber and Shitaki Mushroom Salad

1 English cucumber cut in half lengthwise, and then thinly sliced
1 cup shelled edamame
1oz dried shitaki mushrooms, sliced, or crumbled

1 tsp toasted sesame oil
1 tbls low sodium soy/tamari/coconut aminos
2 tbls unseasoned rice vinegar

Place edamame and mushroom…

CAN-FIT-PRO 2014

Today is the start of the 2014 CAN-FIT-PRO conference.  I am so excited!  Well, not really.  But a bit excited.  The tradeshow is always fun and I have signed up for some interesting sounding spin, BOSU, and Barre sessions.  But my parents are visiting this weekend so I will barely get any time to see them. Oh well, I did get to see them some already as they arrived yesterday, and Sunday we have some of my oldest friends in the world - including Em, in from Vancouver - coming with their families for dinner.  That should be fun!

What are you up to this weekend?

Midsummer Reading List

You know how much I love books!  Here are some gems I've read recently that I highly recommend. I recently realized that reading is my meditation.  Lying on the ground doing nothing does not permit me to clear my mind, but getting engrossed in a great novel does. Its how I unwind at night and relax before falling asleep. The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared Product Details by Jonas Jonasson This book is so funny and unique, I just loved it!


The Invention of Wings by Sue Monk Kidd

The Invention of Wings is an amazing historical novel that portrays the horrors of slavery in the U.S. during the 1800s.  Definitely NOT a funny, light book, but a fantastic read. Heart & Soul by Maeve Binchy

Caldo Verde Salad

Caldo Verde is a pretty hardy Portuguese soup that is great on a cold winter's night.  While it hasn't been the hottest summer (I am thrilled about that!), it certainly isn't hot soup weather.  But I found a way to combine the basic elements (kale, chorizo, potatoes) into a warm salad that is suitable for hot weather, but also really hardy and satisfying.  I used some veggie chorizo I found which was pretty good...and very spicy!  But use whatever you want. 

Salad

1/2 lb chorizo turkey or veggie sausage
1 red onion, thinly sliced
2 tbls cider vinegar

4 small white waxy potatoes, cubed
2 tbls lemon juice
1/2 tsp olive oil
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

1 bunch kale, washed, dried and chopped

Dressing

1 clove garlic
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
1/4 cup reduced fat vegan mayo
1/4 cup white wine vinegar
2 tbls Dijon mustard
Salt and pepper, to taste

For the dressing, place all ingredients in a blender and puree until smooth.

For the salad, toss potatoes with l…

Long-Weekend Activities in the GTA

If you think its hard to raise children in a big city, well move to Toronto.  This city has its issues (traffic, traffic, traffic, shitty transit system, disgrace of a mayor...), but there are so many things to do with the family, its really awesome.

Here's a snapshot of what we were up to this past long weekend.

Saturday the girls and I got a much needed haircut at a new place.  I have to give a big shout out to Troy at Republic of Hair.  My usual hair dresser is away for August, so I was scrabbling to find somewhere we could all go.  This place is right near the JCC, in our favorite 'hood and when I checked the prices on the website, they were beyond reasonable.  He charges $25 for kids, which is the same as those crappy kids hair salons, and $45 for adults, which is about half of what most salons in Toronto cost.  When I called to book, he was so nice, it sealed the deal.  Although the space itself is not fancy or luxurious, he uses great hair products and gives great cuts.…

Bad Words

On the way to daycare one day this week, Little A told me she knew what the baddest word is.  I asked her to tell me and she said, "The F word."  I wanted to know if she really knew what that was so I asked her to say it...well, lets just say she knows it.

Big A said she knows a word worse than the F word, one that some boy told her at school, but she wouldn't tell me what it is.

Then Little A said that the worst word ever is actually the P word.  What's the P word, you ask?  Party Pooper.  Oh man, I love my kids!!

Does it bother me that they know swear words?  Not in the least.  Frankly, I am a big curser.  I always have been.  My brother used to tell me I sounded like a drunken sailor.  But honestly, I don't mind if my kids use the S or F words like I do, because they dropped something on their toe, etc.  I would have a problem with them telling someone to F-off, of course, because that's just plain rude.  But I don't really see these words as 'ba…