Friday, August 29, 2014

Happy Labour Day Weekend

Be sure to run when you get off.

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!!

Thursday, August 28, 2014

PNF Stretching

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 5 years of varying degrees of chronic pain and stiffness in my lower body, I feel better than ever. I love that the routines are 20 minutes, and often use movements I hardly do (rotation of femur within the hip socket) and target areas I tend to neglect (hands and feet!).

Wednesday, August 27, 2014

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 necessary)
5. Having no children before age 30 (but don't have children before you're ready...)
6. Never breast feeding (breast feed as long as you can!)
7. High consumption of red meat (plant-based foods = good)
8. Low Vitamin D levels (most folks should be supplementing)

Here are factors that are not proven to increase risk:

1. Environmental toxins like BPA (but good to avoid them anyways)
2. Soy consumption
3. Abortions
4. Antiperspirants
5. Breast implants
6. Underwire bras
7. Hair dye

So don't think that you may be destined to get breast cancer and that there is nothing you can do.  There is!  The same things I always recommend: exercise regularly, maintain a healthy weight, eat a mostly plant-based diet, and minimize alcohol consumption.

What scares the begeezus out of me is that I had a CT scan years ago because of my chronic sinus headaches.  But there is nothing I can do about that now except do everything in my power to keep my risk low through other modifiable factors.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

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 suggesting different herbal essential oils for bathing.  At the back of the book there is a handy guide to herbs with photos of each one, description, uses, etc. 

The first thing I don't like is that a lot of these potions have a lot of sugar and/or vodka in them.  Not my first choice for so-called 'healing' agents.  Many of these recipes are also silly.  An anti-colic tea made from aniseed, fennel, caraway and coriander seeds that you let your child sip??  My daughter had colic from age 3 weeks to 3 can't make an infant that young sip anything, let alone warm tea!!

There are also some fairly ordinary food recipes in here that seem out of place in an herbal home remedy guide.

Some of these remedies are backed by science - like using fenugreek seeds to promote lactation - but many are not.  I was particularly interested in the virility tea for men, since I work in the infertility field.  Unfortunately, I researched all the ingredients (organic parsnip, angelica root, lovage root, stinging nettle root, and speedwell) and there are no studies showing any evidence of efficacy except for one that suggests lovage (because of its high quercetin content) may help reverse damage to sperm caused by Agent Orange.  Um, not sure how many couple trying to conceive for whom that would be relevant...

Anyways, I might crack open this book from time-to-time, but I don't expect it will be getting dog-eared.  Nevertheless, if you are more into alternative therapies than I am, you might want to have this book on hand to guide you on how to use various herbs.

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

Monday, August 25, 2014

Some Assembly Required

Love this Noah Cartoon
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 cramped to the point that I had to stop altogether.  The tendonitis I have had on and off in one of my fingers is on again and I still have a knot in my forearm. 

Despite my efforts, Adam was completely unimpressed with my work.  Although the instructions said NOT to use power tools, Adam went and borrowed our neighbour's electric drill and saved the day.  We now have 2 beautiful new couches.  They'll take some getting used to though.  They are much firmer than the old ones and a bit higher off the ground, so the only thing I don't like is that my feet don't reach the ground.  Just one of the many implications of being vertically challenged.

Sunday I taught spin at the JCC and then went for a 1 hour power walk with one of my buds doing the walk with me...which is in only a few weeks!!!  Still time to make a donation :)

Wednesday we are having a little kick-off party at the Duke of York pub...which just happens to be the place Adam and I had our engagement party 13 years ago.  The only problem is we haven't found a sitter yet for the kids...I am considering just bringing them with...its only 6-9pm, so I think they'll survive if they don't die of boredom.

Have a lovely Monday!

Friday, August 22, 2014

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 arranging delivery of the new sofas, however, I was struck with the reality that we had to somehow get rid of the old ones.  I called Habitat for Humanity, but they said they had a backlog of sofas already. Fortunately, they suggested I call the Furniture Bank, a charitable organization that takes away your gently used furniture for a fee, but then gives you a charitable tax receipt in return.  Sweet!  The courteous movers picked them up this morning and were fast and careful.  I was very pleased since we used the very expensive 1-800-GOT-JUNK before and they are super expensive and left mud tracked in all over the house...and did nothing after I complained about that.

We also ordered a lovely new front door which will hopefully be installed in a few weeks.  We have been living with the very crappy builders' one that came with the home.  The new one is going to give this place oodles more curb appeal.  Unfortunately, I quickly realized that I better clean up other parts of our home's exterior to match the elegance of our new door.  I went to the hardware store this week and bought paint for our garage door and the bench on our front porch and, at some point, will gather up the courage to paint this stuff myself.  Our house numbers and mailbox will be replaced at some point too, but from screwing this up in the past, I know I'll have to call our handyman to drill the new ones into place.

There are some less exciting things we will have to do at some point...since there is always work that can be done on a house!  But our finances limit things for now.  We bought new toilets a few years ago and the one in our upstairs bathroom is an absolute lemon.  We have had nothing but problems with it.  In the basement, the gross, old carpet is really worn in the area where Adam and I workout.  I am certain it is pretty mildew-y and probably really unhealthy to keep much longer.  I have fantasies of getting the rubber flooring you see at most gyms down there but will have to look into whether or not this is actually feasible.

Another quiet weekend ahead.  I work tomorrow but hopefully we can fit in some fun family activities.  Have a healthy, happy weekend my friends.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

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.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Special Forces Fitness Training: Book Review

Special Forces Fitness Training Gym-Free Workouts to Build Muscle and Get in Elite Shape

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 towards everybody.
Hathaway starts by giving some background on the Special Forces and why they are required to be so fit for their jobs.  He explains what you need for these workouts and gives various options, from basic weight equipment to stuff you probably have lying around your house.  In the second part of the book he describes how to use the book and provides a vast array of training programs that are each adapted to beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
In the third section of the book, there are photos and descriptions of each exercise...and there are a whole lot of exercises!  They are organized into sections: warm-up, balance and stability, core, push-up, strength, partner, agility, speed and plyometrics, martial arts cardio, and flexibility.
The only concern I have is that there are so many exercises that a real newbie may feel overwhelmed and will likely have real difficulty remembering them when trying to follow one of the set programs.  Also, if like me you need to see movement to get it (I can't really 'get' it from reading a description), than you may have trouble learning to execute the exercises properly.  But that's the drawback of learning physical skills from a book.  If you don't have that problem, and you like the idea of training like the Special Forces, than you might want to check out this book.  The workouts require almost no equipment and little space.  Just don't attempt these workouts wearing army boots like the guy in the book!
Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

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' cool is that?

As if it couldn't even get any better, these are super easy and quick to make.  Just throw everything into your blender or food processor.  I did them in my Blendtec.  If you don't have a high powered blender, just make sure you puree until completely smooth.

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

540 ml can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
2 flax eggs (2 tbls flax meal + 6 tbls very hot water, let sit until thickened)
2 ripe bananas
1 cup stevia baking blend (that measures 1:1 with sugar) or coconut sugar*
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup stevia-sweetened dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place all ingredients except chips in blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Make sure chickpeas are completely pureed.  Stir in chips by hand.  Scrape batter into parchment-lined 8x8 pan and bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes.  Use parchment to remove from pan.  Cut into 16 even squares.  Keep at room temperature for 2-3 days, refrigerate for up to 6 days or freeze.

*Coconut sugar will give these a richer, more butterscotch-like flavour, but they will be higher in calories than if you use stevia.

This recipe was submitted to this week's Gluten-Free Friday Link Up and Urban Naturale's Blog Hop.

Monday, August 18, 2014

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 swim, but we didn't have our bathing suits.  In the end, we just got a snack at the JCC cafĂ© and then took the subway home.  Universe 1, Mom 0.  I definitely didn't win any points with the girls that day!

On Sunday after my spinning class, Adam was playing Monopoly with the girls.  Little A, who is uber-competitive, stood up on her chair - probably to gloat about the fact that she was winning - when she lost her balance, fell, and smacked her chin full force on the table.  Adam yelled louder than she did because he thought she was going to be seriously hurt.  Luckily she wasn't sticking her tongue out at the time, and she just got some bruising on her neck and chin. 

At the very least I hope she's learned a lesson.  We are always telling her to sit on her bum, that chairs are for sitting on, but she is not very good at listening, particularly when it comes to her physical safety.  Clearly she is trying to send both Adam and I to an early grave!

In other game news, Big A, who is a member of her school's chess club, decided to try and teach Little A to play yesterday.  It was very sweet to listen to the interaction, particularly when Little A, as per usual, began getting upset when she was losing, so Big A manipulated things so that Little A won in the end.  Big A is pretty good about losing, but Little A, man, she is a sore loser and an obnoxious winner.  We're going to have to work on that...

Truthfully, its kind of bizarre how scared most of us are of failure...myself included.  It is often the fear of failure that holds us back from so many things.  That being said, sometimes we also fear success, and that too can keep us stagnant.  What would you do if you could let go of your fears?

Friday, August 15, 2014

What a Wacky Week!

This has been a surreal week.  Robin Williams' suicide seems to have touched a nerve for many folks.  The good thing to come out of it is people are talking about mental illness.  In fact, I was amazed when the mom of one of Big A's school chums confessed her struggle with depression on Facebook after the news of Williams was released.  So brave!  I wish more people felt they could do so!

The weather has been positively fall-like, which I don't mind at all, but has many people grumbling.  It is very strange to have such cool temps in August, I admit.  But they are supposed to be back up to normal this weekend.

I am fully addicted to Essentrics!  I have shelved yoga for the time being, and this is now my physical therapy.  LOVE IT!  The sessions are shorter than yoga but really have been effective even just a week in to my practice.  My hamstrings feel better, and I have no foot pain!!  But I have to giggle that me, a reformed cardio junkie, is now doing, and loving, something so slow-paced and gentle.  Don't get me wrong, some of the exercises are really challenging, but still, my approach to exercise has changed so much over time, which I think is inevitable for most of us as we get older.  Though, I think I am actually much fitter and stronger now than I have ever been, so its not bad news.

I have also eaten way more chocolate-chip blondies than should be humanely possible this week.  I think its a combination of my already-nutso appetite sparked by the additional activity from CAN FIT PRO weekend, as well as my determination to perfect a recipe I've been working on.  Don't worry, I'll share it soon!

After the craziness of last weekend, I am looking forward to a quiet one.  I work tonight and tomorrow, Adam also has to work tomorrow and he has his book club on Sunday, but there should be time for some fun family activities.  After I get home from work tomorrow, I am going to take the girls to Snakes and Lattes, while Adam heads to his office, for some good old fashioned board game fun.  I have been wanting to check this place out for ages.

Have a happy healthy weekend!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

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 40 minutes until top is golden.  Eat warm or cold, plain or with yogurt.  Keep refrigerated up to 5 days.

I have shared this recipe with Gluten-Free Friday on Vegetarian Mamma and Saturday Night Fever Link Up.

Wednesday, August 13, 2014

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.  Two sets of orthotics, 2 chiropodists, 2 physiotherapists, and a podiatrist, and I am still no closer to having answers.  It has me very worried for my charity walk in September.  I don't think 32km of walking will even be a cardio challenge for me, but its my feet I worry about!!

So because of all my aches and pains, I eagerly signed up for an Essentrics seminar at CAN FIT PRO this year.  It was described as being a stretching and strengthening program that can help heal injury and eliminate pain.  A lot of the movement also targets hips and feet. Where do I sign up?

I am so glad I did it!  I was pretty instantly smitten.  I think the best way to describe it is as a combination of Pilates and Tai Chi.  Its dynamic stretching and body weight strengthening with some slow, flowing movement.  I love it! 

The originator, Miranda Esmonde-White, is a former dancer with the National Ballet of Canada.  The  program have been adopted by various elite athletes and teams, including the Montreal Canadians, apparently taking them from being the most injured team in the NHL to the least injured team.

Here is some info from their website:

ESSENTRICS is on a mission to re-establish the true meaning of fitness and to help people experience what it feels like to be healthy and happy in their bodies. We believe that fitness should not be measured with an index, in miles, in muscle mass or in speed, rather, it should be measured in one’s ability to move freely, live actively and without pain. The mission of the ESSENTRICS Workout is to create a balanced body whereby the strength in your muscles doesn't inhibit your movement, and your mobility is enhanced by your strength. ESSENTRICS dynamically combines strengthening and stretching to develop a strong toned body with the complete ability of moving each joint and muscle freely and with full range of motion.

This is a program that enables your body to move fluidly and effortlessly in your daily life and all your activities; ESSENTRICS offers a fundamental level of true fitness. With thousands of testimonials from the programs devotees of all ages and fitness levels, professional athletes, Olympians, doctors and physiotherapists, we are confident that ESSENTRICS will target what you need, unlock what is tight, strengthen what is weak and tone what needs shaping.

ESSENTRICS is a unique program that rapidly changes the shape of your body through a dynamic and fluid combination of strengthening and stretching. This workout develops lean, strong and flexible muscles with immediate changes to your posture. ESSENTRICS is even smarter than that; it goes beyond changing just the look of your body, it also cares about how you feel in your body. With a diverse music playlist accompanying each routine, this equipment free workout leaves you feeling energized, positive and healthy.
How does it work?
ESSENTRICS strengthens and stretches every muscle in the body eccentrically, rebalancing the muscular structure in continuous rotational movements. It incorporates various techniques including PNF and isotonic movement while systematically working every joint in the body. The basis of the workout is a dynamic combination of strength and flexibility exercises, designed to pull apart the joints by elongating the muscles and challenging them in the lengthened position. This full-body technique works through the muscle chains, liberating and empowering the muscles, relieving them from tension in the process. While the technique is original in itself, it has been influenced by several disciplines. ESSENTRICS draws on the flowing movements of tai-chi which create health and balance, the strengthening theories behind ballet which create long, lean, flexible muscles and the healing principles of physiotherapy which create a pain free body.

And it really does feel good. I bought the entire series of episodes from their 2012 TV season on recommendation from the salesperson at the CAN FIT PRO tradeshow:

I've done a few 30 minute sessions so far and I really do feel better.  My muscles usually feel a bit raw after yoga from the deep, static stretching, but they really do feel stronger after doing Essentrics.  No hamstring pain but it still gets rid of any stiffness!

I am trying not to convince myself this will heal my hanstrings but I am feeling hopeful.  Think this might be right for you?  You can purchase their DVDs online.

Tuesday, August 12, 2014

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. 

nexersys commercial model

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. 
 Image 1
Not sure why this stuff works, but I find it does help prevent injury and post-exercise soreness.  I picked up 2 rolls this time.  They have tons of colours and patterns, but I'm boring and just bought black.

I also discovered this new type of exercise called Essentrics.  I'd describe it as a hybrid of Pilates and Tai Chi.

My friends, I am smitten!  I will be writing a whole post about this at some point soon.

And what else...

CrossFit is still hot.  Frankly I have too many concerns about the safety of it, but heck, I gotta tell you those CrossFit folks certainly do rock the best bodies.  That tells you something about HIIT training and heavy lifting, if fat loss is your goal!

Barre classes are hot too.  I think they are fun, but not something I would invest my time in.

I kept laughing at myself as I realized that while I used to go to the conference looking for new choreography, exercise ideas and music, I now go to get new training ideas for myself and my clients, but with more of a focus on injury prevention, healing and recovery.  Guess that shows my age!  But I am not the only one apparently as there are an increasing number of companies showcasing these types of products and services.

So there you have it, some of the gems I discovered.  I'll get up a more detailed post about Essentrics at some point soon.

Monday, August 11, 2014

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 mushrooms in a bowl and cover with boiling water.  Let sit for 10 minutes and then drain.  Combine edamame and mushrooms in a serving bowl with cucumber.  Pour dressing ingredients over top and toss well.

I have entered this recipe into the November 2014's No Croutons Required link up.

Friday, August 8, 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?

Thursday, August 7, 2014

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

by Jonas Jonasson
The 100-Year-Old Man Who Climbed Out The Window And Disappeared
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
Heart and Soul is a charming novel set in a hospital.  This is another easy read that I found very entertaining, with some very likeable characters.

19 Minutes

by Jodie Picoult
This is an interesting story inspired by the Columbine Massacre.  Obviously not a happy, funny story either, but a pretty easy read none-the-less, with some unexpected twists and turns.

So shut off your devices and get reading!!

Wednesday, August 6, 2014

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. 


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


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 lemon juice, oil, garlic and seasonings.  Spread in a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 400 for 30-40 minutes until golden.  Saute onion and sausage with cider vinegar until sausage is cooked and onion has softened.  Toss kale in a large bowl with desired amount of dressing.  Add potatoes and sausage/onion mixture.  Toss well and serve.  Serve warm/room temperature.

Tuesday, August 5, 2014

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.  And major attention to detail!  He is a perfectionist and spend over 2 hours doing our hair!  Admittedly, Little A started getting impatient and he doesn't have any reading material or toys for kids.  But we were all thrilled with the results of our new dos and Troy was really great with the girls.

Sunday we took the girls to Woodbine beach and they had an absolute blast playing in the sand and water...even though the water was pretty cold!

On the holiday Monday (yesterday), we checked out Andrew's Scenic Acres for some berry picking.  We picked mostly blueberries...5 lbs worth!  To be honest, I didn't even know you could pick blueberries within easy driving distance of Toronto.  I thought they were mostly grown in the Niagara region (as well as B.C., and P.E.I. out of province).  I was only aware of strawberry, apple and corn picking at local farms.  Turns out there are farms like this one where you can pick pretty much anything!!  After we finishing our berry picking, the girls got pony rides.

Yesterday afternoon I did a 10km walk with my team in preparation for our charity walk in September.  We are expecting to be a wee bit sore after walking 32km!  Its not a race, but its a long time to be on your feet...on pavement!

Oh well, all good things must come to an end, and so we begin another week.  Have a lovely Tuesday!

Friday, August 1, 2014

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 'bad'.

Bad words, to me, are words that are racist, homophobic, sexist or otherwise offensive to a particular group.  If something like that ever came out of their mouths, well then, I can tell you, there would be reckoning!

Well, here we are at another summer long weekend.  And, it also happens to be Adam's birthday today!  We are going to my in-laws for dinner tonight.  Tomorrow I work and then the girls and I are getting much needed haircuts.  Sunday and Monday we will hopefully do some fun activities with the girls and Monday late afternoon I am doing a training walk with my team for our fundraiser.  I am just starting to realize just how far 32km is...even to walk!!  I am just praying I don't injure myself given all the problems I have with my feet...I kind of wish we could ride a bicycle instead.

I hope you have a lovely weekend and I'll be back on Tuesday.