Thursday, April 30, 2015

Do the Hoki Poki

President's Choice Blue Menu Wild Hoki skinless fillets 280g

I love fish and seafood and love knowing its good for me.  I am particularly fond of pink fish like trout and salmon, but I am a bit picky about white fish.  I just don't like the texture of some (wild cod, catfish), and find others too dry and bland (sole). 

Recently I decided to try President's Choice sustainably sourced wild hoki.  I had never had it before but was very impressed.  Its meaty and flaky, but not dry or rubbery.  I simply broiled it with lime juice and seasonings and threw it into fish tacos with a red onion, tomato and avocado relish.  Yum!  This is definitely going to be something I do again!!

I am off for a short vacation and will be back Tuesday, May 5th.  Stay well until then.

Wednesday, April 29, 2015

What I Ate Wednesday: Raise the Roof Edition

We decided to get a new roof put on the house, along with a whole slew of our neighbours.  All our homes were built at the same time, and it was due for all of us.  As nice as it will be to have a spanking new roof, it has meant a whole lot of mess and noise around here this week!

Thank goodness for yummy food.  So here is another WIAW  edition for you linked with Peas and Crayons.

I have big food news, as a matter of fact...I am no longer eating oatmeal every day for breakfast!  Yes, I kid you not.  I have developed an addiction to my Chocolate Protein Mousse, and realized it is incredibly convenient (can be eaten on the go, made the night before, nothing to do in the morning...), and satisfying (keeps me full a lot longer than oatmeal).  So on busy mornings when either the girls or I have an early commitment, I switch to the mousse.




On this day, I also enjoyed snacking on my Carrot Cake Fudge...

A delicious lunch of egg white omelet with salsa and cheese, along with roasted zucchini.

A few apples as per usual (not pictured), and one of my more creative recent experiments: okra nachos with vegan cheese sauce...

And then topped with vegan 'pulled pork'. 

It was delish!  And yes, I did eat that whole plate of food myself.  Adam's was about half the size ;)

What are you eating lately?

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

NuNaturals Stevia: Product Review


I am a big fan of stevia as a sweetener.  I discovered it way back in 1998 after my mom was diagnosed with breast cancer.  I went on a major lifestyle overhaul and started intensely researching the link between nutrition and chronic illness.  One of the things I changed was using aspartame (at the time it was the most available calorie-free alternative sweetener) and replaced it with stevia.   Back then, I could only find NOW brand liquid stevia and the powdered leaf.  I tried the leaf and ended up with bitter green powder floating in my tea...not good!!  I got used to the taste of the liquid stuff, but back then it still had quite a strong aftertaste.  There probably wasn't much incentive to refine it as few people were even aware of it.

Fast forward to present day and stevia is everywhere...heck, even the big dog food companies (Coca Cola/Cargill) are selling their own brand (Truvia)! That being said, you now have to be careful as many stevia products contain not so great additives (dextrose) that, unlike pure stevia, can raise blood sugar.

Awareness and demand for stevia has certainly increased and so has the taste and quality of available stevia products on the market.  Some of the very best are made by NuNaturals, a brand that is relatively new in Canada.

I have long been a fan of their products, but it is tougher to find them here and I have generally had to purchase them online.  I still can't find NuNaturals in stores, but there are many online stores that carry it, and since I love online shopping anyways, that's fine with me.

The company generously sent me a selection of their products to review recently, including their new line of syrups.

They are all 100% calorie free and contain no crap.  I have to tell you, I adore this stuff!!  The cocoa syrups are awesome for healthy chocolate milk (my kids are big chocolate milk fans and they said this stuff makes your milk taste just like the sugary stuff), and blended coffee beverages.  The clear syrup is a perfect way to lower the calorie and carb content of your favorite cocktails, and the packets are great for coffee and tea.  The NoCarbs Blend Powder can be used to sweeten almost anything, has a pleasant flavour and is twice as sweet as regular sugar.

They have lots of recipe ideas on their website, but I came up with my own Mocha Frappe that is just delish.  I think I'll be drinking a lot of these!!  I also can't wait to experiment more with all of these products.

Low-Cal, Sugar-Free Mocha Frappe

1 cup brewed coffee, cold
2 tsp espresso powder
10-12 ice cubes
2 tbsp. NuNaturals Cocoa Syrup, or to taste
Dash cinnamon
1 tsp konjac powder

Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until thick and creamy.  Serve immediately.  Makes 1-2 servings.

Thank you to NuNaturals for this fabulous selection of products!!

Disclosure: I was sent these products to try at no cost, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Oh my gosh, I am so craving a Mocha Frappe now, I am going to go make one ASAP...seriously!!

Monday, April 27, 2015

Trend Trash Talking

I must be officially old because most popular culture these days puzzles and/or annoys me.  I don't mean to offend anyone, but hey, this is my blog so I can express my opinions...

First off, hip hop style.  WTF is up with dudes wearing their pants so low their butts hang out?

I've asked around and no women I know find this even remotely attractive.  Just plain weird and ridiculous!

The same guys wearing their pant waists around their knees also tend to sport large baseball caps.  Sorry, but unless you are playing baseball or doing any other form of exercise, you should lose the cap!

Honey Qiulin Street trend HIPHOP Cap shirt and guard clothing men loose hip hop Street Dance baggy hat shirt Thumbnail
Whether the cap is on frontwards, backwards or sideways...just no!

Hipsters. My antipathy here is more geared at guys again...hmm, interesting.


Sorry if you're one of them but man, do they annoy me!  Part of it is I despise beards on men.  All facial hair really.  Scruff can be sexy but any more is just not my cup of tea.  Fortunately, Adam doesn't like having facial hair so he stays clean shaven.  But he's also pointed out to me that my father has always had a beard (since I was 2 years old) and my brother also frequently sports one (his whole adult life), so maybe there is some underlying Freudian thing going on here, who knows.
I am sorry, but to me, even the handsomest guy looks idiotic with facial hair.  Although I think what annoys me so much is that it is so ubiquitous now.  Its like every freakin' guy in Toronto (and perhaps elsewhere?) has to have a beard.  Can't anyone be an individual??
I generally dislike it when people attempt to conform to some 'type', regardless of what it is.  Did I do this in my 20s? I don't think so.  I don't even think I did it as a kid.  Sure, there were jocks, goths, smoking door folks, and nerds around, but I didn't fit into any of those categories and neither did most people.  I have been trying to think of any trends that I embraced whole heartedly, but honestly I can't come up with any.  I guess around 1992-93 I started wearing the current trend of long, flowery dresses with army combat boots.  My parents made fun of me non-stop but it really was what a lot of folks were wearing and I really liked it.  Looking back, it was really ridiculous.  Going back even further to the late 80s, I did go through a phase of wearing coloured mascara (green, blue, etc.), which did make a comeback recently!  Around the same time, it was cool to have super tapered jeans and I remember me and my friends sewing and safety pinning the bottom of our pants so tight we could barely get them on and off our feel...skinny jeans anyone??  Only difference was we left them super baggy around the hips.  No, I'm definitely not innocent of adopting a few nutty fashion trends, but I never embraced a whole style persona.  While wearing coloured mascara, I wasn't listening to 80s pop music, but instead was obsessed with classic rock of the 70s and early 80s like the Doors, Rolling Stones, Police, David Bowie, etc.  And I wasn't listening to much grunge in the early 90s nor sporting any plaid, flannel shirts.

I have to tell you, this hipster thing seems to be staying around a long time though...I am really looking forward to it ending, although I fear what the next trend might be.  I only hope that it doesn't create as homogeneity as we have right now.  Do we all have to be the same?  Can't we celebrate our individuality?

Friday, April 24, 2015

Camp Out

Need a little #camping #humor? Here you go...

Big A really is big!  She'll be turning 9 in a few weeks, but she seems so much older than that.  Partly its because she is big for her age, and mature, and I think partly kids are maturing faster these days or maybe that's just my perception since I am now 'old' or so my kids tell me.

Tonight Big A is leaving to go camping with her Brownie troop for the weekend.  She won't be back until Sunday!  I can't believe it.  But I am not worried, she is such a confident, independent girl I know she'll be fine.

There is nothing I would rather do less than go camping.  No air conditioning in the summer? No showers? Bugs?  Potentially dangerous wild animals? Psychopaths hiding out in the woods? A million ways to fall and injure yourself far away from a hospital? No thank you!!!

But, but, but...  I like camping!  #camping, #outdoors

Now before you call me a wimp, keep in mind that I am highly allergic to insects.  I went camping as a Brownie and Girl Guide as a kid.  I remember not minding it when we went in spring or fall when it was cooler and there were no bugs, but I recall the time we went in the summer coming home an itchy, uncomfortable misery.  I remember my sympathetic father counting 43 mosquito bites on my tiny body before plunking me in the bath and my mother covering me in calamine lotion (which never helped much).

Funny pics, humor quotes, funny jokes … For more funny pictures and hilarious humor visit

In any case, I think both girls are excited for the weekend: Big A because of her camping adventure, and Little A because she gets undivided parental attention for a few days.  Big A definitely doesn't have to worry about the lack of air conditioning at least...we're back to winter-like weather!!

Unfortunately, Sunday is going to be utter chaos.  I teach my spin class in the morning, Little A goes to Hebrew School, then Adam is taking Little A to swim lessons, then Big A returns from camping, we have to get the girls to their cousin's birthday party, and I have my book club meeting.  Its all good stuff though, so I am looking forward to it.

Have a healthy, happy weekend!

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Full: Book Review

Wow, I don't even know where to start because I have so much to say about this book!  I loved it.  I didn't expect to at all.

When I was asked to review a book about Kimper Simpkins, a former lawyer with an eating disorder turned yogi who found self-love, I agreed, but thought I would be receiving some cheesy memoir full of vague platitudes from a woman who opened up her chakras and discovered her inner beauty [insert gagging here].

This book is not that at all.

It is a memoir, of sorts, but Simpkins is as down-to-earth and authentic as it gets.  In addition, she has a very engaging writing style that actually had me captivated for the entire 291 pages!  It made all my usually miserable bus and subway commutes not only pleasurable, but fly by.  Several times I was so engrossed in the book, I almost missed my stop!

The book takes you through her journey from childhood, the confluence of factors that contributed to her development of anorexia nervosa at age 15, through to her present day life.  While she fulfilled the criteria of clinical anorexia for just one year, and managed to claw her way out of it on her own, she continues to struggle with body image and her relationship with food well into adulthood - and way beyond the point where she first transitions from practicing law to practicing yoga full-time.

Even for people who have never had an eating disorder, most will relate to the guilt, self-loathing and body shame she experiences and will take comfort in having your feelings articulated so adroitly.  The unfortunate reality is this is all too common in our culture, particularly among girls and women.  Actually, even if you cannot relate to any of this, but know or love someone who can, you will benefit from reading this book.

The reality is, many...possibly most of us, have an unhealthy relationship with food.  Partly this is because we live in a toxic food culture that encourages unhealthy behaviours, and partly because many people use it to self-medicate, just as some people use drugs, alcohol or gambling.  The problem is, you can't abstain from eating because you need food to live.

I will share some passages from Full that I found particularly compelling.

Her thoughts on how we give moral value to foods:

How many times have I heard friends say, "I've been bad today"? Not that they stole the neighbor's roses and then ran over the mail carrier with the minivan.  Not, "Oh honey, you wouldn't believe how bad I've been today! I lay in bed all morning making crank phone calls and then, then, I showed up to work in my pagamas, walked right into my boss's office, and gave her a photocopy of my butt! So bad!" 

Nope. When my friends say they've been bad, they mean they ate three, count 'em, three brownies and half a bag or chips. Or even one brownie, and they thought about eating a bag of chips.  And maybe they skipped their workout and their skinny jeans don't fit them anymore and they've given up hope of ever wearing a bikini again.  Bad.

On women comparing and competing with one another:

Everything about me, or any woman, is not reducible to out beauty or, worse yet, the numbers on the scale.  Life is not a beauty contest.  As women grow older, when we give up on asking ourselves who's thinner or prettier, do we instead ask who looks younger? How can we become friends of the heart when we're competing with one another? What are we competing for? A lifetime supply of insecurity and dissatisfaction? No one wins the prettiest or the most beautiful forever. The "most" anything is only temporary. It's like waves competing to be the tallest in the ocean; for a second you pause at the top of the crest, and a moment later you're part of the vast watery depths again.

On interacting with your body in a new way:

"Well, what if your body really were your best friend? Do you give up on your friends when they get injured or disabled?"..."Do we ditch our friends when they start to show gray hairs? Do we say, 'You suck, you can't do a cartwheel. How dare you feel pain or get wrinkles?"  If our friendships grow deeper over time and through difficulties, why shouldn't our relationship with our bodies work the same way?  What if you could cultivate an unconditional friendship with your body that endured through all your body's changes, gaining weight, losing weight, having a baby, breastfeeding, getting older, menopause, illness, disability, everything? That instead of feeling alienated from your body, these changes brought you closer to your body?"

I have to tell you, I have already shared this book with one of my clients who struggles with binge eating and low self-esteem.  But again, I think just about anyone will get something out of reading this book.  Not only is it powerful, but merely reading about Simpkins life is extremely entertaining.  She may have spent a good portion of it struggling with self-loathing, but she's done some very interesting things.  She is also obviously an incredibly smart, insightful and empathetic individual.  Geez, if I lived near her (in California), I'd want to be her friend!

The one thing I found a bit odd, is that she doesn't directly discuss her sexual orientation in the book, which feels like an important omission.  She goes from seemingly being straight in college, to identifying as a lesbian and falling in love with a woman (her now wife), in law school.  Sexual orientation is fluid, of course, but the unfortunate reality is, many people still feel shame and stigma when discovering they are anything other than heterosexual.  She glosses over this and never mentions how she feels nor how those in her life react when she comes out as being gay.  Hopefully that means it was a relatively smooth process and she received nothing but support.  Even so, it had to be somewhat difficult. And although the focus of the book is on body image, its hard to separate that entirely from sexuality.

In any case, I am giving this book a rave review.  Buy it. Read it. You won't be sorry!

Wednesday, April 22, 2015

My Baby is All Grown Up!

Its funny, if you read my posts from the beginning of this blog, its mostly whining and complaining about how difficult parenting is.  And it is.  But those first years are particularly tough.  That being said, the mantra that got me through: This too shall pass...really was true.

Now that Little A is 6 (today!) and Big A is about to turn 9, life is so much easier!  Not life ever easy?  But a whole lot easier.  People always told us the age 6-11 stage is delightful and they were right.  The kids have more independence but still love us.  We are now starting to dread the teenage years when there will be, we are anticipating, a lot more attitude and a lot fewer kisses.

But no sense worrying about the future now when things are good.  I just still can't believe that today my 'baby' is 6!  She still feels like my baby, but she really is growing up.

Happy Earthday and happy birthday to my little sweetie!

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Green Monster Pasta

I adore pesto sauce but I never even attempted making it for the kids because I figured it would never fly with them in a million years.

Behold the power of peer pressure!  Big A had dinner at her boyfriend's house last year and was served pesto pasta, which they call Green Monster Pasta, and came home raving about it.  Who knew?  Apparently its a favorite of Sam's and he is a super picky eater. 

So this is now a favorite in our house among both kids.  I am not exaggerating when I say the girls ate almost a pound of pesto pasta last night between the two of them!  I love that it is quick and easy (don't bother making the pesto from scratch if you are pressed for time), and contains a whole crap load of spinach.

Green Monster Pasta

1 lb whole grain pasta
1 container store bought basil pesto
1 350-500g box organic baby spinach
Parmesan cheese for serving

Put entire container of spinach in food processor and finely chop.  Add store bought pesto and pulse until desired consistency.  Mix desired amount of sauce with cooked pasta and serve.

Monday, April 20, 2015

All That Ends Well...

Good morning. That wasn't said with much enthusiasm.  Its Monday, its pouring rain, Little A didn't like the clothes I picked out for her, Big A didn't like how I made her oatmeal.  Just another typical day around here...

Fortunately, we did have a good weekend.  The birthday party almost went off without a hitch.  It just didn't start well, at least for Adam and I.  Chocolate Tales was supposed to show up at 2:15pm to set up for the party starting at 3pm.  The girl didn't arrive until just after 3pm!! So there were 45 minutes when Adam and I were in a total panic trying to contact them.  She claims she hit bad traffic, and while there is definitely a traffic problem in Toronto, we aren't sure we buy her story.  Anyways, it worked out because the girls had fun playing in Little A's room (no idea what the heck they were doing) while everything was getting set up.  Then when they started the chocolate making, the girls had a blast.  Like all 10 girls (including ours) just had the time of their lives.  It was really cute.s  And they made some amazing chocolate!  They also ate a ton of it, however, that didn't stop Little A, always consuming like a sumo wrestler, to inhale 4 large slices of pizza for dinner that night!

But just the stress of those 45 minutes of thinking the whole party was ruined, ruined me.  I felt like a bag of dirt yesterday.  Nevertheless we had a great time visiting with my uncle at my brother's place.

Now we have a few weeks reprieve before we host Big A's sleepover party.  Oh boy!

Have a wonderful Monday!

Friday, April 17, 2015

Spring Fling

funny spring

I am cautiously optimistic that the nice weather is here to stay.

That being said, its not outside the realm of possibility that it could turn again since its only April.  But lets stay in the moment, shall we?  And today it is a lovely, sunny 20 Celsius.  Perfect!!

Nevertheless this day started out a bit rough.  Little A woke up in a snit.  I was finally able to pull her out of it by reminding her that it is Friday and tomorrow is her birthday party.  Then as we were rushing to get out the door early so I could get Big A to track and field try outs, Little A spilled her pineapple banana smoothie ALL OVER the kitchen.  I didn't even have time to properly clean it up before we had to leave, hence after returning, I was faced with an extremely sticky floor to mop up.  Sigh!

Fortunately it should be a good weekend.  My uncle from New York is visiting, so aside from Little A's birthday bash, we will be heading to my brother's place for a family get together. 

Have a healthy, happy weekend!

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Yoga Sequencing Deck: Product Review

I never imagined loving working out at home as much as I do.

From the age of 14 until Big A was born in 2006, I was a total gym rat.  I loved gyms, I lived in gyms, I worked in gyms.

After I had kids, I realized that you can stay super fit without all the equipment and without much space.  It not only became a necessity to workout at home, it has become my preference. I can wear what I want, do what I want and I never have to wait for equipment, deal with oddballs, or waste any time on travel.

Whether you love the gym or not, sometimes you can't make it to a gym, health club or yoga studio.  Rather than give up on your routine, its useful to be flexible and figure out a way to get in a session on your own. 

The one problem I do run into with, lets say, doing fitness videos at home, is I get bored easily.  I hate doing the same thing over and over. 

For yogis, looking to develop a practice for themselves, yoga teacher, Jillian Bobowicz has developed the Yoga Sequencing Deck.  It is a pack of 100 cards that you can arrange and rearrange as desired to create endless variations of yoga sessions.

The advantage is not only you never need repeat exactly the same routine, but also you can customize it to your preference and ability level.  You also don't need a DVD player, television, device of any kind or wifi.  If you are stuck, say, in the Amazon jungle and get the urge to do yoga, you just pull out the cards and go for it!

Now I do think you need to have a solid grasp of yoga to use these, otherwise you would have no idea how to put together a logical routine that flows.  A lot of the poses are super advanced and even most intermediate level yogis would be unlikely to be able to do them.  Also, there are no tips for posture, breathing, technique, etc., so you could easily do these poses wrong and hurt yourself if you don't know what you are doing.

Overall, I think these cards are of most use to new yoga instructors who want some inspiration or guidance in putting together a practice and for experienced yogis who practice on their own and want some assistance adding variety to their routine.

Disclosure: I was sent the Yoga Sequencing Deck by the publisher, but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Fishing for Information

Nutrition information always seems to be confusing and contradictory.  This is particularly true when it comes to fish and seafood.  Its got good fats, its a great source of protein.  But wait, its full of toxins!  Some are good some are bad...but which is which? Some are good for us but bad for the environment...some are bad for us and bad for the environment...ahhh!

To clear up the confusion, the April 2015 Nutrition Action Healthletter provides a guide on your best options for popular varieties.

Tilapia - Go with Canadian, US and Ecuadorian varieties farmed in ponds.  It only has modest omega-3 content, but its low in mercury and fed a vegetarian diet.

Farmed salmon - Avoid any that is farmed in open net pens (most are).  Is high in omega-3s and low in mercury, one study has found that there has been a drop in PCB and dioxin levels in farmed salmon since the brouhaha broke in 2004 but the study was done in Norway.

Trout - Stick with trout farmed in Canada and the U.S. in land-based flow-through systems.  Trout is high in omega-3s and low in mercury and may have lower levels of PCBs and dioxins than farmed salmon because they are fed less fish meal and fish oil.

Canned tuna - Stick with troll/pole-caught albacore from B.C. or U.S. yellowfin.  Tuna has modest omega-3s but can be high in mercury so intake should be limited.

Shrimp - Choose trap-caught shrimp from B.C. or Nova Scotia, or U.S. inland farmed pacific white shrimp.  Has modest omega-3s and is low in mercury.

Catfish - Go for farmed catfish from the U.S.  This fish has modest omega-3s but is low in mercury and fed a vegetarian diet.

Wild salmon - Best choice is salmon from Alaska.  It is high in omega-3s and low in mercury.

Now these choices, which are best for people and for the environment, are also going to be the most expensive choices.  So what can you do if you can't always afford the 'best' choice, or it isn't available?  When it comes to health, experts say the benefits of eating fish and seafood outweigh the risks.  So eat up!

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

Wojo for Mojo: Product Review

Are you an energy drink junkie? Or a coffee addict, or a Diet Coke-head?

Most of us reach for some sort of pick-me-up at least once a day.  Coffee is actually very healthy, but it can do a number on your gut if you have too much, and too much caffeine in any form can be dangerous.

I probably don't need to even say it, but pop and energy drinks are not a good thing.  If they contain sugar than you are usually getting 150-300 empty calories, and the sugar-free ones are full of nasty chemicals.

Wojo believes it is the solution to your healthy pick-me-up needs.  Wojo is a line of liquid...pods, for lack of a better word, filled with a concentrated blend of vitamins and energy boosting herbs.  They contain very little to no caffeine.  There is no sugar, flavour, colours or anything else added at all.  You are meant to simply pour a pod into your beverage of choice.

Although one blend is designed to give you energy, there are also formulations for Focus, Calm, Sun (Vitamin D), Well and Mood.

I was generously sent the Energy and Calm varieties to try.  The Energy vials contain a blend of thiamin, niacin, Vitamins B6 and B12, biotin, pantothenic acid, a 'proprietary blend' of schisandra fruit extract, ginseng extract and eleuthero extract, taurine, and just 12 mg of caffeine. The Calm variety contains thiamin, niacin, B6, B12 pantothenic acid, ginseng, eleuthero and L-Theanine.  Both also contain water, vegetable glycerin, citric acid, potassium sorbate and xantham gum.

Schisandra, which I'd never heard of, is apparently an adaptogen that can help boost immunity and has been used in Traditional Chinese Medicine.  Eleuthero, from what I can gather is Siberian Ginseng.

So what do I think?  Well I don't notice any effect of either, but I am pretty immune to these things.  I can guzzle a Monster Zero drink (which I do once in a while) and won't feel a thing.  What jumped out at me is the taste.  Its horrendous.  It tastes like those large, brown multivitamin horse-pills that are sometimes difficult to swallow.  I don't know about you, but the taste and smell to me is just awful.  I dumped it first into plain water but couldn't drink it without adding a whole bunch of fruit flavoured stevia water enhancer.  I tried just dumping it down my throat like I do with oregano oil, but that was a big mistake (which almost led me to throw up).  On the website they say you can mix it into any fluid including coffee.  I wouldn't advice that!  If this is something you are interested in trying, I would use juice or a smoothie or something strongly flavoured.

So do I recommend this product?  No.  Its very expensive and I don't really see the point.  I suppose if you feel you need the vitamins, minerals and herbs they contain, but don't like swallowing pills than these may be a good option.  Otherwise, get your caffeine boost from coffee or tea, and get your vitamins, minerals and/or herbs individually in pill form.

Disclosure: I was provided with complimentary samples of this product but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, April 13, 2015

That Time of Year Again

First Birthday Tailgate? :)

Hello and happy Monday!  I hate to jinx it, but I think spring may finally be here.  We had such a beautiful weekend.

Its birthday party season in our house again.  Normally that would mean a whole bunch of stress for me since kids' birthdays have become such an event.  But this year I'm somewhat off the hook.  Little A, whose party is next Saturday, has chosen a small chocolate making party at our home and the whole thing is organized by the chocolate company, Chocolate Tales.

Big A has chosen to have a sleepover with just a few girlfriends.  It will be her first sleepover party.  Adam also took her to the Junos back in March as a special birthday treat.

As usual, we are doing gift-free parties because these kids need nothing.  They will each choose a charity to make a donation to in honour of their birthday.

Whew, I got off easy this year!

Friday, April 10, 2015

Ms Clumsy

People mistakenly think that because I am active and fit, I must be coordinated too.  Ha!  I am the Queen of Clumsy!

You know how kids are always covered in bumps and bruises and rarely remember how they got there? Well I am still this way.  Its not unusual for me suddenly realize a finger is bleeding with no knowledge of having hurt myself.  I am also famous for inflicting injury on myself in the most ridiculous ways.  I have dropped a barbell on my face while bench pressing, gotten a black eye from a telephone, and have injured virtually every part of my body while I've been sleeping.

I also seem to have a special talent for hurting the inside of my mouth.  Biting my tongue and cheek is something I do on a far too regular basis, and I have gashed the inside of my mouth numerous times from eating hard things (like crackers or sunflower seeds).  This week I managed to bruise my gum on a piece of kale.  Yes, you heard me!  Now in my defense, it was a piece of stem, and they are kind of tough, but still, Adam is probably correct that I am the only person on the planet that would do such a thing.  Not only is it unsightly (purple and hugely swollen between 2 of my incisors), but it hurts like heck.

So even though it was only a 4-day week, I'm glad its Friday.  I work tonight and tomorrow but Sunday we are going to visit an old friend of mine to see her twin baby girls...I am very excited!

So have a healthy, happy weekend and watch out for the kale.

Thursday, April 9, 2015

Be A Turkey Jerky!

If there is one food that has been proven time and again to be really unhealthy and linked with disease, its processed meat. The worst offender, in terms of ingredients, are the nitrites, which increase the risk of colon cancer.  This is why I only buy veggie dogs for my hot dog loving girls, because even though they too are processed, they at least don't contain nitrites.

Nitrites are not only added to hot dogs, but often to smoked meats and deli meats.  Its pretty tough to find these products without, even if they are organic, local, blah, blah, blah.

That's why I love McLean's products.  I've raved about their turkey bacon before, and I have also bought their kielbasa a few times.  Then I discovered they make a nitrite-free turkey jerky!  I am big on protein snacks because I find they are more satisfying.  I bought a few packs for Adam for Passover, because they are also wheat/gluten-free and soy-free. Finally a company that gets it...and it just happens to be a family-owned, Canadian business.  I'll gobble to that!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

The Art of Having it All: Book Review

Recently I was asked to review the book The Art of Having it All by Christy Whitman.  Since I would love to have it all, I was happy to oblige.

Of course, I was suspicious right from the beginning because I am not sure I really believe there is a particular strategy for having it all. Its sort of a complex philosophical question.  Like what does having it all mean anyways?

First I needed to know who this person was who has it all and things she has the formula for all of us having it too.

Whitman is an American who, originally working as a pharmaceutical sales rep, found herself divorced and overweight and looking for a change.  She moved from California to Pennsylvania and shortly after met her current husband at a leadership conference.  Currently, she resides in Montreal, with her husband and their two sons and they run a coaching/empowerment company and apparently have made millions.  Oh, and apparently she lost the extra weight and has the body of her dreams now too.

The book is supposed to inspire women to make positive changes to their lives and find health, wealth and happiness.  Let me start by saying that this book is clearly aimed at upper middle class and above North Americans.  It certainly does not apply to marginalized women living in developing countries who live in extreme poverty and/or lack basic human rights.  If she thinks it does, she's dreaming.

Whitman herself, was not doing so badly for herself when she met her husband, the love of her life.  Its not like she was a single mother living in a shelter.  Okay, so this is a book for those of us living in the first world, dealing with mostly first world problems.

Her theories are based on the Manifestation Equation, which is:

Clarity + Alignment + Action = Manifestation

Clarity - Mental clarity about what we actually want (the outcome you want to create)
Alignment - Aligning goals with our wants (connecting the feeling you seek with the outcome you are working towards)
Action - Steps taken, infused with energy and intention, to achieve your goal

Apparently this is related to the Law of Attraction, which is the basis of the book and movie, The Secret, which I never read, but remember caught the attention of Oprah, among others.  The Law of Attraction is essentially:

 "Like attracts like, and that by focusing on positive or negative thoughts, one can bring about positive or negative results. This belief is based upon the idea that people and their thoughts are both made from "pure energy", and the belief that like energy attracts like energy."

Essentially it is the theory that positive thinking brings about positive change.  I do believe this to be true, but only sometimes and only in certain situations.

My infertility clients always ask me whether they should think positively before going into an IVF cycle, to make it more likely to work.  I tell them not to bother if that is not their normal coping style.  Yep, you heard me!  Some people, myself included, prefer to be cautious in their optimism because having too high expectations leads to disappointment that is more difficult to overcome than if they had tempered their expectations.  Seriously, there is no connection with infertility, believe you me!  As I always tell them, if there were, we could simply think ourselves pregnant or 'unpregnant' (for a person experiencing an unwanted pregnancy).  I have had many optimistic clients that have a failed cycle and many pessimistic, cautious clients experience success.

Likewise, I don't think (and there is no scientific evidence to support it) that positive thinking can help you overcome something like cancer.  Positive thinking may help the patient and his/her family cope better with the diagnosis and treatment process, but it doesn't in and of itself increase survival rates.

Now in all fairness, Whitman seems to be focusing on career, love, and weight, since these are the areas where she achieved successful change in her own life.  But again, even in these areas, there are so many complex, interrelated factors.  To say positive thinking is the only thing you need to succeed is a drastic oversimplification.

I do agree, however, that how you feel about yourself affects your emotions, which affects the energy you give off (she calls these vibrations) which affects how you are received and perceived by others.  So I don't know if what she's talking about is so different from self-acceptance, something that often has to come BEFORE finding the love of our life, the dream job, and/or the weight loss, which we often convince ourselves will be the ticket to self-love and acceptance.  It doesn't work that way.  You have to develop unconditional love for yourself first.  But that is not easy.

She makes it seem like you just need to understand her success formula and put it into action, but, again, that is a huge oversimplification.  Believe me, I work with clients all the time who have little self-worth for various reasons and it is usually deeply ingrained in their psyche, any change does not usually happen overnight, it is a long, slow process.  Their brains, literally have to be re-wired because it is processing information with a negative bias, in order to do that, you have to practice, practice, practice and intentionally replace these negative thoughts with more positive ones.  It often requires training and the use of various cognitive behavioural strategies under the supervision of a therapist.  Some 'negative thinking' can be due to chemical imbalances in the brain.  It may require medication.

I also feel like there is a bit of a 'blame the victim' aspect to this law of attraction stuff.  Let me ask you this, anytime you have been feeling down or anxious about something, did it make you feel better when someone told you to, "Just think positively?"  Like many self-made people, Whitman seems to have that believe that if she can do it, than anyone else can do.  But we don't all start with the same advantages.

So perhaps she intends this book to not only be for upper-middle class and above first world women, but also those who don't have any serious psychopathology or even severely damaged self-esteem?

Now what does having it all mean?  This part really got me flummoxed.  She says when we want something, like money, for example, we are actually seeking a feeling.  It isn't just the things we can buy with it, but also the security, power and other things that go along with it.  She then says to focus on feeling those things and let that drive you towards achieving your goal.

Here's the thing, if I use myself as an example, I don't really know if I have it all.  I mean, I am blessed to have an amazing husband, who is my best friend, and two beautiful daughters, I am physically fit, and do work that I adore and is meaningful to me.  But I would certainly love to have more money.  I love our house, but a bigger, fancier one would be awesome, as would a newer, less beat-up car.  But do I need those things to be happy?  No. So is having it all about having it all, or does it mean recognizing what you do have and being happy with it?  Is it about having what you need and being satisfied or getting everything that you want? See?  Its complicated!

While I cannot say I love this book, nor do I fully buy into this whole Law of Attraction/Manifestation theory, it did get me thinking.  Rather than using it as a guide for getting EVERYTHING YOU WANT, which, really, isn't possible for anyone.  I think its usefulness may be in helping women to set specific goals and develop a strategy for achieving that goal.  Again, this is a book for people with 'first world problems', and really, much of the existential angst we experience is due to first world problems.  So there you go.  Bam!

Disclosure: The publisher sent me a complimentary copy of this book but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Passover Tabouli

Its the Tuesday after a fun-filled long weekend.  Know what that means? It means Little A is going to be a bear when I drop the girls off at school today.  She never enjoys going to school, but she's particularly resistant after having extra 'home days' as she calls them.  Wish me luck, I'm going to need it!

I hope you had a nice holiday weekend.  We had a great time and ate very well!!

You don't have to celebrate Passover to appreciate this recipe.  Its super healthy and yummy and perfect if you are trying to follow a raw, low-carb or grain-free diet.  You could make it a complete meal by adding chickpeas, if you aren't following traditional Ashkenazi Passover rules which forbid legumes as well.

This was one of the salads I brought to our sedar.

Passover Tabouli

1 cauliflower, cut into florets
1 English cucumber, seeded and diced
6 Roma tomatoes, seeded and diced
2 cups parsley, chopped
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tbls shelled hemp seeds
2 tbls extra virgin olive oil
Juice of 1 lemon
Kosher salt, to taste

Place cauliflower into food processor and pulse until finely chopped/grated.  Do in several batches, if necessary.

Scrape cauliflower into large serving bowl, add all the other ingredients and toss well.  Let sit for 30 minutes and serve.

This recipe has been shared with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop and Gluten-Free Friday.

Thursday, April 2, 2015

Passover Banana Bread Squares

Big A is, once again, attempting to keep Kosher for Passover this year.  She did amazingly well last year, cheating only once to eat pizza at Little A's birthday party.

So I have been baking up a storm this week to make some relatively healthy eats she will go for.  I am, of course, making Adam's favorites, but also a few new recipes, like this one.

These are perfect for a snack or part of breakfast.  If you want to make them dessert, you could up the ante by adding chocolate chips and/or frosting them, but they are really yummy as is.

Passover Banana Bread Squares

1 cup cashew butter (or other nut/seed butter)
1/2 cup coconut sugar
2 tbls ground flax
6 tbls water
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 mashed bananas
2 cups whole wheat matzo meal
1/2 tsp salt

Optional: 1/2 cup dried cherries or cranberries (or raisins, dates, chocolate chips, nuts, etc.)

Melt cashew butter over medium-low heat in a pot, along with sugar, flax, water, vanilla and bananas.  Once fully melted and relatively smooth, stir in matzo meal and salt.  Mixture will seem very dry and thick.  Spread evenly into a square 8x8 greased pan.  Bake at 350F for 20 minutes.  Let cool and then cut into squares.  Keep in airtight container in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.  Makes 16 squares.

Well, my parents arrive today because this year we are all going to my in-laws for our sedar.  Its nice that Passover and Easter fall together because tomorrow my mom and I have the day to cook for the dinner.

Anyways, have a good Passover or Easter, or just a long weekend if you're not celebrating either.  I'll be back on Tuesday.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Party.

Wednesday, April 1, 2015

Fools Day

It's April 1st! And you know what that means...its the first day of April! Oh yeah, and April Fools Day.

If you need some ideas for how to prank your friends or coworkers, you gotta check out this site!

Happy hump day and happy April Fools!!