Tuesday, September 2, 2014

Successes and Lessons Learned


Is it seriously the first day of school?  How did this happen?  The summer flew by!  I don't usually feel that way.  Usually the heat and humidity make if feel like it is dragging, to me.  But with the delightful weather this year, I am really sad to see it go...even if this past weekend was really stinking hot and sticky!

This weekend was filled with successes and, um, learning opportunities.

What was successful:

Trip to the Ex - We took the girls and Big A's boyfriend and had a blast.  We were there on Friday from 11am until 3:45pm and we only left because we had to get to Adam's parents' house for dinner.  The kids could have stayed a few more hours!

Family fun - the girls had a great time with Adam's siblings' kids Friday night and with my brother's kids and my parents on Saturday.

Sunday the weather was extreme so I insisted we go to Vaughan Mills mall.  We managed to find the girls leotards for gymnastics, a new lunch bag for Big A and these boots for both girls (except in brown, not pink), which they both fell in love with on first sight:

fringe bootie
Monday Adam took them swimming at the MNJCC and then they had a playdate with our neighbour's girls, whom they get along with beautifully.

Yesterday the girls had a very successful playdate with our neighbour's kids.  They have 2 girls, each 1 year younger than ours and they played together beautifully for several hours.  So nice to have friends in the neighbourhood!

What we "learned":

The girls don't like cheesecake - Little A randomly decided we had to make cheesecake. I don't like it and Adam is lactose intolerant, but I figured, what the hell.  Adam went out and bought a boat-load of cream cheese, and Saturday afternoon I baked with the girls (recipe to be shared soon).  It turned out great (if you like cheese cake), but after 1 piece, the girls decided it was too 'cream cheesy'.  The whole thing went to our next door neighbours (who don't seem to have any dietary concerns and are great for getting rid of any unhealthy stuff we don't want in the house).  They were happy to take it.

Little A isn't big on bowling - We started our Vaughan Mills visit with a stop into Lucky Strike bowl.  After paying the ridiculous fee, we got the girls a lane.  Big A was thrilled but after a few rounds, Little A laid down on her back and refused to play anymore.  Big A ended up playing for both of them.

Ah well, we had some fun and we're a whole lot wiser now!


Off for our first day of senior kindergarten and third grade!!

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 months...you 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.