Archive for June, 2010

Freedoms We Share

June 30th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

A few civic holidays are upon us here in North America – Canada Day on July 1 and Independence Day in the US on July 4. We may only think of them as well deserved days off, but in the grand scheme of things they really mean so much more. I did a bit of soul searching on the deeper meaning of these and wanted to share with you.

Some people view the world using “the glass half empty” perspective. I, contrarily, wear rose coloured glasses and see “the glass half full”. Ok, I know we need more rights and equalities as women. Recently, my good friend was doing a work exchange in a far away hospital and realized she wasn’t in Kansas anymore…..hey Dorothy? From the “men only” sitting rooms to the “men only” elevators, it really makes you stop, think and appreciate how good we have it as women in the free world.

A few years ago I trekked with my  hubby – the international man of mystery, to a different far away place and found some similar surprises. I learned women couldn’t own stuff, like real estate or anything outside of wedlock.

During our stay, my friend Hanada and I decided to take a cab to the local grocery store to pick up water and some fruit. At one point we realized we were the only women shoppers in the store. The mere act of women withdrawing money with our own bank cards and grocery shopping was foreign. That really made me stop and think……

Of course we ended up in the women’s clothing section trying on straw hats, linen capris, sandals, etc. and forgot to pick up what we went for. Who needs food after a good shopping spree anyways!! We might gripe and complain about the simple act of grocery shopping, but we have the freedom to make that choice. A choice that is not as common in other places in the world. A choice we have.

When you step back and think about what concerns you as a woman, you might think about health, wellness and even your weight. If that’s on the top of our list of concerns, we’re doing ok, aren’t we?? We have so many freedoms that many women don’t in other parts of the world that it’s easy to take our situation for granted.

I know it’s nice to have the day off. But however you choose to spend your civic holiday, take a moment to say a little “thank you” prayer that you’re lucky enough to be concerned about matters that others might think are so trivial.

I know people who routinely buy lottery tickets and never realize they’ve already won.

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Indelible Imprinting of Parents

June 29th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , ,

Well, congratulations are in order! No, it’s not what you think. We’ve had a duck use our yard as her NY style loft behind a bush under our kitchen window for a few months. Well Saturday it happened, ducklings, 8 of them. My husband and I feel like proud guardians the first day they waddled out of the nest.

Mrs. Ducklesworth was doing what any good parent would do, take them out and teach them the ways of the world. A few times she walked them near our back steps requiring a rescue mission by The Bird Man himself, my very own Indiana Jones using kit-barbeque gloves. Even though there’s a hint of moo-oink-&-peep on the gloves, the little ducklings didn’t seem to mind the helping hand back to safety.

At one point I wanted to bring them out a little lid with water to drink. They looked thirsty after all that parading around the yard on the hot summer’s day. Indy suggested we go to Toys R Us and get them a mini pool. How about the Barbie Camper too, honey??

I hardly got anything done while being on guard for thee, then finally tore myself away to take my daily walk. On my way I spotted “people ducklings” – kiddies outside playing. How that warms my heart when I see that blessed sight. That’s the essence of exercise – getting outside to play. There are many great things about kids playing – it’s a fun form of “free style” exercise, they use their imagination and they socialize. Plus there’s little pressure to perform, win, be better, faster, stronger. Free play is a wonderful way for kids to experience the world, each other and grow.

A few months ago me and Indy were dining out. Near our table were 2 booths of family – one with the teenagers, the other with the adults. To our chagrin we couldn’t help but notice all of the teenagers sitting there staring at their respective phones, texting simultaneously. No one was interacting socially, talking, expressing themselves. For all we knew they were texting each other and really it was none of our bees-wax. If my Mom was one of the adults at the other table, she would have glared and said through her teeth to “put the GD phones away” ……with the mention of the wooden spoon…..

You can never underestimate the importance of parents being roles for kids, from setting a positive example, to setting limits (on TV screen time and phone texting for instance) and encouraging kids to go outside to play. Thanks Mrs. Ducklesworth for inspiring me about the importance of imprinting to leave an indelible impression for kids to take with them through to adulthood.

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Portion Proportion From Nibblers Anonymous

June 28th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , ,

We usually dine later on week nights, like 7′ish. My appetite by then is like famished!! I find if I’m in one of my hollow-leg modes I can eat like a buzz saw and down a 13 ounce steak as fast as you can say Karlovy Vary!! I have a few tips I use that help me from nibbling in meal-sized proportions before the actual meal.

  • Work in a snack about 30 minutes before it’s meal-prep time. Try a banana, a few nuts or some cherries. Have one item first and give it time to register. If you’re still really hungry, try something with protein in it.
  • I guzzle back 1 or 2 large glasses of water at this time as well, especially when I haven’t had much to drink for a few hours and it’s hot outside.
  • When preparing dinner I’ll admit to doing a bit of nibbling – a nosh of tomato or cucumber during the salad making. My kitchen window faces the street so I’m sure I’ve been caught red handed munching in broad daylight!!
  • I take a gauge of my hunger level with an eye to feel in control. Of course the hungrier I feel the less in control I am. Yes I will bite off your arm if you’re standing close-by, so beware :-(
  • I use one of those smaller plates Brian Wansink suggests in his Mindless Eating book. I fill it to the brim. It makes me feel like I have a healthy serving.
  • When my portion of meat comes off the barby I cut it in half, and put it in a tupperware container in the freezer right there and then. I KNOW I’ll eat the whole thing if I don’t do that.
  • I try to keep my eating pace reasonably slow. Remember, it takes 20 minutes for your tummy to tell your brain “I’m full” so wooooo horsey and take your time.
  • If I want more to eat, there’s always plenty of veggies – salad galore and potato medley.
  • And the song “I can’t get no, satisfaction” no longer rings true!!

Do you have some tried and true tips you’re willing to share??

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Get in Touch with Your Instincts

June 27th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

I was awoken from a deep sleep the other morning dreaming about pie. My all time favourite dessert – visions of sugar plums were certainly dancing in my head. What a cruel way to wake up and not be able to “see the ending”. I might of gotten up with crumbs on my face!!

I read about Geneen Roth’s book Women, Food and God. It is definitely on my reading list this summer, as I have a few others in queue. When it comes to food and food choice we need to make choices with our mind and soul (gut-thinking) and find a reasonable balance between the two. There’s been way too much commentary on different nutrients, kinds of diets and ways of eating that we need to get back to basics.

For example I was running around doing errands and a huge craving for cashews came over me. I can’t ever remember having a cashew craving before. Now in the old days I would have rationalized that I already had lunch and we’re going out for dinner and cashews have a higher amount of saturated fat than other nuts, and on and on and on. Now that I’m older and wiser when I got home I had a handful of cashews and was done with it. Period. I didn’t give it another thought.

On another Saturday morning I felt like a big bowl of those mini-Shredded Wheat with milk. Part way through I felt I had enough so stopped. By 11am I had a hankering for eggs toast and milk. Again, in the past I would have rationalized that it wasn’t time for lunch, that I had eaten quite enough at breakfast, that eggs are a “breakfast food not a lunch food” and on and on the rationalization would go. What did I do, I took out the pan and toaster and ate what my body was craving then went on with my day. A very productive one, I might add.

Now it’s important to keep your head in the game when you do this because there are practicalities. If you’re the one in the house who does the grocery shopping make your list and buy the food. If you navel gaze over what you think you’ll want this week you’ll drive yourself nuts. Ensure you have selections from all of the food groups, to ensure a balanced diet. Now, if your “child within” is in overdrive and you find yourself noshing on a few too many cream puffs you might want to hold the phone on this exercise and rethink your approach.

I hope you like the photo of my sisters, Mom and I noshing on our Easter bunnies after our Easter egg hunt. Looks like I’m holding onto mine for dear life….

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Monitoring Mania – The Annual Physical

June 25th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , ,

Yes monitoring your physical status IS important. It’s vital!! It’s important to know where you’re at so you know where you need to go. Last week I had my annual physical and at age 49, oh joy – from the MD appointment, extra blood work to monitor my thyroid function, return visit because my period is no longer “well timed” and the mammogram, I just about had it. I totally realize the importance of all this, but it doesn’t mean I have to like it….

I really can’t skip my physical, because my MD won’t extend my thyroid medication prescription. I will; however, drive an hour for this one blood test with the hope she’ll raise my dose just a tad.

My appointment starts with the weigh-in by the receptionist. A great place to start the week after returning from the all inclusive vacation! She wings the scale’s balance mechanism over like the butcher would for a veal shank. Somehow you think that by edging the balance mechanism over slowly might allow it to shift just one more notch.

Then comes the girth test to measure my waist size (groan). You can’t fake that like you can at a fancy ladies clothes store, can you? The more expensive the clothes the smaller the size. I can buy myself into a 4 or even a 2 where the size is disproportional to the price. You cannot; however, fool the tape measure. She measures in centimetres so 36-24-36 no longer applies….as if it ever did. Somehow the seventy-something cm measure doesn’t sound so sexy…..

Then comes the corollary activities and tests. I’m now at the age where sales people call me Ma’am, which is about when my MD started scheduling my annual MA’AMmogram. (I stole this line from a comic’s routine – very witty). If your bubbies weren’t sagging when you arrived, they surely will by the time you leave. You check in and wait, then the technician calls my name and locks her steely gaze onto mine. I’m going in for a fun ride here. Someone’s in a cranky mood this Friday afternoon and it isn’t me……yet.

Ok, you get down to business and drop the dairies to get this over with. I know the drill, I’ve been coming here for 9 years now so get those jaws of life in gear so I can vamoose home. Surely a man has designed this machine because the technician uses an accelerator pedal on the floor to close the clamp on your poor booby….really, really tightly. I’m in position for the first picture and the technician says “hold your breath”. Well my dear, it was hurting so much I was ALREADY  holding my breath. Then comes the other “angled shot”. If the breast wasn’t dislodged from the pec muscle in your chest after the first picture, then this other view will surely do the job. UG.

The 4 pics have been taken and the song lingering in my head is “do your ears hang low, can you tie them in a knot, can you tie them in a bow, can you throw them over your shoulder….” Do you remember that tune from days of old? Somehow it applies to this test, only it doesnt refer to your ears. My final thought as I leave is how that machine would make a great nut cracker…..

All joking aside, it is not only important to monitor your weight, girth, blood work, blood pressure, mole status and everything else but your life DEPENDS on it. Get out of the dark and go to your annual check up if you haven’t lately.

Next year, I’ll be scheduled for my first colonoscopy after turning 50. I’m sure I’ll be writing about it, God willing :-)

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Make Connecting with Friends a Priority

June 24th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

Can you believe it’s almost July already? My parents used to say how fast time flies when you get older. Boy were they right. Ok, I sound like an old fart, but I know you’re thinking the same thing. I used to care for my garden yet hardly used it for entertaining. Part of the reason was I set the bar too high, thinking I needed to do the fancy-shmansy thing. Fancy-shmansy is not in my repertoire. Then I thought, forget it, it’s not about having fussy food, but about connecting with friends and getting together that’s important. A paradigm shift in my thinking, then upward and onward ho!!

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t serve up peanut butter and jam sandwiches with milk. Not that there’s anything wrong with that!!  But I do make myself keep things super easy and focus on connecting. No one who comes over ever feels I’ve slaved and we all enjoy catching up. So, guilt free all round….

Take the week before I went away for example. It was time to catch up with 2 of my good friends. Each are friends from different aspects of my life, so I decided to organize these back to back. It sounds nutty, but it worked out just fine.

What did I serve? Well remember those calzones I made back in April (see April 2 post). There was  extra filling leftover that I froze back then. So I got another pizza dough, tomato sauce, made a side salad and presto, dinner for deux!! Now the following evening I had the pizza leftover from my May 14th post. Sorry Gayle King, I’ll have to make another batch if you want to try some!! This was also served with a nice side salad. I can literally run in from the office at 5:15, wash up and change to be ready for company by 6:00. It’s a snap. And Martha Stewart is not on my guest list!!

I usually arrange a cheese tray with olives, crackers, nuts and fresh fruit before dinner. My friend Joan (in the pic taken when we celebrated her 50th) always arrives early and helps me get organized. We have a lot of catching up to do :-) For week night dessert with company I always have seasonal fruit, a little dish of my Mom’s biscotti with a few single chocolates.

I no longer let season on end to go by thinking “hmmmmm I should have connected with so & so”. Life is too short to let time slip by without keeping in touch with good friends.

Keep it simple, because it’s about staying connected and friendship that matters most.

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Food Revolution Green Salad Variations

June 23rd, 2010 No Comments Tags: ,

I thought I’d share another recipe now that summer’s in full swing. I make a green salad for most week-night dinners no matter the season and use similar elements for company. I consistently get rave reviews, so why change it up? It usually depends on what I have on hand or my mood. Kind of like that Bugs Bunny show where the Tazmanian Devil was tossing salad…..

Ingredients – Basic Elements

lettuce combinations (any combo of washed lettuce, watercress or spinach)

spanish onion cut up

English cucumber peeled and cut into pieces

washed cherry tomatoes

cut up dried fruits (any combination of cranberries, raisins, cherries, blueberries, dates, apricots)

sprinkle of nuts (roasted pine, sunflower, peanuts, pumpkin, cashews, walnuts, pecans or chic peas)

salt and pepper to taste

balsamic vinegar

olive oil (whatever the virginity…..extra virgin or otherwise)


fresh fruit cut up (grapefruit or any kind of berry or mango or apple or pear or pomegranate)

plain goat’s cheese (crumbled over the ingredients before tossing)

Salad Commentary

Ok for starters, let’s talk about the green stuff – lettuces, watercress or spinach. I envy this generation who may never know that lettuce comes in the form of a head. And no, I’m not talking dirty!! Remember those days of washing the sand and gravel out of the leaves?Especially the Boston Bibb, what a treat that was. It was impossible to get the sand out of all of those ruddy leaves. What’s all the hoopla people are making, complaining about the multitude of lettuce selections and combinations available in bags? Give the complainers a few heads of lettuce to wash and we’ll be finding ourselves washing their mouths out with soap from their experience. Get over it!

I always cut up peeled cucumber, spanish onion and add a handful of washed cherry tomatoes. I love including pieces dried fruits to pump up the taste. Then for a nice crunch, any kind of nut will do. If I want to take a short cut I’ll add a trail mix that contains dried fruit and nuts. My hubby says he feels like a bird eating all of the nuts at the bottom of the bowl. He’s starting to look like one, he even has the neck movement down pat…and the balking sound :-)

If I have extra fresh fruit needing to get used, I’ll add some in, like fresh strawberries, blueberries, mango or de-skinned grapefruit. If you really want to say I love you, add jewels of pomegranate. That adds elegance and panache.

In addition to salt and pepper to taste, pour in some balsamic vinegar and olive oil and toss it all up before serving. I’ve used balsamic that costs $3 to $25/bottle and the salad always tastes great. No I don’t chew on tobacco or smoke cigars resulting in desensitizing my taste buds. Spending more here isn’t always required. Also, who needs to fuss with a multitude of bottled dressings? Not me.

For meatless meals I’ll add a small package of plain goat’s cheese. That’ll give you that extra yum you don’t usually find in a salad. It almost tastes like dessert with a texture and flavour explosion in your mouth like a symphony crescendo by Mother Nature herself – ta da!! Mmmmm yes, very salad-isfying. This can be a stand alone meal, similar to the tomato salad I posted yesterday (June 22).

Do you have a secret salad recipe you’re willing to share?? Come on, spill it…..

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Food Revolution Yummiest Tomato Salad Ever

June 22nd, 2010 No Comments Tags: ,

I don’t make very many things better than my Mom, but I pretty much perfected this tomato salad extraordinaire creation. Ok, so it’s her recipe (“don’t call mer her”, why do all mothers say this??!!). As I was saying, maybe it’s part of the dietitian’s credo – “make a fab salad and you’re in”….I wish it was that simple :-)

This easy creation accompanies any dinner perfectly, but can be eaten as a meal (lunch or dinner) with bread on its own. It tastes even better the next day, so works well when you’re organizing a dinner party, you can prep it in advance.


vine tomatoes, washed, cored and cut in pieces (if they come in different colours – red, orange, green, purple and yellow, even better!)

spanish onion, sliced

bocconcini cheese (use the whole mini’s or the large ones cut up)

extra hot – piquant salami slices, cut in small pieces

fresh herbs washed and cut up (any combination of fresh parsley, oregano, basil or any one of these)

salt and pepper to taste

extra virgin olive oil

As you prep each ingredient add it to your salad bowl. Pour the olive oil gingerly as your last ingredient over everything. Carefully combine all ingredients and taste, then season to your preference. Make at least a few hours in advance so the tomato and onion weep which further flavours the salad, mmmmMmmmgood. Hubby boy calls it “coalesce” with a twinkle in his eye as this is his favourite salad. When you do this in advance it allows you to add less oil. If you need to add a smidgen more later on, go ahead. The fresher your ingredients, the better your masterpiece. This is one principle to cook by in general.

Yes, olive oil is good for you, but it’s not so good in unlimited amounts ringing in at ~125 calories/tablespoon. Nothing should be consumed in unlimited quantities, remember!! If you glug, glug, glug with the olive oil jug this’ll end up having more calories than a large order of French fries. Trust me.

Now a word about salami. Yes, I could hear the gasps from my dietitian compadres. No I don’t use this every day. And yes, I use the extra spicy to jack up the flavour quotient so I don’t need to use very much. By all means make this without meat, or change it up with pieces of cooked cajun chicken or beef or hard boiled egg. Try it with the salami first and tell me how it worked for you.

Serve this tomato salad master piece with fresh bread, baguette or foccacio. Drop and drag pieces of the bread like a Zamboni as you savour each bite. This is one summer favourite that I make any time of year.

Do you have a favourite summer salad?? I’d love to know.

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One Chance to Make a First Impression

June 21st, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , ,

Well it’s true, we only have one chance to make a first impression. Not three, not when it’s convenient, but one. This theme came to mind when I heard that my nephew was just hired at a new company – kudos my pumpkin (no matter what age he is, he is still my pumpkin)!!

Apparently some time ago he was in a meeting at his current place of work with people from this other company. Well, as the story goes, they contacted him offline because they were impressed……

We never know in life when fate will meet opportunity. That is one of life’s mysteries. This got me thinking about the office staff “summer casual dress code”. In previous jobs many geddups rolled in to my place of work – from lacy camisoles (mostly ok for evening), to low rise waist lines (mostly ok for home, maybe the basement), to micro minis (mostly ok for the tennis court….with tennis panties to match), to plunging necklines (mostly ok for the bar scene), to scuffies (mostly ok for the beach), to thong sightings (never appropriate to be seen, ever). Many of these geddups at work lacked get up and go, should have got up and went!! Believe it or not I’m fairly liberal with my fashion rules, but at work common sense needs to rule, alas this isn’t so common, I’m afraid. I’m sure if my nephew first met his future employer wearing board shorts and scuffies or socks with sandals, his first impression and job outcome would have been very different.

I love the saying “life isn’t a dress rehearsal”, because it isn’t!! Every day you’re on the proverbial “stage of life”. You are your own brand, so foster it, work it, improve it. You never know who you’re going to be bumping into. You can look polished and professional no matter what your weight or office dress code.

So, look in the mirror. What impression are you making at this very moment?

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Sunshine on My Shoulder Makes Me Happy

June 20th, 2010 No Comments Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , ,

Ahhhh, the arrival of summer solstice – the longest day of the year. This is certainly a time to celebrate. Some pessimists might say, “uh-oh, it’s the beginning of the end, as days begin to shorten.” I say stay in the moment and make the most of it while the light and good weather is here.

It’s a time for abundance of Mother Nature’s bounty – fruits, vegetables, herbs, game and more. It’s the perfect time to join the “eat local” movement or start the 100 mile diet. I think it’s realistic to try it this time of year. However, I find myself scratching my head with an “Emperor’s New Clothes” moment when people suggest this the opposite time of the year. I don’t know about your part of Canada, but pomegranates just don’t grow here and when I want one, I’ll go find one!!

It’s a time to partake is many activities we northerners don’t get to do all year round. There certainly is a smorgasbord of choices. Unless you just had knee surgery you really don’t have any excuse not to get outside and play. This season is your oyster and the possibilities are endless.

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