Trex to Tigress Tidbits- Holiday Edition

I hope everyone is enjoying the season so far, and not getting overly stressed from commitments, cooking, baking and shopping. Remember, there is no better way to beat stress than exercise. Speaking of exercise, I am still hitting the gym hard. Yesterday Andy and I went to cook dinner for my mom and dad, because my mom is feeling under the weather, and dad can’t boil an egg. Call it a generation thing, but mom is the cook of their household. Anyways, I had planned to go to the gym, but didn’t have the time to go to the gym and take care of mom. Then I remembered. She has a weight bench with free weights and a squat rack in her basement. I could workout and just be a floor away if she needed me. Although the bench is pretty rickety, I did manage to do a great leg workout, complete with burpees, squats, lunges, and leg curls without the bench collapsing under my weight while squeaking and shaking with each hamstring curl. I also planked and did some good old Russian twists with the medicine ball.

Mom and dad’s rickety home gym:

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I have also been participating in Autumn’s challenge. The challenges are doable and only take a few minutes out of a busy day, but focus on the whole body. Be sure to visit Autumn’s blog. Not only is she a personal trainer, but she is incredibly positive and encouraging.

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As for my healthy eating plan it is going pretty well, despite a few minor setbacks. I have been eating very clean during the week.

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Last weekend, we celebrated a great lady’s 80th birthday. Mom’s of course! We took her to a nice steakhouse and I had a slice of cake and some wine after my sole and vegetable medley dinner. Mom holds up her certificate of recognition for turning 80 from Canada’s Prime Minister:

IMG_1021This past weekend my friend Roxanne hosted a girls night Christmas potluck. We had lasagna, Caesar salad, quinoa salad, shrimp fried rice and jerk chicken wings. I had a bit of everything, and I am pleased to say I stuck with my two drink limit. I did indulge a wee bit too much on cheesecake that night. Who could blame me? It was mocha chocolate cheesecake.

Christmas potluck complete with Christmas crackers. And yes, Roxy made us wear the goofy crowns.

Christmas potluck complete with Christmas crackers. And yes, Roxy made us wear the goofy crowns.

The following day, I went to celebrate our friend Catherine’s birthday. Catherine plays the steel pan with Andy in the same band. Eating was not the greatest, I must admit. Catherine served deliciously decadent homemade mini meat pies for an appetizer. The crust was perfectly flaky and light. I think I had about 5 or 6 mini pies. It’s true what they say, never go to a party on an empty stomach. You’re setting yourself up as a pie monster. I also had a few glasses of vino.

Wine bottle Santa made me do it:

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Andy and I take a photo with fabulous birthday girl, Catherine. I love her hair scarf.

I have also been enjoying the festive season at work. I love seeing all the cute Christmas crafts in the classrooms and on the walls in the hallways. The kids have the funniest graphic shirts this season.

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IMG_2383I think this shirt that Ayden wore is my fave:

IMG_2385I love decorating my little condo. It makes me feel very Christmassy.

Whooo has the holiday spirit?

Whooo has the holiday spirit?

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Tomorrow is my work party, where there will be more food and drinks. I will think of all my goals and commit to staying in control of my choices.

Enjoy the rest of your week, and remember…stress relief is only a workout away.

The “Two” Spirit of Giving

I wanted this guy, elusive blogger simply named Two, to share his inspirational story in November, but it is fitting that it was not ready until December. His blog symbolizes everything that Christmas is about, compassion, giving and trying to make a change in a troubled world. His blog is an amazing and beautiful journey, so be sure to visit.

Two’s Story:

As I read her email, I felt quite special. While I took a stab at blogging during the poker days and again as a grad student , I didn’t actually feel like a legitimate blogger until I started this one at the beginning of my current journey in February. The fact that someone else thought my ideas were worthy enough to be posted on their blog was truly exciting and humbling. To be completely honest, it made me warm and fuzzy inside! So, I thought I’d write about something that has been an extremely influential component of the direction I’m heading in my current life journey. It’s also the reason I haven’t posted a new blog in a long long time. I’ve been that busy working on the subject matter of what this piece will explore.  I sincerely hope you enjoy it and please make sure to check out her blog. She’s absolutely great! Thanks for asking me to do this Char. Sorry I took so long to get it to you.

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A few months into my journey in Rio de Janeiro, people started asking me a question. After they’d ask me what I was doing in Brazil, many of them asked the exact same question. Some were friends while some were friends of friends. Others were fellow hostel guests and some were random blog readers I’ve never met. They came from all over the world. No matter who they were or what they were doing in their own lives, they all asked: “Two, how can I help?” 

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I never quite knew how to answer that. I had just started a brand new life and I was trying to make sense of everything, myself, my environment, as well as my short-term goals. I was coming out of a long relationship that was a big part of my life. I had left Oregon and moved to Toronto for 5 years and now I was in Brazil! My entire life had changed. I knew what I wanted to do with my new life but didn’t have a clue how I was going to do it. So, when the question got asked, the only thing I wanted to say was “get your ass down here and help me help these kids”, but I knew that it wasn’t a fair request. People have lives, dependents, and responsibilities and no matter how much they’d love to do what I’m doing, it’s just not possible. I got it.

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I’m a pretty unique case. I know that. I have absolutely nothing to lose. I’ve frequently mentioned that I’m living on bonus time. Furthermore, I have absolutely no responsibilities to anyone but myself anymore. I decided to move to Colombia in all of 10 minutes, during a conversation with my new sister from another mother, Ursula, back in Brazil. Three months ago, she told me that I should meet her in Medellin sometime in December as she was planning to move there for a while. My response was “Naaa, you can meet me there because I’m going there now”. And that’s exactly what I did. She calls me “idea stealer” now. Haha, sorry kid. Can’t wait to see you here soon, you little brat!

If I want to leave here and go to another country or continent tomorrow, it’s not just that I can, I will. That doesn’t work for many people but for me, it’s the ultimate freedom to chase my dreams. I wish everyone had that freedom. It feels incredible and I’m so grateful that I have it. Without it, I don’t know if I would have ever been able to pursue what my soul tells me I should do: help others.

As far back as I can remember, helping others made me happy. Even during the most difficult of times in my life, helping people always brought me great joy. It’s this part of my character that kept me sane through all the bad times. It made me feel somewhat normal. It allowed me not to feel like a complete loser. It has been the one constant good in my life. I’m proud of that. I don’t quite know how to explain the feeling I get from helping others. It is the only thing that makes me feel like I’m at one with my soul. It makes me feel like I’m being who I really am inside.

When I see an opportunity to help, I’m drawn to it. I can’t walk away or ignore it even if I tried. While I’ve been in South America (Brazil & Colombia) this year, those opportunities have increased tremendously.

img_1226I’ve been on this journey for almost 300 days now and there must have been at least 300 opportunities for me to help. I’ve even been able to help some animals along the way. I’m so grateful for all the opportunities I’ve had as each of them is shaping me into the person I always wanted to be. For me, helping others does so much for my own growth. It’s almost selfish! I find myself making better decisions. I’m handing difficult situations in such a better way now. I’m not angry all the time. I don’t get aggressive during situations that used to make me so incredibly hostile. I can walk away from negativity. I see and understand more clearly now. I give people the benefit of the doubt. I’m more patient and I’m more compassionate. Most of all though, I wake up with a smile for the first time in my life.

Currently, as a transforming person, all I want to do is help and even more importantly, inspire and encourage others to do the same. I feel like there’s a huge segment of the global population that wants to learn how they can help others. Unfortunately though, little is being done to help them realize just how capable they are of doing it. For me, creating engagement within this segment is just as crucial as directly helping itself. It’s vital when it comes to generating more awareness and participation in this sector and ultimately, helping more people in more ways. I alone, can help a 100 people but I can inspire others who can possibly help a 1000.

10012863_285667141599611_1123060660_o1I thought about that more and more as I got asked the infamous question. There are so many people in the world that want to help others but feel like they can’t. For so long, I’ve heard a lot of people expressing their frustrations about not being able to make financial donations towards worthwhile causes. I think we’ve been conditioned to subconsciously correlate the idea of helping with money. For anyone with half a brain, historical implications clearly show why this is the case. For many, a lack of financial resources leads to feelings of inadequacy in terms of providing help. The more I got asked the question, the more I thought about how people’s desire to help gets wasted because they struggle to find feasible ways to contribute. I constantly thought about it but couldn’t come up with a solution. So, for a while, I just answered by saying “I’ll let you know kid”. It was bullshit though because I really had no idea how they could.

As time passed, the question kept popping up to the point I had to sit down and really think about it. It had been months and I still didn’t have a real answer so it started driving me absolutely crazy. I became increasingly frustrated about the desire to help not being enough. And that’s when  slowly started realizing I was wrong because it is!

Through the various ventures I’ve undertaken in my life, I’ve learned the value of thinking outside of the box when I can’t see a clear path towards a desired outcome. I learned that most of all as a high school teacher. On several occasions, I found myself reaching bigger and better outcomes than previously envisioned when I allowed myself to escape conventional thinking and simplify my approach by finding direct solutions for specific situations.

The first thing that comes to mind relates to my attempt at providing unique, customized lesson plans for my students. After learning about multiple intelligences in grad school, I was so determined to provide all my students with opportunities to learn in ways that were compatible with their unique learning styles. At first, it seemed like a daunting task. Effective, dynamic lesson planning , for experienced teachers, is a substantial task on it’s own. Doing so while adhering to and incorporating multiple learning styles is significantly more laborious for new, inexperienced educators. In the beginning, I found myself hitting a wall when it came to formulating plans that catered to all the major learning styles in one lesson. It was extremely difficult to make the lessons effective and concise within a limited time frame.

In order to reach every student, I began to create multiple lesson plans for each topic. Once I had 5 or 6 separate LP’s (each of them geared towards a specific learning style), I grouped a few together and gave my students the option to choose which ones they wanted to tackle.  Once they were finished, they taught their lessons to the other students. Of course this allowed students to learn the same material in a variety of ways. But, it also gave them a sense of ownership and also ended up reinforcing the material as they had the chance to learn, teach, and re-learn. As I always say, to teach is to learn something twice. In the end, breaking down the obstacle and simplifying my approach actually created better results.

Similarly, I’ve found that simplifying my approach towards other obstacles in my life can lead to more dynamic results. For quite sometime after grad school and teaching, I fell back into being an unproductive, self-destructive asshole. But since I’ve started a new life this year, I find myself implementing this approach quite frequently again and the results have been great.  So, I started thinking of specific ways people can help me with my work on this journey. I thought about each person who posed the famous question. I started with the people I knew very well. I thought about their backgrounds, their skill sets, and their experiences. Then, I examined each project related task I was working on at the time. I started matching people with projects based on what they might be able to offer. I determined what resources were required for the projects if no money was available.

Then, I started determining who had access to those resources. At the time, I wanted to create an after-school program for some of the local teens in a favela that didn’t go to school. Some of these young people worked as drug runners up and down the favela all day and all night long. As vital components of the economic structure within some favelas, these kids are at the front-line of the drug trade and a necessity of communal infrastructure. Unfortunately, any hopes of maintaining a school life for these kids was abandoned years ago. So, I wanted to figure out a way to give them a chance at learning and getting somewhat caught-up with their peers who were attending school.

Again, without thinking of  the necessary financial resources to undertake and maintain such a program, I figured out what was needed and who had access to it. Firstly, I’d need physical space to run the program. I thought about local business owners with available, suitable space who I could approach. Then, I’d need access to local school curriculum so I thought about teachers and administrators I could seek out for help. I’d also need materials like notebooks and other stationary so I determined what schools and local business might be willing to make some donations. Lastly, I’d need permission from those in charge of the community. They too, in theory were approachable, no matter how problematic or dangerous it was. I realized that some of these components were only accessible to someone like me who just doesn’t give a shit about those dangers but I’m where I am and I’m who I am so it made perfect sense for me. Essentially, I created an entire mock business plan needed to achieve the program with necessary knowledge, skills, and materials instead of money. When it came down to it, with the right help from the right people, it was completely possible!

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I applied the same logic to some other projects I had in mind and realized that so much was possible if people were able to donate their knowledge, skill sets, and resources they had access to. This made me truly understand that so many people who don’t think they can make meaningful contributions actually have the ability to do so much!

Around that time, I was starting to learn about crowdfunding and how it was being applied to non-profits around the world. One night, as I was doing research about some recent successful crowdfunding campaigns, it hit me! I wanted to create a platform, based on the principles of crowdfunding, that enabled people around the world to donate their knowledge and experience to the projects I’d take on in my travels. People didn’t have to donate money, they could donate their minds!

Since continuing my journey to Colombia, I’ve been working on this daily. I’m creating a web-based platform, a space for discourse and collaboration, that I can use to profile worthwhile projects I visit and work with and in turn, make available to the public so they can determine what helpful resources they may have access to. Thus, hopefully, creating a new kind of engagement within the global community and ultimately making it possible for more people to help more people around the world.

This allows so many of those who are genuinely interested in helping others but feel like they can’t, to do so without the pressures of financial commitment. In the upcoming months, I hope to share more progress and ultimately launch this project. All of this happened because so many people kept asking; “Two, how can I help?”.

To all of you who kept asking, thank you. You inspired this and you’re already helping me realize some personal dreams and I hope it translates into helping a lot people one day.

As always, thank you so much for reading.

Be kind to yourselves and to everyone around you. Help someone when you can. You’ll be helping yourself too.

Thanks for helping me.

-Two

humanity-1Source: All images found at www.bucketinbrazil.wordpress.com

 

 

 

 

This is Going to be a Great Chapter

I have seen a quote on social media quite a bit in the past few days. It is along the lines of making the last chapter of your 2014 book a good one. Although this quote can mean different things to different people, the quote really sums up how I feel with my physical fitness. You may have stumbled upon this post waaaay back. I am not a fan of resolutions personally. I think a good time to make positive changes is any time you are ready both physically and mentally to make it happen.  I am so motivated to see that many people are trying to remain active and make healthy food choices throughout the holidays and encouraging others too. The mentality of, “I’ll just start again in the New Year” is becoming a thing of the past. These motivational folks have no idea how much they are helping me to have a fit and fabulous December. So, thank-you. I have never been a huge fan of all these challenges, ab challenge, plank challenge and tight glutes challenge, but I am beginning to see the benefit. Having a challenge in December is a fantastic way to help people stay active and set goals. It sets the tone (no pun intended) for a healthy and happy start to the New Year.

As Cynthia Bailey would say, don’t get it twisted ya’ll! (yes, still watching those ladies from the ATL) I plan on enjoying my favourite holiday treats over the next few weeks, but I also plan to be cognizant and in control. Let’s be realistic, I have a few functions to attend and I won’t be eating just carrots sticks and egg whites. I was not at all careful about food choices over the Thanksgiving weekend, and the repercussions were not good. However, that was only two days. With my personal struggles, the goals go out the window over a span of weeks and just not caring anymore. This in the past would happen over the month of December. Not this year. I do not want to over-do-it, and set myself back and all the hard work I have achieved in the past few months. When I look at the proverbial big picture, it’s simply not worth it. I plan to be active and continue with my goals. God willing, I will take advantage of classes such as Zumba, HIIT and Cardio Tone that are usually packed in January and people getting ready for their bikini bodies in the spring, but are dead in the month of December. I was very sick last December (there was a terrible bug going around at school) and I was not able to workout at all, but if my health is all in order this year I really want to hit the gym at least four days per week.

Some challenges for December:

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Love this fitness tree. Do something active on each ball:

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This last chapter of the year is going to be great. This last chapter will have a happy ending and one that I can look back and be proud of. I truly hope your last chapter is wonderful.

Blessings.

 

Visits from Aunty

Perhaps you will get a visit from Aunty Bertha this holiday season, who always tells you that your turkey is undercooked and she’s afraid she may get salmonella. Or maybe Aunty Selma may visit, and you can guarantee she will ask you why you’re still single. Or, lovely Aunty May, who always lets you know that your kids are unruly or points out your new zit at the dinner table. Or you may get a visit from an Aunty like me, who gets your kids all hyped-up and then goes home to her glass of wine. When you hear your three year old say, “Aunty, can you do your armpit fart again?” you know it’s time to send me packing.

I can guarantee I will be getting a painful visit from Aunty Flo. She will visit with terrible, debilitating cramping to my side, along with bloating and lethargy. Aside from pain, I tend to get moody and emotional too. Classic example, the end of the movie Jack and Jill starring Adam Sandler made me cry buckets. Since about the age of 16, I have suffered from gripping menstrual pain. The pain was so intense, I had to go on doctor prescribed pain-killers. At times, I had to miss school and would lie on my bed in tears, cradling my knees to my stomach in a fetal position, praying that the pain would go away. As dramatic as that sounds, this was my reality.

Throughout the years, the pain each month subsided. In my twenties and thirties, a couple of doses of extra strength Tylenol and a heating pad would do the trick. Since turning 40, the intensity of my menstrual cramps have returned to what they were in my teen years. I have read that this can happen in the peri-menopausal stage of life. With age, comes a little wisdom and taking better care of myself, I have found ways to alleviate the pain without harsh medications that at times don’t agree with my stomach. I have a list of do’s and dont’s.

1. Don’t: alcohol and coffee. These two pleasures cause nothing but pain. When I drink wine or coffee, I have noticed an increase in cramping.

2. Do: non-caffeinated herbal teas, such as green and  ginger. Soothing and relieving.

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3. Do: Using a heating pad. This has served me well. The heat really relaxes those tense muscles.

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4. Do: clean eating. Since I have altered my diet to less processed foods and an increase in greens and fresh fruits, I have noticed a decrease in pain, as well as bloating.

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5. Do: Light exercise. During this time a light walk or restorative Yoga is what I need. I find child pose, camel pose and deep Kundalini breaths work best for me.

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child pose

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Camel pose

6. Don’t: heavy lifts, intense exercise such as Tababta or HIIT. It is better for me to get back to my usual routine once the pain is gone.

Before any pain hits, I always try to think of what food or drink can help me. Am I lacking water and dehydrated? Am I getting enough vitamins and nutrients? The power of the right foods can be very healing. Finally, Do avoid the end of Jack and Jill.

Did you get a visit from any special Aunties in your life lately?

Did you see Jack and Jill?

Four Floating Questions

The lovely Chels tagged me to answer some fun questions. You may have seen this survey floating around. So, without further adieu.

Four Names That People Call Me (Other Than My Real Name):

1. Shelly
2. Shel/Char
3. Michie-Mee
4. Raze (it’s a loooong story.)

Four Jobs I’ve Had:

1. Vacuum cleaner salesperson (does it count if it was for only one day?)
2. ESL teacher
3. UPS warehouse worker
4. Mmmmmmmm muffins cashier/counter help (that was a chubby year :)

Four Movies I’ve Watched More Than Once (and can quote from memory):

1. Along Came Polly
2. The Talented Mr. Ripley
3. Steel Magnolias
4. To Sir with Love

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Sir. And he was proper posh too, he was!

photo source   

Four Reads I Recommend / Can’t Live Without:

1. The Bible
2. The Colour Purple
3. Wuthering Heights
4. Angela’s Ashes (loved, loved it!)

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Four Places I Have Lived:

1. Toronto
2. Toronto
3. Toronto
4. Cancun, Mexico

My previous home.  I guess you can see that this ain't Toronto.

My previous home. I guess you can see that this ain’t Toronto.

 

Four Places I’ve Been:

1. Pretty much all over the Yucatan Peninsula and central Mexico
2. Guatemala
3. Belize
4. Trinidad & Tobago

The lush green mountains of sweet, sweet T&T.

The lush green mountains of sweet, sweet T&T.

Four Places I’d Rather Be Right Now:

1. Caye Caulker
2. Wasting away again in Margaritaville
3. Tuscany
4. Merida

Four Things I Don’t Eat:

1. Curry
2. Margarine
3. Squid
4. Black licorice

Four of My Favorite Foods:

1. Lasagna
2. My mom’s stewed chicken
3. Feta cheese
4. Avocado

Four Shows That I Watch(ed):

1. Real Housewives of ATL, OC and MIA
2. Vikings (come on season 3!)
3. Coronation Street
4. Possibly Mob Wives (okay, I confess. I love Big Ang!)

Four Things I’m Always Saying:

1. “Okie Dokie.”
2. “I hear ya!”
3. “I’ll have a glass of house red, please.”
4. “Amen!”

 

People I’m Tagging To Do This Next:

Each and everyone. I love learning new things about people. C’mon so fun.

 

 

If it was Good Enough for Jesus….

This time of year I always look forward to two fruits that are mainly reserved for the holiday season, pomegranates and tangerines. As a part of my immune system boosting this cold and flu season, I bought my first pomegranate of the season and plan to include it on my weekly shopping list. This fruit always reminds me of Jesus. Pomegranate must have been a central part of his diet being indigenous to that region, along with dates, figs, nuts and fish. Hey, if eating a healthy diet, why not follow Jesus’ clean eats? He did treat his body like a temple after all.  I can’t imagine that there were a lot of cases of high blood pressure and obesity in those days.  The Biblical diet seems extremely healthy (I’m also pretty sure they enjoyed a glass of vino from time to time.) Once removed from the skin and bitter white rind, these juicy little seeds have big health benefits.

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Health Benefits of pomegranate:

  • Reduces the risk of prostate cancer and lowers PSA levels
  • Provides antiviral and antibacterial protection
  • High in vitamin C
  • Promotes joint health

(source Healing Foods)

I used to avoid buying pomegranates because they are just such a pain to de-seed. Then I read Jamie Oliver’s method on his blog to open and de-seed this luscious super fruit and life with the pomegranate was made a bit easier.

1. Cut the pomegranate in half.

2. Turn skin side up. Hold with fingers spread, so seeds can fall freely.  Place bowl underneath to gather seeds.

3. Hit pomegranate with a large wooden spoon vigorously until seeds fall out. This is where you can release any pent up aggression.

4. Remove any pieces of sour white rind from bowl.

Enjoy sprinkled on top of your favourite salad, or try out this recipe found in the book Healing Foods.

Superfood Salad:

Combine pomegranate seeds with pear, pineapple and orange segments, chopped fresh mint and lettuce. Drizzle with a honey-sweetened dressing.

I also add pomegranate seeds to Greek yogurt or simply enjoy on their own.

Do you enjoy pomegranates?

Because Sometimes Poppy is a Little Sloppy. Staying Healthy During Flu Season

ahm103d_1000_240img_1428Did you ever see that Seinfeld episode when Poppy was a little sloppy? Jerry refused to eat the pizza at a restaurant his girlfriend raved about because he saw the chef, Poppy, in the washroom who didn’t wash his hands after using the toilet. When Poppy told Jerry, “I-a personally gonna make dinner for you and Audrey,” leaving poor Jerry dumbfounded. Jerry watched in horror as the pizza chef kneaded the dough with a big grin on his face. A similar thing happened to me last year.  I was dining at a fancy schmancy restaurant with a few friends for a birthday party. My friend and I excused ourselves from our party to go to the ladies room. As we stood at the sink washing our hands, another lady came out of the third stall. She ran the water and what we observed was quite shocking. She wet only the tips of her fingers, and patted down the sides of her hair. She then puckered her lips to apply a coat of ruby-red lipstick taken from her stylish beaded clutch purse. My friend and I glanced at one another. When she left the facilities I asked my friend, “did that just happen?” Who cares about your sexy lips, lady! Your hands!

Which leads me to my first tip to staying healthy this flu season.

1. I don’t shake stranger’s hands anymore, especially after witnessing first “hand” (insert bad joke here) that some people don’t hand wash after doing their business. What if she was working in the kitchen? I wondered if she held the door for any patrons as they left the restaurant. Wash those hands, everyone. Wash after holding a grocery cart, an escalator rail or a revolving door, because you just don’t know. Which is tip number 2……

I no longer hold doors in public anymore, but have devised a very unique way of stopping the door with my feet or elbows and I always use a paper towel in the washroom if I have to open the door first. I don’t really care what folks think. People pick noses, cough in their hands and don’t hand wash and then hold onto surfaces….or make pizza. Which I try not to think about. (Sometimes I guess ignorance is bliss.)

3. If I am sick, I stay home in bed. I used to be one of those silly people who went to work sick. Well, not these days. When I am sick there is only one place you will find me. In my bed, with my Vicks Vapour rub watching Sex in the City reruns. The world will continue and your job will be there tomorrow. You are no good to any project, manager or team if you are burning with fever or so congested that you can’t smell and people think you said “bye” when you really said “my”. I once witnessed a man on the train when I worked downtown. He was hacking so badly with a cough that people were getting up and leaving the seats near him (myself included). If you’re that sick, stay home. Nobody wants to catch what you have and you will never recover if you do not take the sufficient amount of rest.

4.  Eat well. Have your five servings of fruits and vegetables each day. Fruits and vegetables are full of antioxidants and keep your immune system strong. Drink a lot (and I mean a lot) of fresh, filtered water as well as green tea. This will flush out those toxins and help you to heal faster if you are sick.

5.  I find that supplements such as vitamin D and Camu C are very good for immune system boosting. Camu camu is a powerful fruit found in the Brazilian rainforest with higher amounts of vitamin C than oranges.

I don’t mean to get all Howie Mandell on you, but as I said, you just never know. That lady in that fancy eating establishment looked clean, put together and polished. Perfect hair, make-up with an expensive looking outfit, yet she failed to wash her hands. Poppy looked well-groomed too, yet he was a little sloppy and failed to wash his hands.

Take care, my friends. What are your tips for staying healthy this season. Did anyone get the flu shot? Did you ever see that Seinfeld episode?

Andy’s Eggplant Parmesan

Do you know the saying, “a man’s heart is to his stomach”? Well, I have to say in our case, it was the reverse. One of the things that I fell in love with was Andy’s culinary skills. The ability to create good food without ever following a recipe. That’s talent in my books!  Always one to take the path less traveled, his spin on eggplant parm has no breadcrumbs and no egg wash.

You will need:

  • One eggplant
  • Cooking oil
  • 1 can tomato paste
  • 2 handfuls of grated low-fat cheddar
  • A small piece of a red onion
  • 2 teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4 cup fresh grated Parmesan cheese
  •  Sea salt
  • 1 teaspoon of fresh, finely chopped rosemary

1. Wash the outside of your eggplant thoroughly before cutting.

2. Cut the eggplant in a little less than 1/4 of an inch circles. (thinly sliced)

3. In a baking or pyrex dish, coat the bottom with a one tablespoon of Purolivia cooking oil.

4. Add a little (1 to 2 teaspoons) water to one can of tomato paste in a separate dish. Mix well until tomato paste is smooth and spreadable.

5. Cover the bottom of the pyrex dish with first layer of eggplant.

6. Cover layer of eggplant with the tomato paste/water mixture.

7. Sprinkle a handful of grated low-fat cheddar cheese on top.

8. Add another layer of eggplant, covered by another layer of tomato paste mixture. Follow with another layer of sprinkled cheddar cheese.

9. Finish by topping with a few circles of chopped red onions, (a garnish serving), two teaspoons of extra virgin olive oil sprinkled on top and a sprinkle of fresh, grated parmesan. Sprinkle a dash of sea salt.

10.  As a final step to add more flavour, add a sprinkle of finely chopped fresh rosemary.

11. Bake at 350 F for 30-35 minutes.

Why not enjoy this easy, tasty side dish this week?

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There’s no Place like home- A beginner’s Guide to Creating a Workout Space

Do you want to get into better shape, but can’t afford a gym membership? Then it may be time to consider building a gym to workout in the comfort of your home. You don’t have to break the bank or buy an elaborate Bowflex type of apparatus. Getting and staying into shape doesn’t have to be expensive or complex. I went over to my neighbourhood Target and found all kinds of goodies in their fitness/active living department to build an ideal home gym to fit almost any budget. So clear out that space in the spare bedroom or basement you have been meaning to de-clutter and get your gym ready.

Home Gym Necessities:

1. Hand held dumbbells-  If you are just starting out with strength training, a set of 5 pound dumbbells is all you need in the initial stages. These dumbbells were on sale at 7.99 each. Of course you will need to purchase two. As your strength increases you can add heavier weights to your collection.

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2. If your preference is resistance bands:

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3. A Yoga mat is the perfect surface, not only for Yoga but for slip free stretching or push-ups.

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4. Cardio is an important component to any fitness routine. You can do equipment-free jumping jacks or jogging on the spot to get your heart rate up. Skipping is also a great cardiovascular exercise. This rope was priced at:

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All four items for keeping it very basic just coming in at around 50.00 dollars (without sales tax here in Can.)

As your fitness level increases you can add more equipment to your gym. You don’t need to buy the equipment all at once. Simply add to your gym as your budget allows.

Additional equipment:

A medicine ball:

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A pull-up bar:

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A kettlebell:

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Equipment in total: 129.42 (tax not included)

Not a bad price to pay for becoming a healthier you.

There you have it. A gym from home that you can build upon and add to as you become fitter, and buy at your own financial pace. Looking for the camaraderie that a gym provides? Why not invite a friend or two over to workout with you a few times per week? Entice him/her with a glass of wine, I mean a smoothie, yes a smoothie after your workout.

Getting in shape can suit almost any budget. For a complete beginner home gym workout click here. I tried this workout this evening by celebrity trainer Autumn Calabrese which is perfect and safe for beginners. There are many home gym DVD’s and YouTube workouts to choose from. Now go start clearing out those boxes of clothes from the ’80’s in your basement!

What would be your ultimate home gym essential?

*It is advisable to consult with your doctor before starting this or any new exercise routine. Physical ability and over all health and safety must be considered first and foremost.