Category Archives: health and fitness

My go-to diet aid: food choices

This is a big chart, but these tips have helped me lose 25 pounds (with 15 left to go.)

What’s missing here is alcohol. My doc challenged me on the number of units I consume per day and i’m committed to cutting back.

THanks to DesignTaxi for pointing me to this chart.

Source

New Year 2015: Projects

I’m not making resolutions per se this year, but I’ve started a few projects that will put some discipline in my life.

On the health front, I’m starting the 100 days of real food program. It’s 14 weeks of “mini-pledges” that (hopefully) turn into habits. This week I’ve pledged to eat two servings of fruit/veg with each meal which is only an issue for me at breakfast. I mean, not an issue, but it’s not a habit (yet.) I also have a few minor health issues that I should deal with in the new year.

On the reading front, I’m participating in a few online challenges and read-alongs. I’m a member of the Roundtable group at Goodreads, a newly formed group rising from the ashes of Bookish that was recently closed. Like Bookish, they do a bi-annual reading challenge and so I’ve made my plans for the next four months. (I won’t get them all read, but I’ve lined up a book for most of the challenges.). They’re also doing a year-long group read of The Novel: A Biography by Michael Schmidt (along with various novels discussed therein); and a two-month discussion of The Brothers Karamazov. We’ve got our next four books lined up for my IRL book club: Us Conductors (Sean Michaels), Chez l’arabe: Stories (Mireille Silcoff), All My Puny Sorrows (Miriam Toews), and Bad Feminist: Essays (Roxane Gay).

On the social front, I am committing to meeting some online friends/relatives in real life! Last year, it was wonderful to finally meet Zouheir’s (and now my) friend Jean-Paul Audouy, high school friend Judson Stone who I saw in Paris for the first time since high school, as well as sheep-farming cousin Tom Goddard. This has spurred me on to get together with a cousin on my father’s side, Lillian Orloff Spencer, in Arizona in February and another on my mother’s side, Audrey Groff, close to me here in the GTA later this month. I also commit to be better about keeping in touch with those closer to me but with whom I can go for weeks or months without seeing.

With JP at Volos in Toronto
With the Temiskaming Goddards in Barrie
With Judson in Paris

And finally, on the home front, I will be continuing the decluttering with Rosalind from Fresh Start Solutions and getting some renovations done. December was a great month for that, with a huge purge of our main floor, new fridge and wall oven, as well as a good start on the basement (which is currently the home of things to be consigned/sold in the next little while.) The biggest win for me here will be the creation of my study/studio with all my creative endeavours organized and ready to go.

What do you see looking forward this year? Any projects/resolutions?

The return of the black dog

statue-sad-1

I got three things done this morning that have been on my to-do list for some time (one for months). It’s a good upswing in mood for me as the black dog has been visiting recently and I was starting to hibernate.

See how I used the secret code in that last sentence? Black dog? Because we still don’t like to talk about it, despite all the social media campaigns, the celebrity confessions, the it’s-just-like-any-other-disease comments. I’ve been getting a lot of support from the few friends with whom I’ve talked about it. But so many people just don’t get it. They want to solve the problem, and it just ain’t that easy.

Depression.

This most recent bout was likely triggered by a diagnosis of osteoarthritis in one of my knees. I’ve been having increasing levels of pain and discomfort over the past few months, with respite from time to time (including, thank G*d, during our trip to Sweden.) But this last flare up found me in my doctor’s office.

I love my family doctor, and really liked the doc who was covering for him while he was on vacation. She sent me for an xray and ultrasound, but based on her examination, she said it was likely osteoarthritis. So I went for the scans and waited for a call back for another appointment.

What I got was the (very nice) secretary reading my results off of the computer screen, as follows : “Degenerative condition. Patient should continue with pain medication as discussed and get physio.” No offer of a follow-up appointment.

I’m 54, retired, overweight and not sporty in the least, but walk a lot: in my neighbourhood, on public transit, in travels abroad. I want to adopt a dog in the near future. We look forward to this empty nest season in our lives as active, and so the knee thing is kind of alarming. Feeling brushed off by my doctor’s office was the last straw. I was angry, and then, a couple of days later, on my way to my first physio appointment, the tears just welled up. I spent the next couple of days feeling not anger but fear and sadness. I found myself checking not once but twice whether I’d forgotten to put my antidepressants in my pill dispenser. (I hadn’t forgotten.)

The physiotherapist I saw was absolutely lovely, talked about the objectives of treatment (strengthening the muscles around the joint), and did some work on my leg and foot. My homework for this week was to apply heat to my knee a few times (which was lovely.) Next week she’ll start me on some exercises.

I realized this morning that I feel better when I accomplish things. So I’ve been forcing myself to get out of bed and work on my list. Yesterday I cleaned my desk (NOT an insignificant task) and made dinner. Today I replaced my broken Birkenstocks, shopped for groceries, and got my computer glasses fixed. I’m seeing a friend for a late lunch today.

This weekend, my loved one and I have nothing on our calendars. We’re planning to visit the McMichael Gallery, to which I have never been, despite seven years in Toronto. Next week, my personal September madness starts, with TIFF (where I’m seeing 17 films over 10 days), TSO opening night, and then travel to France, so I will be busy and occupied. And (hopefully) fully mobile.

I’ve recently started following the blog Momastery after someone shared this post. I think it’s brilliant. And her voice really resonates. In her About page, she finishes with this:

My job is to wake up every day, say yes to life’s invitation, and let millions of women watch me get up off the floor, walk, stumble, and get back up again.

Love each other, my friends.

~~

Wanna know what depression feels like? This video is pretty much it.

Seven Quick Take Friday – Leaving on a Jet Plane

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. I’m off to Vancouver today on the early morning flight. Zouheir has been out west since last Monday and will be there until next Thursday evening so I decided to cash in some points and join him for the weekend. I haven’t visited for years, probably in the 90s sometime, so I’m looking forward to seeing the sights. We have a reservation on Tojo’s on Friday evening (thanks for the recommendation, Kathleen!), and then I’m hoping to get to the Museum of Anthropology at the University of British Columbia, maybe Granville Island if the weather is good. Or just walk the city.

    Creation/Raven – Bill Reid
  2. Michael has been subbing on Eb tuba with the Weston Silver Band this summer. They’ll be playing some free concerts in this part of Ontario and I hope to get out to at least one: Ancaster on July 14, Stratford on July 21, and Orillia on July 28.
  3. The Toronto Symphony Orchestra has a couple of events as part of Luminato this weekend. Their big free concert at David Pecaut Square is tonight at 8. Billed as a “Symphonic Birthday Party”, Verdi and Wagner make up most of the program this year. Tomorrow afternoon, they’ll be hosting a “Music Mob” in the same location. Folks can dust off their instruments, download the music, and show up and play with the pros. As a member of the TSYO, Michael has been recruited to assist Mark Tetrault, the TSO Principal Tuba as well as other tubists who show up to join the fun. Michael’s had a couple of lessons with Marc and he’s a great guy. Sadly, I’m missing both these events due to my Vancouver trip. Hit the link above if you want to join them. They have simplified instrument parts if you think you need them!
  4. Alex has been in Kingston this week, starting his Master in Management Analytics program. It’s part of the Queen’s School of Business, but classes are (normally) held in Toronto. This week is kind of the kick-off where students get to meet one another, are placed into multi-disciplinary teams, go to classes, and generally socialise. (Apparently a river cruise is part of the program.) The next module starts in Toronto on July 3rd.
  5. Michael never fails to find the funniest stuff online. Yesterday he showed me this: classical sculptures dressed as hipsters. Click on the link. You will not be disappointed.
  6. Vegan Before 6 update: I’m now drinking my coffee black or with heated almond milk. I’ve discovered some new veggie prepared products, and this week made a big pot of vegan bolognese sauce so that I could have leftovers for lunch (or breakfast.) It’s a bit of overkill really… I regularly make tomato sauce for pasta and don’t bother with meat (although adding some crumbled spicy sausage is terrific), but I picked up some Yves Veggie Ground Round and threw it in, along with some fresh herbs from my new planter. So far, so good. We’ll see what eating out this weekend does to the plan. I see some soy lattés in my future. I also neglected to order a vegan meal for my flight today so that may require a cheat.
  7. Reading: This weekend, I’ve packed my current Dominick Dunne novel as well as my Kobo. I’ve got Sussex Drive by Linda Svendsen and Howard Engel’s Man Who Forgot How To Read. I’m also finishing up Skios by Michael Frayne on my ipod (Overdrive Audiobook) and have some new short stories by William Trevor (A Bit On The Side) queued up.

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Easing my way into VB6

vegan heartI posted recently about my interest in Mark Bittman’s Vegan Before 6 eating plan and have been slowly making my way there. I’ve eased of dairy with my cereal, opting for yoso’s Soygo yogurt. My grocer doesn’t carry the unsweetened version so I must request it, or perhaps I’ll move to almond milk with my granola. I’ve stopped using cream in my coffee, and have had a few peanut butter based sandwiches for lunch.

But I don’t really like sandwiches, in general, so need to amp up the vegetarian evening meals so that I have leftovers for lunch. I have determined that it’s pretty hard for me to get a decent vegan fast food meal as the moment I walk in to, say McDonald’s thinking about a salad, the smell draws me inexorably to the forbidden. So for the time being, I’m eating at home. Which is a good thing.

I did a Costco run yesterday and picked up some Veggie Patch Mediterranean Chick Pea and Spinach patties which I heated up for lunch today. Yummo! I have a recipe for a similar made-from-scratch patty so must dig it out, but these ones are great for a quick meal. I’m using lentil hummus in place of tzatiki, but there must be some vegan way to make the latter. I also picked up a jumbo (to me) pack of four blocks of tofu so will be scouring my recipe books for ideas. (Please post or link to your fave tofu recipes in the comments. Please!)

Besides the VB6 book which has lots of recipes, I picked up a couple more at thrift shops:

The New Vegetarian Gourmet by Byron Ayanouglu
Fresh from the Vegan Slow Cooker by Robin Robertson
Detox Dieting by Nicola Graimes

I already have The New Enchanted Broccoli Forest but have found most of those recipes to be very time consuming. I will also dig into Jerusalem: A Cookbook by Yotam Ottolenghi and Sami Tamimi which like so much of the food from that region, has a wealth of vegan options.

The wonderful food-blogger Jenny Newlon at Dinner of Herbs has lots of great ideas, and I’m hoping for more videos from vegan chef Anita Shepherd, like this one:

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Seven Quick Takes Friday

Seven Quick Takes Friday

  1. Out of the mouths of my man-babies (shared this week on my Facebook timeline):

    While standing by the toaster, trying to get the other son to finish the older bread, says to the other “It’s really *godfather* to eat the heel of the loaf.”

    My young tubist was off for a gig at the Conservatory <this week>. Dressed in a black suit, white shirt, polished shoes, and hipster specs, his comment: “I’ll fit right in with the rush hour crowd. Except for the tuba on my back.”

  2. My little problem has been fixed,
    My little problem has been fixed…

    Thanks to a Facebook friend, I was encouraged to visit the Apple Store regarding the smashed back of my iPhone. Sure enough, the repair was $29+tax. If it’d been the front (screen) it would have been another story. I learned the lesson that a phone is not a particularly good thing to use as a bookmark, particularly if you leave it on a counter above a ceramic tile floor.

  3. Jawbone Up band in mint-green

    I did a little browsing in the Apple Store while I was waiting (the 10 minutes!) for my phone to be repaired. I came home with a Jawbone Up band, a little bracelet that you wear on your wrist to monitor your physical activity and sleep patterns. The accompanying app also lets you easily track your diet (using barcodes or manual search and a huge database of stored foods.) Even though it was a rainy day yesterday and I spent a lot of it indoors, I managed to log over 7200 steps. (My goal is 10,000 per day). You can set the band to vibrate to remind you to get active every so many minutes, and also to wake you up in the morning. I am very excited about this (as I am about so many things these days). I’m hoping my spouse might consider wearing one as well. Mine is a beautiful turquoise (although they call it mint-green). The band is compatible with iOS and Android.

  4. I gave up on Linden MacIntyre’s Why Men Lie. I really enjoyed his previous novel The Bishop’s Man, but I just couldn’t get in to this one. It’s on my Kobo, so I can come back to it later if I want.
  5. I picked up VB6: Eat Vegan Before 6:00 to Lose Weight and Restore Your Health . . . for Good by Mark Bittman when I was at Winners of all places. As I believe I’ve mentioned before, I’m heading that way, both in terms of improving my diet as well as shepherding the resources of the planet more effectively. Essentially, he proposes that you eat a vegan diet before 6 pm and then at will after that.
  6. Michael and I went to the TSO last night and heard Joshua Bell and Edgar Meyer as featured soloists. Bell is astounding, kind of my Perlman for the new millenium or something. He opened the second half with Ravel’s Tzigane, rapsodie de concert for Violin and Orchestra which begins with an extended solo before the orchestra joins in. I would pay the price of my ticket to hear that piece again. Meyer was featured in his composition, the Canadian premiere of the Concerto for Violin and Double Bass. I was underwhelmed by the composition, but that may just be my lack of comfort with modern repertoire. Or maybe it just needs another listen. The playing by both Bell and Meyer was magnificent. The concert opener (Copland’s Appalachian Spring) and closer (Respighi’s Pini di Roma) were absolute barnbusters, the kind of music that just opens up your heart.
  7. Tonight: The Giacomo Variations at the Elgin Theatre, featuring John Malkovich as Casanova. My date is arriving at 5pm, flying in from a week in Vancouver, so I hope his flight is on time. We’ll probably grab dinner at The Paramount.

And now my Up band is vibrating to tell me that I’ve been idle for too long! Gotta run. Consider subscribing to my blog by email (or follow me in WordPress) – use the box on the right if you’re reading this in a browser.

For more Seven Quick Takes Friday, visit Jennifer at Conversion Diary.

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Health update

“Coughs and Sneezes Spread Diseases – As Dangerous as Poison Gas Shells”. U.S. Public Health ad on dangers of Spanish Flu epidemic during World War I. (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

The good news: it’s not pnemonia.

The bad news: I’m still coughing, wheezing, feverish (low-grade) and short of breath. 

My family doc changed the antibiotics I was on as I was seeing no improvement after five days, and he gave me a “Turbuhaler”, a newfangled inhaler that should reduce inflammation in my lungs.

This has been the most annoying illness ever: my trip to England was pretty much a wash-out and I’m worried about upcoming arts events where hacking coughs are discouraged. Next week we have tickets for a play and the orchestra.

It’s been three weeks now and I’m SO annoyed by this. I need to apply for a building permit for some work we’re having done on the house and I have no energy to do the drawings, fill out the forms, and stand in line at City Hall. I managed to get our taxes done, and luckily TurboTax caught some mistakes that I’m sure I made because I was delerious (well, feverish, at least).

Anyway, gotta run. Got another (unrelated) medical test to get to today. Sorry for the boring post. I’ll try to do better next time.

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Here Comes the Sun….

Little darlin’…it’s been a long cold lonely winter.

Little darlin’… it seems like years since it’s been here.

Today felt like the right day to get back to my blog. My last post was in December and I’ve been carried through the last few months on the backs of those who love me. 

Some of the things that I look forward to, cultural events, travel, singing, have been whizzing by me and I’ve only been able to partially engage. These past two weeks I have struggled with a very bad cold that started in my chest, and is ending there. My allergies have compounded the problem, but I feel like I’m coming out on top.

I am feeling the need to write more, to find creative ways to express myself, both publicly and privately. I have signed up for a webinar that introduces LifeJournal software to see if that might be a platform that I could use for my personal writing. I need to pick up knitting needles, or an embroidery needle, or set up a sewing space to get back to a quilt I’ve started. My plan is to claim a basement bedroom that is normally used for guests as a place where I can leave my work out for short periods of time.

We have some interesting things on the cultural calendar this month, and I hope to use this space to blog about them.

We’re seeing the play High starring Kathleen Turner at the Royal Alex next week. We’ve also got tickets for the TSO’s performance of Holst’s The Planets for which Michael will be joining us. His school music program does their May Lyrics concert that week as well. The following week we have another Books on Film event at TIFF featuring Graham Greene’s novel The Third Man and 1949 film starring Orson Welles.

My reading life has suffered somewhat recently, but I recently finished Alan Hollinghurst’s The Line of Beauty. My review over at Goodreads read:

I love Hollinghurst’s prose, and would have given this five stars. But I can only take so many pages of coke-fuelled gay sex and this novel went over my limit. 

That aside, it captures the times so aptly: the British class structure; and the world of rich young men (and their hangers on) who want to DO something, like publish a glossy art magazine; the intersection of race and wealth; and what sexual sins are forgivable.

I also had a quick re-read of the Keep Toronto Reading pick Girls Fall Down prior to Sunday’s book club gathering. I’m currently at work on The Vault by Ruth Rendell. Next up will be Peter Robinson’s latest(?) called Before the Poison, a stand-alone mystery, not part of the Inspector Banks series.

Enough for today but I’ll be back soon. May is looking up!

Old Age: Quality vs. Quantity

Excellent and thought-provoking piece for all of ua with aging parents. Click on the link at the bottom to access the full article. An excerpt:

            Jimmie, my colleague, asked why I needed to yell at my father on my mother’s behalf. I explained to her that I always had to yell because my father’s hearing was so bad.

            “No, that’s not what I meant. Why do you have to say anything at all? So what if he has a cookie?”

            “His sugar level goes through the roof.”

            “So what if his sugar level goes through the roof?”

            I was honestly mystified. What was she saying?

            “He’s not going to live forever, you know. So what if his sugar level goes up?”

There, she said it. It still took a while for me to understand. She told me the joke about the old guy who went to the doctor and asked what he could do to live longer. The doc said, “Well, you can give up alcohol, smoking, and women. You may not live longer, but it will SEEM longer.”

What she was pointing out was my own bias; I assumed the best thing for my father was as much quantity of life as possible, and that I needed to use my authority with him to keep him in line to do the healthier thing.  It suddenly occurred to me that I should be thinking less about his sugar count and more about his quality of life. And, besides, what did I really have control over when it came to my parents’ lives? More important, what should I have control over? I started asking questions I didn’t like the answer to.

            Like, what was he doing all day.

A cure for the common cold? Yes, please…

I think I’m starting to crawl out from under this heavy blanket of my cold.  My sinuses are feeling much better today and I don’t have a headache, although that may be due to the migraine meds I took last night before bed.  I missed the Evelyn Glennie concert because I was just too sick to get myself there and it seems like it was a wonder.  Sigh.

Teapot_and_honey

This morning, a correspondent told me about a cure that she learned of in Cuba:  a handful of mint leaves, steeped in boiling water, with some honey.  I don’t have any fresh mint, but she suggested dried would also work so I’ve consumed a great mug of that and am hoping for the best. I’m off the cold meds, but may need some pain relief if the headache returns.  

Michael’s last Kiwanis event with the school orchestra was this morning, so I had to get dressed and out to transport him, his tuba, and a couple of friends to the venue.  I’m on call to pick him up sometime around noon when it’s over and then I’ll run some errands.  I’m quite behind in my to-do list but I’m simply knackered with this this cold.  I haven’t been this ill for a long time, possibly due to the mega-doses of Vitamin C that I take for something completely different (or has that been disproven?).  Z brought home fixings for dinner last night and assembled everything which was sweet.  Leftovers are available for lunch so I can take it easy. 

I”ll make a chicken pot pie with cornbread crust for dinner (a one-pot meal, and quite easy).  I’ve got nothing else on until tomorrow night when the man-child has a gig with the Jazz.fm big band at Hart House (Jazz @ Oscar’s, 9-11:30 pm). 

Feeling like another cup of tea…