Friday, 31 December 2010

New Year's Resolutions

I've written about The Happiness Project before. It's a project created by Gretchen Rubin to mark her progress through a resolution to bring happiness into her life. From this project she's written a book by the same name, as well as created a website also called the Happiness Project.

I've included a recent post she's made on her site, about New Year's Resolutions. If you ever read her materials, you'll see that she knows a lot about keeping resolutions. Along with the copy of her post, if you click on the title it will direct you to her site.

5 Questions To Help You Make Effective New Year's Resolutions.

Forty-four percent of Americans make New Year’s resolutions, and I know I always do. I’m more inclined to make resolutions than ever, in fact, because if my happiness project has convinced me of anything, it has convinced me that resolutions – made right – can make a huge difference in boosting happiness.
So how do you resolve well? This is trickier than it sounds. Here are some tips for making your resolutions as effective as possible. Remember, right now, you’re in the planning stage. Don’t feel like you have to do anything yet! Just start thinking about what would make 2011 a happier year.

1. Ask: “What would make me happier?” It might having more of something good – more fun with friends, more time for a hobby. It might be less of something bad – less yelling at your kids, less nagging of your spouse. It might be fixing something that doesn’t feel right – more time spent volunteering, more time doing something to make someone else happier. Or maybe you need to get an atmosphere of growth in your life by learning something new. (These questions relate to the First Splendid Truth.)

2. Ask: “What is a concrete action that would bring about change?” One common problem is that people make abstract resolutions, which are hard to keep. “Be more optimistic,” “Find more joy in life,” “Enjoy now,” are resolutions that are hard to measure and therefore difficult to keep. Instead, look for a specific, measurable action. “Distract myself with fun music when I’m feeling gloomy,” “Watch at least one movie each week,” “Buy a lovely plant for my desk” are resolutions that will carry you toward those abstract goals.

3. Ask: “Am I a ‘yes’ resolver or a ‘no’ resolver?” Some people resent negative resolutions. They dislike hearing “don’t” or “stop” (even from themselves) or adding to their list of chores. If this describes you, try to find positive resolutions: “Take that dance class,” “Have lunch with a friend once a week.” Or maybe you respond well to “no.” I actually do better with "no" resolutions; this may be related to the abstainer/moderator split. A lot of my resolutions are aimed at getting me to stop doing something, or to do something I don’t really want to do -- such as Don't expect gold stars. There’s no right way to make a resolution, but it’s important to know what works for you. As always, the secret is to know your own nature.

4. Ask: “Am I starting small enough?” Many people make super-ambitious resolutions and then drop them, feeling defeated, before January is over. Start small! We tend to over-estimate what we can do over a short time and under-estimate what we can do over a long time, if we make consistent, small steps. If you’re going to resolve to start exercising (one of the most popular resolutions), don’t resolve to go to the gym for an hour every day before work. Start by going for a ten-minute walk at lunch or marching in place once a day during the commercial breaks in your favorite TV show. Little accomplishments provide energy for bigger challenges. Push yourself too hard and you may screech to a halt.

5. Ask: “How am I going to hold myself accountable?” Accountability is the secret to sticking to resolutions. That’s why groups like AA and Weight Watchers are effective. There are many ways to hold yourself accountable; for example, I keep my Resolutions Chart (if you’d like to see my chart, for inspiration, email me at gretchenrubin1 [at]'t forget the "1"). Accountability is why #2 is so important. If your resolution is too vague, it’s hard to measure whether you’ve been keeping it. A resolution to “Eat healthier” is harder to track than “Eat salad for lunch three times a week.”

Tuesday, 28 December 2010


"You don't have to blow out the other person's light to let your own shine." ~ Bernard M. Baruch

Monday, 27 December 2010

Winter Skin

My skin has some difficulties in winter. Normally dry, it really gets itchy and flaky in the winter. I was online looking for some winter skin tips and fopund these nice and easy ones on the Canadian Living website.

10 fall and winter skin-care secrets
from Canadian Living by Jessica Padykula
The days are cold, and we're going to start seeing snow. Unfortunately for some of us, we'll be experiencing a completely different kind of flake -- flaky, lacklustre skin that has replaced that dewy glow of summer.

Kristen Ma, aesthetician and co-owner of Pure + Simple spa in Toronto, offers 10 insider tips for maintaining healthy, flake-free, supple skin -- all winter long

1. Get a facial
Ma explains that getting a facial is a great way to clear out your skin and start a new season with a clean slate. As the climate changes, so does our skin, and an aesthetician can help ease the transition. Starting with healthier, cleaner skin allows your cold weather skin-care routine to be more effective, Ma says.

2. Drink water
Remembering to stay hydrated in the summer is a no-brainer, but as it gets colder, getting your daily dose of water isn't always a top priority -- but it should be, Ma says. “We all get more dehydrated in the winter, so it's important to drink more water,” she explains. “This is a very simple, but beneficial tip for people wanting to maintain healthy skin.”

3. Protect your face from the elements
We wrap ourselves in heavy jackets and clothing during the winter, and it shouldn't be any different with our skin, Ma says. She suggests using a heavier cream versus a lighter moisturizer to keep skin hydrated. “Skin gets more sensitive in the winter so think of a heavier cream as an extra layer of protection -- like a warm sweater,” she says.

4. Avoid petroleum
Don't neglect your lips, which have a tendency to dry out in the winter. Keep balm with you and apply often as the temperature drops. Ma suggests avoiding products that contain petroleum as it can clog the pores in your lips, making it hard for the moisture to get where it needs to be. “You can't properly moisturize skin that is congested,” she explains.

5. Don't put away the sunscreen
Just because you're shivering doesn't mean the sun's rays go on vacation. Sunscreen is still important, Ma says. Remember to put it on 30 minutes before you leave the house so your skin is protected.
6. Take care of your body, too “Skin is the largest organ in your body, so you must moisturize all if it, not just from the shoulders up,” Ma says. The same goes for exfoliation, she explains. Whatever you do for your face, you should also be doing for your body, especially in frosty.

7. Try a hydrating serum
Ma suggests adding a hydrating serum to your skin-care routine, to be applied under your regular moisturizer. There is so much humidity in the summer, you don't need one, she says. But winter's dry air means we need an extra layer of moisture, which a serum can provide. Like layering a favourite fitted T-shirt under your cardigan, a hydrating serum seals in the comfort -- not to mention helps provide dewy-looking skin despite dry air and frigid temperatures.

8. Use a cream cleanser
Switch from a gel to a cream cleanser for the winter. Because skin is more sensitive in cold weather, gel cleansers, which are often astringent, can further dry out and irritate winter skin, Ma explains. A quality cream cleanser will remove makeup and debris without depleting skin's precious moisture.

9. Exfoliate regularly
Dull, lacklustre skin is an unfortunate winter trademark. This is caused by a buildup of dead skin, Ma explains. To give those dry, flaky cheeks a boost, exfoliate regularly. You need to do this more often in winter than you do in summer, she says. “Three times a week is a great way to ensure you're always showcasing your freshest, healthiest skin."

10. Try oils
A great -- and comforting -- way to provide your whole body with much-needed hydration during the winter is with bath oils. Your skin absorbs the moisture from the oils, leaving your skin silky soft every time you step out of the tub.

Friday, 24 December 2010


"To keep the lamp burning, we have to keep putting oil in it." ~ Mother Teresa

Thursday, 23 December 2010

Vitamin D and Health in the Winter

In a previous post I mentioned that the naturopaths I've seen this year now have a newsletter. Here is another article from them. Their website is: Head to Heal

The Sunshine Vitamin – the Benefits of Vitamin D

Naturally, we get our Vitamin D from the sun. The only food sources with considerable amounts of Vitamin D are fatty fish and egg yolks. In Canada, some products have been fortified with Vitamin D, however, it’s impossible to get the levels of Vitamin D which have been proven to be protective from food alone. This is why it is especially important to supplement during our long prairie winters. In sunnier months, we need 20 minutes (four times a week on our face, chest, arms and back) to obtain enough Vitamin D.
The Canadian Association of Naturopathic Doctors (CAND), recommends 2000-4000 IU of Vitamin D every day. Breast-fed infants need to be supplemented with 400-1000 IU of Vitamin D every day. Those with darker skin might need to supplement with more Vitamin D, since darker skin is less able to make Vitamin D from the sun.
There are many studies that document vitamin D’s benefits including:
  • Reduction of risk of cancer, multiple sclerosis, osteoporosis and Type 2 diabetes
  • Adequate levels of vitamin D increase survival rates of women with breast cancer
  • Beneficial for preventing Seasonal Affective Disorder as vitamin D increases brain serotonin levels (the feel-good hormone)
  • Supports proper bone and skin health
  • Improves overall immune function - adequate levels of Vitamin D ensure that T cells (that develop in the thymus gland) properly recognize self antigens and react against non-self or dangerous antigens – Vitamin D boosts the immune system to fight infections
If you are curious about your Vitamin D level, ask you MD for a simple blood test. The 25-Hydroxy-Vitamin D Test is used to determine your status. If you are deficient, you should supplement throughout the winter months and, remember, Vitamin D is a fat soluble vitamin, and, as such, it is important to take with food. 

Sunday, 19 December 2010

Homemade Chicken Noodle Soup

Since cold season has hit we've been eating even more soup than usual.

One favourite is Chicken Noodle Soup. It's not too salty and definitely not spicy, but it still warms you up; it's comforting and yummy.

The following recipe is one that I've put together over the last few years. I tend to make a huge pot so that I can freeze some for later.

Chicken Noodle Soup:

Cooking the chicken and preparing the broth:

Place 2 stewing or frying chickens in a large pot and add enough water to cover them. Add large chunks of carrot, celery, onion and garlic. If necessary add some more water to cover.

Allow to cook on medium heat until the chicken has cooked.

Reserve the broth, discard the vegetables and allow the chicken to cool. 

Making the Soup:

Debone the chicken and cut it up. Put the cut up chicken into the broth.

Add newly diced carrots, onions, celery (about 2 cups each) and minced garlic (I add about 4 large cloves)

Add more water to cover the vegetables and chicken. I like a hearty soup, so I don't measure the water. I add according to the pot, with a bit extra for cooking the noodles and to factor in the water that will evaporate.

Add about 1 - 2 tbsp chopped parsley, 2 tsp chopped basil, 1 tsp tarragon. Stir in 3 - 4 tbsp pesto sauce

Cook on medium heat for at least 1 hour, until vegetables are tender. Add salt and pepper to taste.

Add 1 pkg fine egg noodles or thin egg noodles that look like angel hair pasta. Allow to cook until al dente.

Serve with crusty buns, or on its own.

This soup freezes and reheats well.

Saturday, 18 December 2010


"Always deliver what you say you will. Never make a promise you can't follow through on. The way you really build trust, in a sense, is through crucibles. You have to show that you will do your part, even if it is difficult." ~ Dennis Ross, Former U. S. Ambassador

Wednesday, 15 December 2010

Holiday Stress Busters

I've seen a couple of naturopaths this last year. They now send a monthly newsletter and I got the following from it. Their website is: Head to Heal

Holiday Stress Busters
The holidays: fun for some, nerve-wracking for others. Last minute shopping, wrapping gifts, cooking, socializing, eating, family get-togethers, all on top of our regular routines and responsibilities can take their toll. It's no wonder people find the holidays exhausting, to say the least. Stress is no joke. Physicians have long known that unmitigated stress lowers immune function, triggers inflammation, increases the risk for chronic health concerns such as cardiovascular and autoimmune diseases and can lead to depression.
Most people take this time to let loose and enjoy. However, it's especially important to give your body some added support to weather the demands of the season and ring in a healthy new year. Here are some simple tools that you can use to help lessen the strain that often comes with celebrating the holidays.

Sleep: sleep deprivation is a well-known contributing factor in obesity as well as other chronic health conditions. However, over-sleeping is just as unhealthy as lack of sleep. Try to make sure you get to bed at the same time every night and get up at the same time every morning, even on the weekends. This helps establish a natural sleep pattern. Sleep in a dark room to maximize melatonin production.
Delegate: remember that stress sets in when you try and do it all. Ask for help and prioritize.
Avoid 'stress eating': our brains require more energy when stressed. When you're pressed for time, it's easy to forget what your naturopathic doctor told you about reaching for convenience foods. Processed and sugary foods cause insulin levels to spike which compounds your body's perception of stress. Choose foods that lower the Glycemic Index of your meals and snacks. These are foods high in fiber, protein and good fats. They will stabilize your energy levels, your mood and support immune function.

Breathe: what's the first thing we do when we're distracted? We stop breathing! Well, not quite, but our breathing becomes significantly more shallow. When this happens, our blood is not getting fully oxygenated, compromising our body's ability to get the energy it needs to carry out its basic functions. Taking slow deep breaths is the quickest and easiest way to engage the 'rest and digest' branch of our nervous system. When you think of it or notice the signs of stress take a deep breath in while counting to six. Then slowly exhale through pursed lips, again, while counting to six, better yet, ten. At some point, during this exhalation you will notice that your shoulders drop and release their tension. Your body will thank you.
End your shower with a blast of cold water: we know it’s last thing you want to do on a cold, wintery, Saskatchewan morning. However, this simple trick can go a long way to improving the quality of your blood, your circulation and mental alertness.

Tuesday, 14 December 2010


"Our first energies should go to our own character development, which is often invisible to others, like the roots that sustain great trees. As we cultivate the roots, we will begin to see the fruits." ~ Stephen R. Covey

Saturday, 11 December 2010


Most families have traditions, whether they are created around the holidays, birthdays, or other special events. In some ways I am not actually all that big on least that is what I've always thought.

Now that my own children are in their 20s, I think I am singing a different tune. There is one "tradition"....having the kids home for Christmas....that I can't imagine missing.
Last Christmas, for instance, we had our first ever holdiday where we had to share our daughter with her boyfriend's family....and it seemed like they had her with them A LOT. (Although I could be biased.)

What I really want is to have my kids nearby, for at least some of the holiday. AND, that I want those who are important in their lives to join in our festivities just as much as I want my own kids to be around.

I don't seem to have a problem letting them go the other 364 days of the year...

Maybe it's because I've only had one Christmas without my own parents? Yep, I'm a big baby; unapologetically so!

(Pictures are Thomas Kinkade paintings)

Wednesday, 8 December 2010


"You can't have success without trust. The word trust embodies almost everything you can strive for that will help you to succeed. You tell me any human relationship that works without trust, whether it is a marriage or a friendship or a social interaction; in the long run, the smae thing is true about business, especially businesses that deal with the public." ~ Jim Burke, Former Chairman and CEO, Johnson & Johnson

Room, by Emma Donoghue

"Emma Donoghue's writing is superb alchemy, changing innocence into horror and horror into tenderness. Room is a book to read in one sitting. When it's over you look up: the world looks the same but you are somehow different and that feeling lingers for days." --Audrey Niffenegger, author of The Time Traveler's Wife and Her Fearful Symmetry.

Harper Collins Canada has written this about Room:
To five-year-old Jack, Room is the entire world. It’s where he was born and where he and his Ma eat and play and learn. At night, Ma puts him safely to sleep in the wardrobe, in case Old Nick comes.
Room is home to Jack, but to Ma, it’s the prison where Old Nick has kept her for seven years, since she was nineteen. Through ingenuity and determination, Ma has created a life for herself and her son, but she knows it’s not enough for either of them. Jack’s curiosity is building alongside Ma’s desperation -- and Room can’t contain either of them for much longer...
Told entirely in the inventive, often funny voice of Jack, Room is a celebration of the resilient bond between parent and child, and a brilliantly executed novel about a journey from one world to another.
Donoghue states:

ROOM, by Emma Donoghue from era404 creative on Vimeo.

From her website:
Born in Dublin in 1969, Emma Donoghue is a writer of contemporary and historical fiction whose novels include the bestselling Slammerkin, The Sealed Letter, Landing, Life Mask, Hood, and Stirfry. Her story collections are The Woman Who Gave Birth to Rabbits, Kissing the Witch, and Touchy Subjects. She also writes literary history, and plays for stage and radio. She lives in London, Ontario, with her partner and their two small children. For more information, go to:
Our culture is constantly telling stories about psychos who capture women. I deliberately kept my kidnapper out of the spotlight. The more I read and thought about it, the more it seemed to me that there is no comfortably fixed moral distance between a kidnapper and the rest of us. (The existence of entire slave-owning societies reminded me that humans often find it both convenient and pleasurable to own others.) It was not Old Nick’s evil that fascinated me, but the resilience of Ma and Jack: the nitty-gritties of their survival, their trick of more or less thriving under apparently unbearable conditions.
Room is the WINNER of the 2010 Rogers Writers' Trust Award for Fiction. It was also shortlisted for the 2010 Man Booker Prize and the 2010 Governor General's Award.
I read Room this summer. It was such a different book from any other I've ever read. Truthfully, if someone had told me what the story was all about I would never have read it. A story with the underlying premise of an abducted woman living in a tiny room with her 5 year old son is not one I'd normally pick up. However, the story of Jack, how he sees his world, and his relationship to his mother creates a compelling tale, which Donoghue has executed masterfully.

It is a story that has stayed with me, months later, one that keeps me thinking about rereading it!

Friday, 3 December 2010


"For some people, becoming a leader can be a real power trip. They relish the feeling of control over both people and information. And so they keep secrets, reveal little of their thinking about people and their performance, and hoard what they know about the business and its future. This kind of behavior certainly establishes the leader as boss, but it drains trust right out of a team." ~ Jack Welch

Quick Baked Beans with Apples

This recipe has been adapted from a recent Best Recipes show. (The show's picture is featured here)


1 cup apple cider
4 tsp apple cider vinegar
1 large can crushed tomatoes
1 large onion, diced
2 cloves of  crushed garlic
2 Tbsp molasses
1 Tbsp dry mustard
1 pinch of salt
1 pinch of pepper

Cook ingredients on medium in saucepan to combine the flavours and cook down the onions and garlic

2 cans Navy Beans that have been rinsed (until there are no more bubbles coming off of the beans) and drained
2 large apples cut into 1" chunks (they'll cook down)
Place in a casserole baking dish.
Place the slices of 2 large apples over the top of the beans mixture, overlap slightly.
Bake for 2 hours at 300 degrees

This recipe is called "Quick" because it uses canned beans. You can replace the canned beans with beans that have been soaked overnight.

Some people prefer to have ham, bacon, or another type of pork in their beans. You can add chopped up meat in this dish, but there is also lots of protein in the beans.