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Month: September 2016

Fitness Blender Kickboxing Workout

Fitness Blender Kickboxing Workout

Kickboxing Workout from Fitness Blender

Daniel & Kelli from Fitness Blender have created a huge library of online videos. They are easy to learn and follow along. There are workouts for different difficulty levels and you can easily search with various criteria for a workout that will suit you and your ability. It’s good to vary the types of workouts so I like to mix it up. Recently I’ve been alternating days of exercise outside (running, cycling, walking) with indoor workouts with Fitness Blender. Here’s one that includes a short warm-up, a fairly intense kick-boxing routine with some HIIT thrown in, and a short cool-down. I prefer to workout in the morning, so before work when I’m tight for time, this workout really fits the bill…

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this video, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this video are at your own risk.

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Yellowknife

Yellowknife

Yellowknife, Northwest Territories, Canada

Not long ago, my husband and I decided we’d like to explore part of Northern Canada. We settled on Yellowknife because it is in the Northwest Territories and had some interesting things to see. It is only 2-3 hours flight from Calgary (depending on the flight). It’s also an excellent location to see the Northern Lights, something every Canadian should experience!

Floating Houses on Yellowknife Bay, Great Slave Lake
Floating Houses on Great Slave Lake
Northwest Territories licence plate
Northwest Territories licence plate

Yellowknife is the capital city of the Northwest Territories with a population of just under 20,000. It’s located on the north arm of Great Slave Lake (the deepest lake in North America) and is about 512 km south of the Artic Circle. The name Yellowknife comes from a Dene band, the Yellowknives, who once lived on the islands in the East Arm of Great Slave Lake and carried knives with yellow copper blades.

Float plane and boats
Float plane and boats

It was originally formed as a gold-mining town, but today most of the gold mines have closed and the city has re-invented itself as Canada’s diamond-mining capital. Yellowknife is the only city of the Northwest Territories and it is the centre for the territory’s government. In spite of its mining heritage, the main workforce is public service. Tourism also plays a significant role. Unemployment rate is very low and salaries are significantly higher than farther south.

The city is quite compact and most areas can be reached on foot. However, it is useful to rent a car if you plan to explore further (like Cameron Falls). There are no roads heading north, only east or west. To get farther north you’d have to fly! The geography is unique and feels similar to Northern Ontario – think Group of Seven paintings but with shorter trees. It is located on the Canadian Shield: the surrounding landscape is very rocky and slightly rolling with many small lakes scattered about. Even within Yellowknife there are at least 5 lakes (Frame Lake, Niven Lake, Jackfish Lake, Range Lake and Long Lake). There are also several scenic walking and hiking trails within the city limits.

Pilot's Monument "The Rock"
Pilot’s Monument “The Rock”
Native Art
Native Art

Yellowknife’s key attractions include (but are not limited to):

  • Northern Frontier Visitor Centre – a useful place to start
  • Pilot’s Monument – a big rock in the old town where you can climb to the top (via stairs) and get amazing views of the surrounding area
  • Government docks – access to Great Slave Lake
  • Legislative Assembly – the territorial government building
  • Prince of Wales Northern Heritage Centre – showcasing lots of interesting history and facts about Canada’s north
  • NWT Diamond Centre – with diamond polishing demos
  • Many local artist’s studios and local restaurants like the famous Bullock’s Bistro
  • Houseboats/Floating Houses – on Yellowknife Bay on Great Slave Lake (next to the Ice Road) you can view them from the Pilot’s Monument and Government dock or by boat!
  • Ice Road – seasonal (December to April) – even in the summer you can see where it starts
  • Ingraham Trail Parks towards Cameron Falls (about 45 min drive east of Yellowknife)
Cameron Falls along Ingraham Trail
Cameron Falls along Ingraham Trail
Bullock's Bistro
Bullock’s Bistro

Yellowknife has very cold winters and mild to warm summers. It’s good to pack layers so you can remove them when it’s warmer or add them on cooler nights. Of course if you travel in winter, you’ll want full winter gear including a parka! We travelled end of August, early September and the average temperatures were highs of 14 degrees Celsius during the day and down to single digits overnight. We had a few windy & gusty days, so it felt a bit cooler at times – especially as we paddled across to shore from the floating house. Yellowknife is the outdoor enthusiast’s dream. During the warmer months people go there to hike, fish, boat/canoe and explore and even take chartered flights to remote areas. Winter month activities include dogsledding, ice-fishing, cross-country skiing, snowshoeing and even participating in a winter festival. Being so far north, the days are very long in the summer and very short in the winter.

Sunrise from our floating house
Sunrise from our floating house
Our neighbours canoeing home
Our neighbours canoeing home

Yellowknife is one of the best locations to view the Aurora Borealis (Northern Lights), which are visible 240 days of the year. The best place to view them is anywhere away from city lights near midnight. On our floating house, we had a few cloudy nights so after it cleared, we were very excited to finally see the aurora! It was like a green glow sweeping slowly across the sky. On very active nights, you can apparently see other colours like crimson.

Northern Lights - Aurora Borealis
Northern Lights – Aurora Borealis

We stayed at the Explorer Hotel within Yellowknife for 2 nights which was quite comfortable and probably the best hotel in the city. Then we rented a floating house from the FloatingBnB.com for 3 nights. The owner, Daniel, was very accommodating and picked us up at the government dock in his motor boat. To travel back and forth, he provided a canoe. It was completely off grid and in addition to being a perfect viewing point for the Northern Lights, it was a unique place to live for 3 days! Then we returned to the Explorer Hotel for our last night before departing very early the next day.

I’d recommend a visit length of about 4 days. You can see most of the city’s attractions in 2-3 days. They say if you stay 3 nights, you’re pretty much guaranteed to see the Northern Lights. If you are going to take a flying tour, you may choose to stay longer. You can find much more information in the Yellowknife Visitor’s Guide and from the City of Yellowknife. All in all, it was a great experience and unlike anything we had done before.

What is your experience in Northern Canada?

See other travel locations.

How to Travel Light

How to Travel Light

How to pack minimally

napsack

Have you ever travelled somewhere and wondered what to pack? If you don’t know what you need, you may pack too much. Carrying that heavy bag can put a strain on your body and make you feel stressed about catching your plane on time. The solution is quite simple. Research, plan and pack light!

If you’ve ever been bumped from a flight, you already know that you should never check a bag. Only take carry-on baggage. I only take one napsack and one smaller bag (which happens to be a smaller napsack – my MEC day napsack). The smaller bag doubles as my daytime napsack for day trips. This keeps your hands free for taking photos while sight-seeing. On a flight the larger napsack fits nicely in the overhead bin and the smaller bag fits comfortably under the seat in front. I like to keep my electronics, snacks, wallet, passport in my easily accessible smaller bag. Some of the best napsacks are available from Mountain Equipment Co-op. When shopping for napsacks, try them on! Make sure they give sufficient support for your belongings, have padding against your back and good supportive straps.

To save time and aggravation, research where you’re going for climate and any dress code restrictions. Plan the type of activities you will do and make a list of every item you think you’ll need.

Next reduce as much as you can. You can re-wear most pieces of clothing. You can also take travel-friendly clothes that are easy to hand wash and dry fast. I really like products from Eddie Bauer’s line Travex. Other companies make similar products. Take layers and pack your clothes so they are either rolled or neatly folded. I like to put my clothes inside a plastic bag within my napsack. I put all chargers in a Ziplok bag and toiletries in their own bag. Of course if you’re flying, liquids must be in their own bag to pass through security check points. Check with your airline.

Keep books you’re reading on an iPad. Take only one pair of shoes that are comfortable for walking. In summer I prefer comfortable sandals. Take one jacket (if req’d) and layers for colder climates – a scarf is great for cooler evenings. Take clothes you can easily hand wash and that dry quickly. Also take clothes that are multi-purpose or that can be dressed up easily.

Take half as much as you think you need! Buy or rent cheaper products at your destination. Leave heavy things at home- such as hairdryer, flat iron, extra shoes, big coats. Most destinations have these items.

I recently travelled to Victoria, BC and Yellowknife, NWT. I wanted to prepare for some sun, possible rain with temperatures ranging from highes of 13C-19C to lows of 6C-14C. Activities included lots of walking, planned dinners out, boating and general sight-seeing. Here’s my list for the 10 day trip:

    • 1 waterproof “shell” jacket
    • 1 fleece jacket
    • 1 light-weight scarf
    • 2 pairs lightweight pants
    • 1 pair yoga pants
    • 2 short sleeve tops
    • 2 quick dry long sleeve blouses
    • 3 casual long sleeve tops
    • 5 pairs undies + 1 bra
    • 5 thin socks
    • 1 pair deck shoes
    • 1 sleeping shirt
    • 1 small toiletries bag
    • 1 Ziplok bag for chargers
    • 1 iPad mini for reading
    • 1 iPhone (doubles as camera)
    • 1 laptop (I don’t always take this)
    • 1 small dry bag (for boating)
    • 1 SLR camera for great photos
    • 1 small Ziplok bag with snacks
    • Plastic bags for dirty clothes
    • Wallet (incl 2 diff cc), passport
    • Earbuds
    • Sunglasses
    • Small first aid kit

Other things you might consider, that I didn’t need this time include:
swimsuit, sunscreen, hat, workout clothes, binoculars.

We were able to wash some clothes part way through the trip, but we also wore items twice. To travel I wore clothes from that list. I used the scarf to dress up my outfit for dinners out. My fleece was great for a light layer but I wore the shell on top for added warmth and rain protection.

What did you pack for your last trip?
Work Life Balance

Work Life Balance

How to improve work-life balance

work life balance

In a democracy, we must work to live. We need money to put food on the table and keep a roof over our heads, for ourselves and for our families. To do this we work. Hopefully we can find work that we love.

Typically for many people this means working 40 hours per week, Monday through Friday. For others, it means 2 jobs or even shift work. For the self-employed it may mean working well above a typical 40-hour work week. In every case, though, to keep our jobs we can sometimes feel the pressure to perform well and the need to continually improve our performance. Some may take this very seriously to the point of working extra hours and going above and beyond. Every boss loves to have that employee that is willing to go the extra mile, but we all must remember to maintain a work-life balance. The last thing we need is to lose that great employee to burn-out or stress. Stress can cause any number of ailments and this is what we want to avoid at all cost. After all, without our health, we have nothing.

So how do you create a balance between work and a good lifestyle? Here are some tips:

  1. Take a break from work. Build downtime into your schedule. Keep a planner and actually schedule some downtime in. This can apply to exercise, reading, date night or however you choose to spend your downtime.
  2. Turn off distractions and drop the activities that sap your time or energy. Have you noticed an activity that takes more time than it should or is physically or mentally draining? If you’re feeling dragged down, then maybe it’s time to let it go.
  3. Make a time for chores and get them done. Don’t procrastinate. Doing it right away means you get to your downtime sooner! Minimize the time on things you must do and/or find a way to enjoy them.
  4. Look after yourself. Make time for exercise. Eat well. Sleep well. Be mindful.
  5. Remember that a little relaxation does a long way. Enjoy your weekends and use your vacation time. A change of scene does wonders (no matter how far). Get close to nature.
  6. Set aside time for family and friends. Building and maintaining relationships is what it’s all about. You don’t want to get to retirement and have nobody to share it with. And this includes the journey to retirement. Have a strong support network.
  7. Make deliberate choices about what you want from your life. Communicate clearly what’s working and what’s not.
  8. Don’t be too hard on yourself. We are all human and we all make mistakes. Learn from them and carry on. Give yourself a pat on the back occasionally!
Coconut Bacon

Coconut Bacon

Closest thing to real bacon – but it’s vegan!

coconut-bacon
As a person who doesn’t eat meat, one of the things I miss occasionally is the taste of bacon! This recipe solves that craving and it is easy to add on top of some dishes like salad, vegan mac & cheese or other casserole dishes. It’s super easy to make and can store in the freezer to stay fresh and crispy. It doesn’t even need to be thawed!

  • 2 cups coconut flakes (not shredded coconut)
  • 2 Tbsp low sodium soy sauce
  • 1-1/4 Tbsp liquid smoke (any flavour)
  • 1-1/4 Tbsp pure maple syrup

Combine all liquid ingredients in a large bowl. Add coconut and stir to coat. Spread evenly on parchment covered cookie sheet. Bake at 350F for about 15 minutes, turning once. Be careful not to over bake as it continues to bake after it is removed from the oven.

Store in a sealed container in the freezer for several months. No need to defrost! Perfect topping on a salad or any other dish.

Based on original recipe from cookieandkate.com

Good Standing Posture

Good Standing Posture

How to Stand Correctly

It’s easy to slouch and over time can cause back problems. Here’s some tips to help you stand up straight…

posture-standing

Good posture while standing, allows your spine to be aligned and balanced. You can also breath deeply because your lungs and diaphragm have more space to expand and contract. When you stand up straight you feel more energized and less worn down. You’ll also look good and smile twice as much!

When you stand for long periods of time, your lumbar curve can become excessive resulting in pain. You may notice that your shoulders are rounded causing the upper back muscles to be overstretched and your chest muscles more tight. This is more and more common now with everyone looking down hunching over their phones! In this hunched posture, your abs are loose and unsupportive. A slouched posture can trigger low back pain, neck pain, tendinitis and lead to worn-out imbalanced muscles.

To avoid stooping or slouching, practice good posture. Every so often, do a mental check to make sure you are standing in a neutral position. Stand with your feet slightly apart and facing forwards. Think about pushing your chest up and forward. Roll your shoulders back to bring your shoulder blades closer together. Hold your head up tall and not forward. Imagine your whole body is centred from a string coming from the top of your head. Now imagine the string being pulled up so that everything lines up vertically from your head, the centre of your chest, your hips down to your feet.  The muscles in your torso should be supportive of your spine – abs and lower back muscles engaged in protection (not loose and not too tight). Do this over and over again and look at yourself in a mirror to make sure you are doing it right. It may not feel normal at first but the more you do this, the more natural it will become.

I have found that my posture does tend to slouch over time. Have you noticed any slouching when you stand? Now when you stand up tall, you may even feel proud! Notice how your confidence improves and how good you look!

Do you have tips for good back health?

Reference: Back Mechanic, by Dr. Stuart McGill

Read also about Back Health

Bean Salad

Bean Salad

Bean Salad

This colourful bean salad not only looks appetizing but is full of nutrients and fibre. Adjust the ingredients to whatever you have on hand.

bean-salad
Salad:

  • 1 cup green beans
  • 1 cup yellow beans
  • 1-15 oz can black beans or pinto beans
  • 1 cup tomato, chopped
  • 2-3 green onions, chopped
  • 1 red pepper, chopped
  • 1 yellow pepper, chopped
  • 1 cup cucumber, chopped
  • 3 radishes sliced

Dressing:

  • 3 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 2 Tbsp vegetable oil
  • 1 tsp garlic, crushed
  • 1 tsp dried basil
  • ½ tsp dried oregano
  • salt & pepper

Wash green beans and yellow beans and chop into smaller pieces, then steam in medium pot about 5 minutes. In bowl, combine green and yellow beans, black beans, tomato, onion, peppers and radishes.

Dressing: In small bowl, combine all ingredients, except oil. Whisk in oil. Pour over salad and stir gently to mix well.

Can be made a day in advance. You can also vary the ingredients depending on what is in season or what you have on hand. It makes for a nice colourful dish!

What do you put in your bean salad?

See also Broccoli Salad and Thai Crunch Salad

Intermittent Fasting

Intermittent Fasting

What is Intermittent Fasting?

intermittent-fasting

Intermittent fasting is not term for a diet: it is an eating pattern that cycles between periods of fasting and eating. It’s a way of scheduling your meals so you get the most out of them. It doesn’t define what you eat, only when you eat. You still eat a normal amount of food, but in a shorter time frame. It is currently fairly popular in the health and fitness community.

Humans have been fasting through evolution. Sometimes it was done because food was not available and other times for religious purposes. Our hunter-gatherer ancestors didn’t have grocery stores, fridges, or food available all year round. Fasting can be considered more natural than eating 3-4 meals every day. Our bodies learn to function and adapt without food available all the time.

There is no one method that applies to everyone. It can be used to lose weight, improve your health and simplify your healthy lifestyle. Many studies show that it can have a powerful impact on your body and brain and may even help you live longer. Instead of thinking of it as depriving yourself of food, think of it as a break from eating.

There are a few different ways to apply this way of eating into your lifestyle…

Method one: 18/6 method for men (14/10 method for women). This means fasting for 16(14) hours and then eating within an 8(10) hour period. You can implement this at any time of day but for most people this essentially means skip eating at the usual breakfast time, lunch at 12pm, snack at 3pm dinner at 6pm. Then only drink water until the next day at 12pm.

Method two: The alternate day fast or Eat-Stop-Eat. Eat regularly one day, then the next day fast and only drink water. On the third day, go back to eating regularly and so on.

Method three: Eat regularly all week, except twice a week, eat only 500 calories per day. Make sure they are not two consecutive days.

Everybody is different and you may find it difficult to think about not eating for a period of time. Instead think of it as a rest from eating. No matter which method you prefer, it should work comfortably into your daily schedule. That’s why most people find it easier to skip breakfast and eat lunch and dinner. It is a way to simplify your day, especially the morning routine.

Intermittent fasting is another tool in your toolbox to good health. It should be combined with healthy eating, exercise including weight-lifting, meditation and good sleep. Even if you don’t adapt one of the 3 methods above, we can take from this the idea that we don’t need to eat quite so much. In fact, it may be healthier for us to slightly under-eat than over-eat. They say we should eat until we are 80% full, but that’s hard to do. Intermittent fasting may mean that we start small and slow but missing the usual breakfast time once a week and build from there. Have you tried intermittent fasting before? Which method worked for you?

Some tips to help you with intermittent fasting:

  • Drink plenty of water – it fills you up and keeps you hydrated
  • Fast overnight – this is easy – just don’t snack before bed
  • Stay busy – it’s much easier not to eat, if you are pre-occupied
  • Get moving – full-body exercise keeps you toned and helps burn calories
  • Write it down – keep a journal to track your progress and how you feel
  • Check in with yourself – if you don’t feel good – stop!

Have you tried intermittent fasting?

Read also Clean Eating and Understanding Nutrients

TED Talks

TED Talks

Introduction to TED Talks

ted-talks

TED=Technology, Entertainment, Design

TED is a non-profit organization devoted to spreading ideas usually in the form of short, powerful, informative talks. It started in 1984 with talks focussed on technology, entertainment and design but today covers almost all topics from business to global issues. TED’s agenda is to make great ideas accessible and spark conversation. TED is a global community, welcoming people from every discipline and culture who seek a deeper understanding of the world. They believe passionately in the power of ideas to change attitudes, lives and, ultimately, the world.

To foster the spread of great ideas, the organization aims to provide a platform for thinkers, visionaries and teachers, so that people around the globe can gain a better understanding of the biggest issues faced by the world, and feed a desire to help create a better future. Core to this goal is a belief that there is no greater force for changing the world than a powerful idea.

Must-see TED Talks…

ted-101

Share your favourite TED Talk in the comments below…

Read also about Healthy Responsible Lifestyle Choices

Beeswax Candles

Beeswax Candles

Beeswax Candles versus Paraffin Wax Candles

beeswax-candles

Paraffin wax candles are easily available and cheap. They make up 95% of the world’s candle production. A pack of 100 paraffin tea-light candles from Ikea costs less than ten dollars. They are an oil-based, highly refined petroleum by-product that contains up to 11 toxic compounds and chemicals such as benzene and toluene. Paraffin candles emit toxic diesel exhaust-like fumes. They are made from a black sludge that is treated with industrial strength bleach to change its colour to white, creating toxic dioxins. Acrolyn, a carcinogenic chemical is then added to solidify the white sludge. The end result is an extremely toxic product. They also contain artificial dyes and synthetic fragrances which also produce toxins and stains when burned, adding to the environmental damage. Some paraffin candles even contain lead wicks. In addition, paraffin candles produce harmful black soot that leaves streaks of black residue and stains home interior surfaces. Did you know that by burning these candles, you produce the same toxins? Knowing how poisonous paraffin candles are, I encourage you protect your health and stop polluting the air in your home!

On the other hand, candles that are made from 100% beeswax are natural. Beeswax candles are environmentally friendly, safe and non-toxic. They burn very clean with little smoke when trimmed properly as they are not oil-based. They undergo no chemical processing and are biodegradable. Beeswax candles smell great as they are naturally scented by the honey and floral nectar in the honeycomb and are carbon-neutral. They have a high melting point (in fact the highest among all known waxes) which results in a significantly longer (2-5 times) burn time and drip very little, if any at all. This offsets their higher cost. Beeswax candles burn stronger and brighter. They emit naturally bright light of the same light spectrum as the sun. It is the only candle that emits negative ions to purify, cleanse, improve air quality, and invigorate the body. They are hypoallergenic and benefit those with environmental allergies, sensitivities and asthma.

On a dark evening or simply for ambience, consider burning all natural beeswax candles to protect your health and your home. At the end of the day, wind down, light some beeswax candles… curl up on the couch with a hot drink and let the stress of the day melt away…

Do you enjoy the beauty of natural bees wax candles?

Read about Consumable Gifts