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Month: November 2016

How to Squat Correctly

How to Squat Correctly

How to squat correctly to protect your back

squat-correctly

With reference to Back Mechanic by Dr. Stuart McGill

To correctly support your back while you squat, you must maintain a neutral spine as you move. The way to do this is to always hinge at the hip. Start off by standing up straight with feet shoulder width apart and your hand on your hips or straight out in front of you. Beginners can place their hands on the thighs until they are strong enough to move to hands on the hips. Think about starting with the hip, almost like you’re sticking your butt out first, then slowly bending your knees as you start to lower. Continue to exaggerate this motion of sticking your butt out while still maintaining a neutral spine, and continuing to lower to the lowest point. It feels as if you’re lowering yourself into a chair.

Examples of incorrect posture:

(1) Knees to far forward over the feet (2) Back should not be curved or slouching
(1) Knees to far forward over the feet (2) Back should not be curved or slouching

There should be no rounding of your back at any point. It helps to look straight ahead, focussing on a spot on the wall straight ahead, keeping your chin up and keeping your back straight. Keep your chest up and out. Think about “lifting your tail”. Your torso muscles (both front and back) should be engaged so support the lower back. Dr. McGill refers to this as the abdominal brace. The muscles should not be “sucked in” or loose, just slightly tight to provide enough support.

Beginners: start by placing your hand on your thighs
Beginners: start by placing your hand on your thighs

As you lower down into the squat position, the weight of your body should be back into your heals. So much in fact, that you should be able to lift your toes up off the floor while still maintaining this position. When you are at your lowest point, your knees should be in line with your feet and not in front of your toes. Only go down as low as you can comfortably go. Do not allow your spine to curve during any part of this motion. As you practice this over time, you will strengthen your muscles and increase range of motion. It is more important to practice good form over range.

When you push back up to a standing position, use your glutes to help you push back up. Always maintain the abdominal brace to support your back. Even if your back is not sore, it is good to keep these muscles engaged to support your spine to prevent any injuries.

Use a mirror to watch your form. Once you have perfected this motion, you can begin to add weights, holding them in your hands up at shoulder height or hanging straight down at your sides. But always err on the side of lighter weight to maintain good form and a comfortable range of motion.

Fitness Blender’s video: How to Squat 

See also Good Standing Posture

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 informaiton, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.
Almond Milk

Almond Milk

How to make your own almond milk

There’s nothing more satisfying than having a cold glass of almond milk with a chocolate chip cookie (or two)! I buy almond milk at the store, but occasionally I like to make some of my own – it’s so creamy and fresh tasting! This recipe is based on the original from OhSheGlows.com.  Use a nut bag to strain it. Nut bags are a great and inexpensive investment and retail for about $10 at your local health food store or get one on Amazon. This recipe yields about 4 cups. You can store it in the fridge in an air-tight container for 3-4 days. You can have it plain but I prefer to add some flavours to give it depth. Mmmmmm!

almond-milk

  • 1 cup almonds
  • 1-3/4 cup water
  • 2-3 Tbsp maple syrup
  • 1 tsp vanilla

optional:

  • ¼ tsp ground cinnamon
  • pinch fine-grain sea salt

Soak almonds for 8 hours or overnight, then drain. Combine almonds and water in high-powered blender and blend on high for about one minute. Blend it thoroughly until it looks uniform and frothy. Place a nut bag over a bowl and pour almond mixture into the nut bag. Gently squeeze the bottom of the nut bag to release the milk. Carefully pour the milk into a glass jar. It will keep in the fridge for 3 to 4 days. The milk will separate after sitting so be sure to give the jar a good shake by swirling it gently before using.

See more recipes.

 

Consumable Gifts

Consumable Gifts

Consumable Gift Ideas

gift-basketIt’s one month until Christmas! Do you have a long list of family member and friends and no idea what to get them for Christmas? Most of us don’t really NEED anything, and our houses are full of clutter. Yet gift giving is an important part of Christmas. In fact, gift giving is something we associate with, not only Christmas, but any special event like birthdays, anniversaries, graduation, retirement or any special achievement. Consider giving a gift that is consumable. Once you start to think this way, you start to become more creative with your ideas. Think about what it would be like to receive that gift. Here are some ideas to get you started:

  1. Food/Wine/Personal Care Items –a meal out, chocolates, something homemade, spices, wine or beer (if appropriate), a gift basket (keep in mind food allergies), for something different try Edible Arrangements, a catered meal, also soap, hand cream, luffa, shower gel, bubble bath
  2. Plants/flowers – fresh flowers can really brighten someone’s day, bulbs, seeds, small planter of fresh herbs for the kitchen
  3. Subscription – to a magazine, website, club, Netflix, etc
  4. Tickets – to a show, play, concert, movie
  5. Passes/Membership – to a museum, art gallery, science centre, swimming pool, fitness facility, golf pass, roadside assistance, store like Costco
  6. Experience – short train ride, hot-air balloon ride, garden tour, sunset kayak, horse-back ride, rock-climbing
  7. Classes/Lessons – cooking, art, music, dance, woodworking, swimming, etc
  8. Services – massage, car detailing or oil change, bike tune-up, house cleaning, home maintenance, babysitting, photography, or any skill you can offer
  9. Something for the home – tools, calendar, beeswax candles
  10. Gift cards – while this may seem like a copout, make it more personal by choosing something thoughtful and tailored to your receiver
  11. Donations – to a local charity in someone’s name – just make sure they would appreciate the gesture
  12. Your time – coupled with an activity or over a meal, your time is the most precious gift you can give someone!

What do you like to receive that is consumable?

Principal Residence Tax Changes

Principal Residence Tax Changes

Principal Residence Tax Changes

house-for-sale

If you own (or are considering owning) more than one property in Canada, this article is for you. Over the past several years, there has been an increase in foreigners investing in real estate in some Canadian cities: notably Vancouver and Toronto. Vancouver’s ever-increasing real estate costs have made it less likely for Canadians to buy a home in their own city. And the trend has also moved to Toronto. The new tax changes are meant to rectify this problem.

Recently Finance Minister, Bill Morneau, announced tax changes aimed primarily at foreign investors in Canadian real estate. But the changes also catch some Canadian investors who may have avoided paying tax on their principal residences.

Under the Income Tax Act, a principal residence is generally any residential property owned and occupied by you or family at any time in the year. It can be a house, condominium, cottage, mobile home, trailer or even a live-aboard boat. What the principal residence exemption does is make any gain on the sale of your principal residence a tax-free profit. But in order to qualify, you need to be aware of the tax rules that apply.

A simplified version of some of the tax rules:

  1. A family unit can only designate one property per year as a principal residence.
  2. You must ordinarily inhabit the property.
  3. The property must not be owned to produce income.
  4. The exemption is limited to a dwelling and 1.5 hectares of land.

Read CRA’s definition of principal residence.

Many Canadians have assumed that every sale of a home is always tax-free thanks to the principal-residence exemption (PRE). For example, if you own a home in the city and a cottage at the lake, your principal residence would most likely be your home in the city. When you sell your home, you wouldn’t pay any tax on any capital gains. When you sell your cottage, though, if there is an increase in the value of the property, then you would pay tax on the capital gains on that property.

The new rules require you to report every sale of a principal residence on your tax return, whether you owe tax or not starting 2016. If you fail to report the sale of a residence in 2016 or later years, you won’t be entitled to the PRE. If you forget to designate a property as your principal residence in the year of sale, you should ask CRA to amend your tax return for that year. CRA will often accept a late designation but there may be penalties that apply.

It can get more complicated for people who have a rental property or business operation. You may want to start tracking more closely the cost of all capital improvements that you make going forward. Keep all receipts and invoices. These will increase the adjusted cost base of your property and could save tax later if you can’t fully shelter the gains on your property. Keep in mind that just because you live in a house you own doesn’t mean it automatically qualifies as a principal residence. For example, building contractors or house renovators who follow a pattern of living for a short period of time in a home they have built or renovated, and then selling it at a profit, may be required to pay ordinary business tax on the sale of that house, rather than capital gains tax (which is usually applied to the sale of property) or an exemption under the principal residence rules. For some of these more complex situations, it would be best to get the advice of a tax lawyer or accountant.

Even if your situation is more simple and you own one property, it is still advisable to track any capital investments you make to that property, not only for tax purposes, but to also better understand the cost of owning your home and it’s current value.

Do you own more than one property in Canada?

Read about Owning versus Renting.

Cauliflower Roasted

Cauliflower Roasted

Roasted Cauliflower

cauliflower-roasted

Cauliflower was never my favourite vegetable… until maybe now. This is such a simple recipe yet full of flavour and nutrients. Original recipe credit to toriavey.com. Preheat oven to 375F degrees.

  • one large head of cauliflower
  • 1 Tbsp of canola oil or olive oil
  • 1-2 tsp smoked paprika
  • dash of salt

Chop your cauliflower into little florets and rinse throughly in a colander. Shake dry and place in a large bowl. Lightly drizzle oil over the cauliflower, using as little as possible and toss to coat. Next sprinkle half the smoked paprika over the cauliflower and toss. Repeat with second amount of paprika to make sure it is evenly coated. Place cauliflower on a parchment-covered baking sheet and bake in an oven preheated to 375F degrees. Bake for 20-25 minutes or until cauliflower is tender and slightly browned.

The result is a creamy, melt-in-your-mouth almost buttery taste. Who knew cauliflower could taste so good! You’ll be coming back for seconds! Serve as is or with a little Spicy Thai Chili Sauce.

cauliflower-served

See more of my recipes.

 

Portugal Part One

Portugal Part One

Portugal

portugal-in-europePortugal is a country in the southwest of Europe directly on the Atlantic Ocean and bordering Spain. It is officially known as the Portuguese Republic and it also includes the Azores and Madeira. It is named after the country’s second biggest city Porto. The population is just over 10 million and the spoken language is Portuguese.

With so much history, it is a fascinating place to visit. Portugal was formed in 1139 and ruled by King Alfonso who established Portuguese independence. During the 15th and 16th centuries, Portugal established the first global empire, becoming one of the world’s major economical, political and military powers. The country pioneered maritime exploration, including the discovery of Brazil in 1500, a sea route to India and even reached the Cape of Good Hope (the most southern tip of Africa). At this time, Portugal dominated the spice trade. Portugal was crippled not only by an earthquake that destroyed Lisbon in 1755, but also the war of independence of Brazil in 1822 and the Liberal Wars (or Portuguese Independence Wars) in 1828-34. In 1910, a revolution deposed the monarchy and the unstable Portuguese First Republic was established. In 1974, democracy was restored after the Portuguese Colonial War and the Carnation Revolution. Portugal is a founding member of NATO. It is also a member of the United Nations, the European Union, and the Eurozone. The currency is the euro.

Map of Portugal
Map of Portugal

Today, Portugal is a country with beautiful countryside and friendly people. The northern part is more mountainous, the interior with more plateaus and the south, including the Algarve, more rolling plains. It has a warm temperate, Mediterranean climate. The Azores and Madeira have a subtropical climate. It is a holiday destination for many Brits and Europeans. It is also a destination for Canadians! In recent years, Portugal has invested millions in infrastructure. The highways are in excellent condition albeit funded by tolls. However, we thought they were well worth the fees to get around the country by car. Because of the fees though, there were very few locals driving the roads so at times we were the only car on the road! While staying in Lisbon, it was much easier getting around by public transportation. The subway system is excellent. You can get a pass for a very reasonable cost. It is also the most efficient way to travel in the city besides walking.

Intricate detail in streets of Lisbon
Intricate detail in streets of Lisbon

Lisbon (or Lisboa), the capital and largest city, is likely where you will land if you travel by plane. There is quite a bit to see in this city. The best way to see the city is on the hop-on hop-off bus and by walking the various neighbourhoods. This is how you discover little out-of-the-way cafés and little shops. It’s our favourite way to explore a new city. Here’s just a few landmarks/areas to consider:

  • Lisbon Oceanario
  • Sao Jorge Castle – hilltop Moorish castle & palace ruins
  • Alfama
  • Lisbon Baixa
  • Praca do Comercio – public square at waterfront
  • Padrao do Descobrimentos – monument to maritime explorers
  • Santa Justa Lift – elevator linking city levels (1902)
  • Lisbon Cathedral – 12th century
  • Rossio Square
  • Belem Tower
  • Jeronimos Monastery
  • National Museum of Ancient Art
  • Sintra – day-trip from Lisbon
Praca do Comercio, Lisbon
Praca do Comercio, Lisbon

We only managed to see a few of these landmarks. I would recommend 3-4 days in Lisbon. Our preference is to get out of the big city and see other smaller towns and country landmarks.

Santa Justa Lift, Lisbon
Santa Justa Lift, Lisbon

The Portuguese have a culture of good food and there are many good restaurants. The cuisine is diverse. Salted cod, sardines are popular fish dishes as well as caldeirada, a fish, potato stew. In addition to fish, meat plays a big part of their diet, including beef, pork, lamb and chicken. The Portuguese art of pastry has its origins from the medieval Catholic monasteries spread widely across the country. They used very few ingredients to create a wide array of different pastries including the renowned Belem pastry found all around Lisbon.

Belem Pastries
Belem Pastries

Portugal is also known for its wines, in particular Port Wine, which originates from Porto in the north, as well as Madeira Wine. The country is known by wine lovers all over the world and its wines have won several international prizes.

Stay tuned for Part 2 on Portugal.

See my travel safety checklist.

Fitness Blender Program

Fitness Blender Program

Fitness Blender 30-minute 8-week program

fb30-round-3

Fitness Blender’s latest 8-week program for Busy People is an excellent way to incorporate 30-minutes per day of exercise. Kelli and Daniel have preselected all the workouts you need for a variety to take the guesswork out of your daily fitness plan. I am currently in week 6 of this plan and can highly recommend this as a good way to get toned and healthy. The workouts are completely free. The only thing you pay for is the program itself which is $14.99 US or about $20 Cdn. Once you’ve purchased the program, you can re-use it as many times as you like. Simply make an account on their website Fitnessblender.com and follow the links to their many options for workout programs. You can even try some of their free 5-day programs first to see if you like their format.

Which is your favourite workout on Fitness Blender?

Read my fitness philosophy.

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.
Mango Smoothie

Mango Smoothie

Fresh Mango Smoothie

mango-smoothie

This golden coloured, creamy, fresh fruity tasting smoothie is full of nutrients to revive your taste buds! With only 5 ingredients, it whips together in only a few minutes.

  • 1 banana
  • 1 naval orange
  • 1 cup fresh pineapple
  • 1 mango
  • 1 to 1-1/2 cups almond milk

Mix all ingredients in a high-powered blender. Start with a little less almond milk and add enough to your desired consistency. Share with a family member or friend!

See more recipes.

Remembering

Remembering

Remembering

remembering-stoneOn Remembrance Day, it is important to take the time to remember those who lost their lives in the war. November 11th marks the day World War I ended at 11am on the 11th day in the 11th month. We remember the people who died in the line of duty by wearing a poppy and holding a 2-minute moment of silence at the 11th hour. The poppy became a lasting symbol of the fallen, which was realized by the Canadian surgeon John McCrae and his poem “In Flanders Fields”. It represents the immeasurable sacrifice made by his comrades and soon became a lasting memorial to those who died in WWI and later conflicts.

John McCrae Poem

Our senior family members have many stories to tell from their lives during the war and through other difficult times. It is fascinating to hear the stories both good and bad. It is also interesting to learn how our day-to-day lives have changed through advances in technology and innovation in transportation. To remember and appreciate these challenges and advances, we should consider encouraging our family members to write down their stories and legacies.

This may seem insurmountable, but writing down a memory doesn’t have to be the entire story of a life. Focus on a particular time or event or even a relationship. If you’re not sure where to start, begin with the family photo album. If you’re helping somebody write this, then interview several family members to get an overall picture and include many perspectives. Another source of inspiration is a resume or CV. Each one of the jobs may bring back a flood of memories.

memoir-writingWe experience the world through our senses, so make the memory come alive by writing using references to sight, smell, touch, taste and sound. Feel the memory as though you are reliving it. How did it make you feel? It is more vivid to write about a very specific event rather than generally the same event each year. For example, write about the time when Johnny fell out of the canoe on his 13th birthday while paddling on the lake, instead of how he had cake at each birthday party.

Some good topics include:

  • Vacations
  • Graduations
  • Births & deaths
  • Children & other relatives
  • Jobs
  • Illnesses
  • Pets
  • Toys, first memories
  • Natural disasters
  • Special gifts
  • Turning points in your life

Don’t wait until you’re older to start writing some memories. It is better to write when the memory is fresh. To keep it simple, you can write journal or diary entries. When you get to a more interesting event, elaborate with more detail and you may end up using it if you decide to make it into a more formal recorded memory. You can always go back and review after a period of time to see if this is something you wish to expand on. Believe it or not, something you write about now may not seem very exciting, but it could be very interesting to a future generation!

Have you written any memories down? Or have you helped a family member record some of their precious memories?

 

 

Dividend Investing

Dividend Investing

Dividend Investing

canadian-bills-money

Dividends are the stocks that pay you back. It’s like getting a paycheque every few months. You can’t afford NOT to invest in dividends!

Dividend payments are usually paid out by large, mature companies that don’t need all their cash to fund growth and instead of re-investing it all, they pay some of it to their shareholders. They tend to be slow and steady companies with moderate investment rates, so to attract investors, they pay dividends. This increases the overall return of the stock and makes them more attractive to investors. Dividend investing is not thrilling, it’s more of a long-term plan. Some companies pay dividends each month and others every quarter.

While you’re still working, it’s a good idea to have a dividend re-investment plan (DRIP). This means that the dividend payment (whether it’s paid monthly or quarterly) is rolled back into the investment. This is a great way to grow the investment and harnesses the power of compounding interest. This principle works while you are young or still saving for retirement. Once you reach your retirement years, you won’t need the DRIP because you will use the payments to create a modest income stream for daily living expenses.

Advice: Invest in high-quality businesses that have a proven long-term record of stability, growth and long-term stability. Invest in stocks that have a minimum of 10 years of rising dividend payments. The value of the stock may hold, but you want the dividend payments to be consistent or rise. Look for stocks that people would invest in during times of recession – these will have less long-term volatility and be more stable. You want to hold them for along time. If you notice the dividend payments are reduced or eliminated, then it’s time to sell. There is no one stock that is the best all the time. Diversify your investment to reduce the impact of being wrong at any one stock.

Dividend paying stocks have a record of holding up quite well in bear markets. If you’re focussed on following a dividend investment strategy, but not quite ready for individual stocks, then consider low-fee dividend ETF’s (exchange traded funds) or index funds. Do your research before jumping in. Take into account the rate of return, the dividend return and watch carefully any fees associated with the fund.

What is your experience with dividend investing?

Do you pay yourself first?

Read about owning versus renting.