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Finish 2018 With Your Best Self

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As I write this, there are 72 days left in 2018.  SEVENTY TWO!!  That’s TEN Saturdays left until we ring in the New Year. 

Where did all that time go?  Did you make a resolution 293 days ago?  Did you stick to it?  Me neither. 

Life gets in the way sometimes, things happen – other people need us, we lose our momentum, we don’t know where to go for help, we know where to go for help, but we’re afraid to ask for it…. I get it. 

Almost two years ago,  Jan 1 2017, I vowed to remain gluten, dairy, sugar and alcohol free for the entire year.  I applaud myself for sticking to that goal, for the most part. (I’m not going to beat myself up for a glass of wine here and there or the occasional butter tart – I enjoyed those consciously, and moved on.)  At the end of that year, I felt THE BEST I have ever felt in my life – my stomach didn’t hurt, my skin was clear ( I have suffered with redness my whole life), my thinking was sharp, the benefits went on and on.

As Jan 1 2018 rolled around, I didn’t have a plan.  My 2017 goal was an accomplishment, but it had a deadline – I knew that I had to make an intention for a new goal for 2018, but I didn’t do that.  Life got in the way, and not only did I not set a new goal, I let my 2017 goal slide.

I thought that I would keep up with my healthy habits, but, life got in the way, as it does for everyone.  Once Empty-Nesters (I have soooo much to say about that – all you moms who are dreading your kids leaving home, fear not – Empty Nester life can be SO MUCH FUN!), we discovered the new world of (as my mother would say) “Rubber Band Children”.  (The Rubber Band Phase is that stretch of time in your child’s life when they have moved away for College or University, then finished school, looking for work, discovering themselves, home but not home….it’s a confusing time for everyone.)

So when my kids came home,  I did something that I knew I could control – I cooked… A LOT.  Macaroni & cheese.  Roast beef & mashed potatoes.  Home-made pizza, muffins, cupcakes, cookies, pies, bread.  In an effort to put some order to our lives, I force fed my family comfort food, and then drank wine to “relax” from all the effort.

This led to some weight gain (cough cough 15lbs), and other health issues, including joint pain, congestion, fogginess, sleeplessness and ended with a terrible case of strep throat and sinus infection that I contracted ON VACATION.  (It was a low-point in my life – no man can out man-flu me!)

As a wellness professional and nutritionist, I know how to keep myself healthy, but this was a classic case of the cobbler with no shoes.  I decided that I had to dig myself out of that hole, reaffirm my commitment to a healthy lifestyle and I feel so much better for it now.

My point here is: It’s not too late to start living YOUR BEST LIFE! 

I invite you to join me for FREE here on Nov 1 in pulling out YOUR BEST SELF. 

Over 60 days, I will check in daily and provide you with little steps that you can take to improve the quality of your life. 

I’m going to walk you through small (non-scary) changes to your lifestyle that you ABSOLUTELY can do easily and incorporate into your life right away. 

Don’t worry – I’m not going to tell you not to enjoy those holiday meals that are coming up, all the parties, the cocktails, the late nights…I’m going to help you PREPARE for those events and those times when you are going to need to have a strong foundation.


PS – I’m going to incorporate some awesome recipes for you like this delicious Pear and Brie Appetizer.  Enjoy!

Pear and Brie Appetizer

1 Pear (sliced)

10 whole grain or gluten free crackers

4 ozs Brie cheese, room temperature ( I like the ripe, gooey brie)

3 tsp raw liquid honey

Toasted Walnuts

Honeycomb (optional)

Arrange the sliced pear, crackers and brie on a serving plate.  Drizzle the raw honey over the brie – keeping most of it on the top.

Garnish with toasted walnuts and/or a chunk of honey comb.


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RoundUp in our lunch?? …and a delicious (RoundUp free) Mac n Cheese recipe!!

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When I was a young mom I tried as best as I could to feed my kids the way I thought I was supposed to. Where did I learn the rules? From TV commercials of course. Also magazine ads, billboards and grocery store flyers and fast food promotions.

My kids ate packaged macaroni and cheese with hot dogs, frozen chicken nuggets shaped like dinosaurs, snacked on Cheerios that I carried around in a Cheerios-shaped container. They drank apple juice not pop or “Sunny Delight” – my mom had warned us about added sugar beverages when I was a kid and that stuck with me. I was doing everything just right…so I thought.

Fast forward 20-some years….

Of course I know that Timbits aren’t health food, but not too long ago, I found myself digging into that familiar cardboard box for “just one”. and then “one more”. “okay last two”.
Tim Hortons is a Canadian institution. We love our Timmys, our Roll Up the Rim. We even name our youngest athletes “Timbits”.

And what about Cheerios? I buy them, you buy them. We feed them to our toddlers. We make Nuts and Bolts with them.
“A family favourite for over 70 years, Cheerios are made with 100 percent natural whole grain oats. Its wholesome goodness is perfect for toddlers, adults and everyone in between.”
They tell us that it’s tradition, its wholesome (what does that even mean?) and that its “PERFECT”.

Kraft Dinner is a staple in the North American diet. I LOVED this when I was growing up. My brother liked it runny and I liked it sticky, so we would fight over who got to make it…and then we would drown it in ketchup….
I ate it whenI was pregnant and I fed it to my toddlers (sticky of course).
Their tagline today reads “Real Moms Serve Real Cheese”. What the what? Immediately you are meant to assume that to be a “real mom” then you must serve their product. (Incidentally, my kids are all intolerant of dairy, so I rarely serve real cheese…but they still call me “Mom”.)

Why am I ranting about this? This is important stuff – please don’t stop reading…..

Recently the Environmental Defence released a study where they tested popular foods in the market. A whopping 80% of the foods tested positive for presence of Glyphosate.

GLYPHOSATE: a main chemical found in RoundUp (a routinely used weed killer). Glyphosate shuts down photosynthesis in growing plants, essentially starving the plant of food.

So what? It’s a weed killer – we don’t like weeds, and if it can increase production of crops, thats great, right? Feed the world and all that…?

Well, crops have to be Genetically Modified to survive the spray (“RoundUp Ready”) or they will die along with the weeds. Using Genetically Modified (RoundUp Ready) crops means that the crops can be sprayed again and again .

Are you ready for the kicker?

In 2015, the World Health Organization has declared Glyphosate a “PROBABLE CARCINOGEN”. (Carcinogen = CAUSES CANCER!!)

That’s just Glyphosate – Don’t even get me started on the unknown effects of consuming food that has been Genetically Modified…

What can we do?
Become informed. – Knowledge is power.
Choose Organic and Non GMO foods more often.
Eat a diet rich in WHOLE FOODS – ie using single ingredient foods, fewer packaged frozen and boxed meals.
Demand Action. Our Government needs to review The Pesticide Act.

Do not get me wrong: I LOVE FARMERS. I grew up in Chatham-Kent – prime farming country. Many of my family members and friends still farm. You will be hard pressed to find people who work as hard and deserve more respect than famers. They feed us after all.
This is messy business and goes much deeper than a farmers’ choice to spray his field. We have to respect the choices that were made, but we must also respect our own health, and that of our land.

Read the report here.

Recipe disclaimer: This is one of my favourite comfort foods. Look for organic, non-GMO cheese and pasta. It is quick to throw together, can be made ahead of time, frozen, reheated – there aren’t usually leftovers. Recipe is taken from Fine Cooking magazine.

Classic Macaroni and Cheese from Fine Cooking

For the casserole:

  • Kosher salt
  • 1 lb. elbow macaroni
  • 12 Tbs. unsalted butter
  • 6 Tbs. all-purpose flour
  • 1/2 medium onion, thinly
  • 1 bay leaf
  • 1 sprig fresh thyme
  • 9 black peppercorns
  • 4-1/2 cups milk
  • 1 tsp. freshly ground black pepper
  • Pinch nutmeg
  • 6 cups (1 lb.) finely shredded sharp Cheddar

For the topping:

  • 1-1/4 cups coarse breadcrumbs
  • 2 Tbs. unsalted butter, melted


  • Heat the oven to 375°F and butter a 9×13-inch baking dish. Bring a large pot of salted water to a boil and add the elbows; cook until just tender following the package’s directions and drain well.
  • Melt the butter in a heavy, medium saucepan over medium heat. Add the flour, onion, bay leaf, thyme, and peppercorns; cook over medium-low heat for 2 to 3 min., stirring constantly. (This is a Roux.)
  • Slowly whisk the milk into the roux until thoroughly combined. Raise the heat to medium high; whisk constantly until the mixture boils. Simmer for 3 to 4 minutes, stirring constantly, until thickened. Lower the heat and continue simmering for about 10 minutes, stirring constantly. Strain the sauce into a large bowl, removing the onion, herbs, and peppercorns. Add 2 tsp. salt, the pepper, nutmeg, and shredded cheese, stirring until the cheese is just melted.
  • Toss the pasta with the cheese sauce and pour the mixture into the baking dish. Toss the breadcrumbs with the melted butter and spread them over the casserole. Bake until sizzling and lightly browned on top (cover with foil if the top browns too quickly), about 40 minutes.
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Dairy Intolerance (Lactose, Casein, and Whey)

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Yep, we’re still talking about food intolerances – you know why?  Because it is so important to your overall health, and can have a trickle-down result with nasty consequences.

Having a food intolerance is not fun. It can cause abdominal pain, discomfort, and nausea. It also causes embarrassing symptoms like flatulence and diarrhea. Other symptoms linked to food intolerances include muscle or joint pain, headaches, exhaustion, and even skin symptoms like rashes and eczema.

Dairy is just one of those foods that many people seem to be intolerant of.  The main components of milk that people react to are lactose, casein, and whey.

Milk sugar (lactose) intolerance

It’s estimated that up to 75% of adults are lactose intolerant. Lactose is the carbohydrate “milk sugar” naturally found in most dairy products. Lactose intolerance is so common you can buy lactose-free milk in your regular grocery store. Lactose-free products are treated with the enzyme “lactase” that breaks the lactose down before you ingest it. It’s this lactase enzyme that is lacking in most people who are lactose intolerant.

The lactase enzyme is naturally released from your intestine as one of your digestive enzymes. It breaks down the lactose sugar in the gut. When someone doesn’t have enough lactase, the lactose doesn’t get broken down the way it should.  Undigested lactose ends up being food for the resident gut microbes. As they ferment the lactose, they create gases that cause bloating, flatulence, pain, and sometimes diarrhea.

Lactose is in dairy but is in lower amounts in fermented dairy (e.g. cheese & yogurt) and butter. Steering clear of lactose isn’t that easy as it is added to other foods like baked goods, soups, and sauces. Oh – and if you’re taking any medications or supplements, check to see if it’s in there too, as lactose is a common ingredient in them.

If you have symptoms of lactose intolerance, keep an eye on food, medication, and supplement labels.

Milk protein (casein & whey) allergy

Milk is a known, and common, food allergen. In Canada, it is considered a “priority allergen” and must be declared on food labels.

So, what are the allergens in milk? You’ve heard of “curds and whey?” Well, these are the two main proteins in milk. The solid bits are the curds (made of casein), and the liquid is the dissolved whey.

Unlike lactose intolerance, casein and whey can cause an actual immune response. It’s an allergy. And this immune response can cause inflammation. In fact, we don’t know how many people have these milk allergies, but most estimates put it far below that of lactose intolerance.

Like lactose, these allergenic milk proteins can be found in other products too. They’re not just in dairy but are often in protein powders as well (Have you heard of “whey” protein powders?).

Some of the symptoms of milk protein allergy differ from that of lactose intolerance; things like nasal congestion and mucus (phlegm) are more common here. And casein seems to be linked with belly fat.

Interestingly, people who have gluten intolerance are often allergic to milk proteins like whey and casein as well. These can go hand-in-hand.

Like lactose intolerance, if you’re allergic to casein and whey keep an eye on labels so you can avoid these.


If you get gassy, bloated, or diarrhea after eating dairy, you may have a lactose intolerance. If you often get a stuffy nose and mucus, then you may be allergic to casein and/or whey.

While dairy may be an entire food group, it is not an essential nutrient. All the nutrients in dairy are available in other foods. If you experience these symptoms, you can try removing dairy from your diet. You may find improved digestion and fewer gut issues. Or you may find improved nasal congestion, or even less belly fat.

If you decide to (or have already) removed dairy from your diet, let me know your experience in the comments below.


Delicious Dairy-free Chocolate Ice "Cream"

Serves 2

3 bananas, sliced and frozen
2 tsp cacao powder, unsweetened
tbsp almond butter


Place frozen bananas in food processor and blend until smooth (a few minutes). You may have to stop a few times to scrape the sides.

Add cacao powder and almond butter and blend until mixed well.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can make this in advance and freeze in an airtight container.

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Can My Symptoms Actually Be a Food Intolerance?

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Food intolerances or “sensitivities” can affect you in so many ways.

And they’re a lot more common than most people think.

I’m not talking about anaphylaxis or immediate allergic reactions that involve an immune response. Those can be serious and life-threatening.  If you have any allergies, you need to steer clear of any traces of foods you are allergic to, and speak with your doctor or pharmacist about emergency medication, if necessary.


What I’m talking about, is an intolerance, meaning you do not tolerate a specific food very well and it causes immediate or chronic symptoms anywhere in the body. Symptoms can take hours or even days to show themselves. And symptoms can be located just about anywhere in the body.


This is what makes them so tricky to identify.

Symptoms of food intolerances:

There are some common food intolerances that have immediate and terribly painful gastrointestinal symptoms, such as lactose intolerance or celiac disease. These can cause stomach pain, gas, bloating, and/or diarrhea;  symptoms can start immediately after eating lactose or gluten.

On the other hand, other more insidious symptoms may not be linked to foods in an obvious way.

Symptoms like:

  • Chronic muscle or joint pain
  • Sweating, or increased heart rate or blood pressure
  • Headaches or migraines
  • Exhaustion after a good night’s sleep
  • Autoimmune conditions like Hashimoto’s or rheumatoid arthritis
  • Rashes or eczema
  • Inability to concentrate or feeling like your brain is “foggy”
  • Shortness of breath

If your body has trouble digesting specific foods, it can affect your hormones, metabolism, or even cause inflammation and result in any of the symptoms listed above. And these can affect any (or all) parts of the body, not just your gastrointestinal system.

How to prevent these intolerances:

The main thing you can do is to figure out which foods or drinks you may be reacting to and stop ingesting them.

I know, I know…this sounds so simple, and yet it can be SO HARD.

The best way to identify your food/drink triggers is to eliminate them.

Yup, get rid of those offending foods/drinks. All traces of them, for three full weeks and monitor your symptoms. 

If things get better, then you need to decide whether it’s worth it to stop ingesting them, or if you want to slowly introduce them back one at a time while still looking out to see if/when symptoms return.

Start Here: Two common food intolerances

Here are two of the most common triggers of food intolerances:

  • Lactose (in dairy  – eliminate altogether, or look for a “lactose-free” label – try nut or coconut milk instead).
  • Gluten (in wheat, rye, and other common grains – look for a “gluten-free” label – try gluten-free grains like rice, quinoa & gluten-free oats).

This is by no means a complete list, but it’s a good place to start because lactose intolerance is thought to affect up to 75% of people, while “non-celiac gluten sensitivity” can affect up to 13% of people.

So, if you can eliminate all traces of lactose and gluten for three weeks, it can confirm whether either or both of these, are a source of your symptoms.

Yes, dairy and grains are a part of many government-recommended food guidelines, but you absolutely can get all of the nutrients you need if you focus on replacing them with nutrient-dense foods.


A reliable way to monitor how you feel after eating certain foods is to track it. After every meal or snack, write down the foods you ate, and any symptoms so you can more easily spot trends.

And, as mentioned earlier, symptoms may not start immediately following a meal. You may find, for example, that you wake up with a headache the morning after eating bananas.

You might be surprised what links you can find if you track your food and symptoms well!

IMPORTANT NOTE: When you eliminate something, you need to make sure it’s not hiding in other foods, or the whole point of eliminating it for a few weeks is lost. Restaurant food, packaged foods, and sauces or dressings are notorious for adding ingredients that you’d never think are there. You know that sugar hides in almost everything, but did you also know that wheat is often added to processed meats and soy sauce, and lactose can even be found in some medications or supplements?  

When in doubt you HAVE to ask the server in a restaurant about hidden ingredients, read labels, and consider cooking from scratch.  Complete elimination does not allow for “just this once” moments – stick with it, it will be worth it longer than that cupcake, or deep fried shrimp lasts.

What if it doesn’t work?

If eliminating these two common food intolerances doesn’t work, then you can go one step further to eliminate all dairy (even lactose-free) and all grains (even gluten-free) for three weeks.

You may need to see a qualified healthcare practitioner for help, and that’s OK. I don’t want you to continue suffering if you don’t need to!



Recipe (dairy-free milk): Homemade Nut/Seed Milk

Makes 3 cups

½ cup raw nuts/seeds (almonds, walnuts, pecans, pumpkin seeds, or sesame seeds)

2 cups water

¼ teaspoon vanilla extract (optional)

  1. Soak nuts/seeds for about 8 hours (optional, but recommended).
  2. Dump soaking water & rinse nuts/seeds.
  3. Add soaked nuts/seeds and 2 cups water to a high-speed blender and blend on high for about one minute until very smooth.
  4. Strain through a small mesh sieve with 2 layers of cheesecloth. Squeeze if necessary.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can double the recipe and store the milk in an airtight container in the fridge for up to 7 days.

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Try a delicious smoothie for brain health.

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We never stop worrying about our kids – from the moment they are conceived until, presumably forever, we want to keep them safe from all harm.  Despite all of the outlet covers, 5 point harness systems, curfews, graduated licensing, warnings and lectures, their fate is out of our control…

Our family has been fortunate – despite having three boys, our emergency room visit count is pretty low – I know families who seem to be there several times a year…I send you strength.

Most recently our son was visiting friends in the US and they were involved in a car accident where he suffered a pretty significant concussion.  Of course, once he returned home we visited everyone on our primary care team – General Practitioner for official diagnosis and to rule out internal damage, our amazing Chiropractor to deal with whiplash and general body ache, and our Naturopathic Doctor for holistic advice on how to help repair the damage, and minimize future complications, physiotherapist to help with functional movement.  All agree that along with a diet high in Omega 3 and antioxidants, rest, time and light exercise are pretty significant factors in his recovery. 

As a nutritionist, I know that there are foods that can support brain health and recovery. There are also foods that can, not only not contribute to healing (empty calories with no nutrients – I’m looking at you sugar!), but that can slow things down by causing more inflammation in the brain (such as high levels of Omega 6, commonly found in processed foods). 

We began by eliminating any possible inflammatory foods from his diet – we removed sugar, gluten, processed and fried foods, along with any of the foods that he has been sensitive to in the past, such as dairy. This is really important – the body is working to heal a very important organ, and cannot afford the distraction of processing challenging foods.

The YES! list includes fish – especially fatty smaller fish such as salmon, sardines (this one is admittedly a challenge for him, but we’ve ramped up the Omega3 supplement to compensate.) He’s happy to have lots of berries – blueberries, raspberries, fresh, frozen – they are full of antioxidants and flavonoids which improve memory loss and help increase brain function.

A short list of some other great foods for brain health and repair that we are incorporating into his daily diet include:


Grass fed meat and eggs – Grain fed meat has higher levels of the inflammatory Omega 6 that we are trying to reduce in the Western Diet.  Grass fed meat, poultry and eggs have a better ratio of Omega 3:6, which, in the long run, decreases risk of illness.  We buy our beef from Vibrant Farms in Baden

Dark Cocoa, Green Tea or better yet, Matcha – powerful anti-inflammatory and source of flavonoids

Coconut oil (avoid inflammatory “vegetable oils” such as canola, sunflower, corn)

Raw/unpasteurized local honey (antiviral, antibacterial, anti-inflammatory, antiseptic)

 Turmeric is a very important root that works at a cellular level to control inflammation. This can be found in powder, raw or supplement form.

Raw Walnuts contain manganese, fibre, copper and more nutrients essential for brain function.

I developed this delicious smoothie for my son, to support this healing, but it is good for anyone who would like a boost of brain fuel – this one is fairly highly glycemic, so keep that in mind, maybe omit the banana, and reduce the amount of honey.

I use Organic Traditions dehydrated blueberry powder, found at a health food store – if you don’t have it, use fresh or frozen blueberries.  Collagen contains glycine, an amino acid that can support brain function, improves cognitive performance and promotes restful sleep.  Probiotics are a great addition to smoothies – these little guys live in our gut and perform a multitude of functions including aiding in the absorption and conversion of some nutrients that enhance the brain.   

If you have questions about how to improve your own brain health, or would like to discuss nutrition with me, leave a comment or email me at



Brain-Berry Smoothie

1/2 frozen banana

1/2c frozen mixed berries

1/4 avocado

1 Tbsp dehydrated blueberry powder

1 Tbsp coconut oil

2 tsp raw honey

6 raw walnut halves

1 cup unsweetened almond milk

1 scoop collagen

1 capsule probiotics (opened into smoothie)

Blend everything except the collagen and probiotics together in a high speed blender, until smooth.

Add in the collagen and probiotics and gently pulse just until mixed – you don’t want to damage the protein structure of the collagen or kill the probiotics, you want to consume these babies alive.


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Mindfulness and Meditation … Do They Really Work?

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Well…yes, they do really work. The fact is, science shows definite health benefits for people who use mindfulness and meditation.

Before we dive in, let’s just make sure we’re on the same page when we say “mindfulness” and “meditation.”

“Meditation” is the ancient practice of connecting the body and mind to become more self-aware and present. It’s often used to calm the mind, ease stress, and relax the body.

Practicing “mindfulness” is one of the most popular ways to meditate. It’s defined as “paying attention in a particular way, on purpose, in the present moment, non-judgmentally.”

Mindfulness meditation is well studied in terms of its health benefits. I’m going to talk about a few of them below, and refer to it as “mindfulness” for the rest of the post.

The link between mindfulness and health = stress reduction

Have you heard the staggering statistics on how many doctors’ visits are due to stress? Seventy-five to ninety percent!

So, if you ask me, it makes a ton of sense that anything that can reduce stress can reduce health issues too.

Mindfulness reduces inflammation, reduces levels of the stress hormone cortisol, and improves sleep. All of these can have massive effects on your physical and mental health.

I’ll briefly go over the research in three main areas: mood, weight, and gut health. But know that the research on the health benefits of mindfulness is branching into many other exciting new areas too.

Mindfulness for mood

The most immediate health benefit of mindfulness is improved mood.

In one study, people who took an 8-week mindfulness program had greater improvement in symptoms according to the “Hamilton Anxiety Scale.” They were compared with people who took a stress management program that did not include mindfulness. It seems that the mindfulness training was key to lowering symptoms.

Other studies show that mindfulness has similar effects as antidepressant medications for some people with mild to moderate symptoms of depression.

While mindfulness isn’t a full-fledged cure, it can certainly help to improve moods.

Mindfulness for weight

Studies show that people who use mind-body practices, including mindfulness, have lower BMIs (Body Mass Indices).

How can this be?

One way mindfulness is linked with lower weight is due to stress-reduction. Mindfulness can reduce stress-related and emotional overeating. It can also help reduce cravings and binge eating.

Another way it can work for weight is due to “mindful eating.” Mindful eating is a “non-judgmental awareness of physical and emotional sensations associated with eating.” It’s the practice of being more aware of food and the eating process. It’s listening more deeply to how hungry and full you actually are. It’s not allowing yourself to be distracted with other things while you’re eating, like what’s on TV or your smartphone.

People with higher mindfulness scores also reported smaller serving sizes of energy-dense foods. So it seems that more mindful eating = less junk.

Mindfulness about food and eating can have some great benefits for your weight.

Mindfulness for gut health

Recent studies show a link between stress, stress hormones, and changes in gut microbes (your friendly bacteria and other critters that help your digestion).In theory, mindfulness-based stress reduction could be a way to help prevent negative changes in the gut’s microbes.

Also, irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) seems to be linked with both stress and problems with gut microbes. In one study, people with IBS who received mindfulness training showed greater reductions in IBS symptoms than the group who received standard medical care.

The research here is just starting to show us the important link between stress, gut health, and how mindfulness can help.


Science is confirming some amazing health benefits of the ancient practice of mindfulness meditation. For moods, weight, gut health, and more.

Do you regularly include it in your life? If so, have you seen benefits? If not, would you consider trying it?

Let me know in the comments below.


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The Stress Mess: How It Messes With Your Health

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We all have some level of stress, right?

It may be temporary (acute), or long-term (chronic).

Acute stress usually won’t mess with your health too much. It is your body’s natural reaction to circumstances, and can even be life-saving.

Then, when the “threat” (a.k.a. “stressor”) is gone, the reaction subsides, and all is well.

It’s the chronic stress that’s a problem. You see, your body has specific stress reactions. If these stress reactions are triggered every day or many times a day that can mess with your health.

Stress (and stress hormones) can have a huge impact on your health.

Let’s dive into the “stress mess.”

Mess #1 – Increased risk of heart disease and diabetes

Why save the best for last? Anything that increases the risk for heart disease and diabetes (both serious, chronic conditions) needs to be discussed.

Stress increased the risk for heart disease and diabetes by promoting chronic inflammation, affecting your blood “thickness,” as well as how well your cells respond to insulin.

Mess #2 – Immunity

Did you notice that you get sick more often when you’re stressed? Maybe you get colds, cold sores, or even the flu more frequently when you are stressed?

Well, that’s because stress hormones affect the chemical messengers (cytokines) secreted by immune cells consequently, they are less able to do their jobs effectively.

Mess #3 – “Leaky Gut.”

Stress can contribute to leaky gut, otherwise known as “intestinal permeability.” These “leaks” can then allow partially digested food, bacteria or other things to be absorbed into your body.

The stress hormone cortisol can open up tiny holes by loosening the grip your digestive cells have to each other.

Picture this: Have you ever played “red rover?” It’s where a row of children hold hands while one runs at them to try to break through. Think of those hands as the junctions between cells. When they get loose, they allow things to get in that should be passing right though.  Cortisol (produced in excess in chronic stress) is a strong player in red rover!

Mess #4 – Sleep Disruption

Stress and sleep go hand-in-hand, wouldn’t you agree? It’s often difficult to sleep when you have very important (and stressful) things on your mind.

And when you don’t get enough sleep, it affects your energy level, memory, ability to think, and mood.

More and more research is showing just how important sleep is for your health.  Not enough sleep (and too much stress) aren’t doing you any favours.

Stress-busting tips:

Reducing stressors in your life is an obvious first step.

Can you:

  • Put less pressure on yourself?
  • Ask for help?
  • Say “no”?
  • Delegate to someone else?
  • Finally, make that decision?

No matter how hard you try, you won’t eliminate stress altogether. So, here are a few things you can try to help reduce its effect on you:

  • Deep breathing – focus on long slow breaths
  • Meditation – our brains need breaks
  • Walk in nature, and observe
  • Unplug (read a book, take a bath)
  • Exercise (yoga, tai chi, visit us at The Gardens!)
  • Connect with loved ones – a chat, some laughter, a hug – never underestimate the importance of social connections


  • Stress is a huge and often underappreciated factor in our health.  It can impact your physical body much more than you might realize.
  • Stress has been shown to increase the risk for heart disease and diabetes, affect your immune system, digestion and sleep.
  • There are things you can do to both reduce stressors and also to improve your response to it.
  • You can ditch that stress mess!


Chamomile Peach Iced Tea

Serves 1

1 cup steeped chamomile tea, cooled

1 peach, diced

Place both ingredients into a blender and blend until smooth. Add ice if desired.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: You can use fresh or frozen peaches

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Gardens of Elmira Branch

The Coconut Oil Craze

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The Coconut Oil Craze – Should I Jump on the Bandwagon Too?

Yes you should!! (end of post – but read on for more info)

What exactly is it about coconut oil that makes it so healthy? 

Let’s dive into some of the fascinating research and find out.

While coconut oil contains the same 9 calories per gram as all the other fats, Coconut oil is a special kind of fat.

It is extracted from the “meat” of the coconut. Coconut oil is a white solid at room temperature and easily melts into a clear liquid on a hot day.

The idea of adding coconut oil to your diet is NOT to add on to what you already eat but to substitute it for some of the (possibly) less healthy fats you may be eating now.

And here’s why – Because not all calories or fats are created equal.

Coconut oil contains a unique type of fat known as “Medium Chain Triglycerides” (MCTs). In fact, 65% of the fat in coconut oil are these MCTs.

What makes MCTs unique is how your body metabolizes them – they’re easily absorbed into the bloodstream by your gut, where they go straight to the liver, and they’re burned for fuel or converted into “ketones.”  This metabolic process, unique to MCTs, is what sets coconut oil apart from other fats.

Coconut oil MCTs may help with fat loss!

Coconut oil’s MCTs have been shown to have a few different fat loss benefits.

First, it can help to increase feelings of fullness, which can lead to a natural reduction in the amount of food you eat.

Second, because of their unique metabolic route, MCTs can also increase the number of calories you burn;  this happens when you compare the calories burned after eating the same amount of other fats.  In fact, a few studies show that coconut oil may increase the number of calories you burn by as much as 5 percent!!

Third, some studies show that eating coconut oil can help reduce belly fat (a.k.a. “waist circumference”).

Just remember not to add coconut oil to your diet without reducing other fats and oils!

How much coconut oil should I eat?

Many of the studies that showed increased fullness, increased metabolism, and reduced belly fat only used about 2 tablespoons per day.  You probably don’t need any more than that.  (sneak a tbsp into a smoothie, toss it on your roasted veggies, slide it into a soup)

What kind of coconut oil is the best? There are so many coconut oil options available in grocery stores these days that it can make it difficult to know which is best.

I recommend you stay away from “refined” types, and opt for “virgin” coconut oil. That is because it is processed at lower temperatures and avoids some of the chemical solvents used in the refining process;  this helps to preserve more of the oil’s natural health-promoting antioxidants.

Pro Tip: Always (and I mean ALWAYS) avoid “hydrogenated” coconut oil. It can be a health nightmare because it contains the infamous “trans fats” ….actually avoid ANYTHING hydrogenated!! (I’m looking at you, margarine!)

One thing you should also consider is that each oil has a specific high temperature that you should avoid surpassing (e.g. its “smoke point”). For virgin coconut oil, that temperature is 350F. That means you can safely use it on the stovetop on a low-medium setting, as well as in most baking.


Substitute some of the fat you eat with virgin coconut oil;  this may help you to lose weight and belly fat by naturally helping you to eat less, as well as slightly increasing your metabolism.

Oh, and it tastes great too!


Homemade Healthy Chocolate - makes 12 servings

⅓ cup coconut oil, melted

1 cup cocoa/cacao powder

4 tablespoons maple syrup

2 dashes salt

4 tablespoons slivered almonds

1. Melt coconut oil, and whisk in maple syrup, salt, and cocoa/cacao powder until smooth.

2. Stir in slivered almonds until evenly distributed.

3. Pour into an ice cube tray and freeze.

4. Store in fridge or freezer to avoid melting.

Serve & enjoy!

Tip: Substitute other seeds, chopped nuts, or dried fruit instead of the almonds if you wish.

Gardens of Elmira Gallery
Gardens of Elmira Branch

Meet the Makers

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Elmira’s first Pop Up Market at The Gardens was a smashing success! The market showcased many local artisans and crafters. There was jewellery, clothing, arts, crafts, beauty products, home decor, food and drinks – something for everyone.

What a wonderful community to be a part of – thank you Elmira!



The Gardens transformed into a beautiful artisanal market
Beautiful jewellery
Live music
Food and refreshments





Strawberry Rhubarb Frosty Mocktail
Nothing says summer like fresh local strawberries and rhubarb. A seriously delicious refreshing summer beverage. Mix and match the fruit and syrup for endless combinations. Recipe by Meghan Telpner
  • 10 strawberries, hulled + 2 more for garnish
  • 2 Tbsp – ¼ cup rhubarb syrup (depends on desired sweetness)
  • 10 ice cubes
  • 1 cup of water
  1. Place all ingredients in your blender and blend until frosty and smooth.
  2. Pour into serving glasses and garnish with strawberries.
Gardens of Elmira Gallery
Gardens of Elmira Branch

Women’s Wellness Retreat

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Sharing some photos from the Women’s Wellness Retreat – in support of Kate’s Kause. The day included an hour of yoga with goats (yes GOATS!) partnered with Fox Den Yoga in Niagara on the Lake. This relaxing hour of restorative flow with Melina was taught to live music while the goats helped us into the groove.

The retreat continued with a bespoke lunch and a tour of a lavender farm – Neob Lavender Niagara on the Lake  – during which we learned about the essential oil distillation process. The farm also has rose geranium and lemon balm on site as well.

While at the farm, we took some time to make our own essential oil bracelets with our jewellery maker from We Felt That

No trip to Niagara on the Lake would be complete without some wine tasting – and so we stopped off at an organic winery where we sampled their wine, tasted some organic soup and shopped at an artisanal market.

The day wrapped up with a delightful group dinner. Beautiful day with beautiful ladies!

All proceeds went to Kate’s Kause – thank you!



Fox Den Yoga in Niagara on the Lake
Live music!


Lavender fields at Neob’s Niagara on the Lake


Tour of farm and learning about the essential oil distillation process
Lunch time
Making essential oil bracelets with We Felt That
Enjoying the day with friends
Festive group dinner





DIY Honey Lavender Lip Scrub

A gentle, non-toxic lip scrub recipe containing sugar, honey, coconut oil, and lavender essential oil that will exfoliate, nourish and moisturize your lips all at the same time.
Recipe by The Rising Spoon

1 tablespoon of organic cane or brown sugar
1 tablespoon of raw honey
1 tablespoon of organic virgin coconut oil
1-2 drops of lavender essential oil
Recommended Equipment
4-ounce mason jars

clear cosmetics jars

Stir all the ingredients together and store in an air-tight container (like a small mason jar or leftover glass jar). To use, make sure your lips are dry and then scoop up a bit on your finger and rub across your lips vigorously for about thirty seconds. Leave the scrub on your lips for a minute or so, then wipe it off with a wet washcloth. For best results, immediately apply a good lip balm to lock in moisture.