Monthly Archives: August 2012

Holistic Wellness 4 – Get rid of the chemicals!

Holistic Wellness 4 – Avoid Chemicals! “>;;20120829-175618.jpg
1. Use fresh or frozen foods instead of canned, when possible. Buy organic foods whenever possible. When you must use canned goods, make sure the inside lining of the can is BPA-free. (it will say so).

2. Use soy infant formula only if there is a medical reason for it, such as lactose intolerance or milk allergy. Genistein — a natural estrogen found in soy plants — is present in large amounts in soy-based baby formulas.

3. Don’t microwave food in plastic containers or covered with plastic wrap. When plastic is heated, the chemicals in it can more easily migrate to food.

4. Use BPA-free refillable water bottles and fill your own at home with filtered water. Check the labels when buying the bottles as there are still some out there with BPA.

5. Avoid storing food or drink in plastics with the recycling numbers 3, 6, and 7 on the bottom — or buying items packaged in these plastics.

6. Don’t use chemical poisons on plants or bugs. Don’t use DEET-containing mosquito repellents. Use natural essential oil mosquito repellents such as Green Beaver outdoor spray.

7. For drinking water, use a faucet-mounted filter that has been labelled to “remove volatile organic compounds.” (Pitcher filters may not be enough.)

8. Choose soaps, toothpastes, and deodorants without triclosan AND read the ingredient list! According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, antimicrobials like triclosan are unnecessary and may help breed drug-resistant germs. Avoid heavily fragranced products or air fresheners, which may contain phthalates.

9. When buying new furniture, make sure you DON’T get stain-release or fire-retardant fabrics or the topical treatments often sprayed on new furniture. These are highly toxic. Throw out old teflon-coated cookware and only buy the new safer coated ones. Teflon stays in our bodies for a remarkably long time, and we don’t even know what the long-term effects might be.

10. Don’t smoke! This sounds too trite to be true, but if you care about your health, you really can’t smoke without exposing a nasty soup of toxic chemicals to yourself. This also means you have to avoid second-hand smoke as well.


Holistic Wellness 3 – Get some sleep!


Holistic Wellness 3  – Get enough sleep!


So many of us are walking around every day sleep deprived and it is no wonder. We live in such a stress-inducing world, with too much stimulation and not enough time in the day for recreational pursuits. However, a good night’s sleep is critical to our wellness, and there are a few things you might not know about how to get a good night’s sleep.

The first two are diet and exercise – surprise!! Just what I blogged about in the previous two posts. If you are eating well and exercising half an hour a day then you’re well on your way to sleeping better.

The next thing that’s most important is keeping a regular sleep schedule. This will be different from person to person but you can get clued in to your personal sleep schedule by paying attention to when you feel drowsy in the evening. Try to get to bed within an hour and a half of noticing drowsiness. i.e. if you start feel drowsy around 9 pm, then you should be in bed by 10:30. (if you feel drowsy right after dinner then go for a stroll or do something mildly stimulating like playing a game or something, because that’s too early to go to bed). Along with this comes trying to wake up at the same time. Our bodies will naturally wake up after we’ve had enough sleep, but for many of us it’s the sound of the alarm clock – sigh! But try not to sleep in really late on weekends unless you are truly sleep deprived.

Of critical importance is the regulation of melatonin in our brains. This is a hormone produced naturally which is light controlled. That means that with a lack of light (night time) we will produce a lot more melatonin, and with daylight or artificial light we produce less. So that means: get plenty of light, preferably natural, during the day and limit your exposure to light in the evening. Turn off your computer and TV, dim your lights, don’t read from your iPad (sadly, that back-lighting is very melatonin unfriendly!), draw your curtains (and make sure they are heavy enough to block street lights) and try to go to the bathroom at night time using only night lights (as long as it’s safe to do so). If you feel your body needs help with getting enough melatonin, or if you’re fighting jetlag, there is a product on the market: Sleep+, made by Genuine Health and available at major pharmacies very economically that I have used succesfully myself. It is a timed-release melatonin, which means it lasts all night long and you just  take it for a month after which time your body should get used to producing the right amount of melatonin to keep you asleep. This is a far better alternative to artificial sleeping pills.

Make sure your bedroom is comfortable and relaxing. Most people sleep better in a room which is not overloaded with electronics – TV’s, stereos, computers. If you must sleep in the same room with your electronics, make sure you put them on a timer bar so they’re really OFF at night time. Your bed needs to be comfortable for YOU. That means try the mattress out at the store and make sure they have a return policy if you’re not comfortable on it. It should provide you with the optimum firmness for your body. Often that is different from person to person, so a couple with very different needs may have a difficult time finding the right mattress, unless they get one with different firmnesses on each side. Same goes for pillows. You will have to experiment to see which one is right for you. Breathable cotton sheets and covers are important. The right temperature (65 degrees is best for most)

And lastly, preparing your head for sleep is of prime importance:

Deep breathing. Close your eyes—and try taking deep, slow breaths—making each breath even deeper than the last.

Progressive muscle relaxation. Starting at your toes, tense all the muscles as tightly as you can, then completely relax. Work your way up from your feet to the top of your head.

Visualizing a peaceful, restful place. Close your eyes and imagine a place or activity that is calming and peaceful for you. Concentrate on how relaxed this place or activity makes you feel. If you are awake at night then stay in bed and try these three activities without judging yourself for NOT being asleep.

Holistic Wellness – Exercise


Get Out There and Move!!



Exercising has never come naturally or easily for me. In fact, for most of my life, I considered it more of a punishment than a benefit. Suffering from a complete lack of eye-hand co-ordination, I could never play any team sports or ball sports. Yes, it’s true – I was always the last one selected for a team at school!


I love watching sports, however, and really enjoyed watching the Olympics and cheering on Team Canada. While never aspiring to have the body of an Olympic athlete, I do, however, know the critical importance of exercising on a daily basis both for my health (and how I look!).


Over the last couple of years, due in part to the deaths of my Mother and Sister of ovarian cancer, I have endeavoured to live a cleaner, more holistic lifestyle. Whether it helps me live longer or not, I sure do feel better!


After drinking more water, eating a healthy diet full of fruits and vegetables, giving up wheat entirely, exercising every day, (trying) to get enough sleep, andlimiting my exposure to toxic chemicals as much as possible, I have to say that I feel a lot healthier, with dramatically less pain in my joints, fewer headaches, and a smooth running digestive system.


The exercise thing though, has been the hardest for me to sustain on a regular basis. I now do 3 things I love to do and am good at (none of which require eye-hand co-ordination, luckily). I walk, do yoga and kayak.


If you do nothing else at all, at least try walking every day. Even if your joints and feet hurt, try to walk for half an hour every single day. You’ll be surprised how quickly your pains go away and you can walk longer and faster. If it’s at all possible, try walking in a park or forest, as that type of walking is extremely beneficial, as well as limiting your exposure to automobile exhaust.

I took up yoga several years ago and at first it was really difficult (and painful) for me to do many of the poses, with the most painful one being the “Child’s Pose”. Hard to believe, but true. Now I do 2 classes a week of vinyasa (or flow) yoga, which are of intermediate intensity. My flexibility has improved dramatically. I can easily touch my toes, and my balance has improved. You only need a yoga mat, and although there are many yoga workouts available online, I have to advise you to take some classes from a certified yoga teacher so you can really learn the poses, as it is possible to hurt yourself if you’re not doing it properly.


My fitness level has improved to such a degree that I now have taken up kayaking, which is fantastic for upper body strength conditioning and posture. Unfortunately, this requires both a piece of equipment, and water (a lake) to be able to do, so maybe is not for everyone.


The truly important thing though, is to do something, anything, every day, for an hour if possible. The benefits to your health are incredible. You just have to start – right now! Get off the internet and go for a walk. Switch on the  music and have a private dance party. Run up and down the stairs 10 times. Go into your garden and pull weeds for an hour. Dust off that bicycle and go for a ride. Do 10 minutes of jumping jacks and squats. Go for a swim.(No, not ALL of those activities, just one or two).You’ll be glad you did!

(If you haven’t exercised in a while, please check with your Health Care Provider first)

Holistic Wellness – Healthy Eating

You really ARE what you eat!!


If you have been following my blog for any length of time then you can see that it’s all over the place regarding the topics. Well, not really. It’s all been part of the Master Plan!!

Wellness, in general, encompasses every single little thing that we are exposed to, and so, by definition, is holistic, and that includes the environment you live in, from the quality of the air inside your home to the colours on your walls and the the textiles and materials you furnish your home with.

I am a Holistic Interior Designer, which means that I make your home look wonderful, but in a manner that’s safer and healthier for you, your family and the environment.

However, no amount of organic textiles, zero VOC paints or re-purposed items will help you feel better if you are not eating properly, exercising, and generally looking after your health in a holistic fashion.

Of all the things you can be doing to help yourself, what you eat is by far the most important. You really ARE what you eat, so, sadly, if you eat a lot of junk food, you will pay the piper eventually in the form of chronic or acute disease.

If you feel that your diet has been poor so far, but you don’t know where to start or how to begin, just remember to start by taking small steps, and don’t give up. It takes a while to re-learn old habits.

Start small by:


Start by shopping around the perimeter of your store – choosing as many fruits and vegetables as you can. If possible, buy local and/or organic as much as possible. Try really hard not to buy any processed or pre-packaged food.  Although they may look appealing, they are chock-a-block full of sodium, preservatives and chemicals to make them taste better.


Learn to cook. There’s no point in buying all these fruits and vegetables if you don’t know what to do with them. Luckily there’s such a vast gamut of cooking websites, many with how-to videos so you can learn the techniques you will need to cook succesfully.


Try not to eat out as much as possible. Unfortunately, most restaurants rely on deep-frying to make foods taste better – but it’s really not good for you at all. The oil that is used begins to develop trans-fats in it almost immediately, and we all know that restaurants will keep the deep-frying oil for several days and just keep re-using it. So the food, no matter how wholesome it starts out, is being cooked in a toxic cocktail. Blegh!


Be organized. If you lead a really busy, hectic lifestyle, set aside a day a week to plan, shop, pre-prepare the ingredients you might need, and or pre-cook and freeze. A great resource for meal planning in this way is Sandi Richard. She also has a cooking show where she helps various families get organized with their meal planning.

For a lot more really helpful advice,and some wonderful recipes,I recommend you check out Julianne Bitely’s website. She is a wellness coach in Little Rock. On her website is a link to an e-book on Intergrative Nutrition written by Joshua Rosenthal (the founder of the Institute for Integrative Nutritionthat you can download for free.

Eat Really Local!

Eat REALLY Local!!


My garden is growing like crazy. (For the “before” pictures, check out my previous post on this garden).

I have experimented with planting different species of tomatoes – both hybrids and heirlooms just to see the difference.

There truly is a very visible difference as you can see from these pictures.

I have planted extremely intensively, having my tomato plants only a foot apart, but you can see that the Early Girl tomatoes, although they are heavy bearing (which is what they were hybridized to do!) have been attacked quite heavily by spider mites, whereas the heirlooms on either side are growing very vigorously indeed, with no incidence of spider mites even though the plant a foot away is infested.

Early Girl hybrids/spider mite

I have been having a problem, however, with blossom end rot and the tomato flowers just not producing the fruit, but turning brown and drying up.

Milk Sprayer
Blossom end-rot

I looked into it, and I have started spraying my blossom end rot plants with milk spray (1/2 cup instant skim milk powder into an empty 2 litre pop bottle, then fill with water) and we will see what happens.

The non-producing flowers, however, are a much simpler problem to fix.

In my quest to find the perfect spot for my tiered planting beds, I thought the very best spot in the world was in my back yard, between cedar hedges, and protected from the wind.

Well, they are so protected that I believe they are not being pollinated sufficiently by the wind. Tomatoes are self-pollinating, which means that both anthers and pistil (male and female parts) are in the same flower. BUT, they rely on either wind pollination or bees. With the reduction in bee population, and lack of wind in my backyard, that leaves ME!

blossoms withering

Luckily, it’s very easy to pollinate a tomato by hand. All you have to do is give the flowers a little shake. Here’s me shakin’ up the tomatoes!

I will let you know if it worked or not in a future post.

All in all my gardening “experiment” has been a success.

Last night we had a most delicious grilled eggplant dish, and we have been eating grilled Swiss chard at least twice a week for a month now. It has become my favourite (and I didn’t particularly care for Swiss chard before) not only because it’s delicious, but also because I think it’s the perfect vegetable – not really susceptible to pests (except cheeky chipmunks!), and whenever you pick a stem, it seems that two grow back to replace it! How good is that? 



8,9 or 10 (or however many you want) swiss chard leaves and stems

Glorious Swiss Chard!

1/2 a large or 1 small onion

kosher salt

olive oil

Wash and chop the stems very well and slice into about 1/2″ pieces.

Put a piece of foil onto a medium-hot barbeque

Dump the stems and chopped onion onto the foil, drizzle with olive oil, sprinkle with kosher salt.

Close the lid and let cook for about 5 minutes.

Add the chopped leaves, close the lid and cook for a further 3 minutes or until the leaves are quite wilted.

Enjoy with abandon!

Chop those Swiss Chard Stems