Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Book Club Night

I enjoyed discussing Water for Elephants with the book club. 

It is so interesting to hear the different points of view from eight other ladies. Although we don't always agree, the conversation is lively and thought-provoking. I enjoyed hearing about one lady's brother who had actually run away with the circus in the early 1950s. And a few of us shared nursing home stories.

I would not have picked up this book, but I am glad I read it. 

Set during the early years of the Depression, the book traces the circus experience of Jacob Jankowski, a Polish-American veterinary student who runs away after the tragic death of his parents. 

There is also a second narrative--Jacob's present situation as a patient in an old age home. 

The author, Sara Greuen, skillfully weaves together the tragic and romantic aspects of Jacob's life in a fast-paced novel that gives the reader a shocking, but realistic, picture of the early days of American circuses.

A great read.

Sunday, November 21, 2010

Inspired by Bea Levis

Today's article in The Toronto Star, "Aging Gracefully is all about Food," mentioned Bea Levis, the 92-year-old retired teacher who has followed a lifetime of healthy habits and, as a result, has aged painlessly. Aside from a touch of arthritis, she has a clean bill of health.

Her daily regimen is very doable. She eats a salad of greens and tomatoes, eschews red meat and walks at least 30 minutes. Bea keeps busy with her volunteer work, book clubs and family dinners.

Some interesting facts...
  • Follow the Okinawan diet--fruits, vegetables, soy, fish--and eat only until you are 80 percent full. 
  • If you restrict caloric intake, you will reduce the risks of age-related illnesses like heart disease, cancer and other age-related diseases.
Definitely food for thought!

Thursday, November 11, 2010

Discovering Atlantic Turbot

I was disappointed to learn that there were no halibut fillets at my favorite seafood counter. Instead, I purchased a couple of smaller and less expensive Atlantic turbot fillets.

I was pleasantly surprised by the flavor and versatility of the fish.

The turbot has a firm, white and meaty flesh that does not usually darken while cooking. It can be prepared in a variety of ways: oven-baked, poached, grilled, steamed or microwaved. I used one of my halibut recipes and was very satisfied with the results.

An excellent source of protein, the Atlantic turbot also provides generous amounts of vitamins A and B12, phosphorous, magnesium, potassium, calcium, selenium, iodine and iron.

Wednesday, November 10, 2010

Taking the Pledge

Last night, I watched the televised gala of this year's Scotiabank Giller Prize.

I was impressed by the five short-listed books: Annabel by Kathleen Winter, Light Lifting by Alexander MacLeod, This Cake Is for the Party by Sarah Selecky, The Matter with Morris by David Bergen and the winner, The Sentimentalist by Johanna Skibsrud.

In the past, I have made a point of reading the winning book, but this year I decided to take the advice of emcee, Seamus O'Regan. He invited all Canadians to take the One Country 5 Books pledge. I visited the website and made a commitment to read all five books on the list.

Tuesday, November 9, 2010

Dealing With BOSU

I had another session with my trainer this afternoon. In addition to weight resistance training, I am also spending time dealing with BOSU.

The name BOSU is an acronym which stands for "BOth Sides Up." The ball can be used with either the dome side or the platform side up.

Invented by David Weck in 1999, the BOSU ball consists of a rubber hemisphere attached to a rigid platform. It is often referred to as "blue half ball" because it looks like a stability ball cut in half.

I did not know BOSU existed until two months ago. At first, I was a bit apprehensive and did not enjoy balancing on either side. I am proud to admit that I can now balance on the dome side while doing squats or lifting 5 pound weights. As for the platform side...well I still need a few props or Rose's assistance.

Monday, November 8, 2010

Conflicting Egg Stories

I love my poached or scrambled eggs first thing in the morning. And I will often treat myself to an omelet or eggs Benedict for lunch or dinner.

I did not enjoy reading this morning's article about eggs in The Globe and Mail. A few days ago, Canadian researchers made waves when they reported that one egg yolk is worse "cholesterol-wise" than KFC's Double Down sandwich.

What is KFC's Double Down Sandwich? It is a product so meaty that there is no room for a bun. It consists of two thick and juicy chicken fillets, two slices of bacon, two melted slices of cheese and the Colonel's sauce.

Personally, I don't think the comparison is a valid one.

Later this afternoon, it was reassuring to hear Dr. Oz advise viewers to include one hard-boiled egg in their daily diets. He also informed us that egg yolks contain choline--a nutrient in the B vitamin family--which contributes to better brain health.

Sunday, November 7, 2010

Down 10 and counting!!

In September, I decided to make physical fitness a priority.

Since retiring, I have taken up yoga and worked out on a treadmill each morning. But that was not enough. I needed to build up strength and endurance.

So, about eight weeks ago, I decided to hire a personal trainer. After a few false starts, I hired Rose Parr. For the first five weeks, I went to her in-home gym twice a week and learned all about weight resistance training, stability balls and the dreaded bosu. I now go once a week and work out on my own two other days. I can feel myself getting stronger and more balanced with each passing day.

I have also cut down on my carbs--no more pasta, potatoes or daily desserts. I had occasional lapses, but quickly got back on track.

The results, so far--10 pound loss in eight weeks and I can buckle my belt two notches over.

Thursday, November 4, 2010

All About Short Stories

Yesterday evening, I attended Sarah Totton's workshop on short story writing.

Along with nine other aspiring writers, I listened to a very entertaining and inspiring workshop. Sarah has been writing short stories for awhile and has entered a number of contests with varying degrees of success. She is very persistent and dedicated to her craft; she actually entered the Writers of the Future Contest 17 times!!

She provided us with a number of valuable tips regarding the submission guidelines and process. We also learned about flash fiction--short stories less than 1000 words--and the different payment schedules that exist.

I was pleasantly surprised to learn that no query letter is required when sending out short stories. Sarah suggested that we find out the name of the fiction editor and send him./her the complete manuscript with a short cover letter that can be pasted into the email document.

Although I haven't written a short story in years, I am inspired to write one now.