Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Wine Wednesday

On Twitter, Wine Wednesday is a very popular hashtag. It's fun to chat about what you're drinking and post photos. It was started by a man named Eric (twesommelier) and has taken on a life of its own since then. It's a great opportunity to share information about wine and to learn more about those on Twitter participating in the wine community.

In honour of Wine Wednesday, and as a break from my usual posts, I'm thinking about reviewing a different wine each week. I thought it might be a fun experiment as I search for the voice that Upkeep will have. My involvement in the wine community has been bringing a lot of happiness to my life as I learn more and more about such a broad and fascinating topic. I'm a big believer that a healthy life is one where you have balance, so that means finding something I love to counterbalance all the tough choices I make in trying to live a healthy life.

So each Wednesday starting next week I'll try to post a review. I may not be drinking wine on Wednesday (I try to keep that to the weekend), but I can certainly write that night. I look forward to your feedback on this new feature!

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Iced Coffee Meltdown

I’ve never been a coffee drinker – I find it makes me jittery. So I stick with tea and that’s been just fine until recently. I blame McDonald’s and their $1 summer drink special. It started off with grabbing an iced coffee now and then when Shawn was getting one on the weekend. I’d get skim milk and half sweet or sugar-free to avoid the extra calories.

Sometimes they’d make me jittery, but not always, and after awhile it became a lot less of an issue. Everyone in my department is going for coffee? It’s super hot out? Grab me an iced coffee! Or I’d wander out for a walk at lunch and find myself in front of McDonald’s with my $1.05 already in hand.

Everything about this habit screams out to me as wrong. Caffeine is something I don’t like and avoid, even half-sweet the drinks do contain sugar and even with skim milk there are calories involved. I convince myself it’s not as bad as candy and that might be true, but it’s definitely not a good choice. Still, I find myself saying yes more often than not.

I find myself wishing that a David’s Tea would pop up in the neighbourhood. I love their drinks and their iced tea is a million times better for me than iced coffee. Even with agave or honey, it’s a much better option. I bought myself a David’s Takeya Flash Chill Iced Tea Maker and have been making iced tea at home, but that doesn’t help when the iced coffee urge hits on a Tuesday afternoon.

I’m promising myself that this stops at the end of the summer and I hope I can stick with that. I've also made a point of not going every day - a few times a week seems bad enough. I don’t want to become addicted to caffeine (although I fear it’s already started) and I would much rather put tea in my body than a mix of caffeine, sugar and whatever else they put in those syrups. Yuck.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

Meditation

Some of you will recall that I took several months of meditation classes a year or so ago. It didn’t really stick. The classes themselves were interesting and the teacher was wonderful, but after sitting for 45 minutes at a time willing my brain to shut up, I felt more exasperated then refreshed. And the women in my class all seemed to be getting more out of it. When we would regroup afterwards they would discuss colours they’d seen and feelings of peace and calm that they’d achieved. I was planning grocery lists and thinking about all the things I could be doing instead of sitting on the floor trying not to think about sitting on the floor.

After a few months, I gave up the class and put mediation on the back burner. But it still nagged at me that I should consider going back to it. I know people who have had wonderful results and I’d been advised many times that with my personality type I would benefit from it. So when I read Amber Strocel’s wonderful, funny blog about her own meditation experiences, I decided if she could come up with five minutes to mediate, so could I – and it’s working a little better this time.

One of Amber’s readers left a comment about an app that she was using to help her meditate called the Insight Timer. It’s really a simple concept, but I loved it – you set the app for when you want to start meditating, tell it how long you want to meditate for and set up a number of bells that will toll when you reach certain milestones. For me, this was a great option. No longer did I have to worry that I was going to meditate for too long and run late or that I would fall asleep and end up being late for work. I could set the timer and relax. The bells are also really soothing and meditative, so you get a much nicer experience than if you were using the microwave timer (believe me, that is not a good way to end a relaxing meditation session) and I’m able to let go more.

I’ve also started at ten minutes. In class we would do 30-45 and that just seemed way too long for me to stop thinking. Perhaps if we had worked up to it, I could manage it, but right off the top? No way. So that’s the premise I’m working from – trying to clear my head for ten minutes every morning. I wake up, shower, go downstairs and sit down on my pillow on the floor. I set the timer, clear my mind, relax and breathe. The first bell peels to signal the start, the second to signal the midway point and then the final bell means that the session has ended.

For the most part, I love it. I find ten minutes works well for me – I am able to clear my mind more or less and let a lot of the thoughts that creep in just float away. Of course, one morning one of my cats decided to try and rip up the couch during my ten minute session, so that one was a wash. Usually I can even block out crazy cat noises while I’m working on meditating – provided no destruction of furniture comes into play.

Is it helping? I think so. I feel calmer afterwards, less stressed by all that I have to accomplish in the morning and less overwhelmed. Does it last all day? Not really, but I feel like it’s a start. And I like the idea of training my mind to do something like this. Maybe I’ll start to feel a little more zen-like once I’ve been at it a little longer.

Have you ever meditated? Were you able to shut off your brain? What worked for you?

Friday, June 22, 2012

Prince Edward County Adventure

Beautiful creek and bridge at Karlo Estates
Recently, Shawn and I booked a weekend away in Prince Edward County. Since I’ve become interested in food and wine, I’ve been fascinated with all that’s going on in that part of Ontario. There seem to be so many amazing wine and farming businesses taking off there and on Twitter there is lots of discussion about all there is to see and do. It didn’t take much for me to decide that PEC was going to be the place for us to celebrate our recent anniversary. I thought I’d share some of the wonderful things I discovered there.

66 Gilead Distillery – I first heard about this gin and vodka distillery on Twitter and was intrigued. I then saw a mention in Toronto Life and realized I really needed to check this place out. Shawn enjoys vodka more than wine, so he was happy to head into the heart of farm country to find this little barn and farmhouse. The vodkas are excellent – we tried the wheat and pine and purchased the wheat. Pine wasn’t really to our tastes, but many love it. We also picked up a bottle of their gin, which has amazing flavor and a wonderful bite. It’s incredible to have such an interesting resource so close to home.


Black Prince Winery – This was a recommendation from one of my wine friends on Twitter, Matt the Wine Guy. When a sommelier student suggests you try a wine it’s always a good idea to take them up on that suggestion. So Shawn and I made Black Prince one of our first stops – and it didn’t disappoint. I bought two wines there, Harwood Gewurztraiminer 2007 and Black Prince Chambourcin 2006. The winery doesn't look like much from the highway, but it's quite lovely inside and has a beautiful patio. And they really do have some excellent wines.

Buddha Dog – This was another Twitter recommendation and it did not disappoint. With all local food, we stopped by for a light lunch. I had a grilled cheese and Shawn had a hot dog. The portions are tiny (you’re meant to order more than one of each), but it was exactly what we needed after a huge breakfast. The flavours just pop in your mouth and you can taste the difference local food makes.

Karlo Estates – I had followed Karlo on Twitter for awhile and they had been hugely helpful in booking our trip – always happy to offer suggestions of places to visit. They were also so welcoming in advance of my visit – sending out tweets and making sure they knew my arrival time.  Finally meeting Sherry and Richard was such a treat and the wine – oh the wine. Karlo makes the only chardonnay (CHOA) I’ve ever tried that I really liked and their ports – well, the ports are a thing of beauty. The red was just divine – not too sweet and not too heavy and the white (yes, they make a white port) is crisp and light and a little sweeter. I loved it.  We will definitely be back to visit Karlo Estates again and I hope you’ll take the opportunity to do the same if you’re ever out that way.

Harwood Estates - Harwood knows how to host a tasting. We loved how warm and inviting they were and how prepared they were for a large tasting group. They also had cute leis available for all the celebrating people to wear. In addition, their wines are fantastic – I highly recommend their not-too-sweet dessert wine, Just Desserts 2009, which is a perfect option for marinating berries in. And Harwood is the only fully solar winery in the area – they have an environmentalist on staff and take their commitment to eco-friendly products very seriously. Again, one that we will visit again.

The Lavender Farm – This was a little out of the way (we got so lost trying to find it), but it was worth the trek through the country. It’s a lovely little farmhouse with huge fields of lavender. You can purchase plants and other lavender products - we picked up some lavender honey. You can also visit Lacey Estates while you’re out there. We stopped in to pick up a bottle of red for a family member and Shawn discovered his favourite red of the trip – their award-winning Baco Noir.

The County Cider Company – We went to see Lake on the Mountain and figured since we were out that way, we would visit County Cider. They have great reviews and all the locals told us it was worth it for the views and the wood oven lunch. We didn’t have time for lunch, but the view from the patio is spectacular! And it’s well worth it to pick up some cider if you’re a fan of that spirit (which I'm quickly becoming).

Rosehall Run – We have to comment on the amazing service we got here. Granted, we were the first customers of the day, but the gentleman who served us went above and beyond to help us pick not only the right wine, but some wonderful local food as well. We got lavender vinegar, locally made mustard and even some meat. We will definitely be back at Rosehall for the great food, wine and service. A must-do in my opinion.

Danforth Mill – We actually just stumbled on this one while driving around lost looking for the Lavender Farm. It was well-worth stopping. We met the owners, bought a loaf of melt-in-your-mouth-good bread and some Scandinavian-style flat bread and realized that this was why local food was so important. I wish we could stop there for our bread every week (even though I try not to eat much bread).

There were so many places we enjoyed on this trip and no way I could include them all here. From The Merrill Inn where we stayed, to Portabella and The Acoustic Grill where we did dinner, to the other fantastic wineries we visited (Sandbanks, Waupoos and Huff), we had an amazing trip. We also stopped for local fruits and veggies at a roadside stand and raided my uncle’s garden for rhubarb. Whether you’re a wine fan or not, there is a lot worth seeing and doing in PEC. We can’t wait for our next trip.

Is there anywhere I've missed? Leave me your comments so I'll know what to add to the list for our next trip!

Thursday, June 21, 2012

Upkeep

So I’ve made a decision – after mulling over a number of the suggestions people gave me and adding a few of my own to that list, I decided that the one I loved best is… Upkeep. It was suggested by one of my old music industry friends – the very talented public relations person, Rebecca Webster – and I think it encapsulates what this blog is about: keeping my body, mind and soul in good condition.

My hope for this blog has always been that sharing my experiences would inspire others to try and live a healthier, more balanced life. It’s not easy and I know that there are so many people besides me who struggle with finding that balance. Reading other healthy living and lifestyle blogs has definitely inspired me and I wanted to do the same for others.
 

I think the new name will provide a more welcoming atmosphere and go far better with the overall theme.  I hope you do too!

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

The Name Change Game

It’s been apparent to me for awhile that I need to change the name of my blog. While I think it’s cute and quirky, it’s obvious that some find the word slaughter in the title a bit off-putting. Shocking, right? Yes, I’m kidding.

When the name was suggested (by my wonderful friend Nick), it seemed apt. I had just left my job in the music industry, I was figuring out what I wanted to do with my life and I was dragging myself kicking and screaming to good health… like a lamb to the slaughter. Now, well, I’m not really kicking and screaming anymore. The blog has morphed into a place for me to talk about the challenges of living a healthy lifestyle, as well as a space where I can talk about the things that bring me happiness and balance (like books, wine and music).

When asked, I say my blog is about healthy living and balance – things that I struggle with. It’s about enjoying the things I love (some in moderation), about making time to do the things I need to do for my body and my soul. Like a Lamb to the Slaughter doesn’t really capture that at all.

On a recent road trip, I tested a few new titles out on Shawn. Once he stopped laughing, he suggested I open up the floor to suggestions from friends. So I’ve done that on Facebook and I encourage anyone here with suggestions to please leave them in the comments section. It’s time for change and I’m looking forward to a fresh start with a fresh title.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Organ Donors

Recently, I read about how Facebook is going to add organ donor status as part of its overall profile information. I loved this idea, as it’s a great way to publicly state your intention and ensure that there is no confusion if that decision ever needs to be made.

I registered as an organ donor when I went to have my health card renewed a few years ago. The information was available on the desk in front of me, but the gentleman who was serving me seemed surprised when I asked about it. I was surprised that he hadn’t brought it up. It just seemed so obvious that if you asked people about it they were more likely to say yes then if you waited for them to notice the information pamphlets sitting there.  But that wasn’t the case then.

My understanding is that this has now changed and that more people are asked. I hope that’s true. So many times people don’t think about that sort of thing or, if they do, they don’t know how to register. A lot of people who want to do it just never get around to it – and that’s such a shame. Organ donors save lives – and the more we do to help support registration, the more lives we can potentially save.

Are you an organ donor? How did you learn about registering?

Thursday, June 14, 2012

Healthy Living Resources

Occasionally, I’ll have someone ask me about resources I use to keep up my healthy living. There are a few that I tend to recommend, depending on the issues that person is facing. Here are a few that I think are worth sharing.
 

1.        Clean Eating – I love Tosca Reno and think that her Clean Eating series is fantastic. The premise is simple – eat fresh fruits and veggies, whole grains and lean meats. Avoid anything processed or containing refined sugar. Avoid alcohol. When I eat clean I always feel better, but I’ve learned that for me I need balance. I like to have a glass of wine or two sometimes, for example. But Clean Eating can be fit into any lifestyle and modified slightly if you aren’t willing to go at it full-on. Filling your body with healthy foods is a no-brainer and once you extract processed foods you will be amazed at how your body responds.

2.        Healthy Tipping Point – I’ve mentioned this blog before and I continue to send people to it all the time. I love Caitlyn and her amazingly healthy lifestyle. She’s currently pregnant and following along as she modifies her workouts and eating has been fascinating. She’s not running 10ks or doing tri-athalons at this stages, but she is certainly showing how easy it can be to have a fit, fantastic pregnancy. I look forward to following her on the journey to motherhood. This is a great blog for anyone who wants any inspiration for healthy eating, exercise and positive thinking.

3.        The Harvard Medical School Guide to A Good Night’s Sleep – If you, like me, have struggled with insomnia, this is a great resource. Some of it is advice you may have heard before, but hearing it from the minds at Harvard seems to make it ring true. I learned so much about sleep schedules and the science of sleep that I still use today – years after finishing the book.


There are many, many more resources I could think of, but that seems like a good start! I’ll blog about this topic again to add even more. Do you have any resources you suggest to friends? I’d love to hear about them.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Liquid Diet

One of the major lifestyle changes I’ve tried to make has been increasing the amount of water that I drink. It’s one of those things that seems simple in theory, but in practice I’ve found incredibly difficult – and my tiny bladder doesn’t help.

To help my overall hydration levels, I’ve started taking Tosca Reno’s advice to drink a glass of water first-thing in the morning. She’s certainly not alone in that thinking and, it would seem, with good reason. In the months since I took that simple step, I’ve definitely felt better and more hydrated. The trouble for me comes when I then have to maintain a level of water intake throughout the day. I try to keep a large, glass water bottle on my desk at all times and I do my best to fill it and drink from it all day. It’s not always easy to remember, though. To help, I’ve created a spot on my ‘to do’ list where I can check off the numbers of bottles of water I get through in a day. I aim for three water bottles full during the work day – sometimes I manage that, but often I don’t.

I know that water intake can come from other things too – grapes, watermelon and juice are all hydrating and sometimes they’re easier to consume, but I’m trying to keep up with the water. When you’re properly hydrated you just feel better and you see the benefits in your skin and hair.  I know it’s the right thing to do – I just have to work harder at doing it.

Do you have any tips for how you keep your water consumption up? I’d love any tips!

Friday, June 8, 2012

Wine Newbie

I’ve never been a big wine drinker – I was never keen on the taste and red wine often gives me headaches. Apparently, that’s because of the histamines. Who knew? I’ve always loved the idea of wine, though. I would see complicated wine lists and wonder about them, I would visit the wineries in Niagara-on-the-Lake and think about doing tastings. But it all seemed so complicated – so big and vast and unknowable. I stuck with my martinis.

But during our trip to Ireland last summer I started ordering wine. It just seemed easier than cocktails there - it was something simple that every place had on the menu. Turned out, there were a lot of wines that I tried and liked. I took photos of the little bottles they would bring to the table and looked for those varieties at home. Then I started looking at what was available at the LCBO and at the Gourmet Food and Wine Show. As it turns out, I do like wine – I just hadn’t been drinking the right kinds.

It may seem weird to include wine in a healthy-living blog as well as in a lifestyle pushing to be healthier, but I think it’s been a great addition. There is a lot less sugar in wine than in the cocktails I’ve usually gravitated towards and it’s far easier to order a glass of wine and sip that over dinner than to order more easy-drinking cocktails that sometimes go down too easily. Plus, there is so much to learn about wine.

I turned to the Twitter community to ask my initial questions and have opened up an amazing resource – there are wineries, sommeliers, marketing people, groups, bloggers, and just plain fans. They have taught me so much and welcomed me so warmly as I stumble through. I’ve participated in #CabFrancTues and learned that if I just have one glass of red it won’t give me a headache. I’ve booked winery visits, learned about different kinds of grapes and been invited to wine-centric events. I have also learned a lot about the complicated legalities behind wine sales through following the #freemygrapes hash tag.

I’m nowhere near an expert (not sure it's even possible with all there is to know), but I’m learning every day and even considering taking a course at one of the local colleges. I still don’t drink a lot, as I think it’s all about moderation, but when I do I like to try new varieties of VQA, pick out interesting flavours and choose based on levels of dry-sweet. Things I never even considered before. And the amazing community on Twitter is there to help me out if I have questions (even when they’re dumb ones) or need recommendations for wines to consider.

Are you a wine fan? I’d love to hear about your favourites!

Wednesday, June 6, 2012

Juggling

Lately it feels like my whole life is a bit of a juggling act. I love that I'm back on track with my workouts, but I'd be lying if I said it wasn't difficult to manage them with my current schedule. I talk to some people who work out all the time and I wonder when and if they sleep.

Right now, I'm working out about 4-5 days a week. I'd like to up it to 5-6 days. I'm not sure how sustainable that is, but I'm doing my best. Part of the problem is that my husband has the morning locked up, so I don't have the option of morning workouts. There just isn't enough space in our house to work out at the same time and to do it one after the other would probably mean a) getting up at 4:30am and b) driving our downstairs neighbours nuts. I also like to write in the morning - one of the few quiet times I have available.

I know people who work out at lunch, but my gym is too far for that. It's a 15 minute walk to get there, so it would be about 25 minutes before I could start working out and then I'd have to start getting changed to walk back about ten minutes into the workout. Not doable. So I work out after I leave the office. I try to do three days at home and one day at the gym, or two and three if I'm lucky and don't have anything scheduled in the evenings that week. But, of course, I don't want to give up all evening activities - it's nice to spend time with friends.

So that means on nights like yesterday, when I'm met a friend after work for a movie, I won't get home until at least 10pm and I won't be able to workout at all. I think it's worth it, but I wonder if I'll ever get on top of all my fitness goals without sacrificing time with friends. Can I really be ready to run a 5k and back in top strength-training shape if I only work out a few days a week? Right now, it doesn't look like it to me.

How do you manage your workouts? I'd love some ideas to make my fitness goals a better fit for my life.

Saturday, June 2, 2012

Ups and Downs

Living a healthy lifestyle is hard, but it's doable. I can look at the week past and think that, while I didn't entirely achieve what I'd planned, I did pretty well. I did 3 P90X workouts (of a planned five) and hit the gym once. I ate as close to the meal plan as possible, save for sliding off course at two parties I attended. The gourmet grilled cheese sandwich was likely the bigger splurge than the handful of chips and vegan cake slice, but still. Not a perfect week, but a pretty good one. Next week I'm hopeful for better, but will try and be happy either way.

I learned a lot about myself too. I don't think I'll ever be the person who says no to a slice of birthday cake or who can withstand the pull of something truly fabulous. But by eating properly the rest of the week and working out regularly, I think I balance those splurges better. That said, the sugar crash after the birthday cake, well, it really wasn't worth it. This week hasn't always been easy, but I feel better and that's the most important thing.

Moving into next week, I'm hopeful that things will be a lot easier. And that I'll get in more workouts. I have one planned for this weekend too, so that will be one more than usual. Do you find it easy to work out on the weekends? That's definitely the hardest time for me to get my act together!