Saturday, January 31, 2015

Feast or Famine?

In case you're wondering what's up here on this day, so cold one's breath hangs in the air, I'm doing a one-day juice cleanse. Not so intuitive, the mid-winter juice cleanse, but you know how I love good marketing - and cold-pressed juice, not to mention that I really am on a mission to hydrate and diminish inflammation simultaneously.

Nothing like a day of juice, I say, to make you realize how little you actually need to eat and how much you'd prefer to be doing just that.

I'm doing Greenhouse Juice's Gentle Cleanse aka the cleanse for wusses. I'm ok with that. It's approximately 3 litres of juices (vegetable, fruit, nut) of numerous varieties, designed to assist health in numerous ways, all of which (so far) are delicious. (OK, the E3 shot was sort of ugh, but it was small.)

An undeniably terrific element of this exercise is that I had the super-heavy bottles delivered directly to my door yesterday afternoon. Not only does Greenhouse schedule delivery within a 3 hour window (one of which is 4:30 am -7:30 am), the delivery person sent me a photo of my juice in an adorable made-to-measure box, sitting on the porch, to confirm delivery. This operation kills me! Fortunately Scott was home within an hour of this or my poor juice would have frozen solid. Furthermore, and you know how I grudge shipping costs, delivery is free when you spend 69 bucks or more. Spending 70 bucks for 3 litres of juice might seem high on drugs, but you have to consider that 3 lbs of produce goes into making half a litre. Sure, a couple of the juices are glorified "water", but people, it's spa and this is Toronto and the place operates out of Rosedale. What do you expect?

I even got some stand-by juices, in case I freak out about volume. But then I drank them last night, in a pre-juicing consumption frenzy. The fast, people, it's a mind-fuck.

I opted to do this on a Saturday because I didn't want to be preoccupied in any way during the week but, man, I wish I had something more with which to occupy myself right now. Sure, I've spent a few hours making potions and, next up, some body work. But I may just have to pick up my knitting needles (sleeping since November, to give my muscles a rest) to keep my hands occupied.

So, please, keep me motivated. Have you ever done a juice cleanse? Did it mess with your mind? Have you done this juice cleanse? Thoughts about Greenhouse specifically? Do you think it's weak to think about food when you've got a constant supply of juice to contend with? Do you think it's insane to do a juice cleanse in the first place? Really, let's talk.

Sunday, January 25, 2015

Pretty Things That Smell Good

Today was rather a mixed bag on the potion front. I did manage to make a couple of successful products, but I threw out more than I cooked - and it's logistically challenging to throw these waxy, oily things away!

For starters, here's what I made:

Arnica Salve
It's a rather pretty salve of olive oil-infused with arnica from dried flowers. I simmered them together for 2.5 hrs (it called for 3) and then realized that my arnica was starting to burn. I think I caught it in the nick of time but next time, I'll use a bit less arnica and cook for 2 hrs. BTW, here's a book I found, from which I've made the lip balm and this salve - both successful. It's got the longest title ever but it's cheap as beans and the recipes are good so far.

Arnica, as you likely know, is a herb used in a variety of formats to diminish aches of all kinds, but especially muscle pain. I can't believe I found the flowers at my local, crazy, skin-care components shop. The store is like a vortex, utterly unlike anything I've ever seen. You can get lost in that tiny space for hours where they sell everything. And everything is affordable.

I added some marjoram, helichrysum and neroli to make it smell like something other than a cooked herb and it's actually a really balanced, pleasingly floral scent. It's potent but not overwhelming.

I also made a couple of face serums (sera?), which I modeled on this stuff here. (That product is excellent, btw, and you can get it at Cure.)

Rosehip Face Serum
Of course, I can't reproduce that proprietary product altogether, but I can do my own thing with most of the same ingredients. I subbed almond oil for jojoba because a) it's winter and faces need a bit more oomph from their creams right now (even if your skin is oily, like mine) and b) I had a bit left over after my lotion fiascos du jour and it was easier than storing a tiny amount of oil that would go-off fast sitting in a bottle with a lot of oxygen.

Essentially, in this 10ml bottle, I used @4ml organic sweet almond oil (bought in Mtl. in December), @5ml organic rosehip seed oil and 1ml vitamin e (in sunflower oil). For each bottle, I scented the oil with essential oils known for improving skin: rosewood, lavender, geranium and rose. It smells awesome.

In truth, the branded product is excellent and pretty well priced, for it's quality at @35 bucks. The homemade version, every bit as organic and with 90% of the same ingredients, cost 9 bucks - including the packaging (which is nowhere near as sexy as the shop version). Mine's a quarter of the price and I created multiples, by hand, in 10 minutes.

I can see I'm going to need a nice label...

Saturday, January 24, 2015

Yeah, I've Become That Woman

Yesterday I had the opportunity to experience the random, mid-winter breakdown of both my hot water heater AND my furnace in less than 6 hours. Both are under 2 years old and each is serviced every fall. How it's happened that multiple versions of these appliances have managed to break multiple times, over multiple Januaries is beyond me. I don't play fast and loose with the things that keep you alive in negative temperatures. To make it all the more fun, a Chinese-made motor - that's worth about 80 bucks - cost me $1000. Not to mention another 500 bucks on service and the venting for the heater. Did I mention the part where I pay $200 every fall to have the fucking things maintained?

Needless to say, I wasn't having any fun, especially when they told us we'd have to wait for the part till Monday. It was at that point that I went so supernova, righteously indignant that they promptly found the part and installed it before 6pm - that's after they'd indicated an absurd intention to charge me extra to come in on Saturday?! I can be pretty scary if you fuck with my ability to live in my home, esp. when I've determined the likely issue and given you ample time to find a work around. On a Friday in January in CANADA, you don't tell a homeowner that you can't help till Monday.

But wait. This post is about rainbows and calmness and mental health (and my final descent into the deepest state of urban hipsterness, Lord, but 1 thing at a time)...

I've been observing, as I don't drink wine on weekdays, that by the time I've gone through a bottle over the weekend (as opposed to the @2.5 bottles I used to drink throughout the week, without issue), I wake up Monday morning feeling wretched. Actually, I wake up Sunday morning feeling pretty bad but I push through. How, exactly, do I feel bad? Well, my body hurts - like my muscles (and what I used to call my muscles which, now I understand, is fascia. It's amazing how distinct these are even as they intertwine.)

I sense the issue's been there for a while but I'm noticing it more now that I've been on a hydration kick the likes of which you've rarely seen (within the realm of safety, natch) and since I've begun MELTing and Tuning Up on a daily basis. You see, I don't have the crippling headaches I used to, at this point (mercifully), but the rest of me feels everything much more keenly. I suspect this is the impact of correcting (rather than masking) an underlying issue.

Anyway, somehow over the last few weeks I've been sucked into the vortex of cold-pressed juice. You know, that stuff that costs 10 bucks for 8 oz because it isn't heat processed (yes it's raw and subject to the inclusion of potentially harmful bacteria if improperly made or stored), it's organic and it's packaged in glass. Admittedly, every jar is made up of 6-salads worth of ingredients, but man, I go big or I go home and this is big. Have you ever spent more than 100 bucks on juice in a week?

Why have I gone on this money-eating trajectory? Well, while the jury's out about whether connective tissue pain is about tissue inflammation, in addition to dehydration, I've been dealing with an autoimmune condition for a few years now that causes an ugly (though painless) skin response. It is about inflammation and the skin rash, when it flares in any given spot, can take years to go away. I'm dealing with 2 spots that have been there for more than 2 years, and other spots that arrived more recently. At any rate, I don't like to dwell on this unsightly issue, but it's become markedly more pronounced since I turned 40. You know, since perimenopause decided to kick me in the gut.

Here's the thing. I can't bear to be without my beautiful wine glass full of ruby liquid, without the ritual that I prize. But I can replace that dehydrating and inflammation-causing liquid with a beet/carrot/fennel/goji berry combo and, really, it's awesomely delicious.

I'm not just saying this. I have not been brainwashed by urban hipsters or chronic pain. I will not eat or drink gross things. I will not buy a beet and cook it. But somehow, when it's pressed into an anti-inflammatory elixir, man - it's fine.

But of course, I didn't stop there. I feel so excellent after drinking my two glasses of beet-booze (as I lovingly refer to it), that I've gone looking for all the good stuff. Sure, I swore I'd never drink green things - and I really won't drink lettuce cuz that creeps me out - but kale and spirulina are rather delightful when mixed with blueberries.

And then there are the nut-milks. Oh, these are the milk-shakes of the cold-pressed world. My fave is an almond, cocoa, mesquite blend with dates and coconut oil. It's actually oily in the most awesome way.

I've been buying the goods all over the place cuz TO is a mecca for this shit. I mean, we're like the California of the North, other than Vancouver of course. But seriously, population-wise, we're drinking much more of the stuff than those clear-skinned yogis in Van. You can't throw a stone in the central 'hoods without hitting a juice place. There's even a stupid uptown version that charges a premium on the premium because it's catering to the wealthy ladies who leave their hybrids running as they hop inside for a quick hit.

I've got some tricks up my sleeve, namely Sunshine (which looks crappy but they make great juice at the best price you'll find - partly cuz you have to bring in your own glass container and they're not charging you for the brand). They've teamed up with a place in Yorkville that nicely branded the juice from Sunshine, but if you get it there (in pretty glass, of course) you'll pay twice as much for the same stuff.

My fave place, though, for the full experience is my old vegetarian staple, Fresh. They just soft-launched a line of 12 pressed juices. They're not up on the website yet, but here's a menu I half-assedly photographed:

And here's my haul for the weekend:

I cannot begin to tell you how beautiful these juices are. My faves are 04 (an antioxidant blend of beet, parsley, lemon, kale and green apple), 05 (a nutrient-dense blend of beet, fennel, carrot, lemon, goji berries and salt) 09 (a salty/malty blend raw cacao, maca, mesquite, date, goji berries, almonds, hemp hearts) 10 (an anti-inflammatory blend of blueberry, spirulina, green apple, protein, date, raw almond), 12 (a neutral, calming blend of almond, vanilla, himalayan salt, alkaline water and 1 date - works well for breakfast).

And I can repurpose the bottles when making my potions (or getting refills of the less pricey stuff from Sunshine - that tastes just as good, even if the blends aren't as culinary as those sold by Fresh).

I never thought I'd begin to understand people who go on juice fasts, but having indulged in these delicious, filling and energizing juices and milks, I'm half-inclined to give it a try. For a day, I mean, I'm not crazy.

The question is about how I will continue to indulge this habit, even as I've cut down on the booze bill substantively. It can easily cost 150 bucks a week to drink 2, 8 oz juices per day. Right now I'm going with: It's healthy and I need to restore my health so fuck the cost. Who knows how long that'll last. Quite a while, I suspect, knowing me.

Today's questions: Do you know these places and do you buy their juices? Can you get with spending the amount of a pricey glass of wine on vegetables? Are cold-pressed, organic, raw juices your dirty little habit? Do you think I'm insane? Let's talk!

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Wardrobe Staple

Just a quick post to tell you about a wardrobe staple I discovered when in Barcelona this summer.

Ever worn these?

Hue Denim Leggings - This is the curvy style, but there are numerous styles and washes to choose from...
Alas, they don't come with that ass.

At any rate, I found these at El Corte Ingles, a mid-range Spanish department store (which is so much better than any mid-range Canadian department store), having never noticed them in Canada before. I decided, since I've been doing the skinnies since @ 1978, that I might as well give them a try. I mean, at 50 bucks (style and vendor depending), they cost much less than a pair of yoga pants from Lulu Lemon.

I can tell you, having now bought 2 additional pairs (available at the Bay), in diff washes but still skinny, that these things save my butt multiple times a week. First off, they're freakin' leggings, so I feel like I'm wearing pajamas. Secondly, the rise is high, so I don't get muffin top. Thirdly, the proprietary stretch denim, used to make these things, is totally awesome. They're both denim and leggings all at the same time - but they look 100 per cent like jeans. And finally, you can wear all of your long-ish figure skimming tops minus the ruinous look of a belt.

You will never find less pricey, more comfortable pants than these. And they're chic with your boots!

Really, just go out and buy them and then tell me what you think.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

In Case You Thought I Was Joking...

Kristin-made Skin Care
The recipe could have made 5 containers of peppermint lip balm, but I didn't know and I only had 4, so now I'm rubbing half set balm all over my legs and torso... Took 10 minutes to put this together and another 10 to clean up. Not to mention it smells and feels awesome. In a fancy store you'd have spent 15 bucks on it. Cost me about a dollar a container (and that was mostly the cost of the container).

And no, I will never buy lip balm again.

PS: This is edible (not that you'd want to eat locally-sourced, organic beeswax).

Saturday, January 17, 2015


I have always loved potions - as I've mentioned many times on this blog. I was that teenager with an organic essential oil collection. Put something that smells good - and feels great - in a gorgeous glass bottle and I am sold.

I dabbled in making oils, lotions and scrubs in my early 20s and then I met my husband. He was not into bombardment by numerous fragrances as I practiced my witchy art. So, in the interests of solidarity, and because my life went on new trajectories in early adulthood, I left the chemistry behind.

However, I've never abandoned my love of self-annointing with all the things that smell divine. As y'all may know, I am at my most sensory when it comes to taste and smell. I'm that person who can tell you what grape the person at the next table is drinking. I'll tease out the secret ingredient in your special dessert, the one that no one else can put her finger on. Sure, the flip side is that I'm most likely to throw up semi-regularly, at the whiff of anything, when pregnant. But happily, it's unlikely I'll ever revisit that state again.

I consider myself exceedingly lucky to be as scent-sory as I am and, given how I'm motivated to find all the ways I can enjoy living in my body (especially in the last couple of years), I recently decided to take up my sorcery again.

It doesn't hurt that my kid discovered scented candles last year (hideous ones) and I observed that my husband doesn't have the heart to tell her to throw them away. Strikes me that, if he's willing to smell chemical sludge to keep her happy, my natural stuff will barely register. Note to self: I should take up toxin-free candle-making at some point in the near future.

At any rate, the other day I found myself at this shop I've never heard of, though it's around the block from me and it's been there for a while. Let's call it kismet cuz they sell all the ingredients for potion making - from the sustainably produced, ripe-nut shea butter (a canary colour I've never seen), to the locally made hydrosols and nut oils. Did I mention they also sell all the glass bottles that cost a bomb to ship and never seem to be available locally?

I do feel like I fell down the rabbit hole when I walked into this shop - it was like the most absurd skit Portlandia has ever conceived. At one point, the SA feigned shock at the fur hat (yeah, it was -20C, I was in fur from head to toe) that I was holding in my hand as I shopped. She thought it was a toy dog, apparently.

Somehow the experience took an entire hour and, at some point, I started talking with all the organic ladies about our birth experiences and methods of natural contraception. Two of the clients shopping with me were registered midwives in their spare time. Not one of us had experienced a hospital birth (with multiple children between us). If you've never been asked if you check your cerivcal mucous daily - by someone you don't know - you're really not missing out.

I was utterly bemused by the whole, nutty experience till I it occurred to me that I too had had a home birth and I practice a method of natural birth control (have done since my mid-twenties). Yeah, I'm a yoga person. Not to mention I was in that shop to purchase organic and sustainable precursors to natural skincare so that I could make it for myself in my own kitchen. Fuck. (Thank goodness I could sideline utter stereotyping on the basis that I was wearing commercially produced lipstick and fur.)

Cut to this morning, when I decided to experiment by making lotion. I will revisit this topic (and provide a recipe, once I've tweaked one that doesn't produce thinly-veiled grease). Let me just say that it was entirely fun, if only moderately successful. But, hey, lots of peeps can't even get their natural potion to emulsify on first try, so I don't feel as if I've failed. And, since potion-making is often merely cooking with edible ingredients you won't eat, I felt entirely liberated to experiment as I went. My thin lotion was ameliorated in a jiffy with some cornstarch from the cupboard. I used all of my intuition and chemical knowledge from cooking (the art at which I am most in my element) to produce a product I will happily use. Moreover, I can see many gifts - in the name of product-testing - for my friends in the near future.

So, today's questions: Are you some crazy, granola potion-maker? (Personally, I prefer to see myself in the vein of European apothecarist..) Would you ever give it a go? Let's talk!

Sunday, January 11, 2015

From Pain to Equilibrium: Self-Bodywork

I'm always on the fence about these chronic pain posts because I sense that they freak people out. Look, chronic pain is not a sexy topic, but I really do feel that this information is important to put out there, if only because it may resonate with a few people (now or somewhere down the road).

On the positive side, today's post is one of optimism and practicality. The focus is Self-Bodywork because, honestly, in the last couple of months I've discovered two, closely-aligned (if differently articulated) methods that have been incredibly effective. Furthermore, if you live in an urban centre, chances are you will have access to those who teach these methods.

Each of these methods comes with books and props (and videos if you like that sort of thing). You might think that one technique would obviate the other (or that they'd clash), but not so! I combine both methods with yoga and call it a hybrid.

Remember, I'm operating under the premise that much chronic pain - and certainly mine - falls into the myofascial category (involving the fascia that surrounds, infuses and interconnects muscles of the body). When one experiences myofascial chronic pain, brain/body equilibrium erodes (for any number of reasons) and one's nervous system starts to autonomically control the action of the muscles via excitation or sensitivity. The outcome is that the brain sends neurochemical messages, via connective tissue (or the muscles which that connective tissue surrounds and lives within) which are interpreted by various parts of the body as pain.

OK, with definitions out of the way, meet the methods I highly recommend:

MELT Method

I don't want to mislead you into thinking that this book is well-written. It's in desperate need of a decent editor, IMO, but the information is so valid that I urge you to pretend this woman can string together a bunch of paragraphs into a full book.

The Premise: You can find more about it here, but here's the gist: "The MELT Method is a breakthrough self-treatment system that restores the supportiveness of the body's connective tissue to eliminate chronic pain, improve performance, and decrease the accumulated stress caused by repetitive postures and movements of everyday living." FYI, MELT stands for Myofascial Energetic Length Technique. Stuck stress inhibits the balanced functioning of one's nervous system, so the method purports, and moving into these areas with a specific prop (a specific roller or small balls for hand and feet), in addition to applying mind-body awareness (via breathing), can reverse the process. This can only happen as adhesions (scarred or dehydrated connective tissue) are worked with the props and then rehydrated (so you drink a lot of water before and after - well, all the time really).

The Gear: 
  • A pool-noodle-like roller that you can only get on the website (or at a studio that teaches the method - though none of the studios that teach it in TO sell the rollers). It does not feel anything like a pool noodle and you cannot substitute anything else. I was skeptical about it's special-snowflakeness, before I shelled out the money, but having worked with it, I do believe it's induplicable. This prop is sublime. Look, there are MANY things in this world about which I am not fit to comment, but when it comes to props, I know my shit. This one is applicable to so many activities besides the MELT method (yoga, for example), that it's worth buying even if you don't want to practice the method. 
  • There's also a hand and foot kit (comprised of balls and elastics) that I wish I'd bought at the same time. I was being cautious, having not yet seen the roller (which costs 80 USD, before 20 USD shipping). I could have saved 40 bucks because, having used the roller, I promptly purchased the hand and foot props, which haven't yet been delivered. I'm confident, on the basis of what I've learned so far - from practice in addition to research - that the balls would be a terrific salve for those who suffer from systemic foot issues (um, me) or injuries like repetitive strain (a myofascial condition according to certain experts). FWIW, as a body-worker with a reasonable amount of experience, I absolutely believe that the majority of RSI pain is myofascial. 
Kristin's Take: What can I say? I love this technique. It has helped me to diminish so much pain - pain I didn't even consciously know was there - and to relax in a profound way. I feel awesome after doing this - not a bit tired, not like I'm going to be sore the next day. I am energized but relaxed, increasingly mobile, agile and it's great for my mood. Really, I feel a neurochemical shift when I do this very moderate activity.

Bizarrely (and totally unexpectedly), it's rather effective for reviving abdominal muscle tone, more so than tons of rather advanced yoga asana, and I have a theory about this: it's about the breathing while relaxing and while doing a minimal amount of (very conscious) movement. When correcting chronic pain, less is most definitely more. You've got to get around the pain response without triggering it. For those of us who stop at nothing, this is a really tricky skill to learn.

Admittedly, I use ujjayi (a yogic version of deep diaphragmatic) breath as I perform these exercises, which contributes just by virtue of bringing about a precipitous drop in cortisol, I'm sure. But the ujjayi breath also requires deep muscle contraction at the end of the exhalation. Tight connective tissue limits one's body's ability perform that contraction and MELT movements loosen connective tissue.

On the subject of less being more, I injured my knee cap recently (patellofemoral injury) while overdoing low-lunges in the yin style. First knee injury ever. As I've been working to correct it, this technique has been invaluable. It's helping me, not only to calm the trigger point muscles that have pulled my knee cap out of alignment - and hurt the cartilage, but to determine from where the injury originates.

FYI, this book (which has nothing to do with the MELT method) is very useful in assisting one to understand knee and foot imbalances / injury from a myofascial perspective - and it gives useful info about the difference between the origin of pain (the "original" trigger point) and satellite trigger points - which you can resolve all day long, but that won't fix the problem. I highly recommend it for those who run or walk long distances.

Cost: It's gonna cost you about 150 bucks to get going with MELT, but it will pay for itself many times over (as long as you do the work). Mind you, the "work" is so phenomenally PLEASANT - and effective - that you'll be MELTing all the freakin' time, rather than for 10 minutes 3 times a week (minimal recommendation for effect). I don't know how anyone can practice for a mere 10 minutes! I get started and I need to work every muscle. But that's me...

I use the roller in addition to the Roll Model balls (see below) and create a sort of Pilates Reformer multi-prop gizmo. But keep in mind, I have many other props to support this and I really know how to use props / what I'm trying to accomplish in my body. I'm not suggesting that someone who's new to movement therapy is going to have as notable a response, as quickly, as I have. Still, if your initial response is half that of mine, it will still have been more than worth it.

Roll Model Method

This book is only nominally better written than the MELT one. But it is better organized and I feel it presents a more coherent case on the nature of myofascial pain. Oh, and while I'm at it, isn't it bizarre that both of these women look exactly the same? Um, is it law that California fitness-instructors must all be blond, long-haired, buff and as white as can be? I could handle some diversity.

The Premise: Well, it's pretty much exactly the same as the one that underpins the MELT method. This one takes a more "active" stance and focuses on athletes and "peak performance". Is this one being marketed to the the young people? Absolutely. Is the MELT method marketed to those with more of an holistic bent and those that are older? Yup.  

Thing is, whether you're 20 or 80, whether you're experiencing chronic pain or not, these methods can assist you in avoiding injury and pain throughout your life. They have little appeal to pain-free, athletic young people, I'm sure, no matter what their preferred form of activity. But that's gotta change. If I'd started doing this 20 yrs ago, I'm confident I wouldn't have experienced the majority of pain I'm dealing with now. And I've been rather fit for most of my life! The truth is that the immobility and pain we associate with age is not about age as much as it's about loss of equilibrium and tone specifically in connective tissue. When you're old, you've simply been around longer and have had more opportunity to experience the impacts of that disequilibrium.

The Gear: Not to be confused with the Hand and Foot balls (devised as part of the MELT method, see above), this method uses balls under the Yoga Tune Up brand. To buy the Roll Model balls, you need to go to a vendor who sells them (a yoga studio, generally) or to the Yoga Tune Up website. I bought some at a local studio and others (out of stock at the studio) online. Numerous sizes of balls are used for specific muscle groups. Other props are recommended to support the balls (i.e. wooden yoga blocks) but you can generally prop the body using things you've got at home.

Cost: This method costs about 75 bucks (for book and props) and the balls - unlike that MELT roller - are entirely travel friendly.

Kristin's Take: I will never leave home without these things again. I love them and they work better on small or slender, less-tight muscle groups for me (i.e. calf and ankle area) given that I'm a small person and that the MELT roller can be too soft to get into pain that's very deep. Note: Don't assume you know what body parts have the most tender trigger points. It's not as you'd imagine, in many instances. I do feel that these balls, of all the many sizes, can get into the long outer leg muscles better than anything. And they're great in the gluteal area.

I do have to say that I'd never buy this woman's videos, just on the basis of having heard her voice, in a free video, on the website. It's SO annoying that even my mother couldn't take it. I don't know how she's made such a name for herself teaching, with such an irritating mien.

To Summarize this book of a review:

It's difficult for me to quantify how effective each method is on its own, because I use all the props and methods in an integrated, hybrid method that includes yoga asana. My chiropractor did tell me, this week, that I have improved exponentially and I can feel it. I do have waves of chronic pain (associated with hormones), but it's tolerable because I have confidence that it will resolve while I continue to perform myofascial movement therapies and use complementary techniques.

My parents used the Roll Model balls for the first time recently: I walked them through some Kristin-devised sessions over our hols in Mtl (disclaimer - I hadn't yet read the book, so I was using a lot of intuition) - and they were SO floored by the effectiveness that they promptly went out and bought the entire Roll Model series of balls for themselves and my sister. And none of them considers him or herself to be an experiencer of chronic pain. So that's quite a recommendation. If only they'd been able to try the MELT roller, I'm pretty sure they'd have been at least as sold.

What I will say is that, if I were going to choose one over the other, I'd choose MELT - because it's more focused on breath (a key element of chronic pain reduction) and the prop is better suited to a wider range of large-muscle action. Furthermore, MELT has a ball component (for hands and feet). You do equal amounts of movement in both methods, but MELT is somewhat more holistic, if the book is less well written and less-explanatory of the issues. MELT is also more suitable for those with serious pain (IMO), because the prop is subtler.

Keep in mind, though, MELT is more expensive and I thoroughly love Roll Model too. So if you can't take a pricey plunge, get the Roll Model balls.

Again, my experience of body work is long-standing and I know how to use these props - even just intuitively - in a comprehensive way. I'm not imagining that everyone will gain as much from this as I have, as quickly, so I do recommend that you take classes, if at all possible. In the interests of taking my own advice, I'm signed up for 5 weeks of MELT classes starting in late January. And I'm going to do a Yoga Tune Up workshop in February at a local yoga studio.

So, today's questions: Have you tried either of these methods and, if yes, please do share your experience of them! Do they seem appealing to you? Are you drawn to one more than the other? Let's talk!

Saturday, January 3, 2015

In Case You Thought I Was Sane...

Writing this as much a note-taking exercise for me as it is for anyone out there who may be interested...

During this holiday, I've tried countless new teas. Like really, I can't exactly remember how many and there are still some in transit.

Yesterday, I hit Tealish and Teavana yet again (not that there were any sales remaining) because I'd done some stealth research on terrific, lesser-known teas produced by both companies. Have you ever heard of Steepster? When you become like the crazy cat lady of teas, this is where you go to check out what's what. Note: I've declined to leave my own reviews on the site. I can only take an obsession so far.

My family members, semi-jokingly, say I have a problem. And just to hit that contention head on, if having a problem means hydrating one's body infinitely more frequently than ever, while eschewing wine, when the teas in question are free of caffeine naturally, then fine. Have at it.

Yeah, I know that spending 300 bucks on tea in a month is not moderate (and I'm not talking about last month), but we know I'm not moderate. Way to be true to myself! Now that bras have become such a challenge, I need a new platform for reviews.

Below, please find info on 6 new teas I bought yesterday:


Wild Blueberry: This rooibos tea is quite punchy, very tart and fairly floral. If you don't like perfumey aftertastes, it's probably not going to work for you. Having said that, I don't mind a perfume note if it isn't artificial, and this one is authentic. I feel this may be best blended with other fruit tisanes or with a herbal vanilla. I've been blending it with Honeybush Vanilla (see below). Will I buy more? Probably but I need to go through my sample (2 oz) before I'll know for sure.

Pink Dragonfruit: I am in no way on the fence about this herbal tea - it's delightful! So fruity (you can eat the fruit after if you feel like it), so pink, so cheery. So natural. This ties for the best one I bought in this recent batch. It would win if it weren't quite so distinct (and therefore limited in blending).

Sweetie Pie: Um, ugh. It smells good. It's got almond flavouring in a rooibos base. What's not to like? Well, it has a repulsive, almost vegetable-like subnote. When that's not overwhelming one, it's fake tasting on the top note. I've not tried a tea from Tealish that I've disliked before. Sure, some are better than others, but this one is bad. I'm going to shop it around at work and see if there are any adventurers who can corroborate this claim.


Honeybush Vanilla: This honeybush (like rooibos, but a bit less medicinal and more smooth) ties for best tea of the day because it's so darned practical. It's light, will blend with fruit or nut bases - really with anything - and the vanilla is quite believable. Mind, I don't think it benefits from over-steeping, it can get a bit sour. So far it works terrifically with the Wild Blueberry (above) and Teavana Peach Tranquility (one I haven't reviewed but which I appear to love and which can be resteeped a couple of times). It's also good on its own, but I like a bit more sass than plain vanilla.

Caramel Almond Amaretti: Lord, this herbal stick blend is HIDEOUS! Worse even than its Tealish cousin Sweetie Pie (see above). There are no negative reviews of this tea - well, except for this one. My guy, Wade, at Teavana (we're on a first name basis) highly recommended it and he hasn't steered me wrong before. It smelled nice. But honestly it was one of the worst tastes I've tried in a long time. How to describe it? Sort of vomity, like ground-cover - no, more like dirt. Neither M nor I could drink more than 2 sips. I've already given it away - I couldn't let it live in my house. Don't worry, the person who received it did so with full disclosure. Why didn't I start with 2 oz? I spent 20 bucks on this shit. Live and Learn.

Passion Tango: This herbal mashup isn't a failure but it's not a success. It's so fucking overwhelmed by hibiscus. Use little. It'll blend well with the Peach Tranquility (Teavana) or the ubiquitous herbal Orange Blossom (Teavana). Apparently, it's awesome cold - probably because it tones down the sour-note of the hibiscus. I'm not much of a cold tea person, but maybe I'll develop an interest. It's kind of bitter, though how I can't quite put my finger on - maybe because of the cinnamon? It's also sour (see hibiscus overused). In truth, I don't love passionfruit (not that I dislike it). Update: Just realized that this is made with papaya, not passionfruit and I really don't like papaya. This might be more about mismatch and over-brewing than bad tea.

Here are some things to keep in mind:
  • I don't put sugar in tea. I rarely add milk (unless it's plain black tea, and then it's got to be super strong). I like lively, outgoing tastes most of the time. Apparently, I don't mind hibiscus or cardamom (2 tastes that are divisive and that frequently appear in herbal teas) but I prefer them to be balanced. I'm alright with subtle addition of sweetness (via fruit or stevia) but I'm not a fan of juice or sweetened drinks so any sweetness has to be on the light - and real - side. Although I like Toasty Almond, every other almond blend so far has been disgusting to my palate. Of course, those other blends were "amaretti" based, aka almond essence that doesn't have much to do with almond.
  • In general, Tealish teas are much subtler and less sweet/artificial than, well, many if not most other tea boutique brands. The plus is that, when they're good, they're so beautifully balanced and of high-quality. But when they're mediocre, they can be wishy washy. Teavana is at the other extreme. When their teas are good, they're like fireworks on a July night. But when they're bad they're overloaded, top heavy, sweet and plain fake tasting. They're also, and I know I've said this before, almost too expensive to be worth it. In light of this, blending really can be your saving grace to produce a brew that has all the good of one tea highlighted by all the good of another tea. Of course, you have to care to do this. Then you have to own all the teas.
So there you go. Two total keepers to add to the cupboard. One likely to be a repeat, one not to be repeated (but to be used) and two horror stories. In truth, this isn't my best luck to date but, once you've tried almost everything you have to start digging deeper. Deep isn't always good. Have you tried any of these? If yes, do you concur with my perspective? Which of these most appeals to you? Let's talk!

Thursday, January 1, 2015

I Sewed Something!

Ain't it the way: I make my first garment in months and there's no freakin' natural light with which to photograph the results. I don't know why I'm surprised. It's January in Southern Ontario. So begins the endless dusk. This morning, Scott opened the blinds and chirped (as he does, daily, from January to April): Another gorgeous day in Toronto!

So you are consigned to view some fairly crap pics of my latest (4th, in case you're counting) version of Vogue 8790:

This is what the colour actually looks like (sort of):

I have no idea why this looks pilled in the photo - the fabric is a very smooth bamboo jersey with great recovery. I suspect I got so granular with the camera, we're seeing cells here...
At any rate, it's a true fuchsia which is something we could all use right now, if colour-therapy is anything to go by.

OK, some deets:
  • The instructions on this pattern continue to be as crap-ass as ever. You think I'd have figured it out by now - and written some good notes. Alas, I've got notes all over the place, notes written in a sewadelic daze, 2 and 6 and 12 months ago. They're still not explaining to me how the fuck to attach the back to the front at the neck and shoulders simultaneously. I'm improving, but you can still see where I fucked it up on the right shoulder. Damn, I wasn't going to talk about the error. Ignore what I just said. Perfection is a myth and no one's going to notice a little blip on the shoulder - especially when my boobs are part of the equation. (Furthermore, I think I can fix it.)
  • I substantively altered the size this time around - well, I've altered it every time, but last time, I got bold and realized that the shoulders were 3/4 of an inch too wide. It's wasn't as relevant when I made the sleeveless version (though I felt this width was too extreme in that version too. Remember, my shoulders are narrower than the dress form's). Thing is, that alteration isn't easy till you really understand how the pieces fit together. 
  • A propos of that, I also reconstructed the sleeve to fit quite a bit higher in the armscye than the pattern calls for. I believe my original pattern size was 14 (to fit in bust). My sleeves would accord with a size 10.
  • I also narrowed the fold over surplice neckline and tacked it differently at the neck (I think the instructions expect a double turn over, not that the tech drawing clarifies it). Not sure yet if this was a good idea. At the original width, I felt there was just too much fabric to organize around my chest. And remember this top can get a bit bulky below the breasts because it's a double layer of fabric.
This thing still isn't perfect, but it's improving every time I make it. I got so much use out of the sleeveless version, I do hope I can eventually master a great fit in a version with sleeves.  Word to the wise: Do yourself a favour and work with REALLY slim fabric - like almost too light. This fabric is fine (it's actually very nice), but I wouldn't mind it a bit thinner. Thing is, tissue-thin fabric is hard to find (without looking totally cheap and see-through).

Miraculously, this venture took a mere 4 hours. That was a) my outer limit of energy in time and b) less long than it takes me to make anything, knit or no. I must be cottoning on to the instructions, despite my mid-sewing frustration.

So, there you go. Can't say how long it'll be before there's another craft installment. Things are pretty slow going here on that front (as I'm trying to do less and chill more). I do wish I could knit but I'm not going to take it on until I'm sure it won't trigger pain in my upper back.

Whatcha think? Have you made this before? Do you like the colour of the fabric? Let's talk!

This Only Works If You Don't Talk About It*

Mise-en-scène: Scott and Kristin are sitting on the well-used, green couch in the front room. They've been there so long that their derrieres have left distinct indents in the cushions. The dregs of a nice Rioja are pooled at the bottom of Italian tumblers. Ratatouille plays in the background. The kid is at a party in Riverdale. The kitchen is clean. It's 11:01 pm, Dec. 31.

Kristin: Lord, this evening is interminable! You know what? Seriously, we could just decide to call it midnight right now. We could pretend it's midnight and have a toast and then just go to sleep. We can use up that last inch of the Rioja.

Scott: Wanna get the Prosecco?

Kristin: I'm not opening a whole bottle of Prosecco for half a glass when I'm not going to drink the rest tomorrow. Not to mention hand-washing those flutes. I am so done with cleaning in 2014. What do you think, toast now with the Rioja? No shame cuz we can tell people we truly rang in the new year, legit-style! Where is it actually midnight now? Sydney?

Scott: Bermuda. It was midnight in Sydney at 10am. We could do that - if I were vaguely sleepy. (Scott puts his insufferable ironic voice to good effect.)

Kristin: What's wrong with you? Who eats a pound of brie and a loaf of bread and isn't sleepy? And Bermuda is very civilized. You know that's where Michael Douglas spends half the year... (How Kristin knows this is somewhat baffling. Blame it on misspent youth spent watching Entertainment Tonight.) The genius part is that no one will ever have to know!

*And if both parties agree.

I'll let you guess how this plays out...