The "Whiz-ard" That Is Dr. Oz

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London Belongs to Me

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Well, actually it doesn’t, but it could belong to you if you buy the fabulous new book by first-time fiction author Jacquelyn Middleton.  I’m lucky enough to know the author and I got an advance copy of the book.  I do know Jackie, but that isn’t swaying this, my first review one little bit!

Confession time – I’ve only spent about 24 hours in London and this world traveller saw nothing, except Madame Tussaud’s Wax Museum well before Brangelina’s statues were separated and the London Dungeon.  I never wanted to go back until I read this book, falling in love with the city, much like the book’s heroine Alex Sinclair.  Middleton’s (makes this feel more review-y) knowledge of the city is apparent in the rich descriptions of the various neighbourhoods.  It brings the reader into Alex’s world and makes you feel like you are seeing each place for the first time too.  It’s totally relatable for anyone that’s ever travelled or dreamed of relocating.

The book is not a hard read – in fact, it’s the perfect book to curl up on your “what will become of me couch” with your snuggie and a cup of tea (or at least that’s what I did every night).  The coolest part of the book, was that there were a few parts where I got frustrated, not getting some of the reference, but the, it was literally explained on the next page.   It’s almost like the author was reading my mind through length of the book.  This is female fiction for sure, but not predictable.  Some of the drama literally made me gasp (one part in particular – no spoilers, you have to read it).  It was refreshing to have a heroine that was an every-woman – totally relatable, not always sympathetic and slightly klutzy.

The supporting cast of characters was equally enjoyable.  Some eccentric, some snobby, some snivelling but all memorable.  There is nothing more impressive than someone who can write fiction – and this is very enjoyable fiction.  I probably started reading it because I knew the author, but I finished it quickly because it was that good.  It didn’t drag, there was nothing that could be cut and the heroine wasn’t cookie cutter.

“We’re all stories in the end.  Just make it a good one” – well Jackie, you did.

Pre-order ‘London Belongs to Me’ from Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iTunes, Waterstones, Foyles, Indigo, and Chapters!  Available October 14 from Kirkwall Books.

Learn more about London, the author and the writing process over the next few entries.

 

 


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Barcelona for Dummies and Type As Parte Tres

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A little Gaudi – Casa Mila

I screwed up – and I’m totally owning it.  I promised you the first 5 places in my top ten in the last entry and I only put 4.  I tried to edit it, but it only fixed my mistake here.  I’d say sue me, but some of you may take me up on it and I’m not paid to blog.  I’m giving you places 5-10 in this blog, promise and you are even getting a bonus Barcelona entry after I write a very exciting series on an up and coming Toronto based author!    Without further ado, here are the rest of my Barcelona faves!

5. Casa Milà- see above for photo!  This amazing piece of Gaudi architecture is a UNESCO World Heritage Site!  Before you get too excited, like I did, everything in Europe is a UNESCO World Heritage site.  Even a Starbucks that I went into mostly for the free Wi-Fi qualified (just kidding).  But truly, there are a lot of underwhelming places that qualify for this distinction, but this isn’t one of them.  It’s one of the most creative pieces of architecture that I’ve ever seen.  It looks like it’s bones in motion, melted wax or all of the above.  My only regret is that I’ve been to Barcelona twice and have never gone in.

6.  Passeig de Gracia – I call this fancy street.  It houses a lot of the high end stores and the REALLY SUPER EXPENSIVE hotels that we can all only aspire too.  Staying walking distance from this elegant street made me feel like one of the hoity-toity’s.  The best part of this street though is not the shopping or the lovely restaurants, it’s the architecture.  The lovely Casa Milà is located here (I wasn’t cheating, it’s my favourite building so it got an entry of it’s own).  Gaudi’s Casa Batlló AKA my second favourite building is located here.  The roof looks like a dragon’s back and the facing has the mosaic tiles that Gaudi is known for.  As an aside, I felt really artsy writing that sentence.  If Gaudi isn’t your thing, which makes you a weirdo in my books, then Casa Amatller by Puig is right next store.  Each building on this street is a bit of a marvel.  Stroll it and enjoy one of the loveliest places in Barcelona.

7.  Las Ramblas (AKA La Rambla) – this isn’t just a lovely street to walk along, it also serves as the entry way to the Barri Gotic (the Gothic Quarter) and El Mercat (the Market that I wrote about).  The best part of Las Ramblas – it’s a pedestrian mall which means no pesky traffic to interrupt you.  The draw back is that it’s teeming with tourists.  That’s ok though – that’s what you are, so embrace and enjoy the crowds.  If you are looking for tacky souvenirs, this is the place for you.  It’s also a great place to stop and smell the flowers – literally.  There are flower vendors here with pretty sweet posies, so look around and enjoy them.  As busy as it is, it’s worth an hour or two, at least, of your time.  Look up at the buildings – they have the best little touches from Juliet balconies to the umbrellas that you see in my less than professional photo above.

8. The beach/waterfront – confession time, this is from November 2011.  I didn’t have a chance to go this time around.  I loved the waterfront.  The statues were fun – who doesn’t love a smiling lobster?  The scenery was great and the Mediterranean was a little rough so if you closed your eyes, the sounds made you feel like you were at an all-inclusive.  I couldn’t keep them closed for long though – too many things to trip over.  If we have more than two days to spend, I really, really recommend spending some time here.

9. Barri Gòtic AKA The Gothic Quarter is also a favourite.  Seriously, I loved every place on this list equally, but in different ways.  You need time in The Gothic Quarter – time to get lost, time to wander and time to appreciate the gargoyles.  Every little street leads into a square.  You’ll find City Hall in one of these squares.  Another street will lead you to the Jewish Quarter and another to the Barcelona Cathedral.  Before your eyes roll and you say ANOTHER CHURCH, this is also worth a look.  For one thing, it’s Gothic and who doesn’t love a cuddly little gargoyle.  For another, it’s spectacular outside and in.  C’mon, just put it on your list of must dos.  My favourite time to walk this area is at night.  It just lends itself to that eerie, spooky vibe that night time brings.  Watch out for pick pockets in this area – where there are tourists, there are thieves.  We were warned all over Barcelona to keep an eye on our purses and wallets, so be smart and only bring the necessities.

10.  Fundació Joan Miró – really just an art gallery with a lot of Miró’s art.  I’m including this on my list so you’ll think I’m cultured.  And also because the statue in front reminded me of Disney’s Wall-E.  Tell me I’m wrong….go ahead. The paintings aren’t my thing, but the fact that they are hung in the middle of the room with no walls – genius.  I saw this during my 2011 trip.  It was fun saying to my friend “I could totally paint this” and listening to her each time say – “But you didn’t”.  That’s always been my issue with modern art – I’m not talented in the least, but I feel like I could totally splat over a page and tell people it represents passion and progress and get $50million out of the deal.  I’d also get those pretentious people nodding their heads with a very serious look on their faces as I reveal a new project – a blank canvas that represents the smallness of life and how life is…a blank canvas.  If you are into modern art – it’s worth a look.  Give yourself an hour here, tops.

 

 

 

 


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Barcelona for Dummies and Type A’s La Segunda Parte

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You already know that I love Barcelona, but I wanted to share my top ten things to do in this bella ciudad (that’s beautiful city to those of you who don’t hablo español).  It’s hard to narrow it down to just ten places, but for you, my lovely readers, I’m making the sacrifice.  Here are your first four – in no particular order:

  1. Sagrada Familia AKA Scared Family – I know, I know, it’s another church you say to yourself.  If you’ve been to Europe, you’ll see your fair share.  No offence to my Catholic readers – you have some fabulous architectural marvels, it just gets a little church-y when you go from city to city.  Gaudi’s Sagrada Familia is different though – it’s a building still under construction for one thing estimated to be complete in 2026.  For another, it’s Gaudi people!  That means unusual architecture and overall amazingness and yes, that’s a word, or if it’s not, it should be.  I could go on and on, but I’m going to let the pics speak for themselves.  Just a hint – pre-book your tickets, or if you can, get a guide, they’ll give you details that you would never know just visiting it on your own.  Don’t skip the museum at the end.  It’s pretty cool.  If your wondering, it’s a Basilica, not a Cathedral – there is nary an Archbishop in site at this modern marvel.

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2. Park Guell – Yup – more Gaudi.  If you are a regular reader, you will already have read a bit about my obsession with this place.  I missed it my first time which makes me a dummy.  It’s one of the most unique places that I’ve ever visited – if you ready my previous entry, you’ll see some of the fab pics from PG.  Gaudi thought of everything.  Even the benches are ergonomic.  There is plenty to see, and you don’t want to rush.  Give yourself at least 2 hours to walk through it if you can.  You won’t be disappointed.  You’ll see structures that look like the underside of an elephant, a gigantic lizard, gargoyles and more in the world’s best park.  You have to pay to get in, but it’s worth it.

3. The Mercat – You’ll find this at Las Ramblas  – another must do.  Apparently this market is very touristy and a lot of locals have moved on to greener pastures but it’s still worth a look.  Let’s face it, if you are paying to stay in a hotel, you are a tourist.  You can be pretentious and sniff that if locals don’t go, you shouldn’t either, but you aren’t Spanish and neither am I.  Go and enjoy.  The produce looks amazing.  If you are an animal lover, be aware, there are a lot of butchers in the market, and you will see things that you may not want to.  Let’s just say, ham is very popular here.  If you are ironic, and like the song fish heads – https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JKDtUzRIG6I – you will see those too, and that song will be in your head ALL DAY LONG.

4. Plaza de España is one of those GINORMOUS European complexes that makes you feel small and insignificant.  If you already feel that way, and haven’t been to the Plaza de España then perhaps some of Dr. Phil’s sound advice is in order.  This is just a really beautiful photo opportunity.  It provides you with a great view of the Venetian Towers, an old bull fighting arena which is now a shopping centre – YAY to Barcelona for getting rid of that blood sport and is a great place to catch transit if you need it.  You don’t need a lot of time there, unless you just want to sit and people watch.

I’ll finish the list in my next entry.  Until then, adios amigos and amigas!

 

 


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Barcelona for Dummies and Type As (Primera Parti)

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Some years ago, I’m not sure how many to be precise…scratch that – it was November 2012, so 3 years and 10 months and two days ago, I visited Barcelona for the first time.  It’s called Barcelona for Dummies and Type As people, and I’m no dummy.  I can’t forget a thing, but that’s a story for a different blog.  Anyway, back to Spain…so I visited this city, and fell in love with it’s unique combination of old and new and totally unexplainable.  This is a city that Gaudi helped to popularize, and you will never see anything as amazing as his architecture.   I want you, my furry friends, to love this city like I do, so I’m giving you all my best tips and tricks whether you have one day, or many!

Where to Stay:

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Image courtesy of hotelclaris.com

This time, I stayed at the very lovely Hotel Claris, conveniently located less than a block away from the tony Passeig de Gràcia area.  I always wanted to use the word tony in a sentence – thank you for making my dreams come true.  Anyway, this hotel is really well situated, it’s absolutely  beautiful and they have the best service of anywhere that I’ve ever been.  The Bell Hop doesn’t let you lift a finger and couldn’t be more helpful.  I needed a drug store and he practically walked me there.  The rooms had the fluffiest towels that I’ve ever experienced, and who doesn’t like a fluffy towel?  They had the best shower…ever…seriously…I never wanted to get out.  You had turndown service at night, and they left you with a fresh pair of slippers AND a chocolate on your pillow. The decor was fab and very modern.  I can’t recommend this place enough.  It wasn’t horrifyingly expensive either, but book in advance for the best prices (the executive room is probably your best bet).

Getting Around:

I can only speak for me, but the first time I went, we pretty much walked everywhere.  The one time we didn’t walk, we took a cab to the Miro museum.  I’m sure transit is easy, but remember, the best way to see a city is to walk, and walk and walk some more.  This time, we took a private tour which was great.  We got to see so much of the city and really got to understand the history of it.  A great option for tired and weary travellers is the trusty “Hop on Hop Off” tour.  The buses are everywhere and they’ll get you where you want to go.  They can also help you orient yourself in the city.

The Weather:

The first time that I went, it was in November, and it was still around 20 degrees celsius.  This summer, it was 28 degrees (celsius) during the day – more than pleasant.  If you are bringing your smart phone, download a weather app.

The People

The people are different than you expect.  They are polite and direct.  They never make you feel like they are in a rush, but there is an unusual efficiency there.

Wireless Connections

These were spotty at best.  The hotel wasn’t great for wireless connectivity, my suggest it to get yourself a decent data plan.  If you can’t roam like home, take a cyber break.

What to do:

Check back for everything that you need to do rumble down Las Ramblas in Barcelona!


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What I Learned This Month – a Mini Post

You are never too old to learn something new, and in true blondish fashion, I learned things in August that perhaps I should have know before such as:

  • What “Wainscoting” is.  I did a survey of approximately 30 people (friends, co-workers and family) and 29/30 people knew what is was.  I was the 30th.  Just so you don’t have to feel like a dummy, its the inner wooden covering of a wall.  Thank you Shai for spelling it for me 3 times, and explaining, very slowly, what it is.  To my other friends, at least one of you could have lied to make me feel better – thanks a lot
  • What Tu B’Av is.  It’s a minor Jewish holiday that celebrate’s love.  It’s also known as the Jewish Valentine’s Day.  Here is a longer, more detailed explanation in case you are interested http://www.haaretz.com/jewish/features/.premium-1.609805.  Unlike Wainscoting, 4 out of 4 people asked had no clue what it was. Thank you Phil for teaching me something new.
  • Last, but not least, I learned that I could sit outside, in the country for an entire afternoon with an incredible group of women and only mildly freak out about the bugs.  Thank you to the hostess with the mostess – you know who you are.

 


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A Return to Barcelona

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Park Guell

When I was younger, and frankly, more stupid, I was eager to explore the world.  Even though I was a world explorer, I wasn’t very worldly and I made a fuss over never wanting to visit the same place twice.  As I became a more seasoned traveller, I ended up with a HUGE first world problem, I had to go to Paris a second time.  It was a huge sacrifice, but somehow I got through it.  Later, I ended up going to Rome, Venice and Florence a second time on a family trip, and what do you know, I somehow managed to survive.  I then went to Paris a third time, and low and behold, I wasn’t even bored.  I somehow ended roaming in Rome a third time, and it wasn’t the end of the world….

…and then, I was FORCED to spend two days in another city that I’ve visited before -Barcelona.  When I visited the city for a second time, something in my blond little head finally clicked…seeing a city or country for a second, third or fourth time means that you get to discover new things.  You get to “finish the job” so to speak and really immerse yourself into the culture.  You get to see things that you’ve never seen before or see things that you have visited before in a whole new way.  Yes, it’s a big world out there, but there is nothing wrong with revisiting an old favourite, and that’s Barcelona for me.  My next few entries will tell you where to go, stay, and what to do when you are there if you have Type A tendencies like me and need to cover as much territory as possible, but first, I just want to share a few photos of the Barcelona that I didn’t get to see the first go round.

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Park Guell  

 

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Park Guell

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Yup Park Guell

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And Again!

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Ok – I’m a little obsessed with Park Guell

I never got to see Park Guell the first time I went to the Big B and it was spectacular.   I’ll write more about it the Type A entry, but I just wanted you to see what you miss when you don’t return to a city, and I would have missed this.  Lesson learned.

 

 


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Back to Oz-ish

Gail Blog

My brilliant Frousin + Kiwi

I’ve been a little obsessed with travel and other pursuits, but from time to time, I’m going to revisit why I started this blog – overall health, and Dr. Oz.  This was written months ago, but I couldn’t figure out when to post it.  Now seemed like as good a time as any before I start a slew of travel related posts.
Dr. Oz provides his viewers with a lot of advice on nutrition.  I have tested some of his advice from time to time, but have found a number of places where there are inconsistencies.  One day, he’ll recommend something as a super food and the next day, he’s moved on to something else.  There are a couple of times where I’ve just disagreed with him – like recommending coconut oil where there is no scientific evidence that it has any health benefits.  In fact, there are more studies that suggest it’s high levels of saturated fat can actually do you more harm than good.  Before I try any more of his recommendations, I thought I’d speak to a trained dietician – and why not go to one that I know, trust and love – my cousin Gail!  You may remember her from previous blogs since I’ve turned to her before.  We sat down over Italian so that I could get answers to my latest barrage of questions.
First off, I’ve noticed a lot of people giving advice on nutrition.  Can you tell me what the difference is between a dietician and a nutritionist?
Anyone can call themselves a nutritionist, even you.  It’s not a protected title.  Dietitians have a license protected title.  In order to be a dietician, you need to have a degree and have completed an internship of one year including clinical, foodservice and community work.  We have to write a test (usually 6 hours) based on the standards of the province that we are practicing in.  Dietitians have to upkeep our knowledge and belong to the College of Dietitians which is there for the public’s protection.  We, as dietitians, have to stay on top of studies and understand the most up to date information in our field and it must be practice specific.
A nutritionist is someone that can, for example, read a food label, but they do not understand the science behind it.  In the USA, dietitians are called nutritionists so that’s also where some of the confusion lies.
So, I can be a nutritionist in Canada?
Yes!
When should you reach out to either?
A nutritionist is cheaper for a reason.  It’s like going to a holistic doctor versus a medical doctor.  The content of education is different.  A registered dietician bases opinion on scientific data driven by studies.  They are not trying to sell anything like supplements or cleanses.  A nutritionist isn’t covered by medical plans.  A dietitian can be covered by OHIP (or other provincial equivalents) for specific conditions or consultations but if you are consulting them privately, it can be expensive.
You can consult a dietitian when you want to make lifestyle adjustments with diet, and this isn’t just for weight loss.  Weight loss may be a by product of the plan, but medical conditions such as diabetes, heart disease, cancer,  IBS, Crohn’s or any psychiatric conditions (eating disorders) can benefit from a dietitian.
Is there a danger or risk to seeing a nutritionist?
Yes, particularly if they are recommending fad diets, selling products, creating fear of certain foods or touting elimination diets that have no scientific validity.  They can sometimes offer poor advice that could cause long term problems.  Dietitians often have to deal with issues caused by unsound advice from people calling themselves nutritionists.
What are the ethical standards for a dietician?
There is a huge list of ethical standards.  In Ontario, we are governed by the College of Dietitians of Ontario.  We are covered under the Health Care Professionals Act (the same act that covers psychologists).
What is the worst piece of advice that you’ve seen a nutritionist provide?
Telling people to go on elimination diets is a huge issue.  There are no tested studies and there is no validity to them.  Once you end up eliminating foods that you may not be allergic too, people often get confused and no longer know what to eat.
So what do you think about Dr. Oz?  I know, we’ve talked about this before…
Don’t watch Dr. Oz!  He has a certain pressure to sell his show and it shows in his advice!
For more valuable advice, including Gail’s healthy take on body image, check out her blog on Facebook https://www.facebook.com/gailkardishRD/