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How to avoid the Halloween sugar rush

Suzanne Ellis | posted Thursday, Oct 23rd, 2014

Let’s face it. As fun as the jack-o’-lanterns, crazy costumes, and scary movies are, if you’re a kid, Halloween is really all about the trick-or-treat candy haul.

For parents, the idea of their children hopped up on sugar for days on end is positively shudder-inducing, not to mention the fact that the treats are bad news, nutrition-wise. On the other hand, you want your kids to enjoy the occasion, and not letting them have any of their hard-earned Halloween loot seems downright mean.

So where’s the balance? We asked Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh of Sweet Potato Chronicles for their help in ensuring a happy, not-entirely-unhealthy, Halloween for all.

Says Keogh: “I think the hunt is always more fun than the stomach ache of over-indulging. As parents, it’s our jobs to teach moderation. Kids should be allowed to pick a few items they can feast upon on the night of Halloween. It’s when they’re most excited about the loot and one night of sugar-coma won’t kill them. However, after that, there have to be limitations.”

Marsh devised a pretty ingenious strategy to limit the amount of candy consumed post-Halloween – she and her husband sit down with their kids and put a modest price tag on the candy, and then the kids ‘sell’ it to them in exchange for a few dollars that can be put toward a new toy. If they choose to, they can hold onto some of their favourite treats.

“They went for it!” Marsh enthuses. “Of course then the real trick is tossing the excess away rather than my husband and I snacking away at it after the kids go to bed over the course of two months.”

Regardless of whether you decide to try this with your kids, make sure that as the adult, you’re the keeper of the trick-or-treat bag, Keogh advises.

“I don’t think there is any circumstance when the trick-or-treat bag should be kept in a child’s room,” she says. “I know once they’re teenagers there is a lot more negotiation that may happen, but candy should never be stashed away in a kid’s room. You don’t let them stock groceries in there, so why let them keep the candy under the bed?”

Of course before any candy gets eaten, you’ll want to do the standard safety check and remove anything that’s homemade, along with candies that are unwrapped or look as though they may have been tampered with. If your child is allergic to something, be sure to remove any items with that ingredient.

Another way to limit the number of candies your little ones come home with is to make Halloween a two-part affair, says Marsh.

“Have one half of the night be about heading out all dressed up and collecting candy and the other half of the night helping to answer the door and hand out candy to other trick-or-treaters,” she suggests. “That way they’re still having fun but it’s not all about collecting that giant bag of sugar!”

While homemade treats are off-limits in the trick-or-treat bag, they’re great for sending along with your child for their Halloween party at school. Try these amazing pumpkin-gingerbread cupcakes with maple cream cheese icing, courtesy our Sweet Potato Chronicles friends!

For more delicious recipes and family meal ideas, visit www.sweetpotatochronicles.com.

For more Halloween content, check out Cityline.ca’s feature section here.

Soldier killed in shooting near Parliament Hill identified

Sarah-Joyce Battersby, Cormac MacSweeney, Toronto staff, and The Canadian Press | posted Wednesday, Oct 22nd, 2014

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A Canadian army reservist has died and a gunman was shot dead inside Parliament Hill after armed attackers opened fire on multiple Ottawa targets on Wednesday morning.

The slain soldier, who was standing guard at the War Memorial when he was shot, has been identified as Cpl. Nathan Cirillo, 24, from Hamilton’s Argyll and Sutherland Highlanders. He left behind a young son who recently started kindergarten, his friend Mat Petersen said.

Prime Minister Stephen Harper was rushed away from the building to an undisclosed location, officials in his office said.

A high-ranking federal official confirmed to The Canadian Press that the dead gunman was Michael Zehaf-Bibeau. Little else is known about the man, but one media report said he’s Canadian and was born in 1982.

In a live televised address Wednesday evening, Harper called the shooter a terrorist and said the shootout inside Parliament’s Centre Block was an attack on all Canadians.

“Attacks on our security personnel and on our institutions of governments are, by their very nature, attacks on our country,” Harpers said. “Let there be no misunderstanding; we will not be intimidated.”

Harper said the tragic incident will strengthen Canada’s resolve to track down would-be terrorists at home and to help our international allies rout terrorists in Iraq.

“This week’s events are a grim reminder that Canada is not immune to the types of terrorist attacks we have seen elsewhere around the world,” he said.

“I have every confidence that Canadians will pull together with the kind of firm solidarity that has seen our country through many challenges.”

Police continued combing a locked-down national capital for other potential threats on Wednesday.

“This is an ongoing police operation and there is no one in custody at this time,” Ottawa’s police chief said.

The Ottawa Hospital said that three patients, not including Cirillo, were admitted and discharged later in the day.

In Toronto, police are working to increase security at high-profile areas, including malls, the TTC and Queen’s Park.

MPPs appear to be conducting legislative business as usual.

“There were some suggestions that perhaps we should suspend question period,” Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne said during the session.

“Our belief is that people who are using violence to undermine democracy want us to be silenced, and we refuse to be silenced.”

For more details on Toronto’s increased safety measures click here.

In Ottawa, heavily armed tactical officers could be seen searching rooftops in the immediate parliamentary precinct.

Police would only say they are investigating “several shooting incidents in downtown Ottawa.”

Initial reports of incidents at Rideau Centre and a pursuit on a highway were false, Ottawa’s police chief said.

For the latest updates from our reporters in Ottawa follow our live blog.

Parliament Hill reporter Cormac MacSweeney was on the phone with his editor, talking about possible assignments, when the shooting started at Parliament Hill shortly before 10 a.m. He then turned on his recorder, and below is the audio:

He heard screaming and running from the front doors of Parliament followed by gunshots.

A witness told MacSweeney he saw a man wearing body armour walk through the front doors of Parliament Hill with what appeared to be a long gun. He was able to fire a few shots before security guards returned fire.

“There were at least six shots fired. The guy seems to be about middle age, he was wearing a hat, a shotgun or a rifle, I am not sure. We just ran when the firing started and ran down the stairs to the lower level, and we’ve taken shelter in one of the offices of the centre block on Parliament Hill,” the witness, named Frank, said.

MPs are crediting Kevin Vickers, 58, sergeant-at-arms of the House of Commons for saving lives. Vickers reportedly shot the gunman dead as he was moving through the halls of Parliament towards the caucus.

Police herded bystanders off the street into a major office building and warned people to stay away from the windows.

Military bases across the country are reportedly now being closed to the public.

The Prime Minister's Office released a statement ahead of Harper's address.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with the families of those who were attacked," read the statement.

"The police continue to do their important work and we are still gathering the facts."

Cabinet minister Tony Clement tweeted that at least 30 shots were heard inside the building, where Conservative and Liberal MPs were holding their weekly caucus meetings.

Most of those MPs remain locked down in their caucus rooms.

The NDP caucus was evacuated along with the Liberal Senate caucus.

A witness reported that a man drove up in a black vehicle, got out carrying a rifle and ran into the Centre Block — the seat of the House of Commons under the Peace Tower.

The vehicle, with no rear licence plate, parked directly in front of the Langevin Block.

Witnesses report seeing a man dressed in black with a scarf wrapped around his face, carrying a double-barreled shotgun.

Follow live coverage by reporters of CityNews, 680News and Maclean's magazine.

Drew Barrymore shares her secret to positivity

Dominique Lamberton | posted Wednesday, Oct 22nd, 2014

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There’s such a fixation in Hollywood on looking young forever. What are your views on aging?

You’ve just gotta let it happen, and not fight it. I feel bad for people who are struggling with it because there’s just no winning that battle. I think laugh lines are the sexiest thing on the planet — and freckles and gap teeth and wrinkles. Heavy coverage, foundation, Botox — it’s like putting layers on top of this amazing experience, which is so much prettier to me.

You’ve been in the spotlight your whole life. Do you ever get tired of always having to be “on”?

I’ve had a very bizarre life in that way. I feel like Norm from Cheers — everyone recognizes me wherever I go. The only time it sucks is when you’re having a fight with someone, or you’re having a stressed-out moment, or your kids are acting out and you’re going, “Oh my God, everybody’s staring at me, this is awful.” I feel a little raw sometimes, but it’s all worth it.

When are you happiest?

When everything is in balance in my life. If it’s a good morning and I’ve gotten to really spend time with the kids [daughters Olive, 2, and Frankie, 6 months] so they’re happy, and my husband is feeling good, and I’m balancing it all in my house — that’s when I don’t have that worried frown on my face.

I heard you’re learning to cook. What are your go-to dishes?

Pastas and soups. One-pot, one-bowl things. I’ve learned to bake some really great fish dishes — I don’t know how to use a grill, though. But who the hell is grilling at night? It’s nine at night, I’m exhausted, the kids finally went to bed — there’s no grilling tonight. Throw it in a glass dish with some simple seasoning and dinner’s ready. Or better yet, this takeout menu looks amazing, and it will be here in 30 minutes.

What’s your favourite way to stay fit?

A good yoga class will give you a frickin’ glow like nothing else in the world — you need a quarter of the makeup after one. I’m not Miss Exercise Queen; I’m an eat-what-you-want-and-enjoy-life kind of girl, but there’s something to sweating and stretching a little bit.

When you have only 30 seconds to put your face on, what do you prioritize?

That’s me every day! For me, concealer is everything. I feel like I could find berries on a bush to give me some colour, and I could light a wine cork on fire, turn it into charcoal and create a smoky eye, but concealer I cannot find out in the world or nature. Getting that coverage, and a nicer, cleaner canvas, always puts me in a less self-conscious mood. I can do it all with concealer and lipstick.

What prompted you to create your makeup line, Flower?

I’m a girl who dances in my closet — it’s mostly sweatpants in my life, but I think we all need to remember that we’re women and do it up every once in a while. We all want this wonderful glamour, but it should be an attainable glamour. It’s not fantasy scenarios, it’s you. It’s just the best version of you, the happiest version of you, the most empowered version of you — and makeup can do that. It makes us feel good about ourselves.

You’ve been criticized for saying women can’t have it all. What’s your take on work-life balance?

I appreciate why people get so mad when I say that, but I think it’s actually that you can’t do it all. You can have it all, but you can’t do it all. I constantly feel torn up inside. Every time I feel like I’m doing something well at work, it’s time away from my kids. And all the time I spend with my kids — and I’m really giving them most of my time now — I feel like my work is suffering. I’ve definitely had to stop doing certain things in my career. If I did everything, I wouldn’t be with my family enough. You start to prioritize and eliminate. It feels like you’re making sacrifices, and it’s hard, but ultimately being with the people you love has to be the highest priority because it’s going to be the most fulfilling.

You have so many things on the go — from the makeup line to your production company — how do you keep up with it all?

I’m an overachiever in every area, and I expect so much from myself. Most important are my kids, but then I demand so much of myself from my work. I have an ethic where I don’t think that things just come out of hoping or expecting, especially expecting.

You always come across as such a positive, upbeat person. What’s your secret?

It’s other people. I can’t believe how much power there is in people’s exchanges. Everyone is so fast-paced and curt and they’ve got to get to their stuff, but when you just stop and you’re courteous and friendly and your energy shifts from one person to another, you walk away going, “Okay, great! Thank you! Da da da!” Those are my highs throughout the day — positive exchanges with other human beings.

Have you travelled much in Canada?

Yes! I love Toronto; what a constantly evolving place. And Montreal is such a chic, amazing city. I’ve worked in Saskatchewan. I’ve spent a lot of time in Vancouver. I’ve always wanted to be dropped off in Banff and left to my own devices. I really want to go to Nova Scotia. You guys have the best nature; I would love to go explore it all.

See Drew’s favourite Flower products.

Photo, Sara Jaye Weiss.

Help your kids be street-smart this Halloween

Donna Sevilla | posted Tuesday, Oct 21st, 2014

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“Trick or treat, smell my feet! Give me something good to eat!”

I remember what it was like to be able to go trick-or-treating. Every year at my school, police would come to help remind us about the importance of safety on the streets. It’s the one time of the year where kids filled the streets and rang doorbells for sweet or sour treats, with the occasional trick.

Safety is just important today, and if you’re a parent sending your little ones out trick-or-treating, there are a number of issues you should keep in mind.

Dressing safely

Make sure your child’s costume is visible to motorists. One of the many ways is by adhering reflective tape to the costume, or ensuring they’re wearing bright colours (not head-to-toe black). The Rogers Pumpkin Patrol (now in its 30th year) recommends using face make-up — preferably bright make-up — or cutting larger holes for the eyes on a mask so your child can see clearly in all directions. If your child does wear a mask, make sure to tell them to push it up on their head while walking and especially when crossing the street.

Front-door safety

It’s all about the treats and it’s understandable that the kids want what that person at the door has to offer. But make sure your youngster knows to only visit well-lit homes that are clearly open for trick-or-treating business, and to never go inside. Also: it’s essential that kids travel in groups. Ensure your kids plan a route that keeps them close to home, with a designated time for them to return home. Parents should always accompany younger children.

Hitting the streets

The Rogers Pumpkin Patrol will be out in force once again to help keep all trick-or-treaters safe on October 31st. Employee volunteers will be riding around in red Rogers vans and will be available in case your children need assistance.

A special reminder to all motorists to be on the lookout this Halloween. The children might have their noses in their bags in excitement and might not be paying attention to the roads. Keep your eyes out for pint-sized ghouls and goblins, stick to the speed limit, and slow down at intersections to make sure that children crossing can do so safely.

Have a safe and spook-tastic Halloween!

For more Halloween content, check out Cityline.ca’s feature section here.

What you need to know about this year’s flu shot

Diana Duong | posted Tuesday, Oct 28th, 2014

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To get or not to get the flu shot — that is the annual question. This year we asked Dr. Robin Williams, Ontario’s Associate Chief Medical Officer of Health, to address many common questions and concerns.

How is the flu shot different this year?

“The virus is very smart, it migrates and shifts and changes,” said Dr. Williams. ”Sometimes it does a big shift, sometimes it just does a little shift. The world experts gather at the World Health Organization in Geneva every year and look at what they’ve isolated in the previous season, both in the Northern and Southern hemisphere, to try to determine what the best match of the subsets of the virus and the bugs are, and what’s the best match to put in the vaccine.”

This year, researchers have landed on three components, making it a trivalent vaccine. At its best, this year’s vaccine is 90 percent efficient. According to Dr. Williams, it’s usually somewhere between 70 and 90 percent. “You don’t know until you start to see what bug it is we get, and have we got a good match.” But even if it’s “only 70 percent effective,” Dr. Williams says, this protection is much better than nothing. And she adds that the percentage only represents its protective efficacy, and has nothing to do with risk.

Who should get the flu shot? Who shouldn’t?

Infants over six months old can start getting the flu shot, says Dr. Williams, adding that they need two doses if it’s their first time getting vaccinated. The same applies to anyone who hasn’t had a shot since July 2010. This is the H1N1 (swine flu)-containing vaccine. After that, it’s just a single dose. Pregnant women should also get the flu shot. The only people who should not get the flu shot are infants under six months old, anyone with an anaphylaxis allergy to any of the ingredients in the vaccine, or anyone who has developed the rare one-in-a-million Guillain-Barré Syndrome (GBS) within six weeks of a previous influenza immunization should avoid influenza immunization in the future.

Hold off on the flu shot if you have a moderate to severe illness with fever, wait until your symptoms subside. People with a cold, but no fever, can get the flu shot. If you have a neurological disorder that is developing, hold off until the disease is stable.

Does the flu shot give me the flu?

“I can say with factual clarity that you do not get influenza from this vaccine, it does not give you influenza,” said Dr. Williams.

There are many factors for why people have personal anecdotes about feeling sick after getting the flu shot. “You might have been incubating influenza before we gave you the shot, that’s not to say it didn’t fully protect you – although we do know that if you get influenza in the environment you’re in after you’ve had the shot, it’s more likely not to be as serious an illness.”

Dr. Williams says some people might mistake their illness for the flu. “There’s a whole variety of other viruses that we follow every morning on rounds, coronavirus, rhinovirus, others that can give you illness, and it wouldn’t have been the influenza.”

How do you address concerns about formaldehyde, aluminum, mercury, Alzheimer’s?

Some components of a vaccine have raised concerns because it is perceived as dangerous; however, these ingredients or preservatives are tested and known to be harmless and already naturally found in our bodies or in nature. The mercury found in vaccines, for example, is not the poisonous methylmercury many mistake it for, but the natural ethylmercury, called thimerosal, which  is an additive and keeps vaccines safe and clean, preventing any bacteria or fungi growth. The mercury used in vaccines is harmless and not worth any concern, according to Dr. Williams.

That said, even thimerosal has been removed from some vaccines. “Thimerosal has been removed not because of science, but because of perception,” says Dr. Williams. ”It’s an ethylmercury, not the methylmercury, which is the one that has been associated with Minamata disease and Alzheimer’s.

“It’s been removed where it could be removed, since it keeps the vaccines safe from being contaminated. The multi-dose flu vaccine does contain thimerosal. If people feel strongly, though, there’s a vaccine available, it’s a single dose, without thimerosal. But I want to clarify that this kind of mercury that’s in it, keeps vaccines clean and sterile and allows it to be stored. The ethylmercury is removed very quickly from the body, so I’m not concerned about thimerosal. It has been removed because of perception. We want to go with what parents are comfortable. It’s absolutely safe.”

Formaldehyde, another concern to some patients, is found not only in the flu vaccine but also the diphtheria, tetanus, and polio vaccines. It inactivates the toxins from the weakened virus in vaccines. Commonly associated with preserving dead bodies, formaldehyde has a scary reputation, but we are constantly exposed to it, says Dr. Williams. Formaldehyde is made inside our own bodies, as part of single carbon metabolism; it’s used to make DNA and the building blocks of amino acids. There is a quantity of formaldehyde in our bodies much greater than any small amount found in vaccines, so it is also not a concern.

According to Dr. Williams, aluminum, another additive, has also caused unnecessary concern. As aluminum is found in much larger quantities in baby formula, flour, dairy products, and our daily ingestion than in a vaccine, it is nowhere near being dangerous as well.

Isn’t it better to boost your immunity naturally?

Many believe that whatever is natural is better for you, and that “naturally” building your immune system with vitamins is preferable to a vaccine. But Dr. Williams says there is no better or alternative way to fight the flu than the vaccine.

“I do think a healthy lifestyle is important: physical fitness, washing your hands, a healthy diet, and appropriate vitamins,” said Dr. Williams. “You stay within the speed limit, wear your seatbelt, don’t drink and drive, those are all healthy things all of us should do, and I believe getting vaccines is part of that.”

Flu season generally lasts from November to April, but flu shots are available now as it takes a while for your body to build its immunity.

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