If the holiday season fills you with dietary anxiety, take a break this year. That doesn't mean you should forget all your healthy eating habits – just go easier on yourself and give guilt a holiday. Here are some strategies.
• If you love your mother's mincemeat pie, don't refuse it; just eat a smaller portion and savour each mouthful.
• At cocktail parties, circle the room and take your time to find the best picks. Many hosts serve lower-fat and lower-calorie items such as seafood (it's OK as long as it isn't deep-fried), sushi, skewers of chicken, wraps and vegetables with dip. Go easy on the chicken wings, chips and egg rolls and anything fried. Focus on making conversation rather than eating.
• At a buffet, always start with a little less than you think you'll eat. If you're still hungry, you can always go back for more.
• Don't go to a party hungry. It makes it harder to resist overeating. A light snack – veggies, crackers and low-fat cheese, a bowl of soup – or something cool to drink before you go can take the edge off your appetite.
• If you're a host, don't snack after the party. Send tempting leftovers home with guests or freeze them for nights when you're too tired to cook.
• Keep things in perspective. Healthy eating is about how you eat on a day-to-day basis, not at one meal or party. If you eat 30 meals over the holidays and three or four are larger, don't worry. There are still more than 25 that can be healthy meals.
• Don't make yourself miserable by trying to avoid all of your holiday food favourites. Allow yourself to eat without guilt – in moderation. You'll have time in the new year to get your eating and exercise habits back in order.
Add pattern to your floor without breaking the bank.
A rug can help define a space, ground a room and add much-needed colour and pattern, but they can be super expensive! So, we went on a search for fabulous but frugal rugs. With many budget-friendly options, these websites prove you don't have to empty your wallet to add some patterned goodness to your floors.
1. Crate and Barrel
Crate and Barrel
Crate and Barrel has a sophisticated selection of rugs in a variety of patterns and colours. Afraid to order a rug online? Order a 12 inch by 12 inch swatch to try before you buy.
West Elm’s offerings (in mostly muted tones) include a stunning selection of custom rugs. Want to see how the rug will look in a styled space? Click on the #mywestelm photos below the main rug images to see photos shared by West Elm shoppers.
This online-only shop has a huge selection of over 10, 000 rugs in endless shapes, sizes and patterns. With free shipping over $75 and an excellent return policy, you don’t have to fret over making the wrong choice!
If you are in the market for a rug for a child’s bedroom, playroom or family room, Land of Nod has your floor covered. Their selection of colourful, geometric and neutral floor coverings means there is something for everyone. You can order a small swatch to test a rug’s colours and pattern at home.
You don't need to gut the entire space—or your bank account—to give your kitchen a fresh new look. The smallest of changes (think hardware, paint and backsplash) can make a huge impact. These stunning spaces show you how.
1. Paint them pretty
Photography by Yves Lefebvre
Easy upgrade: Painting your cabinets is one o the easiest ways to update your kitchen. We love the crisp white and the rich navy of this traditional kitchen—a fresh twist on ever-popular black and white—but if you want a lighter look, pair grey lower cabinets with white uppers. It can cost a lot to have your cabinets professionally sprayed, but luckily this is a great DIY project. Just be sure to choose a durable paint that's designed for cabinetry, use a foam roller and a good-quality brush and follow the manufacturer's instructions for drying times. The ultimate secret to successfully painted cabinets? Thoroughly clean and sand all surfaces and apply a coat of primer before painting.
Why we love it: The colour options are endless: Go bold, go neutral or paint your upper and lower cabinets in coordinating hues.
2. Light it up
Photography by Bruno Petrozza. Design by Emilie Cerreti
Easy upgrade: Swap out old fixtures in favour of dramatic pendants, like these statement-making globes in a warm metallic finish. Great lighting is both practical and pretty, adding a jewellery-like finishing touch to an often utilitarian space. Standout options exist for just about every style, whether your kitchen is traditional, modern, glam or rustic—but don't be afraid to choose lighting that contrasts with your existing look. These sculptural pendants provide a glam counterpoint to the room's clean lines and neutral palette, making the overall look more special. A couple of rules to keep in mind: Hang pendants 30 to 36 inches above the countertop so they don't obstruct your view, and don't be afraid to play with scale. On its own, a fixture might be too small for a space, but in a pair or grouping, it has more visual impact. Also consider installing dimmer switches, which will allow you to adjust the light to suit a mood or an occasion.
Why we love it: Grouping two or three pendants over your island is a budget-friendly way to freshen up the look of your kitchen without having to completely overhaul the space. (And who doesn't need extra task lighting for meal prep?)
3. On display
Photography by Janis Nicolay. Design by Riesco & Lapres Interior Design Inc.
Easy upgrade: Add open shelving. Ditching traditional uppers gives your kitchen a sense of space, but you can get a similar effect on a smaller scale—without having to stash your cereal boxes and everyday dishes in plain sight. Instead, create a designated space for display, as in this condo kitchen by the design team from Vancouver's Riesco & Lapres Interior Design Inc. In a little nook above the sink, art adds personality, while brightly coloured ceramics lend a cheery touch. If an open shelf feels too exposed, replace some cabinet doors with frosted-glass fronts. It's an inexpensive move that still allows you to achieve an airy quality.
Why we love it: Open shelving breaks up a wall of cabinetry and makes a clever alternative to a window, which most condo kitchens lack. Instead of a view of the outdoors, styled shelves provide the visual interest.
4. Pattern play
Photography by Ashley Capp. Design by Trish Johnston
Easy upgrade: Give your kitchen instant personality with bold wallpaper. This swirling green motif adds colour and interest without overpowering the room's clean lines and bright white colour scheme. When selecting a style for your kitchen, there are no rules: Go ahead and experiment with scale and colour. If you're worried about food splashes wreaking havoc on your walls, cover the wallpapered area with Plexiglas, available at specialty stores, like Toronto's Plastic World, where you can even have it cut to size. (But if you're covering an area of the wall that's exposed to heat, opt for glass instead.) The Plexiglas can be secured with an adhesive purchased from your local home-improvement store.
Why we love it: It gives your space a customized look—especially if you splurge on really great wallpaper—and, as long as you do your own installation, it's easy on the wallet.
5. Work it
Photography by Brandon Barre. Design by Jane Lockhart
Easy upgrade: Adding a simple workstation is a great way to increase you kitchen's functionality. "It's a place to manage the household and to keep things organized," says designer Jane Lockhart. "It doesn't have to be large—this one is only three feet wide." Base cabinets installed at table height, a durable work surface and a stylish desk chair are all you need to create your own kitchen command centre. If a built-in option is out of reach, repurpose a desk from another room in the house by painting it to match the cabinets and pairing it with one of your existing kitchen chairs.
Why we love it: You don't have to renovate to fit a desk into your existing floor plan.
6. Bring on the bling
Photography by Stacey Brandford. Design by Stacy Begg
Easy upgrade: Designer and former Style at Home design editor Stacy Begg recently refreshed her kitchen to make it larger, brighter and more family-friendly. To add sophistication to the space without spending a lot of money, she dressed up Ikea cabinets with chic golden pulls. "When it comes to kitchen hardware, always think of the overall look you're going for," says Begg. "I was working with warm metals—brass and gold gilt—but I didn't want it to look too traditional. I chose slim gold-tone pulls to keep things modern."
Why we love it: The pulls can easily be swapped out for new ones when you are ready for a different look.
7. Floors to adore
Photography by Wing Ta/Domino. Design by Kate Arends
Easy upgrade: Install statement-making patterned floor tiles. That's what homeowners Kate Arends and Joe Peters did in their Minnesota kitchen. Originally, the couple's floor was hardwood, but these graphic tiles, priced at $9 each, gave new life to the space and didn't cost a fortune. In an open-plan home, they also help delineate zones and, thanks to the hard-wearing nature of tile, spills and stains are a nonissue.
Why we love it: Beautifully patterned tiles are totally on-trend!
8. Fantasy island
Photography by Donna Griffith. Design by Greta Podleski
Easy upgrade: Bestselling cookbook author and former TV host Greta Podleski designed her kitchen island to look like a vintage sideboard. "I love the stylish view into the kitchen from the dining room," says Podleski. "And it provides a ton of functional storage." If a custom island isn't in the budget, create one from a vintage dining table or dresser. Just add a durable top, like marble or butcher block, and install castors to raise the top to counter height.
Why we love it: A sideboard-style option pairs the functionality of a storage-heavy kitchen island with the chic look of furniture.
9. Make a splash
Photography by Stacey Brandford. Design by Janine Love
Easy upgrade: This kitchen, designed for Jillian Harris, features a gorgeous mosaic backsplash made of honeycomb- shaped marble tiles. Spanning the entire height of one wall, it adds a subtle pattern to the space. Combined with a neutral colour palette and industrial accents, like the range hood, the space has a cool, modern bistro vibe. A word of warning: Choose the shape, the finish and the colour of tiles carefully. You'll want to live with your backsplash for years to come, so don't select a style that's too bold or trendy.
Why we love it: Replacing a backsplash is a budget-friendly update you can tackle on your own.
Dainty and flavourful, everyone loves to indulge in tiny bites of traditional tea sandwiches. Though they appear finicky to make, these tea sandwiches are easy to assemble and entirely make-ahead.
Pinwheel Sandwiches Trim crusts from 5 slices white or whole wheat sandwich loaf, cut Pullman-style. (Ask bakery to cut sandwich loaf horizontally, or Pullman style.) Using rolling pin, flatten slices slightly. Spread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread with filling.
Place 1 asparagus spear (or 2 baby gherkins) along 1 short end of each. Starting at asparagus, roll up tightly without squeezing. Wrap each roll tightly in plastic wrap. Refrigerate for 1 hour. With serrated knife, trim ends; cut each roll into 6 slices.
Makes 30 pieces. Pinwheel Sandwich recipe: Curried Egg Salad Triangle Sandwiches Spread 16 thin slices whole wheat or white sandwich bread with 1/3 cup (75 mL) butter, softened; spread filling evenly over 8 of the slices. Top with remaining slices, pressing lightly. Place on rimmed baking sheet and cover with damp tea towel; cover tightly with plastic wrap and refrigerate until firm, about 1 hour. Trim off crusts. Cut each sandwich into 4 pieces.
Makes 32 pieces. Triangle Sandwich recipe: Ham Pickle Spread Square Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above except use 8 thin slices white and 8 thin slices whole wheat sandwich bread. Cut each sandwich into quarters.
Makes 32 pieces.Square Sandwich recipe: Pimiento Cheese Spread Finger Sandwiches Make sandwiches as in Triangle Sandwiches above. Cut each sandwich lengthwise into 4 fingers.
Makes 32 pieces. Finger Sandwich recipe: Tuna Olive Salad
Choose the best-quality bread. Never serve end slices. Freezing bread before cutting and then spreading makes for easier handling.
Bread should be lightly buttered no matter what the filling. Butter should be at room temperature before spreading. Sandwiches will not become limp and soggy as readily if you spread butter right to edge of bread.
Cut crusts off bread with long, sharp knife after (not before) assembling sandwiches. This keeps everything neater.
Since tea sandwiches should be delicate, cut each sandwich into thirds or quarters or in half diagonally. Or use cookie cutters to cut into decorative shapes.
How one woman found love with someone who had lost it.
After my husband and I separated, I didn't think I would ever fall in love again. I had two little children and couldn't imagine being in another relationship. I felt unlucky in love, as if perhaps I didn't deserve to be happy. Besides, I hadn't dated in 15 years and, now, didn't know where to begin. But six months after I separated, a mom I'd just met called to ask if I'd be interested in going on a blind date with her friend James*, a single dad who had recently lost his wife to cancer.
By then, every single person I'd met had baggage, including me, so it never occurred to me that dating a widower would be different from dating anyone else. I didn't even really consider the possibility that a first date might lead to a second. But from the get-go, I could tell James was different. The conversation flowed easily, he was funny and interesting…we ended up going on that second date, then a third. When he asked me to date him exclusively a few weeks later, I was ecstatic— but a few months into our relationship, something weird started happening. There were a series of days when, inexplicably, he wasn't himself. He was quiet and sad and didn't want to talk.
I knew what it felt like when a man wasn't interested in me anymore—that's how my marriage had ended. So when he would clam up and be distant, I had a familiar sickening feeling. We met for a drink at a quiet neighbourhood bar, where I cut to the chase. "I'm sorry, James, but I don't know what to do when you won't talk to me. I can't do it," I told him, too sad to drink my wine. I hoped ending things would spare him the trouble of dumping me and spare myself the pain of having yet another person leave me. I was beside myself: I couldn't believe things were ending when everything had been going so well.
Only now, James was ready to talk. "I've mentioned that my wife died two years ago, and I'm sorry for not being able to communicate with you better. Certain days of the year are hard for me, and I've just got through some very difficult back-to-back anniversaries," he explained, his eyes fixed on his lap. "Some days, I don't want to talk, but I'm feeling better again and I don't want you to take it personally. I'm just trying to cope as best I can; it has nothing to do with you. I really like you and I like where this relationship is going."
He looked up into my eyes and stretched his arms across the table. His warm hands enveloped my own. It hadn't occurred to me that he was going through a rough patch; because of my own history, I assumed it was something I had done. I didn't yet know enough about his life or about grief to understand his personality or the dates that would be difficult for him. When he communicated his feelings, I felt as though I understood him, like we were connecting on a deeper level. I realized then that this man was different kinder, deeper, stronger and more compassionate—than anyone else I was likely to meet. As a newly single mother struggling to get back on my feet, I had my own set of issues and insecurities; dating a widower on top of it all wouldn't be easy, but I had fallen in love. I had to try.
My situation isn't as unique as you might think. In 2016, about 1.83 million widowed people were living in Canada, and many of them are finding their way back onto the dating market. According to research conducted by the Pew Research Center in the United States, 19 percent of those who are currently divorced, separated or widowed report using online dating. In fact, Match.com saw an 8.3 percent increase in the proportion of widowed users in Canada from 2015 to 2016.
Rebecca Cooper Traynor, a Toronto matchmaker who founded Match Me Canada, has seen a similar trend. "I'd say that about 10 percent of my clients are widowers," she says; most of them are 55 and older, but some are only in their 30s and 40s. And at the same time as this group has become more interested in dating, she has also seen a shift in perceptions about them. "I've noticed that my other clients are more open to dating a widower now than when I started my business eight years ago," she says. "Some people are tired of dating divorcés and hearing about their anger and resentment on a date. They want to meet someone in a different space, someone who knows how to love."
A delicate balance As in any relationship, James and I have challenges—but some of the things we face are specific to his widowed status. For example, in the five years since we went on our blind date, I've learned to give James space on significant dates, such as on his late wife's birthday, their wedding anniversary and the day she died. Since our near-breakup early on, I've marked those days on my calendar so I can call to say I'm thinking of him and see if I can help. Being in tune with your partner's needs is often the best thing you can do, says Roy Ellis, a grief counsellor with the Nova Scotia Health Authority in Halifax. "Ask your partner what you can do to make those tough days better. Your awareness itself can be a lovely gesture. Maybe you don't need to be involved and you can give your partner the space he or she needs to continue that grief work," he says. "That can be a gift in and of itself."
I've also learned that, contrary to the proverbial "five stages of grief," how we mourn doesn't fit into easy steps. In fact, the psychiatrist who first identified those stages, Dr. Elisabeth Kübler-Ross, never intended them to apply to the living—her research was on people who were facing their own deaths. In other words, watching for signs of denial, anger, bargaining, depression and acceptance is no way to tell whether a mourner is ready to move forward.
Rather, many grief specialists champion the "companioning" philosophy espoused by author, counsellor and educator Alan Wolfelt. They believe that the process is individual and that bereaved people tend to know when they are ready to move forward. According to this model of grief, mourners have six needs that must be met in order to reconcile their loss: acknowledging the reality of the death; embracing the pain of the loss; remembering the person who died; developing a new self-identity; searching for meaning; and receiving ongoing support from others. But this isn't a checklist and there's no time frame for completion, or a particular order in which they must happen.
"The companioning model of bereavement distinguishes between grieving—the internal experiencing of pain—and mourning, which is the outward expression of that pain," says Maureen Theberge, a psychologist at Viewpoint Counselling Psychology in Calgary. "Grief isn't something you 'get over' any more than you 'get over' love, but those who can mourn well will have a better outcome for moving forward. Having a way to remember the dead, to honour and acknowledge them, especially when the mourner has children, can be healing. It's meaningful and may offer comfort."
Finding your way For the first few years, James commemorated special days only with his close family, but recently, I've been invited to participate by attending an annual memorial service and being with his family to remember his wife's birthday. I'm happy to support him in this way, much as he has supported me through my divorce—but the truth is, it can be hard for me emotionally. Sometimes, I'm sad for days afterward. I want to weep thinking about what an unfair loss James, his family and his wife suffered. I can't imagine what it must have felt like for his wife to be diagnosed with a terminal illness as a young adult, to hear she was going to die. But I've come to understand that grieving is a healthy sign. Even if the process hurts, it brings James' family and friends together. I've seen how remembering and celebrating his wife provides them with strength to continue on. We have been companioning without realizing it.
As much as I grieve with James and his family on sad days, I've also had a hard time coping with his loss on great days. It's embarrassing to admit, but sometimes, I've felt guilty for dating James. I've seen his late wife's beautiful photos, can sense how wonderful she was and feel how much she was loved—how much she still is loved. I've dissolved in tears, overwhelmed that James and I are on a romantic vacation together when he should have been with the love of his life, his wife. How was I ever going to fill her shoes? How would I measure up? What if I couldn't?
As difficult as these feelings are, experts say they're normal. Unlike dating a divorcé, Theberge says dating a widower can feel threatening because the person's partner didn't choose to leave; rather, "death tore them apart." Logically, however, jealousy doesn't help. "It's irrational," says Theberge. "You are not in competition with the deceased. Your relationship is new and unique."
Just because those feelings are irrational doesn't make them any less real, and it's important to deal with them, says Ellis. He suggests looking within at why you're feeling insecure. "We are each responsible for our self-esteem and self-love. Take stock, find out what's hurting and share it with your partner, but not in an accusing way," he says.
Overcoming feelings of insecurity isn't easy. As Ellis says, "You have to learn to integrate the presence of the deceased in a new relationship the way you don't in divorce. With divorce, you're out; with death, you've got to come to terms with the fact the other person is still loved and recognized." But while the challenges are different, "it doesn't mean you can't have a successful relationship."
Talk therapy In order to do that, though, you have to communicate. I knew I had to tell James how I was feeling, but it was difficult to have that conversation, to admit my insecurities. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I felt awash with shame. But James was patient and loving and told me his wife wanted him to be happy. Talking to him made me realize I couldn't change his past, but I could have a future with him—and I was helping him move forward, which is what his wife wanted.
Over time, I've grown to believe that we don't have only one soul mate for life. It's possible to love more than one person. When you have a second child, after all, you don't stop loving the first; you make more room in your heart. And now I see that grieving is good, that talking about fears and sadness can be healing. I know not to compare, not to think of myself as an inadequate replacement for the woman he really wanted.
James and I know too well that life can be fleeting. We understand that time is precious. We are taking things slowly—not rushing to combine families or get married—but when I look into his eyes, when I hold his hand on good days and bad, I know we are moving forward together.
Success factors Five tips from the experts for building a healthy relationship with a widower.
1. Communicate, even if it hurts, says Suzanne Farmer, a psychologist (candidate register) at Cornerstone Psychological Services in Halifax. "There will be times when your partner will think about his deceased spouse and miss her; there will be times when you might feel threatened or hurt. You have to be able to communicate these feelings."
2 Be open-hearted and understanding. "Sometimes your partner might experience bursts of grief, and you have to let him be sad and feel his pain. It's normal. It's not a judgment about you," says Calgary-based psychologist Maureen Theberge.
3. See your partner as a whole person. His experience of loving someone and having that person die is just part of his story.
4. Be ready for sudden mood swings. "Sex and emotional intimacy can sometimes trigger upwellings of grief and emotion," says Roy Ellis, a grief counsellor in Halifax. The best way to prepare yourself for the possibility is to have discussions about intimacy in advance.
5. Be open to a new life. "Your partner will never 'get over' the loss— he will be forever changed—but it doesn't mean life can't be beautiful again," says Theberge.