This week, I've got a quick and easy
felt ornament for you to make. These wee Christmas stockings go together in about an hour, and they're easy – just right for working on while you're watching a Christmas movie and enjoying a cup of cheer.
The sky is the limit with these ornaments – you can personalize them however you want. They're a great way for you to use up scraps of felt, bits of ribbon and trim, and to highlight any special buttons, sequins or beads that you've been saving for something special.
Felt stocking pattern (download the template in Step 1, here)
Assorted ribbons and trim
Sequins, beads and decorations
Pins and embroidery needle
Fold thin strip of red ribbon in half; pin loose ends to top (outside) corner of one stocking. Using needle threaded with 2 strands of embroidery floss and knotted at one end, tack ribbon in place to form hanging loop.
Arrange decorations (such as ribbon, rick-rack, sequins, buttons and beads) as desired on top of second stocking shape.
Carefully sew decorations to stocking. Add embroidered details if desired.
Stack stocking cut-outs, wrong sides together, covering the sewn end of the hanging loop. Pin.
Starting at one top corner and working all the way around the stocking, blanket stitch together.
If desired, fill stocking with small treats. Your stocking is ready to hang on the Christmas tree!
And if this craft gets you in the mood to make larger stockings, be sure to check out this round-up of some of Canadian Living's favourite
stockings to knit and sew. And, of course, your festive extras!
This week's Tested-Til-Perfect holiday recipe: Stockings are all about hidden treats, and so are these Almond Delight Macaroons. Yum!
Your chance to win: Post a photo of your stocking in the comments to win a variety pack of felt and trims to use in your holiday crafting. (Don't forget to make sure you provide your email address when prompted, and to post your photo by 11:59 p.m. on Thursday, Nov 29.)
UK (by way of Iceland) trainer Svava Sigbertsdottir, founder of the butt-kicking Viking Workout, talks about her workout philosophy and shares simple, equipment-free exercises that you can do at home.
Working out with Svava Sigbertsdottir should be intimidating—the Icelandic-born, UK-based "fitness maniac" (her words) has seemingly endless energy and is totally buff, of course. But her workout philosophy is so down-to-earth, it’s easy for even the most fitness disinclined to feel inspired.
For example, the trainer, who was in Toronto with Marshalls, doesn’t believe in that personal trainer stand-by, the before and after photo shoot. Instead, she asks clients to do before and after performances.
“The first day of the month, you do a challenge and write down your reps in your online profile. Then you train like a Viking for a month and on the last day, you repeat the challenge. Every month you do a new one,” she explains. “To do these performances and then see how much more you can do is amazing. It gives such a feeling of accomplishment. You realize you can do so much more than you thought you were capable of.”
Not that seeing results doesn’t have its place. “Don’t get me wrong; of course we all want to look our best! When you look good, you feel good, right? It can be motivating,” Svava says. “But the looks are just a by-product, not the focus. We train for our power, strength, agility, resilience, optimum energy, confidence and inner contentment.”
Interested in feeling—and seeing—those results? Here are seven simple moves you can try at home.
1. Squat with a backward lunge:
Start in a squat with your weight on your heels. Keep your chest up and lower back straight. Lunge backward deeply—your back knee should almost touch the floor. Then return to squatting position and switch legs. Troubleshooting: Never lengthen your legs fully to ensure you’ll bounce from the squat to the lunge. “When you are in the lunge, there should be a straight line down from the knee to the ankle of your forward leg,” says Svava.
2. Walking plank
Start standing up. Kneel down and walk your arms forward until you’re in high plank position. Then walk your arms back until you’re in a standing forward bend. Slowly straighten up, until you’re standing with your shoulders back. Troubleshooting: When you’re in the plank, engage your core. Don’t arch your back and keep your arms straight and shoulders down.
3. Towel runs
Place two hand towels on floor in front of you. Place a hand on each towel and get into a sprinter’s start position (bum up and heels off the ground). Run forwards as fast as you can, then turn and run back. Troubleshooting: Make sure that you drive your power from your legs and not your arms. Always keep your shoulders down.
4. Backwards squat jumps
Start in a deep squat with your shoulders and bum far back, placing all your weight on your heels. Jump backwards, ending in a deep squat. Troubleshooting: “Keep your chest up and your shoulders back as you move between each squat. Your torso should not be moving forward as you land in the squat,” says Svava.
5. Kneeling high kick
Kneel on your right knee, with your left knee forward in a 90-degree bend. Press into the left heel to raise your body slightly, lengthening the left leg and, at the same time, kicking the right leg as high as you can. Slowly return to your starting position, then switch legs. Troubleshooting: “Do not use the leg you’re kicking with to lift yourself up—only the one you’re kneeling on. Engage your core and use your power to kick that leg!” says Svava.
6. Plank forward reaches
Get into low plank position. Keep your hips still and slowly reach one arm forward without shifting your body weight. Bring your arm to starting position, then switch sides. “This is a slow exercise, so if you speed it up, you will start shifting your weight and swinging your body, ultimately losing your core,” she says. “Keep that core engaged! And do not arch your lower back.” Troubleshooting: You can tell whether you’re shifting your hips too much by paying close attention to your feet as you reach forward—if you feel more weight on the toes of one foot than the other, you need to engage your core more.
Squat with your bum sticking out and your heels firm on the ground. Place your hands on the ground in between your legs and jump your legs back. (You’ll end up in press up position.) Hold that pose, engaging your core so you don’t drop your middle. Then jump back to the squat, do a squat jump, and land in a squat. That is one burpee. Troubleshooting: “When you’re squatting, your shoulders, back and chest should be straight, so that you aren’t hunched over,” Svava says. “And this is crucial: when you’re doing the squat jump, make sure you’re landing back in a squat with both heels on the ground—rather than landing with your legs straight and then squatting.”
Kayak, the world's leading travel search engine, combed through its searches and is sharing the scoop on the top places Canadians love to visit and where they will be jet setting in 2017.
One of our favourite west-coast cities tops the list, and several international destinations are new to the list, And, of course, there are plenty of hot spots south of the border. With so many options and locations to visit, one thing is for sure—Canadians love to travel!
B.C. is the bee's knees
The top domestic travel spot in Canada is Vancouver, followed by Kelowna. Americans are also enamoured with Vancity, making it their top Canadian destination, followed by Montreal and Toronto. But those from Vancouver aren't staying put—their top travel spot is San Jose.
Next stop: Somewhere exotic
Not only are Canadians traveling more this New Year's, they're jet setting to far-off locales, including Dubai, Seoul, Madrid, Guatemala and Reykjavik.
Gimme sunshine! Overall, Canadians are escaping the snow for sun, and Florida is the top hotspot—particularly Fort Lauderdale, Orlando and Miami.
For Calgarians, they're saying “aloha” to Hawaii. For the fourth consecutive year, Calgarians have made Hawaii their destination of choice. Since 2015, interest in the Pineapple State has doubled.
Residents of Edmonton are heading south to Los Angeles, with a whopping 37 percent search increase from last year.
Keep it local
Residents of Winnipeg choose Toronto as their number one destination to celebrate—their interest in the 6ix has nearly doubled from last year.
Torontonians love traveling
When Torontonians choose to travel domestically, they opt for Vancouver and Calgary. And, when jet-setting outside of the country, their top picks include Dubai (up 152 percent) and Reykjavik (up 134 percent).
As for Americans: They like us
On the other hand, our neighbours south of the border are packing their bags and exploring our home and native land—there's been a 20 percent increase in Americans travelling to Canada.
With our country's 150th birthday around the corner, Ottawa will be pulling out all the stops when it comes to entertaining, enlightening and engaging Canadians. We can’t wait to take part in all the amazing events scheduled throughout the year.
Making minor, yet meaningful changes to your lifestyle can help you become a significantly healthier and happier person. Our health expert shares five tips on sleep, nutrition and fitness to help you achieve these goals.
"Why does she look and feel so good? I think I want what she's having!" If you find yourself thinking like this it might be time to adopt some new habits.
After working in health care for over a decade and working one on one with thousands of clients, it has become clear that there are certain habits that are absolute game changers when it comes to your health.
Implementing the following habits will quickly make a huge impact on your health - both physically and mentally.
1. Wake up early
If you wake up late and feel rushed in the morning, the rest of your day tends to continue in a similar hurried and stressful fashion. In order to set the proper tone for your day and to carve out some precious time just for yourself, try waking up a half-hour earlier than you normally do to walk, stretch, meditate or write in a journal.
By doing so you will lower your stress levels and begin your day in a clear and calm fashion. To make life even easier, pack your bags and lunch (and the bags and lunch of your kids) the night before and lay out your clothes for the next day.
2. Do not eat refined carbohydrates or sugar
There is no way around it: Eating too much refined flour and sugar in the forms of cereal, bread, cookies, granola bars and muffins results in a dramatic energy plunge and food fog. To make matters worse, refined flour and sugar also tend to trigger the over-secretion of the hormone insulin, which leads to excess fat storage in the abdominal region and intense sugar cravings.
Highly healthy people treat white refined sugar as a "toxin" and save it as a very occasional treat. Instead of white sugar, opt for naturally sweet foods, such as berries, apples, unsweetened applesauce and mangos, to make morning parfaits and smoothies or frozen deserts. And remember to consume whole grains rather than refined flours.
3. Get active three to five times per week
Highly healthy people keep moving. In order to keep your body mass index in a healthy zone, your heart healthy and your stress levels down, it is important to engage in cardiovascular and weight-bearing activities three to five times per week.
Pick something you love - or try something new! - such as yoga or Pilates, personal training or brisk walking.
4. Drink two litres of water daily
If you are feeling fatigued or bloated simply add more water to your daily regimen. Highly healthy people hydrate!
Whether you opt for water or herbal tea, it is critical that you take in two litres or more of hydrating fluids every day.
For an extra health boost, add freshly squeezed lemon or lime to your water to take advantage of their natural astringent effects.
5. Make time for bliss and joy
Let's face it - life can get so busy and cluttered that we often forget to make time for play and joy. Highly healthy people understand the importance of taking a break and engaging in activities that allow them to follow their bliss. Whether that means going for a massage, spending time with friends or taking an art class, be sure to find something that makes you lose track of time and enjoy life.
Commit to implementing these five tips for seven days straight and you're sure to notice a huge difference in your overall sense of physical and mental wellness.
Joey Shulman is the author of The Metabolism-Boosting Diet (HarperCollins, 2012) and The Last 15 (Wiley, 2007). She is also the founder of The Shulman Weight Loss Clinic. For more information, please visit drjoey.com or shulmanweightloss.com.
Read on for expert advice on maximizing your enjoyment, staying safe and feeling empowered at every age.
NOT FEELING IT? Many women mistake a low sex drive for a clinical case of sexual dysfunction— but chances are, the cause is more than medical.
You aren't exactly sure what's up, but even though you love your partner, you just haven't felt like sex lately. You duck his touch, opting to watch Netflix instead. Maybe it's been months, and you're starting to wonder: Is there something wrong?
You can carry on with binge-watching The Crown, because, for most women, there's nothing medically amiss between the sheets. And, if it's any comfort, you're not the only one who's concerned about the possibility of sexual dysfunction. Teesha Morgan, a Vancouver sex therapist, says it's the question patients ask most. But, "almost 100 percent of the time, what they're experiencing is normal," she says. "There are so many things that can affect sexual desire: if you have little kids; if you're on antidepressants; if you take the birth control pill; if you're perimenopausal, postmenopausal or going through menopause...."
Dr. Natalie Rosen, a clinical psychologist and sex therapist in Halifax, says true sexual dysfunction persists for at least six months and is "associated with significant distress for the individual or couple, as judged by a clinician." So, while it may seem as though all of your friends are in the same sexless boat, just 12 to 20 percent of women and 11 percent of men have sexual dysfunction.
But if it's not a medical problem, what's behind your lack of drive? As Morgan says, there are tons of reasons. However, one major cause might be a truism we were hoping to write off: In women, sex drive tends to dip over time. According to a study published in Psychological Medicine last year, which looked at sexual function (desire, satisfaction, ability to achieve orgasm) in more than 2,000 women, those in long-term relationships tended to see a drop in desire. But that doesn't mean you should buy into the clichés about women hating sex; instead, take the opportunity to be more realistic about your expectations—it's OK to have less sex! And take heart: The study also found that the long-partnered women had an easier time achieving orgasm.
So, if you want to have sex like a champion, don't be afraid to try new things: Get it on anywhere but the bedroom or use a sex toy—and make your personal preferences clear. Dr. Laurie Betito, a clinical psychologist in Montreal, suggests that you "liken having sex to going to the gym." Put it in your calendar if you have to! Because, just as with exercise, the more you go, the easier it will be to keep your commitment.
TECHNICAL DIFFICULTIES How your smartphone could be messing with your sex life.
No one can be present in the moment if they're waiting to jump on that next ping, so, for God's sake, put down your phone. Experts recommend charging your devices as far from the bedroom as possible. If you really can't let go, at least turn down the volume. And consider trying "mindful intimacy." The wellness buzzword can easily be applied to sexual health; mindfulness is about focusing on the present, and mindful intimacy means being aware of what you are experiencing while you're with your partner. The idea is that couples who practise it can overcome the barriers they've built up and feel more connected to each other and their own individual sexuality. So sign up for a meditation class or use a mindfulness app like Headspace. (Ironic, we know—but apps really are easy and accessible ways to try mindfulness!)
LIBIDO BOOSTERS A look at how the newest sexual aids stack up.
Elvie: Remember those squeezing exercises you had to do after giving birth? Pelvic-floor muscles can make all the difference between a meh or mighty sex life, which is why Kegels are a must. But how do you know they're working? This pelvic-floor exerciser monitors your motion in real time thanks to a Bluetooth-enabled smartphone app.
Aphrodisiac marijuana: California-based medical marijuana purveyor Paradigm Cannabis Group markets a strain of weed called Sexxpot that promises to boost mood and libido. Researchers haven't been able to definitively establish a link between weed and libido, but there's anecdotal evidence that some people do benefit from partaking before sex. Trial run?
"Viagara for her": Big Pharma has been trying for years tcome up with a love pill for women, with little success. The most recent, Addyi, hit shelves in the U.S. in 2015, with a resounding thunk. A prescription pill aimed at premenopausal women, it delivers an average of just one-half of an extra satisfying sexual event per month—at a cost of US$900!
BACK IN THE SADDLE When you've been ill, sex is often the last item on your to-do list—but that doesn't mean it can't move up a notch or two.
Let's be honest: Sex isn't top of mind after you've been sick. Even sneezing and coughing from a cold or flu can drag you down, so it's no wonder something more serious can affect your sex life. But a thriving connection after a medical condition is possible.
First, though, it's important to know it's OK if you're not exactly feeling frisky. "There's psychology related to illness and sexuality," says Dr. Christine Palmay, a family physician in Toronto. "Depression from an illness, sideeffects from medication and body-image concerns can all lead to a lack of interest in sex."
So don't feel pressured to immediately return to your pre-illness state of affairs. Maybe you've had a mastectomy—that can be a huge blow to your femininity. Or you've had a heart attack and are nervous that strenuous sexual activity will cause another one. You can still be intimate. Trade cuddling for intimate touching—get as naked as you both feel comfortable with, then engage in sex talk or remind each other of favourite moves. It will do more for your relationship than sitting side by side watching TV in parallel play.
And you don't have to worry about a subsequent heart attack after all. A study published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology in 2015 says sex doesn't trigger a heart attack or increase your risk of a repeat. In fact, researchers found it's actually considered "moderate physical activity…and is comparable to climbing two staircases or taking a brisk walk." So putting a little hanky-panky back into your repertoire can't hurt—and it might even help your recovery.
It's also worth noting that lots of women struggle after illness. "Energy levels post chemotherapy tend not to improve for several years. In some cases, women never return to their previous level of functioning," says Dr. Palmay. "So be gentle and patient with yourself." And when you do eventually feel ready, "experiment, be adventurous," she says. "Maybe sex will play a different role in your new life, and that's OK."
YES MEANS YES Consent isn't just a concept that affects carefree young people. "It's still a consideration in relationships, whether of a casual, short- or longterm nature," says Mary-Jean Malyszka, a registered provisional psychologist and clinical sex therapist in Calgary. But it can be sticky to address. Here are some tips for striking up the conversation.
With your partner: Consent is an ongoing conversation. "If you would like to change the type or degree of sexual activity, check in by asking, 'Is this OK?' or 'How would you feel about…?' " says Malyszka. Or remind your partner to check in with you. And, if you're planning to try something new, consider choosing a code word or action that means "stop immediately," she advises.
With your teens: Explain what consent is, keeping it simple but clear: You are allowed to stop at any point if it doesn't feel right, even if the other person really wants to continue. "You don't need to go into a big explanation. It's all about what you want and don't want for your body, and your partner has to respect that," Malyszka says.
With your parents: This can be an awkward conversation, but, considering the possibility of cognitive decline, an important one. Explain the importance of informed affirmative consent, which means each partner understands exactly what is going to happen and is enthusiastic about trying it.
SAFETY FIRST Sexually transmitted infections are on the rise among older adults. Here's what you need to know.
Remember having "the talk" with your kids about sexually transmitted infections (STIs)? It's time to revisit that conversation— with yourself.
The Public Health Agency of Canada says the national rate of STI infection has been rising steadily since the late '90s, including among older adults. According to the Sexual Health at Midlife Study, a joint project by Trojan and the Sex Information and Education Council of Canada (SIECCAN), the rates of chlamydia, for instance, among Canadians aged 40 to 59 increased by 153 percent between 2003 and 2012.
Dr. Betito has noticed an increasing need to educate even elderly adults. "Seniors' residences are like college dorms. There's often one man for several women, and they don't use condoms because there's no risk of pregnancy," she says. Dr. Palmay has also seen more STIs in her perimenopausal, menopausal and postmenopausal patients. "My senior patients go to Myrtle Beach, have fun in the sun and come back with syphilis, and they're nonchalant about it," she says.
Postmenopausal women are actually more vulnerable to STIs—the lining of the vagina becomes drier with age, which makes it "more likely to tear and become irritated during sex," says Dr. Palmay. "These tears could lead to more susceptibility to STIs."
Blame lack of condom use for the increased health risk—of the 77 percent of respondents in the Trojan/SIECCAN study who had intercourse in their last sexual encounter, only about 28 percent of women said their partner used a condom (see What's Behind the Rise, below, for more info).
"Youth today are taught 'no glove, no love,' but older women didn't grow up with that concept," says Dr. Betito, adding that people who are widowed or recently divorced "don't know how to negotiate condom use with a new partner." She advises women to take charge by carrying condoms and telling their partners they expect safe sex.
WHAT'S BEHIND THE RISE? Experts say the increasing incidence of STIs among the 40- to 59-year-old cohort can be traced back to three things.
Hookup-specific apps such as Tinder and Bumble: People looking for casual hookups use these apps to find potential sex partners with the swipe of a screen—no sexual history required.
Birth control use over condom use: For the 40-year-olds, birth control may help prevent pregnancy, but the pill doesn't ward off STIs. Condoms are close to 100 percent effective (though you can still contract HPV and herpes through oral sex).
Screening confusion: Not all STIs are diagnosed through blood or urine tests, and not all STIs are part of standard screening. For example, herpes and HPV require their own tests.
RUBBER CHECK If you thought we'd reached the apex of what a condom could be, think again. This is what rubbers could look like in the near future.
The number-one protector against STIs, HIV and, yes, babies, the latex condom has held steady for years. But once you've got thinner condoms, flavoured condoms and condoms bearing Sailor Moon designs, where do you go? To science, that's where. The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation is backing projects searching for a biodegradable condom that works just as well as the traditional sort, and a model that can also act as a drug-delivery system forSTI prevention. And, if those two aren't enough, behold the Rapidom. It's an applicator that will help a guy get the rubber out of the package and onto his penis in one swift move. Handy (and more likely to prevent user error)!