So one day my Grannie MacDonald says to me, "By the way, you're part Ukrainian. Thought I'd tell you."
It was just after my Granddad MacDonald's funeral. I regarded the name chiselled onto the granite tombstone and it struck me as odd: "William Bill MacDonald."
Me: "Grannie, is that right? That's like calling him 'William William' or 'Bill Bill'."
Grannie: "Pish. Gwan. MacDonald wasn't his real name either. No need fussing about it."
Me: "What do you mean not his real name either?"
Grannie: "Well, heavens, MacDonald wasn't his family's name. I think it was something like Polansky or possibly Podolsky. Can't say for sure."
Me: "So he wasn't Scottish?!"
Grannie: "Not unless the Scottish come from Ukraine. Thought someone would have mentioned it to you. You're part Ukrainian. A wee bit less Scottish and Irish." And then the penny dropped. It made sense. Granddad had never talked about his childhood in Saskatchewan, and he had always deflected all of my probing questions. Most importantly, my mother and aunts all have these round faces and high cheekbones, not what you'd consider typically Irish or Scottish features. While no one in our family has fully embraced our surprise Ukrainian heritage (perhaps the reason being we are in fact only one-quarter Ukrainian – Scottish, Irish and French making up the whole), I do think about our 'one part 'Ukrainian-ness' especially at this time of year as
Ukrainians across Canada celebrate Christmas on January 7. I've delved into the subject and Ukrainian Christmas foods definitely appeal to me. (The dancing, less so. I just can't seem to get the feel for that frenetic kicking.) And there's no denying I've long had a weakness for the
Ukrainian Mushroom-stuffed Chicken Breast Recipe on the Canadian Living web site.
I've yet to
travel to Ukraine, though it's been on my list for several years now – to splash in the Crimean Sea, hike the Carpathian Mountains, wonder the back alleys of Kyiv (also called Kiev)... But I've been curious about
travel etiquette in Ukraine so I've done a little research.
Here are some of the etiquette tips I've been advised to follow when I one day visit Ukraine: a) If you bring flowers, make sure the number of flowers is uneven (3,5, etc.). b) Do not whistle; some believe it will "blow your money away." c) Do not shake hands across the threshold of a door. It is considered bad luck. d) Be ready to give toasts at dinner, for guests are often asked to do so. e) Be prepared to accept all food and drink offered when visiting friends. Turning down food may be considered rude. (If you find you cannot eat it all, keep something on your plate to avoid having it replenished!) f) Be careful when complimenting a host's belongings. He or she may offer them to you. g) Don't put your thumb between your first two fingers; this is considered a very rude gesture. So, to honour all four parts of my heritage, I wish you Joyeux Noel (a nod to my one-quarter French heritage), Nollaig Chridheil (Scottish Gaelic),
Nollaig Shona Duit (commonly used by the Irish Gaelic) and now I add to the list: "z Rizdvom Khrystovym." Have a Happy Ukrainian Christmas!
Add a touch of whimsy, colour or class to your winter wardrobe with a great manicure.
When it comes to winter, we usually forget to have fun with our beauty look. It's probably because we're more concerned about keeping warm with hefty sweaters and tuques. When it comes to beauty we're focused on keeping our lips soft, our skin hydrated and our beauty updates affordable. We tend to put fun lip colours and bold eyeliner on the back burner.
But break out of that winter beauty rut! There's an easy way to have a little fun—and you won't even need to pick up a new lipstick. Instead, make your next manicure (whether you're heading to a salon or DIY-ing your mani at home) one of these great picks. We looked at our favourite nail brands, artists and manicure spots to bring your the best winter manicure ideas.
For the baseball buff
If your partner already has a Blue Jays hat and jersey surprise him with this handsome—and darn right cute—blue jay pin. This tiny treasure will allow him to sport some pride on the lapel of his jacket or event suit.
For the Clean Freak
If the smell of synthetic pine won’t cut it for your man (you got a keeper) gift him with a car smell that's more refined, and customizable. Infuse his vehicle with his favourite essential oil blend to feel soothed, uplifted and refreshed while you're on the road.
For the gym rat
Do you lift bro? Well if your man does then headphones, sans strap, will make all the difference while he’s pumping iron. These wireless Jaybird in-ear bluetooth sport headphones are sweatproof, which means no slipping our of your ears, and offer a long battery life, eight hours, before it needs a charge.
For the coffee addict
Does your main squeeze appreciate a strong cup of coffee every morning? Buy him this french press with a cute little message, he’ll be sure to think of you fondly before he starts his day.
Brewed with love french press, $39.50, indigo.com.
For the fitness fanatic
This stylish little band automatically tracks steps, distance, calories and sleep. If your man is a triathlete this fitness tracker is swim proof and it also uses a replaceable battery (that lasts up to six months), so you'll have no hassle with daily charging after a training session.
For the fragrance aficionado
If your man has more than five fragrances, that he actually alternates between, that means he’s a fragrance guy. Try gifting him with the newest scent from Clean; Black Leather. The juice is a spicy blend of smoky musk, bergamot and black peppercorn.
For the bearded hipster
A freshly laundered man is something any woman can get behind, so consider this gift a win win. Give him this trio of male grooming essentials: facial cleanser, beard conditioning shave lube and beard oil.
For the music man
If your paramour is into his beats and always on the move gift him with this retro looking amp shaped portable speaker, the smallest from the music minded brand. It’s got a rechargeable lithium-ion battery that will allow him to blast his tunes for a solid 25 hours before needing a charge.
Not just a day for couples to celebrate, this Valentine's Day practice a little self-love.
February 14th can be a drag if you're single. Or if you're not particularly romantic. Or if you're in a new relationship, or don't like holidays that focus on the pressure of big gestures. Basically, Valentine's Day can be a stressful, anxiety-enducing mess of a day. But it doesn't have to be—even if you subscribe to the above beliefs.
We're all about the idea of practicing self-love this Valentine's Day. Taking time to be thoughtful and considerate is what the day is all about—so why not give yourself a little break by taking the time to treat yourself (or if you're a Parks and Recreation fan—"treat yo'self!").
Whether that means picking up something shiny and expensive (we won't judge), need a little time for yourself (you deserve it), or want to indulge in great food and wine (everything in moderation is our motto) we're rounded up a few things you should gift yourself this Valentine's Day—lovers be damned.
With a cut-out in the back—so your hair doesn't get messed up if you decide to change, of course—and a relaxed fit, this t-shirt dress is your Galentines Day go-to (so everyone knows what's really on your mind).
Sometimes it can be hard to justify expensive purchases that only benefit you, but sleeping solo doesn't mean forgoing luxurious pyjamas. Today's the day to treat yourself with this cult-classic Eberjay pyjama set.
If escaping from the world is your Valentine's Day plan, then there's no better way to do it than with a good book. We recommend last year's Giller Prize winner by Madeleine Thiern, Do Not Say We Have Nothing.
Make sure to take the time to check in with yourself this February 14th. Do you need a relaxing bath to ease tension? Could you use a little help managing hot flashes? Pick up the Saje Wellness Women's Wellness Remedy Kit for a dose of all-natural care.
Give yourself the gift that keeps on giving. Sliding your feet into these classic slippers made of supple shearling and you won't wish you were anywhere else. Put your feet up—today, and everyday after that—you deserve it!
What else spells indulgence than a super-luxe hair mask? Leave it on for at least 30 minutes (or however long your Netflix binge lasts) and wake up to smooth, voluminous hair that will have all eyes on you. We guarantee it will last longer than the one evening too.
We all know that sometimes it feels like our girlfriends really are our soul mates. Check local listings in your city for crafty events that you are your friends can enjoy together. If none are available near you, try grabbing your girls, a paint set from Michaels and a bottle of wine.
Your body needs some sugar to function, but Canadians, who consume the equivalent of 26 teaspoons of the sweet stuff every day, are probably overdoing it. We break down what too much sugar does to your body, and how you can cut back.
Good news for those with sweet tooths: Glucose is our main source of fuel, so, yes, we actually do need sugar in our diets. But don't get too excited— they're not all alike.
"All carbohydrate-containing foods, whether candy, pop, fruit, vegetables or grain products, break down into glucose in our bloodstream," says Patricia Chuey, a Vancouver-based registered dietitian. "But our bodies respond differently when we get sugar from nutrient-dense, fibre-rich foods, eaten as part of a balanced meal that contains protein, compared to 'empty' calories from zero-nutrient, fibre-less foods."
Those carb-heavy, low-nutrient foods cause our blood-sugar, or glucose, levels to spike, triggering the release of insulin in response. One of insulin's jobs is to move glucose from the blood to our liver, muscle and fat cells for storage, and when there's more in our bloodstream than what our bodies need for energy, it can end up as stored fat—"even though fat, per se, wasn't consumed," says Chuey. That's partially why excess sugar consumption is linked to fatty liver disease, as well as Type 2 diabetes and heart disease. Fibre-rich, nutrient-dense foods, on the other hand, break down more slowly, so they don't cause as much of a blood-sugar spike, or the resulting weight gain.
That doesn't mean you have to skip your favourite sweet indulgences entirely. What we know today is that moderation is key—a little sugar won't hurt you.
But, for the most part, Canadians are not consuming a little sugar. According to Statistics Canada, on average, 22 to 26 percent of our total daily caloric intake consists of sugar. Put another way, that's an average of 110 grams, or 26 teaspoons, per day. And it's not just how much; experts are also concerned about where it comes from.
"Whole foods that are sweet, like fruit, can be good sources of vitamins, minerals and fibre, which can contribute to overall health," says Gita Singh, a research assistant professor at the Friedman School of Nutrition Science and Policy at Boston's Tufts University.
It's added sugar, regardless of the source, that's the problem. You'll find it in processed foods, such as many breads, soups, salad dressings and pasta sauces. And then there's pop, sports drinks and fruit drinks, which experts collectively refer to as sugar-sweetened beverages (SSBs). These drinks are among the top causes of obesity and its attendant ailments, which include heart disease, Type 2 diabetes, certain types of cancer and other chronic diseases. In fact, Singh coauthored a report published in the medical journal Circulation that estimates SSB consumption is partially responsible for the diabetes-, cancer- and cardiovascular disease–related deaths of 1,600 Canadians each year.
The fact that SSBs are a leading source of excess sugar in our diets is galling but encouraging. That's because the solution is straightforward: Stop, or at least cut back on, drinking them.
Chuey says you can further reduce the added sugar in your diet by avoiding convenience foods that list sugar (or maltose, corn syrup, cane sugar or honey) among the first three ingredients; swap your caramel macchiato for a latte; and top plain yogurt with fresh fruit. The less sugar you consume, the less you'll end up craving.
But when you do indulge, go all in. "Apply the pleasure maximization principle," says Chuey. "Make it really worth it! Not in terms of quantity, but the kind of quality that will really satisfy." So skip the soda fountain. But those homemade cookies? Enjoy!
YOUR BODY ON SUGAR
Click on image for larger view. Illustrations, thenounproject.com.
There are lots of table sugar subs on the market, but how do they stack up, health-wise?
Stevia: Zero calories per teaspoon
Stevia is a zero-calorie, fructosefree option.
Date sugar: 11 calories per teaspoon
Date sugar contains all the fibre and nutrients found in the dried fruit.
Coconut sugar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Made from the sap of coconut-tree flowers, coconut sugar has the same calorie count as table sugar, but it's lower on the glycemic index.
Agave nectar: 15 calories per teaspoon
Agave nectar is about 1 1/2 times sweeter than refined sugar, so you can use less. But it's high in fructose (hello, blood-sugar spikes!).