If you think pole dancing is just for women, think again. Historically, pole dancing has been linked to women performing in strip clubs. But today, it’s a credible form of exercise that both men and women enjoy. Just like yoga or ballet class, pole fitness has hit the mainstream. Tantra Fitness, a pole dance and fitness studio in Vancouver, BC, had a shaky start ten years ago when it first opened. “It was a very hostile environment,” says Tammy Morris, the company’s founder. “No one wanted to take ‘stripper’ classes.
But now, every person that tries it says the same thing: ‘Wow, what a fabulous workout!’” Tammy has worked hard to educate people and convince them to give it a try. She says that once they take a class they tell others how great it is.
Though Tantra Fitness is 97 percent female and the whole studio is painted pink, that doesn’t stop men from coming in to take a pole fitness class. Five men come regularly, and workshops can see up to 15 men—usually friends or partners of women who are also attending. (The next workshop will be held in May, if you’re interested!) Ricky Pang started pole fitness in 2011 because of a TV show. “There was a male contestant on America’s Got Talent who combined the elements of dance, strength and intense gymnastics all bundled into a pole performance with grace and fluidity,” Ricky says. “Within two weeks I attended my first pole fitness class.”
Ricky is now a pole fitness instructor at Tantra Fitness. Before that, he was an accountant who rarely stepped foot into a gym. “Becoming an instructor to share the fundamentals was just the natural progression,” he says. Pole fitness has even garnered a separate men’s division in the Canadian Pole Fitness Championships. At the nationals in 2013, Ricky competed and placed first.
Pole fitness is already popular in America, Russia and the UK, but here in Canada, it’s just getting started. There seems to be a slight reluctance from the male population. Perhaps they see it as too feminine or too reminiscent of the strip club. Men, however, with their broad shoulders and small hips, are perfectly built for pole fitness.
Ricky suggests that men should try a class and see what they think. Jude Law did. The British actor once took up pole fitness to train for a role. “There is plenty of content [to choose from], including cardio and strength, that will keep men challenged,” says Ricky. “It may even replace your existing gym membership.” Why not try a class out and see where it takes you!
Buying art is easier than ever thanks to online shops that offer everything from contemporary abstracts to landscapes—often in a variety of sizes. With prices that won't blow the budget, you can curate an art collection from the comfort of your couch.
1. He and I wall art
The image wraps around the sides so you can enjoy its beauty from every angle.
Artwork has the power to transform the look of any room in your home, but it can be hard to find a perfect piece that fits your space and your budget. Our favourite online destinations for affordable art will help you decorate your walls without emptying your wallet.
A popular dish in restaurants, mussels are often perceived as too fiddly to prepare at home. In fact, they’re easy to clean and take less than 10 minutes to cook.
1. Most mussels sold in Canadian supermarkets are farm-raised. Look for the symbol of approval from Ocean Wise.
2. When shopping, look for mussels nestled in plenty of ice to keep them fresh. Buy ones with tightly closed shells or those that snap shut when tapped. They should appear shiny and wet. Avoid those that look dried out— they may have died or been improperly stored.
3. If not cooking right away, remove mussels from the mesh bag and store loose in a bowl to collect juices; cover with a clean damp towel. Drain liquid daily. Refrigerate for up to three days.
4. When ready to cook, give mussels a sniff. They should smell fresh and salty, like the ocean. Scrub mussels under cold running water. If necessary, trim beards (the fibre-like membranes that protrude from shells) by grasping and pulling toward the hinged edge.
Homemade tomato sauce takes time to develop flavour, so it's smart to use prepared sauce on weeknights. To check your mussels for freshness, tap the shells to make sure they close, and discard any that don't. Once cooked, the shells should open; discard any that remain closed. Serve with a crusty baguette for soaking up the fragrant broth.
While you don't want to overwhelm seafood with too much spice, these mussels can take a hit of curry because the creamy sauce tempers the heat. Serve with crusty bread for sopping up the delicious broth.
Mussels are readily available year round in most grocery stores. PEI has an excellent reputation for harvesting the delicious mollusks—you'll see PEI mussels sold all across North America, even as far south and west as Hawaii.
Island chef Gordon Bailey wowed crowds with this impressive appetizer at the 2011 Prince Edward Island International Shellfish Festival. It is a showstopper in terms of looks, but it's really a snap to make. The aioli features raw egg yolks, so use organic eggs, if possible, or substitute 1 cup light mayonnaise for the egg yolks and oil, adding the other aioli ingredients according to the recipe.
Slow-simmering this sauce all day creates a flavourful base for cooking the mussels. The high setting on your slow cooker is great for steaming mussels without running the risk of overcooking them. This dish makes a great main for two or a starter for four. Serve with crusty bread, if desired.
Hardy noninvasive perennials, lavenders suit both informal and formal gardens. Mature lavenders form dense mounds of foliage, ranging from grey to green and from 30 to 60 centimetres tall – beautiful even when they're not blooming. And lavender's not just blue – you can choose a plant that flowers in white, pink or pale purple through to inky, intense blue or violet.
In a flowerbed, the blooming plants provide a cloud of hazy colour that softens the contours of leggy companions such as roses. Planted in a row, compact varieties form a low hedge to edge a bed or path, or trace the outline of a traditional knot garden filled with other herbs.
Perhaps the best part? Once you plant lavender, you can enjoy its fragrance – and its flavour – long after summer is gone.
How to grow it
Given a sunny, well-drained site, lavenders will thrive in dry, poor soil and even self-seed. An annual top dressing of compost and occasional watering during very dry spells is welcome, but avoid overfeeding with high-nitrogen fertilizers or rich manures. Follow the spacing recommendations on the plant tag (some lavenders spread up to 1 metre in diameter) when planting in a flowerbed, but shave off about a third of that when planting a row for a hedge. This is a good time to add new lavender to the garden; planting is recommended no later than two months before the first hard frost, to let plants get settled in.
Compact varieties grow happily in containers, but require a coarse potting mix that doesn't stay soggy, and you will need to water, sparingly, in the summer. In the fall, protect the roots from freezing by sinking the pot in a flowerbed for the winter or moving the potted plant into your garage until spring, then repot in fresh soil.
Harvest some or all of the flowers, if you like, or leave them all summer long. Either way, shear back lavenders by about one-third (avoid cutting into older, woody stems) each fall, leaving a compact cushion of leafy stems.
Page 1 of 2 – Learn how to get the most out of your lavender plants, from herbed butters, to fragrant sachets, to the bathtub on page 2. Three to try
• 'Pink Perfume' forms a mound of grey green foliage that produces pink flowers from July until the first frost.
• 'Hidcote Blue' forms compact plants with green foliage and deep blue-purple blooms that flower from June to August.
• 'Potpourri' white lavender forms a bushy plant of green foliage, with white blooms from June to September.
All three are hardy to zone 5; purchase plants at your local nursery, or find seeds and germinating tips at Veseys.
How to dry it – and enjoy it Harvest flower spikes just when the first few flowers are opening on each. Cut stems in the soft new growth, in the morning after the dew has dried and before the sun gets too hot. Gather into small bunches, and tie each near cut ends (or secure with elastic band), then hang upside down in dark, dry, airy, dust-free room.
When thoroughly dry, gently rub down each stem to remove flowers.
Store dried flowers in an airtight jar to sprinkle into bathwater, or tie a handful into a pretty hanky to make an "instant" sachet for a linen cupboard or drawer (while the lavender lends its fragrance to the fabrics, it also deters moths). Slightly crush the dried flowers every so often to freshen their scent.
You can also use the dried flowers in the kitchen. Freeze them in ice cubes for summer drinks, and add to herbed butters, sweet desserts, tea mixtures and savoury meat and cheese dishes.
Or indulge in a recent trend and shower your just-married friends with dried lavender, instead of confetti.
Although it's not native to Canada, disease-resistant lavender is a good green choice, as well. Its easy-care attributes mean that it doesn't want any chemical help to grow and, once established, requires almost no watering. Its nectar-rich flowers attract butterflies, bees and other beneficial pollinators to the garden – more important than ever, now that these are being threatened worldwide.
Keep those toes nice and warm this winter with this super simple knit.
Keep your tootsies toasty with a cozy pair of hand-knitted socks that are sure to be the favourite pair in your drawer. This easy (and free!) pattern is knit in Fine Tweed Yarn, which is made up of a mix of superfine alpaca, soft merino wool and viscose for warm and soft sock.
Knitting Tips: The Anthony Socks are an intermediate level pattern, and a great first foray into knitting socks. You'll have lots of practice picking up stitches, purling and knitting in the round on double pointed needles. Don't be intimidated by the heel, it isn't as hard as you think. By the time you finish the first sock, you'll be tackling the second with confidence and excitement.
Materials: - 1 skein (Women's size S, M, L), 2 skeins ( Men's S, M, L) of Americo Fine Tweed (25% Superfine alpaca / 55% Merino Wool/ 20% Viscose) 100g / 465 yards (425 m) - 2.5 mm (US 1) set of 4 or 5 Double-pointed NeedlesNOTE: if you prefer a denser fabric, you can use 2.25 mm needles. Socks will be slightly smaller, but not significantly - Yarn needle or crochet hook - Stitch holder
Note about the yarn:Americo Fine Tweed is available through Americo Original online and at select yarn stores. You can substitute for other fingering weight yarns in your stash. Remember that you will need 1 skein for women's size S, M, L and 2 skeins for men's S, M, L.
Gauge: 36 stitches and 44 rows = 4 inches (10 cm) in stocking stitch using 2.5 mm (US 1) size needles or size needed to achieve gauge.
Abbreviations and Terminology: K, k: knit P, p: purl Rib: Rib (bed), ribbing – a pattern stitch – has vertical columns of knit and purl stitches, side by side, with elastic properties. Examples: (K1, P1) aka 1 x 1 ribbing; (K2, P2) aka 2 x 2 ribbing etc. k2t (slant to R): Knit 2 together - Insert the needle into the front of the 2 knit stitches from left to right. Draw the yarn through to the front knitwise, and drop both stitches from the needle. p2t (slant to R):Purl 2 together - Insert the R needle into the front of the next 2 stitches, from R to L. Draw yarn through both stitches purlwise and drop these stitches from the needle. ssk (slant to L): Slip-Slip-Knit - Slip 2 stitches knit wise onto the R needle. Insert L needle into the front of both slipped stitches and draw yarn through to the front. Drop both stitches from the needle. DPN(s): double pointed needle(s) - A needle with points at both ends; used in sets of used singly or in sets or 4 or 5, for knitting in the round; also used for working narrow pieces of knitting, or for cable patterns Grafting: Hold the needles parallel with the purl sides facing each other and the needle tips pointing in the same direction. Thread a tapestry needle with a tail of yarn long enough to get across the entire row of stitches that are being grafted. Before you begin grafting you need to do two actions to set up for the technique one time only. First: Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the needle closest to you as if to purl it and pull the yarn through leaving the stitch on the needle. Second: Insert the needle into the first stitch on the back needle as if to knit the stitch. Leave the stitch on the needle and pull your yarn through. Now you are ready to follow the 4-step technique called grafting: Step 1: Insert the tapestry needle into the first stitch on the front needle knitwise, and slip the stitch off the needle. Step 2: Insert the needle into the next stitch on the front needle purlwise and leave it on the needle. Pull the length of yarn through gently. Step 3: Insert needle into the first stitch on the back needle purlwise, and slip it off the end of the needle. Step 4: Insert the tapestry needle into the next stitch on the back needle knitwise and leave it on the needle. Pull the length of yarn through gently. Repeat these four steps for a few inches / cm. End at the end of your steps so you know where to start up again. Use a crochet hook to adjust the tension of the yarn you have been weaving through the stitches to match your gauge. Continue to end. Tip: I find an easy way to remember what I am doing after the initial set up row is to say over and over: Knit 1 slip it off, purl 1 leave it on, purl 1-slip it off, knit 1 leave it on. Eventually you just remember what you are doing.
Finished Foot Circumference: Woman's S, Woman's M, Women's L, Man's S, Man's M, Man's L 7.5 8* 8.5 9 9.5 10 inches 19 20.5 21.5 23 24 25.5 cm
Instructions: Leg: Using a 2.5 mm (US 1) size needles, cast on 68(72, 76, 80, 84, 88). For a stretchy cast on, we used the Twisted German Cast on for our sample. Instructions for it can be found here. Alternatively, you can use a long tail cast on using a needle one size larger for the cast on only. Arrange stitches as evenly as possible on 3 DPN's. Place marker and join, being careful not to twist the stitches.
Work k2, p2 ribbing until piece measures 3 inches (7.5 cm). Now work in stocking stitch, until piece measures 8 inches (20.5 cm), or desired length, from the beginning.
Heel: Knit across 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches. Turn work, and purl across 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44) stitches. These are the heel stitches.
Place the remaining 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44) stitches on a spare needle or stitch holder to be worked later (called Instep stitches ).
Heel Flap (using the Eye of Partridge stitch pattern) Work back and forth on the heel stitches as follows: Row1: (RS) *Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in back (wyib), k1: rep from *. Row 2:(WS) Slip 1 purlwise with yarn in front (wyif), purl to end. Rep Rows 1 and 2 until the following number of rows have been worked 34(36, 38, 40, 42, 44)
There will be 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) chain selvedge stitches on both edges of your work.
Turn Heel: Row 1 (RS): Knit across, 19(20, 21, 22, 23, 24) stitches, ssk, k1, turn work. Row 2 (WS): Slip 1 purlwise, purl 5, p2t, p1, turn. Row 3 (RS): Slip 1 purlwise, knit to 1 stitch before gap, ssk (1 stitch from each side of gap), k1, turn. Row 4(WS): Slip 1 purlwise, purl to 1 stitch before gap, p2tog (1 stitch from each side of gap), p1, turn.
Repeat Rows 3 and 4 until all heel stitches have been worked, ending with a WS row.
There will remain 20(20, 22, 22, 24, 24) stitches.
Heel Gusset: Knit across all heel stitches and, with same dpn (needle 1), pick up and knit: 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches, along the selvedge edge of heel flap: with another dpn, (needle 2) work across the held instep stitches; with another dpn (needle 3), pick up and knit: 17(18, 19, 20, 21, 22) stitches along the other side of the heel, and knit across half of the heel stitches. Total stitches: 88(92, 98, 102, 108, 112) stitches.
The round now begins at the Centre Back Heel:
Round 1: Knit to the last 3 stitches on needle 1, K2tog, k1; knit across all instep stitches on needle 2; at beginning of needle 3, k1, ssk, knit to end - 2 gusset stitches have been decreased.
Round 2: Knit.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until there remain: 68(72, 76, 80, 84, 88) stitches.
Foot: Work even in stocking stitch until piece measures from the back of heel: 6.5(7.5, 8, 8, 8.5, 9) inches [ 16.5, (19, 20.5, 20.5, 21.5, 23) cm ]OR about 1.75(2, 2, 2.25, 2.25, 2.5) inches [4.5(5, 5, 5.5, 5,5) cm ] less than desired total foot length.
Toe: Round 1: Needle 1- knit to last 3 stitches, k2t, k1; Needle 2- k1, ssk, knit to last 3 stitches, k2t, k1; Needle 3- k1, ssk, knit to end (4 toe stitches decreased). Round 2: Knit.
Repeat Rounds 1 and 2 until there remain: 32(36, 40, 40, 44, 44) stitches.
Repeat Round 1 only until there remain 12 stitches for all sizes.
Knit the stitches from Needle 1 onto Needle 3. There will now be 6 stitches on each of the two needles. Cut yarn leaving an 18 inch (46cm) tail. Graft the two sides of the toe together.
Finishing: Sew in all loose ends.
Americo Original is a Canadian yarn company and online knitting shop with its own line of quality yarns, knitwear patterns and accessories. Americo’s yarns are made exclusively in the Andean highlands of South America, using only natural fibres, including luxurious wool, llama, alpaca, cotton, linen, silk and cashmere. Americo and its in-house design lab are based in Toronto, offering international shipping from its online store: americo.ca/shop.