1. You can never go wrong with a dozen roses Roses, along with candy and chocolate, are one of the most cherished symbols of Valentine's Day. And red roses are, of course, the I Love You standard. Note, however, that you will pay a premium for them on this day.
2. They don't have to be red Beautiful red roses are not the only Valentine's Day flowers you can send. Colours of Valentine's Day include red, pink and white, so pink and white roses also work well, as do yellow ones.
3. Get creative Make Valentine's Day a memorable one by reaching out with a fresh-cut bunch of tulips on February 14th to say 'I Love You' or 'I'm thinking of you on this special day.' Other flowers such as camellias, azaleas and forget-me-nots work well, too.
4. Put a little thought into it Show that you put a little more thought into the flowers. Instead of dialing 911-RedRoses, think about an exotic flower like a showy orchid stem.
5. Different flowers convey different meanings Globe Amaranth sends the message of unfading love to your sweetheart; violet and yellow jasmine shows modesty and simplicity; daffodils and daisies are a nice way to show gratitude.
6. Get her what she likes If she really loves peonies, forget the roses and knock yourself out – send her a dozen of these in her favourite colour instead. 7. Brighten up anyone's day Valentine’s Day is not just for lovers. Surprise a coworker with bright sunflowers, your child's teacher with carnations, or a friend with a bunch of lilacs.
8. OK to send a guy flowers? Sure, go ahead and send him flowers, but think first. What kind of guy is he? Is it something he would really like and appreciate? Maybe game tickets are more his style? An MP3 player? 9. Stay away from potted plants Some are beautiful, and it's true, they last much longer than cut flowers, and you get more for your buck, but cut flowers say, "I threw caution to the wind. I did not do the sensible thing today. I send you these because today, I am thinking with my heart, not with my head." 10. What if someone is allergic to flowers? Now it's time to use your brain – stay away from flowers. Again, candy, chocolate and theatre tickets can be just as sweet on Feb. 14.
Here are some scary truths: 70 percent of new Alzheimer's patients in Canada will be women, and we're diagnosed with depression and dementia at twice the rate of men. But new research says there are three simple lifestyle changes we can make right now to keep our brains healthy as we age.
You brush your teeth to prevent tooth decay and check your blood pressure to monitor for signs of heart problems. But are you doing anything to keep your brain in tip-top shape? Because you should be. Brain health, which experts define as a combination of cognitive (memory, attention, thinking) and mental (emotional well-being) fitness, is a major, albeit under-the- radar, health issue for Canadian women.
It's major because as we age, so do our brains. Vascular changes can decrease blood flow; we can lose volume in key areas, including the hippocampus and the prefrontal cortex, the regions responsible for learning and memory. Myelin, a fatty material that makes up the protective coating around nerve fibres, starts to deteriorate, causing the brain to slow down. And nerve cells can develop plaques and tangles— structures caused by the buildup of proteins called beta-amyloids that can disrupt the brain's normal function. In some people, these and other signs of normal aging can cause mental health problems, strokes and brain disorders such as dementia and Alzheimer's, and increase the risk of diseases such as multiple sclerosis.
Brain health is an under-the-radar issue because, though women are more likely to experience cognitive decline (thanks to dementia or Alzheimer's) and to suffer from depression, most of the research on these conditions still focuses on men.
Thankfully, studies are showing that straightforward lifestyle changes—exercising regularly and not smoking are at the top of the list—help shore up what researchers call "cognitive reserve," a buffer that "delays the changes or makes your body better equipped to handle those changes," says Lauren Drogos, a brain researcher at the University of Calgary.
In fact, Drogos says there's evidence to show that, in some people, even serious symptoms do not necessarily develop into cognitive impairment. She points to the Nun Study, a famous long-running research project on aging and Alzheimer's that has been tracking 678 nuns from convents across the United States since the mid-1980s. One of the nuns, Sister Mary, died at the age of 101 showing no outward signs of cognitive decline—but when researchers examined her brain, they were shocked to find she had "abundant neurofibrillary tangles and senile plaques, the classic lesions of Alzheimer's disease." Scientists don't know exactly why some people can have severe symptoms, such as plaques and tangles, without experiencing cognitive decline, but, happily, cases like Sister Mary do show that dementia isn't an inevitable part of aging.
And since women are more likely than men to be diagnosed with many of these problems, the more we consider brain health when making our day-to-day lifestyle decisions, the better. (Bonus: These changes also benefit your heart and help prevent other diseases, including Type 2 diabetes and cancer.) So here's what you can do to take care of your brain.
This is your brain on exercise If you had to pick just one lifestyle change to make in the name of brain health, experts agree exercise tops the list—especially for women.
We consider neuroplasticity, the brain's capacity to form new neural connections, an exciting part of a child's development, but we now know our brains can continue to grow, repair and improve as adults, too. Physical activity is a well-researched trigger. Not only can working out bolster our day-to-day functioning and alertness but it also appears to help us repair brain damage. Plus, it slows down aging and the onset of age-related brain diseases.
Working up a sweat and pumping up your heart rate can lead to a healthier vascular system in the brain, which decreases blood pressure and oxidative stress (when your body's antioxidants can't fight off free radicals), and increases antioxidant activity, according to Marc Poulin, an Alzheimer's researcher and professor of physiology at the University of Calgary. Vigorous exercise also floods the bloodstream with a protein called brain-derived neurotrophic factor, which readies the body for repair and heightens the brain's ability to learn and form new memories. Plus, hitting the gym helps the brain repair myelin; a lack of the nerve fibre–protecting substance is a factor in developing multiple sclerosis.
Exercising can also restore crucial brain volume. Research has shown that the hippocampus— home to memory, learning and emotion—starts shrinking after age 55 by about one to two percent a year, but just one year of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise done three days a week can increase its size by two percent.
And while most of the research is about the benefits of getting in your cardio, Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal Health Research Institute, says strength training is also effective, as it can enhance brain performance and function by 11 to 17 percent. "Women live longer [than men], and age itself is the greatest risk factor for dementia," she says. "But the good news is when we look at the benefit of aerobic exercise on cognition in older adults, women seem to benefit more."
The takeaway: You can reap the rewards from even a 15-minute walk. Of course, the longer you exercise, the better, especially if you get your sweat on and your heart rate up. If you want to tick a few other brain health tips off your list, consider joining a team sport. It blends physical, social and cognitive skills, and "can also add pleasure and meaning to our lives," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto.
If you have an office job and find you're sedentary most of the day, take a few minutes every hour or so to get up and move around. Research also suggests switching to a standup desk may improve your brain function.
Did you know? Taking care of a loved one—most often a spouse in your later years—can be a risk factor for developing depression and, eventually, dementia . But research out of the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto found, for the first time, that cognitive behavioural therapy, a form of talk therapy, can improve both mood and cognition.
This is your brain on sleep After a good night's sleep, you feel alert and ready to tackle the day. But that's not just because your brain has been resting. It has also been busy filing away memories and taking out the trash, so to speak, thanks to the glymphatic system, which washes the brain of waste materials. For example, a protein called betaamyloid, which is known to play a role in the development of Alzheimer's, acts as a neurotoxin when it builds up, killing neural cells in the brain. But a good sleep removes excess beta-amyloid and other waste materials, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
Because one of the common symptoms of Alzheimer's is disrupted sleep, it's unclear whether a lack of shut-eye should be considered part of the progression of the disease or a risk factor on its own, due to the buildup of beta-amyloids.
Nevertheless, poor sleep hastens your brain's aging process—much like sitting in the sun sans SPF speeds up your skin's aging process. And disturbed sleeping has been linked to all aspects of brain health, including an increased risk of depression and a decline in cognitive functions such as memory and reasoning. In one U.K. study out of University College London Medical School, middle-aged women who reported a drop in the average number of hours they slept had lower scores on cognitive tests involving reasoning and vocabulary.
What's more, our central clocks—a.k.a. our circadian rhythms—can drift from the patterns of our childhood, making it hard to get that much-needed rest. "As we age, our central clock is less sensitive to stimuli like light, food and physical activity," says Dr. Liu-Ambrose; this change makes it harder to fall, and stay, asleep. We can also become more vulnerable to stress and anxiety, which further disrupt those rhythms.
One way to combat these fluctuations is to try what seasoned travellers do for jet-lag recovery: Get exposure to real daylight and eat your meals on time to nudge your brain into a routine. And don't use bright screens at night, especially before bed, because they mimic sunlight and tell our circadian system that it's day, not night—and, therefore, not time to sleep. Those who need more help might consider light therapies that have been developed to treat seasonal affective disorder, says Dr. Liu-Ambrose.
The takeaway: Many researchers consider six to eight hours of sleep a night to be the standard sweet spot, though this can vary by individual. If you're routinely getting less than that and waking often in the night, not feeling refreshed in the morning and experiencing bouts of sleepiness during the day, talk to your doctor about sleep strategies—especially if you're experiencing anxiety or depression. In the short term, napping can reverse some of the effects of poor sleep, including memory loss and increased stress. And you only need a 30-minute catnap to feel the results.
This is your brain on a healthy diet There's no perfect "brain food," but eating a nutritious diet (lots of veggies and fruit, lean meat, fish and healthy fats) is the smartest way to maintain long-term brain function and memory, and to slow the development of brain diseases.
Getting enough of specific nutrients like omega-3 fatty acids is important but not the holy grail. University of Pittsburgh researchers recently found that people who eat broiled or baked fish at least once a week have larger brain volumes in the areas used for memory and cognition, despite varying levels of omega-3 in the fish they ate. Senior researcher James Becker concluded that he and his colleagues were "tapping into a more general set of lifestyle factors that were affecting brain health, of which diet is just one part."
In a 2015 study from Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, researchers looked at the broad set of eating habits of more than 900 people over 4 1/2 years and found that those who adhered to a diet high in fish, vegetables, nuts and berries, and low in fat and sugar, slowed down their brains' aging by about 7 1/2 years when compared to those with less-healthy diets. The healthy eaters cut their risk of Alzheimer's by up to 53 percent. And even when those people only adhered to the diet part time, they saw some benefits— an effect that has not been found in other diets, says Drogos.
The researchers dubbed the most promising cluster of these eating habits the MIND (Mediterranean-DASH Intervention for Neurodegenerative Delay) diet, which blends the longevity-boosting Mediterranean diet and the heart-healthy low-fat DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) diet that doctors recommend to patients at risk of high blood pressure and heart disease. More studies need to be done on why it works, but in the meantime, there's no downside to eating healthier and ditching the junk.
The takeaway: Add more veggies to your diet. Research shows that older adults who report eating more of this food group perform better in mentally stimulating activities than those who don't.
Did you know? "Menopause brain" is a real thing. As with "pregnancy brain," its more famous counterpart, women approaching menopause really do experience memory problems and brain fog. Researchers think a drop in estrogen levels might be the cause.
Can you train your brain? Does firing up a brain-training app actually help improve your memory and ward off dementia? Sorry to disappoint, but right now, evidence for the benefits of computer-based brain games is weak, says Dr. Teresa Liu-Ambrose, an associate professor and Canada research chair at The University of British Columbia and the Vancouver Coastal HealthResearch Institute. Brain games appear to help you learn to play them better, but research doesn't show that those tasks transfer to other aspects of brain performance. The same goes for crossword puzzles and sudoku, which help your vocabulary and math skills, but nothing more.
How to maintain your mental edge at any age
In your 30s: This is the time to make sure you establish healthy habits—such as getting plenty of exercise and sleep, and eating a good diet—that will affect your brain health throughout your adult years. "When it comes to maintaining brain health, the best time to start is yesterday," says Dr. Nasreen Khatri, a registered clinical psychologist, gerontologist and neuroscientist at the Rotman Research Institute at Baycrest Health Sciences in Toronto. If you feel you need a boost at work, consider old-fashioned writing instead of typing on your computer. A study in the journal Psychological Science found that university students who made handwritten notes were better equipped to recall conceptual ideas from their professors' lectures than those who had typed notes on their laptops.
In your 40s and 50s: People in this age group are part of the "sandwich generation," and often face caring for their aging parents on top of dealing with their other work, financial and parenting obligations. So, unsurprisingly, they're super stressed—and this can affect both mental health and day-to-day brain function. Dr. Khatri says it's essential to prioritize and edit out activities and commitments that increase stress without adding value to your productivity or happiness. That's because "maintaining mental health in early and mid life is key to safeguarding cognitive health later on," she says. "Untreated depression in midlife doubles your risk of developing dementia in later life."
In your 60s and beyond: In your senior years, socializing with friends and family, and picking up activities that allow you to connect, such as volunteering, are key to maintaining brain health. And sorry, keeping up with folks on Facebook isn't enough. "Ask yourself: Is social media rounding out my real-life social experiences?" suggests Dr. Khatri. What you need is face-to-face interaction.
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.
Materials:â€¨ • 4 balls (100 g/83 m each) KPC Yarns Novomerino Chunky in Wicker • Set of 7 mm needles (or size needed to obtain tension) • 1 double-pointed needle (DPN) • 2 stitch markers • Scrap yarn • Crochet hook • Tapestry needle Tension: 6 sts = 2.5 cm/1 inch in twisted rib stitch using 7 mm needles.
To save time, take time to check tensions.
Pattern Notes: Twisted rib stitch (worked over an even number of stitches): Row 1 and Row 2: *K1 tbl, p1 tbl* repeat to end of row. Repeat Rows 1 and 2.
Casting on: The Honey Stitch Cowl is cast on using the provisional cast on, which leaves the cast-on stitches "live." Because they're "live" and not closed off as with a regular cast on, we can later pick them up and seam them together with the stitches on the needle. There are several ways to work the provisional cast on. My favourite method involves using a crochet hook and a scrap piece of yarn to make a crochet chain. The cast on stitches are then knitted directly onto the crochet chain, which acts as a holder for the cast on stitches. Once you've finished your cowl you can unravel the crochet chain, which reveals the "live" cast on stitches. These are then picked up on a needle and seamed together with the other stitches on your needle using the three-needle bind off.
Three-needle Bind Off: This bind off joins two sets of "live" stitches together in a neat, secure seam. As the name suggests, it requires three needles: one needle holds the cast on stitches, the other holds the stitches at the end of the cowl, and the third needle is used to knit the stitches on both needles in order to bind them off into a seam.
• With the two needles clapped together and the right sides of the cowl facing each other, insert the third needle into the first stitch on the needle closest to you as if to knit. Insert the third needle into the first stitch on the needle in the back. There are now two stitches on the third needle. Bring the working yarn around the third needle as if to knit and bring the yarn through both stitches on both needles. * There is now one stitch on the third needle. â€¨â€¨Repeat the instructions between * and * until you have two stitches on the needle. Then, using your fingers or one of the needles holding the stitches, bring the first stitch on the third needle over the second stitch. One stitch has been bound off. â€¨â€¨Continue to knit one stitch through two stitches on your needles and bind off on the third needle until you have one stitch left on your third needle. Cut the yarn and weave through the last stitch. Notice that you have created a nice, sturdy seam that joins your cast on stitches with the last stitches on your cowl.
Abbreviations: k = knit k1 tbl = knit 1 through the back loop p1 tbl = purl 1 through the back loop sl = slip sm = slip marker st(s) = stitch(es) * * = Repeat instructions between * and * the number of times indicated
Directions: Using provisional cast on, cast on 40 sts.
Count 12 sts from beginning of row and place marker. Count 16 sts from first marker and place second marker.
Row 1 (wrong side): Sl1 purlwise, *k1 tbl, p1 tbl* repeat until you reach 1 st before the first marker, k1 tbl, sm. Purl across sts to second marker, sm. *K1 tbl, p1 tbl* repeat to end of row.
Row 2 (right side): Sl1 knitwise, *p1 tbl, k1 tbl* repeat until you reach 1 st before the first marker, p1 tbl, sm. *Slip 1 st to DPN and hold in back, k1, k the st from the DPN. Slip next st to DPN and hold in front, k1, k the st from DPN* repeat until you reach the second marker, sm. *P1 tbl, k1 tbl* repeat to end of row.
Row 3 (wrong side): repeat Row 1.
Row 4: (right side): Sl1, *p1 tbl, k1 tbl* repeat until you reach 1 st before the first marker, p1 tbl, sm. *Slip 1 st to DPN and hold in front, k1, k the st from DPN. Slip next st to DPN and hold in back, k1, k the st from DPN* repeat until you reach the second marker, sm. *P1 tbl, k1 tbl* repeat to end of row.
Repeat Rows 1 to 4 until cowl reaches 128 cm/50.3 inches or desired circumference.
Finishing Transfer 40 cast-on sts from scrap yarn onto tapestry needle. With right sides facing together, bind off using the three-needle bind off.
Weave in all loose ends and enjoy!
Note about yarns: Unfortunately, KPC Yarn is only available online. It's stocked in a retail store in Hong Kong. However, there are a number of other yarn options for Canadians; look for a chunky weight yarn. Berroco Vintage Chunky and Debbie Bliss Rialto Chunky are very similar to the KPC chunky in gauge. Alternatively, consult your local yarn store.
Davina Choy reluctantly picked up knitting at 14, under the instruction of a family friend. Learn how an afternoon of knitting turned into a lifelong passion for Choy.
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.