The holidays are a wonderful time to show your better half just how much you care about them. But it can sometimes be challenging to know just the right thing to get that special someone -- especially if you've celebrated many Noëls together!
For inspiration, we asked 8 Canadian couples to share the most memorable Christmas gifts that they have ever received from a loved one. Read on for inspiration:
1. Sun and fun "Our best Christmas gift to each other was our honeymoon to Cabo San Lucas in Mexico in 2005. We left the snow and cold weather for hot sun and gorgeous beaches. There is nothing like spending Christmas Day lounging by the pool sipping cocktails. It was a great way to spend our first Christmas together as husband and wife." -- Luke and Cathy, London, Ont., married six years
2. Movie magic "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my wife was a DVD of my childhood home movies. She had spent hours transferring them from the old VHS tapes to DVD, and I had so much fun reliving those memories with everyone that year." -- Charles, Calgary, married to Brenda 14 years
3. Cherished collection "My husband gave me a Christmas tree ornament when we first started dating. Every Christmas since then he has given me a new ornament to hang on the tree. I love getting out the collection every year and anticipating what the new one will be." -- Brenda, Calgary, married to Charles 14 years
4. Novel newlywed "The best Christmas gift from my wife was from our first Christmas together. She bought me a book I wished I had purchased years ago that had become hard to find. I only ever made a passing comment about it to her. I was surprised and touched when I unwrapped it." -- David, Toronto, married to Johanna 18 months
5. For keeps "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my husband was my pearl earrings. I had never asked for jewelry,-- he knew, without me telling him, that they were my favourite." -- Johanna, Toronto, married to David 18 months
Page 1 of 2 -- From cameras, festive celebrations to family additions, find more heartwarming stories from couples' merry gift exchanges on page 2
6. Keeping time "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my wife was a wristwatch the first year we were going together." -- Patrick, Belleville, Ont., married to Nancy 36 years
7. A real gem "My best Christmas gift from my husband was a blue sapphire necklace the year he had to be away from home so much for work." -- Nancy, Belleville, Ont., married to Patrick 36 years 8. Surprise splurge "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my wife was after we had bought our first house and money was tight. When the time came to exchange gifts, I didn't expect much, so when she surprised me with the DSLR camera I had been obsessing over I was shocked." -- Jack, Halifax, married to Mimi four years
9. Girls getaway "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my husband was a trip to Florida to visit my best friend who had moved there for work. I missed her, so he planned my New Year's Eve in Miami. It was one of the best trips I ever took." -- Mimi, Halifax, married to Jack four years
10. Special delivery "Our best Christmas gift we ever received was when we found out we were expecting. A baby was way better than anything we had on our Christmas lists." -- Amanda and Matt, Ottawa, married one year
11. Band mate "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my wife was Guitar Hero. I was coming home on leave during the holidays after being deployed overseas, so she knew it would be perfect for me to be able to have fun and decompress while I was home." -- Justin, Oromocto, N.B., married to Nicole 12 and a half years
12. Picture perfect "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my husband was less about the gift and more about receiving it in person. He was deployed to Afghanistan at that time, so when he heard I had dropped my camera down the stairs, he researched online and ordered a replacement to be sent to a store near our home. It just so happened that his two-week leave was during Christmas that year, so he picked it up himself when he arrived home to give it to me in person." -- Nicole, Oromocto, N.B., married to Justin 12 and a half years
13. Something borrowed "The best Christmas gift I ever received from my wife was an actual Christmas celebration. We were both raised Hindu; my family didn't celebrate Christmas but hers did. The first December after we were married she decorated the house, baked cookies, wrapped gifts and invited both of our extended families to our home. Now our new tradition includes everyone." -- Sameer and Hina, Montreal, married 10 years
What about you? Do you exchange gifts with your significant other? What was the most memorable Christmas gift that you've ever received from your partner or a loved one?
Ginger may not be the first spice you think of to incorporate in your snacks, salads and dinners but it's one of the healthiest on the planet! Here's why:
1. It's healthy for your heart.
Research has shown that ginger may lower cholesterol and help prevent blood clotting, which could, in turn, help prevent blood vessel blockages that can lead to heart attacks or strokes.
A recent study out of Pennsylvania State University found that a meal made with a spice blend that included ginger (along with garlic, rosemary, oregano, cinnamon, cloves, paprika, turmeric and black pepper) reduced levels of triglycerides by 30 percent when compared to an identical non-spiced meal.
2. It helps your tummy!
Ginger has long been associated with relieving nausea and morning sickness, motion sickness, and even menstrual pain, as it's original use was for pain relief. A 2012 study shored up that wisdom, showing that ginger can reduce nausea after chemotherapy when taken as a supplement.
3. It can help you breathe easy. Ginger tea is a classic remedy purported to ease cough and cold symptoms. And it turns out, there’s some science to its soothing powers when you’re sick. In 2013, research out of Columbia University found that ginger might help asthma patients breathe more easily.
4. It has anti-inflammatory effects.
Osteoarthritis causes joint pain and stiffness, but the anti-inflammatory effects of ginger can help that. In a trial done by the National Centre for Biotechnology Information, participants who took ginger extract had less pain and needed less pain medication than those who didn't.
*Although rare, too much ginger can cause heartburn, diarrhea and irritation of the mouth, according to the University of Maryland. There can also be interactions with medications, such as acetylsalicylic acid.
Heart disease and stroke are one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women—and risk factors, symptoms and even treatment might vary by age. Here's what you need to know.
It was Dec. 13, 2014. I was getting ready to go out for dinner when suddenly everything went wrong. I lost coordination, almost like I was drunk. I went numb, as if the local anesthetic that dentists use had been applied to half of my body. My arm went limp, I could barely walk and, out of the blue, I got a raging migraine. At 31 years old, I was in the midst of a transient ischemic attack, often called a ministroke, but I had no idea.
It wasn't until the next day, when I was feeling only slightly better, that I realized something was really wrong. I didn't want to wait for an appointment with my family doctor, so I called Telehealth Ontario, the provincial service that connects callers to a registered nurse via telephone. In the very back of my mind, I wondered if I'd had a stroke—but I was too young, or so I thought. But when I described my symptoms, it became clear that I wasn't too young. In fact, the nurse who took my call was worried enough to send paramedics to my house. Soon, I was in the back of an ambulance, rushing through Toronto's busy streets on the way to the hospital.
The statistics Luckily, my stroke was mild, and, in July 2015, I underwent surgery to have a patent foramen ovale closure device inserted to close the hole in my heart. But, to this day, I'm still shocked at how little I knew about the risks associated with stroke and heart disease, or just how common they are. As I soon learned, about 1.6 million Canadians—557,000 of them women over the age of 24—report having cardiovascular disease. And, according to a study looking at factors and behaviours affecting cardiovascular health published in 2013 in the Canadian Medical Association Journal, fewer than one in 10 adult Canadians were in ideal cardiovascular health from 2003 to 2011, which means 90 percent of us are making choices that are increasing our risk for a cardiovascular event. In fact, heart disease and stroke is one of the leading causes of death for Canadian women, and most of us have at least one risk factor.
It's a club that I didn't particularly want to be a part of, but having joined, I began wondering what other women's experiences had been like.
Unlike me, when Victoria resident Carolyn Thomas started having a range of symptoms— crushing chest pain, nausea, weakness, sweating and a persistent ache down her left arm—on her 58th birthday, she immediately thought it could be a heart attack and went straight to the ER. But when she got there and told the doctor on duty about her symptoms, he said it was just acid reflux. "I remember exactly what he said," she recalls. " 'You're in the right demographic for acid reflux. Go home and call your family doctor for a prescription for antacids.' " Embarrassed and apologetic, she did just that. But her symptoms persisted for two more weeks. She eventually went back to the hospital, and this time, she was told she was suffering from what was actually one of the most serious types of heart attacks—a complete blockage of her left anterior descending artery, which is often referred to as the widow-maker.
Since then, she has recovered, but it's far from full—she had to retire early and continues to see a specialist at her regional pain clinic.
Irmine MacKenzie also went to the hospital immediately. It's been 35 years since the New Waterford, N.S., resident lost the use of her left arm and leg after suffering a stroke caused by carotid artery stenosis, narrowing of the arteries that carry blood from the heart to the brain. She was 61 years old and, having just finished eating breakfast with her husband, John, she headed to the kitchen to tackle the dishes. Suddenly, plates started dropping from her hands, shattering as they hit the floor.
After a six-week hospital stay and a three-month stint in a rehabilitation program in Halifax, she eventually learned to walk again. Her ability to manage quite well over the past three decades is clearly a testament to her grit— and maybe some kind words from a stranger. "I won't ever forget the ambulance driver who took me to the rehabilitation centre," she says. "He told me, 'We're taking you by stretcher now, but you'll be walking out of there with a cane.' " Sure enough, that's exactly what she did.
A better understanding It has now been two years since I suffered my transient ischemic attack, and I feel like I'm still learning about heart health. I now understand the importance of cardiac rehabilitation, for one thing. When I had my stroke, I didn't know this kind of program existed—my cardiologist didn't refer me to one, but having access to dedicated professionals in a safe, encouraging environment could have helped me navigate the health-care system and guided me toward healthier choices.
One thing I found myself, Carolyn and Irmine echoing is how, as women, we must advocate for ourselves in the health-care system, ensuring that our voices are heard and our health is looked after. We need to put ourselves first, without shame or guilt. As Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto, says, "It comes back to education and partnership with your health provider. Don't be afraid to ask questions and be informed."
Heart health by the decade Nearly two-thirds of all heart attacks and strokes occur in Canadians 65 or older, but younger Canadians are increasingly at risk. Here's what you need to know at every age.
In your 20s and 30s: Young people with heart-health issues are part of a growing minority. A study published in 2012 out of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine found that, over a period of 12 years, strokes among people aged 20 to 54 made up an increasingly greater proportion of strokes across all age groups, growing from about 13 percent in 1993–94 to 19 percent in 2005.
Closer to home, the Heart and Stroke Foundation says several studies predict that the rate of strokes among younger adults will double in the next 15 years. The main reason? According to Dr. Tara Sedlak, a cardiologist at Vancouver General Hospital and clinical assistant professor at The University of British Columbia, it comes down to lifestyle—high stress levels, poor eating habits, lack of exercise and smoking. Research bears this out: The University of Cincinnati study suggested that a rise in lifestyle-related risk factors (such as diabetes, obesity and high cholesterol) may contribute to a higher incidence of stroke.
But there is a way to turn the tide: As with other age groups, simple changes such as exercising regularly, quitting smoking and eating healthily could see the rates of cardiovascular disease—and, more specifically, stroke—decrease, says Dr. Paula Harvey, director of the cardiovascular research program at Women's College Hospital in Toronto.
In your 40s and 50s: Cardiovascular disease is less common among younger women, in part because of their higher estrogen levels; the hormone offers some protection to the arteries. But as women approach menopause and their estrogen levels drop, the incidence of stroke and heart attack increases.
Unfortunately, broad knowledge of their increased risk may not protect perimenopausal women from misdiagnosis. According to research by the Canadian Medical Protective Association, which provides advice, legal assistance and risk-management education to 95,000 Canadian physicians, doctors are missing the signs of stroke in patients nearly 10 percent of the time, largely because symptoms are often nonspecific—patients often complained of headache, dizziness, nausea and vomiting.
And women, who have historically been less inclined to advocate for themselves, are particularly at risk. Research out of the University of Leeds in England showed that, between April 2004 and March 2013, 198,534 heart attack patients at National Health Service hospitals in England and Wales were initially misdiagnosed—and most of them were women. During that time, women suffering a heart attack were 50 percent more likely to be misdiagnosed compared to men.
It might be difficult to challenge doctors who tell you nothing's wrong, but Dr. Sedlak encourages women to listen to their bodies and to be firm with health-care providers about what they're experiencing. "If you feel there is a real problem, be persistent," she says.
In your 60s and beyond: Women over 65 have the most strokes of all age groups, but they still have fewer strokes than men the same age. However, a Danish study published in the Journal of the American Heart Association in 2015 found that, after 60, women tend to have more serious strokes than men—and they're more likely to survive, which can have serious repercussions on quality of life.
John Sawdon, the public education and special projects director of the Cardiac Health Foundation of Canada, explains that cardiac rehabilitation programs, which are free with a referral from your doctor, are the perfect next step for recovering cardiac patients of all ages, but they're particularly important for older Canadians, who tend to live more sedentary lives. These programs are supervised by a cardiologist and, after an assessment, are tailored by your cardiac rehab team, which usually includes nurses, physical therapists, kinesiologists and social workers. They can provide exercise training, education on heart-healthy living and stress counselling—all of which can contribute to the health and well-being of people who have heart problems. And they're effective, too: "Research has shown that those completing cardiac rehab live seven years longer than control groups," says Sawdon. It also "reduces incidence of another heart attack by 50 percent."
What's your risk? Ninety percent of adult Canadians have at least one risk factor for cardiovascular disease. But while factors such as obesity, hypertension, alcohol abuse, family history and ethnicity increase everyone's risk, regardless of gender, the following three are particularly relevant to women.
Smoking: While we all know that smoking is seriously unhealthy, it can be especially damaging to women's cardiovascular health. Smoking when taking the oral contraceptive pill can drastically increase the risk of heart attack and stroke. But quitting can cut your risk within a year.
Diabetes: According to the Canadian Diabetes Association, people with diabetes are at a very high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. In fact, "they may develop heart disease 10 to 15 years earlier than individuals without diabetes."
Mental illness and stress: "Women have a higher frequency of stress-induced heart disease, and women's hearts are affected by stress and depression more than men's," says Dr. David Fitchett, a cardiologist at St. Michael's Hospital in Toronto and associate professor of medicine at the University of Toronto.
Heart health dictionary
Atherosclerosis: When arteries narrow and harden due to plaque buildup.
Cardiomyopathhy: Diseases of the heart muscle, which cause it to become enlarged, thick or rigid.
Cardiovascular disease: A broad term for problems with the heart and blood vessels, often due to atherosclerosis. These conditions can lead to heart attack, angina or stroke.
Heart attack: Also known as a myocardial infarction, these attacks happen when the flow of blood to a section of the heart is blocked, preventing the muscle from getting oxygen.
High blood pressure: Also called hypertension, this is when the long-term force of blood against artery walls is elevated, requiring the heart to work harder, which may eventually lead to heart disease.
Microvascular angina: A disease of the small coronary artery blood vessels. Many angiograms do not view the small blood vessels, so this can be difficult to diagnose.
Spontaneous coronary artery dissection: A tear in the coronary artery wall. Physical or emotional stress appears to play a role. Most cases (around 70 percent) occur in women under 50—and a third of those are pregnant or postpartum women.
Stroke: When the blood supply to a portion of the brain is interrupted. This can happen when a blood vessel carrying oxygen and nutrients to the brain either bursts or is blocked.
Want an in-demand job with a healthy future? Look no further than the skilled trades in Canada. "There is an incredible amount of opportunity in the trades industry in Canada right now," says Peter Harris, editor-in-chief of Workopolis, who reports on trends and changes in the Canadian job market.
"Trades workers need not be subject to the boom-and-bust cycles of provincial economies, because trades jobs are evergreen and also come with a great deal of freedom of mobility," he says. For example, in every city across the country, homeowners are always looking for reliable, affordable work on their homes: renovation, plumbing, electrical, roofing and more, says Harris.
Positions in the skilled trades offer another bonus: These roles are far more insulated from being sent offshore and to automation, says Harris. "[These are] the two biggest threats to many career paths," he says. Furthermore, Canada faces a shortage of one million tradespeople by 2020, as many people in that field will be retiring, he says. "The average age of welders is 57, and large numbers of trades workers across the board are also into their 50s."
Defining the "best" trade is highly subjective; it depends on where you live and what you consider most valuable: lots of demand, high pay, flexibility to set your own hours or whatever you feel is vital to a good job. That said, based on the job opportunities being posted online in the skilled trades, Harris says the most sought-after employees are in these five vocations.
1. Construction workers Whether it be working on new home construction, infrastructure (like roads) or commercial enterprises, construction workers are in high demand in Canada. Construction is considered a cornerstone of Canadian industry and it represents about seven percent of the Canadian workforce, according to the Canadian Construction Association. While positions may be plentiful, construction work is often seasonal and contract-based.
2. Vehicle repair In the past year, the number of job postings for the mechanic trades has spiked 94 percent over June 2013, says Harris. As anyone who has ever owned a car knows, auto mechanics tend to be perennially busy. According to Human Resources Skills Development Canada, this job is also called automotive service technician, helpful keywords if you're searching for post-secondary education programs, which tend to use this title instead of "car mechanics."
3. Maintenance worker Although maintenance work comprises a very broad array of specialties, these jobs are in high demand across the country, says Harris. Not just hands-on repair (although it can include these skills), maintenance work encompasses operations, planning and information management skills as well. These jobs are posted under a variety of names, such as maintenance technician, maintenance mechanic, maintenance specialist and, of course, maintenance worker.
4. Electricians Electricity is vital to life as we know it in Canada. Licensed electricians lay out, assemble, install, test, troubleshoot and repair electrical wiring, fixtures, control devices and related equipment in buildings and other structures, according to Human Resources and Skills Development Canada. Electricians are highly sought-after in commercial, industrial and residential spheres. There are many positions open with electrical contractors, maintenance companies and industries, and there are also ample self-employment opportunities.
5. Heavy machinery operators (such as a backhoe, bulldozer) Wherever there's a freshly paved road or newly built construction, a heavy machinery operator isn't far behind. Operators work backhoes, bulldozers, graders and other heavy-duty construction vehicles. Another term that describes this trade is heavy equipment operator, which is the terminology post-secondary schools and colleges use to designate program offerings. Like construction work, these roles can be plentiful across the nation, but also tend to be seasonal.
We talked to a trend forecaster to see what we can expect for 2017. Here's what she had to say.
Do you ever wish you could see into the future? Well, for Sheryl Connelly, in-house futurist at Ford Motor Company, this is exactly what she does for a living. For over a decade, Connelly and her team have been forecasting trends and producing a comprehensive list that covers everything from consumer shopping habits to the changing job landscape and societal shifts. This data, collected globally and by country, helps anticipate customer needs and determines how these factors will impact changes globally.
Here are Sheryl Connelly’s top 10 trends for 2017:
Female Frontier (Revisited)
Progress on the female front is slow—82% of adults feel that men and women aren’t viewed as equal. But 78% of people think women have more opportunities than just three years ago. Good news: The number of female billionaires continues to be on the upswing. Women make up 10.4% of the world’s billionaires, compared with 9.7% in 2014. Some of the wealthiest people in China are women, and there are more female than male entrepreneurs in the G8 countries.
The Good Life 2.0
The definition of prosperity seems to be changing across the globe with more people valuing wellness over wealth. Seventy-one percent of Canadians agree “prosperity is more about happiness than wealth.” And, the overwhelming majority (regardless of age) find it annoying when people are showy with their money. Wellness travel is now a $563 billion dollar global industry—up 14% in the last two years. More than 690 million wellness-focused trips were taken worldwide in 2015. And Millennials, instead of booking a stay at a five-star hotel, are using vacation time to book yoga retreats.
Time Well Spent
Along with wealth, the concept of the currency of time and how it’s used is changing. It’s not about spending more time working or on FOMO, but carving out more “me time.” In the global survey, the question: Which of the following do you consider a productive use of time? The responses included: 19% daydreaming, and 57% said sleeping. Thirty-one percent of Canadians agreed that procrastination helped them be productive. Connelly thinks that if someone has an idea, then the seemingly off-task activity of walking the dog or taking a shower could spark some new thoughts.
Some resorts have picked up on the importance of time, and lock up customers’ cellphones so they don’t overuse it on vacation.
In 2010, the United Nations officially declared water a “human right,” and this resource continues to be a growing concern. In Canada, 48% versus 81% in India agree that “they have changed their behaviour in the last year as a direct result of concerns related to water. One smart solution: Nozzle, described as “the world’s most extreme water-saving gizmo.“ It transforms tap water into a mist, which provides the adequate amount needed instead of an unnecessary stream.
Revisiting Trust Is The New Black
Remember the dress debate (gold vs. blue http://news.nationalpost.com/arts/is-this-dress-white-and-gold-or-blue-and-black-tumblr-photo-sparks-unlikely-online-debate)? Well, it seems that when it comes to news and information, it’s all about perception. Eighty-percent of adults globally agree that today’s media outlets offer more opinion instead of objective news coverage.
With so many choices at our disposal, it seems the endless options are making us reluctant to commit. Nearly every person in China–99% –agreed with the statement “The internet creates more choice than I want.” Seventy-seven percent of Canadians agree: “the quest to find ‘something better’ is never-ending.” Even when it comes to dating, the options can be daunting. Most respondents feel that online dating sites make it harder to commit to relationships. Housing service Roam has tapped into this footloose trend, allowing customers to sign one lease and live in any of its properties across three continents for as little as a week at a time.
Technology has undoubtedly provided many beneficial, convenient and efficient perks. But many people agree that it’s making us dumber, less polite, sleep deprived and contributing to obesity. A study found that kids who spend two to four hours a day on digital devices outside of class are 23% more likely not to finish homework, compared with kids who spend less than two hours.
The Parenting Trap
From free-range to attachment parenting, the spectrum of child rearing styles is endless. Japanese parents let their kids ride the subway at the age of eight while others monitor their every move via an app. Once children reach the workforce, there’s uncertainty about the climate and options that will be available to them. According to the World Economic Forum, 65% of children entering school today will work jobs that don’t currently exist. Making a guidance counsellor’s job even more difficult.
Today, the idea of community takes on many forms, shapes and sizes–both online and off. Many are seeking more from their fellow citizens and companies. Eighty-two percent of adults globally agree that they are more likely to support companies that prioritize purpose over profit.
Increasingly, the idea of being an architect of change is shifting from institutions to individuals, with people taking more responsibility for their actions and the impact it has on society. Eighty-six percent of adults globally agree that they should pay closer attention to the production ethics of the products they purchase.