Thursday, January 29, 2009

NEW Fun Ways to Burn Calories...

I found out yesterday, a new and FUN way to burn some extra calories!
Yesterday I was talking to my neighbour and he mentioned he was trying to sell his whole XBox collection including RockBand.. ooooooo I thought, I've always wanted Rockband! " I'll buy it!" I blurted out spontaniously! ... ooooh.. okay he says! and I'll set it all up for you too !! bonus ! I thought!

So last night, after watching LOST, I set up the Rockband drumset, and started to rock hard for a full 30 minutes. ( I played drums in High school, so my Rockband level is set at ' Hard' ) I was still wearing my Bodybugg, so it would be very interesting to see how many calories I would actually burn doing this... Voila! I burned and extra 300 calories... and it was fun too!!!

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Friends in Far Places...

Today I received an email from my very best friend, Brynn Albanese who lives in Cambria, California. She has booked her flight, confirmed to come and visit me on my 50th Birthday, July 23, 2009. I’m so excited to see her!

Realizing, myself this morning that I have so many friends that live in far away places. How that comes to be, is mainly because I’m a musician. All professional musicians have met and made friends around the world. It just comes with the job! Working and living in Holland for 20 years, you meet many, many new people, who too are coming from somewhere else; this was the case with Brynn.

You see Brynn came to Holland to audition and later did win a major position with the “Residentie Orchestra” in The Hague. She grew up in L.A., but later moved to Boston to become a regular performer with the Boston Symphony and Boston Pops Orchestra. They too toured the world! I remember driving down to Paris to see Brynn perform with the Boston Symphony that was on its European Tour at the time. My other ‘Worldly’ friend; Kathy, came down too! ( Kathy was the link to meeting and making friends with Brynn)

Driving to Paris, I remember it was about the spring of 1995, Kathy and I climbed into my really old and beaten up Peugeot 205 and made the only 5 hour drive from Amsterdam to Paris. Brynn was able to organize for us that we could stay in the same hotel as her and the BSO (Boston Symphony Orchestra) , at the same orchestra rate! $$..Cool.. very handy.. and which hotel you ask? Well of course the “Paris Hilton” My room with balcony had a bird eyes view of the Eifel Tower! WOW ! Now this is cool!

The BSO, with conductor Seiji Ozawa was to perform twice in Paris, and we had tickets to both. Both being major programs of Brahms and Mahler! Wow.. what a trip, staying in the Paris Hilton, seeing Brynn, and enjoying Mahler too! Also added bonus, was seeing my old University and TSYO friend, and now principal horn of the BSO, Jamie Sommerville. He was shocked to see my the Hilton Lobby .. he.. he.. I kind of scared him, and sort of jumped out at him as he was just walking through the lobby…

Only there was one huge draw back of this trip … I was SICK as a dog.. I had the FLU.. really badly too! Major fever and everything. It was so bad one day that I just stayed in my Hotel bed for one whole day I was there! Such a waste! The other days I just dragged my ass out of the bed, determined to see Paris, and attend the concerts!

I also went to the Louvre, and saw the Mona Lisa, *warning ! .. to all those that would like to do the same, keep in mind that the whole firkin world wants to go to the Louvre, so be prepared to stand in line for up to 5 hours just to get into the museum ! Yuup I did this too, with Kathy and Brynn , and with a 40 degree fever. Well ya do want ya need to do!!

The concerts were amazing. The BSO is a very fine orchestra, no wonder Bernard Haitink loves to conduct there as well. He calls the BSO his little Jewel!

Click on this link to see and
listen to amazing Brynn's group - Cafe Musique ( I designed their website!)

This picture of Brynn and Milo was taken in the spring of 2001 at the beach in Zandvoort, Holland

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Nature in the City

Yesterday I was on my way to work and stopped in Starbucks for my morning Latte. When I came back to the car, to which my niece was waiting in, she was all excited and yelling and screaming about a big bird killing something! She pointed out down the way a bit, and low and behold a giant what I thought was a Falcon, but really turns out to be a Red-Tail Hawk, was devouring a pigeon that it has just swooped down from and sky and killed. This all took place right in the downtown core of Toronto, on a pretty pedestrian, car heavy traveled road. I was in shock. Of course I had my camera with me, so I started taking pictures of this phenomenon, and a little video. Of course this type of occurrence is very common about 3 hours north of the city, but NOT in the downtown core! And the bird was totally oblivious to the pedestrians walking by, or stopping to take pictures with there cell phone and such. Quite the unusual site for the typical Torontonian! That’s for sure! Although we do see in the downtown area during the summer months lots of: Squirrels, Chipmunks, Raccoons, Groundhogs, Skunks, Rabbits, Mice, Rats and other specials birds, such as Falcons, Hawks, Blue jays, and Red and yellow Cardinals.

Ah Canada ! I do love thee!

Monday, January 26, 2009

My Very Talented Friends!!

Bryce Kulak... my friend, my neighbour , singer, songwriter, pianist and one Canada's Jewel of a talent!

This video, taken from the CBC studio here in Toronto, for a live CBC Radio 1 broadcast from last Saturday January 24, 2009.

Spread the word....

Friday, January 23, 2009

Menopause- Don't be too quick to believe Oprah!

This week the TV and papers have been full of stories about menopause and hormone therapy.
I have myself done some research on the internet, and have found that 9 our of 10 articles are full of the negative side effects of hormone therapy.

I am getting closer to 50, and really haven’t had any real problems with menopause. I think, and feel my hormones are pretty well balanced. I don’t have sleeping problems, and no hot flashes. Yesterday Oprah’s show was on hormone therapy, and she had invited 2 guests to talk about it. It was an interesting and informative show, but I really feel it was all to one sided. And not really talking about the negative effects of using hormone therapy. We women need to be really careful with out bodies! And people and shows like Oprah can do more harm that help to many of us, because she is so convincing!!

My own experiences say, go to the gym first! If you have tried, dieting, and intense exercise, and getting your self in shape first, and doing this for one year too! And then; after that if you are still having real problems with your hormone imbalances then try other drastic stuff.. but diet and exercise is and should be the first real step, and way healthier too! I’m feeling so much better now, a year later because of my drastic change in diet and exercise regime!

Pills and potions are for the lazy and looking for quick fix!
( I bought Robin McGraw's book yesterday, and when I'm finished reading it, I will also write in my blog about her advice, also with looking at BOTH sides of the story!)

Here are some quotes and results of my research, as to why NOT to undergo hormone therapy.

Contrary to common belief, recent research has confirmed that women who take commonly prescribed doses of hormone therapy (HT) are no more likely to gain weight than women not taking hormone therapy (HT). This is probably because menopause or aging itself is associated with weight gain, regardless of hormone therapy.

The more serious health concerns for women undergoing hormone therapy (HT) include:

  • Hormone therapy (HT) increases the risk of vein clots in the legs (deep vein thrombosis ) and blood clots in the lungs (pulmonary embolus) by about 2 or 3 fold. However, it is important to remember that these conditions are extremely rare in healthy women. Thus, the true increase in risk for healthy women is minimal. Women with a personal or family history of these clots should review this issue when considering hormone therapy (HT).

  • Uterine Cancer (endometrial cancer): Research shows that women who have their uterus and use estrogen alone are at risk for endometrial cancer. Today, however, most doctors prescribe the combination of estrogen and progestin. Progestin protects against endometrial cancer. If there is a particular reason why a woman with a uterus cannot take some form of progesterone, her doctor will take sample tissue from her uterus (endometrial biopsy) to check for cancer annually while she is taking estrogen. Women without a uterus (including women who have had a hysterectomy) have no risk of endometrial cancer.

  • Breast cancer: Recent research indicates that hormone therapy (HT), and especially EPT, increases the risk of breast cancer, although the increase in risk is very small. For example, the Women's Health Initiative, a reliable large study of hormone therapy (HT) in menopausal women, predicted that there were approximately 8 extra cases per 10,000 women who took hormone therapy (HT) for 1 year, compared to women taking a placebo pill. The increase in risk of breast cancer associated with hormone therapy (HT) likely increases with duration of use and is especially increased with 5 or more years of use.
  • Heart disease: Even though hormone therapy (HT) lowers the bad LDL cholesterol and raises the good HDL cholesterol, hormone therapy (HT) increases the risk of heart attacks in women who already have heart disease, as well as in women who do not have known heart disease. Hormone therapy (HT) does not prevent heart attack based on recent research from the Women's Health Initiative.

  • Abnormal vaginal bleeding: Women on hormone therapy (HT) are more likely than other postmenopausal women to experience abnormal vaginal bleeding. What is called "abnormal bleeding" depends on the type of hormone therapy (HT). With cyclic therapy, in which 5monthly bleeding is expected, bleeding is abnormal if it occurs when it is not expected or is excessively heavy or long in duration. With daily continuous therapy, irregular bleeding can last for 6 months to a year, therefore, irregular bleeding that lasts for more than a year is considered abnormal. When abnormal bleeding occurs, a doctor usually takes a sample of the lining of the uterus to rule out an abnormality or cancer in the uterus. This procedure is usually done in the office. After the evaluation is done, if nothing is found to be wrong, hormone therapy (HT) doses will often be adjusted to minimize further abnormal bleeding.
  • Stroke: Hormone therapy (HT) slightly increased the risk of stroke in women studied in the Women's Health Initiative. The WHI predicted that there were 8 extra strokes per 10,000 women taking hormone therapy (HT) for one year, compared to women taking a placebo (sugar pill). Because of the possibility of increased breast cancer, stroke, and heart disease risks, women who have no major menopause symptoms may choose to avoid hormone therapy (HT). The effects of other types of hormone therapy (HT) (aside from the Women's Health Initiative types) on breast cancer risk are still unclear.

Hormone Therapy At A Glance

  • Hormone Therapy (HT) refers to either estrogen or combination estrogen /progesterone treatment.

  • Estrogen therapy is the most highly effective prescription medication for treating menopause symptoms and in light of recent research is still safe and effective for many women when used for fewer than 5 years.

  • Estrogen therapy reduces or eliminates several symptoms of menopause such as hot flashes, disturbed sleep resulting from hot flashes, and vaginal dryness.

  • Other safe and effective non-hormonal medications exist to address a woman's concerns regarding osteoporosis.

  • The use of estrogen therapy, without progesterone (progestin), is associated with an increase in the risk of uterine cancer (endometrial cancer, cancer of the lining of the uterus).

  • Treatment with progesterone along with estrogen substantially reduces the risk of uterine cancer (endometrial cancer) so that the risk of developing this cancer is equivalent to that of women not taking estrogen.

  • Users of oral hormone therapy (HT) (in the doses of the Women's Health Initiative) for more than 5 years are at slightly increased risk of breast cancer risk, heart disease, and stroke than are nonusers.

    This research is from

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

" Making CHANGE !"

Making Change ... seems to be the theme for today. I'm wearing my brand new V3 version of a Bodybugg, finally! back on track... Making Change!!

And today's theme.. of course the Obama inauguration... Making history is today's theme as well!

We Canadians are all in anticipation on how Obama can fix this giant mess that the ' Bush-a-nomics' team created and left behind for Obama to clean up! what a mess! and what a challenge his has ahead...

fingers crossed!!

Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Biggest Loser Tips....

Biggest Loser Tips….

I have received a lot of emails and posts lately with questions about my diet, and how much the Biggest Loser has influenced it. After watching the Biggest Loser cast and past winners on Larry King Live that was on tonight, I can say, yes they have taught me a very important lesson, and I think all that want to be successful must follow their advice!

There is as we know a huge obesity epidemic in North America, in both Canada and the United States. I have written one of my past blogs (Thursday, October 16, 2008 Cultural Culinary Displacement Syndrome ) about the food intake problems of North Americans. For myself, yes I was a carb and sugar addict. It’s definitely an addiction as far as I’m concerned. I just simply can not have the food I crave in my house! I do enjoy a 100 calorie snack once in a while, but if I buy a box of 6, I will end up eating the whole box! So in order to help my cravings, I do incorporate one high calorie; eat what you want, day; Usually on Saturday’s. On Saturday’s I usually go out for dinner, many times I go to my local Sushi restaurant, but sometimes also the local Italian as well. I have dessert and I have the basket of bread, with butter of course. But then, back on Sunday and the rest of the week, back on track, and back to the gym and continue to burn more calories than I consume.

As I wrote about my Christmas adventures in the month of December, December was a write-off as far as I’m concerned, but I did get all my cravings out of my system, and didn’t feel too guilty doing it, and come January 1st, 2009 I was back to my regime of counting calories and working out.

Some other tips I can offer is… when you are really craving something salty, or hearty, I usually make myself a cup of instant soup. Also I am eating my more fruit. Especially now that it’s mandarin /Clementine season, I have a big bowl of Clementine’s on my desk in front of me, both at home and at the office. Tea also helps with the cravings, with one little 100 calorie bag of peanut butter cookies. I eat 5 to 6 times a day, Breakfast, then at 11am a snack, like an orange, then Lunch the again a snack at 4pm, usually tea and a bag of 100 calories cookies, then dinner, workout, then a protein shake at about 10pm to end the day. I find if I stick to this schedule, I don’t’ really get hungry or crave for other things.

Keeping your self busy is a must. I don’t watch more than 1 hour of TV a day now. I used to watch up to 4 hours a day. And most of my really bad snacking happened at night while I was sitting on the couch and watching the TV.

I try not to make any lunch or dinner dates with any one. I avoid eating dinner with my sisters, as they always cook stuff I can’t really eat, and end up eating way more than I should. I cook for myself at least 5 nights a week, and never go out for lunch, I pack my own. I don’t drink any alcohol, and completely cut out drinking any DIET soda products. The taste of something sweet like diet coke makes me want to consume chips or popcorn with it!

I still find it hard to go to a movie theatre without eating popcorn with the film. So I do buy the popcorn, a small bag, no butter of course, but then I do cut down on my dinner, or lunch calories to compensate.

You know, last week Oprah said something that really hit hard for me. She talked about making yourself priority number one! That me, my health is the most important thing I am doing right now. That nothing else is as important; because if you do not live a healthy lifestyle, and you get sick, you end up losing everything else. I’m creeping closer and closer to 50 now, and as most people know, your health problems can really start after 50, with heart disease, or other fat related issues.

Eating Healthy and Exercise is the key to living long and healthy and happy!
And besides, with all the stress that I have been going through lately with my workplace at the moment, I know that this new healthier lifestyle has helped me cope with it in a better way!

Sunday, January 11, 2009

The Dangers of Being a Musician…

Last week my very dear closest friend to whom I have known and worked with for over 25 years, slipped on some ice and broke his ankle very seriously on his way to his gig. You see he is concert master of an orchestra in southern Holland, and he was on his way, with violin in hand to work for the evening. It was dark, and at the moment it’s very cold in Holland, which is very rare; So most ‘ Dutchie’s are not very used to watching out for ice! But any way’s he slipped and in turn broke his ankle! Poor Martin! .. now he’s at home, in a lot of pain, and not able to work for 8 weeks!

This story makes me think about today’s blog theme and entry …. about how the workplace can be a very dangerous place for artists and musicians! There are many, many stories professional artists can share about their accidents in the workplace. I can too!

Back in 1996 when I was living and working in an Opera Orchestra in Holland; our opera performance in a northern city in Holland, Drachten, had just ended. I packed up my horn in my gig back and proceeded to exit the orchestra pit. I had to step down some steps to exit as the orchestra had been raised up on risers as it was too deep a pit. Only the stage crew had not properly secured the stairs to the risers. I took one step, and BOOM the entire set of stairs just gave way under me, and I fell down straight to the ground landing on my right leg ,4 meters below! CRACK! Yeeks… my leg! Broken!! But funny that was not the hugest concern for me.. I was worried about my horn that was on my shoulder in my gig bag, that was now laying on the ground beside me… "please someone hand me my horn!", as I laid in the most ridiculous looking splits on the ground with my ankle and leg all turned, "I want to see if my horn is okay!" My colleagues were all hovered over me, asking me to wiggle my toes, do you have pain? Here comes the stage hand ( the same one that didn’t secure the stairs in the first place… ) with a can of ‘ Ice spray’ to numb up my leg .

Ouch! This hurts, I knew it was broken. So with the help of about 4 people I got up, hobbled in pain up the stairs to my dressing room, took off my ‘ blacks’ and then hobbled into the orchestra bus to go back to Amsterdam. NO I didn’t’ want an ambulance, and I didn’t’ want to go to a hospital in Drachten, I want to go home to Amsterdam! So off we went, with my leg sticking out into the aisle way of the bus, not the smartest decision I’ve ever made, but I was stubborn! My colleagues to who were very caring at the same time, kept on tripping over my broken leg, as they passed me to get to the front for the bus where the fridge was stocked with Heineken beer! AAAHH… my leg… watch out!! Ooooh.. Sorry Wendy…. Finally after 2 hours of pain we arrived in Amsterdam. My friend was waiting with her car to pick my up and take me to emergency there in Amsterdam. It was now 3am.. of course not to busy so I got my ex-ray and cast ( a pink one) pretty quick. Only in Holland the hospitals do not issue crutches ! WHAT THE HELL! How am I to get out of here!! .. well here’s a wheel chair, to get you to your car.. thanks.. right.. no crutches.. where the hell do I get crutches if the dam hospital doesn’t even carry them! Well you have to get them from your own insurance company, during their office hours of 9am – 5pm. .. tomorrow… ! wow.. now that’s stupid!!

So as you can read, these are 2 stories of the dangers of being a musician.. I’m sure there are hundreds and thousands more stories, the most common, falling into orchestra pits! To which I also knew of 2 people that fell into an orchestra pit, and they very unfortunately did not survive the fall! they died! ( a conductor, and a ballet soloist)

By the way, my horn survived the fall.. no damage at all ! Which was totally a fluke…!!

Friday, January 09, 2009


.... ( from my October 19th blog entry but now with the picture I promised of this memorable moment!... you can also click on this newspaper image to see a larger full view of it.. )

" ...My Dutch costume changed as I got older, and later in life, in my teens I mostly wore a costume from the province of Volendam. ” My mom was contacted back in 1967, by the now defunct newspaper, the Toronto Telegram. They wanted a young child in costume to use in a photo shoot to advertise a new festival. Of course, it was me! So off we drove with my costume in hand, to a Hungarian Restaurant, somewhere in downtown Toronto.
I was about 7 yrs old at the time. Once I entered the restaurant, I saw this huge table placed in the front window that was covered in hundred of desserts from around the world ! I then got dressed in my costume in a small backroom bathroom, and came back up to meet my mom and photographer for further instruction. Learning then, to my horror, that I was to be sitting up on the table in my costume, right in the middle of the dessert extravaganza! So up I went. As the photographer arranged me and the desserts around my body, I had to also hold a huge tray of what looked like, chocolate cream puffs. He then, the photographer, to add insult to injury, proceeded to smear whipping cream all over my cheeks. The visual image of the shot was that I had to pretend to be taking a big bite of this cream puff and have a smile on my face of total enjoyment.

Well, this is a very embarrassing moment! Here was this chubby, fat young girl, in a Dutch costume stuffing her face with a cream puff for all to see. My eyes blinked, and I started seeing white dots, as the photos were being taken. The next day, in all it’s whipping cream glory, was a picture of me, in full colour spashed on the front page of the Toronto Telegram ! . Guess who got teased at school! …My nickname was "whipping cream girl" for several weeks…

Saturday, January 03, 2009

A Newer Path!

So now it's the new year, and today once again I weighed in, and yuup.. back to 250. Dam! I have been up and down from 245 to 250 for last 6 weeks. Been quite off track these last 6 weeks with all the St. Nicholas, Christmas and New Years celebrations!! I heard today on the radio that most people gain between 2 to 5 pounds over the holidays! So I guess that is all normal. Tonight I am going to my sister place for dinner, then afterwards to perform a " Salute to Vienna" concert with the Kitchener Waterloo Symphony. This will be my last 'family' dinner for a while.. I HAVE TO GET BACK ON TRACK!!

Today my new neighbor is moving in. I just brought him and his helpers a nice big pot of coffee to help keep them motivated. This area of Toronto is such an interesting part of town! My new neighbor is quite the accomplished Opera Singer! A Baritone .. His name is Jefrey Carl ( Maybe we can organize a recital together.. I do like his voice!

Maybe all these changes are a sign.... During the last 6 weeks I've been performing a lot, and now a new professional musician as a neighbor could this be all pointing towards a newer path??

Thursday, January 01, 2009


A year has passed.. WOW !! where has the time gone!! I've been on this ' Life Style Change' now for 365 days!

I'm quite proud of myself that I have achieved my weigh-loss goals of losing 120 pounds. Now to the next 100!!

My wish to you all is that you too can achieve your set goals as well !

be strong.. and just take one day at a time!!

Happy New Year Everyone!!