The Writers' Exchange

Help Vancouver’s Writers’ Exchange!

Friends! The Writers’ Exchange gets Vancouver’s inner-city kids excited about reading and writing through crazy, fun, and imaginative creative-writing projects and support from volunteer mentors:

 

 

The Indiegogo Campaign

This month, they’re raising funds to help cover the costs of renovating a new space. Although they’ve been in the same space for years, their rent has recently doubled and forced them to move upstairs–which they’re happy about, because it means not moving locations for the sake of their students.

However, it DOES mean renovating that upstairs space. June first marked the first day of their Indiegogo campaign to help raise their goal of $20,000, and they’re already at almost $14,000 as I’m writing this! But here’s the thing: the full budget of their move and re-design is $53,500, so any extra funds that they can raise would be AMAZING.

About the Writers’ Exchange

Over 500 kids a year attend the Writers’ Exchange programs at their home on East Hastings in Vancouver and in schools across East Vancouver and in the Strathcona area. Most of the kids have been referred to the programs offered by the Writers’ Exchange by their teachers, because they either need extra literacy support (less than half of the kids at Vancouver’s inner-city schools are meeting provincial literacy expectations), or just need a safe place to go after school and/or during the summer.

Or both!

Even though most of the kids they work with say they don’t like reading and writing before they attend the Writers’ Exchange programs, in 2016, 99% of kids said they liked doing the fun literacy activities at the Writers’ Exchange! Also, every single parent polled said their child benefited from attending this amazing organization’s programs.

The Writers’ Exchange runs free, fun literacy programs after school and during the summer, and inner-city teachers also invite the program’s teachers into their classrooms to create publications with their classes. And then they actually have book launch parties for these kids when their publications are bound and ready to go! (The program receives very generous help with this part of the process from a local publishing company.)

This is a legit program that is VERY much needed for everyone in the community–and they need support. Watch their Indiegogo campaign video here, then please, please donate! xo

 

 


The Writers’ Exchange Society is a registered Canadian charity, number 795045095 RR0001.

self-care

2017: The Year of Self-Care

Happy New Year, everyone! As 2017 commences, I’m sure many of you are doing what I’m doing: trying to mindfully come up with a tangible wellness goal. My usual go-to is “I won’t drink any alcohol in January!” or “I will work out every day no matter what!”

But you know what? Those goals usually become stressful because they may not be realistic. And when your new year’s resolution doesn’t come to fruition, it can be depressing. Which starts the cycle of feelings of failure and disappointment!

Ugh.

So instead, this year, I’ve decided to focus more broadly on self-care. This means no hard rules, but it encourages me to remember that being mindful about all facets of my health is important. Here are 5 ways in which one can focus on self-care (and this is my personal plan; what I’ll be doing):

Eats

The first thing most of us think of when adopting a self-care routine is a diet tweak. And fair enough! I mean, you are what you eat, right? The fuel we choose to put into our body directly correlates with mood, behaviour, weight, aging, and more.

So what should we be eating?

I think the trick is to not be strict and deprive yourself. (Because most of us can’t stick to an all-or-nothing plan.) Instead, a healthy balance is optimal. In general, tons of fresh vegetables, lots of whole grain carbohydrates (like yams and sprouted grains), and lots of plant-based or lean protein.

Basically, anything that makes you feel good and gives you energy and lends to quality sleep and rest is what you’re looking for. If you’re looking for a new healthy cookbook, try Vegetarian Comfort Foods!

Drinks

Water, water, water. That is all. (Haha…) Here’s the thing: we know that caffeinated beverages and alcohol are dehydrating and affect mood. We know that sodas and juice contain way too much sugar, which spike our blood sugar and then leave us feeling sleepy after.

And more recently, I’ve discovered my go-to non-alcoholic drink of choice (club soda with lime and cucumber) makes me bloated because of all the carbonation. So I’ve come to the conclusion that water and herbal teas should definitely make up the bulk of what I drink during the day and night.

To find out how to make your own herbal teas, check out The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea!

self-care

Movement

Movement is so essential to our bodies and growth and development, and yet we forget to move! Most of us intentionally schedule in time for movement (which is great), but ideally, our bodies should be moving a lot more. Small ways to incorporate movement into our daily lives, include taking the stairs instead of an elevator or escalator, parking on the outskirts of the parking lot so that you’re forced to walk a little more, getting up from your desk and stretching every 45 minutes, and so on.

Think about what you can do to incorporate more movement into your life, and your body will thank you for it.

Sleep

Fresh off of reading The Sleep Revolution by Arianna Huffington (which I mentioned in a previous blog post HERE), I’m really beginning to understand (and I mean REALLY understand) just how much we should all be appreciating and emphasizing better sleep.

Our culture has somehow evolved to think of being busy and sleep-deprived as something to be celebrated or respected, and yet, being sleep deprived is basically the same as being intoxicated. Would you go to work drunk or drive home from a business meeting while under the influence?

I hope not, and yet we all do it in the form of being exhausted. Let’s start NOT doing that. Let’s just remember to place appropriate emphasis on sleep, and celebrate what it feels like to not be tired!

Mental

As in mental health, that is. Although everything that’s listed above contributes to better mental health, we can a couple more things to really give a final push.

  • Meditate.
  • Be grateful.
  • Say thank you.
  • Breathe deep.
  • Love yourself.
  • Try aromatherapy.

And that’s it. By committing to general improvements in your own self-care routine, you become more in tune with parts of yourself that you can’t possibly reach when you’re not as well as you could be.

Happy New Year, friends! Cheers to self-care, and to living life with intent and grace. Give yourself a break, and tune into YOU!

You deserve it. xo

New Year Goals

New Year, New Goals

As we approach a brand new year, many of us are taking some time to figure out how we can improve our lives in a healthy and productive way. After all, a new year is a great jumping off point for new focus, new aspirations, and new energy.

I’m so pleased to introduce a guest writer for this post; Cassie Brewer:

Build a Stronger and Healthier You this New Year

Our plans to completely transform our bodies, our habits or our lives are often too ambitious at the start of the new year, leading most of us to fail by giving up on our resolutions soon after we get started.

Rather than overhauling your whole entire life by simply listing goals, you can try to adopt lifelong habits this new year, so that you can become a stronger and healthier version of yourself, without having to resort to extremes like crash diets or end up suffering from severe exhaustion.

There are several things you can do to turn your life around and be the best version of yourself this new year and for the years to come, but the following are the top five habits to adopt:

Eat When You’re Hungry

If you’re ending the year emotionally exhausted from yo-yo dieting, then think of turning a new page this new year by foregoing dieting, and instead, choose to listen to your body. Rather than figuring out the best diet for you, try to understand why you are hungry. Do you really need to eat something or is there an emotional issue that you want to forget with food?

Don’t make 2017 another year where you use food as a crutch.

new year meditation

Adopt a Meditative Ritual

Unless you live on a farm with no Wi-Fi, then chances are your life is bound to get busier. Adopting a meditative ritual such as meditation first thing in the morning or yoga a few times a week will help you to find stillness despite your busy life. Download an app to guide you through meditation or chant the mantra you feel most connected to.

When it comes to yoga, you can join a class or even do the poses at home — no matter how hectic life gets, you can always sneak a few minutes of yoga to de-clutter your mind.

Find a Skincare Regime (that works for YOU)

Skincare is not something that you start worrying about later in life when much of the damage has been done. It is essential to find a quick but effective skincare regime with high quality products that are right for your skin. While the regime will vary, depending on your skin type, there are certain products our face will always need, such as sunscreen (even on winter days!) serum, eye cream and a good moisturizer.

Tap Into Your Creativity

We all have our versions of what creativity is, but most of us tend to lose this trait because of an overwhelming work/life schedule. Creativity is essential to drive us to be better at work and in life, so it’s important to go in search of inspiration throughout the year. Read books that challenge you creatively, learn something new, or go back to doing something you used to do when you were very young and let your mind find its way back to being spontaneous and perceptive.

Go Offline

Finally, learn to switch off and take real breaks. It has become the norm to be constantly on and having something to do, but doing nothing has its many benefits, too. Go for long walks in nature, have tech-free weekends and start your morning without checking your phone. Only by quieting the noise of the online world can we understand what is going on inside our mind, so we can understand what we are doing, how we are feeling, and where we are going.

“Just as good sleep hygiene was the hot topic of 2016, digital detox plans will be trending in 2017.” –Jennifer Browne

Happy New Year! Cheers to a new and improved you, and an amazing 2017. xo


About the Author

Cassie Brewer is a makeup professional in Southern California. In her free time, she enjoys writing about her passion (makeup of course!) and everything beauty related. Nothing makes her happier than helping other be the best version of themselves they can be. You can read more at cassiebrewer.weebly.com and follow her on twitter @Cassiembrewer.

 

Better Sleep

The Unanimous Cry for Better Sleep

We Need Better Sleep

A while ago, I read a blog post titled “Yoga Doesn’t Take Time; It Makes Time.” At the conclusion of my read, I remember thinking that it sounded like it made sense, but in literal terms, to do an hour’s worth of yoga meant that an hour was taken away from my work day.

So how could yoga ‘make time?’

Flash forward to yesterday. I was completely exhausted but I had a ton of work to do, and although I don’t ever nap (it’s been years), I fell asleep for about 90 minutes.

The result was this: instead of being tired and dragging my feet until bedtime, barely getting anything done due to my exhaustion, I woke up around 5 pm and did everything I wanted to do. I had renewed energy for every task I charged myself with, and it was because I let my body rest and restore.

So lately, there has been a huge movement towards publicizing the absolute need for better sleep. Pioneered greatly by Arianna Huffington, this cry for better sleep is becoming more and more relevant as we, as a society, try to take on way too much. (Her book is called The Sleep Revolution; I currently have it ordered from Amazon.)

Her theory is that sleep deprivation “has profound consequences – on our health, our job performance, our relationships and our happiness.”[1] Arianna writes “Only by renewing our relationship with sleep can we take back control of our lives.”[2]

I, for one, am fascinated. We insist that our children slow down before bed and get enough sleep to sustain them throughout the day. But what about us? Why don’t we place the same importance on rest, restore, and repair for ourselves as we do for our children? We forget that sleep is a necessity. Not unlike shelter, food, and water, proper sleep is not a luxury; it’s a basic need.

How to Get Better Sleep

So tonight, try to prioritize sleep. Some ways to help you get a better sleep include:

  • Read a book for an hour before bed; don’t replace that time with the TV and internet
  • Meditate
  • Take a bath with calming essential oil
  • Keep your bedroom clean, dark, and cool
  • Don’t eat or drink a lot in the hours leading up to bedtime
  • Practice conscious breathing
  • Try light yoga, but not vigorous exercise
  • Don’t consume anything alcoholic within 2-3 hours before bed, or caffeinated within 10 hours before bed (try herbal tea)

Good luck! xo


References

[1] https://www.amazon.ca/Sleep-Revolution-Transforming-Your-Night/dp/1101904003

[2] https://www.amazon.ca/Sleep-Revolution-Transforming-Your-Night/dp/1101904003

Word Nerd

Welcome to my website! Please feel free to browse around and familiarize yourself with what I do and how I do it. To sum up, I’m a total word nerd who writes a lot of content for a variety of reasons, people, and platforms. I also provide social media management services to help those words get spread around and seen by those who find them useful.

Being active both in print and online, I truly believe that the written word is something that we use to share, inform, and inspire, whether we think about it or not. People innately seek to learn, connect with others, and affirm their core beliefs in themselves–and reading and writing is our most relevant medium for that!

Enjoy. xo

 

Are You a Dirty Vegan?

As Canadians and Americans increasingly make the move towards veganism, some are doing it right, and others are…not. It seems pretty straight-forward, right? Vegan equals no animal products. But just because you aren’t consuming animal products, doesn’t mean you’re making healthy choices that are synonymous with veganism.

Three Major Reasons People are Taking the Plunge

Health

Health

One reason people decide to cut animal products from their diet, is to reap the health rewards that come with eating mindfully. Those who view their bodies as temples and are reluctant to consume foods that harm rather than help, are more likely to give veganism a try. By cutting down on animal products, you automatically shave many processed foods (deli meat, hotdogs, pepperoni sticks, beef jerky), trans-fats, hormones, and unnecessary antibiotics from your diet.

Sustainability

Another reason to go vegan, is to stop contributing to unsustainable farming practices and the inevitable catastrophic results that occur from mass factory farming. The stats on land decimation caused by concentrated animal feeding operations (CAFOs) is devastating, and the water used to hydrate food animals directly takes away from water that could be saving the lives of thirsty human beings.

The system doesn’t work, and more and more consumers are recognizing that.

Ethics

The third reason people explore veganism, is an ethical one. Why kill animals if we don’t have to? Sure, in some parts of the world, animal products are mainstays and necessary to the survival of that area’s inhabitants, but not in most of North America. (There are some northern regions, where the people living there rely on animal blubber and meat to survive.) Unnecessary suffering seems…unnecessary.

Since more people than ever before are becoming open to veganism, it’s interesting to take a look at their eating practices. Despite point number one above (health), many vegans are unhealthy people, and there are a variety of factors that contribute to one becoming a ‘dirty’ vegan.

Three Signs that You’re a Dirty Vegan

Dirty vegan

You consume A LOT of sugar.  As in, waaaaaayy too much. A bowl of saltwater taffy is definitely vegan (I think…), but it has zero nutrition. If you have a sugar addiction, don’t hide behind your new-found veganism—kick it to the curb with a fruit replacement, or, if you drink soda, convert to sparkling water.

You rely on processed foods. Again, a box of Oreos is vegan—this one I know for sure. But nutrition-wise? Another zero. Homemade granola or even grainy crackers are a better alternative. You have to be careful to not fall into the “it’s vegan—I’m good” trap. Just because it doesn’t contain animal products, doesn’t mean it’s healthy. Don’t assume a processed veggie dog has the same quality protein as a cup of chickpeas. It doesn’t.

You’re unaware of your nutrient intake. Many may feel that a stellar diet might consist of consuming only apples and carrots, but that’s incorrect. Remember that we, as human beings, require carbohydrates (brown rice, quinoa, millet, and other whole grains, fruits, seeds), protein (beans, tofu, nuts, seeds), and fat (avocado, coconut oil, olive oil, nuts). Consciously consuming a great variety of the above foods as well as a plethora of vegetables and water is what makes your body happy and healthy, and that’s the main purpose of anyone’s intent when going vegan—to make the environment, animals, and ourselves happier and healthier.

So don’t be a dirty vegan. Remind yourself what your initial motivation was, why it’s important to you, what other amazing reasons there are for going vegan, and what your ultimate goal is.

Being dirty can be fun, but not at the expense of your health.

Totally Turmeric Infographic

turmeric homeopathic remedy

Happy Wednesday, friends! It’s shaping up to be a gorgeous day in Vancouver

This post includes a short and sweet infographic on turmeric, which has been quite the hot topic, lately. This chart was provided by Health Perch and Ghergich & Co.

Read and learn, peeps! xo

Totally Turmeric: Your Complete Guide to Turmeric
“Totally Turmeric” on Health Perch

3 Ways Rosemary Can Prevent + Treat Hair Loss

M’kay…this week’s post may be inspired by a) the fact that I feel like I’m getting old and my hair is getting thinner, and b) the fact that I’m currently writing a book on medicinal tea, and have recently learned a lot about rosemary.

Take it however you want to, but you’re about to get schooled.

On rosemary.

No more staring skeptically at your screen! Here are 3 ways in which rosemary can help save your hair (and the cost of extensions…and really, REALLY expensive shampoo…):

NUMBER ONE

What: make a strong rosemary scalp rinse.

How: steep 2 tablespoons of dried rosemary in 12 ounces of hot water, and steep, covered, for 30 minutes. Next, strain herbs from water, and work infusion into your clean hair, massaging the scalp. Repeat once a week.

Why: this move stimulates the hair follicles and wakes up your scalp.

Rosemary for hair loss

NUMBER TWO

What: make a rosemary oil treatment

How: combine 5 drops of rosemary essential oil with ¼ cup of olive oil in small dish. Sit it in a pot with some hot water on stove, and heat. (Think double-broiler.) Remove from heat, and making sure it’s not too hot, massage oil into scalp. Wrap your hair in a clean towel, and let sit for 20 minutes. Wash hair thoroughly, and repeat once a week.

Why: this treatment helps to nourish the scalp, and draw waste from clogged pores. It also leaves your hair healthy and shiny, and helps prevent excessive hair fall. Peer-reviewed studies have concluded that rosemary oil treatments work.

NUMBER THREE

What: drink rosemary and horsetail tea

How: combine 1 tablespoon each of dried rosemary and dried horsetail in large Mason jar (1 quart), and fill with hot water. Let steep, covered, for 10-15 minutes. Strain herbs and sip throughout the day, every day.

Why: rosemary and horsetail are both herbs that are great for the hair. Since hair loss is usually attributed to poor nutrition, consuming this tea each day will aid your entire body, thereby helping the hair loss situation.

If you’re interested in what other herbs can do for you, pre-order The Good Living Guide to Medicinal Tea HERE.

10 Herbs for Prevention and Treatment of Colds and Flus

Traditional chinese herbal medicine ingredients, close-up

Researching herbs has temporarily taken over my life. Because I’m currently writing a tea guide, I’m inundated with amazing facts about an enormous amount of medicinal herbs. Yesterday I spent about two hours researching herbs that expel worms and kill lice.

(Aaaaaaand I’m still itchy. *Shudder…)

Since we’re smack in the middle of winter and surrounded by colds and flus, I decided to share what I’ve learned about herbs that help with both prevention and symptoms of viruses that are running around, rearing their ugly heads.

Here are 10 herbs that everyone should have on hand from October to March:

Ginseng tea

  1. Ginseng: to stimulate the immune system, fight upper respiratory tract infections, prevent the flu when taken consistently, and decrease susceptibility to colds.[1] Take as a tea or in capsule form.

Echinacea Flowers homeopathic remedy

  1. Echinacea: Shortens severity of colds when taken as soon as symptoms emerge.[2] Take as a tea or in capsule form.

lemon

  1. Lemon: to kill viruses and bacteria, fight infections, and boost the immune system. Lemon also contains extremely high levels of vitamin C.[3] Squeeze half of a fresh lemon in hot water and drink 2-3 times per day.

Bundle Of Fresh Thyme

  1. Thyme: to kill viruses and bacteria, relieve a cough, and lessen inflammation. Take as a tea.[4]

Medicinal Herbal Tea

  1. Marshmallow: to soothe a sore throat and suppress a cough. Take as tea or in capsule form.[5]

Mint tea

  1. Peppermint: for sore throats, chest and sinus congestion, and nausea. Try sipping peppermint tea, and mixing a few drops of the essential oil in lotion to rub on sore, achy muscles.[6]

Eucalyptus Tea

  1. Eucalyptus: for chest and sinus congestion. Place a few drops of this essential oil in a hot bath.[7]

Ginger Tea homeopathic remedy

  1. Ginger: for nausea, vomiting, treating inflammation, and relieving chills.[8] Take as a tea.

Plantain Tea

  1. Plantain: to soothe a cough, and relieve inflammation.[9] Take as a tea.

Cinnamon

  1. Cinnamon: to kill bacteria, relieve chills and aches, and relieve inflammation.[10] Take as a tea or in capsule form.

So there you have it! Stock up and be well. xo

References:

[1] Predy, Gerald N. et al. “Efficacy of an extract of North American ginseng containing poly-furanosyl-pyranosyl-saccharides for preventing upper respiratory tract infections: a randomized controlled trial.” Pubmed. Web. 2005. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC1266327/?tool=pubmed

[2] Block KI, Mead MN. “Immune system effects of echinacea, ginseng, and astragalus: a review.” Pubmed. Web. 2003. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/15035888

[3] “Lemon (Fruit).” HerbWisdom.com. Web. 2015. http://www.herbwisdom.com/herb-lemon.html

[4] Zohra Ashpari. “The Best Natural Cough Remedies.” Healthline. Web. 2014. http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-cough-remedies#2

[5] Zohra Ashpari. “The Best Natural Cough Remedies.” Healthline. Web. 2014. http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-cough-remedies#2

[6] Zohra Ashpari. “The Best Natural Cough Remedies.” Healthline. Web. 2014. http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-cough-remedies#2

[7] Zohra Ashpari. “The Best Natural Cough Remedies.” Healthline. Web. 2014. http://www.healthline.com/health/allergies/best-natural-cough-remedies#2

[8] Ann M. Bode and Zigang Dong. “The Amazing and Mighty Ginger.” (Chapter 7.) Pubmed. Web. 2011. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK92775/

[9] Wegener and Kraft K. “Plantain (Plantago lanceolata L.): anti-inflammatory action in upper respiratory tract infections.” Pubmed. Web. 1999. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/10483683

[10] Joung-Woo Hong et al. “Anti-inflammatory activity of cinnamon water extract in vivo and in vitro LPS-induced models.” Pubmed. Web. 2012. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3533872/