Review From The Studio

Since unlike in my previous home garden I was limited for space, rather than starting my plants from seeds, I shared plants from a nursery with my daughter, who was setting up her outdoor garden.

To start my journey of propagating African Violets I was able to buy three different varieties from a local nursery.


My reputation as a gardener who clearly lacked a 'green thumb', was firmly cemented long ago among my family when I managed to not grow a non-fail 'grow your own mushrooms kit.'  All I had to do ostensibly was add water but somehow, nothing grew. I also lacked the patience to care properly for my vegetable garden and though I ambitiously planted my garden in springtime, I seldom harvested a respectable crop. 

I've never been a runner or jogger. Dance has been my primary exercise for years. A brisk 20 minute walk uphill to the studio, a high energy lesson and the walk back home a couple of times a week has kept me in shape and maintained a stable weight.

Dancing came to a halt at the end of February. For the first couple of weeks, isolating in my condo, I kept myself entertained with short dance workouts, and with mental apologies to my teachers, played with making short videos of my bad singing and dancing. 

I have never found it awkward or embarrassing to acknowledge my claustrophobia. Perhaps because I have found it possible to control and calm myself under claustrophobic conditions like the MRI I had before my back surgery (see below). 

It’s my second phobia that I feel silly mentioning. It is called lepidopterophobia. Sounds much more impressive than "fear of butterflies or moths". I can’t remember when I last encountered any flying creatures in my high rise apartment.  But two days ago I first noticed a few moths clinging to the outside of my windows. Ok - they were outside. I could handle that. I kept my windows closed and made sure the screen door to my patio was closed.

Anyone finding it harder to not snack constantly while you are at home?  And noticing a creeping weight increase? Willpower does not work for me.

Contest Winners: "Where in the World will Jill Go Next"
run in conjunction with my 2020 A to Z Blogging Challenge


Starting today, Tuesday 7th daily to the 30th (except Sunday's) guess the destination to which Jill will go next.


Three years of research, validating and writing, and the final manuscript is in to the publisher.

It was only when I reached back to my academic roots in medical biochemistry and decided that a ketogenic nutritional program and lifestyle was the physiological way to reach optimal body weight and composition that I finally got to my target weight with BMI ( Body Mass Index) at the low end of the normal range. 

One of several tools that I use to keep me on track is the wireless Fitbit Aria Scale. This scale uses BIA (Bioelectrical impedance analysis) to measure % body fat. Each morning I step on the scale  and my weight, %fat and calculated BMI is sent to my FitBit app.

 It's 8 weeks since I had the surgery to fix that fractured and wrongly-healed toe.  I dutifully spent much of the first two weeks lounging on my couch with my foot elevated.  The next few weeks were spent hobbling around in a Walker Boot.

I had been sternly warned that it would be more than 8 weeks before I should consider getting back to dance  but surprise surprise ! At the 6 week check up I had healed so well  I was given the all-clear to workout as tolerated. I credit my pain-free and rapid healing to the specialized bone formula and the epigenetic supplement that is part of my daily nutritional program.

Do you think that taking good care of your skin would take up too much of your time?


From time to time right after someone has said to me "I can't believe you are  --  years,  you look so much younger" or "your skin looks great", they follow up with "you must spend a lot of time on your skin care." I really don't, but what I do works.

Way back in 2011 when I was discharged from hospital 3 days after spinal fusion surgery, the physiotherapist advised me to buy a set of Activator Walking Poles and start a program of Urban Poling (Nordic Walking) to build stamina and upper body strength. After  5 months of excruciating pain causing inactivity, muscle weakness, joint stiffness and weight gain, I had little energy, my aerobic capacity was limited and my posture poor. The Activator Poles changed that fast. 

"The quality, not the longevity, of one's life is what is important." (Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968).

"Nothing else so destroys the power to stand alone as the habit of leaning upon others. If you lean, you will never be strong or original. Stand alone or bury your ambition to be somebody in the world.” (Orison Swett Marden 1850-1924)

Beauty is power: a smile is its sword (John Ray 1627 -1725)
This is a strange tale about a little whitening toothpaste that went viral on the internet and kicked off a new social media marketing trend.
As the ads in glossy journals and commercials on TV proclaim “everyone wants whiter teeth and a brighter smile”. The tooth whitening industry is massive. A recent report stated that  2017 US annual revenue for the tooth whitening industry was 11 billion dollars. People flock to pay for laser based whitening in dental  and aesthetic offices at an average cost  of US $600 while the annual spend on tooth whitening products is 1.4 billion dollars. 
"Failure will never overtake me if my determination to succeed is strong enough" (Og Mandino 1923-1996)
Although for me dancing is the best way of keeping mind and body fit and healthy, for anyone who has just chosen to make the move from couch potato to active mover, walking is the easiest way to begin.
When I was discharged from hospital 3 days after major spinal surgery, I was handed a sheet  on Activity Guidelines following Spinal Surgery. The message regarding exercise that I took away from my reading  was basically that walking, including using stairs, was the only exercise activity permissible until the 6 week follow up appointment ... and that it was really important to walk, a lot.
"The only thing worse than being blind is having sight, but no vision." (Helen Keller 1880 -1968)
My maternal grandmother, Rose, was a petite, blue-eyed blonde from Glasgow. With her older sister, she traveled by a Union Castle ship to visit her brother in Cape Town. A friend accompanied their brother to meet the ship. The family legend goes that the friend, Joseph, was instantly smitten when he saw Rose walking down the gangplank. She never returned to Glasgow - and I was their first grandchild. But what I remember most vividly when images of Rose come to my mind, is helping her instill drops of eye medication, for her glaucoma.

"Positive thinking will let you use the ability that you have, and that is awesome" (Zig Ziglar 1926-2012) 

As I work on my objective of “living young” one of the important exhortations I repeat to myself is “use it or lose it.” The two areas that for me are most important to focus on and use, are physical fitness and mental fitness or cognitive functions.  

The Oxford Dictionary defines cognition as “the mental action of acquiring knowledge and understanding through thought, experience and the senses.” Among the components of cognition are attention, memory and working memory, reasoning, problem solving and comprehension. 

“Time management is an oxymoron. Time is beyond our control, and the clock keeps ticking regardless of how we lead our lives.  Priority management is the answer to maximizing the time we have"  (John C. Maxwell 1947 - )

One day I was whining to my brother, about not having enough time to finish any of my projects. He is the Life Coach who is my model for consistency as I described in K is for Keeping Consistent.  He asked "If you are a window washer and you have 10 hours a day to wash windows, and each window takes an hour to wash, how many window washing jobs  can you take in one day?”

“Without freedom of thought, there can be no such thing as wisdom - and no such thing as public liberty without freedom of speech"   (Benjamin Franklin 1706 - 1790)
It was a couple of weeks before I was supposed to graduate with my BA degree. I came home from work to find my answering machine flashing. There was a message for me to call the Dean’s office urgently. In all my time as an undergrad I had never had to contact the Dean’s office, and of course the first thing that came to my mind was that there was a problem with my course credits and they were calling to say that I would not be able to graduate. It was too late to call so I tossed and turned all night trying to figure out what could be wrong. 

"Redeployment is a military term. It means to transfer a unit from area to another" (Phil Klay 1983- )

 As I wrote in my introductory post A is for Aging Youthfully, my plans  for retirement did not include losing my husband of 30 years to cancer at age 58. We had planned tentatively that when he turned 65 and I turned 61 we would consider retirement  to travel and take up the hobbies that we had no time for with two full-time careers. 

“Winners never quit and quitters never win” (Vince Lombardi 1913 - 1970)

“ I  quit school in the sixth grade because of pneumonia. Not because I had it but because I couldn’t spell it."  (Rocky Graziano 1919-1990)

"I'm more proud of quitting smoking than of anything else I've done in my life, including winning an Oscar."  (Christine Lahti 1950 - )

The more  I thought about the topic of “quitting” the more I realized that there are many different ways of looking at it than the simple assumption that a quitter is a loser. Hence the two quotes above.  

"The most important thing is posture: when you get older its the way you stand, the way you walk, that shows it" ( Carine Roitfeld 1954 - )

As I have become more and more aware of the need to consciously remind myself of my own posture, I find myself noticing how many people walk around in a slouched state with their necks bent forward. It used to be something characteristic of older people like some of the folks I would see shuffling around on the ships when I went on dance cruises. But now I see so many young people walking, eyes fixed on their mobile phones, necks bent forward and I wonder how slumped they will be as older individuals. I have a series of exercises I work on to counteract that neck bend, derived from years of working, seated at a desk, looking down at papers or at a computer screen. 

"Freedom is the oxygen of the  soul"  (Moshe Dayan 1915-1981)

Our normal cellular metabolic processes produce reactive oxygen species. These oxygen radicals attack and damage cellular  structures. To counteract this oxidative stress our cells have internal antioxidants such as enzymes catalase, glutathione peroxidase and superoxide dismutase. Trace elements (copper, iron, manganese, selenium, zinc) are integral parts of these antioxidant enzymes.

Take Care of your Body- it’s the only place you have to live”  Jim Rohn (1930 - 2009)
At 7 PM on a Friday night, I was wheeled into the operative recovery  room after a marathon 5 hour emergency surgery to decompress spinal stenosis, fuse vertebrae and insert a metal rod. Not even twelve hours later, a physiotherapist came into the hospital room, got me out of bed and clutching the pole of my  IV stand,  I was shuffling around the ward, murmuring the mantra she taught me, “nose over toes”.  It was movement, not rest that would stimulate the healing process, I was told.
Think in the morning. Act in the noon. Eat in the evening, Sleep in the Night. (William Blake 1757-1827)
Way back while I was contemplating how to touch on varied aspects of Living Young and comply with the daily letter protocol of the AtoZChallenge I came up with  several possible topics for some of the letters of the alphabet, while battling to think of something for other letters.  X and Z are the obvious problem children but I found interesting solutions for both letters.
“Tis better to have loved and lost, than never to have loved at all” Alfred Tennyson (1809-1892)
Approaching the half-way mark of my AtoZChallenge2018 journey though the roadmap of my life, with the intent of Living Young as I Grow Older, one refrain of a John Lennon Beatles’ song keeps coming into my head.  "All you need is love, love, love is all you need.”
“For anything to really change, we must first change our thinking”  (Rael Kalley)
I have a brother who is a life coach. Twenty-five years ago he founded his company which offers both personal and corporate coaching. I admire his many achievements. His book “Life Sinks or  Soars; The Choice is Yours", imparts valuable life lessons through his story of one man’s journey from despair to joy.  But what I most admire is his amazing ability to be consistent.
"The more you move, the more you can move."

An unusually bitingly cold wind was blowing off the water as I walked back to my apartment building after an energetic dance lesson. It was freezing outside and entering the warm lobby, I could almost feel the synovial fluid in my joints thawing like congealed olive oil taken out of the refrigerator. That’s also how I feel sometimes, getting out of bed after a good night’s sleep. I bounce out of bed full of energy and raring to go but while my muscles and joints are warming up, my first few steps resemble the Tin Man.  Except on the mornings after the days that I have three hours of dance and an hour of fast walking. Next morning I wake with no stiffness in my legs. The more you move the more you can move.,

“Seeing is not always believing” (Martin Luther King Jr. 1929-1968)
I admit it. I am suffering  from massive information overload. I felt bombarded from all sides with breaking news (usually bad), dire weather reports, conspiracy theories, the latest fad from some new guru, self-serving politicians or celebrities holding forth on subjects they know little about. I watched some of my friends obsessing about issues in the political scene over which they had absolutely no control or influence. In defence of my sanity I limited my TV watching to dance and cooking competitions (recorded to watch later sans commercials) and my newspaper reading to the crossword puzzle pages specially the cryptic crosswords. But I couldn’t completely escape the digital deluge without shutting down my computer and smart phone, and I need both for my work.

A lie can travel half way round the world while the truth is putting on its shoes (Charles Spurgeon 1834-1892 British Clergyman)

The 1957 "case report" begins - “Mr. Wright had a generalized far-advanced malignancy involving the lymph node, lymphosarcoma.” (1)  The author, Dr. Klopfer, a renowned German psychologist, presents this case report that he "received as a personal communication" from the physician (Dr. P.W.) who treated Mr. Wright. 

A friend sent me a coffee mug. The logo said “Why do you think your 5 minutes on Google trumps my 5 years of medical school” . I laughed and mentally added "and my 6 years of postgraduate training, my research doctorate and my 25 years of practice?”  But then I reflected on how generally the internet has contributed to a decline in the valuing of specialty training, academic knowledge and professional expertise. It’s not just medicine or science but in every trade or professional arena. 

“Walking is the best possible exercise. Habituate yourself to walk very far.” (Thomas Jefferson 1743 -1826)

Within the last three months, three of my friends have had falls, resulting in fractures. One with depth perception issues, tripped over a step and fractured several ribs. The second slipped on a pool deck and had a fractured wrist. The third, a fit, active younger person, tripped over an unseen hazard, spraining one wrist and fracturing a carpal bone in the other.

“Genes are merely the blueprint, epigenetics is the contractor." (Bruce Lipton 1944 - )

Epigenetics is a word we are hearing a lot about these days. Epigenetics refers to changes of gene expression that are not due to changes in the DNA sequence of the gene. 

Way back when I was  first taught  about genetics in school, the focus was on Mendelian genetics, and autosomal dominant and recessive genes.

"We should consider every day lost in which we have not danced at least once” (Friederich Nietzsche 1844-1900)

I took up ballroom dancing in my sixties, after I retired. In my blue print for a rewarding and fulfilling retirement, three activities topped my list; growing my website (, studying ballroom dance and ticking off destinations on my travel bucket list. Becoming a network entrepreneur, as I did 10 years later, was not even remotely on my mind at that time.

“the last refuge of the insomniac is a sense of superiority to the sleeping world." (Leonard Cohen 1934 -2016)

I’m an early morning person. Most days around 5:30 or 6 am, my eyes pop open and I wake from a deep, sound sleep  energized and raring to start my day. For me this happens most days, but for many people this is not their reality. They have difficulty falling asleep or they wake up more often during the night and don’t easily go back to sleep, or wake in the morning feeling as if they never really slept at all. They are one of the approximately 80 million Americans and 14 million Canadians who have some form of sleep disorder. Is this you?

“The key to every man is his thought. He can only be reformed by showing him a new idea which commands his own.” (Ralph Waldo Emerson)

If you think back to your childhood, you may realize how easy it is for a child to become labelled, slotted into a category, which often becomes self-fulfilling. This child is athletic and strong. This one is a dreamer. This one is creative and artistic. This child is shy, this one outgoing.  This one is smart, this one not so much. Looking back, I think I labelled myself very early as being more cerebral than physical.

“Aging is not “lost youth” but a new stage of opportunity and strength" (Betty Friedan 1921 - 2006)

When was  the moment when you realized that you no longer felt young and invincible? Was it turning 60 or 65? Suddenly overnight you are a “senior”.  You get lower priced tickets at the cinema, cheaper fares on transit but those television commercials about drugs for arthritis, high blood pressure, dementia ... you realize that they are directed at you.

Whether we are inhaling the aromas of curry with spices like cardamom, cumin and coriander, or tasting a pasta sauce rich with rosemary, basil and oregano,  generally we simply enjoy the taste and smell food sensations. But although the word spice evokes the concept of piquant flavors and aromas of foods or drinks,  most of us don’t think of the ways in which these different herbs and spices may be altering our metabolism or have a medicinal effect. 

I especially love the dancing when cruising on the Cunard ships, Queen Mary 2, Queen Elizabeth and Queen Victoria. All three have beautiful ballrooms, called the Queen's Room. On several of my Cunard cruises, most recently a two-way transatlantic cruise on QM2, the cruise director has hosted Sequence Dance sessions in the Queens Room. I badly wanted to join in but not knowing any of the patterns, I had to sit and watch. Sitting still while dance music is playing is hard for me so I vowed  to learn these dances so I could participate in the future.

As an urbanite living in Vancouver’s increasingly  dense downtown core, I have watched with increasing dismay, as housing prices and rents have sky-rocketed and rental vacancies have become rare as unicorns. Traffic congestion is appalling, little used bike lanes impede traffic flow while cyclists ride aggressively in streets one or two further over that do not have designated bike lanes. And we are told that the geniuses at City Hall are still planning to get rid of two of the busiest routes for entry and exit from the downtown core, the Dunsmuir viaduct and the Howe street on-ramp to the Granville bridge. 

One of my guilty pleasures, indulged in only when I know for sure that I will not be out dancing cheek to cheek, is to munch on a chunk of Dutch Cantenaar cheese topped with a scallion or spring onion. Another is to slather  toasted dark rye bread with my special butter/olive oil spread, and when the butter has soaked into the toast, smear on a layer of German Cambazola cheese.  While the cheese and onion doesn't really pair well with wine, my rye and Cambazola toast tastes wonderful with a glass of Gewurtztraminer or Riesling.

For the summer holidays. my grand-daughter CJ was enrolled in a summer camp program called College For Kids at a local community college. Among the range of courses including languages, design, art, theatre  sports and more, for her first two weeks  she chose robotics, theatre improv and a class with the intriguing title,  "Future Millionaires and Junior Entrepreneurs". 

This was my first time back to the A to Z Challenge since I completed it in 2012. I chose for my theme, to revisit my Amazon River Cruise  through the Peruvian Jungle in 2013 which I had partly documented on my return -  here is a post that showed the excursions during this journey - taking the opportunity to add more information  and details.

The entire crew from the Captain to the kitchen staff came out to be introduced and thanked by us all, and each of the guests was presented with a certificate showing that we had completed our week on the Amazon River.

Xenopus is a genus of clawed aquatic frogs native to sub-Saharan Africa. There are about twenty known species in this genus. I first made the acquaintance of Xenopus Laevus, the best known celebrity of this family, in zoology, in my first year at medical school. At that time the primary laboratory investigations that we carried out were simple dissections.  It was in zoology class that I realized that I was far too squeamish to be a surgeon. 

Near  the confluence of the Marañon and Ucayalli Rivers we traveled by motorized skiff to a  sheltered lagoon area to see giant water lilies. It was at times a rather hair-raising trip through thick water weeds that fouled up the motor of the skiff but the sight of the water lilies was worth it. At least it was for the passengers who sat and watched while the guides had to repeatedly climb out of the boat and get into the water to slash away weeds so the boat could move though the undergrowth and access the lagoon.

There are several villages in the area we visited, where the local riberenos of the Pacama tribe live on the banks of the Amazon river. The guides  try to schedule visits to different villages for their various tour groups. We visited the Pacama Village on the Nahuapa River.

A selection of photographs to show dusk to evening on the Amazon.