10 Quick tricks for greater Happiness

10 Quick Tricks for Greater Happiness

This list comes in part from one of my favorite magazines – AARP. No – I’m not joking. I find the content reasonably well researched, and quite interesting. But since not all of us are lucky enough to qualify to get this magazine – I’ll help you out!

Trick 1: Live in the right place. Ok – that’s a bit hard to change if you got it wrong – but you can make things better by taking a daily walk around your neighborhood. Why? Because people with dogs have to take daily walks – and thus are more likely to know their neighbors – and knowing your neighbors makes the place you live a ‘happier’ place in general.

Track 2: Get rid of some of your financial worries. Nothing interferes with happiness like worrying about money – so it’s not a surprise to hear that getting rid of those worries is going to make you happier. Pay down your mortgage a bit faster (even $5 a week mounts up over time), invest in health insurance (one less thing to worry about), and here’s a trick my best friend uses – pay for things with cash. Draw out what you need for the week and make it last. If you run out of money – no shopping till next week.

Trick 3: Don’t waste the best part of the day – the Morning. Study after study has shown that getting a good breakfast (low-fat, but filling) boosts energy through the day, and 30 minutes of exercise every day – even just walking – raises your feelings of well-being for the next 12 hours.

Trick 4: Turn off the TV. There’s nothing all that good on it anyway – and you could spend the same time out meeting your neighbors or at least getting exercise. As a step in the right direction – try moving the TV to a less convenient location – for sure it doesn’t belong in the kitchen. If its harder to watch – you are less likely to do so, right? Of course right!

Trick 5: Call a friend. Every day. Put aside time to chat – it will always make you feel happier.

Trick 6: Fall in love. Ok – maybe not a quick trick – but studies have definitely shown that couples are generally happier than singles plus they live longer. Although I’ve heard comedians joke that it just FEELS longer!

Trick 7: Having a faith – regardless of which one will make you happier. Or at least – it is statistically likely to allow you to live longer. I’m going to guess that having a faith pulls good numbers because it matches some of the other ideas – you make friends, you might even find a match. I’m just guessing on that though.

Trick 8: Make one place in your home a positive place – put up pictures of loved ones – display objects that remind you of happy times. And make the place a hallway that you often go thru or a place you spend lots of time. I put my ‘good feelings’ in my kitchen/eating room. And catching sight always reminds me of things I’ve done that made me happy. The more you see things that make you feel good – the better you’ll feel.

Trick 9: Get a pet. Not again a particularly practical suggestion for everyone – but if you can mange a pet – it does pay back on the increased happiness scale! No pets? No problems – I get my ‘hugs’ from my grand-kids. So much love in small packages – and best of all – you can hand them back for the tough jobs – like doing homework or worrying about how they are doing in school.

Trick 10: Give in order to Get. Studies have shown that people who give tend to be happier. Of course it might be working the other way – happier people tend to be givers. But either way – clearly giving in order to get definitely works on happiness.

So – nothing you probably couldn’t have figured out for yourself – exercise, use your time wisely, deal with the stuff that worries you, and share your feelings with friends – or a pet. The keys to being happier are well within the ability of all of us to find, to hold, to use. So get out there and get happier!

Gibby’s – Easy to recommend for the consistency – Year after Year

The challenge – come up with a suggestion for family, friends, out-of-towners that want a good meal, in surroundings that say – old Montreal. One easy choice is Gibby’s. The room is so lovely – stone walls, wooden floors, gleaming silver, white tablecloths, and sparkling glasses. It’s beautiful. And so ‘special occasion’ friendly. The free valet parking is handy, and the signature Bloody Caesars never disappoints. We actually once went in Uniforms and dresses that would have been in fashion in 1812. It totally worked.

But cheap it’s not. The meals – which are basically complete – come with your choice of appetizer including a nice size salad, the main course which is short on veggies, but long on Monte Carlo potatoes, and a palate cleaning sorbet. My ‘Gibbys Cut’ Ribsteak was huge. I shared it with my grand-daughter, and even so felt totally stuffed for hours afterwards. A note on sharing at Gibby’s, they charge for the privilege, but they also give you an extra potato, and an empty plate. So it works. My husband had the Single sized Beef Wellington which was delicious.

For dessert my husband ordered the Key Lime Pie – it was very good for a Canadian version – no artificial whip cream and nice and tart. My grand-daughter loved her creme brule – I thought the portion was a bit too large.

Bottom line – choosing Gibby’s is safe. Your out-of-town guests will love being in Old Montreal – and the free parking is a nice bonus. Plus if they aren’t busy, the valets will kindly suggest that you take a walk after dinner – leaving them in charge of the car. Nice.

Gibbys on Urbanspoon

Gibby's Restaurant on Foodio54

Mahalia Jackson Musical – Just Great – Seriously Great

Mahlia Jacson Musical – Segal Centre – Renee Lee Shines in this Gospel Feel good

I totally enjoy watching and listening to Renee Lee. There is something about her willingness to put it all out there that is completely appealing to me. She is a delight. We should be proud that she calls Montreal – home.

I’ve seen her several times over the years, although I did not have the luck to see her in Lady Day. So when I knew she was doing Mahlia Jackson – I was totally going to go. For the Segal Centre – the stage set was relatively bare. A ‘mock’ stained glass window in center stage, that became the statue of Abraham Lincoln for the March, some chairs and tables that stood in for her various homes. Even the supporting parts were minimized – one man to play all the men in her life, one woman to brilliantly play all the women in her life. The big spurge – and to my mind the least capable singers on the stage – were the Gospel Chorus.

My biggest negative about this otherwise top-notch production was the sound. A musical is all about sound – and because we were seated slightly to the left of center stage, the sound seemed to come from behind us when Renee used her microphone. This is quite disturbing, as you can well imagine. A bit like a badly synced movie – the mouth moves, but the sound is delayed. Since hearing Renee sing was probably the number one reason for us all to be in the audience – having sound this dis-jointed was a serious problem.

But Renee’s rendition of Summer Time convinced me that she can overcome anything.

A quick comment on the supporting performers – with the exception of the gospel choir (who really needed to have had more coffee before they walked on stage), they were quite good. The ‘male’ (the always great Tristin D. Lalla) gets to do Martin Luther King’s – “I have a dream” speech, while the scolding female parts were played with a great deal of conviction by a newcomer to me – Adrienne Mei Irving. Since her name is shared with that of my daughter – I’m sure I’m going to remember her in the future.

Bottom line – the Mahalia Jackson Musical is a great vehicle for Renee Lee. I’m really glad I got to see it – and when (not if) it returns – I hope you do too. And Segal – if you read this – FIX THE SOUND SYSTEM.

Just not great – Centaur Theatre does Leonard Cohen – oh dear!

Last night I spent almost 2 hours alternating between – “wow, that’s cool” and “Boring.. Totally boring”

The cause of my bipolar response – Centaur Theatre’s production of “Dance me to the on/off of Love” There were moments of brilliance interspersed with long periods of pointless but beautiful movement which left me wondering what was the point.

Don’t get me wrong, I love Leonard Cohen’s music and poetry. He is capable of flights of ideas that leave his listeners stunned in the wake. But this piece of theatre didn’t build up Leonard’s music and song – it deconstructed it. Tore it apart to create some interesting visual effects, but left me feeling sorry I’d spent the money and time to be there.

First though, let me describe the piece. Set on a completely dark stage, most effects are done by playing with lights and about 30 skulls. Musicians double as the singers, or singers double as musicians, it’s hard to tell because sometimes the music is deliberately performed off-key and breathless. My favorite pieces, and remember that in between I often dozed off (not good, Centaur – not good) were Sisters of Mercy, I’m your Man (performed with stick whips – very neat), Ring The Bell, and ‘the encore’ piece – “Coming Home”. Bottom line – Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris (Mainline) or the Mahalia Jackson Musical with Renee Lee at the Segal Centre are much better bets. There is juist too much filler between the good parts in this peace for me to recommend you going to see it.

A slight disclaimer – the theatre was about 1/2 full – which isn’t good. But of the people there – plenty really seemed to enjoy the piece, including yelling out “Bravo” and giving the performers a standing ovation. Go figure. I guess that’s what makes horse races.

Aikawa – Great Japanese – and yes, it’s affordable if you order carefully

I love going to the Aikawa off of Sources in Dollard. They have a really good lunch special that if I’m feeling rich or being treated is my “go to” option. Not cheap of course, but great quality and very filling. Soup, Salad, and a scrumptious selection of maki’s for one blow you away price. Yum.


But it’s dinner at the Aikawa that really excites me. The Sushi menu (I’ll admit to never having tried anything off the normal menu) is divided into several parts – in the normal price range option are the standard offerings – California Rolls, Vegetarian Rolls, and the like. Order these and you’ll get one larger platter of offerings – with a quick guide to which maki is which.

But on the backside of the list are the special rolls. At $17 each they are not cheap – but boy are they good. Beautifully presented individually as a visual treat, they range from the truly outstanding to the completely spectacular. I’m totally in love with their version of Sushi Pizza, the Besame Mucho is a must try, the Volcano – served smoking of course – is a visual treat. And the list goes on and on. The only loser was ‘Lips’ – so do avoid that one.

To give you an idea how often I’m at the Aikawa – they know me by face if not by name.

Check out their website – the ‘Gallery’ features photos of all the special rolls. They don’t tell you which is which – but theyi are all magnificently and lovingly photographed.

To eat cheap at Aikawa – avoid the special rolls. But to eat well at Aikwawa – those rolls are the way to go!

Aikawa on Urbanspoon

Aikawa on Foodio54

Craziest Recall ever – See through Yoga Pants

Talk about a crazy recall – I mean how bad is it when a company like Lululemon has to take that huge a hit. Do you have any idea what it must be costing them. First they have to figure out where those pants have been shipped – and then they must pay to have them shipped back. Then they give a credit to each and every one of their customers.

Why – because if you do the Forward facing dog – you can see thru the pants!

Wondering out loud – is this a marketing stunt? It could be you know – I mean it’s a really good one. I definitely know the name Lululemon now…

I’m betting that you are going to be ‘seeing thru’ those pants all over the place! Some people are going to want to keep them – just because in 10 years they will be a treasured item – and also for the ‘thrill’.

And I’m also willing to bet that those pants are not getting destroyed – nope – they will end up in Africa – or South America – or India. I mean they still look like pants, right.

So – next time you are in a Yoga class in India – watch out for those bending dogs….

Vote for me to win the Biggest Baddest Bucket List Contest – Please!

Please Vote for me on Biggest Baddest Bucket List contest. You just check one of the social media links in the big green box.


vote 2

This is the coolest website by the way – they are offering a prize of $150,000 in traveling money – plus $50,000 in cash – and you get to travel around the world for 6 months. Oh yes, and you have to blog from all the places you visit. I can so do that.

But the fun part (after you vote for me of course) – is watching the other videos. Some are surprisingly good, others are amazingly bad. I mean – really terrible. I think those are more fun than the good ones – but don’t say I said so.

If you really want to help me out – send my link around to all your facebook friends – ask them to just vote for me. I so appreciate it!

And if you want to know what I said for my ‘tour’ guide piece – here’s my written copy. Enjoy. And have a café aux lait – and a 2 cheek kiss on me.

Beinvenu a Montreal

Welcome to Montreal –  home of the 2 cheek kiss

Come visit the Old world in the new world.

We are more than just big buildings, church steeples, cobble streets, Mt Tremblant, the Olympic Park, Celine Dion, and Claches (horse-drawn carriages – yes – even in winter).

We have World class art – both inside and out, fascinating Museums, magnificent churches, 75% of the worlds maple syrup, shop till you drop shopping – both underground and above ground, over 5000 restaurants (that 1 a week for 100 years – you’ll never be bored) – and world-class festivals.

You can come to see our Museums and Parks including Mount Royal

You might come to see the Oratory St. Joseph – one of the top Catholic pilgrimage sites in the world or

You might just come to shop.

But you really should come for our festivals –

In February – during the darkest days of the year we light up the skies, the buildings, and the night with our Festival of Lights. Fabulous restaurant meals at all price ranges – from free to unbelievably expensive are on offer. All you need is interest, an appetite, and a reservation.  Not curious about food – no problems, there are dozens of theatrical happenings, culminating in Nuit Blanche (White Nights in English) – over 1000 different (and free) activities to choose from – DJ’s, Dancing, Dance lessons, Concerts, Art challenges – all yours to enjoy. And the city parties hardy till dawn.

In June – The Grand Prix takes over the city – the truly wealthy rub shoulders (and the occasional Ferrari) with the locals, and the roar of the F1 cars can be heard over the hum of the big city.  The next weekend our world-famous Jazz Festival takes over the Quartier des Spectacles – free concerts by the famous, and not so famous on every corner. Couple that with indoor concerts by the truly famous and you have events worth a special trip to Montreal.

In July – The multi-lingual Juste pour Rire (our Comedy festival) rolls into town and out onto the streets. Comedy – and not just verbal either – remember we’re the home of the Cirque de Soleil – becomes the reason to visit – and to return. And our terraces (places to eat outside) are open – when your summer is short – you must make the most of it. Some local’s joke that you missed summer – it was yesterday! And as with most jokes – there’s a grain of truth. My Dad came to visit in early July – and wore everything he brought – at the same time.

There are multiple film festivals in multiple languages, Balloon Festivals, Dance Festivals, and Parades for any and all occasions.

In August – We even have a Graffiti festival! Talk about taking fun to a new – and legal – level.

So come and enjoy our festivals – they are as Montreal  – as the 2 cheek kiss – and a cafe aux lait!

Vote for me

8 ways to Get Skinny – by eating Eat Out!

OK – I agree – that seems impossible. But you can do it if you really really want to. How do I know – well I  managed to lose 30 pounds in 6 months following Weight Watchers with complete devotion – and I eat out almost every single night. That was in 2002 – so not only did I lose the weight – I’ve kept it off for 11 years – visiting my local Weight Watcher’s every single month. But this isn’t about Weight Watchers – it’s about my tricks of the trade, so to speak, and these I gladly share.

1) Plan, Plan, Plan. It doesn’t take a lot of effort to get a look at a menu – if you’re searching the internet you can find the menu’s for most restaurants on-line. And even if they don’t help you out by offering clearly labeled low-fat/low-calorie options – the safe bet is to go for Fish and Salad avoiding like the plague any sauces or sweet dessert. Just make sure there is a fish option (preferably grilled – not fried and  not baked) before you agree to go.

2) Have a No-No list. My No-No’s (I love this stuff – so saying no is hard) – Anything fried, Anything breaded, Any salad dressing, No mixed drinks (super fattening), No sodas except straight up soda water. One glass of wine preferably with seltzer water – tops. Notice what is not on my no-no list. I can have a bite of dessert, I can enjoy baked potatoes, and I love beef.

3) Have a Yes-Yes list and put Vegetables on the top. Veggies are always a better idea than potatoes, bread or rice, and most restaurants will cheerfully double up the veggies instead of putting on the potatoes. Your diet is bound to be better with more veggies – and your waist will thank you too. Other Yes-Yes foods – plain baked potatoes with Mustard, Salads with no salad dressing, Grilled fish, quesadilla, lasagna, edamame at Japanese restaurants. Butter is neither a Yes-Yes, nor a No-No. But Mustard is a lot better – and definitely on the Yes-Yes list.

4) Drink Water or Tea – Lots and lots of water and tea. Why? It keeps your hands busy (and out of the bread basket), and it tells your body that water is plentiful. That’s critical to weight loss because if your body decides that water isn’t going to be easy to get – your body will hold on to water like mad. You’ll get bloated, and weigh more. So drink up – as long as there’s no sugar involved of course.

5) Leave food on your plate. The more the merrier. Clearing a plate is definitely not for losers! And one bite is all you need to feel you’ve tried the dish. All bites afterwards aren’t totally necessary. A similar idea I read elsewhere – ask for that carry out container as soon as you sit down, and put 1/2 your meal in it before you start to eat. Out of sight – Out of mind. Plus less cooking for tomorrow. (I actually can’t do this – it feels gross. So I take a knife and drawn line down the middle. Then I try not to eat past the line.)

6) Don’t go out hungry. Really bad idea. You can’t stop eating if you are starving – so it’s a lot easier to have a low-calorie snack before you leave for dinner. Cuts down on how much you will order, how much you will eat – and how much you will pay. Good idea no matter what. My preferred snack – low-fat microwave popcorn at 3:30. Works like a charm.

7) Turn back the bread basket. One of the handy things about eating out in Europe is that they charge you for the bread – so it’s quite clear that not having the bread unless it is seriously special is a waist and pocket friendly idea. Here in North America we love our bread baskets – and it shows. So just say No!

8) Pick at dessert. You really don’t need or want that whole piece of whatever – so take one bite and STOP. My husband jokes that often my dessert is an extra fork. I love just getting one taste of his dessert – I feel privileged, and I cut the calories. If you are lucky and eating out with a friend who isn’t as controlled about their food – they will eat the rest. If not – try ordering a ‘finish’ that is lower in fat and calories – fruit cups are great for example. But I’d rather get a single Biscotti and a low fat cappuccino. Half the Biscotti can come home for Breakfast – and I have a very special ‘finish’ to my delicious dinner.

Just remember – Nothing tastes as good as Skinny and Energetic Feels.

Drop Everything to see Jacques Brel is Alive and Living in Paris

Seriously –  immediately call and get tickets to see this stunningly delicious piece of theatre. A group of very talented young Montreal actors (2 male, 2 female – plus 4 musicians and a sound crew) used Indiegogo to raise the money to make this event possible – and it is up to us – their audience – to support their efforts.


For those unfamiliar with Jacques Brel, he was a composer and singer of the like of Leonard Cohen – with the same down and beaten story telling motifs, great lyrics, and wonderful rhythms, but without the religious overtones. Jacques Brel composed his songs in French, but they were translated into English many years ago – and for most of us, the ones we recognize are the English versions.

This production by In Your Face alternated between English and French, with a bit of Flemish thrown in with “Marieke”. But it isn’t just about the songs – it’s about what the performers with their live musician backup are doing while they are performing the songs. This behind the singer action is often the highlight of the piece. Another highlight – Jacques Brel’s songs were written to become more and more emotional as they go on – and the older of the male performers was particularly committed to that escalation of energy, commitment, and anguish.

It would be impossible to fairly pick one favorite song – standouts included “When I am Dead”, “Carousel”, “Brussels”, “If we only had love”, “Au Suivant”, “Sons of” – there are so many brilliantly executed pieces to enjoy – but I walked out humming “Marieke”.

Go – please go. You won’t be sorry – and who knows when another opportunity to enjoy such an over-the-top theatrical piece will come our way.

(I was in the Audience on Friday, March 23)

The Clone People – Dawson Studio Wins Again

I do get confused by the Dawson Theatre’s way of describing exactly which group and which class is doing which production. In this specific case – the program credits the 2nd Year Studio – the website (http://www.dawsoncollege.qc.ca/2012-2013/4th-studio-the-clone-people) refers to it as a production by the 4th studio. Honestly – I’m so confused.

But ignoring my confusion as to which group is doing what to whom in the library – the truth is that these productions are a wonderful value for the money. They are ‘pay what you can’ – so essentially free – they are generally excellently directed (the staff at Dawson are clearly of extremely high calibre), and I totally love the idea of seeing young people strut their stuff in front of family and friends.

The play itself is a very good story. You are introduced to a ‘hollywood’ couple – a husband and wife very much in love with each other, a neighbor who is over the hill and over the top, and the ‘managers’ of the couple. The wife, who at the start is on location, suddenly runs away from her location and drives home to hide out. She is complaining of headaches and has serious concerns about some of her staff and what they may have done to her in the past.

Clearly – since the title is “The Clone People” – we’re going to be seeing some clones – and naturally that’s what happens. The cast has a lot of fun switching behaviors to carry the illusion of the clone’d people, with the clear star being the female lead. She ends up having to have 3 different personalities in order to convince us that she’s been ‘clone’d’ – and she does an excellent job.

You don’t go to Dawson to see professional theatre – you go to have an enjoyable night out and maybe to see a play you have never even heard of performed credibly. This one was a winner on all counts.

(I was in the audience on Saturday, March 9th)