Written by marni

Is Your Fire Pit Legal?

(various newspapers)
ghostwriting by Marni Andrews

I love a backyard fire pit. It gives you that cottage feel without any of the upkeep or the long drive. Nothing more caveman than real fire. But building one can be a DIY nightmare.

A fire pit is a grownup’s campfire, nice looking and contained so it doesn’t start your house on fire. Check fire code, ordinances and permit requirements for your municipality. Open fires are illegal in many areas. There could be restrictions on type of fuel that can be used as well. Most rural areas will allow outdoor fires. Read more →

Jackie at 20, Perpetually Sunny

(Without Prejudice magazine)
by Marni Andrews

While driving through Indianapolis about six years ago on a road trip with friends and family, the unthinkable happened to Jackie Johnston. The big transport truck just ahead blew its left rear tire. It hit Jackie’s car and windshield with heavy impact. According to close friend Gabrielle Lowry, who was in the car with her, Jackie did not miss a beat. In Gaby’s words, Jackie was “totally cool and collected, totally unflappable. All was well!” Read more →

Ducking Holiday Credit Debt

(facebook promotion for college demographic)
by Marni Andrews

1. Be the Good Statistic

One in three people rely on credit cards for holiday shopping. Consciously make up your mind not to be a credit fatality if you use your card this season. If in doubt about buying something, use the “two-day plan.” If you see something you want, put it on hold for two days and consider whether you still want it.

2. Get With a Plan

Researchers point out that shoppers are much less likely to overspend if they start with an overall plan for holiday shopping. This might include setting up an account ahead of time that’s just for gifts. Save $20 a month and you have a good windfall at the end of the year.

3. May the Best Card Win

If you’re like many people, you have more than one credit card. Before you start spending for the holidays, review the different interest rates, any offers for interest-free months following the holidays, and the due dates for the cards. Then choose the card that best suits your situation.

4. Spread Out the Pain

If you start shopping earlier, say in October, you’ll be able to break up your holiday purchases over three credit billing cycles if you plan carefully. Just be sure you know when the billing cycle starts and ends. If you buy early in the billing period, you’ll be able to delay payment for almost two months if you’re sharp with the dates.

5. Go for Solvent

Instead of going for broke, decide you’ll pay off your entire credit balance each month rather than paying interest. Not only will you be more discriminating about what you purchase (knowing you’ll have to pay for it in a month), but you’ll save an incredible amount of money in interest over the long term.

6. Use the Free Gifts

Most credit cards offer some form of loyalty points. Along with those points comes a catalogue showing what you can “buy” by redeeming points. Electronics, decor and home-related items are typical. You should be able to buy a gift or three by tallying up your points and choosing goods from the catalogue. Make sure to order early enough to ensure holiday delivery.

7. SOS (Save on Shipping)

If you’re even reasonably organized, you’ll be able to avoid any last minute (aka “Dec. 20th and later” or “day before”) shipping charges, which can really up your balance for the month.

8. Note Your Due Date

Since missing a credit card payment is not only expensive because you end up paying more in the long run, it also does incredibly bad things to your credit. Even if you can’t pay off your entire balance, paying at least the minimum (or as much as you can throw at it) and submitting it on time will keep your credit record in the clear. Note the due date on a large calendar and send in your payment so it arrives on time.

9. Take Advantage of Online Payment

If you set up an account ahead of time, paying your card balance online can be a painless way to pay on time, save the postage and never have to leave the comfort of your dorm room. Note the due date on a calendar so you don’t miss it.

10. Consider a Short-Term Loan

If, despite your best intentions, you find yourself with too much credit card debt from the holidays, contact the bank that issued the card to ask about a few months of interest-free grace. If that doesn’t work, take out a short-term loan at a lower interest rate than that on the card. Pay off the card balance, and then throw everything you can at the loan till it’s paid off.

The 7 Best Foods to Prevent Memory Loss, Alzheimer’s, and Dementia

( article)
by Marni Andrews

An estimated five million Americans are living with Alzheimer’s disease or a related form of dementia, according to 2013 statistics. One in every three seniors will die with Alzheimer’s or another type of dementia in 2013. These are startling numbers.

While there are still many questions surrounding the disease, including clear details on causes and prevention—or even what Alzheimer’s is in some cases—there is some general consensus on foods that seem to help prevent memory loss or assist with maintaining a sharper memory.

Blueberries: Studies have shown that diets rich in blueberries improved the learning and muscular function of aging rats. They also appear to protect the brain from damage caused by free radicals, which contributes to age-related diseases such as Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Dark chocolate: Dark chocolate contains flavonoids, compounds that have great antioxidant properties. In one study, scientists used mice that were genetically programmed to develop Alzheimer’s disease, and treated them with flavonoids. The results showed a reduced amount of harmful amyloid-beta brain deposits that are commonly found in Alzheimer’s patients.

Nuts and seeds: Nuts and seeds contain high volumes of vitamin E. In a study involving 6,000 participants from Chicago, those who consumed the most foods with vitamin E had a 67% lower risk of Alzheimer’s, compared to those who consumed the least amount of vitamin E from foods. As an antioxidant, vitamin E can combat the brain oxidation that causes mental deterioration, and subsequent memory loss.

Fish: The same Chicago study showed that those who ate fish at least once a week were 60% less likely to develop Alzheimer’s than those who rarely or never ate fish. Fatty fish, such as salmon and herring, have especially high levels of beneficial omega-3 fatty acids.

Whole Grains: A diet that is rich in whole grains can help lower your level of “bad” cholesterol, thereby reducing plaque build-up in the brain and enhancing blood flow to the body. In addition, whole grains are also good sources of vitamin E, mentioned earlier.

Beets: A study by scientists at Wake Forest University showed that when nitrates in beets are converted to nitric oxide in the body, they enhance blood flow, which can help brain health and prevent memory loss. The best way to consume this vegetable is freshly juiced or raw, as cooking it will deteriorate some of its nitrate value.

Eggs: Egg yolks contain choline, an essential nutrient that is a precursor for the neurotransmitter acetylcholine, which has an important role to play in memory. Alzheimer’s has been associated with acetylcholine deficiencies. Egg yolks also contain other healthy nutrients, like omega-3 fatty acid, folate, vitamin B12 and selenium. All of these are considered to be helpful in staving off Alzheimer’s.

While Alzheimer’s research is making continual advances, there are still questions around causes and treatments. Eating a healthy diet that includes these foods can be a strong preventative step.


“Alzheimer’s Facts and Figures,” Alzheimer’s Association web site;‌alzheimers_disease_facts_and_figures.asp#quickFacts, last accessed May 27, 2013.

“Foods That May Help Prevent Alzheimer’s Disease,” Rush University Medical Center web site;, last accessed May 27, 2013.

Lebel, M., et al., “Drugs, nutrients phytoactive principles improving the health span of rodent models of human age-related diseases,” The Journals of Gerontology 2012; 67: 140-151.

“Plants’ Flavanoids Have Beneficial Effect on Alzheimer’s Disease, Study In Mice Suggests,” Science Daily web site;, last accessed May 27, 2013.

Roberts, A., “Daily dose of beet juice promotes brain health in older adults,” Wake Forest University web site;, last accessed May 27, 2013.

Shukitt-Hale, B., et al., “Berry fruit supplementation and the aging brain,” Journal of Agricultural and Food Chemistry 2008; 56: 636-641.

Terry, A.V., et al., “The cholinergic hypothesis of age and Alzheimer’s disease-related cognitive deficits: recent challenges and their implications for novel drug development,” Journal of Pharmacology and Experimental Therapeutics 2003; 306: 821-827.

The Easiest Way to Get Fit Without the Gym

( article)
by Marni Andrews

There are many advantages to working out at home, two of the most obvious being not having to commute to the gym and saving on expensive membership fees. At-home fitness also means you skip the crowd that’s usually at the gym during peak hours—busy machines, limited locker space, and lack of privacy can turn off even the most committed exercisers. An at-home fitness plan can solve all of these problems.

At-home fitness can be useful for other reasons too, such as exercising with an injury or managing joint pain. In these circumstances, individuals who work out at home can focus on going at a pace that is comfortable for them instead of worrying about tying up communal machines for too long. Plus, the commute-free benefit of at-home fitness is even more valuable. Also, if you are trying to get fit at forty or fifty, and it’s been a while since you’ve done strenuous physical activity, it may be comforting to know that no one will be watching as you take your big step—albeit a slow one—toward healthier living.

Another advantage of at-home fitness is that you don’t need expensive, full-size equipment—using free weights can be just as effective, and they’re fairly affordable. The results of a study published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning showed that when women lifted weights as part of an hour-long strength-training workout, they burned more calories afterward than if they had skipped the weights. Researchers have also found that weight lifting works to fight intra-abdominal fat—it’s actually been shown to work better than doing just cardio.

If you build your at-home fitness routine around doing a group of exercises as a circuit—doing various exercises in a series with little rest in between—it can be as effective as working out on a machine. For the best results, you want to mix up your at-home fitness routine.

Your cardio workout can also be easily covered in your at-home fitness plan, again without any machines. No equipment is required to go for a brisk walk or jog around your neighborhood. Besides, fitness experts believe that it’s actually better for you to run outside versus on a treadmill because the uneven surface of the pavement forces you to use other muscles in your body that you otherwise wouldn’t engage when using a treadmill.

If you’re planning to take up at-home fitness, here are some tips to keep in mind to get the most out of your workout:

  • When you work out at home, it’s much easier to slack off. Choose a regular time and stick to your schedule to make sure it becomes a force of habit.
  • Pick something that will remind you of your at-home fitness routine, like a yoga mat or workout gear, and place it in plain sight as a reminder.
  • If you’re trying to exercise for weight loss, keep a photo of you at your heaviest weight somewhere conspicuous so that you’re constantly reminded of what can happen if you don’t stick to your at-home fitness plan.
  • At-home fitness doesn’t mean you need to stay home. Take it outside for a brisk walk, run, or bike ride. Head to the park and use a tree for standing push-ups, and a park bench for tricep dips.
  • Amp up your at-home fitness routine by fitting in workout movements throughout the day. While brushing your teeth, stand against the wall and slide down till you reach a seated position. Hold the squat till you finish brushing your teeth. While watching TV, try holding a plank position for increasingly longer periods.
  • If you’re having trouble sticking to your at-home fitness plan, tell yourself you just have to get through 10 minutes at first. Once you get used to it, increase the time by a few minutes each week.

One of the biggest obstacles to guard against with at-home fitness is lack of motivation. Because you’re not going to an actual gym, it’s easy to convince yourself that your workout isn’t as important. When you work out at home, treat it as seriously as you would a trip to the gym, and it won’t be long before you start noticing results.


Aaronson, L., “The Best Strength Training for Women,” Women’s Health Magazine web site;, last accessed June 19, 2013.

Andersen, C., “8 Reasons Why You Should Lift Heavier Weights,” Shape Magazine web site;, last accessed July 19, 2013.

COTA Continues Presence at SIAL Canada


by Marni Andrews

The Canadian Organic Trade Association (COTA) continues to build its presence at SIAL Canada. Since 2014, the two have partnered to support growth in the organic sector. In 2016 COTA will host two conference sessions at SIAL Canada, the first on the organic consumer and the second on the international trade landscape and the organic market. COTA will also have an Expert Hub stand to answer questions about the organic industry and international trade.

COTA is also working on an update of their benchmark 2013 report Canada Organic Market Research. Since the release, the domestic market has increased in value to more than $4 billion CDN in sales annually. From 2013 to 2014 there was a 7% increase in the number of Canada organic producers.


My Home Is My Portfolio

(Style At Home magazine)
by Marni Andrews

Interior designer Jason Chapados lives and works in his home in Toronto’s Riverdale neighbourhood. He and partner Mirek Otremba opened up a small space (1,200 ft2) and kept it simple. As a result, his home is now his portfolio and a perfect example for clients of how to achieve a clean-lined, modern aesthetic.

What’s your approach to design?

JC: I pull inspiration from all areas including travel and my surroundings. I love modern and historical design but feel you should compliment the architecture of a space. Clients also need to be honest about how they will use the space. Then use high quality finishes and furnishings, and pay attention to every detail. It’s all in the details.

Where did you start?

JC: The space was taken back to the studs and rebuilt, reconfiguring the second floor to maximize storage. The biggest change was the back of the house. It faces south but had only two small French doors. The back of the house was replaced with almost all glass so the space is flooded with light. Light plays off the clean white planes so it has a gallery feel.

How did you choose the palette?

JC: We wanted a “white house.” The dark floors have an old world feel with tung oil finish for character and warmth. The hits of red add punch and sophistication in unexpected areas: under the breakfast bar, pocket door to the vestibule, the glass fireplace tiles.

Did you keep anything from past homes?

JC: We had all the furniture except for the dining room. We made an antique door into an entry table and built a recess in the vestibule to showcase it. The antique trunk in the bedroom was my partner’s.

What’s the best way to deal with storage in an open design?

JC: It’s editing and keeping on top of clutter. Recycling is under the sink. The pantry is also a coat closet, while the sideboard stores glasses, linens, etc. It comes back to knowing when to stop buying stuff!

How did you make the kitchen look bigger?

JC: Cabinets match the width of the 36-in. stove for uniformity. It also keeps it grand because the space is not broken up with drawer fronts. We used drawers down below to maximize space because you can pull them all the way out.


8 Questions for Mark McEwan, Chef

(Canadian Restaurant Foodservice Association’s HostEx show chef profile)

1. You were born in Buffalo. What has that contributed to your cooking?

Buffalo gives you an appreciation for good bar food.

2. You’re now 50. What are you most proud about having accomplished?

I still like the business very much at the ripe old age of 50. Typically a lot of chefs get burned out by this age. I’m having fun. I’m most proud of having a consistent long career in Toronto and still moving forward. My 22-year-old son is now working with me. Read more →

Feeling Blue on a Day That’s Red?

by Marni Andrews

Warning: Read this only if you’re single, alone and feeling bad about your love life.

Toronto, Ontario  Feb. 9 – If you are single and experiencing a shortage of love, read on. Life is about to get better. On February 14, otherwise known as Valentine’s Day in case you have somehow missed the hype, your new life will begin. And it will be much better than what has come before because this time you’ll be following a plan: The Conscious Dating Plan. Read more →

4 Ways to Treat Pain Naturally

( article)
by Marni Andrews

Figuring out how to treat pain naturally may be somewhat new for scientists, but the method dates back thousands of years.

The first synthetic antibiotic drug, Prontosil, became available commercially in 1935, although the ancient Egyptians, Chinese, and Central American peoples all had the knowledge of using molds to treat infected wounds—their traditional means of how to treat pain naturally.

The first Aspirin, made from salicin in willow bark, was first bottled as a powder in 1899, but Hippocrates in ancient Greece is said to have known all about how to treat pain naturally with powder made from the bark and leaves of the willow tree.

While Prontosil and Advil both significantly impacted the management of pain and infection in the 20th century and onwards, it’s clear that there has been a long history of how to treat pain naturally using all-natural ingredients.

The body actually has its own natural pain reliever—chemicals called endorphins—that are produced in the brain, spinal cord, and other areas of the body. When the body is in pain, endorphins are released to diminish the perception of that pain, and to act as sedatives. Endorphins also play an active role in stress management, but the body cannot get addicted or dependent on them the way it can with drugs like morphine.

When talking about how to treat pain naturally, endorphins are a key component. You can encourage the release of more pain-relieving endorphins by doing physical activity that gets your blood pumping. “Runners high” isn’t just a myth—it can actually make you feel better physically and emotionally, the perfect answer to how to treat pain naturally.

There are also certain ingredients that work well in terms of how to treat pain naturally. Here are four natural pain remedies:

Capsaicin: This is what makes hot peppers spicy. Capsaicin is the answer for how to treat pain naturally because it desensitizes the intensity of pain signals. It is available as a powder, dietary supplement, and topical cream. Capsaicin provides moderate relief for cluster headaches, joint pain, skin conditions, and nervous system conditions, such as shingles. One study found topical capsaicin produced a 50% reduction in pain. Another study showed that neuropathy patients who used a high concentration (eight percent) patch once for 60 minutes experienced effective pain relief for up to 12 weeks, proving that capsaicin can be an effective solution for how to treat pain naturally.

Vitamin D: Every tissue and cell in our body has a receptor for vitamin D and a study of 22 clinical investigations showed that those with chronic back pain almost always had insufficient vitamin D levels. Another study at the University of Minnesota found that 93% of those with non-specific, unexplained pain were deficient in vitamin D. Clearly, increasing the body’s level of vitamin D is essential when discussing how to treat pain naturally.

Glucosamine and Chondroitin: Glucosamine is naturally present in shellfish and animal bones. Chondroitin is present in shark and bovine cartilage. They are both part of normal human connective tissues. Taken alone or together for mild to moderate osteoarthritis, they can offer pain relief equivalent to NSAIDs (non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs), making them an ideal alternative for how to treat pain naturally.

Turmeric: A component of curry powder, turmeric contains curcumin, which has traditionally been used for pain and wound healing. It eases inflammatory conditions such as rheumatoid arthritis and psoriasis. When looking for how to treat pain naturally with turmeric, try mixing the powdered spice with warm water or milk—it doesn’t taste the best but it works. You can also find it as a tablet supplement.

Whether you are facing cancer or heart disease, or dealing with depression, diabetes, high blood pressure, or arthritis-induced joint pain, having the knowledge of how to treat pain naturally is one of the most valuable things you can possess. While prescription drugs are proven to work, in non-life threatening circumstances, going natural for pain relief can be just as effective.


Anand, P., et al., “Topical capsaicin for pain management: therapeutic potential and mechanisms of action of the new high-concentration capsaicin 8% patch,” British Journal of Anaesthesia 2011; 107: 490-502; doi: 10.1093/bja/aer260.Bright, J.J., “Curcumin and autoimmune disease,” Advances in Experimental Medicine and Biology 2007; 595: 425-451.

Leavitt, S.B., “Vitamin D – A Neglected ‘Analgesic’ for Chronic Musculoskeletal Pain,” Pain Treatment Topics web site;, last accessed June 4, 2013.

Mason, L. et al., “Systematic review of topical capsaicin for the treatment of chronic pain,” BMJ 2004; 328; doi: 10.1136/bmj.38042.506748.EE.

Plotnikoff, G.A., et al., “Prevalence of severe hypovitaminosis D in patients with persistent, non-specific musculoskeletal pain,” Mayo Clinic Proceedings 2003; 78: 1463-1470.