Super Simple, Decadent Salted Caramel Sauce

BY: CHEF JANET CRAIG

This simple, decadent sauce for either fresh fruit or ice cream is the current trend, ‘salt with sweet.’ Enjoy this weekend, or, heck, anytime!

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4 cups white sugar

¾ cup boiling water

3 sticks salted butter (1.5 cups)

¾ cup whipping cream

4 tsp salt – this is where you can use specialty salts such as Fleur de Sel (find out how to fake speciality salts, HERE)

  1. In a heavy saucepan, place sugar on medium heat and watch it caramelize. This is a lengthy process and you can’t leave it. Stir with a wooden spoon – not a metal one – as this will get too hot to hold.
  2. When the mixture is as golden as you wish (it turns brown quickly) remove from heat.
  3. Carefully pour in boiling water, stirring constantly.
  4. Add butter and whipping cream and keep stirring until texture becomes creamy.
  5. Add salt to taste.

This recipe can be halved. I store it in sterilized jars in the fridge for two weeks or freeze it for a gift.

Chef Janet Craig’s recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.  You can find out more about her HERE.

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Without action, awareness does little

BY: ALYSON ROGERS

Nine years ago, I walked into an emergency room with very obvious signs of a concussion. Despite glaring symptoms, no one would even utter the word ‘concussion’. Doctors told me I had whiplash, which didn’t even come close to describing the traumatic brain injury diagnosis I was given six months later.

Hospital emergency room entrance

This year, I walked into the same emergency room, with very obvious signs of a concussion. Despite nine years of brain injury awareness in the media, in hospitals, in schools and in sports, my experience was no different.

What good is brain injury awareness if we don’t put it into practice?

April 2017 marked nine years since I acquired my brain injury. I experience symptoms every day and it looks like they are here to stay.  Like many others, I navigated the health care and education systems before brain injury awareness hit the mainstream. My family and I had to research and advocate for every bit of care I received. Even with a CT scan in hand, it was difficult to get doctors to believe, let alone treat my symptoms. This was before Sidney Crosby, NFL lawsuits and head injury protocols; the dark ages of brain injury.

This year, I learned that we are still living in the dark ages. Last month, I was hit in the head with a locker by accident at work. When my symptoms continued to get worse instead of better, I went to the same emergency room I went to nine years ago. It didn’t even cross my mind that I would be treated exactly the same as I was back then, this was the new era of brain injury awareness, right? Wrong.

locker room

There were three of us in the emergency room with concussion symptoms; the doctor barely looked at any of us and sent us on our way.  I returned to my family doctor, who has seen me do this concussion dance with the health care system before, and was sent to another emergency room. The second ER doctor told me what I was experiencing was impossible and seemed shocked when I dared to ask for WSIB forms to be filled out. Despite the blurred vision, noise sensitivity, nausea and fatigue he put a question mark beside the concussion diagnosis on my papers.

June is Brain Injury Awareness month in Canada and it’s a month I’m excited for and take pride in every year. Considering how prevalent concussions / brain injuries are, I think awareness is important for everyone,  but awareness isn’t enough.

Being aware is the first step but it is by no means the only step in preventing and responding to brain injuries. The next step is to put that awareness into action; this action is going to require effort and change by professionals and individuals.

It’s easy to say we are aware and be done for the day but if we don’t put in this effort for people with brain injuries, awareness falls flat and nothing changes. The very people brain injury awareness is supposed to be helping are failed all over again- stuck in the dark ages of brain injury.

The other piece of brain injury awareness that requires action to be effective is prevention. Awareness that leads to policies such as concussion protocols are great (if they are put into action and enforced) but this doesn’t lead to a decrease in people sustaining brain injuries. Brain injury prevention is going to have to come from individual change; with the increase in brain injury awareness, we know that a hit to the head can have lifelong impacts. With that being said, there is no excuse for deliberately hitting someone in the head.

Many brain injuries, especially sports-related brain injuries, are entirely preventable and occur due to individuals decisions. My brain injury stems from a youth athlete’s decision to use physical force instead of skill to win a basketball game. This is similar to Sidney Crosby, during the NHL playoffs he sustained another concussion at the hands of a player on the opposing team. It is very well known that Crosby has a history of concussions and another hit to the head could, at the very least, end his career. With the increase in brain injury awareness, we should be seeing a decrease in these types of injuries simply by individuals changing their behaviour.

Woman playing basketball

My hope for this Brain Injury Awareness Month is to move beyond awareness and towards action.  This includes a decrease in the number of brain injuries and better outcomes for survivors.


Alyson is 25-years-old and acquired her brain injury nine years ago. She graduated from Ryerson University and is a Youth Worker at a homeless shelter. In her spare time, Alyson enjoys writing, rollerblading and reading. Follow her on Twitter @arnr33

 

 

 

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15 things you don’t know about: Diana Rockbrune, BIST Volunteer of the Year, Ambassador Category

If the definition of a superhero is someone who swoops in just in time and saves the day,  it can be said that Diana Rockbrune, a marketing and events coordinator at Oatley Vigmond, is the superhero of our 2016 Birdies for Brain Injury Golf Tournament.

Last year, Diana came in literally at nick of time to help an overstretched golf committee and under-staffed BIST team organize a successful golf tournament. From the BIST office side of things, we were on the phone with Diana every day, as she guided us with her expertise, made suggestions and did a heck of a lot of grunt work. Simply put, we can’t thank her enough!

Diana Rockbrune with her sons
DIANA ROCKBRUNE WITH HER SONS, (TOP LEFT) COLE WHITE, A BASEBALL PITCHER ON SCHOLARSHIP IN COLORADO, (BOTTOM LEFT) TY WHITE, A SNOWBOARDER AND ASPIRING FIREFIGHER AND (RIGHT) LUKE ROCKBRUNE, WHO PLAYS AS A HOCKEY GOALIE

How I became involved with BIST:  

I am a marketing and events coordinator with Oatley Vigmond and was approached by a partner to assist in the preparation and execution of the BIST golf tournament in 2016.  I was thrilled to help and in the end see the event all come together as a big success.  I felt like I made a difference. Now I’m hooked – I love this organization.

If I could pick any job in the world, it would be:

An international photographer.

I have an (irrational or otherwise) fear of:  

The dark. Shhh…. Don’t tell anyone.

My greatest assets as a volunteer are:

That I have a great ability to meet people (network) and empower people. My flexibility and ability to solve problems while remaining calm in a pinch makes me good at event planning.

My friends would describe me as:  

Someone who is compassionate and caring who enjoys meeting people and making people feel welcomed.

If I could invent a superpower, it would be:  

To eliminate pain and suffering in the world as a superhuman healer.

What inspires me most about BIST is: 

Being connected to an organization that helps so many people. I have had the pleasure of meeting so many new people that inspire me to become the best I can be. I have learned the true meaning of gratitude.

 If I won $1 million dollars I would:   

Adopt children and provide a loving home for them.

My personal hero is: 

My grandmother who passed away from breast cancer when I was a young girl of nine-years-old. While I did not fully understand the disease, it had a big impact on me growing up. She fought the disease alone at first, not telling the family while she proceeded to take the subway to her treatments at Princess Margaret hospital. She showed much mental toughness and bravery, and for that I truly admire her. I have always had a connection with her despite her passing away when I was so young.

(L-R) BIST BOARD MEMBER COLLEEN WORSLEY, DIANA ROCKBRUNE, BIST COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR MERI PERRA AND FORMER PROGRAMS COORDINATOR KAT POWELL AT BIST'S BIRIDES FOR BRAIN INJURY GOLF TOURNAMENT IN 2016
(L-R) BIST BOARD MEMBER COLLEEN WORSLEY, DIANA ROCKBRUNE, BIST COMMUNICATIONS COORDINATOR MERI PERRA AND FORMER PROGRAMS COORDINATOR KAT POWELL AT BIST’S BIRIDES FOR BRAIN INJURY GOLF TOURNAMENT IN 2016

My celebrity “crush” is: 

Matthew McConaughey.

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PSST: FOR DIANA’S EYES ONLY  – via GIPHY

My favorite BIST event is: 

The Mix and Mingle. It is always great to see the number of people supporting BIST all in one location. It is overwhelming how many people BIST empowers. This event is a true testament to the popularity of such a wonderful organization that helps so many people with brain injury.

A quote/motto I try to live by is:  

Living by the words I heard a long time ago. I am pretty sure it was my Mother that said this to me – A wise old owl sat in an oak; The more he saw the less he spoke;  The less he spoke the more he heard;  Why can’t be all be like the wise old bird?

If I could volunteer anywhere in the world I would:

Help with community development in Fiji.

As a Kid, I:  

Lived on a hobby farm. We were from Toronto and had no idea how to run a farm. My Mom and Dad wanted us to experience responsibility and hard work in addition to balancing school. We had dogs, cats, chickens, geese, rabbits, cows, horses and even a pig. Before and after school I had to do my chores. At the time I thought I was born into slave labor but now I see it as a rewarding childhood. Our local friends called us “city slickers”.

I am most proud of:  

 I’ve been married for 11 years to my husband Joe. He is someone really special and has been an excellent father to our three amazing, athletic sons. Our sons astonish me with their talent in their respective sports. They make me proud when I hear people tell me that they are good ambassadors.  I am blessed.

#areyouaware: Meet BIST’s Amazing Brain Injury Awareness Month (BIAM) Committee

BY: MERI PERRA

Volunteer Appreciation Week is just around the corner – and we at BIST have been using the month of April as an opportunity to congratulate the winners of our Volunteer of the Year Award: Christiane Kokko (Caregiver Category) and Rob Ashe (ABI Survivor / Thriver Category). Stay tuned next week when we announce the winner of ABI Ambassador Category!  In the meantime, find out more about the hardworking members of our Brain Injury Awareness Month (BIAM) Committee below!

Member of the 2017 BIAM committee
Members of the 2017 BIAM Committee: (L-R) Tonya Flaming, Kelly-Anne Rover, Jordan Assaraf, Meri Perra, Matthew Chung, Celia Missios, Colleen Boyce and Joe Pileggi Missing: Alex Piotti (chair), Ian Bowles, Ian Furlong, Miranda Hong and Vivian Ng (on leave)  

At our last meeting, BIAM Committee member and long time BIST volunteer Colleen Boyce mentioned, “I have a display of Brain Injury Awareness events going back to 2000 in my basement, would BIST like to have it in the office?”

Colleen said that just after committee chair Alex Piotti handed over a DVD of a BIAM event from fours years ago she ‘happened’ to find amongst her stuff. Take away: you know you’ve got a committed group of volunteers when members of the committee literally carry the history of the work with them.

Colleen said her reasons for sticking on the BIAM committee all this time have stayed the same, “The goal at the time and still is awareness and for me personally to give back to the community and the brain injury industry. I did and still feel you need to talk the talk and walk the walk!”

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(top L-R) Vivian Ng (third from left) and volunteer Rob Ashe (in blue #areyouaware shirt) at Sunnybrook Hospital in 2016; (bottom L-R) Alex Piotti, Ian Furlong and volunteer Mychal Reeves in 2016

There are several BIST committees, and all of them are where work crucial to BIST happens, our major fundraising events such as Birdies for Brain Injury, the 5K Hero Run, Walk and Roll and the Mix and Mingle would be impossible without these volunteers. Simply put, without volunteer hours, BIST would not be where we are today.

Enter the BIAM Committee, where some members such as Boyce (who was the founding chair of BIST in 2004) has been involved since 2000, before BIST existed.

Throughout this time, the committee’s work has expanded from throwing Brainstock events at Nathan Phillips Square (check out none other than Mr. Ben Mulroney as our special guest in 2012) where members of the ABI community would gather, snag some swag and celebrate the strength of brain injury thrivers / survivors in the heart of Toronto.

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Committee member Tonya Flaming helped organize Brainstock events after joining the BIAM committee (because a colleague told her it was ‘fun’) in 2009. Jordan Assaraf, currently a BIST board member, has sat on the committee for three years. New-this-year members such as Celia Missios (also a board member), Matt Chung (a former Communications Committee member) are contributing new ideas and energy to the group, as is Kelly-Anne Rover who replaced her colleague and long-time BIAM Committee member Leslie Allen this winter.

Joe Pileggi, director of client services at Thomson Rogers has been active on the BIAM committee for years. He and Thomson Rogers partner Ian Furlong ensure the committee has meeting space in the Thomson Rogers boardroom, including free coffee and doughnuts as a bonus. (Legal assistant Esther Wiik helps a lot with this part!) Joe is also responsible for giving the committee free access to professional design services through Lime Advertising for BIAM’s print materials.

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Super BIST volunteers Tonya Flaming and Frank Bruno at a TTC Brain Injury Awareness campaign in 2015.

BIST Volunteer of the Year winner in 2012, Ian Bowles, joined the committee six years ago, he says partially as a survivor representative, but also because he was interested in ‘reaching out to people who do not know the implications of brain injury.’

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Members of the BIAM Committee at Brainstock in 2013, (bottom right) Ian Boyles wins BIST Volunteer of the Year award for his work on BIAM and the Communications committee in 2012. 

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In 2014 and 2015, the committee, along with dedicated BIST members, went into the TTC during June to distribute brain injury awareness messages.

Last year, the committee invested in ads in the TTC and held awareness booths in Toronto hospitals.

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Screen Shot of areyouware.ca

 

areyouaware logo

In 2014 and 2015, the committee, along with dedicated BIST members, went into the TTC during June to distribute brain injury awareness messages.

Last year, the committee invested in ads in the TTC and held awareness booths in Toronto hospitals.

Former BIST executive director, Michelle McDonald and BIAM committee member Vivian Ng at the TTC in 2015
Former BIST executive director, Michelle McDonald and BIAM committee member Vivian Ng at the TTC in 2015

The switch to focussing on social media and the #areyouaware message worked, and in 2015 the committee won an award from the Ontario Brain Injury Association Advisory Council for their work:

Brain Injury Awareness Month Committee
The Ontario Brain Injury Association’s Advisory Council award, proudly displayed in the BIST office with #areyouaware material from previous years above.

This focus is continuing in 2017, so be on the look out for brain injury awareness booths in Toronto hospitals in June, our booth at Pride Toronto  and another great social media campaign!

And thanks to all BIAM Committee Members (past and present) for their hard work!

 

Meri Perra is the Communications and Support Coordinator at BIST – she feels very lucky that she gets to work with so many amazing people at her job – including this committee!

 

 

 

Meri Perra

Communications and Support Coordinator

Brain Injury Society of Toronto (BIST)

Having a brain injury can increase your chances of dementia; here are activities to reduce your risk

BY: ALISON

The facts are scary. Research suggests people with traumatic brain injuries have a higher risk of developing dementia, including Alzheimer’s Disease. The good news is research also suggests that by maintaining a healthy lifestyle and participating in key activities, the risk of Alzheimer’s and dementia may be reduced by 50 per cent.

older adult sitting on a bench, looking at a dirt road

A healthy lifestyle includes doing what we’re all supposed to be doing anyway: maintaining a healthy diet, getting quality sleep and proper stress management.  

Here are three main types of activities that can prevent, slow and possibly even reverse cognitive deterioration:

Physical activities

Regular, moderately intense exercise is essential. Keep in mind that the definition of moderate exercise is different for everyone. If you exercise too lightly, you won’t reap the benefits from it, but if you push yourself too hard, you risk injuring yourself. Where possible, the exercise regimen should include cardiovascular, muscle strengthening, and balance exercises. Do what you can and do your best. For example, if you can only use your arms, then find endurance and strength training exercises that are tailored to your arms, shoulders, and back.

You can find examples of exercise routines from a chair, here.

Social activities

Face-to-face interaction is the best. You can be one-on-one or with a group of people as long as you are engaged in the exchange. You could join a club, volunteer, take a class, chat with a friend over coffee, go to a museum etc. If you aren’t able to go out, have a phone conversation or video chat with a friend.

You can also join our #BISTUESDAYS or #BISTEVENINGS activities! 

pexels-photo-84663Mentally challenging activities

There are many different types of brain training activities with varying difficulty. The greater the challenge and novelty, the better, but work your way up to more complex activities gradually. Here are just some suggestions:

  • learn something new (e.g. skill, language, musical instrument etc.)
  • change your habits (e.g. use your non-dominant hand, explore new routes, try different organizational systems for your things and electronic files, etc.)
  • play games (e.g. board games, card games, puzzles, crosswords, riddles, brain teasers, memory games, word or number games, math games, etc.)

two men walking by a beach on the board walk on a foggy day

Other important factors to take into consideration:

  1. The activities must be challenging and engaging, which means that they should be, at least, moderate in complexity or intensity. Remember to increase the level of difficulty of your activities as you improve.
  2. There must be variety in the activities, so that your brain is truly being challenged to form new neural connections. Adding variety to your regimen will also help to make your activities more fun, engaging, and challenging.
  3. The best results are achieved when a single task incorporates at least two of the three types of activities. For example, playing board games with other people is considered a social activity as well as a mentally challenging activity. Also, exercising with another person and playing a team sport have both physical and social components, making them better options than exercising by yourself.

I’d like to note that these strategies are also helpful in treating brain injuries, depression, and low self-esteem. So get active, try new things, connect with friends, and have fun with it!

Thank you to Dr. Emily Nalder for presenting this information at BIST’s Aging and the Brain seminar in February, 2015.

‘Mind Yourself with Alison’ is a collection of self-help tips, research, and personal experiences dedicated to helping people thrive after brain injury (or other trauma). Check out Alison’s other BIST Blog articles Women and Brain Injury: What you need to know and How to be a Good Friend to a Survivor.

Warm up with Caribbean Pumpkin Soup

BY: CHEF JANET CRAIG

By all accounts it’s going to a cold winter. So what better than to  cook up some delicious, vegetarian, milk and gluten free Caribbean pumpkin soup? If you can’t find Caribbean pumpkin at your local store, sweet potatoes work too, either way it’s delicious!

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photo credit: di.wineanddine pumpkin soup with black bean blomp via photopin (license)
  • 2 cloves of garlic minced
  • 2 onions chopped
  • 1 jalapeño chopped
  • 2 celery stalks chopped
  • 2 tbsp vegetable oil
  • 2 pound pumpkin or squash (sweet potato) peeled & cubed
  • 3 cups vegetable or chicken broth
  • 1 can coconut milk
  • 1 tbsp curry powder
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • 1 tsp cumin
  • 1 large bay leaf
  • ½ tsp nutmeg
  • Salt & pepper to taste
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  1. Sauté vegetables in oil until translucent. Then put in large pot with broth, milk & pumpkin or squash.
  2. Simmer for 1 -2 hours or place in crock- pot for 4 hours on low.
  3. Puree after removing bay leaf. Taste & adjust seasonings.

Satisfied Soul Personal Chef Service logo

Chef Janet Craig’s recipes are simple, healthy, delicious and ABI friendly.

You can find out more about her HERE.

BIST Review: CBC Doc on The Brain’s Way of Healing

BY: JEAN OOSTROM

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On October 27, CBC The Nature of Things aired a documentary about Dr. Norman Doidge’s book The Brain’s Way of Healing. You can stream it (in Canada only), here.

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SCREEN SHOT FROM CBC THE NATURE OF THINGS, THE BRAIN’S WAY OF HEALING

For anyone who has experienced a brain trauma, Dr. Doidge provides hope and has changed the verbiage surrounding brain trauma such as:

  • “this is as good as it gets” or
  • “the brain does not heal” or
  • “no, we don’t have a treatment for autism that works”

To:

  1. Let’s try Bioflex Laser Therapy or
  2. The PoNS™ Device or
  3. The LED light helmet for PTSD

I was initially introduced to Dr. Doidge’s book The Brain That Changes Itself almost eight years ago, which was the first time I could really read about my brain injury. When I read the case studies presented in the book, I was able to piece together my brain injury and put the practice of neuroplasticity into my daily recovery.

Dr. Doidge’s new book, The Brain’s Way of Healing, provides a scientific view of all types of brain trauma based on the neurons in the brain miss-firing.

While watching The Nature of Things segment it became apparent that technology has caught up with brain trauma, and is providing a new and exciting avenue for recovery for all types of brain trauma.

  • For anyone who has experienced a brain trauma in the past, it is not too late.
  • For the caregiver who is looking for answers for recovery, kudos for all the research you have done so far for the person you care about.
  • For all physicians who are involved from diagnosis to recovery you can now provide hope and a better way.

If people are being diagnosed today with any type of brain trauma here are the links that will be important during their recovery, as featured in the CBC documentary:

Dr. Doidge‘s Books The Brain’s Way of Healing and The Brain That Changes Itself.  http://www.normandoidge.com/

Dr. Kahn with Bioflex Laser Therapy http://bioflexlaser.com/

Paul Bach-y-Rita, M.D founder of the The PoNS™ Device   https://tcnl.bme.wisc.edu/

Dr. Margaret Naeser in Boston uses a LED light helmet to treat PTSD victims.  http://www.cbc.ca/natureofthings/features/can-led-light-heal-the-brain-of-ptsd-victims

Paul Madaule from the Listening Centre in Toronto in the treatment of Autism http://listeningcentre.com/

Our work is just beginning but thank you to Dr. Doidge and other professionals for not giving up on us.


After suffering a stroke, Jean coined herself “the voice for the brain injured person” and provides information “from the brain injured point of view” so people can find answers as they “learn to live with their new brains” after all types of brain trauma.