Monday, 28 October 2013

Book Review, Author Interview and Giveaway: My Handy Little Health Journal

My Handy Little Health Journal
Authors: Mary Anne Alton & Tania Craan
Publication: 2013 ECW Press


A structured tool for busy women, My Handy Little Health Journal by Tania Craan and Mary Anne Alton guides women in their process to track their health and wellness information, all in one place.

The average woman visits a healthcare professional six to ten times a year, but her responsibilities extend far beyong that with regular regimens for nutrition, exercise, hygiene, and stress management. With space to record healthcare providers, appointments, medications, tests, expenses, and procedures, this journal is as useful before a routine appointment as it is in an emergency. Plus, the journal highlights helpful tips about medication, smart recipes, fitness, and travel- and even includes brainteasers for the waiting room.

My Healthy Little Health Journal is the result of extensive consultation with women in the medical, communications, and marketing fields and inspires women to change their healthcare habits with a broad approach to wellness.


I was sent a copy of My Handy Little Health Journal (MHLHJ) from ECW Press in exchange for a fair and honest review.

This journal is so well thought out, so adorable, and very smart. It's the perfect size to slip into your computer case, diaper bag, or purse, so you can take it with you wherever you go. It's the perfect way to keep track of everything (and I mean EVERYTHING) related to your health and wellness while keeping organized. 

I was so impressed by this journal that I wanted to know more. The lovely creators, Tania Craan and Mary Anne Alton, obliged by answering some questions that I thought would be fun to share with all of you!

MamaKujo (MK):       I would love to know more about each of you. What can you tell me about your respective backgrounds that might give a little more insight into the creation of MHLHJ?
Tania Craan (TC):       I have been an art director and book designer for over 30 years. I started my graphic design career working as a designer at Penguin Books Canada and then went on to become the art director at McClelland & Stewart. For the past 20 years, I have run my own graphic design studio while managing to keep up with a hectic family life- being a wife, mother of two teenage girls, daughter of aging parents and official daily dog-walker of Koko, our dog. 
Mary Anne Alton (MA):       I'm a mom to two teenage boys, a wife, daughter, sister, sister-in-law, aunt and best friend to Abby, our dog. I'm also a documentary filmmaker who has written, directed and produced award- winning documentaries for over 20 years. My docs have aired in Canada, the U.S. and around the world. Many of my docs have been about health, specifically women's health. I've worked the past 20 years as a freelancer, but prior to that, I worked for CBC television and radio.I was an early local food advocate, having grown up on a farm where we ate what we grew. I love to cook, bake and eat good meals with my family and friends. I've always respected traditional medicine but have approached my own health from a holistic perspective. I'm also an active member of my church, organizing a cooking series and an author's series to feed the body, mind and soul. 

MK:     How did the two of you meet and how and when did you decide to collaborate on this project? 
TC:      Mary Anne and I have been friends for over ten years. We have shared a great deal together. We're both freelancers in very demanding creative fields. We met through our husbands who are good friends working in the advertising world. One day, over coffee, we decided we needed to do something to protect our most important asset- our health. We felt that id we could develop a tool to help us take control of our health other women might to want to use it too.
MA:       Tania and I decided after that cup of coffee that we'd try to put something together even if just for ourselves. I'm a writer and researcher and Tania is a graphic designer who works on a lot of books. With our complimentary skills, we started mapping out the book in coffee shops, meeting once a month, then weekly, eventually working out of our homes to start researching, writing, and designing the layout. It's been a labour of love!

MK:      What inspired you to write and prepare this journal? What's the story behind the story that actually got you to sit down and start putting it all together?
TC:       The idea of creating a health journal was always in the back of my mind. I have always been responsible for keeping track of my health history (as well as my family's), but it was always scattered all over the house. Telephone numbers were in one place, tests and documents in another, and bits of paper in folders and drawers. Every time I had to fill out a medical form, I spent too much time looking for information. It was never at my fingertips.
I also noticed I could not always remember when I was due for a check up or a follow-up test. I'm a relatively healthy person, but I have 6-10 medical-related appointments per year (family doctor, specialists, dentist, tests and more tests, etc.). It was becoming too hard to keep track of everything. 
Being a book designer, it only made sense to have all of my information all in one place. Why not in an attractive book form? The options on the market were pretty ordinary journal books. I wanted something more inviting and fun to use.
MA:       I've talked with too many women over the years who didn't stay on top of their health and wellness and ended up having to deal with a life-threatening condition. I've always been interested in my own health and wellness, but I've found it harder to manage with all the demands of work, family and my own routine medical appointments. I had started a file folder which had bits of paper in it, but it wasn't very organized. What if I ever got sick and needed to know important information about past medications, treatments, appointments? I wouldn't be able to tell my health care team what they would need to know to help me.

While in the process of writing this journal, I found myself in the emergency room one day with my son. He had had a minor bike accident. The nurse asked me when he'd had his last tetanus shot. I couldn't tell her. It made me realize I didn't know when I'd had my last tetanus shot either- or any of my vaccinations for that matter. 
It was confirmation that we were on the right track, and that this project could be really helpful to other women. One place to have all of their health and wellness information, easily accessible whenever it might be needed.

MK:      What kind of research went into the preparation of the journal?
MA:      We made our way through books, periodicals, online sources, and consulted with medical professionals. We also asked our friends and potential users what they might like to see in the book and what they thought of the information we were gathering. I also took a 13-week mindful meditation course which really gave me some great insight into the mind-body connection and how it affects our overall health and well-being. 
TC:      Mary Anne and I spent over eight months developing, researching and designing the first draft of the health journal. We felt it was important to get the right feel and tone-- we did not want it to be a chore for women to use it. It had to be guilt-free and filled with inspiration and humour.  

MK:      What is the most important message you have for working moms?
MA:      Take care of yourself... because if you don't, you won't be able to care for those you love.
TC:      There are always health issues we want to improve-- eat better, exercise more, reduce stress-- but we don't always know how to begin. I believe the key is just taking that first step. Just start. Take small, achievable steps, and before you know it a new habit will have taken root.


I am also thrilled to be giving away a copy of My Little Handy Healthy Journal to one of my lucky readers!

Contest ends November 8th.
Open to Canadian residents only. 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you would like to learn more about the authors, ask your questions, or learn more about My Handy Little Health Journal:

Facebook: My Handy Little
Twitter: @myhandylittle
LinkedIn: My Handy Little
Goodreads Author Pages: Mary Anne Alton & Tania Craan


  1. What a great organizer! Amazing how much there is to keep track of on top of the other million to dos in a day!

  2. I get one hour a week for myself and I go to our local thrift shop to chat with friends and pick up an item or two that I don't need. 100% of profits go back into the community so it's all good.

    Great interview. My BFF would love this.

    Thanks for posting this to my weekly Facebook Giveaway Wall (

    Besos, Sarah
    Blogger at Journeys of The Zoo

    1. Thanks for stopping by and entering Sarah! I have my fingers crossed a million times to win your Showcam Giveaway and Innotab Giveaway for my little girl!

      Thanks for hosting the linky!

      Buena suerte!

  3. I really like to find a little bit of time each day to lose myself in a book. It clears my mind from all of the randomness that invades my brain each day!

    1. I wholeheartedly agree! Thanks for sharing!

  4. I like to have a bath and nibble on some chocolate for my me time...doesn't happen often but i cherish it when it does

  5. I go for a solo hike or run for "me" time. Or spend a little time reading blogs. :)

  6. I like to read, and I read at least 10 minutes before bed every night.

    1. I know that feeling... sometimes it's just hard to keep your eyes open any longer!

  7. i contest. that's my 'me' time i do it that daily:)

    1. I am amazed by the dedication it takes to do it right! Good on you!

  8. My favourite way to spend "me time" is to read a good book.

  9. I read, I take a bath, I drink a glass of red wine, I write in my journal. I do it every week to stay sane!

  10. I like to take a bath and read! I usually do this once a week. And going shopping by myself!

  11. My me time is usually spent checking out blogs or catching up with a good book!
    - Brandee

  12. I like to read during Me time. I take time every day for Me time.


  13. I like to sit with a nice cup of tea and enjoy a good book. I don't take enough me time.