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Monday, October 15, 2018

My New Newest Favorite Quest Bar Flavour


Recently a lot of the online stores where we buy a lot of our protein powder, protein bars and pre-workout drink mixes have been having massive sales. This has prompted me to get more adventurous in trying new products and flavours. After getting the Maple Waffle flavour of Quest bars on sale and loving them so much, I went back to buy more but found only a few other flavours were still available, one being Birthday Cake.

I hadn't been considering trying them before because I read a mediocre review of them, and I had been very disappointed by the version made by One Bar (whereas their Glazed Donut flavour is AMAZING!) that looks like a big unicorn turd and made a mess of sprinkles everywhere.

I didn't really have high expectations for this Quest flavour, but I was really pleasantly surprised! I think I like it even better than Maple Waffle, and for sure like that its not sticky/messy like the Maple Waffle one, so I bring it to work or take it as an on-the-go snack.

Its not overly chewy, but also not too soft. The sprinkles are kind of within the creamy, white coating so they don't make a mess anywhere. I have avoided any coated Quest bars in the past, but I really don't mind the coating (vanilla frosting-ish).

I can't believe I am saying this, but I am done with Chocolate Chunk altogether. This is now my absolute favorite flavour!

Monday, October 8, 2018

Sparkling Ice for Cocktails: Product Review


HAPPY CANADIAN THANKSGIVING!!!

A few years ago I was lecturing my dad on cutting back on his alcohol intake (I am pretty much always lecturing him about his food/drink intake) and he said to me, "Come on, red wine is a health food." I may have starting yelling at him.

No. Alcohol is not health food. Forget the BS about it cutting heart disease risk. The research findings were exaggerated and we now know that too much alcohol for anyone is bad. Very bad. Men should have a max. of 2 drinks/day, and women less.

Believe me, if it was health food, I would have a few drinks a day. But its not, so I allow myself a few on the weekend, usually while making dinner. That's it. And when I do drink its usually craft beer, cider or occasionally wine or spirits. When it comes to spirits I stick with clear like vodka or tequila and sugar-free mixers.

The worst thing you can possibly drink is stuff mixed with sugar syrups, juice, creamy and/or sweet liqueurs, etc.

I usually make my own mixer with carbonated water from our Soda Stream, some muddled lime and a bit of stevia, but I always like to try new  things, so I was thrilled when Sparkling Ice sent me their array of products, including their 2 newest flavours, Classic Lemonade and Pink Grapefruit and suggested using them as mixers.

Pink Grapefruit has been a longtime go-to flavour for me (I love pink grapefruits), but it wasn't appealing to me as a cocktail. Instead, I combined the Classic Lemonade with tequila, carbonated water and lemon slices.

It was really amazing! The lemon slices added a bit more zing and the combo of the Sparkling Ice and plain soda water was the perfect level of sweetness.

Here is the recipe:

1/2 bottle Classic Lemonade Sparkling Ice
1 cup soda water
2 ounces tequila
2 lemon slices

Of course many of their other flavours are great too, and my kids love them (we had heavy negotiations over who got what flavours). Yes, we consume diet drinks in this house. I DO think it is a better option than sugary drinks. Believe me, if you think you are being 'healthy' drinking liquor mixed with juice or an organic sugary soda because its 'natural, you are truly delusional.

Do I recommend Sparkling Ice? If you want to cut down on your sugar intake but sometimes want a sweet treat or mixer for your cocktail, than absolutely!

Disclosure: We were sent the products to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, September 24, 2018

My New Favorite Quest Bar

As you know, one of my go-to snacks/treats is protein bars. I am no delicate flower who can nibble on a dry piece of toast and not eat again until the next day. No way Jose!! This woman has a serious appetite, and you weight lifters know what I am talking about. Muscles scream for fuel!

I know they are a 'processed' food but I love protein bars because they are portable, filling, satisfy sweet cravings, and are easy to devour quickly in between my therapy client sessions (I have even been known to gobble one down during a session if my blood sugar is getting really low).

For the longest time I couldn't find any I liked as much as Quest Chocolate Chunk. I tried other Quest flavours: Cinnamon Roll, Cookie&Cream, Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough, Mocha, Blueberry Muffin, etc., and I found them all just meh. Later on, I got addicted to Costco's version, which were also very cheap in comparison. Then Costco kept increasing the price, and then our Costco simply stopped carrying them. Through a Google search I learned that they were having packaging problems, but I am not sure if they will be back on the shelves. Sigh!

When I recently discovered Quest had come out with Maple Waffle flavour, I didn't have high hopes. Even though I loved the concept (I'm Canadian so I love anything maple, okay?), nothing new ever wowed me before. Nevertheless, I decided to order some to try.

Well folks, I was very pleasantly surprised. These have now usurped Chocolate Chunk's position as my favorite variety!

They have a sweet maple base, pockets of maple syrup (caramel-like consistency), and little chunks of I guess what is supposed to be waffle. The waffle bits are forgettable, but I love the base and the syrup.


My only complaint is that they are quite sticky and messy. I would not take one of these to the office in the summer. Nevertheless, flavour-wise they are a total winner. Now if only Quest bars weren't so darn expensive...

Monday, September 17, 2018

Stuff that Works

Happy Monday! I thought I would share some things I've tried lately that have made little (or big) improvements in my life.

400mg B2 (Riboflavin) for Migraines

So its been now about 20 years that I've been suffering from atypical migraines. I eventually tried medical marijuana (CBD oil with no THC), prescribed by my doctor. I think it helps them from getting as severe as they used to if I take it as soon as I feel one start but what has made the biggest difference has been taking 400 mg of B2 every day. It has drastically cut down on the frequency of them. A counselling client of mine told me about it and I have to say, once I did my research and saw all the data on its efficacy, I had to wonder why no one in all my years of consulting experts, ever suggested it to me??

Microfibre Hair Towel

I'd heard they help your hair dry faster and are good for preventing frizz in curly hair. Since having the kids, my hair has gotten even curlier and I have found that I just despise wearing it curly now, it just gets out of control. So though I straighten my hair most days, this towel does help it dry faster and makes it easier to brush out and blow dry.

Silk Pillow Case


I am all for anything that helps keep hair and skin looking healthy (especially if it is neither danger nor expensive). Apparently silk pillow cases can prevent wrinkles (though no scientific evidence of that), and damage/breakage of hair. I can definitely attest to the fact that it is good for hair. Usually even if my hair is perfectly straight and silky at bed time, I wake up looking like Medusa and my hair feels dry and fuzzy. Not when I sleep on these pillow cases!!

If you are someone who showers and does your do at night, you need these as your hair will look much better in the morning.

L'Oreal Infallible Waterproof Eye Liner

The kids are always teasing me because by the end of the day my eye makeup has often melted. Even in winter, I am a big sweater (as in I sweat a lot, not as in I am a wooly thing you wear). I despise waterproof mascara and have not gotten waterproof eye liner in the past because they are usually liquid and I do not have a steady enough hand to apply those! But I just discovered the pencil waterproof eyeliner from L'Oreal and its amazing. It really does stay put all day, but comes off relatively easily with make up remover. A total game-changer!!


Monday, September 10, 2018

Thermacell Patio Shield: Product Review


Shana Tova to all those celebrating Rosh Hashana today!

Wow, the weather here in Toronto in nuts. Last week we hit a 70+ year record high and it felt like you could boil your blood within seconds of stepping outside, and today we woke up to rain and cool air. Frankly, I prefer the cool wet weather. The heat here this summer has been horrific!

Summer may be over, but we are talking about mosquitos today.

I have always hated mosquitos with a passion. Unfortunately, the feeling is not mutual. A room full of people and they always bite me. Sadly, this is not just an annoyance. I react rather violently to mosquito bites. Hot red welts develop and the itch from just one is enough to drive me completely insane. One of the many reasons I will NEVER be a camper.

But staying in the city doesn't guarantee I won't get bitten by mosquitos. The stupid things are everywhere! So I was thrilled when I was offered a chance to review Thermacell's Patio Shield, a mosquito repellent that is a portable gadget rather than something you apply to your skin. From everything I have read, the only thing that is really effective to repel mosquitos is DEET, which is a pretty nasty chemical. But its also important to avoid them, especially since mosquitos can carry West Nile Virus, etc. Its a health issue as much of an inconvenience to get bitten!

Truthfully, however, its been such a hot, humid summer, the whole family has been spending even less time outside than usual. So when my lovely friends and neighbours, L&J offered to test out the Patio Shield while away on a 2 day camping trip, it made perfect sense to get them to review it.  So hear you go:

 Thermacell Patio Shield:

It promises "mosquito protection you don't spray on" and delivered.  It was effective, portable, odour free and silent as the front of the box suggests.  The box contains everything you need to get started:  the device itself, three petroleum mats that last "a maximum of four hours" each and a butane cartridge.  We required the instructions, which were well written, to set it up.  The parts fit together well and the loading was effortless, as was turning it on.  The "on" light indicator was appreciated, as was the warning that vapour would appear.

We decided to take the Patio Shield camping in Bracebridge because the directions inside the box suggest that it's also suitable for campsites.  At home we already have a dining tent (which takes up a large part of our small backyard) to protect from all flying insects, especially wasps.  The Patio Shield does not claim to protect against anything except mosquitos.  We started the Patio Shield the recommended 30 minutes prior in order to let it take effect.  Although we envisioned staying on our campsite, within the 4.5 square metre area (wind, heat and humidity may affect the performance) that the Patio Shield claims to protect, our natural inclination was to keep wandering off.  We had decided not to trust the kids to the Patio Shield until we had tested it on ourselves, so they had repellent on their skin while biking and wandering.  Although the evening was hot and humid, my husband and I did not notice any bites.  (We did see one large, sluggish mosquito inside our cabin, so they did exist!)

In conclusion, we feel that the Patio Shield lived up to its promises, but is probably better suited to backyards than using it as your only source of protection while camping.

If you felt the need to use additional protection, such as spray on protection or other devices from the Thermacell line, the $45 price (on Amazon) of the repeller kit that we had (and $40 for 48 hours worth of refills) could seem prohibitively expensive.  The Precautions, First Aid and Toxoicological Information may scare anyone who is already wary of repellents that you spray on your skin.

So there ya go! Right from the campers' mouths.

Disclosure: I was sent the item to review but all opinions on this blog are our own.

Monday, September 3, 2018

Everyday Enzymes: Product Review


Do you struggle with digestive issues? It seems most people these days do. This is likely due to a combination of a low fibre, low nutrition diet, sedentary lifestyle, and chronic stress.

My dad was diagnosed with Irritable Bowel Syndrome (IBS) way back in the early 90s before anyone had really heard of it. Now its frighteningly common. It isn't so much a disease as a label for various idiopathic symptoms. I was diagnosed with it in high school and have struggled with it on and off since. In a very weird turn of events though, ever since recovering from that horrible flu back in February, my symptoms have been much much better. That left my doctor scratching her head! Who knows...I couldn't eat for 2 weeks, everything was going right through me...probably everything in my gut good and bad was killed off and then perhaps I grew back a healthier microbiome.

I have taken probiotics for years and still do, but also available are digestive enzymes that are supposed to improve your gut health. Recently I was sent Everyday Enzymes to try, a broad spectrum supplement created by gastroenterologist, Liz Cruz.

Everyday Enzymes claim to help treat:


  • Wellness and prevention
  • Sensitive GI Tract
  • Inflammatory Bowel Disorders
  • Weak Constitution
  • Gall Bladder Stress
  • Nausea / Vomiting
  • Burping / Belching / Indigestion
  • Chemical / Environmental Sensitivities
  • Infant Colic

The capsules contain: Amylase, Protease, Lipase, Cellulase, Invertase, Diastase, Lactase, Lactobacillus acidophilus, bifidobacterium longum, cellulose and water

They help break down carbohydrates, fats and proteins and it is recommended 2 capsules be taken with meals 3x per day.

As for the science? I wasn't able to find any peer reviewed studies that prove their effectiveness in humans. Everyday Enzymes do come with a 100% 60 day guarantee. So if you do not feel they are working for you, you get all your money back.

At this point I have been taking them for several weeks. Do I feel better? Well I have been feeling better since February overall, but I think there has been a bit of a reduction in gas and bloating for sure.

Should you take them? I recommend them, but only if you have first made any necessary lifestyle changes first and you still have digestive issues. So that would be, getting regular exercise, eating unprocessed, high fibre foods, and eliminating any trigger foods and beverages, as well as finding ways to manage excess stress/anxiety. These capsules won't perform magic if every other aspect of your lifestyle compromises gut health!

Also, I would not use them to treat infants, or any serious illnesses without first speaking to your physician.

Happy Labour Day! Or Labor day for you folks south of the border. I hope you have a wonderful holiday with no digestive upset!

Monday, August 27, 2018

Insanity Max 30: Workout Program Review


Another fitness post!

Its kind of ironic that I have gone from being someone who worked at, and worked out in, gyms for hours a day, to someone who hates gyms and would much rather work out at home. Gone are the days I have much interest in teaching fitness classes (I still personal train out of our home), and long gone are the days I have any patience for having others around while I workout. But I do love doing fitness videos to mix things up. Though I can certainly put together a workout for myself, I like having someone else do the work and push me while my mind and body wake up at 5am. The only problem is I get bored quickly, and I also like to continuously stay challenged.

My boredom a few months ago led me to purchase Shaun T's Insanity Max 30 program. I got it for an insane deal from Amazon.ca for $49.99. This is pretty frickin' awesome because I got 12 DVDs plus a bonus Live Insanity Sweatfest DVD featuring the cast from the original Insanity program. As you know, I have Insanity and The Asylum, so I am obviously a Shaun T fan.

The workouts are all exactly 30 minutes long (duh!), plus 2 minute cool-down/stretch. The only exception is the 2 Max Out 15 workouts that also have 15 minute ab workouts (so total is 30 minutes). I LOVE that there are 3 ab workouts included (1 10 minute, and 2 15 minute) and all are killer!

They are even more intense than the original Insanity workouts, but similar in terms of the moves/exercises. There is more variety though, which I like. They are all easy to follow, with no complicated choreography. So think burpees, jumping jacks, lunges and push ups.

You also get a nutrition guide, calendar and program recommendations, but I always toss that stuff out. The workouts are divided into month 1 and month 2, but honestly I don't find month 2 workouts all that much harder than month 1 workouts. They are all hard though!!

The idea is that you go for as long as you can without having to take a break, and when you do, you mark down your time, and that's when you've "Maxed Out". The next time you do that workout, you try to go longer. I can make it to the end of all of them without taking a break (aside from the ones in the workout - there is always at least one short water break). But not everyone is a beast like I am 😝. Seriously though, the fact that the workouts are short really gives me the motivation to push hard. I love knowing I will be done in 30 (plus 10-15 min if I do abs).

Here is a list of the workouts:

Month 1: 

1. Cardio Challenge: 30 minutes of the hardest cardio sequences you’ve ever tried. Welcome to INSANITY MAX:30.
2. Tabata Power: Your muscles will beg for mercy as your strength training starts with Tabata-style “20 seconds on, 10 seconds off” power moves.
3. Sweat Intervals: Get ready for 30 minutes of screaming, sweating, calorie-scorching madness.
4. Tabata Strength: Shaun T takes it up a notch in this NO REST, Tabata-style strength workout. You heard right...30 minutes, no rest.
5. Friday Fight, Round 1: It’s a battle between your body and your mind as you fight for time in this Max Out Challenge. And this is just Round 1.

Month 2: 

6. Max Out Cardio: This may be the craziest cardio workout you ever tried. Just wait till you get to the first Power Move. What minute are you Maxing Out at now?
7. Max Out Power: The intervals are longer in this “45 seconds on, 15 seconds off” Tabata-style plyometric power madness.
8. Max Out Sweat: The more minutes you make it through, the more you sweat and the more calories you burn. Now you know the meaning of “twice the sweat in half the time.”
9. Max Out Strength: Your arms, shoulders, chest, and core will be toast after this upper-body-focused, “45 seconds on, 15 seconds off” Tabata-style routine.
10. Friday Fight, Round 2: The new “hardest workout ever.” Every move is a minute in this final fight between your body and your mind. Who’s going to win?


11. Pulse
Shaun’s version of a recovery workout, this is a low-impact combo of stretching and small “pulsing” movements that’ll definitely make you feel the burn.
12. Ab Attack:10
This 10-minute routine will feel like an attack on your abs, but you’ll love the rock-hard results.

Now, given the intensity of the program, you may think this is only for advanced folks, but actually, it is better for beginners than the original Insanity program. First off, there is a participant showing low impact/intensity modifications for every exercise, and, secondly, if you select the Modifier Track on each DVD, there is a split screen so you can see the modifier for the entire workout.

This program is very much cardio, though a few of the workouts have quite a lot of strength exercises. Nevertheless, I wouldn't forgo strength training even if you are doing this program as they recommend. Since it is all body weight strength work, it is primarily focused on chest, triceps and core. You don't really hit a lot of back, shoulders or biceps. But because no equipment is required, it does make it ideal for travel!

It is fast-paced and high impact (unless you are modifying), so I don't do these workouts more than 2x a week, but am really thrilled with the program. It took me several months to work my way through all the DVDs (I would try one new one each week, and do it 2x), so I am still not even close to being bored of it.

I definitely recommend this DVD set if you are looking for a fun, butt-kicking workout.