Monday, September 26, 2016

New Quest Bar Flavour: Oatmeal Chocolate Chip

I am not feeling so chipper this morning. Not because its Monday, but because my generous husband shared his germs and I now have the cold he's been suffering from the past few weeks. I hope I don't get it as bad, or like him, I will have to miss work. But I have a headache from hell and kind of scratchy throat. I knew it was only a matter of time. I think Little A has it too. Colds suck. I guess the good news is, I get them far less often than I used to, probably because I sleep much better and eat much better than I did during my 20s and early 30s. Nevertheless, sometimes it doesn't matter what you do, those damn germs are going to get you. Anyways...

You've probably heard me say it a million times, but the healthiest snacks are just food. Like food as nature intended: nuts, seeds, fruits and veggies. But sometimes its nice to have a little treat. When I am starving after a workout or on the go, I will indulge in a protein bar, and for the past few years my favourites have been Quest Bars.

They are healthier than most, but, obviously not as healthy as plant-based snacks. But they feel like a treat when I am craving one. The biggest issue with them is they are expensive, but I've noticed that all protein bars have gotten ridiculously expensive!

I also don't love all Quest Bars equally.  I typically only buy Double Chocolate Chunk as they are my favorites, by far, though Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough would be next in line. Truthfully, I haven't tried many of the other flavours because they are too expensive to experiment with.

I buy them by the box when they are on sale from usually, because they are so ridiculously expensive otherwise. During their last sale, I decided to give their new flavour, Oatmeal Chocolate Chip a try.  After all, oatmeal cookies are my favorite, though, I prefer them with raisins.

So, my verdict? They are good, but Double Chocolate Chunk ones are still my favorites. These ones have an oatmeal cookie dough-like base, with chocolate chunks in it. I like that there is a hint of cinnamon, but I find them too soft. I actually like a firmer bar...especially in hot weather when they start melting anyways!

They have another new flavour out: Blueberry Muffin. Personally, I am not sure that would be my thing so I definitely wouldn't buy a box...maybe a single one if I see one just to try.

There are some other good sounding protein bars on the market now, similar in nutrition and ingredients to Quest Bars, but they are all at least as expensive, so I have no incentive to try them either.

If you can't stomach the price, there are folks putting out recipes all over the Internet for how to make your own version.  Its a great idea, but for me, part of it being a treat is the convenience factor.

Happy healthy snacking!

Friday, September 23, 2016

Nerium Age Defying Eye Serum: Product Review

I was blessed with never having oily skin as a teenager. I got a zit here and there, but acne was never a problem for me. My skin has always been more on the dry side. Unfortunately, now that I'm 'mature' I am experiencing the downside of having dry skin. While women with oilier skin my age now 'glow', I tend to have sallow, dull skin that shows lines and wrinkles.

The area around the outer corners of my eyes are particularly problematic because my eyes water a lot, particularly in cold weather, which irritates my sensitive skin. So I was more than happy to try out Nerium's Age-Defying Eye Serum when they sent the request.

Here is the scoop on this product:

Exclusive Science:

The patent-pending SIG-1191 molecule delivers targeted antioxidant power to help smooth the skin for a more youthful, healthy appearance, while also adding essential hydration. 

Additionally, the exclusive I-FIL4R™ ingredient, derived from White Lily and Brazilian ginseng, helps reduce the appearance of puffiness, dark circles, wrinkles and firmness – all benefits that become even more apparent with consistent use.

The Eye Serum also goes beyond addressing the signs of aging you see today. By targeting the underlying causes of aging, it provides long-term benefits so you can have youthful, healthy looking skin for years to come.

Key Ingredients:

  •             SIG-1191: A patent-pending, exclusive ingredient that works as a super antioxidant and skin hydrator specifically developed to target aging around the eyes.
  •         I-FIL4R: An exclusive ingredient from White Lily and Brazilian Ginseng that helps reduce the appearance of puffiness, fine lines and dark circles.
  •        Caffeine: A potent vasoconstrictor which helps minimize the appearance of dark circles and puffiness.
  •       Jojoba Esters: Superior hydrators, for light, yet intensive moisturizing of the thin skin around the eyes.
  •      Advanced Peptide: Supports the skin’s natural collagen and elastin, which helps skin look fuller and plumper.
  •      Hyaluronic Acid: Boosts and locks moisture into the skin for softer, smoother, fuller-looking skin.
  •      Green Tea:  A well-known antioxidant that guards against damage caused by UV rays. 

As for my experience with it, well, after a few weeks of use, I have noticed the lines around the outer corners of my eyes a bit less noticeable. Of course, the most important thing is that it doesn't irritate my extremely sensitive skin. Whether or not around the outer corners of my eyes are particularly problematic because my eyes water a lot, it has actually reduced my wrinkles, I don't know, but what I like best is that it is completely non-greasy, but really smooths out the skin making my foundation go on better.

The retail price for this product is $80/10ml, so not for anyone on a budget, but at least you only need a tiny bit, so it lasts a while. 

Just remember, the best way to age beautifully and healthfully is to take care of yourself through a lifestyle that includes sun protection, regular exercise, and proper nutrition.

Disclosure: I was sent this product to review, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

This weekend our new fridge should arrive, and we are so looking forward to it. Our old one has broken drawers (from being crammed too full of food!) and is really old and worn. Really, the renos are done and all the remaining work is just decor and sourcing a bit more furniture. We love our new digs, its awesome! I am back in the kitchen, cooking and baking (there is going to be some from-scratch pizza making happening!), and Adam and I are back in our home gym, and we couldn't be happier. Today I am at the last day of a 3-day conference on infertility (CFAS), and the girls are busy with all their activities which are up and running again. Have a great one and stay healthy!


Wednesday, September 21, 2016

Trends I Don't Get

I am rarely on-trend. I've always had strong opinions about things and they tend to vary from the 'norm' a lot of the time. So don't be offended by this list. Clearly, these trends are all so popular, I am the oddball for not getting them.

So here they are in no particular order...

Gourmet Junk-food shops

The biggest food trend in Toronto right now seems to be over-the-top ice cream goodies. Like I mean cones piled full of doughnuts, candy, etc.

For a full list of these silly places, read here.

If you want savoury over-the-top garbage, there's also a place for that.

My belief is that the people who gravitate towards this kind of stuff, the stuff that is the exact opposite of what we should be eating, do it as an act of rebellion. Only problem is, the only one who suffers is you!

These Birkenstocks (and all the knockoffs)

It seems like virtually every female these days has a pair of these shoes. No offence, but I think they are the ugliest shoes ever made. I know people say Birks are super comfortable, but I can't stand thong sandals of any kind. Having anything wedged between my toes is super uncomfortable for me.

These are so popular though, I play a game with them. Each time I am in public, I see how long it is before I see someone wearing them. I have yet to NOT find someone.


Okay dog lovers, calm down, I don't hate these dogs or anything, but I just don't find them particularly cute. Sorry! In general, I am a cat person, but there are several types of dogs I love and anything with 'doodle' in it, is not included in that list. I don't find curly haired dogs cute. I just don't. Yes, I am sure if I owned one, I'd fall in love with its personality, but on a looks basis, meh! My preference is for short-haired dogs and particularly Labs, Pugs, Frenchies, and Chihuahuas.

Short Shorts

I don't care how skinny, fit, or sexy you are, I find short shorts very unattractive. I think they make people's bodies look disproportional. Miley Cyrus, Exhibit A:

Worse is jean shorts with pockets hanging out the bottom. Miley Cyrus, Exhibit B:

Worst of all is if your arse is hanging out the bottom. Gross!

Hairy Men

You know how I feel about this, but I have to say it again because this stupid trend is still around: men with long hair, bushy beards, etc. are disgusting. Blech! I love my gorgeous, short haired, clean shaven husband!

If you are unfamiliar with these trends, well maybe they are just Toronto things. At least now, if you aren't from Toronto, you have an idea of what you'll see here. Ha!

Monday, September 19, 2016

Pawshake: How to Fulfill Your Furriest Cravings

Good morning and happy Monday!

I will just briefly gripe about the weather which is back to hot and humid. Grr, give me fall please!

Today, I'm talking cats.

Full disclosure: Until Big A was born, so 10+ years ago, I was the craziest of crazy cat ladies.

It started when I was young. Like really young, and was a full-fledged obsession by the time I was 18 months old.

It wasn't environmental. We had no cats. I had to beg for cats for years, until my parents finally relented when I was 11. They weren't cruel or anything, but my brother had asthma and a zillion allergies as a kid, including to cats and dogs, but by that time (when he was 15), he'd outgrown a lot of his allergies, including the ones to pets.

I like other animals, but nothing compares to cats.

Unfortunately, I somehow married a guy not only allergic to cats, but who doesn't really like animals (he's not a sociopath, I swear!). He put up with the cats I had when we met for years, but when Big A was 6 months old, we had to give them away. His allergies were worsening and the doctor told him he was going to develop asthma. On top of that, we'd just moved to our house, and a month later Big A arrived, and they could not adjust to the changes. The cats, particularly Lester, my Siamese, was miserable.

I transitioned to being pet-free very easily because I was so busy looking after a baby, and then a baby and toddler, when Little A arrived 3 years later. In fact, I really rarely thought about cats anymore.

But as the girls have gotten older (and cat videos more prevalent online), I've developed serious cat withdrawal. The fact is, I have had little contact with cats for years. No one walks a cat down the least around here! And most of our friends are either pet-less or have dogs.

Though they make hypo-allergenic cats, I have come to terms with the fact that we will likely always be a pet-free family. Adam doesn't want one. Period. But also, the truth is, at this stage in life, at least, I really don't want the responsibility, the work involved, or the expense. The girls would love having a cat, but there is no way they would lift a finger to help out, that I know!

So I've spent time thinking about how I can indulge my cat cravings. Looking at cute photos and videos often makes it worse. I crave cuddles! That's where Pawshake comes in!

Its a service, available in many cities, where people with pets can connect with people willing to pet-sit them, in their neighbourhood. As a sitter, you even get paid! Win-win!

Unfortunately, many more folks need dog sitters than for any other kind of animal, so after signing up well over a year ago, I got no requests for a very long time. But, finally, it happened a few weeks ago! I woman contacted me about babysitting her cat for 2 days. Would I do it? Hell yes! The girls were thrilled too!!

The cat in question, turned out to be a 7-year-old kitty rescued from the Humane Society. A grey, medium haired tabby, he was very friendly and I was immediately smitten upon meeting him when I went to pick up the keys. Not much was required of me, just one visit daily, some food, water and a litter clean and lots of cuddles.

Okay, its not the same as having one's own pet, but for people like me, for whom this is as close as I will likely ever get again, its a great way to get up and close with some fur babies.

Friday, September 16, 2016

Reno Challenge: Week 4

Its the end of the 4th week of the reno circus here. Fortunately, the construction side of things is done. and that's great because I'm DONE with all that.

The front door fiasco got cleared up by our contractor, who, when he heard the locksmith was going to have to break the door and we'd have to pay him again for a second visit, said he'd do it himself. Fhew! It was back open before noon last Friday.

A few more hiccups, of course. The guys installed the desk in the guest room/study too high. We were wondering if they'd be bringing in bar stools! But our designer confirmed it was an error and would be fixed. More importantly, the head contractor/boss, broke his foot last weekend! When he's not on sight, things don't get done nearly as quickly or as well. F*CK! Thankfully, the boss came (with his cast foot) on Wednesday and things started progressing again.

It stayed stupid hot and humid until this past Sunday, when the temps finally cooled off, so that makes life much better. Being stuck in our stuffy second floor was just insufferable.

Its a miracle the girls are still standing given how poorly they've been eating. They may have forgotten what a green vegetable is, that's all I'm saying. Now that we have our kitchen back, I've informed them we are going back to normal with meals.

I am definitely now sick of the lunches I've been eating.  Lunch is usually the meal for me that has the most diversity, and I am very tired of eating the same things, or variations of the same thing for a month. I want to cook again! I want to bake again!

I did not, however, succumb to laziness and started eating processed foods or takeout. I have also been consistent with my bedroom workouts. Honestly, except for the fact that our bedroom is so much hotter than the basement, this part I haven't minded so much. Our new flooring was installed in the basement on Wednesday, so I was finally able to workout there again this morning! Monday all our big fitness equipment will be moved back in and reassembled so we'll have our full gym back. I can't wait!!

There is a growing list of recipes in my head that I am going to have to tackle once things have settled down here.  Top of my list is a fig and blue cheese pizza [insert Homer Simpson-like drooling]. There is still a lot to do, unfortunately. We now have to move everything back into our house, including all our kitchen stuff. This weekend is going to be busy!

But the finish line is in sight, so I am starting to feel a sense of relief. That's how to keep your head above water, right? See the forest for the trees?

Its also about gratitude. Its hard to really feel sorry for myself for having to live through renos when there is a woman who lives on the sidewalk under the train tracks just west of our house. Like, really.

Have a happy, healthy weekend. Celebrate yourself with exercise and nourishing food!

Wednesday, September 14, 2016

A Blind Guide to Skinkville & The Last Cherry Blossom: Book Reviews

I couldn't be more thrilled with the fact that Big A has become a bookworm.  For so long (or at least it felt like to us!) she showed no interest in reading on her own. Then she suddenly got bitten by the bug.  She is reading fairly mature stuff, and even gives me some of her favorites to read.

At first I was going to object. After all, there are so many adult books to read, why would I waste my time on books for kids/youth?

But then I realized it is a great way to see what she likes to read, and to be able to converse with her about it. Besides, some of the stuff she's given me is pretty good. Like Wonder, which is, apparently being made into a movie now.

Recently,  I was sent 2 young reader books: A Blind Guide to Stinkville, and The Last Cherry Blossom.
In case you're wondering, being 42 feels great. I feel great. With age comes wisdom comes knowledge of how best to treat your mind and body. No wonder most women report being happiest in their 40s and 50s!

Sadly, though I had all sorts of ideas of how I wanted to celebrate my birthday last week, none of it happened, which is entirely my fault. Between Little A's soccer tournament which consumed most of the weekend since her team made it to the finals (and finished second place!), and the tiler arriving at 3pm on Saturday to do our kitchen backsplash (though he was supposed to arrive at 11am!), it just felt like there was way too much to do around the house. As renos start to get closer to being done, the pressure to unpack all our stuff (being stored in our garage, second floor, and storage areas) and return it all to its rightful spots is increasing. The reality is, the work for us, as the homeowners, is far from over.

Fortunately, Mother Nature blessed me with gorgeous, cooler weather on Sunday as a birthday gift. Thanks woman! I am hoping, if the weather cooperates this coming Sunday, my 'celebration' can be taking the kids to Kensington Market, one of my favorite places in the city. There is a vegan restaurant that sells crepes, that I know they'll love.

Now on to the topic of one of my absolute favorite things: BOOKS!

When these books arrived for review, I initially thought The Last Cherry Blossom was an adult book, because its about the dropping of the atomic bomb on Hiroshima. Heavy stuff! But even when I realized it was for youth, I decided to read it myself. It is an historical event I would like to know more about and the book is based on the author's mother's true experience living through it.

I immediately gave A Blind Guide to Stinkville to Big A. Initially she groaned and rolled her eyes at me, assuming any book I give her is going to be lame-o, but her curiosity finally got the better of her and she started to read it.  She ended up devouring it in 2 days, and is already reading it a second time. In addition, she is demanding I buy her every other book ever written by author, Beth Vrabel. Wow, I'd say that's a pretty good recommendation.

I asked her to give me a brief synopsis and to tell me what she likes about it, so here it is:

"Its about a girl who has Albinism and how she moves to a new place and everyone stares at her. And her mom struggles with depression.  I like that its realistic, its like you are reading this family's diary and you get to learn a lot about it (Albinism)."

So there you go, this kid loves the book and is begging me to read it too. I think I may just do that!

As for The Last Cherry Blossom, I really enjoyed this book. Since it is based on a true story, it is fascinating to get a sense of what it was like for civilians in Japan who lived through the dropping of the atomic bombs.  Given the horrific nature of the event, I wasn't sure whether I should pass this book along to Big A, but the gruesomeness is limited (relative to what reality must have been like!), however, I think the appropriateness of this book really depends on your child.  I have friends and family who have kids who get tremendous anxiety when they hear about frightening world events, past or present.  Big A does not, so I think she will really like this book.

So do I recommend it? Absolutely, but again, when your child will be ready for it is a judgement call only you can make.

Overall, both these books were enjoyed by us and are definitely good choices.  I love that already, even though she's just 10, Big A and I can read the same books and talk about them. Mother-daughter book club!!

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

Friday, September 9, 2016

Reno Challenge: Week 3

I would be lying if I said I wasn't already really sick of living in a construction zone. I'm a homebody, but being home isn't very fun, and definitely, isn't relaxing right now.

One thing that has helped is buying a booster fan to help cool down our bedroom. I followed my friend's advice and bought this little gem:

Its for rooms in your house that don't heat or cool down efficiently.  Since we are still in the midst of a f$cking heat wave here, I decided this was essential. I've been doing a lot of phone/Skype counselling from home lately and midday our room gets so hot I feel ill.  Meanwhile, the workmen downstairs get all the nice cool air from our air conditioner. Grr!

There have also been some fairly major hiccups. First, the new fridge we ordered wouldn't fit through any of our doors and had to be returned. We had to then find a fridge that would fit, which meant we ended up not getting our top choice. Then our front door broke. yes, I kid you not. It won't open. Our beautiful, expensive front door that's just a few years old. A call to the installer got me a, "You are sh*t out of luck" response because the warranty was only for 1 year. Two visits from a locksmith weren't enough to fix the problem (our door broke is saw), so he has to come back a third time today. I'm laughing, its all so funny. Okay, not really, but I am trying to take it all in stride. It will all get fixed, it will all get worked out. So what if the workmen now have to get all their tools, equipment and our new furniture in and out the back door? No big deal, right?

The girls are pretty happy to eat convenience foods which is both good and bad. They aren't exactly getting stellar nutrition, but it makes things easy. Our local grocery store has a lot of prepared items, so I have been able to buy them tuna and ham and cheese sandwiches and wraps (on whole wheat) for a quick pre-soccer game dinner, They are still loving frozen lasagna, but have already tired of macaroni and cheese. I bought a few soba noodle soup bowls from the Korean market, and those went over well. Breakfast is now easy because Big A, the pickier one, has fallen in love with whole wheat bagels with chocolate cream cheese. Healthy? Not really. Whatever. We have also been stocking up on a lot of Greek yogurt to help try and keep their (always hungry) tummies full.

Adam is still getting delivery from and enjoying it and going to his gym every morning. He loves his gym but hates the extra time it takes compared to working out at home.

During the week I am fine with my simple meals, but on weekends I start to miss having the opportunity to cook up more elaborate things. I really want to make homemade pizza! I really don't mind working out in our bedroom, especially now that I've found a way to cool it down. Nevertheless, I can't wait for the basement to be finished so I have a true designated workout space again!

One of the biggest changes to my routine is I am not currently drinking coffee. Yes you heard me right! As much as I love it, I am not an addict (though the girls always tease me I am). I am a fast metabolizer of caffeine so it doesn't really have an effect on me. In winter, what I crave most is the whole routine of wrapping my hands around a warm mug in the morning and the aromatic aspects of it.  Right now, making coffee is just one more annoying thing to do in our construction mess of a house, and its so darn hot here that I am not in any way craving coffee. Not even ice coffee.

Though I am sure I will eventually return to my morning coffee habit, I think I am going to cut out the majority of my ice coffee drinking, because I think the high acid content of coffee doesn't do good things. I am really enjoying having to pee much less often right now!!

The girls survived their first week back at school. It wasn't that traumatic for us or them as neither of them get nervous about these things. They are so confident, both of them, its wonderful. I hope they are always this way!

This weekend is going to be busy. We have a cousin's birthday party tonight, Little A has a soccer tournament tomorrow, and Sunday is my birthday. I don't really want to go out for dinner, but cooking something fancy isn't going to happen. I've settled on a spinach salad with blueberries, red onion and goat cheese, and a massive cinnamon roasted kabocha squash. To me, this is total yumminess, and simple. I have been roasting veggies these past couple of weeks in our toaster oven, and it works beautifully. Since its my birthday, there might be a few craft beers or ciders had this weekend too.

The somewhat good news is the weather is supposed to start cooling off soon. Hallelujah! Wednesday set a heat record here. It was ridiculous. Like truly disgusting, obscene and utterly revolting. Actually, there are not enough words to describe how bad it was.

Well folks, stay well and have a wonderful weekend.