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Friday, January 29, 2016

Fantasies

Do you have some fantasy, something you love to daydream about, but don't expect, or even want it to really happen? Maybe its about going on a date with a celebrity crush, or doing some extreme sport or activity, selling all your possessions and travelling around the world...

For me its always been having a restaurant or café.  Since I was a little kid, I've loved this idea.  I used to set up a table for 2 in my bedroom, write up menus (usually crackers and water were the options), and then invite my parents for a meal. 

Because of my love of cooking and baking, this fantasy has stayed with me always...especially since there are so few, if any places serving the kind of food I like to make and eat.

Anytime I see an available piece of real estate, I start to imagine my dream café in that space.  Most recently, its been this empty property, which for years, was a very popular restaurant in Toronto (space with boards out front and missing window panes on second floor):

Its on Baldwin Street, now referred to as Baldwin Village, because it is chock-full of great restaurants and cafes.  Although its just a short, quiet street, its located near the University of Toronto, OCAD University, and the Art Gallery of Ontario, so it gets lots of foot traffic.

Although the building is now in desperate need of repairs, its a lovely old building with great bones.

This is what it used to look like:

John's Italian Caffe
 
Now apparently opening a restaurant or café is extremely risky and I don't have a super high risk tolerance, not to mention that it is all-consuming, and often not easy or even possible when you have young kids at home, so it is not something I would ever seriously consider doing, unless I won a lottery.  But I girl can fantasize anyways.

Here is my current café fantasy:

Its called the "Rainbow Café" where everyone is welcome and focuses on tolerance and inclusion. The tagline would be: "Feed your body, mind and soul."

The top floor of the building would have drop-in fitness classes, wellness classes, mom and baby classes and support-groups.  It could also be rented out by local community groups as a venue for meetings or events.

The bottom would be the café.  It would have a wall of books that customers could read while on-site, a mix of fiction and non-fiction, hand-picked by myself.

There would be a juice and smoothie bar (even though I hate juice and smoothies), since people love them so much, and they are kid-friendly. 

There would be a whole slew of meal and snack options for babies and kids, that are all healthy (no fried food or sugary treats!).

It would be nut-free to accommodate those with allergies, and lots of vegetarian and vegan options. 

The whole menu would be full of delicious, healthy food items, ranging from baked goods, to soups, stir-fries, pastas, sandwiches and salads.  There would be no refined carbs or sugar used in anything (you can get plenty of that elsewhere), only whole grains and alternative sweeteners.

There would be a gourmet coffee bar too, serving organic, locally sourced coffee beans, espresso drinks, etc.

In warmer months, there would be tables with umbrellas set up out front for people to enjoy the outdoors.  It would have a relaxed, friendly vibe where everyone would feel comfortable and welcome.

Sigh! I build on this fantasy any time I drive to work, as I park on a street about 10 minutes away (which has the cheapest parking in the area) and have to walk down Baldwin Street past this space.  In crap weather when I am loathing every second of that walk, dreaming about my café makes the time fly.

I seriously doubt this café will ever happen...in fact, I doubt I will ever open a restaurant or café of any kind, but just daydreaming about it brings me pleasure, so that's really enough.

We have a busy weekend ahead, with me working, the girls' many activities, a birthday party and more, so I won't have much time to plan out my café.  But that's okay, my real life is even better.

What's your far-fetched fantasy?

Wednesday, January 27, 2016

Healing Ways: Book Review

HEALING WAYSIf there's one thing I hate its how some people believe Western Medicine is entirely a money-driven, sinister entity controlled by the pharmaceutical industry and the treatments are all toxic.  While I agree that the pharma industry is pretty evil, and is driven by profits, and this, in turn, often leads to policies and treatments that are not in patients' best interests, there are a whole lot of treatments we have developed that are valuable and life saving.

These same people tend to be the ones that turn to alternative medicine and assume that if something falls under the category of 'natural' (which is basically a meaningless term anyways) or alternative therapy, than it is safe and the practitioners are both credible, altruistic and trustworthy.  Get real folks! There are just as many players in the alternative treatment industry just out to make a buck, and many of the treatments can be extremely dangerous and are not proven to have any efficacy.

Personally, I don't care which category something falls under. What matters to me is: Is there sufficient evidence that the treatment is effective and safe?

So I was thrilled to review Dr. Matilde Parente's book Healing Ways: An Integrative Health Sourcebook, which reviews a broad array of alternative treatments and healing therapies to present readers with an objective overview of what each is, what each is, how much evidence exists about their efficacy, as well as their safety.

She starts by explaining the purpose of the book, which is basically to give readers the tools to navigate the growing world of complementary and alternative medicine in an educated way. She then explains the differences between various health care practitioners and describes their training and scope of practice.

Parente does an excellent job of going through the various treatment modalities and summarizing for what conditions, if any, there is evidence that they are effective.  There is a great table on acupuncture that has columns for conditions where the evidence of its efficacy is either supportive (arthritis, headaches, back pain, etc.), moderate (menstrual cramps, allergies, carpal tunnel syndrome), or low/uncertain (IBS, insomnia, smoking cessation).  Interestingly, the table doesn't even mention infertility and, yet, almost all IVF patients I see do acupuncture in their hopes of increasing their chance of success.  But there really isn't strong evidence it will help you conceive if you do acupuncture during infertility treatment, so its not surprising.

In another section on Mind-Body and Energy therapies, Parente lists to conditions for which meditation can be useful (there are a bunch!) as well as those for which it is unlikely to help (weight-loss, severe psychiatric disorders).

Her findings on homeopathy are consistent with what my own research has found: there is very little evidence that it is effective for treating anything.  The same is true for chelation therapy.

Parente includes a discussion about detox/cleanse treatments and, though acknowledges the dearth of evidence of their necessity or efficacy, manages to provide a fairly objective summary of what they are and what to look for if you do choose to try one.

There is a specific section about cancer and associated treatments and supplements.  This is important because when faced with a deadly illness, people are often desperate to find something that can cure them, and this is when they often turn to alternative medicine.  Parente devotes a whole page to commonly used supplements for cancer care, what they are used for, their safety/side-effects, and the dose found to be effective in the literature.  Again, her findings are similar to my own research.   The supplements she lists include curcumin, glutamine, vitamin D, fish oil, green tea, etc.

An entire chapter is on self-care and prevention, where Parente stresses the importance of living a healthy lifestyle, rather than just looking for cures once chronic pain or illness has set in.  She provides straightforward advice about nutrition, weight-loss, sleep and stress management.  Another chapter addresses myths and misconceptions about integrative and alternative medicine, and several pages list different conditions, and what treatments may be best to try if you are looking for something safe and effective.

Finally, there is a glossary that provides definitions of all sorts of associated terms.

This book is long overdue. Its about time people stopped looking at Western medicine versus Alternative medicine as all good and all bad or vice versa.  Your decision about whether to use a certain treatment modality should not be based on whether it comes from the pharmacy of the health food store, but on whether there is evidence that it is safe and effective.  If you want to be an informed consumer of health services and supplements, I highly recommend this book.

Disclosure: I was sent this book by the publisher, but all the opinions on this blog are my own.

Monday, January 25, 2016

Vegan Light 'Butter Chicken'


Welcome to a new week!  Here in Toronto it's starting off well with relatively mild temperatures. But I know many of you down south are experiencing a one heck of a winter storm right now, so you are probably in the mood for some comfort food.  Indian food is just that.

Indian food is absolutely scrumptious, but it often is very heavy and calorie-dense.  Although full of good-for-you spices and veggies, many dishes are also full of oil, butter and cream.  Probably one of the most popular dishes in North America, Butter Chicken, is usually just that.

We never order it when we get Indian food, not just for that reason, but also because Adam doesn't eat dairy and meat together.  I created this recipe for Adam - so, in fact, I did use chicken as vegan food makes Adam grumpy.  But the sauce is vegan and you can use chickpeas or tofu for your protein instead.

I kept the calories lower by using coconut creamer (this one) instead of cashews, which are often the vegan go-to dairy substitute.  You could also use a good, creamy almond milk though, if you prefer. The chickpea flour adds a richness to the sauce, but its optional.

Traditional Butter Chicken doesn't have veggies in it, but this version has eggplant and green beans, so even if you use meat, like I did, you can use less.  I used 4 small chicken thighs, which were about a half pound, for 4 servings.

I highly recommend preparing the eggplant the day before for best flavour.  The cider vinegar and salt remove all the bitterness.

Vegan Light 'Butter Chicken'

2 eggplants, diced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 tsp kosher salt

1 tsp coconut oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 chunk fresh ginger, finely chopped
1 tbsp. garam masala
1 tsp turmeric
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp cayenne pepper (optional, if you want some heat)
1 tsp salt (or to taste)
1/4 cup cider vinegar
500 ml container coconut milk creamer (or other non-dairy alternative)
3-4 cups frozen, cut green beans
1 can tomato paste
2 tbsp. chickpea flour (optional)
1+ cups water
Fresh cilantro, chopped

Place diced eggplant in a large dish and cover with vinegar and salt.  Refrigerate overnight.  Drain and rinse, prior to using.

Saute eggplant, onion, garlic, ginger and spices in oil for several minutes.  Add vinegar and creamer and simmer until soft.  Stir in beans, tomato paste and chickpea flour.  If sauce is too thick, add water until it reaches desired consistency.  Simmer for 20 minutes.  Garnish with fresh cilantro, if desired.  Serve over cauliflower rice, basmati rice, quinoa, or on whole grain naan.  Refrigerate for up to 4 days or freeze.

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Healthy, Happy, Green and Natural Party Blog Hop.

Friday, January 22, 2016

Winter Pick-Me-Ups

Its January. Its cold. Its grey. Its blah.
Now is the time to savour the simple pleasures wherever you can find them.  Here are a few of my favorites:

I know I go on about my Essentrics routines, but they are so therapeutic! I bought the Age-Defying series for my mom, but, of course, she didn't even remove the plastic cover.  When it became clear she was never going to try it, I asked for it back.

Classical Stretch Season 8

I love this one as much as the others! The routines are almost all mixed format, partly standing exercises and then some bar or mat work, although there are a few that are all standing or all mat.  There is a big focus on the slow, Tai Chi inspired moves, which I love. I just find they limber me up so much after my workouts.  Again, these routines are great for overcoming or preventing injuries, and improving posture and mobility.  Just ignore the claims about weight loss or advice never to lift weights because it bulks you up. That's all BS.

For some odd reason, it can be tough to find turkey or chicken sausage in Canada (and you'll almost never find it in a restaurant!) so I was thrilled to find these at Loblaws:

3320505.jpg
They are very yummy and reasonably priced and contain no nitrites!

These days I tend to indulge in a drink or two on the weekends. I am despising red wine for the past few months...no idea why.  So when I want something, I usually gravitate to a strong hoppy beer, or a dry sparkling wine.  This sparkling wine from Peller Estates is pretty good and inexpensive, so you don't have to save it for a special occasion:

 
Its also available at the wine store inside the Loblaws hear our house...no extra trip required!

There is nothing better on a cold winter evening than snuggling up to my best friend and husband (they are one in the same, in case you had some weird, perverted idea...), and watching our favorite television shows.  A few new ones we are enjoying this season are:

The Grinder - Funny!
Code Black - Good acting and filled with drama
The Player - Interesting premise

Of course, we are still catching our old favorites like The Good Wife, Criminal Minds, Law & Order SVU, and Blue Bloods.

Although these things are making the winter bearable, I am still hoping that our late start to the cold weather and snow doesn't mean we will have a late spring.  That would suck. A lot. 

Cheers! I hope you have a good weekend...especially you folks in the U.S. dealing with the mega storm!

Wednesday, January 20, 2016

The Affordable Way to Eat Healthy

 
I know I have written posts about how to eat nutritiously without blowing your budget, but I feel its important to do so again.  Food prices in Canada have absolutely skyrocketed, and a lot of fresh produce out there now costs so much it requires you to remortgage your house! One cause is the falling value of the Canadian dollar, which just continues to drop.  Unfortunately for us, we import 80% of our fresh fruits and veggies. In addition, the cost of meat and other foods has risen too.

Now we are hardly living in poverty, but we do have to be careful with our money, and food is already one of this family's biggest expenses, not just because we do like to eat healthy (at least the grown-ups do), but also all four of us have pretty massive appetites, so we go through a frightening volume of food each week.

I already purchase strategically by season, to keep costs down.  I just won't even bother trying to buy fresh berries or apricots in the middle of winter.  But right now even things that would be perfectly reasonable to buy this time of year are outrageously expensive.  Um, $7 for a tiny cauliflower? No way!!  These white veggies are so expensive around here right now, that its even made the news!

What scares me is what this is doing to families here in Canada already dealing with food scarcity, and there is a lot more of them than you may think.  In November 2015, when food prices were not as steep as they are now two months later, Food Banks Canada reported there were 852,000 users of food banks in this country.  That number is only going to get higher!  The other problem is that the cheapest food is low nutrition like fast food and soda pop. There is a reason for the correlation between poverty and obesity!

So before you go pick up a family meal for $5 at KFC, here are a few tips for eating healthy in this current retail environment:

- Cut out the crazy priced stuff and focus on what is still reasonable.  No cauliflowers for a while in this house.  Instead, I'm loading up more on carrots, leafy greens, squash, sweet potatoes, cabbage, eggplant and other veggies that have not jumped in price.  These all offer tons of nutrition.

- Buy frozen.  The frozen stuff has increased in price too, but not nearly as dramatically.  They are just as nutritious as fresh. 

- Buy canned tomatoes.  Fresh ones generally are of poor quality this time of year anyways.

- Eat vegetarian/vegan. Meat and fish are expensive.  Substitute eggs, beans/legumes/soy, nuts and seeds for your protein instead.  They are healthy and much more cost effective.

- Put in a big more time to food prep. To really save money, buy dried beans instead of canned, and cook up yourself.  Cut up fruits and veggies instead of buying pre-cut.

- Freeze. I can't believe how many of my friends and clients throw out fresh food on a regular basis.  Don't waste unnecessarily! If you don't think you will be able to use up what you have, freeze it!  Baked goods, meat, cheese, fruits and veggies can all be frozen for future use.

- Buy in bulk. Even perishables are worth the savings if you can freeze them for future use.  Just divide things into individual portions first, label and freeze.  Similarly, stock up.  If any of your staple products are on sale, get lots.

- Price match. Using coupons is a great idea, but if you are like me, you cut them out and then always forget to bring them with you.  So there is also price matching! Most chain grocery stores will match a competitor's sale price if you show them the ad or flyer.

- Know your prices.  Get a sense of which stores have the best prices on which items.  Again, the time involved in this research is worth it, it can save you a lot! 

- Cut out the daily extras.  Seriously, Starbucks coffee isn't even good (in my opinion!). Invest in good coffee and a coffee maker and you can save yourself a whole lot of dough!

- Go homemade.  Making your own food at home is much healthier anyways, but it can save you a bundle.  Take something like granola, which can cost at least $5 for a tiny amount.  You can make a huge batch at home and it is much more cost effective.

- Go for whole grains.  Products made with flour like bread and pasta are more expensive than the whole grains themselves.  They are healthier too.  Buy things like oats and rice in bulk as they will last a long time.  Trendier grains such as quinoa, millet, amaranth, etc. are more expensive, so research where you can get them for the best deal.

- Drink tap water.  If you absolutely can't stand plain water, add lemon or cucumber slices, or a few drops of flavoured sweetener.  You will still spend a lot less than if you are buying pop, juice, or other beverages.

- Grow your own.  Of course, for many folks, including us, this isn't possible because you lack the outdoor space.  But they do have indoor herb and vegetable cultivator systems now, however, they can be pricey to buy and probably use a lot of electricity.  Nevertheless, they probably still can save you money over the long-term.

There you go...it really is possible to eat well on a budget, but like all aspects of healthy living, it takes planning and effort.  Believe me, its worth it.

Monday, January 18, 2016

The Planet Friendly Diet: Book Review


 
Although we are more than half way through January, resolutions for 2016 still seem to be a hot topic of conversation.  If losing weight is one of yours, you may be interested in this book review. 

I have heard some people claim that focusing on eating ethically can be an effective way to help people lose weight or recover from an eating disorder. As a therapist who works with people trying to lose weight, I can see how this might be the case. If you chose your food based on something beyond calories, fat, and whether it will make us lose/gain weight, then some of the emotions that trip us up in our weight loss efforts (shame, self-doubt, etc.) tend not to be as close to the forefront.  The focus is on doing good for animals and for the planet.  Doing good makes us feel good, its been proven.  When you feel good, you are more likely to make wise choices not clouded by emotional baggage.

So I was quite excited to be asked to review The Planet Friendly Diet because I thought this would tackle this whole issue.  Its written by Cat Smiley, a Canadian weight-loss coach and trainer in British Columbia, who leads weight-loss retreats for women.

Its a 21 day guide to weight loss using earth-friendly strategies also designed to maximize health. 

It starts with a day-by-day journal to track what you eat and your thoughts, feelings, etc.  This is a key component of weight-loss according to most experts, but in my experience many people are resistant to it because they think its going to be too much work.  Its not.  If you don't want to hand write it all, believe me, there's an app or 500 for that!

Following the journal section and framework, are the recipes, shopping lists and details.  Next, Smiley provides nutrition info and guidelines for the diet plan. 

The diet is 1,200 calories, which is very little.  Even though she advises increasing intake after 60 days to between 1,500 to 1,700 calories, I don't think many people will be able to stick to 1,200 calories even for 21 days.  If you do, no doubt you will lose weight though! I don't like that two meals a day are smoothies, one, because I think smoothies are gross, but two, I don't think they are particularly satisfying, at least not satisfying enough to replace 2 solid-food meals.

The recipes for the third meal are simple and varied, and I like that they are intended to be affordable and quick to prepare, something overlooked by many diet plans. The 21-day plan is gluten-free and vegan, but she then advocates incorporating some gluten foods afterwards if you know for certain you aren't gluten intolerant (most people aren't). I am very happy to say Smiley advises readers to stick with whole grains and avoid refined carbs.  A note to Canadians, when she talks about 'wheat' foods, that means refined wheat flour, and whole wheat, is, well, whole wheat. 

Smiley doesn't forbid animal protein once the 21 day period is over either.  She suggests choosing eco-friendly seafood, avoiding processed meats, and trying to eat vegetarian at least a few days a week.  This is great for those unwilling to go vegan permanently, but I suspect a lot of people in the vegan community will say eating any animal protein is both bad for the environment and unethical.  I like that she shows flexibility and clearly wants to accommodate the lifestyles of various populations.

The last section of the book contains information about different foods, macronutrients and action steps based on her recommendations. What I think is missing, is any discussion of what a person should eat in a planet-friendly way.  As the anthropologist, Margaret Mead once said, 

“It is easier to change a man's religion than to change his diet.”

Believe me, as someone who works with people to help them lose weight, I can tell you this is absolutely true!! So if Smiley wants to convince anyone to adopt a vegan diet, or even just a generally more eco-friendly diet, she's got to sell it to them.  I think this is a serious omission in this book.
 
So do I recommend The Planet Friendly Diet? I think it is going to be useful for anyone already interested in eating a plant-based diet, who is looking for simple, inexpensive, low calorie recipes and a bit of a structured eating plan...and can deal with eating a smoothie as a meal twice a day.
 
Disclosure: I was sent this book by the publisher but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, January 15, 2016

Turn Your Frown Upside Down

Have you ever heard the term Resting Bitch Face?

 
According to the Urban Dictionary, this refers to:

"...a person, usually a girl, who naturally looks mean when her face is expressionless, without meaning to."

I used to have one.

I don't know what the equivalent is for me...Resting Asshole Face?

Anyways...

It doesn't surprise me at all that this is a 'thing'.  I used to get so much crap for it.  People would always ask me what was wrong, which I found very annoying.  I was usually just deep in thought, as I tend to always be.  I also used to get a lot of people thinking I was a snob.  Resting Bitch Face and shyness are not a good combination!

Unfortunately, according to psychological research, people tend to interpret even expressionless faces as frowns or scowls, so if you aren't smiling, we assume you're angry/upset, or otherwise expressing a negative emotional state.


When I was in my 20s, I decided to make a point of smiling more.  At first it was something I had to remind myself to do, but the payoff was huge.  All of a sudden strangers were smiling at me back all over the place and approaching me more!  Then it became second nature and I developed a Resting Smile Face.  Now, I don't even realize I am doing it, but it still brings out smiles (of course there are exceptions, sometimes people don't just have Resting Asshole Face, for instance, they are just truly assholes).

Research also shows that when you smile, your observes are likely to smile.  Smiling is a display of friendliness that cuts across most cultural lines too.  You could change someone's whole day in a positive way, just by smiling at them!  It benefits yourself too, studies have demonstrated that the act of smiling can improve your own mood!


If smiling seems like a silly, minor thing, than you are underestimating its power.  It is actually the simplest random act of kindness, and it doesn't cost you a thing!


Just giving someone a smile could make their whole day! So go have a great weekend and smile lots.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Vegan Vanilla Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins


Although I am not vegan, or even vegetarian, I have started doing mostly vegan baking.  This is because, (1) I find using flax eggs actually makes low-fat baked goods have a better consistency than using real eggs, and (2) Its a sneaky way to get flax into my kids (the girls eat real eggs all the time).

Blueberry muffins are usually nothing more than cake: white flour, sugar, butter or margarine, etc.  Absolutely nutrition-free aside from the blueberries.  In addition, they will spike your blood sugar, which will crash soon after making you crave more sugar and carbs.  Forget about it!

Instead, these one-bowl blueberry muffins are packed with fibre, protein and nutrition and will leave you feeling satisfied and help you avoid the energy crash and cravings.

Because I made these for the kids, I added a scoop of Mighty Greens powder, but adding a greens powder is optional.  You can probably replace the spelt flour with a gluten-free substitute, if necessary.

Vegan Vanilla Buttermilk Blueberry Muffins

2 flax eggs (add 2 tbsp. ground flax and 6 tbsp. hot water to your mixing bowl and stir)
1 cup baking stevia (that measures equivalent to sugar)
1/3 cup oil
Buttermilk: 1 cup unsweetened, plain or vanilla non-dairy milk + 1 tbsp. lemon juice
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 scoop vegan vanilla, stevia sweetened protein powder
1 tbsp. greens powder (optional)
2 cups whole spelt flour
1 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup fresh or frozen blueberries

Whisk together stevia, oil, buttermilk, and vanilla in with flax eggs.  Whisk in protein powder.  Add remaining ingredients and mix just until combined.  Scoop batter into greased muffin tins and bake at 350 for 18-20 minutes.  Makes 10-12 muffins.  Keep in air-tight container up to 2 days, refrigerator for up to 4 days or freeze.

The girls loved these so much, they didn't even last 72 hours, which is actually kind of annoying because I was hoping they'd provide quick breakfasts for the week. But really its a victory because while Little A, like myself, likes all manner of muffins and quick breads, Big A normally only likes banana chocolate chip. I was determined to make a muffin without chocolate chips that she'd love and I did!!

I have added this recipe to Urban Naturale's Plant-based Pot-luck Party Link-up.

Monday, January 11, 2016

Oxygenetix Skin Care: Product Review

 

It was a rough start to the week this morning.  The kids woke up at 7:30am and by the time I got them out of the door at 8:35am, I was done.  Ugh! At least the toughest part of my day is done.

I have a product review for you this morning that you might appreciate if your skin is as temperamental as mine.

My skin is crap. Its dry, super sensitive, and now has a generous sprinkling of, em, 'laugh lines'.  On top of all that, turning 40 brought me more acne then I ever had as a teen! Like WTF? Apparently this isn't unusual for women later in life.  Who knew?

So needless to say, I gotta be real careful about what I use, but I definitely need to use something.  As soon as I come out of the shower, even in summer, my skin starts feeling super dry and tight.  In winter, ugh, don't even get me started!

My eyes tear like crazy because they too are dry (apparently I have very viscous tears which do a shit job of moisturizing my eyes, so they tear constantly to compensate and there is not much that can fix this).  This causes extreme irritation at the outer corners of my eyes, which causes lines and redness, which is just delightful! Also, since I constantly have a runny nose (also an issue that seems to have no solution) and sinus inflammation, the area around my nose is often irritated and dry too.  A lot of products will cause burning and more irritation and that sucks.

Given these issues, I was very happy to be sent samples of Oxygenetix products. The skin care and make up line is designed for sensitive, irritated skin, even for those who are healing from cosmetic surgery.

Here is some more info:

Designed for doctors, Breathable foundation covers and treats a wide variety of skin problems: skin injuries, wounds, rashes, cracked, dry skin, acne scars, rosacea and other skin conditions. On post-surgical scars, patients are re-assured and impressed that after care includes safely camouflaging any evidence of surgery.

I received their moisturizer and foundation to try.  My skin is very dry and irritated right now...maybe because its gone into shock from the cold that came on suddenly after such a mind early winter a few weeks ago...then going back to mild last week...and now back to frigid temps this week.  Add to that, our house is very cold (we like it that way) but my workplaces, like most, are ridiculously overheated.  Yikes, not good for the skin!

I was a bit nervous to try new products, but I am very pleased to say these are great.  No burning, no irritation and, in fact, the irritation has gotten better.  The moisturizer is very effective even though it is light and not at all greasy.  The foundation provides very light coverage, lighter than I like (give me spackle if it will help me look better!), but also not at all greasy or irritating.  Its matte, which I usually avoid, but doesn't make your skin look dull.  Its definitely very natural looking and won't make you look overdone.

The products are available at high end beauty stores across North America.  Like most high end beauty products they ain't cheap! I won't be able to buy them on a regular basis, but if you are finding yourself with a temporary skin problem that requires using only very gentle products, then these are a great option.

Disclosure: I was sent this products for free, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Getting Catty


I honestly didn't set out to turn my girls into fellow crazy-cat-ladies, so its either genetic, or they just learned to look at cats through my eyes, as the most adorable, beautiful creatures on the planet.  Unfortunately, it means there are 3 of us in this house mourning the fact that we can't have one of our own.  Yes, I know there are hypo-allergenic ones out there, but truthfully, Adam is not just allergic, he really doesn't like them, or any animals for that matter. No, he isn't a psychopath, believe it or not!

They had been asking over and over to visit the cat café so when we had a rotten, cold afternoon on Boxing Day (Dec 26), after we got back from Florida, I took the opportunity to take them.

Unfortunately, lots of people had the same idea, so the place was packed and there was a 40 minute wait (they only allow 12 people in the cat area at a time, and they don't take reservations).  There isn't a cover charge, but you have to buy something to eat or drink.  The girls were all too happy to munch on fresh fruit cups and warm up with hot chocolate with whipped cream.  There is also coffee, tea and baked goods available.  Unfortunately, they got pretty restless waiting in line to place our order, get on the cat visit list, and then wait our turn after they'd finished their snacks.

When we finally got in they went nuts and almost instantly fell in love with Bud, the tabby you see below.




Personally I fell in love with this marmalade kitten...I can't remember her name, but ooh man, so soft, furry and adorable!!



The only problem is the cats are pretty tired by late afternoon, when we went, because they've been played with and cuddled so much.  They were sleepy, but very cuddly, docile and friendly.

They are all up for adoption, so the cats there rotate on a regular basis. 

The woman in charge of the cat room list told us it isn't usually as busy, but the winter holidays brought a huge bump in business.  We only got 15 minutes with the cats, but she said at quieter times you can get 30 minutes or so and the wait is shorter.  We will definitely have to go back.

We also finally got a pet of our own...sort of!

We took the girls to Indigo to spend their holiday gift cards.  Little A was having a very hard time choosing anything until she saw Zoomer Kitty.  Then she had to have one...and there was only one left! It cost way more money then she had, but she didn't care, she was happy to dip into her savings for it.

I really didn't think it was a good idea since our kids generally retain interest in toys for 2 minutes and this was very pricey, but we finally gave in, since it was her own money.

So far the girls are totally enamored with her (They've named her Mittens in honour of my kitty from my childhood).  She is pretty cool. She has to be charged by plugging her into the wall, but then she moves on her own, and responds to toys, purrs when you pet her, she meows and sings, and adapts to the environment (i.e. has memory of where there is furniture in your home).  I have no doubt they will tire of her soon, but maybe I'm wrong...they know this is likely the closest they'll get to a real pet!

If you have a cat, please give them a cuddle in my honour.  Have a lovely weekend!

Wednesday, January 6, 2016

Vegan Chili & Cauliflower Rice Bowl


Its chilly outside finally, which means its the perfect time for chili inside. I love chili because its so hearty, comforting and versatile.  There are so many ways you can make it, whether its vegan or with meat, with beans or without, with a tomato base or a pumpkin one, etc. You can use a wide variety of different veggies and seasonings too.

I decided to keep this one vegan and use tempeh as the protein.  You can add beans too, if you with, and/or add corn kernels, zucchini, or other veggies, but I wanted to keep it simple as I made this for a few of my lunches this week it had to be quick to make.

I served it over cauliflower rice, but you can eat it alone, or over regular rice, quinoa, millet or other whole grain. 

Don't be scared by the amount of chili powder used, most commercial brands pack no heat, which is why I also added jalapeno, but you can omit that if you don't like it spicy.

It is perfect garnished with some diced avocado, and/or grated dairy/non-dairy cheese.

Vegan Chili

1 tsp avocado or olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 red or orange bell pepper, diced
1 green bell pepper, diced
1/2 small jalapeno, seeds removed and minced (optional)
350g-500g block of tempeh, crumbled or pulsed into food processor until consistency of ground meat
1 tbsp. chili powder
1 tsp ground cumin
1/2 tsp salt, or to taste
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1 can tomato paste
1 cup water
Handful fresh cilantro, chopped (optional)

1 cauliflower, cut into florets and pulsed in food processor until consistency of rice.

Pour oil into pot or skillet over medium heat and saute onion, garlic, and peppers for a few minutes.  Add spices, tempeh and vinegar and cook another 3-4 minutes.  Stir in tomato paste and water. Turn heat down to low and simmer 5 minutes. Add cilantro, if desired, adjust seasonings and serve.  Makes 2-4 servings (depending on your appetite).

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.