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Friday, December 23, 2016

Welcome 2017!


Most people see 2016 as a pretty crappy year. Globally it certainly has been for all sorts of reasons!

Just to name a few...

War in Syria
U.S. presidential election
Orlando nightclub attack
Dakota pipeline protests
Brexit

And a lot of celebrities and public figures died too, like:

David Bowie
Prince
Alan Rickman
Gary Marshall
Gene Wilder
Arnold Palmer
Florence Henderson
Fidel Castro
John Glenn
Alan Thicke

Oy vey!

But on a personal level, I really can't complain. Life always has ups and downs, but overall I am blessed. Though the girls still make me crazy (I think they probably always will), I am so proud of them. They are good kids, super smart and very athletic.  They are doing so well with all their endeavors. I have a supportive partner and we are financially comfortable.  Adam's career is flourishing, I have a job I love, I have had several new opportunities, and I have had many great times with great friends.

Nevertheless, I hope 2017 is a better one for the millions of people worldwide who are not so fortunate.

Stay happy and healthy and I'll be back after the new year.

Wednesday, December 21, 2016

A Healthy Plate for a Healthy Holiday


We humans hate being told what to do. If you are a parent than you know that all too well! But its also true of us adults. Too many restrictions on our actions or choices and we will start to rebel. This is one of the reasons that strict diets rarely work long-term.

One thing that can be helpful, if you are trying to cut down or eliminate an unhealthy behaviour, is to change the way you think about it. Researchers consistently find that if dieters tell themselves they 'can't' have something, they are far less likely to adhere to this rule, than if they say, I 'don't' eat that. In other words, its a personal choice, not an imposed restriction.

When I read about this, I realized that I have naturally always done that. I don't eat sugar or refined carbs. I don't eat fried foods. I don't regularly consume red meat. And I never feel resentful. Actually, I don't really ever think about it. My diet just doesn't include these things.

Now I have lots of clients, and friends and family, who are unwilling to give up anything, when it comes to their diet. Even then, there is a simple way to keep some of your less healthy foods in your diet, and that is to ADD to it. Add large quantities of veggies and some fruit, and keep those not so nutritious foods portion controlled.

A super simple strategy to losing weight or simply improving your diet, is to use the healthy plate approach. This means filling half your plate with veggies at each meal, and one quarter each with protein and starch. You can even buy sectioned plates to help you do this!

This works so well because while you may be cutting portions down on carbs and protein, you are heaping your plate full of high fibre, low calorie goodness, so you won't be hungry!

If you are on a weight-loss plan, or are simply worried about gaining weight over the holidays, try this approach. It means you can still have small portions of your favorites (ham, turkey, stuffing, etc.), but won't be going overboard, and will still feel satisfied and energized by all that good veggie nutrition.

If your holiday table doesn't usually include many healthy veggie dishes. Make some to add and create new traditions! Vegetables need never be boring. One caveat though, avoid preparing your veggie dishes with lots of oil, butter, cheese, etc., or they are no longer low-cal.
ere are 2 flavour-packed veggie recipes to try:


Molasses and Soy Roasted Sweet Potatoes

6 medium sweet potatoes, diced
1/4 cup molasses
1/4 cup soy sauce (or tamari for gluten-free)
Grated fresh ginger, about 2 tbsp.
2 cloves garlic, minced

Toss sweet potatoes with all other ingredients. Spread on parchment-lined baking sheet and roast at 375F for 45 minutes, or until tender.




Roasted Veggies with Gochujang (Korean hot pepper paste) and Orange

You can use whatever veggies you prefer, so modify as desired.

2 lbs Brussels sprouts
4 celery spears, sliced
1 cup dried and rehydrated shitaki mushrooms
1 onion, sliced
Zest and juice of 1 navel orange
1-2 tbsp. Korean hot pepper paste
1/2 tsp toasted sesame oil
2 tbsp. grated fresh ginger
2 cloves garlic, minced

If Brussels sprouts are large, cut them in half and discard tough outer leaves. Toss veggies with the other ingredients and spread out onto parchment-lined baking sheet. Roast at 375F for about 30 minutes, or until tender.


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

Monday, December 19, 2016

Zero Water Filter: Product Review


A few months ago I was asked to review the Zero water filter, and it seemed like timing could not have been more perfect. We were in the midst of our home renos, and had just found out the fridge we ordered didn't fit through our doors so it had to be returned. One of the key features I had looked for was a built in water filter/dispenser and ice maker, like our old one. While searching for a replacement, it didn't seem like I was going to find one with this feature that would fit our space, so this seemed like an ideal alternative. But we did end up getting a new fridge with a water filter. 

We are fortunate to live in an area with good water quality, so its not an issue of being concerned about what's in the water. But where ever you live, you may just not like how your tap water tastes.

In any case, I passed the Zero to my lovely neighbours who don't have a fridge with a filter and, until now, have been using a Brita. They have shared the following review:


Description:
-10 cup water filter pitcher
-comes with its own water meter


Features:
Five stage filter
Water meter holder on cap
Spigot on the back is a cool idea
Blue tint looks nice
Premium appearance


Notes:
Slightly heavy
Spigot can get caught as you're putting it away in the fridge

Water meter testing:
Brita filtered water (last filter change date unknown): 159 TDS (total dissolved solids)
"Real Canadian" bottled water: 227 TDS
Tap water: 167 TDS
Zero water: 001 TDS
Black coffee (Cuisinart coal filter): 449 TDS
Black coffee with mocha Coffeemate: 485 TDS

Review:
  • Street price of product tested $47. Brita for comparison is $30. Zero water filters are $18 each or $55 for four pack. (Online-not sure if they're on store shelves.)
  • An extra $20 at the store gets you an evidence-based water jug with a number that only it can reduce, but gives you a hard time fitting it in the fridge and makes you feel bad about drinking coffee. In Kid tested taste testing, (not blind testing), an 11 year old and 9 year old each preferred the Zero water over tap or bottled water.

    Overall Rating
    : 3.5 out of 5 (They have a 6 cup version that would score a half point higher: 4 out of 5).



Wow, so I would say the crucial piece of info is that 2 picky kids preferred the Zero over tap or 
bottled water!  If you have a child resistant to drinking water, maybe this is the answer?!?

Friday, December 16, 2016

Flying to New Heights


After 10 years of doing our New Year's Day drop-in party, we decided that last year was going to be the last one. We weren't enjoying it anymore, it just felt stressful. This year we are doing a low-key games night and dinner with friends on New Year's Eve, but then doing something sort of exciting on New Year's Day. New Year's Day we are all - yes all of us, even the kids - going indoor skydiving!

I have been fascinated by this since I heard about iFLY setting up shop just outside Toronto a few years ago. It seems relatively safe, and unbelievably exhilarating and fun! The only downside is the cost. A typical package is $100/person, and includes 4 'dives' that generally last 60 seconds long, over 2 hours (I guess the rest of the time is watching while others take their turns).

I cleared the idea with the family (Big A is super excited), but then immediately got cold feet. Its expensive! One of us could get hurt! The kids could be traumatized! I could get motion sickness and barf in front of everyone!

All of a sudden, despite my initial urgency to book, since you need to reserve spots weeks in advance, I started dragging my heels.

Then I remembered what I always remind my clients: Research shows that people rarely regret taking risks or trying new things, but they usually regret missed opportunities. So I bought tickets and booked.

I'll admit it, I am still a bit nervous, but I like that we are all doing it together. At the very least it will be 'interesting'.

Have an exciting, interesting weekend!

Wednesday, December 14, 2016

DIY Blush/Bronzer/Eye Shadow

Remember when I reviewed this book?


I finally got around to making another recipe from it a few weeks ago. While I was home with both girls, who were sick, I figured making something would be a nice, quiet activity to do with them.

The girls each had a few recipes they most wanted to make, but in order to keep them from fighting, I told them I was making the choice. My choice, to be honest, was simply based on the fact that I already had all the ingredients in the house.

The recipe in the book is called "Shimmer Blush" but modifying it a wee bit to adjust the colour, I am actually using it as more of a bronzer. But I see no reason why you couldn't use it as a blush, or a bronzer, or an eye shadow, frankly, based on the hue you give it.

I doubled the recipe, which probably wasn't necessary, because I find so little is needed (I literally shake the container to get a tiny bit on the lid, then gently dip the brush into the lid. Like you really need just a tiny bit, if you are using it as a bronzer! So this is going to last me FOREVER!


Now admittedly, I didn't intend to make this for myself - it was going to be for the girls for playing dress up at home - but after I tried it, I loved it so much, I added it to my daily makeup regimen.

Here is the original recipe for Shimmer Blush, and my modifications, in brackets:

1 tsp beet powder or hibiscus flower powder (1/2 tsp - I didn't want a really pink colour)
1/2 tsp arrowroot powder (1 tsp)
1/2 tsp unsweetened cocoa powder (I used 1 tsp raw cacao powder)
Pinch gold mica powder (I used bronze mica powder)
3-5 drops lavender essential oil (I omitted this)

Whisk together beet, arrowroot and cocoa powder in a small bowl, adding a little at a time, until desired colour is achieved. Add mica and oil, if using and pour into a jar. Keep at room temp for up to 6 months.

What's awesome is, not only is this makeup non-toxic, it is so much less expensive than buying something similar! Its also eco-friendly as I used an old foundation pot I had kept and cleaned out.

Monday, December 12, 2016

Costco Quest-like Protein Bars


Good morning and welcome to a new beginning. Beginning of a new day, and of a new week.  So winter finally arrived this weekend. The snow is pretty and its not bitterly cold yet, but already I am dreading the February/March blahs that always come after a few months of this.

I'm talking protein bars again today. So now you know how to make your own Quest bars.

But if you're not into that, I just discovered another awesome option that is also cheaper than real Quest Bars: Costco's own brand of protein bars!

This is the first time I've ever seen them, but maybe they are just new to our Costco location. In any case, they are $25 for a box of 20 bars, compared with $42 for a box of 12 Quest bars!!

The macros are pretty much the same: 60g bar with 190 cals, 21g protein, and 15g of fibre. They are sweetened with erythritol and stevia and are gluten-free.

The box has half Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough and half Chocolate Brownie flavours. The Chocolate Brownie is good, and more comparable to Quest Double Chocolate Chunk flavour because it has chocolate chunks. I like the Quest ones better though. The Kirkland ones are not very sweet and the chocolate is unsweetened chocolate. If you prefer a less sweet bar and like dark, bitter chocolate, this is the one for you.

The Cookie Dough is fantastic! It also has chunks of unsweetened chocolate but the base of the bar is quite sweet so they balance each other out. These ones are so good! Honestly, I may switch since the price is so much better than Quest! I just wish that you could get a box with just the Cookie dough flavour.

Way to go Costco, nice job :)

Friday, December 9, 2016

Winter 2016 Faves

It is December and we still have had no snow. It only really started to get cold yesterday. That means we are probably going to get our butts completely kicked by winter when it finally arrives. Us Canadians never get off Scot-free.

In any case, here are a few of my favorite things this winter...or pre-winter, I guess. I will do another round up once we get to "When will this fucking winter end" point in time around February/March.

Vitafiber



This healthy sweetener rocks. I bought the syrup, but I am sure you can do great things with the powder too. Its the base of my homemade Quest bars, and you can use it to make cereal bars, fudge, etc.  I am so excited to continue experimenting with it!

BWC Nourishing Eye Gel and Make-up Remover

 

The skin around my eyes gets red and irritated as the weather gets colder because my eyes tear a lot. The eye gel is so soothing and the eye make up remover super gentle. I love these products!

Vega Hydrator



I stay away from 'sports' drinks. Most of them are just soda pop in disguise, full of sugar and unnecessary things. I don't do the whole coconut water thing either because (1) it tastes gross, (2) its still empty calories. Remember, unless you do high intensity endurance exercise (i.e. run for 90+ minutes) or workout in very extreme conditions, you don't need to rehydrate with carb/sugar drinks. I love this vega hydrator because it has the electrolytes but no sugar or calories, and it tastes pretty good, in both the lemon lime and berry flavours. No artificial colours, etc. either!

Buttercup Squash


Until recently, I was all about the kabocha. But suddenly they became impossible to find yet their fraternal twin, buttercup, was everywhere. I finally decided to give one a try and, wow, I loved it. Like I may actually prefer these guys to kabocha now.  Sweeter, moister flesh, and more consistent (i.e. sometimes I would get a great kabocha and sometimes I would end up with a very disappointing one).

These oatmeal cookies!


I am devouring these cookies as breakfast, snacks and dessert. I love, love, love them. If you are an oatmeal cookie lover and want a healthier, lower cal option than your standard cookie, these are perfect!! They are super quick and easy to make too.

Just some of life's little pleasures I am enjoying right now. Have a healthy, happy weekend and go find some pleasures!

Wednesday, December 7, 2016

Big A the Book Reviewer: Good Reads for Tweens

Publishers have been sending me all sorts of youth literature, which I have been giving to our little book worm. I am so thrilled that Big A has embraced reading to the same extent as Adam and I. There is only one difference though: she is a much faster reader than either of us! She is in the top 95th percentile for speed of reading!!

As useful as this will be for her, it means she is going through books fast, and always begging for more.

Here are a few reviews she's done for me on books were were sent:

Spies in Disguise: Boy in the Tutu (by Kate Scott)



Its about a boy who's parents are secret agents and they get found out, like their cover gets blown and the boy needs to find this computer chip to save his parents. I liked the part about how the two main characters had to take ballet lessons. The only thing I didn't like is maybe there could have been more conflict.

Rating: 9.9/10

Earning my Spots (by Mark Eastburn)



Its about this boy and his family are shape shifters, and he has to save his parents who were kidnapped. Its very detailed and a long book, so it took me a while to read. I found it hard to keep track of all the characters because there were so many things going on.

Rating: 3/10

Blind Guide to Normal (by Beth Vrabel)



I just read it again, like for the 12th time. Its amazing. I like Rider's point of view, the main character. He lost one of his eyes to cancer, I like that you get see what things are like for him. I would love a future book to be from Jocelyn's point of view, because she is an interesting character too.

Rating: 10/10

Okay, so she's not the most eloquent reviewer, even she says this isn't her strong suit. Despite being a fast and voracious reader, Big A's favorite subject in school is actually math. I don't see an English degree in her future.

So its the Blind Guide to Normal for the win. You may recall Big A reviewed Vrabel's book Blind Guide to Stinkville, and loved that one too. She is determined to read every single thing Vrabel has ever written or ever writes in the future. So, wow, that's a pretty strong recommendation!

If you are looking to buy a book for the tween in your life, it sounds like any of Vrabel's books are a good bet.





Monday, December 5, 2016

Homemade Quest Bars


If you are feeling a little blue because its Monday, this post might cheer you up. I have a simple way to make your own Quest bars at home!

I love Quest bars as a little treat, but, boy are they expensive! Most protein bars are pricey, actually.

So when I got my first order of Vitafiber, I knew they were the first thing I had to try making.

Vitafiber, by the way, is a sugar-free, natural, low glycemic and lower calorie sweetener made of Isomaltooligosaccharide (IMO).

It is high in fibre and a prebiotic, and is a main ingredient in real Quest bars.

I used the basic recipe for a dozen bars posted by Busy but Healthy but I skipped putting the hot batter into a plastic bag, and I am happy to say it still worked perfectly.

For these Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough bars I used:

Homemade Chocolate Chip Cookie Dough Quest-Style Bars (based on this recipe)

1.5 cups Vitafiber
3 cups vanilla whey protein powder (use plant-based for vegan bars)
8 tbsp almond flour
1/3 cup stevia-sweetened chocolate chips

Heat Vitafiber in pot on medium until bubbling. Remove from heat and stir in protein powder and almond flour. Mix well until it starts to stick together. Stir in chocolate chips. Dump batter into parchment-lined 9x9 square baking dish. Refrigerate until firm. Remove bars using parchment paper to lift out. Cut into 12 bars.

Keep in air tight container, or refrigerate for firmer bars.

You can make different flavours by using different kinds of protein powder and different mix-ins.

If you add any fresh fruit, bars will have a much shorter shelf life.

I think I might try making chocolate mint ones next!

No one is happier about these homemade bars then the kids. They actually like them MORE than the store bought kind! I don't usually allow them my Quest bars because they are so expensive, but I suspect this means they will be nagging me to make them on a regular basis. No biggie though, because they're so quick and easy to make!

I have shared this recipe with Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Urban Naturale's Plant-Based Pot Luck Link ups.

Friday, December 2, 2016

Parenting Pickles


One of the most stressful things about parenting is when kids get sick. First there is the worry that its something serious. Then there is dealing with who cares for them. I can only imagine how challenging it is for people with low income jobs that are not salaried. Having to stay home to care for your child for an extended period of time could be catastrophic!

So I am very grateful that we are comfortable, financially secure, and I have job flexibility because Monday afternoon I had to pick up 2 very sad looking girls from school. Big A barfed and Little A's tummy was hurting because she'd been coughing so hard.

Apparently there are several nasty viruses going around their school and we've managed to get more than one of them. Yeah, we hit the jackpot!

Since I had a work commitment, Adam's mom was nice enough to take Little A to the doctor, just to rule out bronchitis and pneumonia. Fortunately, we got the 'its just a virus' response, which means its not serious, but also there is no treatment. Just lots of fluids, honey, a humidifier and lozenges. But the poor kid is miserable and when her coughing gets really bad, she panics, which only makes it worse.

Nevertheless, the doctor reassured us she isn't contagious and can go to school, so she went back Wednesday. Big A stayed home another day to make sure she had all the barfing out of her system. I was feeling worse than her though, I had a migraine and when I went to refill my Rx at the pharmacy, they informed me I didn't have any more refills. I basically had to just endure the pain until I went to bed that night.

To top things off, on Wednesday Adam had a work trip so I was on my own with the girls. Oy!

Needless to say, this week didn't go as planned.

Today is a PA day for the girls and a reasonably quiet day for me. I am going to Costco this morning, yay! But the weekend is busy as usual. At least we are all on our way back to being healthy. Little A and I just have to get rid of our cough!

Have a healthy, happy weekend :)