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Monday, April 23, 2018

Nuts or Seeds: Protein Bar Review

I don't have much time to eat during the day when I am at the office and busy seeing therapy clients. I've discovered that even doing 3 hour long sessions in a row without a snack can leave me hangry.

Since I need something satisfying, portable and quick, I frequently reach for protein bars. As such, I've been trying some different ones lately just to mix things up.

On a whim (and because they were on sale on Amazon.ca), I bought some Pegan bars.

This was an unusual choice for me because I am neither paleo nor vegan and that's the whole 'thing' with these bars. Also, the only flavour available was sunflower butter which is kind of weird. They have other yummy sounding flavours though, like Ginger Snap Cookie, Cinnamon Vanilla, Cinnamon Raisin Roll and Chocolate Lava.

In any case, I have to say I like them. They taste exactly like eating sunflower butter (surprise, surprise). So if you like it, you will like these. It isn't sweet or candy bar tasting, so I didn't even bother offering one to Adam or the girls because I know they won't like them.

The ingredients are pretty impressive, as are the macros, if you are looking for a relatively healthy bar:


I also found a clearance sale on Quest Peanut Butter Supreme bars and decided to give them a shot. They are similarly less sweet and candy tasting compared to other flavours, but definitely yummy if you are a peanut butter lover. They are pretty firm and chewy but I prefer that to a bar that's too soft.


The macros and ingredients are typical for Quest bars. This particular flavour does have sucralose so if you are one of those people who gets hysterical over artificial sweeteners, than these are not for you.

So, will I buy either of them again? Nope. They still don't compare to Quest Double Chocolate Chunk, or the Costco protein bars, which are also the cheapest of any I've found. But hey, its nice to have some variety.

Monday, April 16, 2018

DermaWand: Product Review


I despise the fact that once women look over 35, they are no longer considered beautiful. Okay, sure, there are exceptions for the genetically gifted, such as Christie Brinkley, but for the rest of us, normal aging is just not acceptable.

The expectations for women to 'age gracefully' are ridiculous, especially considering the double standards we have for men. Men can be fat, balding, bags of wrinkles and no one says boo. Health-wise, women tend to age better since men generally do such a poor job of looking after themselves.

Given the ridiculousness of all this, I hate that I let this pressure affect how I feel about my own appearance. I have never felt physically better or fitter. I think its the wisdom that comes along with aging that has helped me learn what works best in terms of diet and exercise for feeling my best, unfortunately, I believe my outside doesn't match the way I feel on the inside. I feel  like I am 25, but I definitely look my age thanks to lines on my face.

I know many women, some younger than I am, who have done Botox, and believe me, it is very tempting! But I have resisted for a few reasons. One, the cost. If it was a one and done thing, maybe, but the effects only last a few months, so you have to keep it up, and that adds up real fast! Two, it kind of scares the crap out of me. The potential negative side effects are a bit creepy.

I've tried all sorts of creams and serums promising wrinkle reducing miracles but never seen much difference no matter how much they cost.

So when DermaWand offered me an opportunity to try out their product, something non-invasive, I figured, why the heck not?

The DermaWand uses radio technology to reduce wrinkles and fine lines. The supposed benefits are:

THERMAL ENERGY
The gentle microcurrent delivers thermal energy to the dermal areas under your skin's surface and increasing dermal skin temperature may help support your skin's natural healthy look.

INSTANT STIMULATION
DermaWand® delivers gentle microcurrent at 100,000 cycles per second, producing a massage effect. Massage helps improve circulation and bring fresh blood, oxygen and nutrients to the skin's surface.

ENRICHED OXYGEN
DermaWand® gives off enriched oxygen which bathes your skin while you're using it. You'll recognize the smell; it's that fresh, clean "after a rainstorm" fragrance. Enriched oxygen will help breathe new life into your skin’s surface and with DermaWand®, you will see a reduction in pore size.

So I have been using it on my "Number 11" (my friend's term for the 2 vertical lines we get between the eye brows) because I had them the most, since January 2018 (with a 3 week break while we were in Israel and during my 2 weeks of flu). At first I was using it twice a day, up until our trip, but afterwards, and after recovering from the flu, my motivation to make it happen twice daily waned, so since then I have being doing it once  daily. In case you're wondering, no, it does not hurt at all. You just massage the area using the motion directed in the instruction booklet (it depends which area you are focusing on). You apply a moisturizer first, though they sent me the gel the company makes to use with it so that's what I have been using.

Has it worked? I think so.

Before



After



I think my 11s are not quite as deep now, though they are still there. But hey, I will take any degree of improvement!

So do I plan to keep using it? Hell yes! Maybe my wrinkles and lines will continue to diminish so that if I am consistent, by the time I'm 80, I will look 30!

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

Monday, April 9, 2018

Game On: Board Game Reviews

I have always adored board games. As a kid I played Monopoly, Trivial Pursuit, Clue and Scrabble regularly with my family.

As I got older I became hooked on games like Pictionary, Scattergories, Taboo, Cranium, etc. In fact, as often as possible I would invite friends over for game nights and Adam and I once hosted a board game New Year's Eve party (long before kids!).

The girls love them too and we've amassed a good collection. Unfortunately, I work a lot on weekends, so its usually Adam and the girls who play them. We always prefer getting the girls playing a board game instead of doing anything on a device! Board games are a great way to hang out as a family.

Recently we were sent 2 new ones to try out, and that's just what Adam and the kids did over March break.

The first, Rubik's Race, was new to Adam and I but the girls had played it before and already were fans.



Essentially, you shake the Scrambler to create a Rubik's pattern and then slide the tiles to match the pattern on your board to the pattern in the Scrambler. The first player to complete the match and slam down the center frame wins!

Its a simple concept and easy to set up and Adam and the girls really enjoy playing it together.

The other, Bob Ross: The Art of Chill, was new to us all. This one, unfortunately, bombed. Now we knew it was a gamble to play as a family because it is recommended for people over age 12, but ironically, it was Adam who got frustrated with it first and threw in the towel, feeling it is much too complicated and not at all enjoyable.


Since it was so complicated they couldn't even figure it out completely, I found a link that describes the game accordingly:

For The Art of Chill, each player starts with three art supplies cards, with each card showing one of seven paints and one of four tools. You take one of the large double-sided painting cards, place it on the easel, and place Bob on the first space on the painting track.

Each player takes a turn to roll the die and either draws an art supplies card, plays a paint to their palette, receives an extra action for the turn, or both draws a "Chill" card and advances Bob on the painting track.

The player then takes three actions. Actions include drawing an art supplies cards, discarding two matching cards to claim the matching technique card (which is worth 2 points and 1 bonus point when used), sweep the art supplies card row, place a paint on their palette, wash half their palette, or complete a section of a painting. To take this latter action, the player needs to have all of the paint needed for one of the painting's three sections on their palette with no unneeded colors mixed in! The player scores points equal to the number of paints used, bonus points if they're the first or second to paint this, and additional points if they've painted this feature before Bob (i.e., did you paint this before the Bob figure reaches this space on the painting track.

When someone has completed all three features on a painting or Bob has reached the end of the painting track, this work is complete! Remove it from the easel, and start a new painting. Players continue to take turns until someone reaches a maximum chill of 30 points, at which point they win the game instantly.

So, do I recommend these games? Well, Rubik's Race I recommend for sure, especially for kids. The Art of Chill might appeal to people who have a lot of patience, but it was not a good fit for our family. Nevertheless, board games are a great way to spend time with your kids, especially when relegated indoors due to weather conditions. There are also games out there that will appeal to people of all ages. Personally, I have always favored word games. Get your Scrabble on!

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

Monday, April 2, 2018

Israel: Part 3 (FOOD)

The first thing anyone said to me who had been to Israel before about the country is, "You will love the food"!

I can't argue with that.

The traditional cuisine is all things I love: lots of fresh fruits and veggies, grilled meat and fish, hummus, tahini galore (and you know I am the tahini Queen!), dates and other dried fruits and nuts.

As I mentioned in a previous post, the breakfast buffets at the hotels (we were at Dan Panoramas in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv) were spectacular. Here is a, probably incomplete list of what was on offer:

Breads, bagels, croissants
Fresh vegetables and fruits and locally grown Medjool dates
Yogurt, cottage cheese, kefir
Oatmeal, granola and cold cereals
Smoothies and juices
Eggs hard boiled, scrambled and custom-made omelettes
Pancakes and waffles
Hummus, tatziki, tahini and falafel
Rotating offerings of dim sum, stir fried veggies or other Asian foods
Pastries and desserts including halva and baklava

It was seriously amazing!

I was also impressed with the coffee at the hotel, and at the few cafes where I grabbed one. And you know how picky I am about coffee!

The best dish I had was at a restaurant in the Carmel market in Tel Aviv. It was roasted cauliflower with beet tahini sauce, raisins and pumpkin seeds (dish on the right). I definitely have to recreate this, it was fantastic!



Unfortunately, the other dish I ordered, chicken and roasted veggies, was bland and dry. We had wanted a fish special they had, but they were out of it.

Roni, our guide, took us to an Arab falafel/shwarma restaurant that I thought was just okay. My favorite part about it was that you eat outside on a patio, and there were a million cats everywhere offering snuggles in exchange for food scraps (I don't care if that's not hygienic, I will take any excuse to snuggle cats!). It wasn't bad, but I found the falafel and hummus underseasoned compared to how I like it.


While out and about on our own, Adam and I ate at Aroma Cafes several times. It was just easier than trying to figure out restaurants with no English menu. We both got variations of this chicken salad each time.



In Jerusalem, we discovered The First Station, a funky area near our hotel with shops and restaurants. We had a good meal at an Italian place, and met a lovely couple in their 80s visiting from British Columbia. We had a nice chat with them about touring Israel and life in Canada.



The last 2 days we had in Jerusalem were tougher because of so many things being closed for Shabbat, but we managed to find a great restaurant open called Focaccia on the Friday. On the Saturday, we found a sushi restaurant right near Focaccia and got take out to eat at the hotel before the cab came to get us to take us to the airport. It was decent, though they didn't have the meal on the menu I had originally wanted, so, in fact, I got a Thai chicken curry.

The markets in both Jerusalem and Tel Aviv were also amazing. Huge varieties of fresh fruits and vegetables were on offer, as well as vendors selling candy and chocolate (our kids would have gone nuts!), halva (in like 50 different flavours!), baklava, falafel, fresh pita/breads, dried fruits and nuts. I didn't end up buying anything there for us, but brought home chocolate, halva, and Turkish delight for relatives.

Now I do have to admit that you can definitely have too much of a good thing. By the end of the trip I was kinda sick of olives and marinated vegetables because I was eating so much (even at breakfast!). One thing I didn't get sick of is the dates. In fact, Roni was telling us about how the Israeli Medjool dates are so large and sweet, that Israelis can't eat more than one at a time. Nevermind that I was stuffing my 4th into my mouth as he said this, that I'd snatched off the hotel's breakfast buffet 😆😆

Also, a visit to Israel is not a ticket to weightloss, even though the cuisine is healthy. Its definitely not low-cal. There is a ton of olive oil and tahini used in the cooking, as well as nuts and seeds. So, yes, nutritious, but also easy to overdo.

Vegans can definitely find stuff to eat pretty easily, as long as you don't mind most of your protein coming from beans, nuts and seeds. We didn't see much tofu at restaurants or cafes, though health food stores carried lots of it, as well as a good array of tempeh and soy or wheat-gluten meat alternatives.

My one complaint, that would probably not be a concern for most people, is that it was hard to get a COLD drink. Maybe its because we were there in winter so Israelis aren't so concerned with drinking things iced cold, but that's how I like my beverages always. I found whether it was beer, water, or Diet Coke, nothing came chilled enough for my taste, and our hotels didn't have ice or water machines, which I found frustrating. Tepid tap water does not quench my thirst!

Also, tons of people smoke, and smoking is allowed on restaurant patios, so Adam and I often had to strategically seat ourselves where smoke wouldn't waft in our direction.

As for the food on El Al, the Israeli airline, it was...airplane food, maybe a bit better than average. You definitely got more food than other airlines, but I would not say it was stellar. We bought dinners to take on the plane at the airports, so it was mostly the breakfasts we ate on board. Both times we got vegetarian omelettes and they were accompanied by some sort of fruit, a bit of coleslaw, a (white) bagel and cream cheese.

Well that's all folks! The only destination I've had on my (non-existent) bucket list was Israel, and now I can cross it off. It is definitely a wonderful place to visit with lots of interesting things to do regardless of what your preferences are.