Friday, September 30, 2016

Vegan Kamut Pizza Crust

Wow, its been a while since I have posted a recipe! But now that our new kitchen is done, I'm back!

I decided to break in the new kitchen with a new from-scratch pizza crust. What's different about this one, is it's yeast-based, something I haven't made in ages. Truthfully, there are lots of whole grain pizza doughs available around Toronto, so normally I wouldn't bother, but I have to say, it was much easier than I expected. I think I will have to do this more often!

What makes this recipe a little different is that it uses aquafaba (chickpea liquid) as the binding agent, and is oil-free and vegan.

Why, when I am not vegan, or even vegetarian, do I make so many plant-based recipes? Well, first, plant-based foods are super healthy and I subscribe to Michael Pollan's philosophy: Eat food. Not too much. Mostly plants. Second, it brings out my inner scientist. I love experimenting with recipes and seeing how non-traditional ingredients (that are healthier) can sub for the more conventional ones. Like, it blows my mind that you can create baked goods that can pass as containing flour, but are actually made from beans or plantains! And aquafaba is amazing. The liquid from canned chickpeas can be a substitute for eggs! How cool is that?

Anyways, the crust turned out great, however, I wasn't wild about the toppings I made for this particular pizza. I tossed the chickpeas I had from the can I used to get the aquafaba, with red onion, and garlic and sauteed it all with some buffalo sauce, and threw on some sundried tomatoes. Unfortunately, I didn't love chickpeas on pizza. I think next time I will go with my favorite, more traditional toppings of spinach, kalamata olives and sundried tomatoes.

This recipe makes a lot of dough. You can halve it, but I say, if you are going to the trouble of making the dough from scratch, make lots! You can always freeze half for later use. I used it all to make 2 extra large pizzas, but I think next time I would make the crust thinner, and maybe make 3 slightly smaller pizzas.

No matter what though, its pizza right? Is there such a thing as bad pizza?

Vegan Kamut Pizza Crust

6 cups whole grain kamut flour (or other flour)
2 tsp coconut sugar
2 packets instant rise yeast
1 tsp salt
2 cups warm water
Liquid from 14oz can of chickpeas

Mix together dry ingredients in a very large bowl and then add hot water and aquafaba. If dough is too dry, add more hot water, a little at a time, until dough can be formed into a ball. Cover bowl with plastic wrap and leave in a warm place to double in size, about 40 minutes.

Lay parchment paper over baking sheet and take desired amount of dough (depending on size and thickness of crust you want), and flour the top surface. Use hands to press out dough into desired shape. Use fork to poke bottom of crust and then bake at 450F for 5-8 minutes.  Top with desired ingredients and return to oven and bake for about 10-12 minutes. Enjoy!

Leftovers can be refrigerated for up to 4 days or frozen.

Though its Friday, I am kinda dreading this weekend. Up until this point in our renos, we had a member of the crew putting together all our new furniture, but they basically finished up this week, so all the smaller items that have been delivered in the past few days, we are going to attempt to assemble ourselves. I predict a lot of blood, sweat and tears. And swearing. Worst case scenario, we'll have to ask them to come back and help. Neither Adam nor I have much patience for this stuff. Frankly, I despise the fact that every single item of furniture these days has to be put together by the consumer. Grr!

Anyways, have a happy, healthy weekend and make pizza!

I have shared this recipe with Urban Naturale's Plant-based Pot Luck Party.

Wednesday, September 28, 2016

More Workout Goodness from Cathe: DVD Reviews

Wow, I think I got off easy with this cold. Monday I felt miserable, but yesterday I already felt better. I mostly just have a headache and stuffy nose. Today I feel almost completely back to normal. Nothing compared to what Adam has (and still has after a solid 2 weeks!). So far I have not had to cut any workouts or miss work, thank goodness! This was possibly the shortest cold I've ever had! is Workout Wednesday here on the blog.

Ya know how ads for stuff you're into kinda just magically pops up on your Facebook feed? Here's a shocker, I get a lot of ads for healthy food and fitness products. Though these stalker ads totally creep me out, I got sucked in a few weeks ago. Cathe has some new DVDs launching soon and there was a special offer to preorder. The new series is called Strong and Sweaty. Hey, I'm strong and sweaty! Sounds like a good fit for me!!

As if that wasn't enough, while I was ordering the new set, I couldn't resist picking up a few more of her DVDs that sounded appealing.  After all, the Strong and Sweaty series won't actually be available until late fall! Also, I thought I might need some inspiration for my bedroom workouts during our renos.

I got her To the Max, Cardio Core Circuit, and Timesaver.

To the Max is a circuit workout that is just under an hour. Like her other workouts I already have, this one requires a lot of small equipment like a leg band, step, dumbbells and gliding discs. I enjoy this workout and its really challenging. The whole thing is done on the step, but its all intensity focused rather than choreography focused, which is just how I like it. It uses real songs with lyrics, or remakes of, that you may recognize. Its got some tabatas and a nice little core workout at the end.

Cardio Core Circuit is fun and requires no equipment. Its 50 minutes and has several rounds of simple but intense cardio drills with a set of functional core work in between each. I really like this workout and its a great one if you don't want to buy any equipment to have at home. Its mostly high impact and plyo exercises so if you can't do this type of workout, you will have to modify a lot.

Timesaver is definitely a good buy. It has 5 full workouts on it, all under 50 minutes. Each one is about 30 minutes warm-up/cardio and then strength training, except one which is all lower body strength work.  The first 3 are on the step and really push me in terms of choreography. They aren't ridiculous like the ones I recently reviewed (which, to me, seem impossible unless you are a Dancing with the Stars winner), but they are still more than I want to deal with at 5am. The other cardio one is kickboxing and I LOVE THIS ONE. The moves are very easy to follow and fun. Since I skip the weight training at the end, it makes it a perfect warm up for days when I have a longer strength training workout of my own to do. The legs one is really good too. I think its better than Jillian Michael's Killer Buns and Thighs. I still won't use it too often as I prefer to do my own weight routines, but I definitely give it high marks for level of difficulty (depending on how much weight you use, of course).

One thing to note, is all the Timesaver workouts seem to use a barbell for the strength component. Not a real one, but one like you use in Bodypump/Power, or whatever the f*ck they call those Les Mills classes now. I don't have one, but its pretty easy to do the workouts with dumbbells instead.

Overall, the To the Max and Cardio Core Circuit are my favorites. The Timesaver isn't as great a value for me as I'd hoped, since I may only regularly use one of the workouts, but its still worth it, because I really like that one workout.

I can't wait to get my hands on Strong and Sweaty! Cathe's workouts are among my very favs, and I love that she offers so much variety. If you work out at home, I definitely encourage you to try her out. If you think you cannot work at home because you don't have space, you're wrong!

Listen, if I can lift and pull and push and jump and roll and leap in my lil ol bedroom, then that is evidence that you can exercise anywhere. Get to it!

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.

Wednesday, September 7, 2016

Blackfly Coolers: Product Review

Summer is over! Well, at least if you're a student. Officially it doesn't end for a few weeks, and it certainly still feels like summer. Yeah, I hate it. This f*cking hot, humid weather needs to end NOW! We made the most of our last weekend of the summer with our annual trip to the CNE on Friday, with a crowd of friends. It wasn't unbearably lot, thank goodness, and the girls and their friends had a blast on the rides.  Saturday I had to work, and Sunday was errand day. Monday we took the girls berry/apple/pear picking but didn't last long due to the heat. I organized the house to prepare for the construction workers starting back up yesterday, while Adam took the girls for a swim in our neighbourhood pool.

Yesterday was the first day of school. Grade 2 and Grade 5. Yep, the girls are growing up.  We are fortunate that the girls don't have much anxiety about school, they are so much more confident than I ever was as a kid! But now, in the midst of our reno chaos, we have to adjust to a new schedule and the million extracurricular activities the girls are involved in. Its going to be even more of a circus around here than usual!

A drink or 2 may be in order...

So remember the whey vodka I reviewed a few weeks ago? Well, the company generously dropped off 6 different flavours of its coolers for us to try.

Unfortunately, I don't drink sugar-sweetened beverages. In fact, we don't allow them in the house. Occasionally I will buy unsweetened juices for parties, etc., but that's about it.  Adding a sugary mixer to alcohol is just adding one source of calories with no nutritional value to another. Its also a good way to get a real bad hangover!

But I know most people don't think twice about drinking a few cocktails, regardless of whether they have sugar and the popularity of these drinks seems pretty consistent.  My neighbour (who helped me sample the plain vodka) and her husband, sometimes enjoy coolers, so I asked if they'd be the taste testers, and they were happy to oblige.

They are sweetened with cane sugar - which is just regular sugar. I would have much preferred if they'd used stevia, or xylitol. On the positive side, they are made from real juice, contain no high fructose corn syrup, and are gluten-free.

Some flavours come in packs of 4-330ml bottles, while others come in 473ml individual cans. There are classic flavours like Whisky Sour and Gin Tom Collins, and some funky ones like Sour Raspberry and Sour Grape.

My friends absolutely loved the Sour Raspberry and Tequila Margarita, giving them top marks (5/5).  Sour Grape got a 4/5, simply because they found the flavour a bit too overwhelming to drink the whole can at once (maybe that's a good thing?).  Gin Tom Collins and Vodka Grape got 3/5 ratings. The grape had a harsh, artificial taste, they found, and the Tom Collins didn't have the expected tartness from the lemon.  Finally, they did not at all like the Vodka Cranberry, describing it as watery and lacking an identifiable flavour.

So for my cooler conniosseurs, the different flavours ranged from fabulous to forgettable.

From my perspective, it is definitely a good thing that they use real juice and no corn syrup and are supposedly 'lightly sweetened' as opposed to heavily sweetened. I'd love them to take it a step further though, and either use a healthy sugar-alternative, or since they are using juice, leave them unsweetened altogether.

I do really like that this is a local, Canadian business rather than a product made by some massive company. I also like that they are committed to minimizing their footprint on the planet in a number of ways:

LOCAL: Black Fly Bottles are made locally in Ontario. These bottles are made from PET 1, the most recyclable plastic currently used in this industry. Our bottles are only 40 grams when empty which is 6 times lighter than a traditional glass bottle. This means the transportation of our products results in less Green House Gases (Co2 emissions). Black Fly bottles are strong and unbreakable making these bottles a safe choice in environments where broken glass poses a problem.

RECYCLABLE: Our bottles are also much easier to break down during recycling requiring less energy to shred PET then to melt glass. Black Fly's single use bottles are not necessarily single use! Our bottles actually have a much longer life span as recycled materials then as Black Fly bottles. The deposit programs implemented by our retail partners ensures a high rate of customer return and therefore recycling than other bottles and plastics that have no return monetary value to consumers. Black Fly bottles work their way through The Beer Store's recycling system in Ontario, ending up at a Canadian recycling business where they are then sold to companies that make car parts, clothing and other plastics.

REDUCED PACKAGING DESIGNS: Black Fly's 4 pack carriers were designed to reduced packaging using the least amount of corrugate possible while remaining compliant with industry packaging standards for crush testing and tamperproof packaging. Our open sided carriers allow consumers to easily see our products, while providing a sturdy consumer carrying container. Black Fly uses less corrugate then traditional top-open and closed containers. Black Fly 4-packs have a unique locking design which utilizes a glue-less closure system.

GREEN SHRINK: Black Fly's newest Green initiative is implementing the use of biodegradable Shrink Wrap within its plant and encouraging its trade partners to do the same. Full conversion to Green Shrink Wrap is slated for 2012 (both in shipping out Black Fly products and receiving pallets from Black Fly's suppliers). Black Fly receives and ships tens of thousands of shrinkwrapped pallets per year. Our biodegradable shrink wrap program is making a difference.

PLA CUPS: In an effort to reduce waste at events and trade shows, in 2009 Black Fly sourced a biodegradable sampling cup and has since used 3oz PLA corn based biodegradable cups, for all sample tastings and 16oz biodegradable cups for sale events. Shortly thereafter Black Fly converted a major industry sampling company to make the switch over to Black Fly's green supplier and start using these cups for all of their tasting jobs and events.

RECYCLING: Black Fly's team is committed to reducing waste at all levels, from staff sorting and recycling any business materials that do not have bins within our industrial area, to larger initiatives that involve large recycling companies. Bottles, Corrugate and Shipping Containers at Black Fly are all recyclable. All of these raw materials are recyclable after use. Black Fly uses a local recycling business to support its programs, and commends its staff for initiating and committing to these green programs.

So do I recommend these coolers? Well, no one can recommend them from a nutrition perspective, but that's the case for most alcoholic drinks.  But when it comes to taste, my neighbours were pretty impressed with the sour fruit varieties! If that sounds appealing to you, and you are a cooler drinker, that I definitely encourage you to support this Canadian company!

Disclosure: The company sent me complimentary samples, but all opinions on this blog are mine (and my neighbours).

Friday, September 2, 2016

Reno Challenge: Week 2

We are done our second week of renos and things are taking shape.  Already I can get more of a sense of what the final product will look like and I'm getting excited. Its definitely important to stay focused on the goal because it really truly is a nuisance to live in a construction zone.

If only the frickin heat and humidity would die down, because I am still finding the toughest part to be spending so much time in our bedroom, which is the hottest room in the house.  Before the renos, I would often have to take my work down to Adam's study in the basement, but that's not been an option. How is it that in 2016, we still can't regulate central air better? The basement is freezing, the main floor cool and the top floor wretched.

Adam is eating his meals and supplementing with a lot of snacks.  Turns out they are really better designed for someone on a weight-loss diet and just aren't enough food for most normal people, but he is finding them tasty enough and definitely convenient, which is the point.

I am continuing with much the same simple meal plan as last week and am not sick of it yet.  Things are so busy its actually nice not to have to put much time or thought into my meals.  But eventually I know I'll start dying to cook again.  Already I am building up a list of recipe ideas I can't wait to try.

The girls are happily subsisting on bread (with chocolate cream cheese), smoothies, raw veggies (when forced), mac&cheese (organic, whole wheat at least!) and frozen lasagna.  We've also bought them a few meals including sushi, wraps, etc. to simplify things. Frankly, as long as they don't develop scurvy before the renos finish, I don't give a damn. I just don't have the time or energy to fight with them.

Bedroom workouts are fine, though Adam can't understand how I do it, but I think its partly doable for me because I'm so small.  A bigger person would definitely have more difficulty, but I don't need much space. He's been continuing to go to his gym before work to fit in shorter workouts.

Honestly, if you workout at home and want to gain upper body strength, without having to buys a bunch of dumbbells, get a TRX home gym, like the one I bought:

...and a pull-up bar,

and you really can't go wrong!

Not having television really sucks. For Adam and I. I think its great for the girls, but watching our PVR programs in the evenings is how we like to relax and for now, that's out. On the upside, we end up going to bed even earlier than usual, which means more reading time for me.

I cannot believe this was the last week of the summer! Monday is Labour Day and the girls start school Tuesday. Of course, this is going to add a whole additional layer of stress to things with renos continuing, as will the beginning of all their extracurricular activities. I am trying not to think about it right now so I don't have a panic attack.

The worst part of this week was that I finally stopped avoiding my dentist and went in to get my tooth pulled. Blech! It didn't hurt while she did it but I could hear the crunched as it came out and that made me want to barf, as did her commenting, after it came out, "There is a bit of bone and tissue attached." Oh man, the grossness! Once the freezing wore off it then hurt like hell for the rest of the day.  Its alright now but still disgusting to think I have a hole in the back of my mouth, and very tender. Hot or cold beverages cause much pain and I have to eat on the opposite side only for a while.

We have no plans this weekend yet, but that was the case going into last weekend, which turned out to be crazy busy.  So we'll just have to see how things go.  Today we are taking the girls to the Ex, as we always do, the last Friday of the summer. I'm dreading it. Yeah, yeah, I'm a party pooper, so what?

Have a wonderful long weekend!