Friday, January 31, 2014

Declutter Challenge! TOMORROW!

The Happy Herbivore on Facebook is hosting a Declutter Challenge! It will be tomorrow. You are invited to take a picture before and after your decluttering and if you post them on their Facebook page or tweet it to them

Take this opportunity to make at least one little corner of your house clutter-free!

Tuesday, January 28, 2014

A Key to Being Free

I saw this on Denis Waitley's Facebook page today:

"People waste most of their waking hours every day going through the motions, chatting idly, shuffling paper, putting off decisions, reacting, majoring in minors and concentrating on trivia. They spend their time in low priority tension relieving, rather than high priority goal-achieving activities." -- Denis Waitley

This speaks to me as this has been how things have felt lately. Going through the motions. Relieving tension rather than focusing on goal-achieving activities.

I think we all go through these phases. The trick, the key, is to realize we're in it and start taking actions on things that are important to us. Yes, the trivia does have to be taken care of and, let's face it, some days are just full of all kinds of emergency-type items we either have to take care of or delegate. Like the day last week where I ended up with a flat tire. Taking care of it had nothing to do with achieving long-term goals, but it had to be done.

If you are finding yourself in one of these phases, pick something, right now, that you will do ASAP. Don't wait until you feel like it. Stop yourself from any procrastinating and just do something about it. Writing this post is one of my actions. I'm now going to find the novel I started writing and haven't touched in a few weeks and start moving on it. And I'm going to eat that half of a grapefruit that's in the fridge that I keep putting off eating.

What about you? What actions are you going to take today?

Sunday, January 26, 2014


Definition of OY

—used especially to express exasperation or dismay <oy, what a mess>

From the Merriam-Webster online dictionary

As I sit here working on the laptop with the TV on in the background, there are commercials running that I'm not paying too much attention to. Then something in one of them catches my eye. Not in a good way. It's a Slimband commercial. My reaction is, "What?" So I rewind and discover, ironically enough, that there is a Burger King commercial right before it. Regardless...

Onscreen image: a cartoon overweight woman thinking, "Yay! I lost 2 lbs." and a calendar with "Week 1." The voiceover says (as images change):

"So you start a new diet and then you get invivted to a baby shower or you go to the movies and then along comes the big family event. With temptation everywhere, no wonder it's so hard to lose weight." (Image now shows she's gained 3 lbs. at week 4) 

"But it doesn't have to be that way. Slimband works because you can enjoy the foods you love and lose weight. Want to learn more? Then visit us online to see if Slimband is right for you. Because life is too short to be on a diet." (Cartoon woman is slim and eating movie theatre popcorn.)

Oy. OMG. Oy. What else can be said about this? A mentality that says that aiming to eat correctly isn't worth it and you should just get Slimband done so you can keep eating whatever you've been eating, but now you're stomach space will be smaller so you'll be full faster? It IS dieting, what they are doing. It is restricting how much food people can consume. It's just that you don't actually have to grow in self-respect, knowledge. Oh, but wait! A quick look on the Slimband site reveals that part of the procedure involves access to consultations on nutrition. Oh, and once you've had the procedure done, they recommend, and I'm copying and pasting from their website here:

What types of food should I stay away from?
We recommend that you choose nutrient-rich foods. This means avoiding high-calorie, low-nutrient foods like milkshakes, ice cream, pudding, mashed potatoes, carbonated drinks and other junk food. Some patients may also have a bit of difficulty processing some breads and pastas, so eat these in moderation.

Hm. Two things here: 1) But you still get to, quote, "Enjoy the foods you love!" according to the commercial. 2) What they are recommending is part of a healthy lifestyle! To have the best success on Slimband, you have to do what their commercial says you don't have to do: eat healthily. Let me share another FAQ from their site:

Will I feel hungry or deprived with the Slimband?
You'll probably feel slightly hungry for the first six weeks. This is your body's natural response to the adjustments you'll be making in your eating habits and patterns, and also to the post-op nutrition plan. Eventually, when you have fully adjusted to your Slimband, the feelings of hunger will subside and you'll find yourself satisfied by your three small meals a day.

Um, okay, so you'll feel the hunger pains of dieting, but you won't have room to put food in. And you have to follow their post-op nutrition plan for a while. AND your body will be adjusting to the changes made in your eating habits. But you don't have to diet. No. *shakingmyhead*

Okay, another 2 parts from their FAQ:

Can I eat any food in moderation?
After your recovery period, once you're back to eating solid foods, you can eat anything that does not cause you discomfort. However, because your portion sizes will be smaller, the ideal foods to choose are vitamin-rich and filled with nutrients. Filling up on fatty and sugar-laden foods will reduce the efficacy of the Slimband.

What about alcohol?

Alcohol is high in calories; it breaks down important vitamins, and it can also irritate the stomach lining. Drinking in moderation with an occasional glass of wine is fine; however try to avoid consuming alcohol often. [Followed by more FAQ's that talk about changing habits, exercise...]

Again, you need to be on a healthy "diet" for this to be properly effective. One price I found for this procedure was... wait for it... $16 000. So, you are paying $16 000 for a procedure that will force you to diet, even though it's supposed to help you avoid dieting "because life is too short to be on a diet." One testimony wa that you have to be on a liquid diet for 3 weeks post-op. Well, flip, you'll lose a lot of weight being on a liquid diet for 3 weeks. How much of the weight loss from Slimband is from the post-op diet and all the restrictions they seem to be placing on clients. Oh, and this testimonial about the liquid diet? A later post on that blog reveals that 2 years post-op, she is gaining weight.

If you are reading this and thinking of going the Slimband route, or you know somebody who is thinking of it, please, please, don't spend $16 000 (possibly more now; the price I found was from 2011) on a procedure that still requires that you learn to eat healthily. Contact me instead; I'll do what I can to help you--for FREE. (To avoid automatic email collectors, hopefully you can figure out the following: you can email me at emicolas. I have a account. :D ) Have I ever done such a thing before? No. But that's why I'm offering my assistance for FREE. Why do I believe I can help? I have been learning about nutrition and different "food lifestyles" (if I may call them that; the word "diet" has too many different meanings) for over two decades. I have seen the effects of the diet mentality in a family member and know from experience what my own habits--and food sensitivities (you might be surprised at how much of your weight is the result of your body protecting itself from a food senstitivity by retaining water)--do. I also know the difficulty in moving out of a comfort zone, the difficulty in making huge, sudden switches in what is eaten.

Anyhow, I put this out there. From everything I've been reading about Slimband, the "successful" people are those who have changed their eating and exercise habits. You don't need to spend thousands of dollars and undergo a surgical procedure to do that.

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

BMI Charts: Not All They're Cracked Up to Be

There is a picture floating around with plus-sized model Robyn Lawley, a picture that has created some great discussion about what exactly constitutes a plus-sized model. Whatever people think about Cosmo calling her that, it turns out that Robyn calls herself that! What does Robyn look like?

If this is a plus-sized model... But I digress.

I saw a comment one woman posted on Facebook, with her height and weight and a comment that she must be obese if Cosmo says this model is plus-sized. To be honest, my immediate reaction to seeing the height and weight was, "Um, that sounds obese to me." I didn't write it, just had the thought cross my mind.

Forever the researcher, I went onto Google and looked up a BMI chart. According to BMI charts (regardless of the one I looked at), the woman is obese. But then I actually had a look at her photos. Hm. She's overweight, but not what I would consider obese. And there I was reminded of why I don't trust BMI charts and neither should you. Yes, they can give a general idea, but they can not proclaim in stone. For example, when I look at the chart for my height,  I'm sure I would fall into the overweight category before I hit the weight they say I would need. On some charts, the lowest weight (the lower 18 BMI) they say I can be before being underweight is definitely too low for me. I know somebody who was using the BMI chart as a way to set a goal weight, because according to the chart, if she hit a particular weight, she would no longer be overweight. But once she hit that number, she still appeared overweight, especially since she carries her excess weight more in her belly than elsewhere. Someone else I know said that if she actually hit the highest acceptable healthy mark, she would actually be too skinny; the BMI chart does not take into consideration bone structure, muscle mass, etc. Like I said, the BMI chart can be a guideline, but it's not the be-all, end-all of whether you are overweight or not.

For what it's worth, Robyn Lawley's reported weight from a time when she looked heavier than in the picture above was well within the healthy guidelines. Even if the BMI chart said she was overweight, would anybody believe it? It is a shame that she has to be in the plus-sized market at a healthy weight!

Friday, January 17, 2014

Free Recipe Friday! GFCF Banana Bread Bars

I have to highly praise this book and recommend it for gluten-free eaters, whether they have teens (kids!) or not:

I'm not entirely sure how many things we've tried, but so far, we've loved it all! The latest is no exception. I made it dairy-free by using vegan margarine. It is not vegan as it uses eggs and dried egg whites, but I could see playing with it to make it vegan.

What is it? Banana bread squares!

I remembered to take a picture before we ate them all up! (Yay, me! :D) Now, my son has said they aren't as good as my usual banana bread recipe, but these bars are actually healthier, not having as much sugar in them and none of the oil my usual recipe has. I would almost not even guess that they are gluten-free, they are so spongy. And clearly, this picture shows they are good as they are being eaten.

I think I'm allowed to share the recipe, so I will! For the full recipe with their gluten-free all-purpose flour blend, you will have to get the book. This recipe is found on p. 67:

1/4 cup unsalted butter, softened, or nondairy alternative [I used Becel Vegan]
2/3 cup packed brown sugar
2 eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
1 1/3 cups smoothly mashed very ripe bananas (about 3) [my note: I don't know if her bananas are huge, but it took me what I considered 4 large bananas]
2 tsp dried egg whites [I used Wilton Meringue Powder]
1 tsp ground cinnamon
1tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
3/4 tsp salt
1/4 tsp ground allspice

Preheat the oven to 350. Spray a 9x9" baking pan with nonstick cooking spray. [Okay, I used Crisco rather than a spray.] Line the bottom with parchment paper cut to fit. Spray the parchment with cooking spray.

In a medium bowl, beat the butter and brown sugar until very smooth and fluffy. Add the eggs, one at a time, beating well after each addition, until light and fluffy. Add the vanilla extract and bananas and beat well.

In a separate medium bowl, whisk the flour, dried egg whites, cinnamon, baking powder, baking soda, salt and allspice to mix.

Add the dry ingredients in batches to the banana mixture, beating well after each addition. The batter will get very thick, so beat only enough to mix well.

Scrape the banana batter into the prepared pan with a silicone spatula. Pat smooth and level with oiled palms or a lightly oiled silicone spatula. [I modified this step, simply used the spatula I was already using to try to level it all.] Bake for 30-35 minutes until a wooden pick inserted in the center comes out clean. Remove from the over. Let cool on a rack. When cool, cut 3 by 4 for 12 bars.


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Freedom from Stuff

I'm watching "You Live in What?" on HGTV. One of the featured properties is a guy who renovated a 1973 Airstream and is living in it in a trailer park in Santa Barbara. One part caught my attention, when he talks about not questioning whether he can afford something, but where he would be able to put it. He then said it was the freedom from stuff.

This phrase, "freedom from stuff," is sticking in my head. I did an online search with the phrase in quotes and without quotes and the number of people writing about this topic, and helping people or encouraging people to at least work toward freedom from stuff, is incredible.

On the one hand, this is very appealing. Less stuff means less clutter, less to clean, less to clean up and organize. But less stuff also means less "doing" sometimes. What do I mean by that? Well, I have a whole bunch of Stampin' Up supplies. Without those things, I can't sit down and enjoy making cards. I love to read and have many books, many of which I do reread or are mine from my childhood and I hope to pass on to grandchildren. We are a homeschooling family and so there is a lot of "stuff" to cover the different subjects in ways we find enjoyable. Etc.

At the same time, I must admit that I do feel there is too much stuff in our hosue. My husband says it often, although he's not much of a "doer" when it comes to things in the house. I can see from where I'm sitting school shelves with some materials on them that haven't been used in ages and likely won't get used again. But I find myself attached to them, unwilling to pass them along. There are "what ifs" in my head: What if my nieces (who come to my place after school) would use them if I just showed them more often? What if I just kept them and passed them along to my kids when they have kids? Some of the materials are things I made or modified. And then there's the sense of waste by getting rid of all kinds of half-used colouring books and anything that has been barely used, to be honest.

I don't know where this "freedom from stuff" motto will lead me, but it certainly has inspired me to tackle what I perceive as clutter. The clutter is definitely stuff that is no longer useful nor desired. And I realize, too, there is such thing as too much stuff in my mind, too much stuff for food... One particular corner with unused school items may just find itself somewhat emptied out today!

How about you? Do you feel you have too much stuff? Does the idea of "freedom from stuff" appeal to you?

Thursday, January 9, 2014

Getting Clutter-Free

There was a radio ad the other day, a Home Depot add, that talked about getting rid of the clutter. Or "Conquering the Clutter", I think is what they said. My ears perked up: I'm all for being motivated at conquering the clutter in my house in effective and efficient ways.

Their solution to conquering the clutter?

Purchase some of their storage solutions.

Um. Hm.

That is not conquering clutter.

Conquering clutter is about getting rid of the clutter and about not letting things that are immediate clutter into the house.

It is not about hiding it in a storage drawer.

I will therefore use the ad as a reminder that I have great resources at my disposal, like FlyLady (and her book Sink Reflections) and various books and websites and articles (and tapping!) that have come my way, and that I should take some action and get rid of some stuff! Not just pack it away somewhere!

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Are You Up for a 21-Day Vegan Cleanse Challenge?

Amy Layne over at DAMY Health is inviting people to try her 21-Day Vegan Cleanse Challenge. (No, she doesn't use the hyphen, but I can't write it against Canadian standards. ;) ) She is even giving the ebook away for FREE for a very limited time, from now until January 14. I've downloaded it myself and it is full of all kinds of great meal ideas/recipes to get you through the full 21 days.

That said, am I up for a 21-day vegan challenge? Part of me would love to shout, "Yes!" At the same time, the very thought of committing to all meals and snacks for 21 days to the challenge is, to say the least, overwhelming. I will have to look at the recipes more, especially the supper recipes, to see if I think I can make this work, especially since my family is not likely to be participating!

If you are going to join in, let me know! Having a challenge buddy would definitely help me commit and we could help each other along.

P.S. Many of her recipes are gluten-free!

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Rant: Bounty Towels Commercial

I just sat through a Bounty paper towels commercial. As soon as it finished, I let out a frustrated groan and said out loud, "I feel a rant coming on!"

In the commercial, there is a mom with her two daughters, one in upper elementary school and the other in a high chair, making a mess of her noodles and sauce. The older girl goes to grab the dish cloth (er, this is apparently a Canadian term: a square kitchen cloth used for washing dishes, counters, etc.; aka a dish rag) but the mom is heard speaking about bacteria and she holds the older girl back, instead preferring to use a Bounty towel.


Do we not live in a time of being more environmentally conscious? Of trying to waste less, use less? I can see using a paper towel for something particularly gross (cat vomit comes to mind) or I have been known to use a paper towel to wipe the grease from a pan to avoid getting that grease down the drain. But to use a paper towel to avoid cleaning a high chair tray with a dish cloth because of bacteria?? AAARRRGGGGHHH! They then go on to say how the Bounty towel is cleaner than a dish cloth.

Here's a little secret:

If you change the dish cloth daily, 
rinse it well after use and 
place it where it can dry well, 
it will not be full of bacteria.

I also change our dish cloth any time it is used to clean up raw meat "stuff" (if the chicken fell on the counter, if blood ended up on the counter, etc.) or milk.  I have about 10 cloths, which means I only need to wash them with the rest of the household towels once a week.

Another little secret: Dish soap helps clean up messes and would help wipe away any bacteria. Cleaning a high chair try with nothing more than a wet paper towel isn't necessarily going to do the trick.

We need to stop living in a disposable society. Especially for something as simple as this.

Remember when you're next at the store: Paper towels are NOT better than dish cloths/rags! Don't fall for the advertising that wants you to dish (pun not intended) out $$ on a regular basis for a cleaning product you could simply have a version you throw in the wash each week.

This mom has already done some research on this. Check out the environmental impact of using paper towels as much as Bounty would have you do!

Happy New Year! Welcome to 2014!

Happy New Year!

Today is the first day of a brand new year. Although, technically, it's not really any different from yesterday, there is something in us that tends to like celebrations and routine special days. So, today is a special day: the start of a new year.

What are your hopes and dreams for this coming year? I have various dreams I'm trying to turn into goals: have everything paid off, get books written and published (and making money!), physical goals related to weight, diet and fitness. I have had this book for years:

I have never made it through the entire year, but I'm inspired to give it a go. Today is about taking some time to figure out those dreams, resolutions, "most private aspirations", she writes. It's a little late in the day posting this, but it's never too late to sit down and right out all that you wish for. I will be doing this because while I have some clear "big" goals, it will be nice to sit down and wrte out everything I can think of.

When you've done, come back here and share whatever you are willing to share! Let this place be a place for your intentions to be made. :)