Friday, August 22, 2014

Out with the Old, In with the New

Well, there have been some major changes around here...and more are coming! 

No, we are not welcoming any new members into this house. Ever. Again.

Nor are we moving to a new house.

But we are making some much needed changes and improvements.

First, we finally got some lovely new curtains in our bedroom.  We had Blinds to Go make black out shades for us when we moved in, but they did a super crappy job and didn't fit the windows properly.  Never using them again!  So we got some blackout drapes to go overtop.  I am not kidding you when I say I started sleeping better almost immediately.  Believe me, making your sleeping space as dark as possible at night is very important!

We also purchased new couches for our living room!  Until now, we have been using the leather ones Adam's folks generously gave us when we moved in here.  They are probably close to 30 years old and have seen better days at this point.  I have 2 lovely new ones coming from Structube this weekend.

After arranging delivery of the new sofas, however, I was struck with the reality that we had to somehow get rid of the old ones.  I called Habitat for Humanity, but they said they had a backlog of sofas already. Fortunately, they suggested I call the Furniture Bank, a charitable organization that takes away your gently used furniture for a fee, but then gives you a charitable tax receipt in return.  Sweet!  The courteous movers picked them up this morning and were fast and careful.  I was very pleased since we used the very expensive 1-800-GOT-JUNK before and they are super expensive and left mud tracked in all over the house...and did nothing after I complained about that.

We also ordered a lovely new front door which will hopefully be installed in a few weeks.  We have been living with the very crappy builders' one that came with the home.  The new one is going to give this place oodles more curb appeal.  Unfortunately, I quickly realized that I better clean up other parts of our home's exterior to match the elegance of our new door.  I went to the hardware store this week and bought paint for our garage door and the bench on our front porch and, at some point, will gather up the courage to paint this stuff myself.  Our house numbers and mailbox will be replaced at some point too, but from screwing this up in the past, I know I'll have to call our handyman to drill the new ones into place.

There are some less exciting things we will have to do at some point...since there is always work that can be done on a house!  But our finances limit things for now.  We bought new toilets a few years ago and the one in our upstairs bathroom is an absolute lemon.  We have had nothing but problems with it.  In the basement, the gross, old carpet is really worn in the area where Adam and I workout.  I am certain it is pretty mildew-y and probably really unhealthy to keep much longer.  I have fantasies of getting the rubber flooring you see at most gyms down there but will have to look into whether or not this is actually feasible.

Another quiet weekend ahead.  I work tomorrow but hopefully we can fit in some fun family activities.  Have a healthy, happy weekend my friends.

Thursday, August 21, 2014

Olive Oil Lemon Loaf (Sugar-Free & Vegan)

This is lusciously moist and lemony. For real lemon lovers only!  Oh, it also happens to be sugar-free and vegan. This is great for breakfast or a snack, either plain or with some (sugar-free) blueberry jam.

Olive Oil Lemon Loaf (Sugar-Free & Vegan)

2 whole lemons, chopped and seeded
1/2 cup olive oil
1 cup non-dairy milk (plain, unsweetened)
2 flax eggs
1 cup granulated stevia or erythritol
2 tsp pure lemon extract

2 cups whole spelt flour
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt

Puree lemons in blender until smooth.  Pour into mixing bowl.  Add all other wet ingredients and sweetener, and whisk together. 

Stir dry ingredients together and add to wet.  Mix just until combined.  Pour into greased loaf pan and bake for about 45 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  cool before removing from pan.

Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Special Forces Fitness Training: Book Review

Special Forces Fitness Training Gym-Free Workouts to Build Muscle and Get in Elite Shape

Nowadays there is no shortage of variety in fitness.  Back in the 80s it was aerobics.  Leotards.  Leg warmers.  Sweatbands.

Thankfully, we now have many more options and better fashion sense.
I am amazed by how much my own fitness routine has changed.  Back when I first joined a gym...which would have been in 9th grade in 1989, all I did was aerobics classes.  It wasn't even until a few years later that step aerobics was introduced.
Now, not only do I prefer strength training, HIIT, and Muai Thai, but I also prefer to workout at home.  No wasted time getting there and back, no worries about having to look presentable, no need to wait for equipment.  Win win win. 
If you have similar preferences to me, than you may really like Special Forces Fitness Training by Augusta Dejuan Hathaway.  It certainly may appeal to guys looking for a 'manly' workout, but I dismiss that characterization as silly.  This is just as much for women as men.  Fortunately, the workouts are geared towards everybody.
Hathaway starts by giving some background on the Special Forces and why they are required to be so fit for their jobs.  He explains what you need for these workouts and gives various options, from basic weight equipment to stuff you probably have lying around your house.  In the second part of the book he describes how to use the book and provides a vast array of training programs that are each adapted to beginner, intermediate and advanced levels.
In the third section of the book, there are photos and descriptions of each exercise...and there are a whole lot of exercises!  They are organized into sections: warm-up, balance and stability, core, push-up, strength, partner, agility, speed and plyometrics, martial arts cardio, and flexibility.
The only concern I have is that there are so many exercises that a real newbie may feel overwhelmed and will likely have real difficulty remembering them when trying to follow one of the set programs.  Also, if like me you need to see movement to get it (I can't really 'get' it from reading a description), than you may have trouble learning to execute the exercises properly.  But that's the drawback of learning physical skills from a book.  If you don't have that problem, and you like the idea of training like the Special Forces, than you might want to check out this book.  The workouts require almost no equipment and little space.  Just don't attempt these workouts wearing army boots like the guy in the book!
Disclaimer: I was sent a review copy of this book by the publisher, but all opinions on this blog are my own.

Tuesday, August 19, 2014

Chocolate Chip Banana Blondies (Vegan, Gluten-Free & Sugar-Free!)

So last week I got a bee in my bonnet about making blondies using chickpeas.  My Black Whole Brownies were such a huge hit with everyone, I wanted to create a blondie using some legumes too.

The first batch, which I ate entirely myself (they weren't good enough to share, he he), I made with dates.  They were good, but the date flavour was too overpowering. Oddly, I used to absolutely adore dates, but I'm not loving them as much these days.  I am not sure why.

For this batch, I added bananas and the result was amazing.  Even my picky little munchkins both loved these.  Again, I am surprised that I liked these so much as, in general, I am not a huge fan of bananas.  But they work here.

What I love so much about cooking, is that it is such a creative process.  I love experimenting.  I also love how cool it is to discover new (and healthier) ways of making something.  Like these babies have no flour/grains, no sugar, and no butter/oil but look and taste like they do.  How freakin' cool is that?

As if it couldn't even get any better, these are super easy and quick to make.  Just throw everything into your blender or food processor.  I did them in my Blendtec.  If you don't have a high powered blender, just make sure you puree until completely smooth.

Chocolate Chip Banana Blondies (Vegan, Gluten-Free & Sugar-Free!)

540 ml can of chickpeas, drained and rinsed (or 1.5 cups cooked chickpeas)
2 flax eggs (2 tbls flax meal + 6 tbls very hot water, let sit until thickened)
2 ripe bananas
1 cup stevia baking blend (that measures 1:1 with sugar) or coconut sugar*
2 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp salt
1/2 cup stevia-sweetened dark or semi-sweet chocolate chips

Place all ingredients except chips in blender or food processor and puree until smooth.  Make sure chickpeas are completely pureed.  Stir in chips by hand.  Scrape batter into parchment-lined 8x8 pan and bake at 350F for 40-45 minutes.  Use parchment to remove from pan.  Cut into 16 even squares.  Keep at room temperature for 2-3 days, refrigerate for up to 6 days or freeze.

*Coconut sugar will give these a richer, more butterscotch-like flavour, but they will be higher in calories than if you use stevia.

This recipe was submitted to this week's Gluten-Free Friday Link Up.

Monday, August 18, 2014

Game Over

Good Monday morning!  Can you believe its the middle of August already?

We had a lovely, quiet weekend, albeit with some minor disappointments, booboos and battles.

My plans to take the girls to Snakes and Lattes for a fun afternoon of board games was a total flop.  Little did we know that on Saturdays, particularly rainy Saturdays, there is generally a minimum 2 hour wait list...and they don't take reservations. 

I ended up with 2 very sulky children trying to find something to do in the pouring rain.  There isn't much of interest to them in that area though, and Adam took the car to his office, so we were on foot.  A trip to the dollar store so Little A could buy sugarless gum with her allowance money ended with a major hissy fit because they didn't have the kind she wanted.  A trip to a second-hand bookstore ended with Little A getting 2 books and Big A sulking because she didn't want any books...she wanted to play games! 

We were near the JCC where they love to swim, but we didn't have our bathing suits.  In the end, we just got a snack at the JCC cafĂ© and then took the subway home.  Universe 1, Mom 0.  I definitely didn't win any points with the girls that day!

On Sunday after my spinning class, Adam was playing Monopoly with the girls.  Little A, who is uber-competitive, stood up on her chair - probably to gloat about the fact that she was winning - when she lost her balance, fell, and smacked her chin full force on the table.  Adam yelled louder than she did because he thought she was going to be seriously hurt.  Luckily she wasn't sticking her tongue out at the time, and she just got some bruising on her neck and chin. 

At the very least I hope she's learned a lesson.  We are always telling her to sit on her bum, that chairs are for sitting on, but she is not very good at listening, particularly when it comes to her physical safety.  Clearly she is trying to send both Adam and I to an early grave!

In other game news, Big A, who is a member of her school's chess club, decided to try and teach Little A to play yesterday.  It was very sweet to listen to the interaction, particularly when Little A, as per usual, began getting upset when she was losing, so Big A manipulated things so that Little A won in the end.  Big A is pretty good about losing, but Little A, man, she is a sore loser and an obnoxious winner.  We're going to have to work on that...

Truthfully, its kind of bizarre how scared most of us are of failure...myself included.  It is often the fear of failure that holds us back from so many things.  That being said, sometimes we also fear success, and that too can keep us stagnant.  What would you do if you could let go of your fears?

Friday, August 15, 2014

What a Wacky Week!

This has been a surreal week.  Robin Williams' suicide seems to have touched a nerve for many folks.  The good thing to come out of it is people are talking about mental illness.  In fact, I was amazed when the mom of one of Big A's school chums confessed her struggle with depression on Facebook after the news of Williams was released.  So brave!  I wish more people felt they could do so!

The weather has been positively fall-like, which I don't mind at all, but has many people grumbling.  It is very strange to have such cool temps in August, I admit.  But they are supposed to be back up to normal this weekend.

I am fully addicted to Essentrics!  I have shelved yoga for the time being, and this is now my physical therapy.  LOVE IT!  The sessions are shorter than yoga but really have been effective even just a week in to my practice.  My hamstrings feel better, and I have no foot pain!!  But I have to giggle that me, a reformed cardio junkie, is now doing, and loving, something so slow-paced and gentle.  Don't get me wrong, some of the exercises are really challenging, but still, my approach to exercise has changed so much over time, which I think is inevitable for most of us as we get older.  Though, I think I am actually much fitter and stronger now than I have ever been, so its not bad news.

I have also eaten way more chocolate-chip blondies than should be humanely possible this week.  I think its a combination of my already-nutso appetite sparked by the additional activity from CAN FIT PRO weekend, as well as my determination to perfect a recipe I've been working on.  Don't worry, I'll share it soon!

After the craziness of last weekend, I am looking forward to a quiet one.  I work tonight and tomorrow, Adam also has to work tomorrow and he has his book club on Sunday, but there should be time for some fun family activities.  After I get home from work tomorrow, I am going to take the girls to Snakes and Lattes, while Adam heads to his office, for some good old fashioned board game fun.  I have been wanting to check this place out for ages.

Have a happy healthy weekend!

Thursday, August 14, 2014

Summer Berry Crumble

Having picked 5 lbs of blueberries (with a few raspberries mixed in for good measure) when we went to the farm a few weeks ago, we needed to get cookin' ASAP.  First up was this berry crumble.  So, so, so yummy!! It disappeared very quickly.

My version uses much less sugar and fat than many recipes out there and still tastes decadent and delicious.  The amount of sweetener you add to the berries depends on how sweet your berries are, so really its up to you.

Summer Berry Crumble

2 litres berries (any), about 6 cups
1/4 cup granulated stevia (or to taste)
1 tsp konjac flour or 1 tbls arrowroot starch
1 cup oats
2 tbls spelt, kamut or all-purpose gluten-free flour
2 tbls chia seeds
1/4 tsp cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
1/4 cup butter, Earth Balance or coconut oil, softened

Toss berries with stevia and starch and pour into greased oven safe dish.  Combine dry ingredients and then blend in butter or substitute with a fork.  Pour oat mixture over top of berries and bake at 375F for about 40 minutes until top is golden.  Eat warm or cold, plain or with yogurt.  Keep refrigerated up to 5 days.

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