Thursday, March 27, 2014

7-Day Clean Eating Challenge: An Update

Hi folks!

Well, it’s Thursday, which means I’m on Day 4 of the 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge I’ve been taking part in this week.  It’s kind of hard to believe it’s already day 4!  This week has been flying!! I thought I’d give an update on how it’s been going.


As I’ve mentioned many times in recent weeks, I had already given up sugar & artificial sweeteners for Lent.  To some, they might think, “Hey, that’s enough, why add more of a ‘challenge’ when that one is already tough?!”

I chose to look at it this way: “I’m already cutting out sugar & artificial sweeteners, why not go the extra mile and try this ‘clean eating’ thing on for size?”  I’ve been gradually improving my eating habits over the past 15 months, but this is one extreme I had yet to attempt.  I was up for the challenge!

The “rules” of eating clean seem to depend on which website or article you’re reading, but basically the idea is to consume only what Mother Nature provides.  Whole foods.  Fruits and veggies, whole grains, grass-fed and free-range meats, low fat dairy products, unsalted nuts and seeds, and tons of water.  Avoid anything man-made, processed, refined, or pre-packaged.  Choose items that have as few ingredients as possible on the label – with only words that you can pronounce – or better yet, foods that have no label at all because they are in complete natural form.  No sugar, no table salt.

I thought I was already eating pretty “clean”, but when I started examining labels of foods I consumed on a regular basis (“healthy” pita crackers with my soup, the broth I use in my soups, seasonings I used on meat and vegetables, pasta, salad dressings, baking ingredients, etc), I was still not even close.  This week, and the preparation leading up to it, has been more of an eye-opener for me than I expected.

When I made the decision to take part in this Clean Eating Challenge, it seemed very doable.  I mean, it’s only 7 days, anyone can do anything if it’s only for 7 days, and I was hoping I’d pick up some new information and habits during the week.  Another big plus was the fact that when I looked at my calendar for that week, there were no big dinners out planned or birthday celebrations to throw a monkey wrench in things.  It was a good week to focus on the challenge without being too tempted to stray.

I drafted up a meal plan for the week, and on Friday I shopped for the groceries to fulfill my plan.  I then got rid of as much of the stuff in my cupboards as I could that would possibly lead me astray (mainly the crackers and Potato Thins that I had).  Then on my Monday off, I prepped.  I pre-cooked my salmon and chicken, my brown rice and quinoa, my hard-boiled eggs, I chopped up fruit and veggies, and assembled spinach salad into mason jars.

Here is how my week has looked so far:


Breakfast: 1/2 C. Cottage Cheese with a diced Asian Pear and sprinkle of cinnamon, Coffee with 1 Tbsp. of skim milk

Lunch: Strawberry Shakeology blended with 1 C. unsweetened Almond Milk & ice

Supper: Oven baked salmon filet seasoned with Epicure’s Lemon Dilly, roasted asparagus drizzled with Extra Virgin Olive Oil and sprinkled with sea salt and pepper, 1 C. cooked Quinoa with a drizzle of homemade Epicure Balsamic Vinaigrette, a handful of grape tomatoes; Strawberries & blueberries for dessert.

healthy supper

Snacks: snack-sized PC Blue Menu Finesse yogurt in the AM (not entirely sure if this is clean or not, but I decided to keep them), hard-boiled egg in the PM


Breakfast: soft-boiled egg with 1 slice of dry whole grain homemade toast, coffew with 1 Tbsp. skim milk

Lunch: Tuna Salad (1/2 can of Tuna mixed with 1 Tbsp. of nonfat plain Greek yogurt, green onion, celery, olives) served on a bed of Romaine lettuce leaves with 1 C. of Quinoa, a handful of grape tomatoes & a hard-boiled egg (These were supposed to be lettuce wraps, but ended up eating it as more of a salad. lol)

Supper: Strawberry Shakeology blended with 1 C. unsweetened Almond milk & ice

Snacks: yogurt in the AM, Strawberries & Blueberries in the PM, and a bag of homemade “Trail Mix” (raisins, walnuts, and sliced almonds) at Cheap Tuesday movie night


Breakfast: Oatmeal with a little bit of almond milk and a drizzle of local pure maple syrup, coffee with skim milk

Lunch: 1 1/2 C. of homemade clean Turkey Vegetable Soup, Egg & Tuna salad sandwich (made with 1/2 can of Tuna & an egg, plain nonfat Greek yogurt, celery and onion on homemade whole grain bread), and 2 small Morning On the Go Cookies (recipe here).

Supper: Strawberry Shakeology blended with 1 C. unsweetened Almond milk, a handful of spinach, and ice, Grapes & Strawberries

Snacks: Yogurt in the AM, mandarin orange in the PM

Thursday (so far)

Breakfast: 1 slice of homemade whole grain bread toasted with 1 Tbsp. of Natural Peanut Butter, 1/2 a homemade sugar-free granola bar, coffee with skim milk

AM snack: Yogurt


So… can you spot the times where it’s been a struggle?

Tuesday night at the movies of course was a toughie.  Lindsay and I had decided a while back that IF she hadn’t had her baby by this week, we’d make a quick trip to the movies to see Divergent on cheap night, as it might be our last chance to go for a while!  Since it was really up in the air as to whether or not we’d be going, I hadn’t given it much thought.  But when she told me on Tuesday she was good to go, I instantly knew that buttery popcorn was not an option, and that was a hard sacrifice for me to make.  Anyone who knows me knows the movie theatre is my “happy place”, and one of my favourite things about it is the delicious smell of buttery popcorn that literally hits you the moment you step through the doors.  I still kind of can’t believe that I went to the movies and DIDN’T get popcorn or a big-ass Diet Coke.  I really can’t believe I sat and ate a baggie of homemade trail mix and drank water bottles that I stowed in my purse instead.

I’m all for clean eating, but I won’t ever be doing that again!

The other big obstacle was that Wednesday was the monthly Soup & Sandwich Lunch at our church, and it is always a big treat for me.  I knew it landed on Challenge Week, so originally, I just thought I’d skip it.  However, my mom was making Turkey Vegetable Soup for the lunch, and after listing what she puts in it (her own homemade turkey stock, turkey, vegetables, brown rice, no salt added) – I realized I could eat it and stay within my guidelines for the week.  After finding a recipe for “clean” whole grain bread, my mom made a loaf of that for me for the week as well, and then made a tuna-egg filling that I could eat with it in a sandwich.  (spoiled rotten.  yes, I know.  My mom is the best.)

The really difficult part was the dessert.  This month, the desserts were cakes – chocolate-caramel poke cake, carrot cake with cream cheese icing, strawberry short cake, fresh apple cake with caramel sauce… ugh!!!  SOOOOO delicious.  My mother, God love her, had made me those sugar-free clean cookies, and I really liked them, but they were not cake.  Not even close.


Not gonna lie It was rough.  Sitting there, watching everyone with their giant pieces of cake.  While I nibbled and tried to savour my hippie cookies.

But I survived.  I lived to tell the tale.  And I’m kind of proud of myself for that.

The rest looks like it should be clear-sailing.  Not that the weekend will be easy, as that’s usually when I let up a bit on my healthy eating ways, and tend to treat myself (probably more than I should).  My mom and I often go to a restaurant for dinner on Fridays, and my family usually all goes out for brunch after church on Sundays.  I also hear the local chipstand might be opening this weekend, and I never miss opening weekend of the chipstand!  On top of that, there’s a big hockey tournament going on in the neighbouring town this weekend, and I usually try to get up there for a few games and to visit with friends – and anyone who has been to the arena knows allllll about the delicious smelling French fries up there!

I’m also taking the opportunity of my last Friday off to make a big batch of spaghetti sauce for the freezer, and it will be weird not to be able to taste-test it!  (The hamburger I bought for it is most certainly not grass-fed beef. lol)

So the final few days won’t be without temptation, that’s for sure.  But if I stick to the meal plan, and make sure that I am at home for scheduled meal and snack times, I should be OK. 

It’s all about willpower and determination, and I’m really confident I can complete this week without any major slip-ups!!

The Facebook group that has been doing the challenge along with me has been great.  People have been sharing recipes, asking lots of questions, commiserating over things we’ve had to give up or go without, posting about our “victories” – so it’s been lots of fun interacting and seeing how everyone else has been doing with it, too.

I’m not planning on completely falling off the wagon once this week is over, either.  I’m hoping to instill some of these new healthy-eating practices into my daily routines.

To be honest, I’m more looking forward to Lent being over so that I can have dessert once in a while again!  I’ve literally been daydreaming about Easter eggs… mmmm!!  Can’t wait!

easter eggs

But there’s still a few weeks to go before that.  Until then… I’ll be hangin’ tough! :)

Wednesday, March 26, 2014

“Born to Score”

My 5-year-old niece Danica is quite the cookie.

She’s not really a warm-and-fuzzy type of kid – at least not with me, her beloved auntie!  On the odd day, she’ll be cute and cuddly and “madly in love” with me, but those days are rare, so I soak them up when they happen.  As she gets older, she does seem to have a more pleasant demeanor – a little more skip in her step and more of a smile on her face - but honestly, I’ve always kind of liked the kid’s edge.  She glares at people when she’s not impressed.  Glowers, in fact.  She can be crusty and surly, and there’s something about that that I really like.  (Maybe because I can be crusty and surly, too… a child after my own heart!)

But when Danica’s excited about something?

Her blue eyes twinkle.

This past Saturday?  The twinkle was there. 

Because this girl was TOTALLY pumped to be playing her first “real” hockey game.

Danica's hockey 1

It was about a week before that my sister told my mom and I to plan on coming to Dan’s hockey in Cantley on March 22nd.  She’s been taking part in a learn-to-skate hockey program for girls (approx age 4-6) this winter, but up until now, they’ve just been having little drills, practicing skating, and having little scrimmages amongst themselves.

At this age, it’s about having fun and learning… not about winning or losing.

That being said, they had recruited an Aylmer team to come and play against her group of girls on March 22nd, and Kara thought it would be fun for Danica if we made a big deal of it – we’d all go and watch her play, then go out for pizza afterwards to “celebrate” her first game.

When Mom and I showed up at their place Saturday afternoon, Danica was already wound up and so excited.  I honestly think the highlight of my day was when Mom said to her, “Are you going to score a goal for Grandma today?” and Dan matter-of-factly replied, “Grandma, I was born to score.”

Seriously.  No idea where she heard that, but I’ve been giggling about it all week.  What a kid!

We all packed up and headed for the rink.  We got out to the stands early to get good seats under the heaters, and then waited for the girls to hit the ice.  It was really cute to see all these little kids lined up waiting behind the boards to get on the ice – they were so tiny, all you could see was the tops of their helmets!  Danica and her girls hit the ice, and then the Aylmer team came spilling  out the gate too.

Imagine our surprise when we discovered the Aylmer team was actually a team of boys!!

A group of teeny tiny little boys who very clearly had been playing in a league, and were a little more advanced in their hockey-playing and skating skills.

Right then and there, I figured the girls might be in trouble.

Well, that, and the fact that as the other girls slowly made their way in circles around the ice to warm-up, while Danica instead set up camp at center ice and had a nice big chat with her best buddy Rowan.

Danica's hockey 2

(That’s her in the middle with the white helmet)

When the puck finally dropped to start the “game”, the fun started.   Apparently at this age, they don’t have a real goalie – just unlucky little kids who take turns standing in the little wee nets holding a regular stick.  The boys were a little more accustomed to handling the puck and…well…shooting the puck, so it became quickly apparent that this might be a run-away game for the little boys.  Their goals came fast and furious.

Don’t get me wrong.  These boys weren’t exactly tiny versions of Wayne Gretzky or anything.  They fell down a lot.  And they crashed into the boards a lot.  They couldn’t carry a puck, and they often whiffed on their shots.  And sometimes they even skated in the wrong direction.

But they were a tad more advanced than the girls.

Danica's hockey 5

It was entertaining, nevertheless.  I especially enjoyed the little boy who totally body-checked one of the little girls… hey, if you’re gonna play with the boys, you gotta be ready!  I also really liked the little girl who, upon her turn in nets, discovered the best way to stop the boys from scoring five goals in one shift was to simply lie down in the crease.  At this age, they can’t put ‘er upstairs, so by just lying down and blocking the goalmouth, she managed to pretty much stymie them.  I say pretty much, because I do recall one sneaking by her, which resulted in her angrily grabbing the puck in her little glove and chucking it down the ice.

They were priceless, you guys.  Some serious quality entertainment on a snowy Saturday afternoon.  And the girls were having a blast.  At one point, as Danica waited in the line-up to get off the ice after her “shift”, my sister remarked that she was smiling from ear-to-ear.  “This is the happiest I’ve seen her all year!” she laughed.

Danica's hockey 3

Eat my dust, boys!!!”

Unfortunately, Little Miss “Born to Score” didn’t live up to her prophecy on this day.  She didn’t even really get much of a chance.  Most of the girls really didn’t get much of a chance.  Danica’s big brother, 8-year-old Caden, was keeping track, and nearing the end of the 50 minutes, he declared the score was 20-0.  ( He was, quite literally, the ONLY person in the stands who was keeping track).

Danica's hockey 4

Too busy looking at the camera to be bothered with the game!

But with 30 seconds left in the game, one little girl finally put a puck past that stinky little Aylmer boy, and the cheer that went up was loud & proud.  Her arms went up in the air and the celebration was worthy of an overtime winning goal in the playoffs.

Danica's hockey 6

Danica emerged from the dressing room shortly after the game still beaming and totally thrilledCaden was taunting her, as brothers are apt to do, saying, “You lost 20-1!  You lost 20-1!”

To which she snarled back, “NOOOO!  It was FIVE to one, Caden!!!  And they were BOYS.  So it was HARDER.”

Like, duh.

The final score didn’t matter.

The post-game celebration pizza tasted just as sweet as a win!

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Thursday Thoughts

Going a little random this Thursday, folks!

  • The dilemma of the morning:  What, oh what, do I wear on my feet today?  It snowed last night.  And it rained last night.  This resulted in a sloppy, slushy, puddley mess.  I stood at my front door, gazing out, wondering, “Winter boots, rubber boots, or running shoes?” this morning.  I went with the winter boots, because I hate my feet being cold.  I don’t honestly know if there was a right choice this morning, though.
  • Today is March 20th.  I’m not sure, but I think it was exactly two years ago today that my mom & I had lunch on her patio.  It was +20 Celcius that day.  The snow had completely melted.  It was a thing of beauty.  Today, there’s still at LEAST a foot or two of snow on the ground, and while the temps might be warmer than they have been in weeks, we’re still far from +20.  No patio today.  Or any day soon, either, according to the long-range forecast. *sigh*
  • The 37 Calorie Brownies are all gone.  That’s right.  I ate the other half of the pan last night.  They were just as gross as the day before.  And yet, still… I ate half the pan.  *sigh*
  • Next week, I have yet another healthy challenge upon me.  I signed up for a 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge, which starts on Monday.  I figure I’m already half-way there with the whole no sugar & artificial sweeteners for Lent thing, why not push myself to go the extra mile for a week?  I’m kind of excited about it.  My eating habits this week have been a little untidy, even though I have no junk in the house.  Last night I didn’t binge as badly as I did the night before, but I still strayed big-time from what I had allocated myself in my food journal.  I’m looking forward to a week of enforced clean eating to hopefully get me back on track.
  • Clean eating research has kind of consumed me this week.  I have spent way too much time googling, looking up info and recipes on Pinterest, creating a meal plan, and drafting a grocery list.  I have a full page of grocery items which I really need to zone in on and pick out what’s absolutely necessary.  I mean, I’m doing this for a week.  I don’t need to buy every clean item in the store!
  • The hard part:  Soup & Sandwich Lunch is next Wednesday.  I thought I was going to have to skip it, but my mother has determined that I should be able to eat her Turkey Vegetable Soup, and I think she’s even making me a special “just for Jill” sandwich on clean multigrain bread.  Have I mentioned lately that my mom is the best?
  • My kitchen.  It is FINALLY done.  !!!!!!  The painting is finished, and on Monday, Mom and I completely cleaned the cupboards (and re-arranged the contents of them).  Then on Tuesday while I was at work, Mom went back and scoured the dingy old cushion floor so that it now literally sparkles.  Yes.  My mom IS the best.
  • I’ve been told before that spiders like cleanliness.  And I now totally believe this, because in the past two days, I have spotted THREE spiders in my home.  Two were in the newly cleaned kitchen.  Little punks!
  • It’s shapin’ up to be a hockey-filled weekend for this auntie!  My nephew Caden won his playoff game last night, so they now play again tomorrow night, and we’re going to go watch.  Then on Saturday, my niece Danica is playing her first “real” game, and we’re all going out for supper afterwards to celebrate.  I’m excited.
  • You know what I need to do?  I need to get back into Dexter.  I kind of stalled half-way through season 7.  Haven’t even watched an episode in weeks.  I don’t really know why, other than the fact that I now watch both my Jimmy Fallon and Seth Meyers PVR’d episodes in the evenings, and combined with my other shows, it doesn’t leave much time for Dexter.  I need to make more time for him.

I think that’s it for today, friends!  Have a good one!

Wednesday, March 19, 2014

The night I ate half a pan of “healthy brownies”. All by myself.

Last night was one of those nights

I told you all about one of those nights that I had a month or so ago.  It was one of those nights when I inexplicably go into BINGE MODE.

Can’t get enough food in my face.  I want allll the foods.  In my mouth.  NOW.

I’m sure there’s a logical explanation as to why I get hit with these nights periodically.  Either a lack of something in my diet during the day that makes me hungry and causes me to crave.  Or something psychological – boredom, anxiety, sadness, anger…

I usually don’t get too scientific when these “I need to eat everything NOW” moods hit, though.  I just scrounge around and stuff my face and feel badly about it afterwards.

Here’s the good news:  Because I gave up sugar and artificial sweeteners for Lent, it put a lot of things out of question for the binge.  Also, because my cupboards are pretty empty of anything junk-related, there wasn’t much bad food for me to even try to dig out.  So it was a tad bit of healthier binge than the last time.

However, it did result in me eating the leftover pizza in the fridge from the weekend (it was a rising crust PC frozen pizza, no sugar in the first three ingredients listed, as per my laws).  All three pieces of it.  Dipped in Renee’s Light Caesar Dressing.  (?!?!?!?!)  And when I still wasn’t satisfied after that(even though I was full), I found inspiration on my Facebook newsfeed.

The recipe du jour that 19 of my friends had shared was “37 Calorie Brownies”.  Now, because I gave up sweets for Lent, I initially thought these were a no-no, but after a scan of the ingredients list, I saw nothing that violated my self-imposed laws:

3/4 cup nonfat Greek yogurt (I used Danon Oikos 0%)
1/4 cup skim milk
1/2 cup Cocoa powder
1/2 cup Old fashioned rolled oats
1/2 cup Truvia (or any natural/stevia based sweetener that pours like sugar – I used my Stevia In The Raw)
1 egg
1 teaspoon baking powder
1 pinch salt

And whaddya know, all these ingredients?  In my fridge and cupboard. BAM.  We be making brownies, y’all.

It literally took five minutes to whip these up and pop ‘em in the oven.  15 minutes after that, they were out of the oven.  Now, the instructions clearly stated to let them cool completely before cutting into 9 large squares, but I was in BINGE MODE, so there was no waiting for cooling down time.  I hacked into them immediately.

And they were not very yummy.

37 cal brownies

But did that stop me from eating half the pan?  Of course it didn’t.  BINGE MODE, remember?

Guys, I don’t know if I did something wrong, because on the recipe post that I linked to above, everyone was raving about these things.  I thought it might be because I used plain Greek yogurt instead of vanilla flavoured, but I’m not sure the vanilla flavour could’ve saved them.  They were bitter, and there was no true enjoyment in scarfing them down.

But scarf I did.  Along with grapes and blueberries.

That’s just what happens when I’m in BINGE MODE.

And I wasn’t even done after that.  I was still dying for something more.  Finally, I poured myself a little dish of Sunmaid California Raisins, added a sprinkle of walnut pieces, and made myself a cup of tea.  That finally did the trick.

Anyways.  There’s some comfort in knowing that the last time I did this, I woofed into Potato Thins and dip, Rice Cakes, and every little bit of chocolate and candy I could find.

At least this time, it was semi-healthy.

OK, I don’t think I can call 3 pieces of pizza dipped in Caesar dressing healthy, but it got better after that part.

I mean, at 37 cals per brownie, I think I could’ve eaten the WHOLE pan for less cals than I’d find in a chocolate bar or even a small bag of chips.

Yeah.  I can justify ANYTHING if I try hard enough. ;)

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Randomly Thursday

Here we go with some randoms on Thursday!

  • I’m cold. Sooooo cold.  I think this current little deep-freeze we’ve got going on seems even more cruel than the many others we’ve had this winter, as we’ve finally had a taste of Spring-like temperatures in the past week or so .  But last night, with the wind howling outside my window and the mercury plunging to –20 C again, I snuggled deeper and deeper beneath the covers… STILL couldn’t get warm.  I feel like a popsicle today.  Oh, Winter. I’m really, officially, done with you.
  • Not only was I freezing last night (seriously, got up once to make sure my window wasn’t open or something, it was THAT cold in my room) – but I also had probably the most restless, dream-filled sleep I’ve had in a really long time.  I kept waking up in a half-dazed panic for a variety of reasons:  my mattress was rotting and falling apart, my bed was full of ants, my bed frame was breaking… it was one catastrophe dream after another.  And it’s left me feeling very zombie-like today.
  • It’s kind of just been one of those weeks, y’know?  The kind you can’t wait to be over?  After living almost like a hermit all winter long, this week has been filled with meetings and things to do each night.  I haven’t been able to hunker down on my couch and catch up on the PVR at all, and I’m starting to get cranky about it!
  • There’s good news:  THE END IS NEAR!!!  Not only for the busy week, but also for the house painting!!  As you may recall, my painter has been back for the past two weeks, doing touch-ups in the rooms that he worked on last fall, as well as painting the stairwell and kitchen.  I will be so relieved to put everything back where it belongs, thoroughly clean, and get my life back to some semblance of order in a few days.
  • You know what song I loathe?  “Rude” by Magic!  Pretty much any time I tune into my favourite station, it’s playing.  And I honestly can’t even pinpoint why I dislike it so much, but I automatically change the station now.  Can’t stand the song.
  • I’m looking forward to my day off tomorrow.  It will be busy enough, as I have to go for groceries and do some food prep for our church’s Irish Tea on Saturday, but I’m also hoping to have some downtime to watch TV, maybe a movie, and also get some reading in.  I started a new book this week – our next Book Club selection, called “Those Who Save Us” by Jenna Blum.  I’m really enjoying it, but because of the full slate of evening activities this week, I haven’t had much time to read – I’m barely keeping up with my Jimmy Fallon & Seth Meyers episodes!  All I want is an hour or two to get completely sucked in again.  Fingers crossed.


  • I forgot to mention a very nice high point of my giving up sugar and artificial sweeteners in yesterday’s update post – the fact that I finally seem to have broken through the plateau I’ve been stuck at since pre-Christmas!  Woo hoo!!  Weight loss isn’t a huge goal for me right now – as I’ve mentioned, my focus has mostly been on toning – but it was nice to see the lowest number I’ve seen yet on the scales when I weighed in on Monday.  I really didn’t think giving up sweets would make much of a difference, but I guess all the Coffeemate, sweetener in my tea, fistfuls of mini marshmallows, mugs of hot chocolate, and moments of chocolate-and-candy-weakness were really hindering my progress.  I feel so much better, inside and out, having eliminated the sugar from my diet.
  • I’m looking forward to taking part in a 7-Day Clean Eating Challenge that my Beachbody coach is hosting via a Facebook group starting March 24th.  I think I already eat pretty clean – especially now, with my Lenten promises keeping me in check – but this will give me an extra nudge towards a healthier diet.  It will be interesting to see the results of a full week with no sugar, no sweeteners, no processed foods, no preservatives, no packaged foods… And I’ve already checked my calendar, and don’t see any big food-related events that will hinder me in being successful with this – aside from Soup & Sandwich on the Wednesday, but I think I can survive it.  I’m ready for the challenge!
  • A recipe I’ve been itching to try: Baked Apples.  Having given up desserts for Lent, I’ve been satisfying my need for a taste of something sweet after supper with a bowl of fresh fruit.  However, for a treat, I thought I might test out a Baked Apple.  I’ve never had one before, but I think I’d like it.  It works well for me, since I can’t eat apples unless they are cooked in some way (because of my oral allergy syndrome) – and although I’ll have to tweak the recipe a little (I’m not allowed dried cranberries, even the unsweetened ones have sugar listed in the ingredients), I think it could be one tasty little healthy treat!  Some recipes call for brown sugar, butter, etc.  but with this one, I’m going to stuff the center with walnuts, organic raisins, and a little bit of local honey.


  • St. Patrick’s Day is almost here!  I’ve always been a fan of “going green” – so I’m very much looking forward to the festivities this weekend, especially the Irish Tea.  I also hope to pop into Gav’s for a bit on Sunday afternoon for their big bash.  On Monday, my plan is to try out the Skinnytaste recipe for Sweet Potato Irish Nachos in honour of March the 17th!


  • Last but not least on the recipe front – I think it’s time for at least one more big pot of soup before this winter starts to fade (if it EVER starts to fade!!)  And this time, I’m going for the simple but delicious looking Creamy Cauliflower Soup, also from the Skinnytaste website. Can you tell I’m excited to soon have my kitchen back?! ;)


The weekend is almost here!  Have a great one, folks! :)

Wednesday, March 12, 2014

The Week One Update on Sugarless Lent

Today marks one week since I gave up sugar and artificial sweeteners for Lent.

And I had a major, MAJOR slip-up last night.

And it wasn’t even the first slip-up!

Slip-up #1: Last Thursday night – not even a full two days in – I went to my Zumba class, and our instructor Julia immediately asked me how the no-sugar thing was going.

“Great!” I replied.  “I think I’m actually getting used to coffee with just a bit of skim milk, and I’ve been very good in all other departments.  Just fruit so far, and I haven’t had any mad cravings for sweets, so that’s a bonus!”

And then she kind of looked at me quizzically, and said, “What are you chewing?”

“Gum,” I replied, without a second thought.

“Sugar-free gum, I hope?”


Of COURSE gum is not allowed!!!  I checked the package – it was Dentyne, and it listed fructose and aspartame in it, two of the major sugar-sweetener buzzwords that I’m steering clear of.

But by the time I realized it, I’d been chewing it for an hour, and by then it was too late.

I didn’t beat myself up too badly, though.  I mean, it was just one piece of gum.  Not a fistful of mini marshmallows or a package of Hersey Kisses or a giant-ass mug of hot chocolate.  It wasn’t even a food item that requires swallowing.

I promised myself that I wouldn’t have any gum from here on out, and put it behind me.

Then came yesterday.  And a trip to my very first council meeting.  I’m not going to get into details, but let’s just say my reason for attending the meeting was to support an issue that is very important to me, and it would be an understatement to say that I was disappointed with what I heard last night from our mayor and council regarding this issue.  When I left the hall, I was extremely aggravated, irritated, and, quite frankly, furious.

When I got home, I was pacing around like a caged lion, still feeling the anger burning red in my cheeks, when I got a text from a friend who had also been at the meeting, telling me that they were headed to the local watering hole to “unwind” from the stressful meeting.  I quickly grabbed my coat and purse and headed out the door to join them.

I walked in and saw my Coach sitting with a beer before him.  He raised it, and said, “First drink I’ve had in 65 days.”

“Does that mean you think I’m entitled to a drink too?”

“Absolutely.  I think we all need it tonight!”

I didn’t hesitate.  All I was thinking of was that I haven’t had a drink since Christmas Eve, but to calm my jangling nerves, it seemed the only thing to do.  And my Coach was giving his blessing.

I ordered up a Rum & Diet Coke.

It wasn’t until the glass was almost empty that another friend quietly drew my attention to the fact that I had just drank Diet Coke, one of the most major things on my list of stuff I gave up.

son of a NUTCRACKER!!!!!

I felt horrible.  I had been doing so well, aside from the gum mishap.  All of that label-checking and resisting temptation (especially Monday night, when I was at the Sens game with my mom, and I was so jealous of all the people with Timbits and pop and even the cotton candy looked good!)

My Coach took the blame for encouraging me to have a drink, as he also forgot about me giving up sugar & artificial sweeteners for Lent.  And when I spoke to my mom, she also absolved me of this faux-pas, telling me the drink was necessary in her books.

But I still didn’t feel good about it.

I felt like a failure.  I couldn’t believe that I forgot.  I couldn’t believe that I succumbed so easily in a moment of weakness.

I guess I’m most disappointed in myself because I really thought I would hang tough for 40 days.  I love the challenge of something like this, and I can’t believe I messed it up – and so early on too!!

This morning, though, I woke up with a fresh resolve.  I added an extra $1 to my Lenten coin box, as penance, and promised myself I won’t allow myself to make that same mistake again.

This next week will be better.  I promise!

Thursday, March 06, 2014

Things on Thursday

Just some random rambling for this Thursday…

  • It is March 6th.  It is still really cold, and even though it’s supposed to warm up a bit this weekend, we still have tons of snow that isn’t just going to disappear anytime soon (I don’t think, anyways).  Two years ago, my mom and I had lunch on her patio, I think it was on March 19th.  It was like +20 that day, with no snow in sight.  That seems like a distant dream now…
  • I’m a winter-lovin’ gal.  You guys know this.  I don’t like to complain about the snow.  And honestly, I quite enjoy the whole hunker-down-for-the-winter-months time of year.  But I’ve been feeling extra-hermity this year, and I’m worried that if I don’t start poking my head out every now and then, I’ll never want to crawl out of my hole.
  • Kind of feels like a catch-22, actually.  I’m excited for nicer weather and fun spring activities to begin, but on the other hand, I’ll miss the quiet weekends of staying in and watching movies.  I like the slower pace and peacefulness of winter, and I’m dreading it coming to an end.
  • I know.  I’m making no sense.  Let’s just blame the cabin fever.
  • The next few weeks are filling up with lots to do, so it looks like I’ll have no choice but to force myself out of the house!  I have a couple of meetings to go to, and church activities; going to the Sens game with my mom on Monday night, and looking forward to a Comedy Night that a local group is hosting next weekend in town.  Spring might not have sprung around here just yet, but the social calendar is definitely coming alive!
  • Time change. ugh.  This weekend.  And it’s the one I hate.  LOSING an hour of sleep is just no fair, man!

spring ahead

  • The good news is that our church service this Sunday is in the afternoon instead of at 10:30 AM, for a special covenanting service, so I should be able to sleep in, lounge around, and work out the crankiness that usually accompanies a time change for me before I have to go out in the world.
  • Today is Day 60!!! Day 60 of what, you ask?  Day 60 of my Les Mills Combat workout schedule!  The last day!!  Woo hoo!!  I’ve really enjoyed the Combat program – so much so that I’m moving on to another 60 days of it, this time following the Ultimate Warrior Hybrid class schedule.  I haven’t seen any drastic changes to my physique following the basic schedule, but I’ve also been way off track with my eating habits, so it will be interesting to see if I can make any progress in the next 60 days by combining a more intense workout with healthier eating.


  • As I’ve stated before, the ultimate goal here is to shed the leftover belly fat and work on my abs.  So far, I haven’t been successful with this goal – and if it continues this way, The Bikini Project will be a complete flop.  That being said, I started doing Jillian Michaels’ 6 Week 6 Pack program a few weeks ago (3X week, on the days when my Combat classes are only 30 minutes), and even though I’m not seeing any definition in my abs yet, I definitely can feel strength building in my core.  Exercises that were difficult when I started are now becoming much more doable.  Not easy – but no longer impossible.  If I can get the eating habits straightened out, who knows what might happen…
  • Yesterday was Day 1 of no sugar/sweetener for Lent, and overall, it was a very healthy day for me.  And not without temptation, either!  Stacy and I decided to go to the BINGO at the local bar in support of our community’s Family Centre, and my first impulse when I arrived was to grab a Diet Pepsi.  I remembered in time, though.  It also became clear that BINGO = snack time.  Everyone had bags of chips and cheesies, baskets of fries and wings.  I managed to hold strong, didn’t allow myself to be tempted – and now I know for next month that I can bring my own water and snacks!  (Wasn’t sure if that was allowed, going into an establishment that sells refreshments). Stacy brought a container of cantaloupe with her, which I thought was a great idea.  I’ll be sure to pack my healthy snack for next time!
  • My house has been turned upside down again.  *sigh*  The painting that didn’t get finished last fall has resumed.  This time, it’s the kitchen and stairwell (and touch-ups in the other rooms).  It’s only been three days, but I miss my kitchen already.  It’s been emptied of pretty much everything (all dumped into the dining room), and it’s filled with drop sheets, dust, and paint supplies scattered alllll over.  I pray that the job goes more quickly this time!
  • The good news is that my freezer is full of soup and chili and pasta sauce from my Monday cooking sessions!  Easy to microwave and clean up!!  phewf!! ;)
  • Silly thing that I’m excited about right now:  Wayne’s World.  I ordered if off Amazon and it arrived the other day.  Too late for “Old School Movie Marathon Day” (that was last Friday, I watched Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Weekend at Bernie’s, Overboard, and Look Who’s Talking) – but I think it will be my Friday evening entertainment for this week!


OK – went from thinking I had nothing to talk about today, to this very long rambling weave of stuff from my brain!  It feels good to let it all out though, right? ;)

Happy Thursday, friends!

Wednesday, March 05, 2014

Day 1: Hello, unsweetened coffee!

And so it begins!

Yesterday, I ate pancakes.  Five pancakes, with lots of butter and maple syrup.  And I had a piece of cream-filled, icing-laden cake.  I put sweetener in my coffee.  And my tea. I had a big mug of hot chocolate, and topped it with all of the remaining mini marshmallows in my cupboard.

They don’t call it “Fat Tuesday” for nothin’, folks!

I savoured and enjoyed it all, because today it really begins.

Lent.  And my promise to give up sugar & artificial sweeteners.

I did really well on the weekend “getting rid of” (ie – eating all of) the sugary stuff that was lingering in the corners of my cupboards and fridge and freezer.  I have no more Christmas or Valentine’s Day candy or baking floating around (aside from my “Perfect Man”, who is now hidden at the back of the freezer), I drank the last of the Coffeemate, I ate the few Oreos that were left, and any of the Christmas baking that remains is all way down in the basement freezer, where I rarely even go.  The diet pop is also hidden.

And as I said, the last of those beastly little mini marshmallows went into that final mug of hot chocolate last night.

There’s nothing left.

And I know it’s only Day 1, but I feel really good about this.

I feel like I’ve been off-track with my food choices for quite some time now.  Post-Christmas, I ate very clean for a few weeks, but somewhere along the way, the treats crept back in to my daily life, and I started craving them again.

I see Lent as the perfect opportunity to nip this new sweet tooth I’ve developed in the bud.  I do well when I enforce challenges upon myself.  I’m competitive, and I like to prove to myself that I can do something.   So no, this doesn’t hold much religious connotation in my life right now – although, I have the feeling I’ll be praying for strength and willpower in the weeks to come! – but I think it’s perfect timing for a little challenge, and if it happens to be because of Lent, then so be it.

I haven’t let the fact that Lent is a time to draw closer to God become completely lost in all of this.  I know the religious aspect of these forty days leading up to Easter, and in order to fully experience that, I will also be taking part in the Mission & Service Lenten coin box program that our church sets up every year.  We’re each offered the opportunity to take a coin box and a calendar, which each day has you examining the blessings in your life and adding coins to the box in honour of them.  (For instance, today is “add a coin for every year of your age”, tomorrow is “add $0.25 for each member of your family”, etc).  On Easter Sunday, we’re to bring our coin boxes back and the money collected goes towards our church’s Mission & Service fund.  I laugh at my mom each year for making this calendar, because I assure her that “nobody actually follows it, they all just throw their spare change in and bring it on Easter Sunday!”  She assures me that I’m wrong.  So I decided that, for the first time, I will follow the M&S coin box calendar too.

That, my friends, is a Lenten double-whammy for this kid!

I’m excited for both, but I have to admit, I’m most excited to see the benefits of giving up sugar.  As you might have noticed, I indulged big-time this past weekend leading up to this “famine”, and my gut has been suffering for it.  I’ve been waking up at night feeling sick, I’ve been bloated, and I’ve been uncomfortable.  (Oddly enough, I’m relieved to know that my body has become so unaccustomed to unhealthy foods that it revolts when I do eat too much of them.)

I’m ready for that yucky feeling to go away as I re-introduce my clean-eating practices that I once followed so faithfully.

I’m ready to feel good again, and I’m ready to stop myself from sabotaging my progress with poor/sugary choices.

It started this morning with a cup of coffee with only a tablespoon of skim milk in it.  And I can honestly say I think I’m going to get used to it.  I certainly haven’t enjoyed the natural sweeteners I tested out over the weekend (honey, maple syrup), so why not teach myself to drink it with just a bit of milk?

My sister picked up a bag of Stevia In the Raw for me yesterday (it’s not available at my local grocery store), and aside from the honey, maple syrup, and fruit, that will be the only sweetener in my house for the next 40 days.  I’m excited to try it out too, as I’ve never had Stevia before.

It’s Day 1.  I know I can do this.

Let’s get this Lenten show on the road!! ;)