Nut-Free Pumpkin Spice Bites

It’s that time of year again, pumpkin spice is taking over everything!  I’m actually really excited about it.  I love pumpkins, sweater weather and just about everything to do with autumn (not to mention it means that Christmas is just around the corner!)

I admit to being a former lover of the infamous PSL, but I gave it up years ago (it’s full of junk, but we won’t get into that right now).  Still, I was needing some pumpkin spice in my life.  I was looking for a quick, work-friendly snack I could pack in my lunch bag and came up with these nut-free pumpkin spice bites.  I hope you enjoy them as much as I do.

Ingredients:

  • 12 Medjool dates
  • 1/4 cup of hemp hearts
  • 2 tbsp pumpkin seeds
  • 1/2 cup coconut flakes
  • 2 tsp pumpkin spice
  • 1/4 tsp cinnamon
  • pinch of sea salt

Instructions:

  1. Place all ingredients into your food processor
  2. Mix until completely blended (it’ll form into a giant ball).  This will take a few minutes.
  3. Roll into bite-sized balls
  4. Makes 15-18 bites, depending on size
  5. Store in the fridge

My Gym Bag Essentials

I recently switched to a morning workout routine; my weekday alarm is set for 5AM.  This didn’t happen overnight, believe me!  But I absolutely love the feeling of having already accomplished something before my day even really begins.  Since I’m up so early I always make sure to have my gym bag packed and ready to go the night before.

Aside from my change of clothes, here’s what I keep in my gym bag:

The Workout

Headphones – I don’t know how people workout without music.  I need my headphones and Spotify playlist to keep me going.  Just when you feel like you’ve got nothing left that one specific song comes on and instantly your energy is restored.

Water bottle – it’s so important to stay hydrated when working out.  I’m not a huge fan of communal water fountains, so I just bring my own bottle to refill.

Baseball cap – to keep my hair and sweat off my face (bonus that it helps to keep my headphones on my head).

Hair ties – keeping my hair off my face is essential during my workout.  To me there’s nothing more distracting than that one hair that keeps getting stuck on your face.

My workout – I’ve been following Anna Victoria’s Fit Body Guide for a few years now (and recently purchased her app to follow).  I love the workouts and always feel so much stronger once I get through my set

Workout gloves and resistance bands – workout gloves protect my hands and also help give me a better grip.  I’ve been adding resistance bands to my lower body workouts lately and I really feel the difference!

Post Workout

Shower stuff & flip flops – TBH, I don’t always shower at the gym (I’m about a 10 minute drive away from home) but on the days that I do, I always make sure to have my flip flops and shower essentials with me.

Deodorant – hopefully this is obvious 🙂

Brush & dry shampoo – dry shampoo is a necessity after the gym to help soak up sweat and keep my hair in a somewhat decent condition.

Protein bar – I’m usually munchie on the drive home, so I always pack something to snack on.

I try to keep things simple and stick to only the essentials.  What’s in your gym bag?

My Go-To Green Juice Recipe (Blender Version)

I don’t own a juicer, but that doesn’t mean I can’t have fresh green juice anytime I want!  Making green juice in a blender is really easy (it just requires an extra step – straining through a nut-milk or jam making bag to separate the pulp from the liquid).  I make a batch of this juice on the weekend; it’ll keep in the fridge for a few days.  When I’m feeling fancy, I’ll mix the juice with some carbonated water.

Recipe:

  • 2 handfuls of greens (kale, spinach, etc., or a mixture)
  • 1 apple, cored and cut into quarters (I like to use granny smith)
  • 1 piece of ginger (about an inch or so)
  • Fresh parsley (rip a small small amount)
  • 2 celery stalks, cut into thirds
  • 1 small cucumber (mini or Persian), cut into smaller pieces
  • 1 lime, peeled
  • 4 cups filtered water

Place all ingredients into a blender and mix until smooth and there are no large pieces left.  Strain the juice through a nut-milk bag.  Store the juice in the fridge for a few days.

**I know that the leftover pulp can be used in smoothies, breads, cookies, etc. but I have not tried any myself.  Let me know if you do!

Revolution Rail & the Adirondacks

Last week my hubs and I drove to the Adirondack mountains for a quick overnight getaway.  We were looking for someplace that was new to us but within driving distance.  After seeing a blog post on facebook for Revolution Rail, we decided to book a night in North Creek, NY.  It was a 6 hour drive, plus stops for snacks and washroom, but the drive itself was super easy.  You don’t stay on the Interstate very long and it’s mainly windy roads as you drive through the region.

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North Creek is a small Hamlet in the Gore Mountain region of Adirondack Park.  While Main Street isn’t very long, it has everything you could need.  Because we only stayed the one night we didn’t have much time to explore the area but we did head to a wine bar called BarVino for some after dinner drinks.  And before heading back on the road we stopped in at Café Sarah for coffee and cookies.

We stayed at The Alpine Lodge and I would highly recommend it.  It doesn’t have much by way for amenities, but the rooms were cozy and decked out in what you’d want a mountain lodge to look like (think antler lamps and Navajo prints).  There’s no front desk so you get emailed with your room passcode and that’s it.  There’s a common room that also has a passcode with a cozy fireplace and they offer continental breakfast and coffee.

We chose The Alpine Lodge because it was close to Revolution Rail… less than a minute drive.  We arrived in North Creek Friday late afternoon and were ready to hit the RevRail Trail the next day.

image0There are four timeslots available and we booked Saturday morning at 8:30 (but only because the 10:30 slot was full, but there is also a 12:30 and 2:30 timeslot).  The website recommended we arrive 30 minutes prior to our slot so that we could check in, get the waivers signed, etc.  There is a gift shop with branded items to purchase.  From the gift shop we took a bus to the start/finish area, which was less than a 10 minute drive.

There’s no specific order to the railbikes.  So once you get off the bus, you just need to find a quad or a tandem, depending on what you booked.  My hubs and I ended up with the very last railbike, but that meant we were the first in line on the way back.  We liked that spot!  The entire trail is 3.5 miles one way and then 3.5 miles back (so just over 11 km total).  It should take you around two hours.  At the end of the 3.5 track, the guides will turn the railbikes around and then you peddle your way back to the start/finish spot.

Each railbike has a basket for a bag or backpack.  We brought snacks, water, ponchos (they go rain or shine) and I brought a blanket scarf just in case I got chilly (which I did, so I was glad to have it!)

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The only downside is you are at the mercy of the group in front of you.  We had a group (two quads) who likely had never seen the trees like that before because they kept stopping to get off the railbikes to take pictures.  It held everyone up because they had to wait for us before being able to turn the railbikes around (almost a full half hour).

The trail follows the Hudson River and the trees in all their fall colours were beautiful.  If we went a week or two earlier the colours would have been incredibly vibrant… about half of the trees were bare, but it was still so fun and pretty.

You are never alone on the trail.  There are guides at the front and at the back.  They do recommend you leave about 80 feet between the railbike in front, to allow for photos, etc.

I’m so glad my hubs and I decided on this impromptu overnight stay in the Adirondacks… and to think, all because of a facebook blog post   I would definitely recommend this excursion should you find yourself in the area.

**Pro tips:

  • I would recommend you use the washrooms before you arrive.  There are only outhouses available once you’re on the track.
  • They only run until the end of October and they book up fast.  So if you’re thinking about this for next year, make sure to book early (their website doesn’t say when they re-open in the spring or summer)

My Top 5 Kitchen Tools

The kitchen is the heart of any home.  It’s where everyone gathers to refuel, where important conversations are started, where memories are created with friends and family and where we connect by cooking together.  I absolutely love being in my kitchen (outdated decor choices aside) it’s one of my favourite rooms in my home.  It’s the room we spend the most time in and where we naturally congregate.

Over the years I began to love cooking more and more.  My cookbook collection has grown quite a bit and my techniques have improved too (my hubs can vouch for that last one!)  I still experiment and sometimes things just don’t work out but I always have tons of fun in my kitchen, though it wasn’t always the case.

The kitchen shouldn’t be a place that intimidates you or a place where you feel lost in.  it’s an amazing place where you can create beautiful and delicious recipes to fuel yourself and your family.  That being said, you should make sure your kitchen is stocked with the tools you’ll need in order to do that.

Here are my five favourite kitchen tools:

1.Blender (Vitamix 7500)

This guy is used on a daily basis in my house.  I have a smoothie for breakfast every morning before work, and on weekends it makes for a quick post-workout shake.  I also use my blender to make homemade nut milks, coconut butters, soups, green juice… because our blender gets used to much, we decided to invest in a good quality one.

2. Food Processor

We have two different sizes: a small one that is perfect for mincing onions or small batches of hummus, pesto, etc.  Our large size is used to make things like avocado puddings, nut butters, healthy-ish desserts, just to name a few.  It also comes with a grater attachment, which is perfect for slicing or grating veggies like carrots, beets or brussels (great for soups or salads).

3.  Good Quality Knives

There is nothing worse than trying to chop anything with a dull knife (and super dangerous, too!  Most injuries are from dull knives).  I invested in some good quality knives a while back and they were a game changer.  No more squished tomatoes!!  Good quality, sharp knives will save you time in the kitchen and can make your meal prep feel less like a chore.

4.  Citrus Juicer

This is another item that gets used daily – I start my day with warm water and lemon juice and it makes juicing that lemon super quick and less messy.  I also use it to add lemon juice to salad dressings or lime juice to guacs.  I know this might not seem worthwhile, you could just use your hands or a fork to juice citrus, but trust me… anything that will help keep things easy and fast in the kitchen will also help keep you wanting to be there.

5.  French Oven

This is my newest addition to my kitchen; another item I saved up for and I’m so glad I did.  I use my French oven a couple times a month or more.  With the cooler weather coming, I know I’ll be using this to make warming stews and other one-pot meals.  I’ve also used it to make popcorn!  It was expensive, but so worth it for me.

Honourable mention:

6.  Kitchen scale

I use this when I’m baking; weighing your ingredients is a much more accurate way to bake.  I also use a scale when I’m portioning out my meals… I like to make sure everything is as even as possible.

My Skincare Routine

Skincare is in right now in a really big way!  There is a ton of information out there and it seems like there’s a new skincare boutique popping up every month, not to mention the amount of products available now seems endless.  It can actually be very overwhelming when you google anyone’s skincare routine to try and figure out what all of these products are for.  When I was growing up there was a three-step method: cleanse, tone, moisturize.  That was it; three easy steps.  We now have the Korean 10-step routine and have you seen Liv Tyler’s 25-step morning routine?  25 steps!!

I’ve always known that taking care of your skin is very important.  It was a lesson I learned from my mom, who at any age, astounded people because they always thought she was much younger.  As a woman in my mid-30s, I know it’s time for me to start focusing on things like fine line and wrinkles… it’s inevitable.  The three-step method from my younger years just won’t cut it anymore.

I’m not exaggerating when I say it took me months to curate this skincare regiment.  It was a lot of product researching and brand testing to find products that I liked and that worked for me and my needs/concerns.  So here it is, my morning and evening skincare routines:

MORNINGS:

My mornings are broken down into two parts: Pre- and Post-gym.

Pre-Gym:

  1. After I wake up, I’m out the door within 20 minutes to head to the gym so I don’t have time for an elaborate skincare routine.  I splash my face with lukewarm water and then use a face mist for hydration.

Post-Gym:

  1. Foam cleanser – I use this to get all the sweat off because I’ve just worked out (if I don’t make it to the gym in the morning I won’t wash my face)
  2. Toner – I use witch hazel and I love it.  Toners help balance out the pH of your skin
  3. Hyaluronic Acid – this stuff is hydration in a bottle!  It helps attract moisture to your skin cells.  Your cells naturally produce Hyaluronic Acid, but as it goes, production decreases as we age and dehydration can lead to fine line and wrinkles.
  4. Treatment – I use a Vitamin C serum/treatment.  Vitamin C helps balance out your skin tone and it is also good for fine lines.  Vitamin C should only be used during the day, as it can interact negatively with retinols (or any products you use containing retinols) and I read that retinols should be used at night.
  5. Eye cream – I learned long ago that the skin under and around our eyes is thin and delicate and I’ve been using an eye cream for years now.
  6. Moisturizer – they can change throughout the year depending on the seasons.  I use a more hydrating cream in the winter, as our Canadian winters can be cold and dry!
  7. Sunscreen – the final step in my morning routine.  Hallelujah!!  Suncreen is super important, even in the winter months!  I read and heard from various sources/podcasts that a separate sunscreen should be used even if your daytime moisturizer contains an SPF because the amount of product you’d need to use to get that amount of SPF is way more than you’d use normally.

**I let each product sit for about a minute before applying the next one.

EVENINGS:

  1. Oil cleanser – the first step in a double cleanse.  I use an oil cleanser to remove most of my makeup (#mascaraproblems).  I really like using the oil as it keeps my skin soft.  I also use this oil to give myself a quick facial massage
  2. Foam cleanser – the second step in a double cleanse.  With your makeup gone, the foam has a chance to really get into your pores and gives you a really deep clean.  (My foam cleanser also removes the rest of my mascara!)
  3. Exfoliator – I do this 2-3 times a week.  You really don’t want to exfoliate any more, as it can dry out your skin.  Depending on what exfoliator you use, it might be a bit too abrasive for everyday use.  I like to switch up my exfoliators.
  4. Toner – after cleansing and exfoliating, it’s time to balance out that pH
  5. Hyaluronic Acid – I’ll repeat what I said above…. this stuff is hydration in a bottle!  And keeping your skin hydrated is key.  Dehydration is what can cause sagging and fine lines.
  6. Treatment – I use an anti-aging serum to help combat those fine lines!
  7. Masks – I use a mask 2-3 times a week and I always switch them up.  In the winter I won’t use a clay mask, as I find they can dry out my skin too much.
  8. Eye cream – forever applying eye cream!
  9. Night cream – the final step!  I found a cream that keeps my skin hydrated all night.  Overnight dehydration is something I struggle with all year.

**Just like in the mornings, I let each product sit for about a minute before applying the next one.

Things to keep in mind: no amount of skincare products can make up for things like dehydration or a poor diet.  I make sure to drink at least 2L of water a day, I stick to a whole foods diet (cheat meals allowed every now and then!), I get enough sleep and I exercise regularly.  I also try to limit my caffeine intake and use supplements like collagen for an extra boost.

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5 Tips for Travelling with your Partner

Travelling with your spouse or significant other can be stressful at times.  It’s no coincidence that some couples actually breakup after a vacation.  After spending so much time together, some couples realize just how different they are from each other.  I mean think about it, if you’re at an all-inclusive resort you’ll be together All.  The.  Time.

My hubs and I have travelled much of western Europe and we’re slowly venturing into the US for some mini-vacations/getaways.  I can say with a smile that each one of our vacations brought us closer together.  Sure there were disagreements, but overall our vacations were always exciting and fun and full of wonderful memories.  We’ve been together for a total of 11 years and at this point we even have a vacation theme song: Trooper’s “We’re Here for a Good Time (Not a Long Time).”  We break out into the chorus in our hotel room as we unpack to remind us “to have a good time.  The sun can’t shine everyday.”

Here are some tips to travelling with your spouse/partner/significant other:

  1. Understand each others travel style.  I am a planner, like to the minute.  My Type A personality really comes out when I’m planning vacations.  For our NYC weekend, I was googling how long it would take us to walk from each location on our “must see” list so that I could make sure we saw everything we wanted to.  My hubs on the other hand is more of a “go with the flow” traveller, there’s no real plan and there’s definitely no itinerary.  He always has one or two “must see” places, but other than that he’s good to just wander around.  So for our vacations, I plan out our days and when I ask if he wants to see the itinerary his response is always, “just tell me where to go.”  At this point he knows that I’m going to plan EVERYTHING but he also knows that I love it… so I plan and he follows 🙂
  2. Budget, Budget, Budget!  It’s so important to budget for your vacations, especially if it’s a longer 2 week stay or you’re heading somewhere that’s generally more expensive.  My hubs and I tend to be a little more free with our money on vacations, we’re there for memories and new experiences after all, but we still have a general idea of what meals will cost and any attractions that we plan to do or see.  Trip Advisor is great for asking questions about daily cost of food, etc.  Make sure to also budget enough for shopping and souvenirs; the last thing you want is to come home to an eye-popping credit card bill.
  3. Go with the flow: somethings may not go 100% according to plan.  That’s OK!  Learn to laugh stuff off and think of it as a great story to tell your friends and family when you get back.  When my hubs were in NYC in 2008, we booked a restaurant for dinner one night.  The cab driver took us about 25 mins in the wrong direction.  We ended up missing our dinner reservation, had to walk 45 mins in the rain up to Times Square and ate at the Olive Garden.  Not ideal, but something we laugh about (and the reason I now travel with an umbrella).
  4. Compromise: the key to any successful partnership.  Start compromising at the planning stage and be OK with it.  You likely each have individual “must see/do” lists but you might not be able to fit everything in based on the time you have or your budget.
  5. Remember, you’re on vacation!  I shake my head at people who spend all day at the front desk/concierge complaining about something trivial.  Vacations are meant to be relaxing and fun.  You’ve taken time off work and saved up for this.  Don’t let the little things bother you… and that means little things about the hotel or resort you’re staying at / the restaurant you dined at last night for dinner / or even all the times your hubs leaves his wet towel on your side of the bed…. let all those things go and be grateful for where you are and who you’re with.

 

 

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