Lady In Red – FabFitFun Fall 2017

If you’re reading this, then you likely know that I have joined the ranks of the many happy people who get the FabFitFun box once a season.

Here I want to tell you what I think of the beauty and wellness items that came in my version of the Fall 2017 box:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar hair rinse (dpHUE)
  • Mud mask (Whish)
  • Lip crayon (treStique)
  • Cuticle oil (Deco)
  • Wet wipes (Cottonelle)
  • Hot and cold pack (my tagalongs)

The ACV rinse is something I was super pumped to try. I’m a huge fan of all things natural, so a shampoo and conditioner replacement is something that’s right up my alley. The first thing I checked was the ingredients list, and while most are natural, there are small quantities of chemicals. Not a deal breaker for me, and I gave it a try later the same night. I’ve since used it five times: three times as a complete replacement for my normal shampoo and conditioner and twice as an alternative between using my normal shampoo.

When I stopped using my shampoo completely, I found that the rinse would leave dirt and oil buildup just below the nape if my neck, where it’s hardest to get the product on. My roots get oily faster than when I use normal shampoo, though they do get properly cleaned. I found I had to use a lot of the rinse to get my hair clean, though I’m sure my long hair has something to do with it, too. In both cases (replaced shampoo completely and used rinse as a sub every other time I showered), I found that I had buildup left over, which actually caused my hair to take forever to dry. I will finish off the bottle of rinse, and maybe I just have to get better at using it, but I won’t be buying another bottle.

The mud mask by Whish was another item I super excited to try, and unlike the ACV rinse, it has not disappointed me. It’s super easy to use (duh), is great at exfoliating, and doesn’t leave my skin too red or dry like other masks have.

I’ve never used a mud mask prior to this one, but I think I’ll be making use of my FFF offers to get myself another bottle of this!

The lip crayon from treStique is a great item to travel with, as it gives you four different looks in one product. I received the bright red one, and I love it! My favourite look is done by first using the almost invisible balm first, then topping it with the matte crayon. This leaves your lips soft but still gives you the popular matted look.

The lavender cuticle oil from Deco has the most adorable packaging.

How can you not love that! I’ve only used this product once, so it’s a bit harder to properly review, but unfortunately my love of giving myself manis every Sunday has been taken over by bath time and story time and baby cuddles. It’s a hard trade off, I know. I love the scent of lavender, so I was very happy when I could actually smell it in this oil! The oil is super moisturizing and not at all gloopy or sticky, which is great. Even if I don’t pain my nails, it’s nice to be able to just make myself feel nice with some oil and nail buffing. Take what you’ve got, am I right?

The Cottonelle wipes were a freebie in my box, and they’re perfect for popping in my purse. They’re flushable, which is nice, but other than that, it does what is says on the package. Nothing revolutionary, but useful none-the-less.

Last but not least, the hot and cold pack. It’s one of those items that everyone really should have… and I didn’t. It’s been a godsend (especially for me and my lovely cramps), as well as for neck pain. I really can’t believe I hadn’t had one until now, and the fact that this pack can be used for both ends of the temperature spectrum makes it doubly amazing. And like the gym bag, the cute quotes make me extra happy.

For my thoughts on the home and fashion accessories, see my Accessorize Me post!

**Please note that all opinions and experiences are my own. This post is not sponsored or affiliated with FabFitFun or any other third party.

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Accessorise Me – FabFitFun Fall 2017

If you’re reading this, then you likely know that I have joined the ranks of the many happy people who get the FabFitFun box once a season.

Here I want to tell you what I think of the home and fashion accessories that came in my version of the Fall 2017 box:

  • Ceramic and wire jewelry holder
  • Denim gym bag (Private Party)
  • Black belt (B’low the Belt)
  • Scarf/wrap (mer-sea)

Let’s get started, shall we?

The jewelry holder came in a cute box, but it was super flat, which made me wonder if I’d have to put the item together. Luckily, it’s just two pieces and they come together easily to give you a stunning geometric jewelry holder that doubles as art.

Stunning, isn’t it?

It’s since been draped in earrings and the base holds my wedding rings and watches. As someone who always thought that jewelry belongs in a box (when you’re not wearing it, of course) and that jewelry holders are a waste of space, I’ve surprised myself by giving this gem a prime spot on my dresser.

The next item I pulled out was this. Looking at the packaging, I had no idea what it was… I didn’t look at the newsletter until after I had gone through all of the items as I didn’t want to spoil the surprise. Pulling it open revealed a simple gym bag with a fantastic quote: Meet me at the barre.

For anyone who knows me, this is a fantastic coincidence, as the only fitness I’ve ever really loved is the barre… Barre3, specifically, but I know all of the barre classes are similar anyways.

This bag is just the right size to stash a pair of gym shoes, yoga pants, workout top, and a water bottle, with a zippered pocket for your keys, phone, and a snack, on the outside. It’s also great to cart around other things, like work shoes or a few toys for my little one. The bag is light but durable, and as I said before, I love the quote!

The black belt I pulled out next is one of those pieces that is so versatile, you won’t know how you managed without it! I have used it countless times to cinch a sweater, add an accent to a dress, and even just to loop around my waist. It has the look of leather, but is cruelty free. It’s a simple belt with a loop instead of a buckle, which adds to its versatility; you can tie it several ways and it can fit a range of sizes, too. The other colour option was brown, and I have to say the black is more useful for me.

The final fashion item in this box was a cozy wrap. I call it a scarf wrap, as it’s long. I received the grey one and I adore it. It’s super soft and cozy and like the belt can be worn in several ways. I’ve worn it like a normal scarf, wrapped around my neck, and like a poncho (kept in place with the belt I got in this box!), and like a shawl. It’s probably the piece I’ve used the most from this box. It has an ombré pattern and fringe that gives it that extra flair.

These items have all been awesome additions for me, and I hope the next 3 boxes I get have items as great as these.

For my thoughts on the beauty and wellness items, see my Lady In Red post!

**Please note that all opinions and experiences are my own. This post is not sponsored or affiliated with FabFitFun or any other third party.

On The Bandwagon

I’ve been secretly coveting a subscription to FabFitFun ever since last year, when they had a stunning plaid blanket scarf and colouring book in fall 2016. Being in Canada and with the conversion to USD being stupid lately, it was definitely nothing more than a pricy wish… until the hubby decided it was going to be my anniversary gift for this year. What better way to spoil me than with a gift that I’ll actually get not once, but 4 times? (And here I thought he never listens what I babble about things I love on Pinterest!)

Since the order was placed after the select process was closed, neither of us got any choice as to what was in my first box. Being a bit picky, I was a touch worried, but I shouldn’t have been. I loved everything! After looking at the options I would have been given, I knew I would have chosen exactly the same ones that I got. How’s that for luck?

I’ve been trying out my new products since I got my box in early October, and I’ll have a few posts about what I think once I’ve been able to use them enough to have an “expert” opinion. I love FFF unboxing posts as much as the next girl, but you rarely get reviews on the products themselves besides the initial one.

I’m going to start with the box itself, like we all do.

Never having received one before, I hadn’t realized that the box was not going to have outer packaging. The art on the Fall 2017 box is absolutely stunning… it’s one you want to keep and use to store things, even if it’s just for a little. I love that the inside of the box was decorated too… it definitely adds a bit of whimsy and sparkle to the whole package.

Inside my box was the newsletter, which I didn’t think I’d read, but which turned out to be awesome. Not only did it give me great information on the products I received (which, let’s face it, I’m not beauty-savvy enough to really always know what to do with), as well as a few articles I really enjoyed.

Tucked inside the delicate wrapping were 10 products. I’ve reviewed them all now, in batches, so make with the clickies if you’re interested in what I thought! Here’s what was in my box:

Home and Fashion accessories:

  • Wire and ceramic jewelry holder
  • Denim gym bag (Private Party)
  • Black belt (B’low the Belt)
  • Cozy wrap (mer-sea)

Beauty and Wellness:

  • Apple Cider Vinegar hair rinse (dpHUE)
  • Mud mask (Whish)
  • Lip crayon (TreSTIQUE)
  • Cuticle oil (Deco)
  • Hot and cold pack (my tagalongs)
  • Wet wipes (Cottonelle)

I’m super excited to get my Winter box (made my choices this week… doubly excited!). I’ll do an unboxing post most likely and then give my review of the products if I can, too.

Not only does my subscription get me 4 boxes of goodies, it also gets me access to their “TV” section, which has workouts, it also gives me access to offers from the companies featured in the boxes, past products and those from those companies for an amazing price (12$ for earrings, 19$ for a crossbody purse… yes please!), as well as some amazing giveaways.

I don’t know how they manage to get so many amazing items into a box for such a fantastic price, and from awesome companies (so many are run by women!!!), but I’m glad I’ve finally hopped on this bandwagon. I am not disappointed!

**Please note that all opinions and experiences are my own. This post is not sponsored or affiliated with FabFitFun or any other third party.

Bananas and Icing and Sprinkles, oh my!

What to do if you have a hankering for bananas, cake, and still want to keep it vegan (and somewhat healthy)? You find a recipe and veganise it of course!!

I was scrolling through Pinterest and found this yummy-looking recipe for Banana Blondies from Life In The Lofthouse, and decided to give it a try, vegan-style.

I also used this Vegan Cream Cheese Frosting from Oh She Glows instead of the one that came with the recipe. And lastly, I wanted to try out some of my new sprinkles, so I did half-half with Sweetapolita’s Sweetie Pie and Cornucopia sprinkles.

The result?

Perfection.

Here’s what I did:

Yield:

Original Yield: 24 squares

Actual Yield: 24 large squares (I halved the recipe the second time I made it and it worked just as well)

Prep Time:

Original Prep Time: none

Actual Prep Time: 10 minutes

Bake Time:

Original Bake Time: 25-30 minutes

Actual Bake Time: 28 minutes

What I changed:

  • I swapped butter for a half-and-half mix of vegan butter and coconut oil and a mix of apple sauce and extra banana for the eggs
  • I swapped the brown sugar frosting for vegan cream cheese frosting (amazing flavour combination!)

Notes or Comments:

  • I tried this recipe out as is and it was amazing.
  • I swapped out all of the butter for coconut oil and found the coconut favour was so overpowering that the banana flavour was lost completely. Half and half is perfect if you like a bit of coconut flavour, but use only vegan butter if you want just banana flavour.

Verdict: Success! This recipe is delish, both as is and with some vegan substitutes. It was simple to make (all in one bowl… that’s always a win!) and is easily halved or doubled with no issues.

** Please note that all opinions and experiences are my own. They are not influenced, endorsed, or sponsored by Life In The Lofthouse, Oh She Glows, Sweetapolita, or any other third party. All changes to the recipe are my own.

Extending summer

It’s been a crazy few weeks, so I’m recycling a post from my old blog, as we JUST had this salad for dinner this week! We get most of our produce through Mama Earth Organics and I love being able to use all these local veggies in my meals every day!

Fall is here, but I wanted to share a favourite summer salad with you before the cold weather sets in for good.

Greek Orzo Salad

I had been searching for a salad hearty enough to serve on its own as a meal but light enough to also be used as a side. I also wanted something pretty easy (it had been a long week but I was determined to stay as far away from the burger joint around the corner as I could). We love Mediterranean food (aka I love feta and fresh veggies!) so when this recipe for Greek Orzo Salad from Cooking Classy came up, we decided to give it a shot.

Since finding this recipe last summer, it’s been on constant rotation from April through October (and a few times during the colder months too). I’ve switched some things up when we were out of an ingredient or two, and we skip the olives (none of us are fans), and it’s been a winner every time.

Greek Orzo Salad

Here are the deets.

Yield:

  • Original Yield: about 6 servings
  • Actual Yield: about 8 servings (unless it’s the main… then about 4 servings)

Prep Time:

  • Original Prep Time: none given
  • Actual Prep Time: 20-30 minutes

Cook Time:

  • Original Cook Time: none given
  • Actual Cook Time: 30 minutes (orzo-10 min + cooling orzo-5 min + 15 min to cool in fridge)

Notes or Comments:

  • As mentioned above, we always skip olives in this salad, but due to the saltiness of the feta, we’ve never found the need to add extra salt.
  • The first time we made this salad, we had no lemon and neither did the store by our house. We subbed in equal parts red wine vinegar for the dressing and it was delicious.
  • I’ve made the dressing for the salad with lemon juice, balsamic vinegar, red wine vinegar, and half lemon/half red wine vinegar as the acid. Our favourite is the half/half version as it gives the salad a bit more bite than just the lemon (could be because of those missing olives).
  • You can make this salad vegan by omitting the feta or subbing in a vegan feta (that’s what I used last time)… super simple fix!

Verdict: Success! Go make this salad NOW! It’s flavourful, healthy, easy, and works as a light main or side. We’ve had it as a side for BBQ-ed sausages, grilled chicken, as lunch, and as the main course for dinner (who wants to eat hot food when it’s already 42C??). And if you try it with olives, let me know!

Greek Orzo Salad

*** Please note, the recipe for Greek Orzo Salad is in no way mine. All opinions and experiences are my own and are in no way endorsed/influenced/sponsored by Cooking Classy, Mama Earth Organics, or any other third party.

Vegan Broccoli Quinoa Casserole

It's already been a couple years since I posted my thoughts on Damn Delicious' Broccoli Quinoa Casserole. It's become such a favourite that I can make it from memory and by eyeballing the measurements.

That's a win in my books.

Of course, since making this recipe the first time, I've made some changes (aka shortcuts!) and I recently experimented with making one of our favourite "healthy comfort food" recipes vegan.

I will be the first to admit that it was a challenge. And maybe it wasn't 100% the same as the original. But the little one gobbled it down and hubby liked it well enough too.

I will also add that this dish can get a bit heavy, so I'd save it for a chilly fall evening instead of a hot summer dinner. Just take my word for that one.

I'm going to include both the original changes I made to the recipe as well as the vegan version.

This casserole is actually pretty healthy… Yes it's got some cheese (ok, a bit more than some), but it uses milk and Greek yoghurt instead of cream, has a good amount of lean chicken and broccoli, and as a bonus it tastes amazing. You can easily halve or double the recipe too.

  

Ok, so let's get started.

Yield:

  • Original Yield: 1 9×13 casserole (8 servings)
  • Modified Yield: 1 3-quart sauté pan (4 servings)

Prep Time:

  • Original Prep Time: 10 minutes
  • Modified Prep Time: 15 minutes (longer if your using tofu… pressing it takes about 12 hours/overnight)

Cook Time:

  • Original Cook Time: 20 minutes
  • Modified Cook Time: 30 minutes

Vegan Ingredients List:

  • 1/2 cup quinoa
  • 1 small head broccoli, cut into florets and finely chopped
  • 1 tablespoon olive oil
  • 1 package firm tofu, pressed
  • Kosher salt and freshly ground black pepper, to taste
  • 1 cup cashew milk (you could use almond milk in a pinch)
  • 1/3 cup cauli-power alfredo sauce (from Oh She Glows)
  • 1/2 cup shredded vegan cheddar cheese (optional)

cooked the vegan version in the same way as I did the original.

Notes or comments from the author:

  • For the vegan version, swap out chicken for firm tofu, skip the rue (butter and flour), swap cow's milk for cashew or almond milk, and swap Greek yoghurt for cauliflower alfredo sauce.
  • I haven't yet tried it yet, but I'm thinking to try swapping tofu for northern beans next time!
  • I found it easiest to cut up the chicken into cubes, season it, and cook it instead of cooking the breasts and chopping them up after. It took 6 minutes to cook the cubed chicken and the flavour was all there.
  • You could easily make this with precooked/leftover/rotisserie chicken. Skips the cooking and it works just as well!
  • You don't have to transfer the casserole to a baking dish, especially if you halve it and/or if you have a big enough oven-proof skillet. I cooked everything in the skillet (except for the quinoa and broccoli), then mixed everything together in this same skillet at the end, topped the casserole with cheese, and popped it in the oven. Saved me from cleaning at least one dish!

Verdict: Success (with modifications)! This recipe was a total success. Hubby loved it, it makes leftovers, it's pretty healthy, and it was easy to make. It's also very comfort-food-y (I'm making that a thing, by the way), which makes it perfect for the cool weather coming in. Ignore the warning labels and try this one at home!

** Please note, the original recipes for Broccoli Quinoa Casserole and Cauli-Power Alfredo are in no way mine. The views and experiences above are my own and not endorsed/influenced by Damn Delicious, Oh She Glows, or any other third party.

Keep Calm and Barre3 On

When I got an email from Barre3 in June inviting me (and everyone else who has an account) to join this summer's B3 Anywhere challenge, I signed up immediately. I'm not paying for a Barre3 online subscription right now, but I keep my account open (I love the recipes and blog posts, plus I do want to get back to B3 soon).

Anyways, the B3 Anywhere challenge caught my attention for 3 reasons:

  1. It was super easy to do and follow – you got workout videos sent to you, a 4-week meal plan, and all the recipes
  2. I was able to do workouts on my own time – I got an email every Monday morning with links to free new workouts (and the new post for the subscribers) as well as the live workout on Wednesdays, but I could do them whenever
  3. It wasn't demanding – the recommended number of workouts (3x/week) and clean meals (5x/week) were super doable, and of course you could modify upwards from there

I printed the meal plan, thinking my 5 clean meals would be lunch only, but found that many of the recipes work for my whole family! I ended up making at least four or five of the dinners every week and most of the breakfasts. I call that a win.

For the exercise calendar, I filled in 3 days a week that I wanted to do a Barre3 workout, plus my HIIT (another post on this later) and my walks to and from work… it was a very full calendar.

So… 4 weeks of clean eating (and proper portion sizes!) plus extra exercise… where did that get me?

  • Weight: I didn't weigh myself before starting the challenge, but I want to say there's been no difference (that's not to say I didn't swap some fat for some muscle!)
  • Body measurements: from just putting on clothes in the morning, I can tell I've lost a bit of fat off my legs, butt, and stomach. Unfortunately this last week I was more bloated than usual (thanks, Mother Nature), so I'll find out exactly what the difference is in a couple days.
  • Muscles: it amazes me how a workout can kill you one day and after some time feel so much easier. I never did the same workouts twice in a row, but I started and ended the challenge with the same workout set, and while the first time I did it I thought I'd need a leg transplant, this last time was so much easier and better. I was able to hold the positions longer, even modify them a bit, and I only took one short break. Win!
  • Energy: I did most of my Barre3 workouts after getting home from work, and the burst of energy they gave me helped me get through busy evenings and a tiny human who decided not to go to sleep until 1am one night!! I did my HIIT in the mornings right after waking up, and the energy lasted until I got into the office a couple of hours later. Combining this with healthy foods to fuel my day, I felt more energy in these four weeks than I used to.
  • Motivation: I want to put this here, because I was so motivated when I started the challenge, I wanted to do Barre3 workouts every day! Of course, this fizzled out by day 4, but I still managed to keep up with the challenge. I wasn't 100% motivated every day, but when my motivation failed me I powered through with discipline, which I think is not only more telling but awesome for your mind and spirit. I have a quote pinned that I turn to when I want to blame my lack of motivation for skipping a workout: You will never always be motivated. You have to learn to be disciplined.

On top of these benefits, I've also found some fantastic and healthy summery recipes we all enjoyed, and I've been much better with portion sizes and treats (no eating a whole box of donuts for me!). Even though I wish I could drop all of my stubborn fat in a couple weeks, I know it's not possible, and this challenge reminded me that a little extra effort can go a long way.

I'm definitely signing up for whatever challenge Barre3 comes up with next, and I hope you will too!

** Please note that I am in no way affiliated or sponsored by Barre3. All opinions and experiences are my own. Please consult your doctor before starting a new diet or heavy exercise plan.