Going Zero Waste

I’ve always been an advocate for avoiding overly processed foods or products that have an obscene amount of packaging, mainly for financial gains but now I’ve joined my generation in the efforts be become zero waste. (Or at the very least, as little waste as possible)

My beautiful collection of Mason jars

My beautiful collection of Mason jars

Some things I’m finding it difficult, my municipality requires me to put my kitty’s poops in a plastic bag before disposing (I get it, that urine is filled with bacteria), so until the day comes that Halifax figures out how to use animal poop as energy I am trapped in a cycle of plastic bags.

This however, has not deterred me from making as many changes as I can to reduce my waste and plastic use. Its a very slow process but slow is best because the whole process can be very overwhelming… You don’t realize how much plastic you use until you look around. The bathroom is a terrible place for plastic waste (mainly for sanitary reasons) from makeup to the toothpaste and body wash it’s all encased in a plastic shell.

It’s a slow change over in the bathroom, I have found a cosmetic company that makes their containers out of Bamboo (bonus points for being Canadian) https://elatebeauty.com/ they are also cruelty free and vegan and the containers are reusable!

For soap… I exclusively use bar soap which thankfully comes in a cardboard box, I also dabble in homemade soaps from my local market when I can. The shampoo and boyfriend’s body wash however is something I have yet to tackle.

Lastly toothpaste…. I’ve read articles on people making their own to avoid the waste, this is certainly something I intent to look into but I am still a little ways out for that step.

My kitchen has been my main focus, I love to cook and bake as it is so leveling up my skills by making homemade condiments, breads and sauces has been an easy transition. I was pleased when I looked in my fridge the other day and the only single use plastics were the milk jug and a package of bacon.

The pantry has been incredibly easy with stores like the Bulk Barn allowing me to bring in my own containers which keeps things affordable. Costco is also my best friend with having nice big 10KG bags of flour to take home and utilize.

I’ve also started reusing as many containers as possible, reminds me of the memes you see of trying to find the butter an Grandma’s because she has leftovers in all her reused containers! I remember my mom talking about her mother saving the wax paper that came in the cereal boxes to wrap sandwiches in.. This is me.

The cake business will most likely be my last venture once I get my personal waste use down, I know there will be challenges with freshness that will come up so I’ll be taking that one step by step.

I will be sharing recipes as I find ones that work. I’m currently experimenting with my favorite snack- Beef Jerky along with a Mustard recipe that tastes like French’s … Still some work to be done on both.

Understanding Mononucleosis

So to say that the past couple of months have been challenging is an understatement… It all started at the beginning of October; we tragically lost our little girl Clover at the age of 2 and a half. (She’s below helping me mow the lawn back August <3 )

Clover

Next up: about a week later my father in law was diagnosed with stage 4 cancer.

Then of course the #3 was that I caught Mono… Grown woman caught the “kissing disease” I was thrilled. After a quick scan of the internet to better understand what is going on in my mouth and body I realized that there’s really not a lot of information available..

Things I learned from the internet:

  1. It’s spread by saliva.

  2. You get a fever.

  3. You get tired.

  4. You’re gonna be tired for awhile.

  5. Sore throat and headache.

Understanding Mono

Things I experienced:

  1. My throat was on fire.

  2. My lymph nodes swelled up so big it felt like there was 2 golf balls in my neck. It horrifically restricted my vocal cords.

  3. (TMI) I was producing so much phlegm every few hours I had to vomit to relieve myself. It was easy though- just took a deep breath, and away we went!

  4. Oh yeah I was tired… One day according to my Fitbit I slept for 16 hours.

  5. My head was on fire and no amount of drugs helped. Ice pack would bring some relief.

  6. The flu like symptoms (fever) were the easiest part of the whole experience.

  7. No brain power, couldn’t even read… I spent a week and a half playing idle games on my tablet when I wasn’t sleeping. Killed me.

Things I learned from my doctor and nurses I worked with:

  1. Yes, it is spread by saliva but it can be contracted as easily as touching a shopping cart. (infected person touches face then touches cart; I then proceed to touch cart and touch face) This realization on how easy it spreads was a relief, because looking at the internet information made me more confused and frustrated than anything: how did this happen? I don’t share drinks, I don’t kiss random strangers… How did this happen?

  2. You essentially have tonsillitis without being able to medicate it with antibiotics. The only thing you can do to recover is rest and hydration because it’s viral and not bacterial.

  3. Working an 8 hour day is impossible, and I was immediately pulled from work.

I couldn’t believe the extreme symptoms from Mono, with no ability to mediate it aside from some pain killers. The information available really sugar coated the whole experience- it was a personal hell.

I wanted to take some time to talk about it because it was so much more extreme than anything that is available on WebMD or whatever you choose to use to try to diagnose yourself while you wait at a walk-in clinic.

The biggest thing I learned through the whole experience was rest and hydration is the most important thing. Even after my energy came back, I could only do something for an hour or two before I needed a rest.

I was so lucky that I started to feel human again after about a week and a half when my taste buds came back I thought I was in the clear. Unfortunately, my doctor didn’t feel the same way. Giving that it’s a serious viral infection she only wanted me to start back up at work 3 days a week.. So for the rest of 2018 I’m only working Monday, Wednesday and Friday’s to give myself a day to recover after a day at work. It’s a weird feeling after working full time or very close to since I was 16, and I can’t take advantage of the days off like I would like to… But it’s giving me time to reflect and brainstorm life. I’ve been told by loved ones and physicians who barely know me that some of these extreme symptoms may have come on because I push myself too much… That was really food for thought because I’ve always been proud of my busy lifestyle. I guess as you get older it’s not as easy to keep going in all directions.

The rest of this year I’m going to work on improving myself physically and mentally and hopefully something like this won’t happen again.. (thankfully you can only get mono once in your life) I still can’t exercise much so I’m considering taking up light yoga and meditation.

One last thing I will say as well, I am so grateful to have a family doctor. In Nova Scotia it’s a rarity right now- most are stuck on wait lists because our family doctors are retiring faster than they are being recruited. I don’t know where I would be without her right now and as much as I know I need to tone down the amount of things I take on, I’d really like to help with attracting family doctors to Nova Scotia in the future.

Friends Cupcakes

I got the honor to do a batch of FRIENDS inspired cupcakes!

These were for a bachelorette party which was a nice change of pace from doing * ahem * body part cakes for these sort of events.

This post contains affiliate links for some of my favorite products.

FRIENDS inspired cupcakes

We went with some awesome quotes- my favorites were “PIVOT” and “It’s the humidity!”. I am a huge FRIENDS fan and the Pivot episode is easily my favorite, I still die of laughter every time I watch it.

The humidity quote spoke to me, not only because I have the same issue as Monica when it comes to my hair, but making these cupcakes was in a classic Nova Scotia humid summer.

FRIENDS cupcakes

Below is a few items I used to make the cupcakes.

Review: Bap House Korean Kitchen

I snuck away from my kitchen over the weekend to check out one of Halifax's new restaurants with some good friends. We tried out Bap House on Quinpool Rd. 

It was a little tricky to see at first, Quinpool can be a little congested but once you know what you're looking for you can distinguish it from the busy street.

Immediately when we walked in we were greeted by a very enthusiastic woman, I'm assuming she was the owner. She took the time to tell us about the menu, how the food is prepared and even how to eat it in an authentic Korean manner.

The menu is short and sweet. They serve Bibimbap as the main course, however due to the nature of the bibimbap you could easily have a different dish every time you visit. The dish is completely customized to your pallet. 

Bap House Menu

This restaurant takes a lot of pride in their food, they don't use any MSG, the veggies used are the ones locally in stock for the season and it's all made fresh.

The presentation of the meal was right out of a magazine, all 4 of the dishes we ordered were arranged just like this.

The presentation of the meal was right out of a magazine, all 4 of the dishes we ordered were arranged just like this.

I ordered the noodle Bibimbap combo which came with Miso soup and I got the dish with beef, egg and spicy sauce- we were instructed to mix it up with the chop sticks and consume it with the spoon (thank goodness I am terrible with chop sticks)

Everything about this meal was delicious, the spice wasn't overpowering so you could genuinely enjoy the taste of every ingredient and the woman came back to check on us a number of times.

She was even generous enough to make us a set of dumplings for free to sample. Let me tell you I could easily eat 20 of those things- Delicious.

My sole critique was that my ahem... hearty North American tummy was not filled by this delicious dish, I could have easily eaten 3 more bowls however for the $14 before tax and tip price tag that really wasn't a good idea. I would recommend coming to this restaurant if you need something to get you between lunch and dinner, around 2PM when you need a snack. Since the food is preservative free and fresh there's no guilt for having a mid afternoon snack here.

The Beginners Guide to Automobile Insurance

So this post is going to be a little different... We're going to talk about automobile insurance (I know, I know....) but as I go through my day job (As an Insurance agent) I realize that first time drivers/ car owners really have no idea what they're purchasing.

The Beginners Guide to auto insurance

Disclaimer: Although I am a professional Insurance agent, every insurance company and provincial regulation is different, so to get proper advise you should speak directly with your broker or agent. 

I am hopeful this post will give some clarification for new drivers (or even experienced drivers that just pay that bill every year and don't think much of it) It's an odd feeling paying for an invisible protection so I'm hopeful I can give people some peace of mind.

The Coverage (What are we paying for)

Automobile Insurance coverage's are divided into 2 different sections.

1. Mandatory Coverage's- Third Party Liability;

2. Optional Coverage's- Loss or Damage to your vehicle and other optional endorsements;

Third Party Liability

This coverage has multiple subsections including Liability, Accident Benefits, Uninsured Motorist, Direct Compensation Property Damage (In some provinces), and lastly Family protection.

Liability coverage: Simplest way to put it is that this will protect you if you cause an accident or damage to someone else's property or (heaven forbid) the other person. If you are held responsible for damage and expected to pay to repair/ compensate the other person your liability insurance will react and pay on your behalf (up to the stated amount).

Accident Benefits: This provides you with access to medical funds if you're injured in an accident (regardless if you caused the accident or not).

Uninsured Motorist: This coverage extends your accident benefit coverage to situations where the other motorist can't be identified or was uninsured at the time of the accident.

Direct Compensation Property Damage: A coverage in place in some provinces that ensures that you'll only ever deal with your own insurance company- regardless of who caused the accident. This coverage was put in place to avoid those lengthy (and costly) investigations before people would be compensated. To summarize: Someone hits you (so it's not your fault)- You call your insurance company- you arrange a repair with them-  The vehicle is repaired and you go on with your life.

As opposed to what it used to be like (and still is in some places) Someone hits you- you call your insurance company- you wait for the other person to call their insurance company- you then wait for the insurance companies do an investigation to determine who is to blame (this still happens to an extent on DCPD but not to the inconvenience to the client)- Fault is determined (eventually)- Repairs are arranged and paid for by the other insurer. 

Finally, Family Protection: This coverage will protect yourself and your family against motorists that are under insured or not insured at all. The sad thing is that minimum provincial requirements are simply not enough sometimes so this coverage will fill those voids if need be.

Loss or Damage to your own Automobile

This coverage also has subsections: All Perils, Collision, Comprehensive and Specified Perils.

I will start with the most common coverage's: Collision and Comprehensive

Collision: If you cause an accident (even a single vehicle accident like backing into a pole) and your vehicle is damaged- the collision coverage will repair your vehicle (subject to a deductible) 

accident-automobile-automotive-1230677.jpg

Comprehensive: This is for claims that aren't really "collisions" like fire, theft of the vehicle, vandalism, falling objects, cracked windshields or that dang deer that came out of nowhere! Also subject to a deductible.

Now for the coverage's that are less popular:

All Perils: This is essentially collision and comprehensive coverage combined. It has one deductible for everything and comes with one extra coverage - If someone living in your home steals your car and crashed it there is coverage. 

It's scary to think that a coverage like that isn't included in the more popular coverage's however if you live with good, trustworthy people HOPEFULLY this isn't a concern to begin with.

action-asphalt-auto-racing-274974.jpg

Specified Perils: It's a list of specific things that will be covered, it's unpopular as it excludes falling objects which is pretty much how everyone gets a crack in their windshield.

 

Finally the last sections of coverage I'll talk about briefly today is optional endorsements: there's a ton of approved endorsements out there to get you a rental vehicle after an accident, extension of coverage for rental vehicles, protection for new vehicles, protection against your first at fault accident- the list goes on! These endorsements will enhance your policy to work for you.

That is all I'll talk about today, insurance is far from interesting but it is a necessary protection in our society and I hope I can help more people understand what they're protected for.

Ketchup Cake

I had the honor of getting to make a really fun cake for my friend's kid's 4th birthday. All he wanted was a ketchup cake! You heard me.. A ketchup cake!

I had very strict instructions that it was not to be ketchup flavored simply shaped like a ketchup bottle.

I ended up using a wine bottle cake pan for the cake itself. I had bought this pan for my own birthday cake this past year and figured I'd never have a use for it every again!

My black forest wine bottle cake!

My black forest wine bottle cake!

I was actually thinking about selling it.. Glad I didn't as it worked perfectly! The pan itself is not quite as big as 2 8" cakes so with the leftover batter I also made a couple of cupcakes that made for great tomatoes.

The ketchup cake!

The ketchup cake!

 

I decided to mimic the President's Choice Ketchup bottle- as much as it was tempting to mimic the classic Heinz Bottle- I really wanted to showcase a Canadian product in my cake (even if the 4 year old has no idea) considering the exposure the cake would get and my strong stand on locally sourced products... It just seemed right.

Ketchup cake

I got some great feedback on my facebook page on this cake! 

Scott said: Thank you Nicole for this kick ass, amazing, non-ketchup made ketchup-cake you made for Ronan’s 4th Birthday cake. It was awesome and delicious

Judy said: Ronan loved his cake! Great job Nicole!

Kathryn said: Thank you Nicole, he loved it!

Angela said: Such a great idea for my kids next birthday lol

Natasha said: Love it it looks fantastic.

Colin said: I am really glad that cake wasn't actually ketchup flavored. Thanks.

Lifestyle Change: progress report 2

So probably the most deterring thing about this journey so far is the lack of weight loss, thankfully I can see physical signs of improvement, I have significantly more energy in my day and I look forward to daily activity. I can also see the tummy shrinking and my legs seem a bit more firm. The 45 minutes of activity at least 5 days per week has proved to be more of a challenge so I plan to continue to work towards that goal until I become more consistent. I also feel it may be time to tone those soft spots! I have looked into some resources and plan to create a workout routine that will work for my soft curvy body. 

Progress selfie!

My fitbit was acting up this week and it took me a bit to get it working again, the wristband was still tracking but not syncing properly... So Sadly no screenshots this week but it's the beginning of a new week! I'm looking forward to the challenge this week since there's some rain in the forecast- I'll get some good one-on-one time with my exercise bike!

Lifestyle Change: Progress Report 1

The biggest challenge I've found in the past 2 weeks has simply been remembering to record food and water consumption. When going through my busy day I can go hours and a couple of water refills before realizing I have no idea how much water I've actually consumed today!

What I've found easy however is keeping up my active minutes. Since I sit for most of my day I haven't focused so much on steps and more on daily activity. Started off simple- 30 minutes a day, so easily killed it on my hour lunch break daily. Check it out!!

FitBit activity tracker

I have a great exercise bike that makes those rainy days easier. Anytime I know I won't make it outside I take advantage of my great setup.

FitBit Activity Tracker

I'm happy with how easy consistent activity has been once I put my mind to it! The goal was 30 minutes 5 days per week and I crushed it! I am looking forward to challenging myself in the next coming weeks to more minutes per day, the goal will still be 5 days per week but I want to increase the time to 45 minutes per day.

I am so happy about the purchase of my Fitbit Charger 2, with being able to rate my sleep, steps and other activities it has been an incredible help in encouraging me to work out. If you are interested in purchasing one the link can be found above! (I may receive a small commission if you purchase the fitbit through my link.

4 pounds down so far, wish me luck!!