Lifestyle

Homemade Pasta Sauce

Thanks to a trade group that I’ve been obsessed with, I’ve managed to obtain a hilarious amount of canned tomatoes in various forms. Whole, crushed, and pureed… Got em all!

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So naturally I had to put them to good use so I made myself a lovely homemade pasta sauce with lots to spare for freezing.

The recipe consists of…

1/3 cup olive oil

1/4 tsp red bell pepper flakes

1/2 tsp oregano

1/2 tsp basil

1 tbsp sugar

4 cloves of minced garlic

1 tbsp dried onion flakes

2 tbsp butter

salt and pepper to taste

1 can diced tomatoes (796ml)

1 can crushed tomatoes (796ml)

1/2 cup fresh Parmesan cheese, grated

  1. Mix the oil,bell peppers, garlic, onion flakes, butter, sugar and spices in a large pot on medium heat. Cook for 2-3 minutes.

  2. Add the cans of tomatoes- simmer for 2 hours.

  3. When it’s finished, add the Parmesan.

Homemade pasta sauce

This filled 3- 500ml mason jars with ease. REMEMBER to let the sauce cool 100% if you plan to freeze it in a glass jar.

Homemade pasta sauce

Review: 100% Recycled Paper Towel

I was able to track down some recycled paper towel from Staples.ca, I figured I’d give it a try since I’m not ready to give up the disposable paper products just yet…

100% recycled paper towel

Rolls were small but when I did the price comparison it was on par with other brands. (I literally did price per sheet comparison)

Overall this paper towel works as expected, it cleans up my baking mishaps with optimal absorbency, it worked as good as any other paper towel I’ve bought with the added bonus of being 60% post consumer products (recycled newspapers, flyers, etc.)

My only critique is that the product came wrapped in plastic… I don’t think it would have been difficult to wrap it in an alternative (such as just the cardboard box it came in) but I’m assuming that there is sanitation requirements that still need to be complied to.

Will I purchase it again? If I find a recycled paper towel product that doesn’t come in plastic- No. If this is the best alternative to traditional “virgin” paper towel- Yes.

I try not to over use paper towel, but you never know when you’ll have a pot boil over with sugar in it- just good to have.

DIY Body Sugar Scrub

Continuing on with the slow pace of either eliminating the plastic in my home or finding uses for the things already in the house to avoid them getting into our oceans.. I needed some more body scrub!

Equipped with a plastic container from my last purchase I started cruising the internet to understand what makes a good sugar scrub. After some dozen articles and blogs about the best things to use, I was able to collaborate on a recipe that not only matched my preferences perfectly, but I already had everything in the house!

DIY sugar scrub

My Homemade Sugar Scrub included:

1 Cup Brown Sugar

1/2 Cup Coconut Oil

1/2 Cup Coffee grounds

2 Tsp Vanilla

Mix everything together until well blended and store in a container that can be sealed. My general rule with scrubs is use them no more than twice a week.

Your shower will smell like sweet sweet coffee in the morning! It’s a great way to wake up.

DIY Sugar scrub

Review: Sustainable Earth 100% Recycled Toilet Paper

I will begin by saying… Transitioning to recycled fiber toilet paper was not as easy as I expected it to be… Sure there is plenty of products available but 99% of them come in plastic packaging… Which as you know contradicts what I’m trying to do here.

This post contains affiliate links, I may receive a small commission if you use the link to purchase a product.

Sustainable Earth 100% Recycled Toilet Paper

Sustainable Earth 100% Recycled Toilet Paper

Finally I was able to find Sustainable Earth by Staples available in a box and tissue paper. I did the math, and the price for this toilet paper is on par with other brands with the added bonuses of being made from 100% recycled fibers and at least 40% post consumer. Another added bonus that I wasn’t expecting was that it is made in Canada!

You can find the product HERE on the Staples website. Staples also offers cash back to Ebates members, sign up HERE.

Now for the dirty work… The reviewing process. I went in with a ton of optimism but also with the awareness that I have certain requirements for things that touch my derriere... To the hand it definitely is not as soft as the Costco sized toilet paper I’ve become used to, but the overall feel during use was the same for both products when comparing.

The edge sustainable earth has is that it’s nice and thick! No laser cut sheets like you’ll find in a shopping mall, this stuff is the real deal and will get the job done before it starts dissolving.

I do wish that the rolls were bigger.. Again used to my big Costco sized rolls, and it’s going to feel like we’re constantly changing the roll.

Aside from the smaller rolls and being a little rough this is a solid product, and I will continue to purchase it.

While I was researching recycled toilet paper options online, there was some concern brought up about traces of BPA being found in these types of recycled toilet papers, due to the fact that there is BPA in receipt paper that we get from retailers, which is then recycled into these sorts of products. The good news is that the general consensus is that there’s not enough BPA to do any harm to our bodies, so the benefits still outweigh the negative aspects of the product.

I’m hopeful this will become more popular and it will become available in stores, currently only available online.

Getting rid of plastic in your home (and keeping it out)

Getting Rid of Waste

I knew the process of eliminating plastic in my life would be a slow one… Anxiously waiting for items to empty out so you can feel proud of the fact that you can see progress.

I received a real sense of accomplishment when I was cleaning out my spice cabinet, virtually all single use plastic items have been eliminated, never to return again! 4 bags of spices remain to get through along with some larger plastic containers (however these will never see a landfill or be shipped off to a poor developing country to be “recycled.”) The big ones have already come in handy for replenishing the cabinet and allowing this corner of the kitchen (that used to be filled with small single use plastic shakers or bags to be 90% waste free.

All that remains of single use plastic bags in my spice cabinet.

All that remains of single use plastic bags in my spice cabinet.

It’s a small accomplishment but overall still one to be proud of, now every time I refill a container I think about the fact that it’s one less container in a landfill or ocean, one less new container needed to be manufactured for my consumption.

Plastic containers which will continue to be refilled

Plastic containers which will continue to be refilled

A reused plastic container.

A reused plastic container.

These little victories add up on a personal scale and even more so when I see people around me starting to do the same thing. Shortly after I switched from margarine in a big plastic tub to buying real butter wrapped in parchment paper, my mother did the same. I have people approaching me asking for advice for certain products, recipes or alternative items for the home. I’m hopeful that the momentum will continue in hopes that we will leave a healthier world behind.




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.

Review: Neutrogena Hydration Mask and Facial Cleanser

I received these products complimentary to test out but all the opinions are my own.

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I got the opportunity to try out some products from Neutrogena. A hydration mask and a clay mask/ daily cleanser hybrid.

 Neutrogena® Hydro Boost hydrating 100% Hydrogel Mask

The Hydration mask I was very interested to try because I've never tried any sort of mask related cleanser before this... However, I did not enjoy this product at all (sorry guys) the texture of the mask was unsettling on my skin. It felt like I had a squid on my face. It was supposed to stay on for 15 minutes, it ended up falling off around the 10 minute mark and landed in a weird little ball in the sink. I had no desire to put it back on so it went into the garbage.

This is what horror movies are made from...

This is what horror movies are made from...

A heavy amount of packaging needed to be used which I also wasn't a fan of.
At the end of the experience my face didn't feel any more "hydrated" as it would have if I splashed it with water.

Neutrogena® Deep Clean® Purifying Clay Cleanser & Mask

Overall this is a nice product, smells great (minty) and does do the job it'll clean my face. It's a gentle blend. I prefer using it as a daily cleanser than the mask (sadly don't have that kind of time) but it's nice to have the option. This product was definitely more my style of the two, I would purchase this product.

This was another great set of products to try out especially since the mask was not my style at all. Neutrogena is a dependable brand.

How I got my Cat

Mental health has been a very big topic in the media these days. So I thought I would take some time to tell the story on how I got my cat… I promise the two are connected.

Myself and my princess

I normally don’t talk about the struggles I’ve experienced when it comes to anxiety and my own mental health out of choice- it’s something that I have preferred to keep more intimate among my close friends and family and this has been great for me for my own growth. It seems like everyone does something a little different – and this has worked well for me.

I decided to write today in respect to our recent fallen soldiers; people who on the outside look to have everything going for them but on the inside they are struggling. Although I am fortunate to have never had those extreme thoughts I know without the awareness I had of myself and how I was feeling- and having the will power to figure out and fight to change it before it consumed more of me this could be a very different story.

Love watching the development of cell phone camera technology, you can tell this photo is a few years old.

Love watching the development of cell phone camera technology, you can tell this photo is a few years old.

This story is an easy one: How I got my cat Princess Peach. If you follow me on Instagram (@creatingwithnicole) you will notice a trend in my posts. Cats, cakes, and other random things here and there. The focal point of most days in my fuzzy orange princess.

Before she came into my life I had taken some great lifestyle leaps, at the age of 21 I had just purchased my first house, was getting settled into my full time job and responsibilities, and there was a boy in the mix there somewhere. It seemed like everything had come together very well but the pressures of utility bills, mortgages, and the demands of my workplace were not weighing lightly on my shoulders. Sudden outbreaks were becoming more frequent, and even though everything was great on the outside I felt like things were falling apart around me.

Princess Peach

I consulted my family doctor who was able to prescribe me some help for some of the physical symptoms but at that time considering she’d known me since I was 2 with no previous symptoms of anxiety we left it at that. At this point I didn’t consider that to be what was wrong with me anyways- no one around me in my immediate friends and family had ever gone through something like this to recognize the symptoms (to my knowledge).

It was actually a concerned manager that brought the idea up to me, he saw me shuffling through the multiple prescriptions I had just received trying to get it sorted for our pharmacist, I admitted to him that I seemed to be struggling with coping with stress. He mentioned to me that I may benefit from speaking to the free counselling service that our company provided- was very compassionate about it and admitted there was a time that he had felt overwhelmed with life in general and just talking it out with a professional really helped. At first I was hesitant of the idea of talking to a stranger, but after some thought I figured it couldn’t hurt.

Princess being a scamp

I called the number he gave me, nervous as all heck and crying the entire time during the initial interview while they assessed what would help me but I got through it and somehow the woman on the phone understood my blubbering. I just simply told her that I was having a hard time coping with… things. I didn’t really know how else to describe it.

It was decided I may benefit from a couple of sessions with a psychologist over the phone- local guy home based in .. Windsor NS I think? I remember when I got that first call, I was so nervous I almost didn’t pick up- but I reminded myself why I was doing this and the drive to find a solution to these foreign symptoms was stronger than the anxiety telling me to ignore the call and go back to bed.

Cuddles

The first session went as well as the assessment, so much crying… I really should have bought shares in Kleenex looking back. But after some studdered chat he just started asking me questions about things that didn’t set me off into a nervous wreck. He asked: “What’s something you want more than anything in the world?” I gave it some thought and answered “a cat” I had grown up with our family cat Cupcake almost my whole life- certainly every memory I could recall she was always there- got her when I was 2-3 and she lived to the amazing age of 20. So when I moved out, naturally I had to leave her behind because as her age (18-19 at the time) moving her with me wasn’t really an option. Since the majority of my life I’d had a furry buddy it was very noticeable that it was now missing from my life, I had debated getting myself a little kitty but my parents were deterring me, and the gentleman I was seeing was allergic to cats quite badly so it just didn’t seem like the right time.

When I responded to his question with “a cat” he responded with “really? Get a cat.” I was floored by his response, just so firm it just threw me right off. He continued to explain: “when I ask that questions people usually say something impossible or that doesn’t exist like a unicorn; a cat is a very reasonable desire. Go get yourself a cat!” Well this was the first person I had encountered that encouraged me and honestly that was all I really needed, I ended it with the gent I was seeing (it was obviously not that serious) and I started looking for my little buddy.

cuddles

Naturally headed to the shelters first but unfortunately didn’t connect with any of the beautiful kitties there. Not long after starting my search a friend of a friend had a litter of kittens they were hoping to find good homes for. 4 kittens, 3 black and white, 1 orange and the orange one was female. Come to find out orange female cats are not very common… And come with interesting personalities. This was my girl.

I took her home and got her comfy. It wasn’t too long before she started warming up to me. I struggled with the name for about 3-4 days but it was right around the time the royal family had their first child so I was set on her being a princess. After playing with lots of different options Princess Peach just worked and it supported my nerdy side flawlessly.

Selfies

Getting her was a small thing and it certainly did not cure me by any means. There was many more years of hard work to get to where I am today, but there is nothing better than having her to come home to every night- if I had a rough day and couldn’t do anything but lie down on the couch she’d be right there with me. We grew together and after 5 years she’s a huge part of my world and will be for a long time.

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She was not the cure to the new found anxiety in my life but she certainly helped make everything worth it and was a huge encouragement to better myself so I could give her a better life (I work hard to give my cat a better life) that quote is words to live by.

So that’s how I got my cat, I spoke to the psychologist a couple of more times over the phone but I did not find it benefitted me enough to continue on. I was grateful for the sessions but decided to go another route, however I am incredibly grateful for those sessions because it really was the roots to my growth and getting my girl.

snuggles

I’m not saying getting a cat will fix all your life’s problems but having her in my life really set me on a good path to make a healthy and happy lifestyle. Everyone copes with their struggles differently but I found great progress in having my furry fuzz butt by my side, she gave me a reason to grow.