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Month: October 2016

Fresh Spring Rolls

Fresh Spring Rolls

Fresh Veggie Spring Rolls with dipping sauce

fresh-spring-rolls

This raw dish is full of colour and is quite easy to prepare. You can use whatever fresh veggies you have on hand. It’s good to choose some brightly coloured vegetables so they look appetizing and pleasing to the eye. I love to serve these with Spicy Asian-y Sauce from thisrawsomeveganlife.com.

Fresh veggie spring rolls

  • Rice paper
  • fresh baby spinach
  • carrot, grated or cut into thin strips
  • cucumber, cut into thin strips
  • sweet red pepper, cut into thin strips
  • fresh green onions
  • fresh basil
  • avocado

rice-paper

Prepare all the ingredients before assembling the rolls. Soak one rice paper at a time in warm water on a plate large enough to allow the water cover the entire roll. This takes less than one minute. Remove the softened rice paper and layer your desired vegetables. Don’t try to fit too much or the paper will rip when you roll it. Tuck each end so the wet paper sticks onto itself. Allow the rolls to sit as you prepare the remaining rolls. Then cut in half on the diagonal and display on a plate. Serve with a dipping sauce like the following…

Spicy Asian-y Sauce

  • 1 Tbsp mustard
  • 1 Tbsp miso
  • 1 Tbsp nut butter
  • 2 Tbsp nutritional yeast
  • Salt & Pepper to taste
  • 1/4 cup Hemp seeds , if desired
  • Other spices as desired
  • water to thin, as required

Combine all ingredients in a small blender like Magic Bullet along with water to desired thickness/thinness. Add more water if it is too thick. Taste and adjust with spices. Dip your spring rolls and enjoy! This sauce is great for sushi veggie rolls too!

What’s your preferred dipping sauce?

See more recipes.

Montserrat

Montserrat

Montserrat, a Caribbean island

Soufriere Hills Volcano
Soufriere Hills Volcano

This little Caribbean leeward island is a British Overseas Territory and is home to just under 5000 residents. It lies just southwest of Antigua and southeast of Puerto Rico. It is nicknamed the Emerald Isle of the Caribbean due to its resemblance to coastal Ireland as well as for its Irish ancestry of many of the inhabitants. When you land, your passport will be stamped with a green shamrock!

In 1979, the Beatles producer, George Martin, opened AIR Studios. The lush tropical surroundings of Montserrat became a destination for world-famous musicians. In 1989 Hurricane Hugo devastated the island and the studio closed. Within a few years, the island recovered quite well, only to be damaged even more severely six years later.

Devastation - first floor completely buried
Devastation – first floor completely buried

In July of 1995, the Soufriere Hills Volcano became active and eruptions destroyed the primary village of Plymouth. Between 1995 and 2000, there were more eruptions and more than half of the population was forced to flee. The eruptions affected the harbour and the airport, which is completely buried. Since then, an exclusion zone has been imposed to most of the southern part of the island. For areas not directly in the eruption zone, they still had layers of ash land on them causing damage to their properties. It is both sad and fascinating.

montserrat-exclusion-zone

Today no jets can land on the island. You must travel in a small 8-seater plane from Antigua to the John A. Osborne airport on the north of the island or by ferry. The volcano has been relatively quiet since 2010 but is monitored by the Montserrat Volcano Observatory. A new community is being built at Little Bay, on the northwest side of the island.

Dark sand beach with cliffs
Dark sand beach with cliffs

The land is rich with volcanic soil making it very green and lush. There is an abundance of fresh fruit: oranges, grapefruit, mangoes, to name a few. You can see the locals selling them at the side of the road. They tasted very fresh and delicious and after returning home to Canada, we have never tasted anything quite so good! You will also see many chickens and roosters roaming around the island crowing at every opportunity. We even saw a family of donkeys at one point. Visitors are few and far between so at times we found we were the only ones on the beach. The beaches were dark due to the volcanic activity but very quiet and secluded. You still have to watch for rip tides because there are no lifeguards – you are on your own! You can hire a boat tour from one of the locals or rent sea kayaks to explore – especially to Rendezvous Bay. Here the sand was lighter compared to the other dark beaches.

Rendezvous Beach - completely secluded
Rendezvous Beach – completely secluded

The roads are mediocre but they are working on the infrastructure. Slowly it is coming together with new roads on the north part of the island. I’d recommend renting an SUV to navigate any dirt roads. Keep in mind that they drive on the left. The currency is the EC (Eastern Caribbean) dollar but most places accept US$. Keep in mind that most places do not accept credit cards. And businesses are normally only open during the day, except restaurants. Banks close at 2pm. Water is very safe to drink.

The national dish is Goat Water which is primarily goat meat stew served with bread. Other foods include seafood and chicken, many fresh fruits. Local restaurants and markets must rely on ferry service for their supplies. I remember hand picking the perfect mango. We also enjoyed soursop (or graviola), a local fruit normally consumed as a smoothie, which tastes light and slightly sweet but somehow creamy at the same time. The locals and visitors love to drink. Just like the UK, they have their local pubs. St. Patrick’s Day in March is a weeklong celebration!

soursop

The best place to stay on the island is in a rented villa. There are many of them and quite reasonably priced compared to neighbouring islands. Ours was a nice small one with a private pool and a perfect view. Looking one direction we could see the volcano and looking forwards we could see the ocean. We also rented a car to travel the island and found it very useful even though the island is not very big. You could walk but the landscape is quite rocky and hilly and with hotter temperatures, can feel quite labour intensive. We also hiked one of the trails but it was not very well marked so we had a hard time finding it! Once we reached the top, though, we realized it was well worth our efforts!

View from our private villa
View from our private villa

Some recommended sights and activities:

  • Soufriere Hills Volcano – the main attraction
  • Montserrat Volcano Observatory – learn the history
  • Jack Boy Hill – panoramic vantage point
  • Rendezvous Beach – hike or kayak to this white beach
  • Snorkelling or Scuba Diving – off any beach
  • Oriole Walkway Trail – hike to the top for a view, plus many other trails
  • Ziggy’s Restaurant – An oasys in the woods, yet elegant dining
  • Olveston Guesthouse – owned by George Martin – great food
  • The People’s Place – local restaurant serving goat’s water
  • Walk around and explore – meet the locals
meet a local lizard
meet a local lizard
Rooster & chickens
Rooster & chickens

What we liked about this short trip, was how quiet and secluded the island is. We had some time for relaxation in our private villa, but also some interesting sites to see. It was extraordinary to approach the island by air in the smaller plane. We travelled in February of 2013 and had to connect through Toronto and Antigua. We didn’t face any delays, however, it is not uncommon for delays to occur especially due to Canadian winter weather, so keep this in mind if you plan to book. I’d highly recommend this destination to anyone looking for a unique yet quiet place to explore.

Read more about Montserrat tourism.

Have you ever experienced this little gem?

Where have you been in the Caribbean?

Other travel spots.

Owning versus Renting

Owning versus Renting

Is it better to rent or to own?

house-with-picket-fence

You’ve worked hard to pay your mortgage payment each month and you got to the point of paying it off – congratulations! You are mortgage-free and own 100% of your home! It feels good because it takes most people 20+ years to get to this point. After working so hard to get to this point why would you go back to renting you may ask? Some young people today may even question whether they should continue renting or take the plunge and buy a home. Is it cheaper to rent or buy? Does buying a home create more wealth over the long term?

There may not be a definitive answer to this question because it depends on a few factors: where you live, how big a property you need, how you want to use the property and who will do any required maintenance? However, after some research, I can say that renting is not financial idiocy. I remember as a young adult, everyone expected me to follow the traditional pattern: to finish school, get married, buy a house, have children and live my life the same as everyone else.

Owning a home has some advantages. You can do what ever you want to renovate it and make it your own. But you also have to pay mortgage payments and re-negotiate them at least every 5 years. There are also annual property taxes and on-going maintenance fees. You are responsible for buying a new roof and replacing the furnace if it fails. When the plumbing stops working, you have to fix it or hire someone to do it for you. If you sell your home and move, there are transfer taxes, lawyer’s fees and moving fees.

If you rent, you pay a monthly rental fee and utilities, although some may be included. You don’t have to fix anything if it breaks and there are no property taxes. If you move, there are no transfer taxes or lawyer’s fees but of course there would be moving expenses. On the other hand, if the owner sells the property, you may have to move. Also you can’t always put your personal stamp on the rental property – the owner will have rules. Some may allow you to paint but you likely need to return it back to it’s original condition when you leave. If something breaks, someone else will fix it for you on their schedule.

The basic argument for owning is based on the idea that paying a mortgage is a forced savings plan. As a renter, you may not be disciplined enough to invest the money you’re saving as a result of not owning a home. But some homeowners are less disciplined than renters. Think of all the people using home equity lines of credit to support their lifestyle. They also may be in trouble if interest rates go up and not be able to afford their mortgage payments. I find that some people try to “out do the Jones” and get the big house, 2 cars etc. Not only do they not own their home, but they also lease their cars. So really they don’t own anything!

Most people believe that owning a home is better than renting. Buying or renting is not necessarily better. It is better too think like a finance person and make an informed decision for your own situation. Whether renting or buying, you still need a contingency fund for emergencies. You still need to save for retirement. You still need extra money for things other than your home. Know, understand and track your money and how you might spend it – then make a decision to buy or rent. Also think about how you want to spend your time. Do you want to do your own home maintenance? Do you like mowing the lawn? Do you want a large property with land?

It is important to make informed decisions based on fact and not with emotion. I am at a stage now where my adult children are moving out and after having owned a home with my husband for most of our married life, we are thinking about downsizing. For many years, I enjoyed puttering in the garden and being able to grow veggies in the backyard. But now I think I’d prefer to spend my time doing something else! My husband also prefers to do his own work on our vehicle in our garage, like oil changes and changing winter tires. We are thinking of one day selling and perhaps going back to renting as we did in our first year of marriage. I now don’t think of it as taking a step backward, rather simplifying our assets and lifestyle so we can spend our time, money and efforts on something new.

Do you rent or own? And why does it work better for you?

Read Do You Pay Yourself First?

Read how to Make a Financial Plan.

Pear Sauce & Pear Butter

Pear Sauce & Pear Butter

Pear Sauce & Pear Butter

We were given a huge amount of delicious Bartlett pears grown locally. I’d never made pear sauce or pear butter before, but it was actually quite easy. The most time consuming part was preparing the pears themselves – pealing, coring and chopping! Once I set myself to work, the rest was easy and the result quite tasty! The pear sauce can be eaten as is or even used in baking. The pear butter is rather tasty on freshly baked scones, muffins or even bread. With some cinnamon and cloves added, it reminds me of fresh baked apple pie! Mmmmm…
pear-sauce

Pear Sauce Recipe

  • 40 medium or 50 small pears, peeled & cored
  • 2 tsp lemon juice
  • 1 cup water
  • 1 tsp cinnamon
  • canning jars (about 4-5 x 400L jars)

Place pears and water in a large pot and bring to a boil. Reduce heat, cover and simmer for 20-30 minutes or until the pears are soft, stirring often. Add the lemon juice and cinnamon. Bring the pot back to a boil. Then reduce heat and simmer uncovered until the pears are cooked down to the desired consistency. For a perfectly smooth sauce, blend the sauce directly in the pot using an immersion blender.

To prepare sterilized canning jars, wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse. Place on a cookie sheet in a 250 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Do not remove until ready to fill. At the same time, add jar lids to small pot and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes.

Ladle the pear sauce into hot, sterilized jars, leaving about 1/2 inch of space on top. Gently tap the jars to remove any unwanted air bubbles. Wipe the rims clean and secure with hot lids. Allow to cool completely overnight. In the morning test the seal to make sure the lids don’t pop back. Refrigerate any jars that did not seal correctly.

Pear Butter Recipe

Pear butter is simply pear sauce cooked down even further. I decided to try a slight variation from the pear sauce above and used the following ingredients.

  • 30 ripe medium-small Bartlett pears, pealed & cored
  • 1 cup sugar
  • 1 Tbsp lemon juice
  • 1-1/2 tsp cinnamon
  • 1/4 tsp ground cloves
  • 1/4 tsp sea salt
  • canning jars (about 3 x 500L jars)

Peal, core and chop the pears. Blend pears in a high-powered blender or in a food processor until smooth. Add to a large saucepan. Do this in batches. It will yield approximately 2-1/2 L. Add remaining ingredients and mix well. Bring to a boil, while stirring, then reduce heat to medium-low and simmer uncovered until pear butter thickens and is reduced in volume by at least half (1 to 2 hours down to 1-1/4 L). Stir regularly with a flat-bottomed spatula to prevent scorching. Alternately, pour pear mixture into crock-pot and leave on high with lid off for 8 hours, stirring occasionally.

To prepare sterilized canning jars, wash jars in hot soapy water and rinse. Place on a cookie sheet in a 250 degree F oven for 20 minutes. Do not remove until ready to fill. At the same time, add jar lids to small pot and cover with water. Boil for 10 minutes.

Pear Sauce preparation

Once desired thickness for pear butter is achieved, ladle pear butter into hot sterilized jars leaving 1/4 inch space at top. Cover with hot lids and seal. Allow to cool completely. Store in a cool, dark place for up to one year. Serve on freshly baked scones, muffins or on your favourite bread.

What do you make with pears?

Travel Safety Checklist

Travel Safety Checklist

Review this checklist before booking your trip

travelling-people-1

When you’re thinking of booking a trip, it is an exciting prospect to choose a location and start planning. You’ll want to find out a bit about the area and find a place that suits your needs. But before you ultimately decide on a destination, take into account a few things:

  • Has your destination been in the news lately with any safety issues?
  • Are there any unusual weather patterns developing in the region that may cause flooding, earthquake or other natural disasters?
  • Are there any political issues occurring in that part of the world?
  • Are there any outbreaks that may affect your own health?
  • What are the entry requirements (visas)?
  • What is the culture like and how will their laws affect me?
  • When I’m in that country, where can I get help if I need it?

The answers may surprise you and doing a bit of research in advance may save you a major headache or even save your life.

Here’s a pre-travel, pre-booking checklist that you can follow to ensure a safe and comfortable holiday:

  1. Listen to the news and look online for any information about your destination. Also research travel.gc.ca (for Canadians) for any issues at your destination country including:
  • Risk Level
  • Safety & security
  • Entry Requirements
  • Health
  • Laws & Culture
  • Natural disasters & climate
  • Assistance
  1. Keep a copy of all your travel documents at home (with someone you trust) so that if the need arises, they can fax a copy to you.
  2. Understand the local customs, simple phrases and religious customs. Read guidebooks and/or websites. Educate yourself as much as possible.
  3. Register yourself online at register.gc.ca (for Canadians) so in the event that you need assistance, the Government of Canada can help you. Or contact your country’s consulate or embassy in your destination country to let them know your travel plans.
  4. Tell someone where you are, for how long and what you are doing. Leave an itinerary with a family member or friend and if you can, check in periodically to let them know you are ok.
  5. Get a cheap unlocked cell phone. When you reach your destination, get a local SIM card with a pay-as-you-go plan. Inform someone back home of your number and use your phone as needed.
  6. Keep a minimum of stuff with you. Keep a money belt or use a front pocket for money, passport and credit cards. I keep a scan-proof wallet with one credit card and some money and I put a second credit card, the bulk of my money and my passport in the money belt under my clothes. Before heading out each day, I make sure I have enough money in my wallet. It’s also a good idea to have something to give a robber/mugger – they know travellers are never empty handed so it’s not worth risking your life in that situation. If you do your research and are smart about it, hopefully you’ll never be in that situation.
  7. To avoid problems using your credit cards, inform your banks of your travel dates so they don’t think your card has been stolen and cancel your cards!

The bottom line here is do your research, be smart and plan ahead. Have fun finding that perfect destination and in addition to finding out how much it costs, check out the weather and run through the checklist for a fun-filled adventure.

Where will your next trip be?

How to travel light.

Some travel destinations.

Home Workout Equipment

Home Workout Equipment

Setting up your home workout space

Growing up, organized physical activity was not a big part of my life. As kids we played outside but I didn’t regularly participate in organized sports. I do remember asking to participate in soccer with a friend and did that for a few years. That was a good way to learn teamwork and get a really good workout. As a parent, I encouraged my children to participate in at least 2 activities outside of school: one sport to challenge the body and one other activity (usual something creative like art or music) to challenge the mind.

As an adult, I am acutely aware that my physical well-being is not only related to what I eat, but also a result of how I maintain my body through exercise. With a family history of heart disease, I need to remember to exercise the heart muscle. Running allows me to do this along with some fresh air and time alone to meditate. A few years ago, my daughter introduced me to home workout videos on youtube.com, in particular Fitness Blender. Previous to that I would concentrate on running and biking and dapple in some body-weight strength training. I also tried gym memberships, but after gaining more experience and becoming more confident in my understanding of how to workout my body and strengthen my muscles, I felt the need to set up a better home workout space. Now I can pre-select one of the many videos on Fitness Blender and have a quiet space to actually do it!

home-workout-equipment

This is what I have in my home workout space:

  • small room/space with no clutter
  • window and/or good lighting
  • an area rug
  • soft exercise mat
  • series of different weights
  • exercise ball
  • stand for my ipad mini to play videos
  • small fan to keep me cool
  • a mirror to check my posture/position

 

None of these things are very expensive except my iPad mini. Other equipment I need includes a good pair of running shoes, comfortable clothing and a water bottle. Since I workout in the mornings before my workday, I also have a clock on the wall to keep an eye on the time so I’m not late for work.

Depending on the weather, I do mix up my routines. Some days I go for a run outside, typically about 5km or a bike ride – normally about 30 minutes including a warm-up. In the winter, cross-country skiing is another option. I mix the days outside with the days inside. The great part of Fitness Blender is they offer a good blend and variety of workouts including HIIT (high intensity interval training), cardio, kickboxing, strength training, toning, yoga, and more. I can also choose the difficulty level and even low-impact options. No matter what I choose, I do have to remember to cool down and stretch. If I skip the stretch, I pay for it later with stiff and inflexible muscles and will be more prone to injury.

Now, I don’t have the need for a gym membership and it’s so easy to incorporate different types of workouts into my daily routine. The equipment I need is right at home and I have absolutely no excuse to skip the routines! In fact, I have made a conscious effort to routinely include them in my day and if I have a day off, I actually miss it!

What do you have in your home workout space?

Quinoa Tabouli

Quinoa Tabouli

Quinoa Tabouli (or Tabbouleh)

quinoa-tabouli

This delicious salad is very simple and nutritious. It’s an appetizing dish with lots of colour and makes a great main or side dish. It keeps quite well for a few days in the fridge so makes for wonderful leftovers for lunches. Easy preparation, just allow yourself enough time for the chopping!

  • 2 cups veggie stock
  • 1 cup quinoa
  • 2 Tbsp virgin olive oil
  • ½ tsp sea salt
  • 3 Tbsp fresh lemon juice
  • 3 tomatoes, diced, juices removed
  • 1 (one) cucumber, diced
  • 2 bunches green onions, diced
  • 2 medium carrots, grated
  • 1 (one) bunch of fresh parsley, finely chopped
  • ¾ cup feta, finely chopped (optional)
  • 1 (one) clove of garlic, crushed

 

In a saucepan bring stock to a boil.  Add quinoa and pinch of salt.  Reduce heat to low, cover and simmer for 15 minutes.  Allow to cool to room temperature; fluff with a fork.

Meanwhile, in a large bowl, combine all remaining ingredients.  Stir in cooled quinoa.  Enjoy!

What do you have in your tabouli?

See more recipes.

 

Bike Ride Checklist

Bike Ride Checklist

Essentials for bike trips

bicycle

If you’re going on a bike trip for an hour or more, you may end up a fair distance from home and if you encounter a problem, it could be a long way to walk. There are a few things you should pack to ensure you will be safe. No matter how long you plan to ride, bring tools to repair a flat. Bring a hand pump, tire levers, a spare inner tube and a patch repair kit. Flat tires can happen anytime, anywhere and being close to home doesn’t mean you shouldn’t be prepared. Carrying this small amount of equipment can turn a spoiled day into a short delay. Secondly know how to repair your flat!

Here’s a checklist:

  • Bike helmet
  • Water bottle
  • Snack
  • Flat repair kit
  • Bike pump
  • Cell phone
  • Map (if you don’t know the area)
  • Comfortable clothing – maybe padded shorts, bike gloves
  • Visibility – brightly coloured or reflective clothes
  • Rain gear
  • Protective eyewear
  • Sunscreen
  • Bike lock
  • Bike light (front & rear)
  • Cash (just in case)

 

My fitness philosophy.

Follow my blog.

How Not to Die

How Not to Die

How Not to Die by Dr. Michael Greger

how-not-to-die

Dr. Michael Greger, a renowned physician, speaker and advocate for plant-based eating, examines the top 15 causes of death and explains how nutrition and lifestyle intervention can prevail over prescription medications and surgery for healthier living.

He credits his experience as a child, of watching his grandmother deal with end-stage heart disease and her journey back to health. Her remarkable recovery was overseen by nutritionist, Nathan Pritikin, an early lifestyle medicine pioneer who gained a reputation for reversing terminal heart disease. The truth is most doctors are not trained in nutrition and how what we eat directly correlates to health and preventative medicine. We’ve all heard the saying “You are what you eat”. Dr. Greger explains in detail how conditions come about and what we, as patients, can do to prevent and even reverse disease. The human body has an amazing capacity to heal itself. We can use food as medicine to reduce or possibly avoid prescription medications and surgery.

He delves into how not to die from:

  • heart disease
  • lung diseases
  • brain diseases
  • digestive cancers
  • infections
  • diabetes
  • high blood pressure
  • liver diseases
  • blood cancers
  • kidney diseases
  • breast cancer
  • suicidal depression
  • prostate cancer
  • Parkinson’s disease
  • iatrogenic causes (How not to die from Doctors) ?!

In addition to showing what to eat to prevent certain diseases and conditions, Dr. Greger outlines a checklist of foods that he recommends we should eat every day. He is also a proponent of physical activity and discusses the effects of moving versus sitting etc. This is practical advice we can each easily put into action to live longer, healthier lives with a better quality of living.

All proceeds from his book go towards his non-profit charity NutritionFacts.org website, a free source of scientific information to the general public. I purchased the ebook when it came out and it is full of scientific supporting evidence and I believe is a great source of information for any age group.

Check out some of my vegan recipes.

Mindfulness

Mindfulness

What is mindfulness?

Mindfulness is the ability to be fully present in the moment, aware of where we are and what we are doing and not over-reactive or overwhelmed by what’s going on around us.

seated-buddhaHow to begin practicing mindfulness:

Meditation begins and ends in the body. It involves taking the time to pay attention to where we are and what’s going on, and that starts with being aware of our body. That very act can be calming, since our body has internal rhythms that help it relax when given the chance.

  1. In a quiet location, sit on a straight-backed chair or cross-legged on the floor. Sit up straight and begin to breath. Your back should be straight, your head facing forwards and arms supported. It’s important to have good posture so your lungs and diaphragm have enough room to breath deeply.mindfullness-in-chair
  2. Close your eyes and drop your shoulders back. Take deep breaths and notice how your body starts to relax and at the same time develop alertness. Although relaxation and alertness may appear at first to be opposites, they can in fact coexist during a meditative state, and are characteristics of a state of mindfulness. You should be relaxed and comfortable but also alert and aware.
  3. Focus on an aspect of your breathing, such as the sensations of air flowing into your nose and out of your mouth, or your belly rising and falling as you inhale and exhale. If you notice your mind wanders, redirect your attention back to the physical sensation of your breath. This isn’t a breathing exercise, just simply be aware of it. Over time your mind will become calmer and your emotional state will become more balanced and positive.
  4. Be kind to yourself and be patient. Your mind will wander and you just have to repeatedly bring your attention back to the breath. Feel how you lose awareness but then bring it back.
  5. Do this for a specified amount of time each day and you will notice how it affects your performance positively throughout your day.

Do you practice mindfulness? What do you do to be relaxed yet alert?