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Month: February 2017

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

Butternut Squash Soup

  • 1 onion, chopped
  • 2 garlic cloves, minced
  • 1-inch gingerroot, grated
  • 1 red pepper, seeded & chopped
  • 2 large carrots, chopped
  • 1 Tbsp no-salt seasoning
  • 1 Tbsp roasted garlic-pepper seasoning
  • 1 medium butternut squash, peeled, chopped
  • 1-400mL can pinto beans, rinsed & drained
  • 1 cup frozen corn niblets
  • 4+ cups vegetable stock
  • 1 tsp Worcestershire sauce
  • 1 tsp sea salt
  • 1 tsp freshly ground pepper

 

In large pot, water sauté onion, garlic and gingerroot over medium heat. Stir and heat until onion is soft and translucent, adding a little more water if required. Add peppers, carrots, no-salt seasoning and garlic-pepper seasoning and sauté another 3-5 minutes. Add squash, pinto beans, corn and enough stock to just cover all veggies. Simmer until veggies are soft (about 20 minutes). Remove half at a time and blend in high-powered blender until smooth. Return to pot and add Worcestershire sauce and season with salt and pepper to taste. If desired add more veggie stock to thin. Serve immediately or allow to cool. Refrigerate in sealed container for 3-4 days. Alternately freeze for up to 3 months.

What’s your favourite type of soup? Do you prefer blended soups?

Please let me know in the comments section below…

See more of my vegan recipes.

 

Puttering

Puttering

The Art of Puttering About

The other day, I set about to start some baking in the kitchen, when I got sucked into “the puttering zone”. I was looking for a rarely used tool in the back of a cupboard, and before I knew it, I’d sorted and cleaned the cupboard and an hour had gone by. You’ve had this experience right? When you start out doing one thing and get sucked into a zone of puttering?! For me it happens working in the garden or as I’m doing chores around the house. One little thing leads to another, and without much thought, I seem to have managed to accomplish quite a bit.

Puttering implies, wasting time. However, did you know puttering could be good for you? Consider the definition:

Verb “putter”

  1. to busy or occupy oneself in a leisurely, casual, or ineffective manner: to putter in the garden.
  2. to move or go in a specified manner with ineffective action or little energy or purpose: to putter about the house on a rainy day.
  3. to move or go slowly or aimlessly; loiter.

Verb phrase “Putter away”

  1. To spend or fill, in a random, inconsequential or unproductive way; fritter away; waste

In our busy lives, when every moment needs to be filled with purpose or meaning, the act of puttering is perceived as negative. Even the definition uses words like “ineffective”, “aimlessly”, “loiter” and “waste”. The pleasure in puttering is in the act itself, not necessarily the outcome – although that can be rewarding too! Some studies have shown that puttering is good for the brain and the body.

One study by a team from Rush University Medical Center found that “activities like cooking, washing the dishes, playing cards” may help reduce the risk of Alzheimer’s.

Another study from Stockholm tracked 60-year-old men and women over 12 years and found that people who had an active daily life that included “non-exercise” like “gardening, car maintenance, berry picking or DIY projects” had a 30% lower risk of heart attack or stroke compared to people who were sedentary.

The act of puttering is beneficial because it allows the brain to be free, without schedules or deadlines. The absent-minded aspect opens the mind to creativity, to be free to think. Instead of sitting in a chair all day, puttering about also challenges our balance and coordination. Moving about is good for us; it’s what our bodies are programmed to do.

Puttering is the antithesis to the “to-do list”. Everyone that knows me will tell you that I LOVE LISTS! There’s good reason to keep lists – but that’s another topic! So when I putter it’s spontaneous and creative. It allows my mind to be free and wander. Puttering is like a mini-vacation. I love this quote:

“Puttering is a time to be alone, to dream, to get in touch with yourself… To putter is to discover.” ~ Alexandra Stoddard

When’s the last time you found yourself puttering?

Do you find it relaxing? Leave your comments below…

Read also Retirement Activities and Work Life Balance.

 

Retirement Calculator

Retirement Calculator

How much do I need to retire?

Now that my adult kids have moved out, my husband and I have found there’s more time to do things WE want to do but also we’re saving more money. We can enjoy spending it on special vacation trips but we are also keeping in mind our retirement. We tend to be cautious in nature when it comes to money – saving rather than spending… for those emergencies or unplanned events. Did you know that only 60% of Canadians are actively saving for retirement? The question for us and that many people ask is “How much do you need to retire?”

To answer this question, you really need to ask yourself three questions:

  1. How much will you spend in retirement?
  2. How long will you live?
  3. How much have you already saved?

I think it’s easier to answer these questions in reverse order.

For question 3, look at all your statements for your various investment accounts. Track them all in a spreadsheet, keeping separate the RRSP, TFSA and general savings. For this exercise we won’t include assets like your house or cars. You need somewhere to live so leave the house out of the mix for this exercise.

The answer to question 2 is more challenging. Nobody can know how long they will live. This is very difficult to calculate, but you can make some assumptions and try to extrapolate. Look at your parents – how long did they live? If you are not sure then use average lifespan in your calculations.

The answer to question 1 requires some tracking and calculations. The amount of money you will need in retirement depends on what lifestyle you expect. If you want to maintain the big house and two cars, take several trips each year and eat out on a regular basis, then you’ll need more. If you plan to downsize, go to one car, budget for one trip per year and watch what you spend, then obviously you’ll need less. The first step is to make a budget to track your expenses. Track exactly what you spend right now and include absolutely everything – leave nothing out. Include groceries, personal care items, car expenses, gas, insurance, rent/mortgage, property insurance, utilities (heat, hydro, water, phone, internet, cable, property taxes), house repairs/furniture, clothes, medical/dental, entertainment, vacation, gifts, misc. and any other expenses you have. I use an Excel spreadsheet and have tracked our daily spending for several years. I find it helpful to budget for big expenses like travel and to help track savings from year to year. We tend not to eat out very often – I like to cook! But we do treat ourselves occasionally and it is so much easier to predict expense patterns when it’s all written down.

To calculate and estimate your goals for retirement use a retirement calculator that includes your expense budget information along with all your savings together with retirement age. A good simple retirement calculator you can try is from the Bank of Montreal (BMO). It’s simple, but takes into account current savings in RRSP, TFSA and general savings. The only thing it doesn’t account for is any increase in salary. But most people using this program are closer to retirement already, so that point becomes less relevant.

Here is a fictitious example of one couple and a retirement scenario:

John & Mary live in Eastern Ontario and are 50 and 48 years of age respectively. John earns $135,000 annually. Mary earns $60,000 annually. Neither will earn a pension but John does pay into a Defined Contribution Pension Plan (DCPP). He pays 5% of his salary and his employer matches with another 5% so he gets 10% total each pay period. John & Mary want to know if they can retire from their full-time positions as early as age 55 and 53. They estimate they will need $60,000 total per year to live in retirement. They plan to work contract or part-time to pay for extra things like vacations.

Using BMO’s Retirement Savings Calculator you can punch in some numbers and play around with retirement age, salary, monthly savings, investment risk and even additional lump sum savings.

John Mary
Annual Salary (before tax) $135,000 $60,000
RRSP Savings $410,000 $65,000
RRSP monthly contributions $1,125 $500
TFSA Savings $59,000 $52,000
TFSA monthly contributions $458 $458
Other Savings $90,000 $25,000
Joint Savings $60,000
Joint monthly contributions $3,000

 

Using the BMO Retirement Savings Calculator, and assuming a medium investment risk of 6% return, by ages 55 and 53 they will have 80% of their retirement funded. If they delay their retirement from full-time work when John will be 56 and Mary will be 54, they will be 100% funded for retirement.

Using a 4% low risk investment mix, the calculator estimates their retirement age of 58 and 56. So depending on how aggressive they are with their savings and investing, they could potentially accelerate their retirement.

Try out BMO’s Retirement Savings Calculator with your own numbers!

At what age will you be retiring?

Let me know which retirement calculator you prefer in the comments section below…

Read also Make a Financial Plan, Dividend Investing, Do You Pay Yourself First?

 

Sushi

Sushi

Vegan Sushi

Sushi made with veggies is really fun and delicious, especially with interesting sauces! The most time consuming part is chopping the veggies, assembling the rolls and rolling it up – um, maybe that’s the whole preparation..? If you can get someone to help you, then it can be kind of fun!

  • 1 package of Nori seaweed paper and bamboo rolling mat
  • 2 cups brown sticky rice
  • 4 cups vegetable stock
  • Assortment of vegetables finely sliced such as:
    • 3-4 green onions
    • 1 red pepper
    • 1 carrot
    • 1 avocado
    • 1 mango
    • 6 inches of cucumber

First cook the brown sticky rice according to the instructions on the package. I like to use veggie stock instead of water to give it a bit of flavour. Set aside to cool. This can be done in advance.

While the rice is cooking, prepare all your veggie fillings. Choose as many brightly coloured veggies as you can. Wash and trim each vegetable, then chop into long thin slices and set aside on a plate ready to assemble in the sushi rolls.

Before you begin rolling, prepare a small bowl with water, the bamboo rolling mat and cutting board and sharp knife for cutting the sushi rolls. I like to keep my bamboo rolling mat in a Ziplok bag so it is easy to wipe down and clean. Also have ready a clean serving plate to place all your sushi rolls. The brand of sushi I buy has clear instructions on the back of how to lay out the rice on the Nori and how to fill it and roll it up. Use a line of water on the edge of the Nori paper to help it seal. Here are their instructions:

Make sure to store any unused Nori sheets in a sealed Ziplok bag.

Serve the sushi with a flavourful sauce like the one below. You can also serve low-sodium soy sauce and pickled ginger and wasabi.

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 sushi and enjoy! This sauce is great for fresh spring rolls too!

What do you put in your sushi?

Let me know in the comments below. Or send me a picture!

See also Fresh Spring Rolls.

Tofino, BC

Tofino, BC

Tofino, BC

Tofino is a nature lover’s paradise on the west coast of Vancouver Island. It sits on a peninsula within Clayoquot Sound. It’s small population of about 1800 nearly triples in size during the summer months. The wild natural scenery including the various inlets and ancient rainforest attract many visitors. Year-round surfers come to sandy beaches with impressive waves, which is part of the Pacific Rim National Park Reserve. It’s sister town, Ucluelet, is 40km along the coast to the south. Both Tofino and Ucluelet are popular spots for winter storm watching. There are many hotels that cater to this including the well-known Wickininnish Inn.

To get there, you would fly to Vancouver Island to either Comox or Nanaimo, then drive to Tofino. You will end up driving first on highway #19 to Qualicum Beach, which is about 45 minutes from Comox (to the north) or Nanaimo (to the south). Then you drive east another 2-1/2 hours to Tofino along highway #4.

Along the other end of the peninsula lies Tofino’s neighbour, Ucluelet. The distance between is about 40km and takes about 45 minutes to drive.

Tofino – (population of 1,800)

Tofino & Ucluelet visitor information

Tofino & Ucluelet Visitor Guides

Here are a few of the activities in the area:

 

Ucluelet – (population of 1,600)

Amphitrite Lighthouse Loop Trail
View from Wild Pacific Trail

Have you ever been to Tofino or Ucluelet?

Please leave your comments below…

Read about Vancouver Island.

 

 

 

Top 5 Strength Training Exercises

Top 5 Strength Training Exercises

Top 5 strength-training exercises

Strength training is an excellent way to get the most out of your exercise time. After a warm up, you can get right into strength-training. You may find that if you move from one activity to another your breathing quickens and your heart beats faster. You can even break a sweat! This means strength-training not only tones your muscles but it also turns into a cardio exercise. Women don’t need to worry about “bulking up”. We lack the hormones to become body builders overnight. You can train with dumbbells or without weights by using body weight. Either way, this type of training is good for toning muscles, keeping the brain alert, increasing bone strength, burning calories and staying in shape.

Top 5 upper body strength-training exercises:

  1. Bicep curls (or push ups)
  2. Bent over row (or tricep dips)
  3. Overhead press
  4. Bent-over reverse fly
  5. Chest press

 

Top 5 lower body strength-training exercises:

  1. Squats
  2. Deadlift
  3. Calf raise
  4. Lunge
  5. Side lunge

 

Top 5 total body strength-training exercises:

  1. Bicep curl and lunge
  2. Deadlift and fly
  3. Plank and row
  4. Back Bow Cross Over
  5. Jackknife to toe touch

 

I love to use workouts and workout programs from Fitness Blender. They are great for mixing it up and doing new workouts each day. I don’t want to overwork any areas of my body so if I work on lower body one day, then the next day I should concentrate on upper body and go easy on the lower body. The weight you select is very important. You should be able to complete about 10 repetitions but the last 2 or 3 reps should be hard to complete. If this happens then you know you’ve picked the right weight.

After a workout, always remember to cool down and stretch so you don’t stiffen up as you cool. You can even stretch at various points during the day to stay limber.

Explore some of Fitness Blenders videos on individual exercises to find the ones that work best for you.

What are your favourite strength-training exercises?

Please leave your comments below…

Read about cross-country skiing and how to start running.

Disclaimer: Always check with your doctor for medical advice before proceeding with any new exercise routine. Information provided is of a general nature and is for educational purposes. By following this information, you agree that any injuries or damages resulting from action relating to this information are at your own risk.
Clean Eating

Clean Eating

How to eat clean

Clean eating doesn’t have anything to do with how clean or dirty your food is. It is an eating pattern that focuses on fresh, whole foods. Clean eating involves choosing foods that are minimally processed, ethically produced and rich in natural occurring nutrients. This lifestyle is starting to become more popular among the health conscious. Here are 7 rules to clean eating:

  1. Eat more fruits and vegetables – Veggies have natural fibre, nutrients and phytochemicals and most can be consumed raw. Veggies and fruit form the basis of a clean eating lifestyle.
  2. Limit processed foods which have little fibre and nutrients but usually have added sugar, salt and chemicals.
  3. Check (and learn to read) food labels – Check for added sugar, preservatives and unhealthy fats, usually it’s better to have a shorter list of ingredients with words you can pronounce.
  4. Avoid sugar – White sugar and corn syrup are high in fructose. Instead use natural sources like maple syrup or dates.
  5. Limit alcohol consumption. It promotes inflammation and is linked to increased risk of several diseases.
  6. Avoid packaged snack foods. They contain refined grains, sugar and oil and other unhealthy ingredients. Instead choose pre-cut fruit & veggies.
  7. Make water your main beverage. It is the healthiest, most natural beverage you can drink! If you prefer flavour, try lemon water.

When shopping, a general rule of thumb is to spend the most of your time around the perimeter of the grocery store, where you find fresh produce or frozen foods. Generally the processed foods are in the middle. (One exception would be canned beans and tomato sauce.) Once you are eating more clean, you may find your taste buds change. You start to appreciate the natural flavours of foods as they were meant to be consumed. You may even have more energy and start to feel better overall.

What are your favourite natural foods?

Please let me know in the comments below…

See some of my recipes.

 

 

Live Life for Yourself

Live Life for Yourself

Live Life for Yourself

Ten tips to start living for you, not someone else:

  1. Learn to say no. If you have too much on your plate, it’s time to evaluate and perhaps simplify your burden. You will not be judged by saying NO to something – you may be respected more because you know your limits.
  2. Speak your mind. Express yourself, even if others may judge you.
  3. Respect your own feelings. While still be respectful of those around you, make yourself a priority and listen to your inner voice.
  4. Accept your weaknesses. Celebrate your strengths.
  5. Let go of toxic or unsupportive relationships.
  6. Spend time with family and those who love and support you. Stay in touch with good friends.
  7. Contribute as a quiet leader. Even if you aren’t outspoken, be strong in your decisions and actions. Take pride in your choices.
  8. Pursue a hobby or job you are passionate about, even if others think it’s weird.
  9. Don’t just talk about your dreams. Start to live them!
  10. Have no regrets – If this was your last day, what would you do?

Dance like there’s nobody watching!

What will you do for yourself today? Let me know in the comments below…

Read about Work Life Balance.

Money Lessons

Money Lessons

Money Lessons – start young

Nobody really teaches you about money in school – how to balance a chequebook, manage your money, pay a mortgage or how to save for retirement. We all seem to just muddle through and learn as we go. It’s true we learn from our mistakes, but why not help out the next generation and at the very least teach the big lessons?

Tell your kids! Here are 6 basic tips about how to handle your money:

  1. Start saving as soon as you start earning money. Put some money into a nest egg and don’t touch it! It’s really important to save money for retirement and it’s so much easier to start young. It’s also easy to have that 10% (or whatever you choose) set aside, automatically by your bank. Honestly, once it’s removed you don’t miss it and it’ll grow over time to a comfortable size before you know it!
  1. Be wary of credit cards. Although it’s super easy to get one, don’t rely on the credit to get you through. Only buy what you can afford in cash. Use the card for convenience and pay it off in full every month. Don’t carry a balance especially with high interest rates.
  1. Learn how much you spend. Keep a balance sheet and be aware of your spending habits. It’s easy when you first start earning money to just spend it. Being aware of your expenses allows you to budget and make informed choices with no surprises.
  1. Be open to learning about finances and investing. Nobody is going to do it for you. You work hard for your money so take the time to learn about different types of investing. You can even practice on some self-serve investing websites with real market activities. Only invest in what you know and understand.
  1. Always keep a contingency fund for emergencies. The future is unknown but we can plan ahead for unexpected surprises. If you lose your job or the furnace breaks, it’s good to know you are covered. Generally speaking we should keep enough in the emergency fund to cover at least 3 months of expenses.
  1. Don’t fear money! It can seem intimidating at first, but it is integral to daily living so you can’t ignore it! Seek advise from as many sources as possible.

How do you manage your money?

Please share your savings tips below…

Read about how to Make a Financial Plan.

Read about Dividend Investing.

Pecan Pie

Pecan Pie

Date Caramel Pecan Pie

Crust:

  • 2 cups oats
  • 1 cup pecans
  • ¼ cup canned low-fat coconut milk
  • 1 tsp vanilla extract
  • ¼ tsp salt

 

Filling:

  • 3 cups Medjool dates
  • 1 cup canned low-fat coconut milk

 

Topping:

  • 1 cup pecan halves
  • sea salt (optional)

 

Preheat oven to 350F. Line a 9.5” glass pie dish with parchment. Set aside.

For the crust, add the oats, pecans in food processor and mix about 30 seconds. Add ¼ cup of coconut milk and vanilla extract. Process until dough sticks together. Press the dough on the bottom and sides of the lined pie dish. Bake for 10-15 minutes.

For the pecan topping, place 1 cup of pecan halves onto a cookie sheet and roast in the oven for about 5-10 minutes watching closely so they don’t burn. Set aside to cool.

In the same food processor, add dates and coconut milk. Blend until smooth – about 2 to 3 minutes. Spread date filling evenly into the crust. Arrange roasted pecan halves all over the top of the pie. Sprinkle optional sea salt over top. Store in fridge or freezer in air-tight container. Serve with coconut whipped cream.

Original recipe from Unsweetened Caroline

What’s your favourite type of pie?

Let me know in the comments below…

See more recipes.