Thursday, 26 December 2013

Boxing Day Quinoa Salad

It feels like a hangover day today, the day after Christmas. We had a delicious dinner last night that was a group effort shared between my husband, my brother and myself, with dessert made by my mother.

I ate (and drank) a little too much last night and I'm feeling the effects today. My poor stomach needs a break, so I decided to make a nice clean salad for today. I make variations of this quinoa salad quite frequently but I decided to add pomegranates for a festive touch of red. I like the fresh crunchy pop it adds; I will definitely be adding them again. The parsley, a left over from last night's meal, added a splash of green in keeping with the Yule season. 

Ingredients for Boxing Day Quinoa Salad:

  • 1 large bowl of cooked quinoa (I use a mixture of red and white quinoa)
  • 1 ripe pomegrante, seeds separated 
  • 1 ripe avocado, cut into small pieces
  • 1 ripe tomato, diced
  • 1 bunch of parsley, finely chopped
  • 2 cups chick peas (I soak mine from dried, then cook them, drain and leave to cool)
  • optional: feta cheese

  • 1/2 cup of fire cider (see my recipe here) - made from apple cider vinegar, onion, garlic, hot peppers, and horseradish
  • 1/2 cup of almond oil (or any cold pressed oil of choice)


Add all ingredients into a large bowl, keeping a small handful of parsley aside. Whisk together the dressing ingredients then add to bowl. Gently mix salad to incorporate dressing. Add additional parsley for garnish. Enjoy!

Tuesday, 24 December 2013

'Twas The Night Before Christmas

… and all through the house, all the kiddies were anxiously following Santa's journey on NORAD Tracks Santa.
My girls following Santa's route on the internet.

It's been a busy few days here, in the mad dash to the finish line of preparing for Christmas day. We don't do anything special in our family for Christmas Eve, although we do celebrate the Solstice with new pyjamas.

I've been frantically finishing homemade presents for family and neighbours. Knitting dish towels and cloths, knitted cup sweaters, lavender bath salts (from my own lavender), organic honey vanilla lip balm, and beeswax food wraps. I've finished everything from my DIY holiday gift list that I had hoped to complete.

This afternoon we finished cleaning the house, wrapping presents (we tried to put most presents into bags this year, with reusable gift tags) and setting the table for Christmas dinner. I'm tired.

The last thing on my list was to bake Santa cookies with my girls, which are almost finished. I made an executive decision to make shortbread this year because they are my favourite holiday cookies and no one in my family makes them anymore. Even if I do say so myself, they are are delicious. I decided to use organic cane sugar and maple sugar (made from organic maple syrup), which has given them a lovely hint of maple.

It's almost time to put the kids to bed, have a relaxing drink and enjoy the peace of the evening. If you celebrate Christmas, I wish you a wonderful day with your family and those you love.

Friday, 20 December 2013

The Litterless Lunch Dilemma

Every year for Christmas I like to give my daughters reusable lunch containers and snack bags. I have been slowly replacing the less environmentally friendly reusable lunch container options with safer ones. The stainless steel containers that I like are much more expensive than the more “disposable” plastic ones sold in the grocery stores, however, and I am tired of my daughters misplacing them. I have their names on everything, and occasionally they make their way back to my girls, or the missing containers are found in the bottom of a bag. But I am noticing the stock shrink over time and I don’t know what to do about it.

Our PVC and phthalate free lunch boxes.
The stainless steel container on the left is a two-level
bento box, and can be great as an all-in-one lunch container.

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Friday, 13 December 2013

DIY Holiday Gift Ideas

Every year I try to make at least a few gifts to give to people on my list for Yule. I feel good that I am giving them something made with a little bit of love that is unique. Of course, making presents requires time, which is something that many of us do not have with busy work schedules and families. Realistically, to make everything that I want I should be starting in the summer, which is a goal that never seems to be met.

This year I have made, and hopefully will make, several gifts for work friends and family. The best part is that I have most of the ingredients and materials for the gifts at home already, so I am not engaging in unnecessary consumerism to make them. Below are links to my wish list of homemade gifts.

Natural body care and food presents:
  • lip balm: I have made this lip balm for myself and my children and I store it in a small mason jar. I bought plastic tubes to pour the balm into before it cools to gift to other people. This would make a great stocking stuffer.

    It doesn't look pretty here in the mason jar,
    but as you can see my daughters use the
    lip balm frequently.
  • beeswax wraps: I have been coveting these beeswax food wraps for some time, and although I love that it is a local company for me, I have not made the leap because of the stiff price. I haven't made these yet but plan on doing so before the big day. Wish me luck!

  • infused sugar: This looks like a nice quick homemade present to make as a hostess gift

  • vanilla extract: Sadly I did not start my extract in time to gift this to family as I had originally intended, although there is still time to make it, with a caveat that it should not be used until it has had enough time to set. 

Homemade knitted presents:
  • cup cozy: I love these cup cozies and I am giving them to several friends on my gift list (and maybe an extra one for myself). These knit up quickly; I can make several in an evening.
    Throw in a reusable cup and a gift card
    to make a quick, useful present.
  • dish cloth: Who doesn't need another dish cloth in the kitchen to clean up spills and wash counters? I am running a knitting club at my school and I am teaching my students to make basic garter stitch cloths as possible gifts for family. They can be as simple or as fancy as is desired, depending on the stitches used and pattern followed. Paired with a bar of natural castile soap, this would also be a nice quick hostess gift to have on hand for holiday party invitations. 

  • easy tree ornament: These little tree ornaments are so easy to knit up (I can make one in about 30 minutes) and with a little added bling I think they will look eye catching hanging on the tree. I have made over a dozen now instead of cards for work colleagues. 
  • more challenging tree ornament: With time running out I think I am going to have to add this tree ornament to my list of things to make for next year, but I definitely want to try them. So cute!

What are you making this holiday season?

Friday, 6 December 2013

Skin Deep: An App Review

I regularly visit the Environmental Working Group’s website Skin Deep to research the safety of the personal care products I may purchase. I particularly like their safety reviews of sunscreen products. Like many people, I am so frustrated with having to research the ingredients of everything I buy, which is why I have tried to eliminate the commercial products I buy as I gradually learn how to make my own with safe ingredients.

There are still some products that I buy, and some that I buy when my homemade items run out, and I appreciate Skin Deep when I need to research which product has the safest ingredients. I have found it inconvenient, however, when trying to access the website on my smart phone while out shopping. I am wholly reliant upon and addicted to my smart phone, and I am a stereotypical mom using her smart phone for shopping lists and organizing her kids social calendar. When I discovered that Skin Deep has a free mobile app, I was naturally excited and looking forward to trying it out.

Monday, 2 December 2013

Fire Cider Flu Fighter

I don't normally get a flu shot, so I look for ways to naturally boost my immunity to get through cold and 'flu season. I try to get as much natural vitamin D by spending time outside, but as the days grow shorter (and colder and wetter) this is difficult, so I must remember to supplement with some vitamin D. Many people swear by vitamin C and a vitamin B complex as a stress reducer as well.

However, I am becoming more reluctant to take supplements for a couple of reasons. Often the additional vitamins we take are not absorbed by our bodies and are flushed quickly out of our system. I don't want to waste money on expensive, good quality supplements only to pee them out. Also, I would rather obtain nutrients through natural sources, and vitamins are often made with synthetic ingredients (or even GMO ingredients).

I am trying fish oil for myself and my girls to see if this helps. I found a delicious organic pina colada flavoured version at a local health food store that my girls really enjoy. No really, they love it. It's expensive, but I think it is worth it to get those good omega-3 oils.

I am also trying fire cider, a recipe I found on Pinterest, also known as master tonic. Basically it is fermented garlic, ginger, onions, horseradish and hot peppers fermented in apple cider vinegar. Fire cider indeed! It takes about a month to ferment in a cool, dark location before it can be used. Once the ingredients are removed from the cider it can be kept in the refrigerator almost indefinitely, supposedly.

So far I love my fire cider. I'm not a scientist so I can't test the antiviral, antibacterial and anifungal claims, but I'm going to give it a shot. Besides, in my opinion it is delicious. Not only am I trying to remember to take a tablespoon of it daily, but I also use it as infused vinegar in salad dressings and any place I might want to use apple cider vinegar.

The flavour isn't as strong as I was expecting (based upon the smell) and I can even get two of my three daughters, and my husband, to take a tablespoon of the fire cider each day. The idea is to take it daily as a preventative measure, and more frequently if you begin to feel under the weather, so I'm hoping to convince my youngest to drink it, too. Wish me luck!


  • 1-2 whole garlic cloves, peeled and diced
  • 1 white or yellow onion, peeled and diced
  • 1 large section of ginger, skin removed and diced
  • 1 large section of horseradish root, skin removed and diced
  • several hot peppers (only had 3 from my garden, wished I'd had more), seeds removed and diced
  •  raw unpasteurized apple cider vinegar
  • unpasteurized honey


  • Prepare all the ingredients, dicing into small pieces.
  • Add ingredients to a large glass jar (I recycled the jar from my coconut oil).
  • Add the apple cider vinegar to the glass jar.
  • Place in a cool, dark location for two to four weeks.
  • Strain out all the ingredients from the apple cider vinegar.
  • add honey to taste (I added about 2 tablespoons to mine)
  • Return the apple cider vinegar to the glass jar and store in the refrigerator until needed. 

Next step is trying to make my own apple cider vinegar!