I am still making my way through using that frozen pumpkin from roasting my pumpkin from last Halloween. If you haven’t seen that blog post, be sure to check it out for the full tutorial.
This vegan pumpkin mac and cheese is creamy and earthy. You can serve it right out of the pot, or go the extra step and bake it with a nice crunchy top. I also served this to my 7 month old and he loved it!
Check out both variations down below!
Now set forth and be savvy!
Makes 4-6 servings
3 cups of elbow macaronic pasta (or pasta of your choice), dry
1 package silken tofu (300 g)
2 cups of pumpkin puree
¼ cup nutritional yeast
1 tbsp arrow root
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp dried mustard (or use 1 tsp Dijon mustard)
½ tsp dried sage
½ tsp salt
¼ tsp black pepper
2 cups vegan cheese
¼ cup panko bread crumbs
2 tbsp vegan parm (you can also just use 2 tsp nutritional yeast)
2 tsp dried parsley
1 tsp dried onion flakes
¼ tsp salt
Bring a large pot of water to a boil, and cook the pasta according to package instructions
In the mean time, blend the rest of the sauce ingredients in a blender until smooth
In a medium sized pan, heat the sauce mixture over medium heat until it just comes to a bubble, and heat through for about 5 minutes, stirring constantly so that it doesn’t stick to the bottom of the pot.
Add the cheese and stir until it is fully melted.
Take the sauce mixture off the heat, add the drained pasta. Mix to combine.
Serve with fresh parsley on top.
For the baked variation, pour the mac and cheese into a baking dish.
Fitness has always been an important part of my daily routine, even throughout my entire pregnancy. I worked out from 12 weeks of pregnancy all the way till I was 41 weeks pregnant! I’m glad that I did because I believe it helped me with the delivery and recovery of the pregnancy.
Although I had to modify my workouts while I was pregnant, I knew I wanted to really challenge myself and gain my strength back after 3 months postpartum. I began by working out every day and slowly building up my strength. When I was about 6 months postpartum, I decided to join Muse Fitness on an 8-week Beta Butt and Abs Challenge.
Follow me on my 8-week fitness journey as I regain my strength, endurance and most importantly my identity.
This week’s blog post and video showcases the 1st week of the challenge. See below for the meal plan I had during the week, which features high protein, low carb vegan meals, all while I am still exclusively breast feeding!
I have also included the macros break down for each day below!
Don’t forget to subscribe to watch my full transformation!
Serve immediately or can make it the night before.
Makes 4 portions
1 cup red split lentils
2 cups water
2 apples, your choice, peeled, cored, diced and divided into 2 portions
1 tbsp ground cinnamon
2 tsp ground cardamon
1 tsp ground nutmeg
1 cups soy milk
Soak the lentils for 2 hours – red lentils do not need to be soaked longer than this, especially the red split lentils
When you’re ready to cook the lentils, drain and rinse the lentils until the water runs clear (about 3 times)
I like to use my rice cooker to cook this porridge and setting it to cook for 20 minutes. You can also do it over the stove top.
Stove top method:
Place lentils into your pot and add the rest of the ingredients except for the blueberries and diced apples pieces from 1 apple
Bring the pot up to a boil over high heat, stirring occasionally to prevent the lentils from sticking.
Turn the heat down to medium as soon as the pot comes to a boil and simmer the contents for about 20 minutes, until the lentils become tender.
Divide into 4 portions and top with the remaining apples and blueberries (optional)
I like to prep this in advanced and freeze it in portions so it’s easy to have in the morning.
Makes 1 portion
1 portion of Black Bean Noodles
1 tbsp white miso paste
1 ½ cups of water or homemade veggie broth (no sodium or oils)
½ block of extra firm tofu (175 g)
¼ cup shredded carrots (50 g)
3 head of baby bok choy, sliced in half
½ pack of enoki mushroom (your choice)
Handful of pea shoots, spinach or kale
handful of green onion for garnish
Book the black noodle pasta according to package directions, drain and set into a large soup bowl
Dissolve the white miso paste into ½ cup of the water/veggie broth in a medium sized pot
Once the miso is dissolved, add the rest of the veggie brother and the remaining ingredients (except for the green onion)
Bring to a simmer and cook until the veggies are cooked through
Pour over the noodles and garnish with green onion
Ingredients for bowl – Makes 4 portions
2 cups dried TVP, rehydrated in water
1 package of beyond meat ground beef
2 tbsp taco seasoning (I use homemade taco seasoning to control the salt)
½ cup water
1 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp salt
Ingredients for sauteed mushroom and peppers – Makes 4 portions
1 red onion, sliced
1 clove of garlic, minced
2 bell peppers, sliced
1 package of mushrooms sliced
1 tsp dried oregano
1 tbsp soy sauce
¼ tsp salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
Ingredients for cauliflower cilantro lime rice – Makes 4 portions
1 head of cauliflower
Juice of 1 lime
Handful of cilantro, chopped
½ tsp ground black pepper
Ingredients for vegan sour cream – Makes 4 portions
1 package of silken tofu (300 g)
Juice from 1 lemon
1 tbsp ACV
½ tsp salt
Directions for Taco Meat
To cook the taco meat, start by rehydrating the TVP in water, set aside
In a large frying pan, cook the beyond meat grounds over medium-high heat. I like to use a potato masher to break up the grounds.
Stir the meat so that it browns evenly, for about 5 minutes.
Drain the TVP and add it to the meat mixture. Stir to combine.
Add the rest of the ingredients for the taco meat and cook until the water is dissolved, about 5 minutes.
Portion into 4 equal portions
Do not clean out the pan – continue to the next step to cook the mushroom and peppers
Directions for Mushroom and Peppers
Using the frying pan from the taco meat (we will want to use the residual fat to cook the mushrooms and peppers), add the onion and garlic and cook over medium-high heat for about 3 minutes, just so that the veggies become fragrant
Add the sliced mushrooms and peppers and cook for about 5 minutes, until the veggies get a nice color on them. Depending on your stove top you might need to turn the heat down to medium.
Add the rest of the ingredients and cook for about a minute until all of the seasoning is well incorporated.
Portion into 4 equal portions adding it to the bowl of the taco meat
Directions for Cauliflower Cilantro Rice
Chop the cauliflower into bite sized pieces
Add it to the food processor and pulse until you get a rice consistency
In a clean pan, add the riced cauliflower along with the remaining ingredients and stir until the cauliflower is cooked. You might need to add a splash of water to help steam and cook the cauliflower rice – about 7 minutes
Portion into 4 equal portions and add it to the bowl of the taco meat, mushrooms and peppers
Directions for Vegan Sour Cream
Add all of the ingredients into a food processor and blend until smooth
Portion into 4 equal portions and serve on top of the taco bowls.
See below for the full day of macros for Monday/Thursday:
Ingredients – Makes 3 portions
1 tsp oil
1 clove of garlic, minced
1 package extra firm tofu (350 G), crumbled
3 tbsp nutritional yeast
½ tsp ground turmeric
½ tsp black salt
¼ tsp ground black pepper
1 tbsp water
Heat oil over medium heat in a large frying pan
Add the garlic and cook for about 3 minutes
Add the rest of the ingredients except for the water, and stir to combine.
Continue to cook the tofu mixture over medium heat for about 7 minutes
Add the water and cook until the water has dissolved
Portion evenly into 3 containers
Ingredients – Makes 6 portions
2 cups red lentils
1 can full fat coconut milk
2 tbsp garam marsala
½ tsp ground coriander
½ tsp ground ginger
½ tsp ground turmeric
1 tsp salt
1 tbsp soy sauce
4 cups of water
Rinse the lentils in a strainer until the water runs clear, about 3 times
In a large frying pan, heat the coconut cream from the can of coconut milk by taking a spoon and scooping a spoonful of cream from the top layer
Sautee the spices (except the salt) in the coconut cream over high heat until fragrant, about a minute
Add the lentils, the rest of the coconut milk, salt, soy sauce and water and bring up to a boil.
Once the pot is boiling, turn it down to a simmer and cook until lentils are fully cooked, about 20 minutes.
Divide into 6 portions. You can also serve this with cauliflower rice.
Ingredients – makes 4 portions
1 package of silken tofu (300 g)
1 ½ cup vegan beef broth
1 package vegan ground beef (I used lightlife for this recipe)
2 cups dried TVP, rehydrated in water
1 onion, diced
3 cloves of garlic, minced
1 package mushrooms (227 g)
2 cups chopped kale
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tsp black pepper
1 package high protein pasta (I used Liviva Soy Fettuccini)
In a blender, blend together the silken tofu and vegan beef broth – set aside
In a large non-stick skillet over high heat, add the vegan ground beef
Break apart so that they resemble a crumble and sautee for 3 minutes
Add in the onion and garlic and sautee for another minute
Add in the mushrooms and continue to sautee for 2 minutes
Lower the heat to medium and add in the rehydrated TVP (if there is extra water, drain the TVP before adding the mixture)
Mix the protein until it is well combined
Add in the kale, soy sauce and black pepper and continue to stir until the kale is wilted and well incorporated
Add in the silken tofu mixture and mix until well combined with the meat mixture – it should be creamy and not watery
Add salt to taste
Divide equally into 4 portions
Serve on top of high protein pasta
See below for the full day of macros for Tuesday/Friday:
Ingredients – makes 4 portions
1 cup steel cut oats
2 cups soy milk
2 cups water
¼ cup hemp hearts
I like to cook my steel cut oats in a rice cooker, but you can use a slow cooker or instant pot as well
Pour all of the ingredients into the container of a rice cooker, slow cooker or instant pot
For rice cooker and instant pot method: Select the function which automatically cooks oats
For slow cooker method, cook on low for 6 hours
Portion evenly into 4 containers, heat in the microwave or stove top with water before serving. Can be frozen for easy breakfasts as well!
Ingredients – makes 1 portion
1 serving of high protein black bean noodles
1 cup edamame
1 king oyster mushroom, sliced (or mushroom of your choice)
Handful of spinach, kale or bok choy
1 tbsp soy sauce
½ block of extra firm tofu (about 175 G), cut into cubes
Cook the black bean noodles according to packed directions. Cook the edamame in the same pot to save time and water
Once the pasta is done cooking, drain and set aside
In a non-stick frying pan, add the sliced mushrooms and cook over medium heat until it gets color, for about 3 minutes
You may need to add a splash of water if your mushrooms are sticking
Add in your greens, the sou sauce and the tofu and cook until the greens are wilted and the tofu is cooked through, about 5 minutes
Add the pasta and edamame to the pan and toss until combined.
Serve hot or can be eaten cold. Goes great with hot sauce on the side!
I had purchased this scratch the world travel map a few years ago and was finally able to scratch off all of the countries that we had visited (a.k.a another lockdown project completed). However, the problem with this map is that it is very hard to find a frame for the specific dimensions of this map.
I had a clear vision of a travel gallery wall that I wanted to hang in our office, and it would not be completed without this map. I opted to DIY an easy frame myself!
The materials needed are very minimal and this ended up being a very affordable project in the end, costing under $15 total! The materials you will need are:
1 wooden trim measuring 7/16 x 11/16, cut into 2 pieces based on the size of your map (I cut out 2-21 inch pieces and still had a lot of wood leftover for another project)
A stain of your choice
2 sponge brushes
An old belt
A staple gun
A regular stapler
The below are steps that I took to make this DIY custom frame:
After purchasing the wood from home depot, I used their wood cutting station to cut out 2 pieces at 21 inches each. I reserved the leftover wood for another project.
Using one of the sponge brushes, lightly dab it into the stain and spread it evenly over the wooden trims.
Using the other sponge brush (the dry one), you can use it to spread out any of the stain evenly. Repeat this process by alternating between the 1st brush to apply more stain where necessary and the 2nd brush to ensure that all of the stain is spread evenly along all of the sides of the wooden trim.
Let the stain dry in a cool place for 48 hours.
At this point, you can apply a varnish coat over the trims, however I left this part out since I liked the rustic look of the trim.
Using an old belt, I cut off the end with the holes and buckle. Using a staple gun, I stapled it to either end of one of the wooden trims on the narrow side (the widest side is where you will staple the map to). If you don’t have a staple gun, you can use small nails instead
To attach the map to the wooden pieces, I used a pen to mark where I wanted the map to sit and using a ruler, measured to ensure the map would be centered by having 1.5 inches on either side.
I found that using a regular staple was sufficient in attaching the map to the wood since the wood is pretty soft. Make sure that when you staple the map onto the wooden pieces that the back is facing you.
Now you’re ready to hang up your easy custom-made frame!
I knew I wanted to make a gallery wall featuring photos from our travels over the years and having this map in a frame really tied the gallery wall together. The below are tips on how I put together a gallery wall
I like to lay out my frames on the ground first to see what kind of look I want. This also means less rework for me before drilling holes into the wall
Once I had my frames in the most optimal placement, I used white scrap paper and cut them to the size of my frames to use these as a place holder. I also used a pen to mark on the paper where the frame hooks are.
When we were ready to hang the frames to the wall, we taped the pieces of paper onto the wall to mark off where we wanted the final placement of the frames to be. This made it very easy to adjust the spacing of the frames without making re-work for ourselves.
Because we had marked where the frame hooks were on the paper, we used this as guidance on where to install the nails for our frames.
The last step is the fill those frames with your fondest memories before hanging them up!
My son is now 6 months old and I feel like I’ve gotten into a groove with taking care of him. Before my son was born, I was very adamant in being as zero waste as possible with raising him. Some things did take a bit of researching and creativity, but I really feel like we’ve established a really good routine.
To be honest, when he was first born, implementing some of these solutions was quite intimidating and was also learned through trial and error. I thought I would create a blog post (and video!) to share what I have learned so far and to show you that you can raise your family with eco friendly alternatives as well! Feel free to comment below on what types of eco friendly solutions you have implemented and if there are other things that you would recommend!
Preparing for the birth of our son included washing all of his clothes and organizing his closet. It was very overwhelming since baby clothes come in so many different sizes and it was hard to determine how many onsies we needed per size, of course considering the weather and climate as well. Though it may be really easy to overspend in this category by buying cute clothing as soon as you find out that you’re expecting, I really refrained from purchasing clothing until the very end since styles are constantly changing and I also wanted to ensure I was purchasing gender neutral clothing so that we can use them for future children, or give it away with ease when we were done.
My main tip for this category is to ask for hand me downs! Babies, especially in the first few months, don’t really need nice clothing since they will be spitting up or pooping all over them. If you are lucky like I was, we had lots of friends and family handing over lots of hand me downs in various sizes. It was really convenient because I only had to purchase a few new onsies (because of COVID, we were social distancing and wasn’t able to get a hold of all of the hand me downs before the birth), which meant we were also able to save a lot of money for more essential items.
If you do not know anyone who is able to pass along some hand me downs, there are lots of facebook groups for new moms who always post free items, including clothing, thus giving a new life to those pre-loved onsies. What I’ve learned so far is that these mommy groups have very generous members who are always willing to help locate anything you need. If you are unable to find free hand me downs, you can always check out facebook marketplace or thrift stores – there are always an abundance of pre-loved clothing available for your little one.
We were also fortunate to have a closet full of pre-loved baby clothing available at our midwife clinic – so don’t forget to check out your clinic where available!
I have a previous post where I go through in detail about our experience with cloth diapering. Check it out and don’t forget to check out the video where I go into detail!
We were so devastated when Ezra developed a diaper rash when he was only 1 month old! We were trying to be diligent by always ensuring his bottom was dry before diapering him up but it ended up being unavoidable. After doing some research, diaper rash can actually be preventable by applying coconut oil after every diaper change. It’s been 5 months now and he has not experienced a rash ever since! We like to keep a jar of organic coconut oil by his change table and diligently apply it all over his bottom after every change. It keeps his bottom moisturized while creating a barrier from his dirty diaper.
There has been some media attention around how wipes do not decompose and can be hazardous when flushed down the toilet since they don’t break down like toilet paper. Every time you change your baby, you will be using minimum 1 wipe per change. That is a lot of wipes going to landfills in your baby’s lifetime! If you are going to be cloth diapering your baby, using cloth baby wipes should go hand in hand. (also if you are not cloth diapering, consider using cloth baby wipes as well since it’s better for their bottom and the environment!)
Besides being better for the environment, there are added benefits to making the switch as well. One of the more obvious ones is that you will be saving lots of money in the long run. Another benefit that we actually noticed was the smell it leaves behind. We use baby wipes when we are away from the house and noticed that it leaves a smell on our baby’s bum, even if the solution is 99.9% water. When we use our wash cloths, it doesn’t leave any smell at all. It’s also convenient to use because we throw it into the same laundry as our cloth diapers and everything gets washed at the same time! You can use cotton wash cloths or even use old cotton shirts that you can cut into little squares. We don’t use a special solution when cleaning our baby’s bum and have found that water has been just as effective.
I knew that I wanted to breast feed and knew that I wanted to pump milk so that my husband can feed Ezra and bond with him as well. To be honest, I had put off pumping and bottle feeding for over 3 months because I couldn’t get myself to use the single use plastic storage bags. I made a goal for myself to find a more sustainable yet budget friendly way of storing extra breast milk. Then it occurred to me that I could use silicone ice cube trays and store the milk in reusable silicone bags. This method is perfect and super easy because each cube fits about 10ml of breast milk and can be easily placed into the bottles for thawing. All you need to do is take out how ever many cubes you need for the feeding. I do recommend this for when your baby is over 3 months since I was unable to sterilize the trays or the silicone bags, and since baby is already putting toys and stuff in his mouth, then this method has been proven to be effective and safe!
Note that I only pump to have a few ounces in the freezer at a time, but f you pump more, I recommend having multiple silicone bags and labeling them so you can keep track of the milk and rotate accordingly.
Breast pads are a must if you are breastfeeding. I didn’t know that once your milk comes in, your breasts go through a transitional period where it’s figuring out supply and demand from your baby, which causes a lot of leaky boobs not only when you are feeding, but even when you are just thinking of your babe. In addition to having a nursing bra, you will also need some nursing pads. You can always buy disposable ones, but for the same price of a box, you can buy multiple sets of reusable pads and divert more waste from the landfill. The pads I received were a gift and made from bamboo, however you can easily find reusable pads from a quick google search.
Raising a family doesn’t mean you have to take the conventional route and purchase disposable products that are readily available on the market. The amount of waste that a baby produces can be overwhelming and reason enough to make eco friendly switches. I am glad that I was able to reduce a lot of the waste our family created by using reusable products that can be used for future babies as well!
Let me know in the comments below what your zero waste tips are and if there was anything that I missed!
At the beginning of last year (February 2019 to be exact), I was so fortunate to tag along with my husband on a business trip to Switzerland! I was so excited to take this trip because to be honest, it would probably be a country I would never be able to visit just because of how expensive it is to fly there and to visit.
As soon as I knew we were going (about 1 month before actually leaving), I got started right away on my itinerary planning. I like to plan out all of the sights as well as restaurants that I would be hitting up in a day through google maps and sending it to my phone. *Savvy tip*, if you save an offline map from google maps and then map out your itinerary, you are able to locate the spots you want to hit up without WIFI. See more information below under “WIFI Access”.
Here is some general information of our time in Switzerland:
Hotel in Zug, Switzerland:
We stayed in Zug since this was where my husband’s work event was being held. We stayed at the Ibis Hotel in Baar, which was very convenient because it was right across the street from the train station. My husband only had to be in town for 3 days, so we extended our trip so that we had an additional two days prior to explore the city. This hotel was chosen by my husband’s work, so I do not necessarily recommend it, however I would recommend the chain itself. Our hotel ended up being about 25 minutes from Zurich and about an hour from Lucerne by train so the location wasn’t too bad in the end.
Transportation from the Airport to our Hotel: The most efficient way of traveling from the airport to our hotel in Zug was by train. It was only about a 15-minute train ride and as mentioned above, the train station ended up being right across the street from our hotel.
Transportation in and around Zurich and Lucerne: As mentioned, we took the train from Zug to Zurich and Lucerne. Once in Zurich and Lucerne itself, the cities were small enough where we were able to walk everywhere.
WIFI Access: Connection was only available in our hotel room and some public establishments. To get around this, what I have done in the past, and also implemented on this trip, was to load our itinerary on Google maps and download the map for offline navigation. This method works most of the time, however sometimes the GPS gets confused and doesn’t know where you are and ends up restarting. You end up having to use the map the old way (aka without a GPS and finding your own directions like a traditional map). Since Zurich and Lucerne were quite small and pretty easy to navigate, when our GPS did restart, it was pretty easy to use the map function and navigate the old-fashioned way.
Budget: We had budgeted a total of $2500 CAD for the entire trip, which came to $250 CAD per day for 5 days, however note that I had only budgeted 2 days for hotels since the remainder of the trip was paid for by my husband’s company. I also used Budget your Trip to gauge what to expect per day for expenses. See below for the breakdown of our actual expenses (keep in mind this is for 2 people):
Airfare from Toronto to Zurich for 1 person: $1371
Hotel: $163 (for 2 nights)
Meals (on credit card): $504
Transportation (credit card): $191 (Train)
Other (entertainment and souvenirs): $31
Total cost of trip for 3 days: $1138
Excluding airfare, we actually spent a total of $889, which came to $222 per day per person (for the 2 days). When compared to the approximation given on Budget your Trip, the site did recommend $271 per day per person, so I highly recommend this website as a great resource in budget planning.
When we arrived in Zurich, we decided to head straight over to Hiltl Haus for lunch. I had heard great things about this buffet style restaurant and was really excited. When we arrived, you did have an option of having the all you can eat option, however it was quite expensive (it would have been well over $100 CAD for the two of us for lunch). We opted for the weighted option instead and shared 3 plates (which still cost about $70 CAD for the two of us, but it was more than enough food). The food here is all vegetarian with vegan options and has cards indicating if the dish contains any of the allergens people are typically allergic to, such as gluten, dairy, soy, and eggs. It also indicates if it is vegetarian or vegan for quick reference. They had a huge variety of salads, stews, curries, stir fries and desserts. Honestly it was tempting to opt for the all you can eat option; however, it wasn’t worth it for a lunch. We really enjoyed our meal here and we actually returned to Tibits later in the week, which is a more casual and take out version of Hiltl Haus. It was much more affordable and the food was just as good!
After lunch, we decided to check out Hiltl Vegimetzg, which is a vegetarian butcher right next to Hiltl Haus. There were so many great products that I wish I could have bought some to try and bring back to Canada. They had vegan cold cuts, meats and even ice cream. They even had cook books for sale which is great if you want to re-create the Hiltl Haus recipes in your own home. I highly recommend a visit, even if it’s just to window shop if you are in the area!
After lunch, we officially started our walking tour and headed towards Augustinergrasse, known for their beautifully painted bay windows. This is definitely an area you must visit for all of those Instagram worthy photos. We took our time walking this area, looking at all of the shops and taking photos of the colorful buildings. This street connects directly to Bahnhofstrasse, which is a great area for high end shopping. We loved window shopping here and feeling like a local as we explored the streets. From here, we walked over to Lindenhof, which is a great lookout onto the city.
After taking in the sights of the city and posing for a few photo ops, we walked over to Town Hall Bridge, which is a pedestrian bridge that crosses over Lake Zurich. It is very lively with lots of people and families walking around and taking in all of the sights. It’s a great place for photo ops since you can see the swiss alps in the distance. On a clear day, you can even see the white caps on top of the alps! Photos do not do it justice and you will definitely need to see it for yourself in person.
We headed over to the Opera House where there were lots of people hanging out and enjoying the company. There were lots of people having picnics, playing music or taking a stroll with their babies. It was a quick visit for us at the Opera House before we headed back to the train station to end our day trip in Zurich.
Click here for my full walking tour from the Zurich train station!
From our hotel in Zug, we took the train to Lucerne, which was only about hour and gave us plenty of time to take in the wonderful scenery as we made our way over to the city. From the train station, the first stop was to visit Europaplatz, where we quickly connected to some free WIFI and took in the sights of Lake Lucerne. There are also restaurants and shops around this area so you can definitely spend some time here as well.
After gaining access WIFI and updating our location, we made our way over to the Chapel Bridge. This bridge is considered Europe’s oldest covered bridge and allows you to take some photos. This bridge connects the New and Old town, which is where we were headed for our walking tour. We took our time walking the bridge since there is a lot of artwork inside the roof, so be sure to take your time.
Once we reached the other side of the bridge and entered Old Town, we walked along the water to see where we could grab some lunch. We ended up at the restaurant attached to Hotel des Alpes where we enjoyed traditional cheese fondue and rosti.
After fueling up on some much-needed carbs, we continued our walking tour over to St. Leodegar Church for more sight seeing and photos. The last bit of our walking tour included visiting Lion Monument and then taking our time walking back to the train station.
Click here for my full walking tour from the Lucerne train station.
I love snacks and love discovering new snack brands, especially when they are at affordable prices! I had the pleasure of taste testing some snacks from the Nature Box recently and am sharing my thoughts.
The Nature Box believes in providing delicious and healthy snacks at an affordable price. You can easily select the type of snacks you want to fit your dietary needs or lifestyle. They have plenty of vegan snacks to suit my household and I look forward to trying out more! Every membership provides you with a 20%-40% savings. If you are not happy with any of their snacks, let them know and they will send you a new one! They currently offer shipping to Canada at a flat rate, and US citizens get free shipping on orders over $25.
See below for my review on all of the snacks I received. Don’t forget to check out my taste testing video!
If you read my previous posts where I shared itineraries in Singapore and Thailand, then you already know that this is the third country that we visited on our 16-day Asia trip that spanned 4 countries and 6 cities! As mentioned, we had started and ended our trip in Singapore because it was the cheapest way to travel to Asia from Canada (Toronto specifically). We had decided to spend 1 day in Malaysia since we were already in the area and didn’t want to miss this opportunity. To get to Kuala Lumpur, we flew from Bangkok, Thailand via Malaysia Airlines.
Here is some general information of our time in Kuala Lumpur:
Transportation from the Airport to our Hotel: We had arrived to Kuala Lumpur (KUL) at around 11PM. We ended up taking the subway to our hotel, which ended up taking the same amount of time as a grab would have taken. Since we had our international SIM that was compatible in all of the countries we visited (read below for more information), we decided to use it and book a Grab on our way back to the airport to save some of our energy. There was an option to book a shuttle taxi for about $25 CAD, which in hindsight would have been the cheaper option since the Grab ended up costing about $46 CAD.
Transportation in and around Kuala Lumpur: Since we had access to our WIFI device, we used it for Grab to get from our hotel to the Batu caves since we wanted to get there early. From the Batu Caves, we did take the train back into the city, and from there, continued to book Grab rides since it was quite affordable. Unfortunately, all of the sights we had planned to visit were not all in walking distance and since we were strapped for time, we decided to utilize Grab wherever we could.
WIFI Access: I will leave the same comments as my Singapore post as it is still relevant here. Connection was only available in our hotel room and some public establishments. To get around this, what I have done in the past, and also implemented on this trip, was to load our itinerary on Google maps and download the map for offline navigation. This method works most of the time, however sometimes the GPS gets confused and doesn’t know where you and ends up restarting. You end up having to use the map the old way (aka without a GPS and finding your own directions like a traditional map). However, I do recommend just purchasing an international SIM card that you can use and be connected to at all times (if you need to). Personally, for me, I preferred to be connected the entire time since the offline google maps kept restarting and was unable to locate us. It is also useful if you plan on using Grab while in the city. This was the first time travelling internationally where we had purchased an international SIM to be able to be connect to internet and I must say that now I am a converted. The international SIMs are very affordable and offer a lot of data (we would also turn it off if we were going to be in a given location for an extended amount of time to preserve data and batter power) and we were able to use the same SIM for the remainder of our entire trip in all of the other countries. We did end up using 3 different types of connection, but I recommend the last option so that you can be connected the entire time:
International SIM(purchased at the airport) – Once we left Singapore and arrived to Phuket Airport, there were lots of boots that were selling international SIMs. We ended up purchasing one of these at a booth called Smile and they connected it for me – it was super easy to use however kind of confusing because I couldn’t understand how much data I had left so we used it sparingly during our visit in Phuket and Chiang Mai. Because we paid in cash, I unfortunately do not recall how much we spent, but it was definitely less than $10 CAD.
Rented WIFI Device – I had actually rented a device when we were in Singapore for our visit in Bangkok since we were going to be here for 3 days without any excursions. We rented a pocket WIFI which we picked up at the BBK airport via Klook (https://www.klook.com/en-CA/activity/16446-4g-wifi-thailand/). In total it cost $26 for the 3 days (which at the time we thought was a bargain) – they do have to hold a deposit which is refundable once you return the device, so make sure you have enough cash to avoid the change in exchange rates on your credit card. It was also not clear how much data we had but I think it was unlimited. I didn’t mind the hand held device since we had used one when we visited Tokyo, however I definitely would recommend an international SIM when possible.
International SIM (purchased online and picked up at airport) – After doing more research while in Bangkok and realizing that the convenience of being connected to data became a growing need, which was already 6 days into our trip, I did more research on Klook. I found SIMs available for 15 countries in South East Asia, which meant that for the remainder of our trip (still 7 days), we could be connected in all of the countries (Malaysia, Indonesia and Singapore) and not have to worry about finding WIFI. We found a great deal with the SIM only costing $8.90 for 4GB of data from Klook. This option ended up being the best because not only is it a one-time purchase (no need to return anything like we had for the rented WIFI device), but you can actually download an app that came in English that tracked how much data you had. If you did go over the allotted data, you had to option of adding more data if necessary. I really liked the convenience and visibility of this option the best and felt in full control.
Hotel in Kuala Lumpur:
We stayed at the Melia Kuala Lumpur. Being a large chain hotel, it was conveniently located next to the subway station. We arrived late but there was someone at the reception who had greeted us. The room was very large and had a resort like feel. This would definitely be a very comfortable hotel to stay in for longer term stays. There was a separate area for sitting and lots of outlets, which was great because we had a lot of things to charge for our 1-night stay. We didn’t get a chance to check out the pool but based on the photos on the website, it looked lovely and would have been great for photos and relaxation. The room we booked also included breakfast which a large selection of hot, cold and continental food. It was probably one of the best hotel breakfasts I’ve ever had. I recommend this hotel and look forward to staying here when we visit again.
Budget: We had budgeted $115 CAD cash for the day, which was meant to be used for food, transportation and shopping. We knew credit card would be readily available in most establishments but since we were only here for a day, we wanted to use more cash than credit. Again, I also used Budget your Trip to gauge how much expenses to expect per day. See below for the breakdown of our actual expenses (keep in mind this is for 2 people):
Airfare from Bangkok to Kuala Lumpur for 2 people: $284
Hotel: $85 (for 1 night)
Cash (mostly for meals): $115 CAD
Transportation (credit card): $60 (Grab)
Total cost of trip for 2 days: $544
Excluding airfare, we actually spent $160 for the day, or $80 a person. This is pretty close to the $69 per day approximation found on Budget your Trip, however we did splurge on the Grabs, so I still highly recommend this website as a great resource in budget planning.
See below for the full details. Don’t forget to also check out some highlights from our trip (video above).
Now set forth and be savvy!
This was our only day in Kuala Lumpur and it wasn’t a full day as our flight to Bali was leaving at 10:50PM, and since it was an international flight we had to be at the airport before 8PM. The original plan was to visit lots of sites, but Sean ended up having stomach issues so we had to take it slower which meant that we didn’t get to experience the city to the fullest as much as I would have liked to. However, it gave us a small taste of the city which brought up excitement to visit again in the future.
Our original plan was to start at Batu Caves early in the morning to beat the crowds then take the train over to Chinatown to explore and have lunch. Then after Chinatown, the plan was to visit Sri Mahamariamman, Central Market and finally Petronas Twin Towers. It also ended up raining shortly after we left the Batu caves which slowed us down further as we were taking shelter. You can access the original walking tour in the link below, and I do think all of it can be visited in 1 day, so we will definitely try again in the future.
Batu Caves – Right after breakfast, we took a Grab to visit the Batu Caves. It is recommended to go as early as possible, and we arrived around 9:30 and it was quite busy already. There were lots of pigeons and monkeys roaming the premises but the place is so large you can easily take photos without them. To visit the actual caves, you do have to walk up the stairs towards the temple. Make sure to bring sneakers to make the journey easier and more comfortable. Once we entered the caves, there were temples inside where you could visit as well. You definitely want to make sure to visit the caves as the photos do not do it justice. If you need a washroom, there are the shops at the base where you can pay to use the facilities. We visited here for about 2 hours – be sure to walk around since there are lots of other temples on the premises where you can take photos and visit. After we were done our visit, we took the Kmuter towards Kuala Lumpur Station and got off at NU Sentral.
Since it was raining, we decided to hang out by the mall for a bit. We stumbled upon Anjappar Restaurant which was right outside of the mall. What caught our attention was that there were locations across the world, including in the GTA, so we wanted to check it out. We ordered a Thali and Palak Paneer to share and it was delicious, costing about $31 RM (about $10 CAD). After lunch, we explored the mall attached to NU Sentral since it was still raining out. Around mid afternoon, we decided to take a Grab to visit Chinatown.
Chinatown – We arrived quite late into the afternoon, which was good because a lot of the shops seemed to only open around 5. It was still raining so we did take our time, and luckily for us, the Petaling Street Market in Chinatown has an enclosure to protect us from most of the rain. There are lots of shops for souvenirs and electronics, but because it was towards the end our trip, I didn’t have any spare room in my luggage to bring back anything. I was even tempted to purchase an extra luggage but opted instead to promise to revisit again in the future.
After this short visit to Kuala Lumpur, we headed back to our hotel to collect our luggage and head over to the airport for our flight to Bali.
Before we knew that we were even pregnant with Ezra, we knew that I wanted to cloth diaper our babies since it is the most environmentally friendly option available. My mom had cloth diapered us when we were growing up so I knew that it was a tradition I wanted to continue. If cloth diapering seems to be daunting to you but you still want to find a more sustainable option, there are other options available such as biodegradable diapers, however since this would require us to purchase these on a regular basis, I also wanted an option that was going to give us the biggest bang for our buck.
After some research and comparisons, I was happy to confirm for myself that cloth diapering not only is more environmentally friendly, but it will be the cheaper option for my family in the long run, especially if we plan to have more children. See below for the full cost breakdown and for more information on our experience.
How much money do you actually save?
This all depends on what type of diaper you end up using in the end. For my calculations, since we decided to go with pocket diapers, my calculations are based on this type of diaper.
See the charts above! Based on my conservative calculations, you end up saving almost $900 per child, however that doesn’t take into account the amount of diapers you are diverting from the landfills! The savings can be even larger if you purchase second hand reusable diapers, or if you have them gifted from your gift registry, so do keep that in mind as well.
Pockets, flats, prefolds: which cloth diaper should we use?
I was so overwhelmed with all of the choices when I was researching which would be best for our family. Personally, the pocket diapers ended up being the easiest to use because you just have to tuck the insert into the pocket and fasten the diaper onto your baby. You don’t need to be a wizard at origami or worry about not folding them properly, which was an added benefit for us.
When researching, I did come across recommendations to try different brands since they could fit differently on your baby. Generally, they all do fit pretty much the same, but read the reviews because some brands are larger and some smaller, which can have added benefits for fit with a newborn (more on that below).
The 3 brands that we have are Alva baby, Koala Mama and Kawaii. We found that Kawaii fit the best on our baby, followed by Alva and then Koala Mama.
How many cloth diapers do I need?
Newborns (0-3 months) will need on the high end 12 diapers a day, so you will need to calculate how many diapers you need for that. If you plan on only cloth diapering when they’re a bit bigger (and can fit into the cloth diaper better), then you may need less, like 8-10 diapers a day.
In the end, it really depends on how often you want to do laundry. For us, we do laundry every day and found that 38 diapers work well for us and we can easily skip a day of laundry if necessary. You may need more or less. Keep in mind that you may also want to look into purchasing extra inserts for doubling up for overnights.
There are 2 types of inserts: bamboo and microfiber. Microfiber is cheaper than bamboo, but from our experience not as absorbent as bamboo and we tend to experience leaking with microfibers. When purchasing your pocket diapers, you can select either microfiber or bamboo, so keep that in mind, but we do recommend bamboo. You can also find charcoal bamboo which are also anti fungal and anti bacterial, which is great because we tend to use these for overnights since we are changing the diaper less often.
Can newborns fit into the cloth diapers?
It depends on your baby and the brand you buy! Of course, it’s impossible to know how much your baby will weigh before they are born, but keep in mind that for the diapers we have (Alva Baby and Kawaii to be exact), it could accommodate 8lb+. There are hacks where you can fold the diaper a certain way to accommodate newborns, but depending on how chunky your baby’s legs are, there might be too much space to be able to full seal the diaper from any leaks. Note that you can also purchase newborn sized diapers, but this will add to your overall cost for cloth diapering your baby.
For us, for the 1st week we did actually use disposables since we were monitoring the number of dirty diapers our was creating, to ensure he was eating enough and gaining enough weight. Luckily for us, Ezra was born over 8lb so when we made the transition to cloth diapers when he was a week old, he was able to fit into them without issue.
How do you really clean cloth diapers?
It’s pretty easy to clean. You will need to purchase a wet bag that you can put into a laundry basket for all of the dirty diapers. Then you throw the whole thing into the laundry machine for 2 cycles:
The 1st cycle is the quick rinse cycle
The 2nd cycle is where it really deeps clean
Once the diapers are washed, the liners actually naturally separate from the pocket diapers in the washing machine so it’s really easy to clean. Then we hang dry the pocket diapers, but machine dry the liners to get them fluffy again.
Will there be a smell?
We found that there is no smell! However, the diaper pail does sometimes get a bit dank, so we just throw in a dryer sheet with essential oils into the laundry bin for some freshness. Also note that we haven’t entered the solid food stage yet, so once we do, we will be updating this guide for future reference.
What do you do with poop?
Because the primary food source is still milk, the poop is still in liquid form (and not solid) so there is no added step in cleaning the diapers – it all goes into the wet bag, which goes straight into the washing machine.
Do they leak?
When fastened correctly, they do not leak at all! In our experience, the bamboo liners are much more absorbent than the microfiber ones so definitely choose bamboo instead. We also double line the diapers with bamboo charcoal liners for overnights for even extra absorbency.
We did find that the Mama Koala diapers did tend to leak overnight since Ezra sometimes sleeps on his side, and found inconsistency with Alva baby. We have not had any leaking issues with Kawaii overnight so I do recommend trying that first (though you may need to troubleshoot for yourself based on your baby’s body).
How do I use cloth diapers outside of the house?
Just like regular diapers, we bring a few in case we need to change them while we’re out. We also purchased a travel sized wet bag that we throw the dirty diapers into and then wash when we get home. The bag does not leak and contains the soiled diapers.
Winter is now upon us, which means it is congee season in my household. If you haven’t heard of congee before, it is a Chinese rice porridge, usually made with leftover rice. Growing up, my grandparents made congee almost every weekend in the wintertime, and we could expect a big batch after major holidays, when they would make the congee using leftover Turkey meat and bones.
Since we don’t usually have leftover rice and are primarily plant based in our home, I like to use half uncooked rice and half lentils to bulk up the protein and nutrients. I also like to add shiitake mushrooms to really give the congee a depth of flavour.
This congee can easily be made in an instant pot the day of or a slow cooker the night before so that it’s ready for breakfast/lunch.
If you haven’t seen my last video on how I roast a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin, check it out here (https://bit.ly/34it2mq). I repurposed the pumpkin by adding it to this congee recipe to add extra creaminess and nutrients. I also love topping it with Chinese fried donut, sauteed snow pea shoots and peanuts. Let me know in the comments below what your favourite toppings are!
Now set forth and be savvy!
~makes about 8 large servings
6 dried shiitake mushrooms
1 cup uncooked jasmine rice (or whatever rice you have)
1 cup red lentils
12 cups water
1 2-inch nub of ginger
2 tbsp soy sauce
1 tbsp mushroom powder
2 cup pumpkin puree
Salt to taste
Re-hydrate the dried shiitake mushrooms by placing them in a bowl and cover with hot water – set aside for 30 minutes
Place 1 cup of uncooked jasmine rice in your instant pot container and rinse 3 times until the water runs clear. To rinse, fill the pot with some water so that you have room to massage the rice for 30 seconds, pour out the water (or reserve the water to water your outdoor plants) and repeat 2 more times.
Once the rice is washed, place the container into the instant pot machine and add the water, red lentils, ginger, soy sauce and mushroom powder
Slice up the shiitake mushrooms and add to the pot along with the water
Place the lid on and ensure that the nob at the top is set to “sealing” and not “venting”
Turn the instant pot on and select the “Porridge” function, increase the time to 30 minutes
Once the instant pot is done cooking, allow the pressure to decrease naturally – you will know that there is no more pressure once the red nob has descended. You can also turn the nob to “venting” to ensure there is no more pressure.
Remove the lid and stir the congee – it can be served immediately
Every year, like so many other households, I like to purchase the biggest pumpkin that I can find to signal to trick-or-treaters that we are giving out candy. If the pumpkins are really cheap, like a few dollars cheap, I like to purchase 2! I don’t carve the pumpkins or decorate them, but sit them on my porch since they are a decoration piece in itself.
Once Halloween is over, I love to cut them open and roast the seeds as a healthy snack. You may not have already known this, but you can actually roast the meat of a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin as well! These pumpkins have been cultivated to grow larger, and therefore have a larger water content than pie pumpkins, however they are still full of nutrients even if the pumpkin flavour is more subtle.
Of-course being the eco-warrior that I am, I never let a Jack-O-Lantern pumpkin go to waste! Because they are high in fiber, vitamin C, potassium, vitamin E and iron, to name a few, they are perfectly fine to eat in sweet or savoury recipes.
I like to roast the flesh, puree it in my Vitamix and freeze it so that I always have roasted puree on hand! I use the puree in various recipes, such as the below: