February 26, 2013

Contrasts - before & after

DIY stationery made with magazines & origami paper.


Valentine's tulips on VD.


One week later.

Chocolate spoons for a co-worker's daughter's first birthday.


Alphabet soup.


Have a great day! ;D

February 24, 2013

Cake pops

After having used one of my co-workers' cake pop maker on Valentine's Day at the library, I knew I had to make cake pops for the next event I attended. David suggested getting one for ourselves this week :p and so we did! I'm glad my co-worker had given me a few tips, because the ones written down on the instructions manual didn't help at all, ha.

This past Friday the ladies in the family had a little girls' night out over at David's cousin's house. I made this batch of cake pops for that event and left some for Saturday night's gathering with friends at home. Since the cake pop set (mix, sticks, icing and  sprinkles) by the same brand of the maker was ridiculously priced, we opted for getting Pillsbury's Funfetti brownie cake pop mix ... Huge mistake! The balls either burned or didn't cook all the way through :/; after reading the instructions on the box, I realized that batter is just meant to be baked as regular brownie mix and then split it and form the balls with your hands, bahaha! Fortunately, I had a box of regular Funfetti in my pantry and that one worked perfectly fine :p.

If you so happen to buy one of these cake pop makers, I suggest only cooking the batter for 3 minutes (not 5-7 as stated in the instructions manual), then flipping the balls with a toothpick (no worries, they won't break) and cooking them for and extra  30 seconds to 1 minute with the lid open, also not using oil on the molds, it's not necessary.

The icing of the cake pops is the most challenging part if you ask me. I tried icing, which, sadly, didn't work, so I just coated them all with melted chocolate. Dipping them in the chocolate proved to be too difficult, so I just used spoons to spread it all over them; and then the fun part - throwing sprinkles all over the cake pops :p.

Since I didn't want to spend on a Styrofoam ball to stick my cake pops into, I bought some small liners which came in handy. The balls are not so perfectly rounded after you cover them in chocolate and sprinkles, so you need something to keep them standing.

The process took longer than I had anticipated, but they were a success; they ate them all. I could only eat one finished cake pop, although I have to admit that I ate a lot of the failed brownie balls, haha. I have the feeling we'll be making cake pops for several future gatherings and maybe when we babysit our younger niece :); they're fun!

Hope you all have a sweet and colorful week! ;D

Tight hugs!

February 19, 2013

My weight loss story

Hello, everybody! Today I feel like sharing my recent weight loss story. I was hesitant to talk about it and even went as far as writing a post and never publishing it because it was too long, personal and I didn't think anybody was going to be interested in reading it anyway. I'm giving it another go today because maybe, just maybe, someone out there might find a helpful idea or two and that would be really neat :).
First things first - I am by no means stating that this is the best way to embark on a weight loss journey. I am not a physician or a dietician; I am just a person who has had weight issues for a long time and has tried several methods. As a teenager, I was labelled obese, I tried different kinds of pills (including amphetamines) which did not work in the long run, I attended self-help groups for the obese, I saw nutritionists for years. I've learned a few things along the way and that's what this post is all about, sharing what has worked for me.

I should also point out that this time I did it the cheap way, so to speak. I wasn't willing to splurge on the healthiest organic produce or all natural foods or buy special lotions or even pay a fee to the gym or join Weight Watchers. I am aware of the fact that there are healthier options out there than the ones I've used, but I had to work within a somewhat limited budget. Money should not be an excuse not to start dieting when you're overweight. If I could lose 30 pounds (13kg) in about 6 months, you can definitely do it, too! ;D

Set a goal.
The first thing is to set the weight you want to achieve. Be realistic when it comes to setting your target weight and do not rush to meet that goal. In my experience, when you lose weight fast, you're prone to put it back on more easily. You have to get in the mindset that this is not something momentarily, it's about changing habits, a lifestyle, so naturally it'll take some time to adjust to it. 

Keep a track of what you put in your mouth.
Back in the old day, the nutritionist made me write every single thing I stuffed my mouth with; now, it's much simpler! There are websites and apps that make this task easier. I've been using Lose It, recommended by the wonderful Ms. Jenna ;). Once you enter your target goal, this app puts together your personal daily budget (calorie-wise); it has a wide inventory of foods and lets you save your own; there's also a section where you can record how much exercise you've done and how many calories you've burned. You can also choose to share some info with a group of people if that helps you be accountable.

Eat healthily.
Duh? Too obvious, but I couldn't not say it. Don't get obsessed with only buying products labelled low-calorie; it's more about portion control than gorging on "diet" foods. Again, remember that this involves a change in habits, eating in reasonable amounts. If you do, you can afford to eat most kinds of foods.

Discard what's not working for you.
If you decide to try something drastic, such as say getting rid of flour or sugar altogether, and you notice that doesn't really work for you, stop doing that and try something different. It's pointless to force yourself to stay in a routine that's not meant for you and will probably throw you off completely. Don't stick to methods that discourage you because you will be more prone to going back to your bad old habits. I tried not to eat flour and could only do it for a day, ha! I also tried protein shakes but I realized that replacing a meal for a shake made me miserable. I kind of like veggie smoothies, though :p; I have one of these once or twice a week instead of my regular breakfast, they're filling!

Make your meals look pretty.
Does this sound shallow and pointless? I'm sure my old philosophy and theology teacher would say this is gluttony, however, I've realized that I enjoy seeing a dish that has been nicely put together. Maybe it's just because I went through the trouble of making it look pretty? I dunno. It makes eating smaller portions more enjoyable. Maybe beauty makes up for the smaller amount of food? If you don't have time to "pimp your dishes", just use a neat plate (one that's not too big or typically red).

Keep yourself motivated.
If meeting your target weight is not motivating enough, try buying a dress to wear when you do, for instance. Or buy pretty work-out gear; a nice pair of sneakers might make you more inclined to exercise. Can't afford new sneakers? Get a nice new water bottle; that's what I did, hehe. The library I work at started a "The Biggest Loser" kind of challenge and a lot of people joined; if you're a competitive person this might help spice things up.

Don't be scared to try something new.
If you get bored with eating string beans, spinach, broccoli, etc, try something new for a change even if you have no clue how to cook it. I recently tried spaghetti squash and rice noodles which I'd never cooked before, looked up recipes on Pinterest and was delighted to find out that they're both yummy and easy to prepare! :p

Keep healthy treats in your pantry.
Yes, I sometimes wake up in the middle of the night craving chips or something sweet. These are probably the most difficult moments for me. David is not on a diet, so I can easily find ice-cream in my freezer or Doritos somewhere on the counter. It's for situations like this that I buy yummy treats such as string cheese (50 calories per stick) or frozen yoghurt packaged in individual containers. I sometimes even eat a Hostess cupcake, but just one (because there are times when an apple or a banana just won't do).

Exercise regularly.
I think this is what made the biggest difference for me. I was determined to work out 5-7 times a week for at least 45 minutes the first 3 months. I'm lucky enough to have a treadmill in the garage, but if you don't own one, go out for a jog instead. Bear in mind that it's always better to combine cardio with weight-lifting or any other kind of exercise to work your muscles. And remember to change your work-out routine every now and then. I've found plenty of fun exercise videos on YouTube. If you hate working out, don't give up! I used to hate it, too, I swear! But once I started noticing changes in my body, I learned to appreciate it and I even kind of like it ;). It's super motivating to see that all the effort and stamina you put into it really pays off; that's what kept me going, really. Unfortunately now that I have a job, I don't exercise as often, but I always try to do it 3 times a week. I also like to play my favorite songs as I watch something different on my laptop; it makes time goes by faster. 

Yup! Take care of your skin. If you're dieting and working out, you need to help your skin adapt to the changes your body is going through. I mean, moisturize always, ha, but I'm mentioning this tip a nutritionist gave me years ago, because up until then I'd never thought this had any relevance. This time I didn't get any special lotion to reduce sizes or anything like that, I just use the good old generic Cetaphil (I usually get Walmart's or Rite Aid's generic version).

Indulge every now and then. 
But do not gorge yourself on fatty food. I prefer not to do "free" weekends because I know that would only lean me towards going back to my bad old habits. Instead, I eat cake without guilt when I go to a birthday party or have a burger and fries every once in a while. I do not use junk food as a reward for staying in a diet, I occasionally have it in small amounts to ease the craving 

Find no excuses.
The "I have no time" excuse is BS and you know it; we all do. Seriously, who needs more time to eat less? And I'm sure that we can all squeeze in a 45 minute work-out 3 times a week. Who is so busy to not even be able to go for a jog on the weekends, right? If you feel you need more time to cook healthier products, plan your meals wisely ahead of time. I like to throw a bunch of vegetables and chicken or beef in a huge pan with boiling water and that yields 3 meals minimum. I first have the broth and some chicken; the next meal, I eat the squash and cabbage instead and the third time I use the remaining squash and mash it to make it feel and look different (you'll find tons of great and healthy recipes on Pinterest). When you go grocery shopping, buy ingredients you can mix and match in the blink of an eye for those days when you don't feel like turning on the stove.

Be realistic and smart.
Leave stupid stereotypes aside and set a goal that is suitable and reachable for you. Again, accept the fact that it might take time to meet your goal and know that this will involve a change in lifestyle. Once you get there, you'll be able not to be so strict, but you'll still need to watch what you stuff your mouth with and keep exercising. Do not use pills or any other silly method that will only help you lose some weight at first but will not teach you how to be healthy. If something sounds too good to be true, it's probably not worth trying. Reaching your target weight will take work and persistence, but that's not a bad thing, on the contrary, it'll make you feel prouder of yourself once you get there and the fear of losing what you have accomplish will motivate you to keep on track. The determination is in you; you can totally do it! Trust me, if I could do it, you can, too. Be determined, be focused, be strong and embrace this journey to a healthier you!

I hope I didn't make this post too long and boring. If you have any questions about my personal experience or would like me to give you recipes or whatever you can think of, don't hesitate to talk to me. I'm right here ;). 

Have a wonderful week, everybody! ;D


February 17, 2013

Snow in Southern California

So, we decided to head over to Big Bear on the spur of the moment :p. We've been meaning to go before the snow melted and we felt like today was the day. We were a little hesitant because of an incident that took place a few days ago; does the name Christopher Dorner ring a bell? I'm not sure how far the news has spread, but long story short, he was a former cop who got fired unfairly and started taking revenge and killed a total of four people. He was finally killed after the cabin he was at was set on fire (right in Big Bear). Fortunately, life there seems to have come back to normal.

We had been to Big Bear once before but during spring, so we didn't see any snow then. I had only seen snow over 15 years ago when I traveled to England and it also snowed when I went to Japan but very lightly. It was a lot of fun! :p Plus, the change in temperatures felt good, too. It's been around the 80s (25C) in Ontario! We were actually kind of hot on our drive there but it started getting cooler and cooler as we drove up.

It's nice to have such a great getaway place only 65 miles (104km) away, that's an hour and a half drive, mostly on a winding road up the mountains. 


It was also neat to have the chance to wear real winter clothes; it's the perfect excuse to show you my brand new fingerless gloves by LumiStyle that I won in a giveaway over at Chantilly's blog a while back. 


Overcoat: Kosiuko (Argentina).
Cowl: H&M (present).
Fingerless gloves: LumiStyle.
Dress: DAM (Argentina).
Boots: Blowfish.
Tights: Target.
Purse: Prune (Argentina).

Time to pose like a bear!

I really loved the landscape both in winter and in spring, there are different activities to do in all seasons., but I have to admit that snow made the place a little more special :).

The traffic was a bit heavy on our way down, but at least we had a beautiful view to enjoy, especially from 1000ft downwards.

So what have you guys done this weekend? Is anyone in the States going to take advantage of the sales for Presidents' Day tomorrow?

May you all have a wonderful week! ;D