butternut squash chili

My super healthy and vegetarian friend has a fancy blog called Eating For the Rest of Us. I tease him for sounding elitist, but he’s really not like that at all!

One recipe that I love is his Spring Chili. I made a non-vegetarian version of it for my family over the holidays, and I love making a big batch of it and packing it for lunch throughout the week. I usually use it to top some plain white quinoa and that makes for a super filling lunch!

I adjust the recipe every time I make it because it’s so adaptable to whatever is in my fridge. The other week, I replaced the yams with some butternut squash. Amazing.

Image

A friend requested I posted the recipe (with a simple “reciplease!”), so here it is. I kind of just copied + pasted Eric’s recipe and changed some stuff. Don’t slap me with a plagiarism suit, Eric!

butternut squash chili

1 large onion chopped
1  Tbsp chili powder
1/2 tsp. ground cumin
2 cups broth (chicken/veggie/whatever)
1/2 medium butternut squash, cubed into 3/4-1 inch pieces
1 can (796 ml) of diced tomatoes You can use canned whole tomatoes and just smash them in the pot, too!
1 can (540 ml) of black beans, drained & rinsed
2 bay leaves
1 splash of red wine (optional)

Method
1. Add the onion in a medium to large saucepan heated to medium-high. Stir often until soft and translucent. Feel free to use some vegetable or canola oil in this step. I usually don’t and it turns out fine.

2. Stir in the chili powder and cumin. Make sure the spices coat the onions well and aren’t clumpy.

3. Add the broth, bay leaves and butternut squash. Stir well to combine. Bring it all to a gentle boil, cover the pan, reduce the heat to low and simmer until the squash is almost tender. You can check the tenderness of the squash with a fork.

4. Add the tomatoes and beans. This is when you throw in that optional splash of wine. Bring it all to a simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is heated through and slightly thickened.

5. Serve with a neutral tasting starch.

This is a slightly sweet tasting chili, so when I’m in the mood for something spicier, I add a bit of Sriracha or Sambal Oelek. And of course, you can chop up whatever herbs you have in your fridge to sprinkle on top. I had some cilantro, and I thought it might taste weird with the chili, but it tasted surprisingly nice! I’d recommend some flat leaf parsley, though, since cilantro is such a polarizing herb.

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le gym

This year, I took the plunge and paid for a gym membership at my school, so I’ve become kind of obsessive and started going to the gym daily, trying to get the most bang for my buck.

The trainers at Le Gym are pretty dedicated, so they started their own health, nutrition and training blog, which I’m pretty excited about because I love learning how to make my workout more effective.

So take a look! It doesn’t hurt that the trainers are all super cute.

bruises

If you follow me on Twitter, then you’re probably aware that I had a very odd weekend last week.  I did not end up going to see a doctor, so I’m going to hypothesize that this is what happened to me…

I went to a charity dinner on Saturday night – the food was homemade food (not catered), and it was ethnic food as well.  It was delicious.  And then afterwards, I went to Starbucks and ordered a latte.  While I was there, my friend bought me a polar bear cookie.  That night when I was sleeping, I received a text message at around 3-3:30 AM, which woke me up.  Oddly, I couldn’t fall back asleep because I felt kind of nauseous and I had a piercing pain in my stomach.  I just gave up trying to fall back asleep, and ended up throwing up 3 times that night.

By my final episode of throwing up, it was around 8 AM, and I called my friends in desperation, texting them to see if anyone else got sick from the banquet, etc.  Everyone else was fine.  But my friend offered to pick up some Pepto for me, since he has a car.

My apartment building is pretty damn ghetto, so the buzzer system hasn’t been set up yet (even though it was promised to me that it would be many months ago), so whenever I have a guest, I have to go downstairs and open the door for them.  So when my friend arrived with the Pepto, I walked down the stairs (BIG MISTAKE), and I started to feel really sick.  I just thought to myself, “get the medicine and rush back upstairs to throw up in your own apartment!!!”

After my friend dropped the Pepto off and left, I was really dizzy and wobbling around at them time.  I assured him I was fine, because I really had no clue what was happening to me.  I tried as best as I could to get to the elevator, and I was able to press the up button, and stumbled into the elevator.  The next thing I knew, I was thinking “damn that hurts”, because I had just crashed my head/face into the elevator doors while I was fainting.  Odd.

A while later, the elevator doors opened because no buttons had been pressed, and that jolted me awake.  I realized I was still on the first floor, so I pressed my floor’s button.  I was really confused.  But what confused me even more was that when the doors opened onto my floor, I woke up only to find myself on the ground again.  I had passed out again.

Freaking out, I just told myself to get myself in bed asap, so I stumbled back to my apartment.  I then later woke up in the hallway right in front of of my door.  I had passed out a third time.

Anyway, I meant that to be a short summary, but it ended up being long, so I’m sorry!

So I think because I hit my head the first time I fainted, I may have suffered a very mild concussion, because I spent the next 2 days in bed feeling incredibly dizzy.

I’m completely fine now, but here are the pics I took of the bruises on my knees!  They were painful.  Seriously though, what a weird weekend.

shmexy.

nerve repair

Yesterday I went to see my OT (occupational therapist) for a regular assessment, and afterwards she said to me, “I’ve never in all my years – and there are a lot of years – seen someone recover so smoothly and quickly!”

I can’t explain how happy I was to hear that, because I’m sure you all can understand how friggin’ scared I was that I would have debilitated sensation forever. To know that I have been blessed with a speedy recovery is a testament to how faithful God is.

I know I won’t ever be back at 100% sensation, but at least I know I am getting better and that soon it’ll all be over!!

humility

God works in mysterious ways…even through reality TV.

Some of you may know this already, but I recently had an accident with a knife and sliced through my hand and through a nerve.  I am waiting for a full assessment after the weekend, possibly followed by surgery to save the nerve affecting my index finger.

When the doctors told me this news, I was devastated.  They cannot guarantee full recovery of my nerve, but they said that they will try to do what they can.  The thought of not having a fully sensing hand freaks me out and to be frank, it really, really scares me.

I’ve been pretty down lately, struggling to do simple tasks like zipping up my coat or tying my hair back (which I still can’t do).  The injury hurts like crazy & taking a proper shower is next to impossible.  Looking at my bandaged hand keeps giving me flashes of the accident & the fear I felt then, making falling asleep a scary task.  Poor old me.

Then today, as I was watching the audition rounds of So You Think You Can Dance, a dancer who lost her left hand to a rare type of skin cancer auditioned.  Her name is Jessica Jensen & she explains that she had the choice of keeping her hand & dying, or amputating it & living.  She chose to live & calls the amputation her “new lease on life” and explains that she is perfectly happy being the one handed lady.

After watching her dance, I realized that I am one incredibly blessed person.  Not only is my injury non-life threatening, I still have full use of my dominant hand (which I’m typing with right now!)  My doctors seem very competent & caring, & even though I am away from home, I am not paying medical bills.  I have amazing people around me to support & be my help through the healing process, & my professors have been quite understanding to my situation.

I’ve realized how self-important I have become, and watching Jessica has greatly humbled me.  Although the physical situation of my injury sucks bigtime, I am learning to appreciate why God made our bodies in such a way that each part works perfectly with the other.  I am also learning that God is suffering alongside me & wants me to change my heart to be grateful & to lean on Him for my strength & help.  After all, all things are possible with His strength.

Learning to fully trust God has been my biggest challenge not only this year, but especially through my transition from Toronto to Montreal, as well as my transition from comfortably nesting @ home to full independence (financially, physically).  I am still learning, but I am getting closer.

So I hope you have been humbled & inspired by Jessica’s story as I have been.

skincare routine (warning: super long w/ pics)

Hello all!

So my good friend keeps asking me what I use on my skin, but I find it so tedious to answer that because I use SO MANY gosh darn products!  Yes, I’m a skincare junkie.  I think it’s because when I was younger, my mom didn’t believe that skin care products could help me – she would just say “Just wash your face more often!”, so I was only allowed to buy the cheapest kinds (ie. Clean & Clear – blechhh).  So now, I am always on the hunt for better & more economical products to use, since I go through skincare really quickly.

To be honest, the main reason my skin has improved dramatically is due to prescription products from my dermatologist.  But as my skin begins to age, it’s becoming a lot more sensitive, so it can’t take the harsh chemical-y creams daily.  Also, any oral medication he prescribes I try my best not to take, because I’m trying to void my organs of having to process any more chemicals than it already has to (from foods, air, cosmetics, etc.)

So this collection of products is a mix of trying to balance oily/acne prone skin, with super dry/sensitive skin, with pore/blackhead control products and anti-aging products.  Basically, my skin has tons of demands.

Cleansers

Left: Purity Made Simple | Right: Tea Tree Oil Facial Cleanser

Left: Philosophy's Purity Made Simple | Right: The Body Shop's Tea Tree Oil Facial Wash (gel)

As you can clearly see, I prefer Purity over the Tea Tree Oil. I bought TBS’s facial wash because they were having a 2/$18 sale on all Tea Tree products, and this is a best-seller.  It’s good enough, but doesn’t REALLY help with oil/acne control, and I always have tons of makeup residue left if I only used my fingers to massage it onto my face.

I just bought Purity last week, and so far (using it day & night), it’s helped a lot in healing my dry skin and balancing it with my oily skin (that’s what it claims to do anyway).  Smells nice & does a better job at getting rid of makeup…but I did a test by following up with an Equate facial wipe after using Purity, and I still had traces of foundation on my face.  I still really like it though – it hasn’t made me break out like it did for Pursebuzz!  FYI: I asked the MUA at Sephora why Canada doesn’t have the foamy version, and she said it’s because there is an ingredient that hasn’t been approved by the CFDA in it.  So I guess Ebay it is for those who prefer it!

 

Olays Daily Facials in Deep Cleansing

Olay's Daily Facials in Deep Cleansing

My mom bought me these from Costco (pack or 3 boxes) and they’re awesome!  I take a sheet with me every time I go to the gym or pool, because they’re easy to take with me and are disposable after use.  I don’t exfoliate at home, but using these sheets 2/3 times a week @ the gym count as my exfoliation.  Super convenient tip: After using it on your face, there is tons of leftover foam & soap left in the sheet.  Use it as an exfoliating body scrub!

Toners 

 

Left: Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner | Right: The Body Shop's Tea Tree Oil Freshener

Left: Thayers Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner | Right: The Body Shop's Tea Tree Oil Freshener

 I can’t stress how much I LOVEEEEE the Rose Petal witch hazel.  It smells fabulous & does a great job of getting rid of traces of makeup, and moisturizes while it tones.  The Thayer line has tons of different types of witch hazel toners (lemon, aloe vera, original, etc.), but I chose the Rose Petal one because it moisturizes and helps with maintaining youthful skin (plump skin = younger looking skin).  This bottle lasted me for about 6 months, and I just bought a new bottle.  Available at organic shops for $8.99 (at Kensington Market).  I also saw it at Whole Foods for $12.99 in the Beauty section.

The TBS toner is clearly the old school bottle, but the product is still available in the new packaging.  This was a gift from my sister.  I rarely use it anymore because it is too harsh for my skin now, but back when I was super acne prone, this felt like it was doing something good underneath the surface of my skin.  I still use it on my T-Zone in the mornings to control oil throughout the day (doesn’t really work, I just like the idea of it!)

Moisturizers 

Left: Clinique Superdefense Very Dry to Dry | Centre: TBS Tea Tree Oil Blemish Fade Night Lotion | TBS Vitamin E Intense Moisture Cream

Left: Clinique Superdefense Very Dry to Dry | Centre: TBS Tea Tree Oil Blemish Fade Night Lotion | Right: TBS Vitamin E Intense Moisture Cream

After reading about Superdefense on PB, I decided to try it out.  As I approach mid-20s, I’m constantly thinking about how to prevent further damage on my skin-in-transition (previously, I was using Chanel’s Beauté Initiale Energizing Multi-Protection Cream; but way too pricey to keep using – but it really was great!)  The Clinique counter I went to had run out of Combination/Dry formula, so I ended up getting Very Dry to Dry, which is great for the winter, kinda too oily for the summer (but my mineral makeup does a great job of hiding that).  It will probably be good for me when I move to Montreal, because I hear the winters there are KILLER! I like the built in SPF 25, but it comes with a mild SPF scent.  It was around $50 (but got it with a GWP deal) and is lasting me forever and a day since I use it with a spatula (which prevents contamination, and wastes less product because you can scoop the product more precisely).

The Blemish Fade Night Lotion is very pricey for the tiny tube ($19) but if you wait for the 2/$18 sale, it’s a steal! This is my second bottle because I love it very much.  Really does help with fading old scars, and works wonders as a spot treatment, day or night.  I currently use it on my T-Zone at night time.

The Vitamin E cream comes in different formulations, but I got the Intense version so that I could use it on my mildly eczemic cheeks at nighttime.  Very moisturizing and not heavy feeling at all.  Smells very pleasant.  I’m on my second jar of this stuff, but I recently bought Egyptian Magic cream after watching Tao rave about it.  I think that will replace this stuff (and I prefer that it’s a more natural alternative too!)

Biore Skin Preservation Eye Cream

Biore Skin Preservation See the Future Eye Cream

This is from Biore’s new line of products aimed at 20-somethings who are between teen acne and wrinkles/aging skin.  So far I like it – doesn’t irritate, very good moisturization, and smoothes out nicely along my eyes without having to tug and rub it in.  Box says to use it during day, but it doesn’t have SPF, so I only use it at night.  For day eye cream, I just gently & carefully tap on my Clinique Superdefense around my eyes (because it has SPF 25)!

Oils

Left: Jojoba Oil (100% Natural Expeller Pressed) | Right: Bio-Oil

Left: Jojoba Oil (100% Pure Expeller Pressed) | Right: Bio-Oil

I bought the jojoba oil after reading about it on tons of natural makeup forums (good for OCM & any other moisturizing solutions).  This tiny bottle was kinda pricey, but I hardly use it.  When my skin got super crazy dry and flakey in the winter, I would drop some of this oil into my jar of TBS Vitamin E Intense cream and use it as a moisturizer.  Jojoba oil is the only oil that is the closest match to our body’s natural sebum, so it doesn’t clog pores.  My only complaint is that it’s a little hard to thin out – kinda viscous, but not like, syrup viscosity.

I bought Bio-Oil after seeing commercials that it is great for getting rid of scars.  I had tons of acne scars so I started using it on my face, but it made me break out!  So now I use it only when my jawline is getting rather dry (because I don’t break out there), and on scars on my body that I would like to fade away.  My mom uses it on her allergy rashes (around her eyes), and it does a great job of soothing them away.  I have friends who have used it for their stretch marks during pregnancy, and that has helped as well.

Masks/Treatments

Left: Neutrogena Pore Refining Cleanser | Right: Soap & Glory Put Your Nose In It

Left: Neutrogena Pore Refining Cleanser | Right: Soap & Glory Scrub Your Nose In It

I bought the Pore Refining cleanser on a whim when it was on sale thinking that maybe I’d see some results using it as a cleanser.  NOPE!!  Just burned my eyes because of the AHA/BHA in it.  Also, cleansing your skin with it doesn’t allow the active ingredients to actually work on your skin during such a short time.  So I went online and found out that many people were using it as an at-home mask!  Because of the AHA/BHA, it acts like a mild chemical peel while helping tighten the look of pores.  I don’t know about the pore part, but it does make my skin smoother.  Even though I have sensitive skin, it doesn’t irritate it – leave it on for about 10-15 minutes and wipe off with facial cloth.

I bought the Scrub Your Nose in It mask just last week, and I’ve only used it twice.  I love the tingly feeling when I put it on my T-Zone, and how it scrubs as your massage it onto your face.  I don’t see dramatic results yet, but my pores do look less gunky right after I remove it.  $12.99 @ Shopper’s Drug Mart.

Left: Tea Tree Oil Clay Mask | Right: Mario Badescu Silver Powder

Left: The Body Shop Tea Tree Oil Face Mask | Right: Mario Badescu Silver Powder

I thought I’d round out my Tea Tree collection by getting the mask.  I like the idea of it “drawing out impurities”, so I’ll keep using it till it’s done.  I don’t think I’ll repurchase though.  It doesn’t dry on your face, which I love, and I do feel like my skin is smoother/squeaky clean after I wipe it off.  I don’t really need the Tea Tree effects any longer, so time to move on when the jar is finished.

I bought the Silver Powder from Blu3’s blog sale a while ago.  The white powder has silver in it to soak up oil and gunk from your skin, so I use it on my T-Zone.  This tiny little jar lasts forever, because you have to wet the product, which makes you use a lot less than you think you need to use.  When I wipe it off though, I get a lot of powdery fall out over my counter, and my pores have powdery residue in them (which I suppose means that it’s really getting in there and sucking out the oil).  So I just have to scrub a little more diligently in those areas.  I dunno – it’s hard to gauge how well it’s working when you don’t actually see little blackheads coming out (like pore strips).

Overall, I use masks at least one or two times a week, interchanging between all of them as my skin sees fit (if I’m breaking out, I’ll use the Tea Tree mask, if I’m feeling super oily, I’ll use Mario Badescu, if I’m flaky I’ll use Neutrogena, etc.).

Conclusion

I use ALL these products regularly.  My most basic routine is Purity to cleanse, Rose Petal Witch Hazel Toner, and  the appropriate moisturizer for the time of day (morning/night).  

My skin isn’t perfect, but because I am diligent with taking care of it, I believe that that is why my skin is as nice as it is!  I can’t help pollutants in the air, but I can try and prevent them from damaging my skin with the right products.  I also believe that what you put in your body shows up on your skin.  So I eat tons of fruit and veggies (which is great because I really enjoy them!)  I also highly recommend getting a dermatologist and consulting with them.

That’s that I suppose!  Thanks for sticking by and reading the whole post – this took half a day to compile  and write!  If you have any questions/concerns/suggestions, please leave a comment!  I will respond as a reply on this post.

spa, sting, & package!

Last weekend was my friend’s birthday, and he requested a spa day/package as a gift.  So his roommate researched and found an awesome deal at a spa in Yorkville called Summerhill Spa, but it was a couple’s package!  They didn’t want to go together cuz they’re dudes…ya know.  And all of my other girlfriends are way too shy or conservative to strip down in front of another guy (although you’re covered the entire time!!  I guess you see side boob…hehe), so I jumped at the chance and got to go on my first spa trip ever!

The package included a 60 minute hot stone massage, a 30 minute facial, a 20 minute foot massage, and a hot oil hand/foot treatment.

The hot stone massage was a first for me and it was a nice experience, but the facial and the foot massage were AMAZING! I wish I could have been watching the technicians as they gave me my facial, because I would have liked to see exactly what they were doing so that I could try and replicate it at home.  But seriously, it’s really nice to have someone else scrub your nose for you (hehe!) My skin was GLOWING after the treatment!  I didn’t have my camera with me, but my face was sooo happy ^^  I can’t wait to treat myself to another facial one day!

Enough gloating…

I also got an opportunity to go to a benefit concert last week, featuring the Canadian Tenors, Sheryl Crow, Sting, hosted by Chris Noth (Mr. Big from “Sex and the City”!) at the Air Canada Centre in Toronto.  It’s an annual charity show called “One Night Live”, benefitting the Women & Babies program at Sunnybrook Hospital.  It’s one of the top neonatal programs in the world, and the concert benefits their efforts in building proper facilities to match its reputation.

I attended the show as media, so I was able to go to the top rafters in the Media Gondola, and then I was moved down to the floor, where I had pretty amazing seats!  Too bad Sting was not too keen on allowing media to stay for more than 3 of his songs…  Sheryl Crow was amazing though!  Read my report from the evening here.

The Canadian Tenors (the Canadian version of Il Divo)

The Canadian Tenors (the Canadian version of Il Divo)

Sheryl Crow rocking it out on the bass.

Sheryl Crow rocking it out on the bass.

Sting in all his old-age glory.

Sting in all his old-age glory.

Back to makeup…

Today I received my purchase from Tammy (aka Not a Rich Girl) in the mail =D I bought her MAC 165 brush – my first MAC face brush.  It’s an LE brush from the BBR collection, so I’m glad I found it on her blog sale. [If you follow me on Twitter, you might know that I recently got my first MAC brush…from my sister’s old stash of stuff!  It’s a MAC 213, and she said she vaguely remembers buying it when she was in high school, but she doesn’t wear much makeup anymore, so she gave it to me.  Still in perfect condition!]  Anyway, Tammy was very sweet and also sent me a mineral eyeshadow sample and Japanese jellies.

MAC 165, Glamour Doll Eyeshadow in "Pinky Swear", Kasugai Strawberry Gummies

MAC 165, Brush Guard, Glamour Doll Eyeshadow in "Pinky Swear", Kasugai Strawberry Gummies

Hopefully I’ll be pressing this shadow soon!