Tuesday, 9 December 2014

Tips and Tricks on going Sugar-Free

Hubby and I are still limiting our sugar intake but we do cheat from time to time. Our rule is: we get to eat one sugary treat once a week. Sometimes we do end up eating sugar more than that. Usually twice a week at most. By going sugar-free we are not only cutting junk food out of our diets, but sugar all together. Meaning: we are not taking sugar in our tea, coffee, oatmeal, baked goods, etc. We watched a documentary, in which they did a study on lab rats of the addictiveness of sugar and cocaine. The rats got addicted to sugar faster than they did the cocaine! That right there is a red flag on the danger of sugar.

Going sugar-free doesn't have to be as scary as it sounds. The key is to substitute white granulated sugar with a healthier alternative. We started using honey in our tea, coffee, baking, etc. instead of sugar. However, hubby has a client who's a registered nutritionist. He told us that once you put honey in a hot substance, the heat takes the benefits of the honey out of it. He suggested to use agave nectar as a sweetener and to eat honey straight. Agave nectar is sweeter than sugar, and doesn't have a strong distinct flavour like honey. So now we've started sweetening our food/drinks with agave nectar and we really like it. You should be able to find it in any health or bulk store. It makes our morning coffee tasty and we feel good about ourselves for eating healthier.

My husband went cold turkey on cutting out his sugar, and he said it was really hard (as you could probably imagine.) For me personally, I slowly decreased it week by week. We both have sweet tooths, so it was definitely a big adjustment. However, the neat thing is that once you cut it out of your system completely, you don't even crave it anymore. It takes a lot of self-control and when you are hanging out with family and friends and they are all having some sweets, it can get very tempting. The key is to keep yourself disciplined and remind yourself why you cut it out in the first place.

Thursday, 25 September 2014

First Sugar-Free Week was Bittersweet

In our attempt to start eating healthier, my husband and I have decided to reduce bad sugars from our diets. We've substituted our sugar intake with honey. So instead of putting 1 teaspoon of sugar in our tea/coffee, we put half/one teaspoon of honey. It's not easy because we both have really bad sweet tooths. However, we are doing our best to keep at it. I admit, our first week was not completely "sugar-free" but we certainly did reduce our junk food consumption. Instead of having dessert after our meal(s), we have fruits. Also, I baked my first sugar-free treat this week. I made carrot muffins and substituted it with 1/4 cup of honey, as opposed to the 1/2 cup of sugar that the recipe requires. The baking rule is: if you replace sugar with honey, use half the amount of honey. Honey has such a distinct flavour that it can overpower the other flavours in the dessert.

We've agreed upon still allowing ourselves to eat dessert once a week, so I've given myself the weekends as my "cheat day" or "dessert day." On the contrary, we need to remind ourselves that instead of having 2 large slices of cake, we can only to have 1 small slice. It does take a lot of self control and sometimes it can be really tempting to reach for the bowl of ice cream, instead of a piece of fruit.

Our largest junk food purchase is when we do a Bulk Barn haul, which usually includes chocolate almonds, chocolate raisins and banana chips. Those usually finish within the week. Also, when ice cream is on sale, we tend to stock up with 2-3 containers of them. Now we have a whole lot of ice cream in our freezer that will take a lot longer to finish than originally planned!

Carrot muffins baked with honey.

Sunday, 21 September 2014

Healthier Lifestyle Choices

We moved to our new house in early June, July was busy with our fasting month, and August/September we hosted a few parties with my and my husband's families. We had my immediate family over for Eid, my husband's entire extended family over for a housewarming (which was almost 50 people) and a small group of hubby's cousins over for the long weekend before school started again. Now that we are semi-settled into the new place, I am trying to get back into my daily workout routine.

Last year, I was extremely vigilant with my diet and workout. I logged everything on my fitness pal app, followed a strict 1200 calorie diet, drank 2 litres of water regularly, and worked out on a daily basis. I managed to lose 20 pounds in about 5-6 months, which was a huge accomplishment for me. It was half the weight I wanted to lose, so that was such a great milestone to know I reached such a big stepping stone. However, I then went through some extremely painful and uncomfortable medical treatment, causing me to gain all that weight back again, due to lack of exercise and being on pain killers. Gaining all my weight back took away my motivation to get back on the horse and start working out again. However, I am slowly getting back into the game.

I started using my fitness pal app again, and am watching every single thing I am eating. I am trying my best to workout regularly, but in all honesty, it can be really difficult. It just feels like a chore, and I really don't enjoy it. I took swimming lessons last year which was fun and was such a great workout. I live in a very scenic little neighbourhood, so I am changing it up by trying to go for walks and jogs on a daily basis and enjoying the scenery simultaneously. I am really pushing myself and remind myself that it took a few months to gain all that weight back, so it will take a few months to lose it all again.

My husband and I started this "no sugar" thing earlier this week. It's very difficult, considering I have a really bad sweet tooth! I am taking baby steps the best way I can. With my hubby cutting his sugar intake with me, that will make it much easier for me to eat healthy, and stay motivated. I also feel like the "no sugar" rule will help me lose weight a lot quicker than I did the first time! I will still have a treat from time to time, but I will control myself around desserts. I do hate to use the word "diet" because that just puts me off. So instead of saying "I am on a no sugar diet", I will say "I am making healthier life choices." Wish me luck! Here's to eating healthy, working your butt off (literally) and a better lifestyle change!

Friday, 4 July 2014

What I Do and Don't Miss about City Living

When we first decided to move to the countryside, of course I was excited but a part of me was also nervous. I felt like there were certain things I would miss from the city that wouldn't be readily available in a small town. It goes without saying, that I would miss seeing my family and friends. However, this adjustment has gotten much easier because many of our family and friends have been visiting us more often, now that the weather has gotten so beautiful.

The one thing I can honestly say that I do miss about Toronto is when I used to volunteer at my local animal shelter. I would go there every weekend and volunteer as a "cat cuddler." Playing with all those homeless cats and kittens would make me feel so happy. Nothing ever made me feel as happy as I did when I was around those cats.

The best days were when we would get to see the animals get adopted. It was hard not to get attached to some of them, but deep down inside, you always wanted to see them leave the shelter, and never come back. The most fun I ever had was playing with numerous kittens simultaneously. The workers and volunteers knew it was the older cats who needed more attention. The cats would stay in the shelter for much longer than the kittens. Even so, there were times when we (the volunteer cat cuddlers) were selfish and played with the kittens anyway because we couldn't resist their cuteness.

There were a few superficial things which I thought I would really miss once I moved, but in all honesty, I've not missed them one bit. It's amazing how the mind work. Once something unimportant is taken away from your life, it really makes you reflect and wonder if you ever needed it in your life in the first place.

Monday, 23 June 2014

Same City, Different House

The last few months have been quite hectic. I usually love reading before bed, but the last book I completed was The Crimson Crown almost three months ago! We recently moved to another house (in a different part of the city.) So I've been exhausted by the end of the day from all the moving and unpacking that's been going on. We were in between houses for the month of May, so had to stay with some family member for the month, which had it's ups and downs. For the most part, we were grateful we temporarily had a place to stay.

We're still not done unpacking and setting everything up yet, but we're slowly making our way there. We've met many of our neighbours so far, and they are quite lovely. A few of them have lent us their lawn tools. In fact, one of our next door neighbours ended up mowing our lawn because he knew we hadn't bought a lawn mower of our own yet! There is a cute little ranch nearby, where we always see dogs, horses, and sheep hanging out on the lawn. The owners let us come in and see some of their animals the other day.

There is a lot of farm land nearby, and every time we drive past the farms, if one of the farmers are out, they always smile and wave at us. That is probably what I love the most about living in a small town. People always wave and say hello, even complete strangers.

Aside from the lovely people we've met, we've also met some lovely animals. The wildlife we see the most is cottontail rabbits. We always see them hanging out in the yard. We've seen them playing, perched up on our bench, eating grass and at one point, also saw one getting nice and comfortable and falling asleep right in our own backyard. Other animals we've seen are skunks, lot of chipmunks, turtles, snapping turtles, wild turkeys, muskrats, racoons and I went for a walk the other day and saw a little deer trotting right in front of me.

We were sad to be moving out from the sweet little town we (previously) lived in all winter. However, our new neighbours (human and non-human) have made us feel comfortable in our new home. We're also happy to finally be enjoying the city in the summer.

Tuesday, 15 April 2014


I was a little disappointed that we've lived in the countryside for nearly six months and have not seen any wildlife yet. However, it seems as though a lot of the wildlife is finally starting to come out!

My husband and I were driving to Walmart the other day, and on our way there, we saw two deer hanging out on someone's front lawn. The house was located right next to a heavily forested area, so they hung around for a few minutes, (long enough for us to snap some pictures!) then began trotting away back into the woods. My first time seeing a deer was last summer, when we saw one crossing the road on Manitoulin Island. Later that same summer, we saw a family of about five deer in a parking lot in Mont Tremblant.

A few days ago, I looked out the window and saw some movement in the water. It was a long furry animal, swimming to and fro. I'm not sure exactly what it was/is, a weasel, muskrat, otter or something of that family I would presume. We keep seeing this little guy swimming around several times a day. At first, I thought it was a beaver, but it was too small and it's tail was long and pointy, not big and flat. Today, we even saw it jump out of the lake and hang out on the lawn for a bit!

We are also starting to see ducks swimming and flying about. But these ducks/birds are not like any other birds I've seen before. I don't know if city birds are different from country birds, but I've never seen black and white ducks in Toronto before! 

There's something pleasant about seeing animals in their natural habitat, as opposed to be caged up in a zoo. They are cute and peaceful to watch. It's fun to observe them, enjoy them, and let them be.

Cutie swimming around.


Friday, 21 March 2014

Multicultural Day

Every Wednesdays, our local library has a kids crafts class and they have a different theme each week. This week their theme was Islam. The librarians asked me to host it, and share my experiences as a Muslim with the kids and the moms. I read a few Muslim nursery rhymes and explained some of the basic Muslim/Islamic terminology. (Example, that "Allah" is just an Arabic word for God.). After I finished reading, the librarians and some of the moms asked me various questions about my religion and about my headscarf. Questions like, "Do you have hair or are you bald?", "How long is your hair?", "Do your scarves have to match your clothes?", "How many times do you pray?", and "How long is each prayer?". After I was done answering everyone's questions, we did some Islamic art. We used paper plates to make crescent moons out of them. Then we used pipe cleaners to dangle a star from each moon. The kids used markers and sparkly beads to decorate their moon and star. I was very nervous at first, but it seemed like it went okay! Below are some of the things I took with me to show everyone. On the left are some of my different coloured headscarves. And on the right is one of my favourite prayer mats, which my parents bought for me from Turkey. This particular one is actually reversible.

Here is my lovely artwork! All the kids did such a great job with theirs. =)

Wednesday, 5 March 2014

Small Town Struggles

A few weeks ago, my friend (who is the head librarian at the local library) asked me if I could come in and help out with a kid's craft program. So I went, but all the children were shy around me and looked at me funny. I suspected it might be because I wear a headscarf, which most people in Peterborough are not accustomed to. I whispered into my friend's ear and said, "I think the kids might be afraid of me."

She replied that yes, this is possible. Living in a predominantly Caucasian town/city, they may not have as much exposure to different religions and/or cultures. I never had to deal with this in Toronto, since it's such a large multicultural community. I've accepted the fact that I am "different" compared to most of my neighbours.

Nobody is ever rude or racist. People are just curious and ask a lot of questions. Sometimes they ask questions which I've never gotten before, like asking me what kind of alcohol I like drinking or why I don't eat pork. I try to remind myself that they probably don't know Muslims don't drink alcohol or eat anything that comes from pig.

So, the local library is planning to do their first multicultural craft day in a few weeks and want me to come in and talk to the kids a little bit about my culture and religion. And let them know why I dress differently than everyone else in the community. Furthermore, we will also be making some Islamic art work. I am a tad bit nervous, but all the librarians and moms are super excited about what I have to say! I am very grateful that the local library is open to doing something like this.

Living in two very different cities/towns, I know that no matter where I live, it will have it's pros and cons.

Monday, 27 January 2014

Country Style Winter

Everyone warned me in advance that the winters in the countryside will be far more brutal than the winters in the city. Lucky for me, I love winter (and snow), and nothing can take that away. Well everyone was right, the winters here are COLD. Some days are better than others. It's a few degrees colder than Toronto, and some days are really windy too. The highest it's gotten is -28 degrees (PLUS windchill.) It snows every few days, and the snow doesn't melt, all the snow just keeps collecting on top of the previous snowfalls. When I walked out today, in some spots, the snow reached up to my hips! Our car was covered with almost a foot of snow! It's beautiful to look at, and I just love it. I had to change my whole wardrobe when we moved up here. When I went out to shovel the driveway today, I wore three THICK sweaters, three bottom layers, a winter jacket, a scarf, and a hat, and I was still cold! It's already so lovely in the winter, I am anxiously waiting for spring and summer, because it'll most likely be ten times more beautiful. But in the meantime, we are stocked up with coffee, tea and hot chocolate to keep us warm and cozy!

I think there's a car under there somwhere! =)