Kicking off Sugar-Free September 2015

If you haven’t checked your calendar yet, it’s September 1st today! That means it’s the first day of Sugar-Free September. It also means that we’re now 4 months away from my wedding. Crunch time! We still have so much to do. Ahhhh!

Last year, I was a lot more organized going into Sugar-Free September, and I cleared my cupboards and fridge of all the foods that didn’t follow the guidelines. Remember the shocking amount of groceries that I had that contained sugar?

Sugar-Free September

This year, I haven’t gotten around to doing that, and it almost got be caught up. I was quickly throwing together a salad to bring to work for lunch, and I tossed in a packet of Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing. Hey, wait a minute! Even in my sleepy state, it fortunately occurred to me that those salad dressings definitely contain sugar. That wouldn’t have been a good start to Sugar-Free September. I quickly mixed up my own sugar-free Balsamic Vinaigrette dressing (2 parts olive oil, 1 part balsamic vinegar, a little Dijon mustard). Ta-da! Quick and easy and absolutely no sugar required!

balsamic-dressing

Making my own salad dressings is one of those things that I get into the habit of doing until I totally fall out of the habit again. Here’s to 30 days of making my own salad dressings!

Happy (Sugar-Free) September!

Don’t think you can give up sugar for 30 days? Read some of my tips for sticking to your diet (without really trying). Continue Reading

Saying ‘I do': Wearing a veil – yes or no?

Bride's 1.8-mile veil is world's longest

Would (did) you wear a veil on your wedding day?

There’s a reason that they always jack a bride up with a veil on Say Yes to the Dress. If the white gown doesn’t do the trick, then the veil definitely screams bride.

Like wedding bands, a veil is something I vaguely knew I’d consider during my wedding planning, but it certainly wasn’t anything I had any very defined opinions on. At some point during my wedding dress shopping, I decided that I was going to wear one. There’s just something about a veil that really pulled the look together for me. Once that was decided, I realized that it wasn’t as easy as that, since there are countless styles to choose from!

Who knew that sticking a piece of tulle on my head could get so complicated?

Veil styles.

There are a few consideration when it comes to choosing the right veil; length, number of tiers and embellishments are among those choices.

One tier or two? Short or long? Lace or rhinestones?

One of my favourite looks is a simple, raw edge fingertip veil.

Bride with fingertip veil and trumpet gown. See more stunning veil trends here: http://www.mywedding.com/articles/9-veils-for-every-type-of-bride/

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Sugar-free for 30 days!

It is completely blowing my mind that it’s already the end of August and September is just around the corner. Where has this summer gone?!

You might remember that last year, I went sugar-free for 30 days last September. It was a great experience because it caused me to pay close attention to how much sugar I was really eating every day in the form of sneaky hidden sugars. Since my last Sugar-Free September, I’ve kept up the habit of avoiding unnecessary added sugars in products like yogurt, pasta sauce and especially cereal.

I don’t think we’ve bought a single box of cereal with added sugar all year! Cereal is just one of the many products that contains added sugar, but it’s a great example of how a small decision to avoid added sugars can have a big impact on your overall sugar intake.

Before Sugar-Free September 2014, one of my favourite breakfast cereals was Quaker Oats Harvest Crunch Raisin Almond Granola Cereal. I knew it wasn’t the healthiest breakfast option ever, but I’d eat it pretty often.

Each serving contains 200 calories and 14 grams of sugar.

harvest-crunch-cereal-nutrition

I swapped out the Harvest Crunch for Post Shredded Wheat Cereal, which contains 170 calories and 0 grams of sugar!

I don’t eat cereal every day, but if I were to eat the sugary cereal 5 days per week, that’s 3,640 grams of sugar per year. At 4 calories per gram of sugar, that’s 14,560 calories per year, which can equal 4 pounds of fat on your body! That’s 4 pounds just in the sugar from breakfast cereal. Just the small change of opting for sugar-free cereal instead of the cereal with 14 grams of sugar can shave 2 pounds off your body.

shredded-wheat-nutrition

While avoiding added sugars is a challenge, doing it for 30 days is an eye-opening experience. Last year I managed to for sugar-free for 30 days and even hosted a Sugar-Free Thanksgiving dinner complete with a sugar-free pumpkin pie.

Now I’m going to do it again! If you want to go sugar-free for 30 days, too, join me for Sugar-Free September. Who’s in?

sugar-free-september

CLICK HERE FOR THE FULL GUIDELINES:  Continue Reading

Saying ‘I do': choosing a wedding band

Engagement ring, wedding band, a band for your husband  a band for each child. Create your own stack.

Since we got engaged last October, I’ve been loving wearing my engagement ring everyday. I hadn’t really given wedding bands much thought, but now that we’re only a few months out from the wedding, wedding band shopping is rising up on the to-do list.  Now that I’ve started exploring my options, there are so many to consider!

I WANTT!!!!!!!! IN LOVE WITH THIS SO MUCH Marcelle & Christie 14kt Gold Cushion FB Moissanite and Diamonds TRIO Wedding Set

One of my favourite looks is multiple stacking bands. An infinity band worn on either side of the engagement ring is a popular look, but I love all the possibilities that come with mixing and matching various bands. Some people add rings on anniversaries, but there’s no need to wait, and two bands are becoming an increasingly popular choice.

Mike and I chose my engagement ring together (though he surprised me with a Paris proposal), and one of the things I went back and forth on the most was which metal to choose. I had typically only really worn yellow gold. The necklace I wear every day is yellow gold, and the rings I wear most often all happen to be yellow gold. But we decided that a white gold setting helped make those diamonds sparkle. Stacking wedding bands are a wonderful opportunity to mix metals.

And then there are enhancers. As the name implies, enhancers, which can be one piece or two, are meant to enhance your engagement ring by adding some extra glam. I find some of these kind of funny, but I think they’re a great option to really change up the look of your ring. Have a solitaire and prefer a 3-stone? There’s an enhancer for that! The downside is that they don’t generally look very nice worn on their own, so you usually have to wear it together with your engagement ring. Because of that, and to keep everything lined up in the right place, some people choose to have them soldered together with their engagement ring.

Someday

Going the opposite direction, I also love the symbolism of a super simple band. A thin band let’s the engagement ring be the star, and is so sweet when worn on its own. It won’t get caught on things and is a good option when traveling abroad or doing certain activities.

I’m still not sure which direction I’ll go. I think I need to just go try on more options and see what feels right.

What’s your favourite wedding ring look?

Weight loss update (+ My Top 3 Most Effective Habits)

I’ve lost 15 pounds!

Ok, so I lost 5 pounds in one month back in January and then it took me another six months to lose another 10, but whatever, 15 pounds is a lot! I still have a few more pounds to lose before my wedding, but I’m really happy that I’ve made this progress despite the ups and downs (on the scale and emotionally) along the way.

I have been at this very weight, and 10 lbs heavier and 10 lbs lighter and everywhere in between throughout my adult life, but this current super gradual weight loss has been both the easiest and most difficult. It has been easy because I’ve only had to make really minor changes to my diet and exercise and I’ve been able to fully enjoy restaurants and social events and even a couple vacations without having to miss out. It has been difficult because it requires patience, since it’s a whole lot quicker to crash diet down some lbs than to be consistently, but slowly working towards a weight loss goal.

I have to say though, that of all the times I’ve tried to lose weight, this time I’ve been a whole lot less crazy about it. I’ve said before that I don’t believe in relying on willpower to stick to a diet (it just never works for me!). By dieting really slowly, I haven’t had to fight against cravings resulting from mental deprivation or physical/nutritional starvation. “Dieting really slowly” sounds kinda weird, but what I mean is that I’ve been trying to consistently work towards my weight loss goals, while aiming for only a small weekly calorie deficit, and also being ok with some weeks where I end up with no deficit or even a small surplus. If I look at my year so far (which I can do on MyFitnessPal.com), there are so many ups and downs in my calorie intake and my weight, but the overall trend over a long period of time is downward. And that’s the whole point, right?

weight graph

Ok, here’s what I think have been the main factors that have helped me out so far: Continue Reading

Home gym reveal

home gym | home at six

Today I’m excited to share our home gym reveal! Mike and I have been hard at work transforming our old guest bedroom/office into a brand new home gym. We’ve also been busy switching the old gym into a new home office, and it’s looking great, but still a work in progress.

I’ve already worked out in the new gym and it’s so amazing to have all that room to move around.

This room is nearly twice the size of our old gym, so we can both work out in there at the same time and I can even do my Tracy Anderson dance cardio without having to re-arrange the whole living room.

home gym | home at six

We already owned most of the equipment, but it’s so much more functional and organized with this new set up. I’m so happy with how it turned out.

The new pieces are the super heavy duty rubber mats and the weight rack. In our old gym, we had some interlocking rubber mats, which our cat, Josie, had already started to destroy. These weigh 100 lbs each, so we got a workout just moving them in, and we’re going to try our best to keep Josie out of there!

home gym | home at six

Having a home gym means that  I really have no excuse when it comes to working out. Even when I’m feeling pretty lazy, it’s still easy enough to walk on the treadmill while I watch some TV. And now with this even more amazing home gym, I’m really excited to up my workout game even more!

home gym | home at six

Wedding planning update (& a lakeside photo shoot!)

jillandmikebybettinabogar-1-sm

We are now just over 5 months away from our New Year’s Eve wedding. Five months is still a good chunk of time, but I can’t believe how quickly this year is flying by! I was feeling a little stressed out last time I posted about the wedding! But we’ve made a lot of planning progress since then, and I’m feeling pretty good, so I thought I’d share a little wedding planning update and some pictures from a fun photo shoot we did recently with Bettina Bogar!

jillandmikebybettinabogar-18-sm

We still have a few major details to sort out (bridesmaids’ dresses, what?), but at least now we have all of our major vendors booked.

We were especially excited to finally book our photographers, the super talented husband and wife team at Joseph and Jaime Weddings. Every single picture on their website is gorgeous, so I know that they’re going to do a wonderful job at capturing our day.

jillandmikebybettinabogar-8-sm

Our apartment is also quickly filling up with décor items. While we’re renting our linens, I determined that it would be much cheaper to purchase rather than rent some items, including candle holders and vases. Plus I hope to re-sell some of the items afterwards to recoup some of the costs. Continue Reading

Top Five in Kelowna, British Columbia: Summer Edition

kelowna

Mike’s parents live in Kelowna, British Columbia, and we recently enjoyed a wonderful visit with them. The temperature was around 35C (95F) and sunny for much of our stay, so we spent a lot of time cooling off at the local beaches.

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There is so much to do in Kelowna in the summer for outdoor adventurers and wine aficionados alike. In addition to a photo dump, here’s a recap of my Top Five in Kelowna, British Columbia: Summer Edition.

Top Five in Kelowna

1) Hiking. I’m a big fan of hiking and Kelowna has countless trails for all lengths of hikes and all levels of difficulty. We use HikingAddiction.ca to plan our Kelowna hikes. On this visit we hiked the Bear Creek Canyon, which has a beautiful waterfall, and Rose Valley, which was a more intense hike but rewarded us with the most stunning views. In addition to the great trails and amazing vistas, another thing I really appreciate is that many of the parks have well-maintained washrooms. No squatting in the bushes on these hikes!

IMG_1351 Continue Reading

Weekly Meal Prep & Wedding Planning Update

healthymealprep

This weekend was pretty gross and rainy, so it was perfect for getting in some meal prep. While I don’t do this weekly, when I do it really helps keep me on track with my healthy eating goals. Mike and I worked together and stocked the fridge with pre-portioned chicken (3 oz), sweet potato (150 g) and steamed broccoli and carrots (200 g). We also made a dozen muffin-tin eggs topped with cheese, and a week’s worth of green smoothies. An hour and a half on a cold, rainy day and the week’s meals got a whole lot easier.

fridge-meal-prep

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Safe cycling in the city

My cycling commute is often my favourite part of the day. It’s a great way to get a little sunshine into my day when I spend so much of it inside tied to my desk. But it can also be stressful, and frustrating, and often even scary. I know lots of people that are too nervous to ride their bikes in the city, especially during rush hour, and I honestly can’t blame them. Toronto isn’t the most bike-friendly city, and even though about 50% of my commute includes bike paths, they hardly seem to offer any additional safety.

So I’ve compiled my tips for riding safely in the city based on the issues I see most often on my commute!

cyclist

6 Safe Cycling Tips

1) Slow down. I see so many cyclists that zoom through traffic, but the faster you ride, the faster you’re going to be slamming into that car, door or pedestrian. Slow down to give car drivers, pedestrians and other cyclists a chance to see you. Slow down to give yourself a chance to spot obstacles like streetcar tracks, pot holes and people or pets running out into traffic. I’ll admit I ride my bike really fast on my commute, but once I hit the downtown core, I slow waaay down. There’s so much going on, you really have to watch it!

2) Avoid right-turning vehicles. Wait patiently or carefully pass on the left. Passing on the right of a right-turning vehicle is the #1 stupid thing I see cyclists doing frequently. I’d say the only exception is if you can cross along with a whole group of pedestrians, but even then proceed with caution.

3) You are invisible. Drivers generally aren’t looking for cyclists when they’re looking to make a maneuver like crossing through an intersection or turning into traffic from a side-road, and even though you’re right there in front of them they honestly might just not even register your presence, since they’re looking for other cars (remember that basketball-gorilla experiment?). If possible, try to make eye contact. Even then, don’t assume. This one got me into trouble once. I was waiting to make a left turn onto a main road. A driver slowed way down, and I assumed he was letting me in. Nope. Just as I crossed through, he started to accelerate. I only got tapped, but it was definitely not a good situation. I think he’d actually slowed looking for a street sign and hadn’t seen me at all. Continue Reading