Monday, July 16, 2018

How To Keep A Magician Fed For Days

Although magicians don’t always share secrets with their audience, I’m going to let you in on a recipe for Shepherd’s Pie that you’ll want to tell everyone about!

We lead busy lives and if you’re a professional magician, the last thing you want is to fumble while dazzling your audience with a card trick or feeling fuzzy-minded performing a spectacular illusion. It takes passion for the craft, skill and countless hours of practice to perfect the art of magic.  Trust me, I know, as I have been with my magical man for almost a decade now.

Creating balanced meals that will fuel your body is important and so this is the version I do. It’s healthy, fairly simple to make and lasts for several days in the fridge. Of course,  you can tweak it to meet your culinary tastes and dietary requirements.

INGREDIENTS:
  • 4-5 medium potatoes, peeled or unpeeled (whatever you like) and then quartered with a knife. 
  • 2 cups (or more!) of assorted vegetables—I use a standard frozen vegetable mix often, as it’s more cost effective. You can use fresh veggies, but you will need to saute those separately in another pan.
  • 1 1/2 lbs of ground beef, pork, turkey, veal, or chicken. Whatever is on sale, that’s the meat of choice for this dish. *Vegetarians/Vegans – you can of course use veggie/vegan meat replacement and just follow the instructions as you normally would to cook it.
  • Seasonings of choice. Ex. oregano, basil, garlic, curry, turmeric, chives, parsley, sage, etc...

WHAT TO DO:

1 Boil the potatoes: Place washed, peeled (or unpeeled, if you like the skin on) and quartered potatoes in a large pot and cover with enough water.  Bring to a boil, reduce to a simmer, and cook until tender (about 20 minutes). Use a timer.

2.  In a frying pan, add your meat of choice and cook it up (you don’t want to see ANY pink my non-veggie friends!) Make sure to add whatever sauce and seasonings you want.

3. Revisit your mash potatoes. Use a fork to pierce for tenderness. You want them nice and soft so they will be easy to mash. When the potatoes are done cooking, remove them from the pot, drain the water, and place them into a bowl. Add butter or margarine, any seasonings of choice, and then mash away with a fork or potato masher until they are the consistency you want.  Set aside.

4. Preheat your oven to 400°F.  Wait for that oven beeeeeeeeep!

5.  Get out a large baking casserole dish (approx 8 x13), and pour the meat mixture on the bottom. Add a heaping amount of frozen veggies or your mixture of sauteed vegetables. Then spread the mashed potatoes evenly on top.  *Feel free to grate your favourite cheese or cheese alternative, if you’re looking for a richer cheesy potato flavour once it finishes cooking.

6. Bake in the oven and cook for approximately 30 minutes. I like to set my oven to broil for the last few minutes to get the potatoes a little extra brown.

7. Take out the dish WITH oven mitts and let cool down for a couple minutes. Cut into pieces and serve!


Straight out of the oven!


Sunday, July 15, 2018

Pitch Perfect: Make The Media Want You Review

Front cover: A short read (66 pages) so that is something to keep in mind.

Every industry has their own lingo and whether you're a multi-million dollar corporation, a small-business owner, or somewhere in between, it's important to know what you want to say and learn how to say it well.  There are so many methods of madness out there, as I like to call it.  Some ways work and others fail miserably. It can be an exhausting process and let's face it, constant rejection can be quite bruising on the ego.

If you are seeking advice from the movers and the shakers in the media biz that have been there, done that, and truly want to set you up for success, then you'll want to get to know Lisa Brandt, author of Make The Media Want You.

This guide cuts out a lot of the bs and tells you what works and what doesn't in various categories, from approaching charities to getting that nail-biting on-air interview. You'll get plenty of real world examples too and don't doubt for a second how important first impressions can be whether by e-mail, phone, or in-person.  "If I have to do a forensic audit of a document to figure out its meaning, I will simply move on." - Lisa Brandt.

With her free-thinker writing style, you're getting a mixture of professional advice and simply common sense. Lisa gives you swift reminders of the do's and dont's of how to make your "pitch" a memorable one.  

Back cover: Make The Media Want You by Lisa Brandt


Visit her website at: The Voice of Lisa Brandt
Pre-order Lisa's book on Kindle or Paperback here: Amazon.ca OR Amazon.com 

Disclaimer: I was sent this guide, compliments of Lisa Brandt, in exchange for an honest review!

Friday, June 29, 2018

Quench Your Thirst: Flow Alkaline Spring Water Review

I was able to purchase Flow's Cucumber & Mint Flow Alkaline Spring Water, thanks to being part of Social Nature. #gotitfree #trynatural

Below you'll find my honest review!


2 - 500 ml tetra pak cartons of Flow Water

I really like the tetra pak cartons, as they are easily recyclable. The twist off plant-based cap was easy to open, unlike some other water product caps that can be rather difficult. It also was a good size that fit well into my purse and in the cup holder of the car for travelling.

The water had a very heavy cucumber taste, however I couldn't taste one drop of the mint flavouring. This was a bit of a disappointment as it clearly mentions the mint flavour!

I like that there was no added sugar or any type of sweeteners. However, reading further, the "alkaline" spring water claim felt like a trendy marketing label to justify a higher price point, as there is no evidence of real health benefits from drinking alkaline water.

Overall, it was a refreshing drink, especially now that summer is in full-swing and any form of hydration is essential. I did like the cucumber taste, or rather "essence" as they called it,  but wish it could have been toned down because I couldn't drink something that tasted so cucumber-y  on a regular basis, especially if there was no mint flavour combined with it.

Some of the other Flow flavour combinations look intriguing, so it may be worth scoping out another flavour to try, especially the watermelon + lime.

Flow Water (this particular flavour - Cucumber + Mint) gets 2/4 Muse's

Have you tried any of the Flow water products? If so, drop me a line and tell me what flavour you tried out and would you buy it again!

Saturday, June 23, 2018

NO Whey! Review on Powerbar Plant-Protein Bars


Just a few things to mention before I start into the review.

Fat often gets a bad wrap, but we need certain types in our diet. Usually it’s the trans fats and saturated fats that many tend to stay away.  Then there are the “healthy” fats, like avocados, which can be an acquired taste and taste great whether tossing a few slices on bread, in a salad, or blending up to make guacamole for dipping veggies and another snacks.  Careful though, if you have a sensitive digestive system, eating too many per day will give you uncomfortable bloating.

Next up, protein. Most of us probably think we are getting plenty, but chances are, we are not getting enough. One main source is meat. For ethical or even health reasons, as well as the higher costs of purchasing good quality meats, this is not a top choice for many people.  Another big source is beans. You know the tune, “Beans, beans, the musical fruit. The more you eat, the more you toot.”  Pinto, kidney, chickpea, lima, etc... These are all excellent sources of protein, but not everyone can tolerate huge amounts in their diet.

Next we have our friend, fiber, which includes: soluble and insoluble. You can read about the differences with the links I provided.  Fiber is your digestive system’s best friend! You can get it in meats, grains, fruits, various vegetables and other sources of proteins, like nuts and seeds (especially flaxseed).

Then we have sugar, which I think we could all use less of overall. If you look at a lot of different protein bars, you’ll see they do contain a lot of good ingredients, but it is surprising to know how much sugar some of them have.

On with the review! Xy Stuff sent out 3 flavours of Powerbar Plant Protein bars to try out, in return for honest feedback! Thank you so much guys. :)

I know how much Bill loves the combination of peanut butter and chocolate, so I was quite excited to have him give his thoughts on that one.

The generous amount sent! #gotitfree

These bars have the following labels, if you care about them:

-No artificial flavours, colours or sweeteners 
-Non-GMO Project Verified
-Gluten-free
-No soy ingredients (they use rice and pea protein) 


I dig my cute planner and often I am snacking at my desk doing work. :) 

*Just so I don’t repeat myself – all had good amounts of protein and fiber, just wish less than 10 grams of sugar per bar!

  • Almond, sea salt and dark chocolate - It had a good chewy texture and no aftertaste. A perfect on the go snack that will keep you filled. I really like the sea salt and chocolate taste.
  • Dark chocolate peanut butter  -  There was no aftertaste, but even with the tempting combo of chocolate and peanut butter, it still tasted quite bland. I would have enjoyed a more chocolate and/or peanut butter flavour.  With the high amount of sugar, you’d think it would be sweeter. Bill was very underwhelmed by it.
  • Cashew, salted caramel and dark chocolate -  the holy grail of deliciousness! They sure got this flavour spot on with the salted caramel. It has a nice chewy texture, no aftertaste and satisfied any desire for anything sugary the rest of the day.

Overall, these protein bars have some merit. They definitely keep you full and have a good amount of nutrition.  The price is comparable with many other brands. On their site it is approximately $30US for 15 bars. You can find them cheaper on other online shopping sites. The big deal breaker is the amount of sugar at 10 grams per bar.

The biggest test for me was having to wait at the specialist for over 3 hrs. Side note, I had a good appointment and will blog about that later. I made sure that I had a cashew/salted caramel and dark chocolate bar with me and I only started to get a bit of an appetite after I left. So it definitely curbs those afternoon hunger pains – but in no way would replace a meal, at least in my opinion.


PowerBar Plant-Protein Bars gets 3/4 Muse's.

What kind of protein/nutritional bars do you grab? Leave me your comments below or feel free to email me!  

Saturday, June 2, 2018

Garden 2018

Note: Rocks look darker in the first pic because I took the photos at different times!
Still though, you get the idea. ;)
Well here we are into June! Sorry I haven't blogged very much. I have a lot going on and every time I sit down to write, I just draw a blank of where to start.  I have topics I want to write about and give my readers some updates, but i'm not quite in that mode. I think we've all been there, so I appreciate the patience and understanding.

On another note, here is the start of our little front garden. Flowers don't last, the squirrels and other creatures seem to bite off the bulbs right away and so it's a futile effort. So we're sticking with the garden o'rocks and just added some greenery. This flower/plant in the middle (transported from the large planter) is going to get taller than the mirror. lol Still nothing has bloomed though from it, so i'm not sure if anything will.

We put in some new decorative fencing as well, since the other ones pretty much were falling apart and Bill thought the mirror would add something unique, which I was uncertain about, but it looks great, so I shall never doubt him again. Hehehe...

Also added our "Serendipity" slate in the center that I made years ago. I love the sound of the word and on a spiritual plane, the meaning of it has really guided my life. It's an important piece in my puzzle. I think I want to change the sign to create something prettier, but for now, it works.

Our garden, including the little shrubbies with coloured glasses (Bill is in the blue and of course, I am in the purple!) seem to be getting a lot of positive comments from neighbours and other people passing by. You always know which place is ours!

Got any gardening tips that will make our spot pop? Leave comments below or you can always e-mail me!

Friday, May 11, 2018

Celebrations in Colour

Mother's Day is coming up and my Dad's birthday is literally the next day, so I thought I would surprise them both with these intricate art designs that I have spent a lot of time and effort colouring.

Thank you to Bill for making the sheets fit properly in the frames!

*Update: They loved them!


Monday, April 23, 2018

Crazy Beautiful Life

Hearing this song and lyrics could not have come at a more pivotal time.

I am really shocked that this particular track doesn't have more views because it is achingly beautiful on so many levels.

đŸŽ¶Whatever you got, whatever you give, you make it a beautiful life to live.đŸŽ¶
Thomas Hien & Scott Chesak - Crazy Beautiful Life
from "Why Him?" soundtrack.

Monday, April 9, 2018

The Many Faces of PTSD: Stéphane Beaudin Speaks Out

 Curled up around his shoulders is StĂ©phane's "Angel" cat LĂ©opold.
"He knows my schedule, and waits for me by the door.
He sits next to the tub while I take a shower and lays beside me at night."

We have all experienced traumas in our life, from a sudden illness that knocked us off our feet for a while, to dealing with some level of abuse from loved ones or even friends. Other times, we take on jobs or embark in careers that come with high amounts of stress or where one has to look death straight in the eye on a regular basis. Over time, we heal. However, some of us don’t and that’s where it gets complicated.

Try functioning “normally” with sleep-deprivation, agitation, feeling disconnected from your own body and thoughts. All those strange and usual sensations can inhibit your ability to have a fulfilling relationship or even find decent employment. Your support system can also wax and wane, leaving you feeling very isolated. These symptoms and much more can go on for days, months or even years.

Say hello to Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder. 

I would like to introduce you to Montreal-born, StĂ©phane Beaudin. He’s just your average guy, loves his family, full of community-spirit, and has a soft spot for political advocacy. What you don’t know is that StĂ©phane has a shadow that looms over him and that shadow is called Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (otherwise known short form as PTSD).

Stéphane has lived a tumultuous life, moving from Montreal to Windsor at a very young age, dealing with abusive relationships, bouts of poverty and more than most people could wrap their heads around. Although there were some very dark days (thankfully manageable now), these circumstances have not stopped him from fighting hard to overcome the hold that PTSD tries to grip many of our lives.

Below is my Q&A with StĂ©phane. 

1. Our society seems to be on stress-overload, yet it’s pretty amazing how some people are able to manage and are more resilient, while others just cannot cope and encounter debilitating anxiety and struggle with mental health conditions. When was the moment you realized that you were out of control and PTSD was taking over your life?

I’d have to say there were many indicators that I ignored for a long time. As a child, my step-fathers were very authoritarian and abusive. I was regularly “punished” for things as simple as leaving a glass on the counter. When people did things that were “against the rules,” I would fly into a rage, especially if they were not “punished” as I was. I’m not saying this on-going abuse was the only cause of my PTSD, but it surely didn’t help.

At 17 years old, I was enlisted into the Army. My mom signed me up and I was a tank driver, and armoured reconnaissance. I was trained to locate and destroy enemy targets. During a training exercise, on of my Captains who recently got back from Serbia started to display mental health problems and became very unstable. He ended up by accident, injuring me. I decided after that incident I would become a medic. I wanted to help people like him transition back to regular life. I guess that’s when I realized what I was going through and when the healing began.

2. What barriers have you faced in your professional and every day life and on the flip side, what strengths have you gained with having this diagnosis? 

No one knew until now what I was going through, and still dealing with on a daily basis. As one friend put it, “I put on a good show,” to which I reply, “fake it till you make it!”

It’s been a while since I left the army, but I still think like a soldier. I can’t let it get the best of me... that’s reserved for my family and friends.

I have lost good paying jobs and people sometimes think that I’m just an awkward guy trying to make friends. Truth be told, yes I am a little awkward, but that’s not always necessarily a bad thing. I do get discouraged sometimes and shut down, or become self damaging. As soon as I start to notice this pattern, I tell myself to do the opposite of what I want to do. It does help, but I find reaching out to my few close friends can really make a big difference.

3. What are the most troubling symptoms that still occur for you and how do you deal with them?

Here’s where it gets a little dark, but this is the reality of living with PTSD. I tried to hurt myself. Not once, not twice, but three times.

First time was at the age of 16. I tried to hang myself. Before I did it, I said to myself that if there is a reason for me being here tell me now. There was no reply but the rope snapped. The second time, was a repeat of the first and happened in my early 20’s. During my third and final attempt, my cat LĂ©opold ended up saving me. I actually hated cats, but obviously from this experience, I feel different. This little guy will be 14 years old this year. He is truly my angel.

On the days when I feel hopeless and worthless, like I can’t do anything, l I think about that day, as well as my wife and kids. It helps me get through.

4. People who suffer with PTSD often describe some of their sensations like a TV remote that is constantly switching channels in their brain. The painful memories can often be distorted yet feel like the encounters are happening all over again. What kind of strategies do you use when you are having an attack? 

You’re right. For me, it’s like a TV show where I’m the star... the ratings are bad and some of the episodes should have never aired, but they are there, and I am playing it out, over and over again.

I found taking up different hobbies helps. Anything to get out of your head. I love gardening, and wine-making. I also like painting and enjoy volunteering my time. Of course, physical activity is really important for me, so going to the gym to workout and maintaining a proper diet really does wonders.

Another step is having someone to talk to when you see the dark cloud coming. For me, LĂ©opold fits that category. He’s a good listener and doesn’t want to compare battle scars.

5. What is one misconception about PTSD that you would like to put to rest? 

Well, it’s not just first responders that suffer from PTSD. The average person who has never even been to battle can suffer. We don't always need to be medicated, we need proper outlets to deal with it.

6. What makes life worth living for you? 

My wife and kids are my world. I feel blessed to have them in my life. I will also include other family, like my aunts, uncles, siblings and parents. As I stated above, my hobbies (yup, I love my wine! Lol) and LĂ©opold hold dear to my heart.

Thank you Stéphane for opening up and sharing your journey with PTSD. I hope that others will have the courage and strength to keep fighting like you have in your life.

If you or a loved one is in crisis or require help in the Windsor-Essex County area, please contact any of the following:



Monday, April 2, 2018

MAD about Fashion!




Hey fashionistas!

Do you find shopping at the mall a daunting task? You go through racks of clothing, only to never find the right size because you’re either swimming in it or you literally can’t breathe because it’s so tight. This is me, all the time. Oh and of course when you do find something you like, it’s always the LAST one that the store has in stock and the salesperson breaks the news that they won’t be getting that item in anymore.

I love the idea that customized options are out there now that don’t cost a mere fortune. I know that the fit will be just right for me and I'll get exactly the design look and feel that I want. 

I wanted to share a little Q&A that I did with a multi-award winning, fashion designer and illustrator, Maxine Archambault! She is based out of London, Ontario, so just a few hours away from my city here in Windsor, Ontario. 

1. As a fashion designer and business owner, you certainly wear a lot of hats (hehe fashion pun!) in this career. Can you walk me through an average day.

I wake up at 5:30AM and get ready to go to work at Vaughn Custom Sports. This is where I make all the patterns using my own home system called Gerber. After that, I complete cut sheets and markers for all the orders that come in. After work, I go home and start working on my other job – my business. My planner is a life saver! I will usually work out my weekday appointments on the weekends, so I can make sure I get everything done I need to for the week. 

Every day I do something different from making patterns to cutting out all the samples and sewing them. I often make myself a sewing sequence by walking through the patterns in my head. Once I have a good idea of what I want the finished product to look like, I start sewing a sample, which I try on my mannequins at home.


After I have a finished product, I get a photo shoot done of the products for my shop. Aide from making new products, I also complete orders that come through on my website. Before any of these steps can be done though, I have to come up with the designs. It will usually take a day or two if I’m only designing one product at a time. If I’m working on a collection, that will usually take a couple weeks, as I want to make sure all colours and styles work together and can be mix and matched. 

As a matter of fact, I’m working on a collection right now for Summer 2019 – anyone who knows the design process understands the importance of working a year ahead to ensure everything will be completed and to match the trends for the following year. 

After a full day’s work at Vaughn and a full night of making new products for my shop, I like to go to sleep around 11 pm or at the latest midnight. It takes me some time to wind down as I have a thousand things going through my mind from cool new design ideas to my huge to-do list for the next day! 

2. On your website, you have beautifully crafted kimono’s, swim wear, dresses and more. What is the most challenging aspect of designing a piece of clothing? 

The most challenging part for me is the actual sewing process. The designing part comes naturally, I usually just find a bunch of photos of pieces I like and then I will incorporate a whole slew of them together to create a new design that follows the trends and is also something I would wear myself. 

Most of my inspiration comes from nature and the beach for swimwear. My design journal is full of pages and pages of ideas for completed garments and even some that might eventually be used in one of my pieces. It even has some pages of just pictures of shells, water, fish and mermaids – all of which are used as inspiration for fabric and new swimwear ideas. After the design process, the actual sewing to get that perfect fit is really what takes the longest, as I’m a bit of a perfectionist and want every creation to fit beautifully and coincide with the vision that is in my head.



One of many beautiful designs from Maxine

3. What materials are the easiest and most challenging to work with? 

For me, chiffon and nylon are the most challenging to work with. Polyester chiffon is easier to work with but silk chiffon, it just does not want to cooperate at all and will move in every direction while you’re cutting, sewing and even ironing it. Nylon was in my old lining I used for my swimwear pieces, but it’s just so thin and moves around just as much as chiffon. It also likes to pucker when you’re sewing with elastic, so I try not to work with nylon lining.

Gorgeous flowing cover up and flattering swimsuit.

Now I use a thicker lining that still has a bit of nylon for breathability, but not as hard to work with. It also looks good for high end pieces too. When wearing it, this lining feels so smooth on your skin and actually is more comfortable. All my swimwear is completely lined – this allows for a higher quality product and a longer lasting and comfortable swimsuit. 

4. Eco-fashion seems to be an important factor now with the growing concerns of protecting the environment. How do you ensure your materials are made from sustainable and ethically sourced materials? 

I am actually just starting out my swimwear business venture, so that will be something to consider. I do try to stick with one buyer for all my materials, which is a family-owned, local fabric supplier. I also make everything myself so there are no manufacturers or unethical labour practices involved at all. 

5. It is great to see the wide range of sizes that you cater to, from XS to 3XL. How does someone figure out what is the best size to order and are there any exceptions when you would suggest going one size larger or even smaller? 

I always provide a measurement sheet with each listing for buyers. This page will show bust and cup size, as well as waist and hip measurements. In order to figure out your size for bikini tops, one would stand with their back straight, for a more accurate measurement, wrap the tape measure around your fullest part of the bust, under your arms and around the back. The tape should stay parallel with the floor. You would then compare your bust measurement with the Tops chart provided on each listing.

For bottoms and one pieces, one would follow the same directions but with their waist (narrowest part between the bust and hips) and hips (the widest part of one’s pelvic area). If you are between 2 sizes, I always suggest to go with one size up for a better fit. If you are still not sure after measuring and you can’t figure out your size, I’m always available to contact and I will help you out. I can even make you a completely custom size that is made just for you, at the same price of any of the standard sizes.

6. If you could design something for any famous designer(s) who inspired you throughout your career, who would you choose, and what would you like to make them?

No famous designers, but a few celebrities have inspired me. AnnaLynne McCord in particular has been a huge inspiration for me. As a teenager, 90210 The Next Generation, was my favourite show and I watched it religiously. I own all seasons on DVD and truth be told, I could probably rewrite the whole script from start to finish. AnnaLynne’s character named Naomi had such an amazing style and her fashion was what really inspired me to want to pursue fashion in the first place. Specifically, in Season 4, Naomi went on Project Runway and it just fuelled my passion even more to become a fashion designer. In real life, Naomi has such an elegant and unique style that I love. If I was to design a resort wear piece for her, I think I would make a one-piece bathing suit with a long coverup, just like the one I had made for my capsule collection during my college years.

Thanks Maxine for a great interview!

If you’d like to get in touch with a creative entrepreneurial spirit like Maxine, contact her at:

Make sure to “LIKE” on Facebook

Follow on Instagram

Find her creations at the Etsy Store

Check out her awesome website for all your customized design needs: http://www.archambaultfashions.com

Monday, March 26, 2018

A Whole Lotta Love For Our Little Planet: Love Beauty & Planet Review

 Love Beauty and Planet is certainly taking the natural beauty care industry by storm!

As a ChickAdvisor, I received this amazing complimentary package of body wash, shampoo and conditioner that I wanted to share my honest thoughts on.


Body Wash (473 ml)
  • Heavenly scent with the combination of shea butter and sandalwood. 
  • Love the pump format. 
  • silky texture when applying 
  • no residue left on the skin after rinsing off
  • clean and nourishing
  • no irritation (so far!)

Shampoo/Conditioner (400 ml) 
  • Again, the scent is wonderful. I never really used anything with sandalwood but you literally feel like you have stepped into a spa when you open up the bottle from this particular line.
  • Wish it came in a pump format
  • Both products have a nice light texture
  • Easy to rinse off
  • See ya dry hair - this conditioner leaves your hair touchably soft
For the packaging overall, I like that the bottle is 100% recycled plastic, even though the cap nor the pump are. With the on-going environmental issues with plastic, it would have been better to have it in a glass bottle that could be reusable. Maybe something to think about in the near future.

The sizes of the bottles are great! A lot of other brands have dinky sizes that may be awesome and effective, but only last a very short period of time. They stand by their cruelty-free and plant-based mantra, yet charge way more! Sorry, i'm still a bit of a budget shopper, so if I am going to pay more than usual for a product, I want it to last! These will be used quite a while in my home and so although it runs a bit higher in price, you do get a lot of product and value!

Other great things about the brand that you may resonate with:

Vegan, cruelty-free, ethically-sourced and plant-based ingredients.

Check out their other product lines: https://www.lovebeautyandplanet.com/ca/en/collections.html

#tryLoveBeautyPlanet #gotitfree

Love, Beauty and Planet get 4/4 Muse's!