loquacious family

Sunday, December 4, 2016

A Night in Two Parts at the Vancouver Christmas Market

I've been doing the Advent countdown with Little L, and I've been mixing gifts of varying sizes (from a box of Christmas bandaids to a gorgeous reading tent from Domestic Objects) with experiences for her to enjoy over the course of 25 days.

We have already opened four gifts and gone on the Polar Express in Squamish, and tonight we enjoyed the Vancouver Christmas Market, courtesy of Murray Paterson Marketing. Because we brought an impatient preschooler along, we were only able to enjoy a few of the awesome features offered at this year's bigger and better market, which is being held at the Jack Poole Plaza for the first time. As such, we will be back for an adults-only encore for date night tomorrow, which means this post will be broken down into two parts: avec Little L and sans the munchkin.

****Avec La Petite L****

Of course our kid's favourite feature, and the one we beelined to upon entry, was the carousel. Rides are $3/ride or $10/five rides, but most ticket packages can be purchased with a ride (plus unlimited reentry to the market - awesome!), and adults who don't ride but accompany their kid are free! Because our girl is nervous about most amusement park rides, her first one was with the both of us, and on a seat rather than a horse. Tonight was no different, and we were luckily able to grab the sled seat for our first time on the carousel. 

Now, I don't know if our ride operator was slacking or just blessing us due to the short line-up, but our ride was much longer than any carousel ride I've ever been on. Awesome sauce for our little ride-lover!

Sadly, as the lines grew, our subsequent rides were much shorter than that first one. I saw that the ride operator even had a timer beside his control panel, and yet it wasn't used at all when I was watching. Too bad, since them tickets aren't cheap ($6 for all three of us to ride)! 

While the space was a bit tricky to navigate with a stroller due to the multi-level platforms of the plaza, I did appreciate the ramps that were set up for folks on wheels. These ramps weren't always easy to find, but I am glad that there were ways to navigate the market with our Baby Jogger.

Next stop (and every subsequent stop) was for food, because they had way more food vendors this year, and the range is pretty diverse and delicious. There were waffles and crepes, chimney cakes, spaetzel, bratwurst, spiced nuts, Bavarian pretzels, rotatoes, German pizza, soup, churros, corn, chocolate, candies, schnitzel, stollen, and more! Basically, carb heaven. For this low-carber, however, the pork hocks with sauerkraut was my best option. Of course, I couldn't help myself, so I totally took a bite out of Little L's chimney cake with lemon curd (oh holy night - it was divine).

Then we had to bolt, because the little one was fading fast and having her nap at 7:00pm was simply not an option for us. Because I still wanted to check out the various stalls of the many craft merchants at the market, I insisted that we come back again tomorrow night. Hubbs is willing, so we will be heading for Round 2 (with cash on hand - this market prefers cash) tomorrow night!

PS - We also have a third visit planned, since Little L has not yet had her fill of the carousel. Thank God for their season passes! :)

PPS - Parking is at the Vancouver Convention West parkade. It is one of those paid private lots, and while it is super convenient to the market (literally it is right beside it, and there is ample space), the prices aren't cheap. Per hour, expect to shell out over $7. The food is delicious but a lot of it costs north of $5 so you'll want to bring a ton of cash for that too :)

****Sans La Petite Fille****

So last night was Media night, and also a Thursday. The rainy cold weather alongside the weeknight scheduling meant that traffic wasn't too awful and the market wasn't too crowded. Today, however, was Friday, and everyone's always looking for a good time on Friday nights. We anticipated a long line and a packed crowd, particularly since it was not raining and kind of mild outside.

Surprisingly, the reentry was painless, and the crowds were minimal at 6:00pm. We even scored metered parking across the street, which was a bit cheaper than parking in the heated, covered lot.

This time, we armed ourselves with a ton of cash and took the time to stop at various vendor stalls to admire their goods. Festive nutcrackers, intricate incense burners, amazing scented soy candles, handcrafted woodwork, delicate glass ornaments, locally-harvested wild mushrooms, and cozy knit accessories were just some of the many vendors at the market. 

One of our highlights, however, was the not-kid-friendly Kathe Wohlfahrt ornament shop/tented pavilion, which up to this point Hubbs and I had never visited (despite having come to this market nearly every year since our move). It blew our minds! Every conceivable kind of ornament was there, along with these moving wooden scenes that remind me of animatronics window displays and cuckoo clocks, and schwibbogen, beautiful decorative traditional German candleholders. We weren't allowed to snap any close-up photos inside but here's my collage to give you an idea:

We spent a good amount of time just oohing and aahing over their gorgeous wares, and I told Hubbs that once Little L is old enough not to break stuff, I will be back to buy new trinkets for our tree!

Next stop: food. Of course. We needed another meat fix, so this time we shared a full pork hock. Yes, the whole fat leg. It was as delicious as I remembered 😜

We also splurged on a fried roto-zucchini, which I am fairly certain is not historically a German food. Then again, neither are Spanish Churros, but they were at this market too! Some other foods that I didn't try, but wished I could (carbs!), included chocolates, potato pancakes, and pierogies.

With filled tummies and some tasty treats to haul home, we departed the Vancouver Christmas Market, promising to return several times more before the 2016 season is up.

Should you go this year? A resounding yes! It is the best value to date, now that there is more to see and taste at this bigger (and better, more scenic and bright) location. Also, the earlier you buy your ticket (with the season pass option), the more you will get your money's worth in re-entries, although who are we kidding? You will also likely be kissing your dollars goodbye for costs like parking and carousel rides and shopping and food each time you go. The atmosphere is very festive, though, and the market is a fantastic way to kick off a month's worth of holiday celebrations. It is just one of those great traditions that will be on our family's calendar annually, and an experience not to be missed, even if the nutcrackers give Little L the creeps. 🎄

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Friday, December 2, 2016

The Hidden Costs of Having a Direct-Sales Home-Based Business

So you want to start your own home business? The opportunities are everywhere, ranging from toys and books to make-up and clothing to pots and pans and sugar and spice. The offers sounds lucrative, too, especially at a bottom-barrel starting price of just $20 or $200 or some number in-between; for that amazing value, you also get a bunch of business materials to help you get your business off the ground. Too good to be true?

If it is a true MLM, then yes. You're better served running in the opposite direction, before you take your friends to the cleaners and destroy all of your social relationships.

But I'm not talking about MLM's here; I'm talking about legit businesses with products (or services) that are high-quality and well-established. These are household brands that have been around anywhere from five years to five decades. Many have great reputations and are internationally-renown; some are even publicly-traded! The products and services are usually so awesome that they practically sell themselves. These are the businesses I'm talking about.

Now, before you sign on the dotted line, however, let me do you a great service. I'm going to tell you what nobody else mentions when they recruit you onto their team or downline. While I'm not saying that anyone is intending to neglect the fine print, I do think that these things aren't mentioned in part because they differ from person to person, and it also doesn't serves a recruiter to dwell on the negatives of a business, does it?

I'm not dissing on these work-from-home business opportunities, either, because they can be very lucrative or at the very least, incredibly personally-satisfying. Heck, I was in direct sales too! I loved it. I try to support my friends who work in direct sales. I buy from them whenever I can! But - as a business owner/direct sales consultant - nobody ever told me about these hidden costs, and that was one of the big fat reasons why Hubbs withdrew his support once the costs started rolling in. A smart business person always counts their costs. Let me help you do so, too!

1. Promotional Materials
You're going to want business cards, and maybe a website (or an extension of the company's website with your name on it). You may also want brochures, posters, postcards, bookmarks, signs or table runners, or maybe even one of those vertical banners that you can get from Vistaprint that you hang on a stand. I don't know of any direct sales friends who don't have a business card or catalogue, and while you can get quite a number of business cards printed for a relatively small cost, it is still at a cost to you. Your starter kit won't contain business cards, although maybe if you're lucky you will get a template that you can rip off and print on your own devices. If you need to buy catalogues or extra brochures from your business head office (and depending on the company, these catalogues come out as infrequently as annually and as frequently as bi-weekly), those will also cost you money over time. In my case, I shelled out for a newsletter service, a website, way too many catalogues, and magnetic business cards. I also bought a table runner with the company logo emblazoned on it.

2. Selling Materials
If you're selling a product, you will likely need plastic bags, or labels, or that sort of thing. I can also think of receipt books, pens, boxes and a calculator or two as part of the "essentials" list of things you'd need for a party or vendor event. Again, these are minimal costs that just begin to add up over time. While I do know of folks using up their stockpiles of plastic grocery bags to house their sold items, generally speaking I find that for the sake of aesthetics and making a great impression, most will at the very least get unlabelled, unbranded paper or plastic bags to deliver their purchases. If you're like me, you even shell out for the fancy branded ones.

3. Sample Materials
Here's the thing about direct sales - most people want to see the goods before they lay their money down. This means that you have to be your business's customer first. You have to buy the latest clothing samples or product lines so that you can show these off to your potential customers. If you already happen to buy a lot from your business, then this isn't an issue. For many who are starting out in unfamiliar territory, however, their own personal collection of their brand's wares may not be very big. The "starter kit" samples tend to cover the full range of products offered by a company, but you literally only get like one or two items from each main category. In the case of books, which was my direct sales business, I had nearly 30 titles before I even signed on, and yet, because titles (much like make-up and clothing styles) get discontinued over time, I found myself needing to amp up my collection of samples to show at my parties. Usually, DS reps do get to purchase samples at a reduced cost, but if you're buying something you don't want/need simply to promote it to your customers, that is a cost that you will need to factor in for the sake of the business.

4. Stock
So often, I hear people talk about how their direct sales companies don't require them to carry stock. To a point, this is true; there are direct sales companies that work on a subscription basis, and most direct sales offer customers the opportunity to order online or through their rep. However, for any direct sales rep who wishes to sell or promote themselves at a local craft/vendor market or trade fair, not having any cash-and-carry stock is pretty much a deal-breaker. People who shop at those events aren't usually interested in hosting a party or putting in orders for delivery three weeks later; they want to drop down some cash (or a credit card) and have something in their hands when they walk away. Sure, you might luck out with a couple of leads if you attend these events with just samples in tow, but if you want sales, you're going to have to eat the cost ahead of time and stock up on your stuff. This is a cost and a risk, of course, because usually you're not going to be able to return $500 or $2000 of stock if it doesn't sell. In my case, I had nearly $2000 in books when I "retired" from the business.

5. Display Furniture
Again, this is not a cost that everyone needs to incur, but most folks who are selling at vendor events will have invested in clothing racks or display racks or tables or something to help get their products displayed in an attractive way. I bought a table, a rolling cart, and five racks for my books; thankfully my racks were not super pricey as they had been passed down over the years from rep to rep. Nonetheless, all of these added together were still 3-digit expenses in the end.

6. Space
Depending on what your type of direct sales business is, you're going to need space and containers. Space to store your stock and selling materials, and containers to hold all of your stuff. At my peak, I had 4 milk crates and 8 rectangular bins full of books. I also (thankfully) had a heated garage with space to house my wares. If you become a direct sales business owner, your work stuff will inevitably eat up some of your space.

7. Family Time
Most parties/shows/markets/fairs tend to be scheduled on evenings and weekends, because that is when most people are available to host them or attend. This also happens to coincide with family time for most mommies and daddies, so if you plan to become a direct sales rep/business owner, be prepared to sacrifice some of this quality time with your family. You may also need to make arrangements for childcare, which are costs that can be mitigated if you have a compliant spouse (which I did... for a while).

8. Building Time
In the direct sales business, the benefit of flexible hours can also be a detriment. Your customers (or downline) may be contacting you at all hours of the day or night. Even if they aren't, you will also be investing a significant chunk of your time to a) promoting your business online or in person, and b) making connections with folks who may be interested in hosting a party or buying a product or using your service. Direct sales is still sales, which means you have to hustle to sell. Despite all the talk of how easy it is to set up your own business, actually growing it to a profitable entity takes a tremendous amount of time and energy, both in person and on social media. It is true that you can work as much or as little as you want, but those who do well and actually stay out of the red every year are the ones who work a lot at growing their direct sales business.  You totally have to evaluate if that is something you'd be willing and able to do.

9. Relationships
A cautionary tale for all direct sales consultants/business owners is to find that sweet spot between managing friendships and being a recruiter/salesperson. After all, most direct sales businesses are built on the premise of selling directly to your social circles: your friends, colleagues, family and neighbours. Sometimes, those circles are the least receptive to becoming customers, and any DS person would be wise to heed those boundaries. If an existing relationship sees you as being predatory or opportunistic in your zeal to introduce them to your new business, there is a risk that the relationship won't continue. If you blitz everyone you know on Facebook continuously, you're likely to get blocked or unfriended. Therefore, it's important to tread carefully. I intentionally didn't mix business with pleasure, which probably cost me a lot of profit but saved every one of my friendships.

10. Recruitment
Most direct sales companies don't talk about this initially, but once you sign up, you're likely going to be encouraged to recruit others to start their businesses. It is often framed as a positive thing - expand your business and dream big, help others become small business owners, and/or win big incentives from the head office in the form of trips or vehicles or other bonuses and titles.

The direct sales model is designed with two revenue streams in mind: sales, and recruitment. The sales piece can only take you so far in terms of profit, if that is your goal; you would need to be doing a lot of events or parties or online sales, likely for 8 hours or more each day, to generate sufficient income to offset the costs of your time and your materials. However, most folks who sign on to become a small business owner are doing a day job as well. If you do sell at a home party/soiree/show, these will last a couple of hours; online parties tend to similarly last several hours once all of the preparations and post-party calculations are factored in. Events like markets and fairs take even longer; you have to add the transportation and set-up/take-down time to the actual market time (not to mention the cost of paying for a table or two at these events)!

The recruitment path provides residual income from the people in your downline; a percentage of what they earn/sell is credited back to you, and once you've recruited and trained your recruits (or downline) to run their business well, you can sit back and enjoy the profits without any more significant investments. If those recruits then build their downlines further, you get an even more significant percentage of the profits. Therefore, recruitment is the more potentially-profitable stream of a direct sales business. That said, it's easier said than done. Recruiting can be fairly challenging, depending on who you are and how ethically you run your business. Finding folks who want to join up and start their own business under your leadership is not an easy task to begin with. More challenging still is finding recruits who actually want to build a business, versus those folks who sign up thinking they're getting a good deal on a starter package. We used to call them "kitnappers," because they'd try to score the initial deal on a starter package, and then do nothing until such time that they'd end up having to pay for the difference on the deal that they received.

11. Competition and Customer Service
For some direct sales companies, the product is only ever distributed by reps, which limits how customers can access the product and keeps prices relatively the same. For other companies, however, there are also commercial distribution channels that make their goods available for purchase apart from a consultant. In these instances, one thing to consider is how good your hustle game is going to be, because you will need to be able to compete with shops and online stores who can mass purchase and mass sell your wares for way less money than you're paying as a direct sales business owner!

For me, seeing my products at Costco and local bookstores for literally half of what I pay to get them wholesale was more than a little off-putting. To offset this, then, I knew I'd need to up my customer service game to make the customer experience worth the extra money. Delivery at the door was just one way that I went above and beyond, but again, it was at the expense of my own time (and gas) - a cost I hadn't initially intended on. Plus, in my case, I also kept to the honesty policy and would let my customers know if they could get a better deal elsewhere. It didn't grow my bottom line, but it also didn't compromise my integrity!

I've listed just some of the costs you'll need to be wary of if you do pursue a career in the direct sales business. It isn't very glamorous to advertise these hidden costs, nor to say that direct sales is in fact a lot of blood, sweat and tears - but that is the truth. It isn't a get-rich-quick scheme, and it isn't for everyone. 

There's a common perception out there that these types of home-based businesses are super profitable and super flexible, but the truth is that you'd be hard-pressed to find anyone who actually nets even $500/month from their direct sales business without having a huge downline. Most of my friends who work at these businesses don't operate them to be wealthy; they do it because they love what they sell and they are customers first, so being a part of the company just extends to them an extra little discount when it comes time for them to buy their goodies.

If that is what you're looking for, then by all means investigate your options and congratulations on your new business! If these costs seem a bit steep to you, however, I would caution you against signing up for *any* direct sales company; the costs are always, inevitably, more than that limited-time super bargain sign-up price that is advertised. Buyer (and business owner) beware. 

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Tuesday, November 22, 2016

An Eyeliner Switcheroo

For the past several years, I've been a very loyal Stila Stay All Day Waterproof Eye Liner fan. I mean, I use the stuff every single day, and I like to do dramatic wings on my eyes, so I need a quality eyeliner that is high pigment, won't smear, and has an amazing fine-tipped brush that will let me draw my eyeliner wings to a very long, dramatic tip. My standards are exacting when it comes to liquid liner. 

That said, my wallet hates me for it. Those amazing liners cost $30 a pop, and they only last a couple of months at the rate that I use them. 

So, as any responsible adult tries to do, I've attempted to save money and find a cheaper alternative. I've used all sorts of liners sent by IPSY, or bought at my local drugstore. Unfortunately, every attempt I've made has resulted in great regret. The brush applicator was too wide or too short. The eyeliner smudged too easily. The pigment wasn't dark enough. You get the idea.

However, I think I've finally found my inexpensive replacement for these very awesome, but costly Stila eyeliners. AVON. Yes, you read that right. The old lady make-up business that your grandmother used to order and your elderly neighbour down the block used to sell. That AVON. Trust me, I was a bit skeptical myself, but thought I'd give it a go since it was on sale for $7 and my friend Donna sells AVON. Incidentally, Donna is kind of my neighbour and she is indeed a grandma and she's awesome and rides a motorbike, so no stereotypes there. 

Anyway, AVON makes an eyeliner with a very long and unnecessary name: SuperExtend Precise Liquid Eye Liner. While the product name could use a bit of work, the eyeliner is straight up Stila in a cheaper packaging. The brushes are nearly identical, the pigments are equally black and smudge-proof, the lines are both skinny and fine and suitable to wing-making, and the Avon one costs $12 when it's not on sale ($7 when it is). Um, YES PLEASE. I can think of many things to buy with that extra $23 I'm saving. 

I've included a few pics for your information. 

Here are the two fresh lines I've drawn with both eyeliners. See? You can't even tell which one is Stila and which one is AVON. (AVON's at the top).

Here's a side-by-side of the brushes. Can you tell which one is which? The AVON pen on the left has a longer shaft by about an inch, which I don't love, and its lid isn't quite as secure as the Stila one. Nonetheless, I've not had issues with the lid popping off in my overstuffed cosmetics case. 

And here's a shot of my hand several hours later, after I had rubbed over both lines with my wet finger. Still pretty much intact, without a lot of smudging. The AVON one does smudge a tiny bit here, but it hasn't been an issue when I've been using it.

With the money I'm saving by switching to AVON (sorry Stila), I can now apply those dollars towards my newly-reinstated Ipsy subscription, too! Win-win for me. 

If you're wanting to give the AVON eyeliner a try and you're local to me, please contact Donna at her FB business page. I don't think she has a specific AVON page but she orders fairly frequently and she's awesome. And if you want to give IPSY a try (because I'm shameless), here's the link:


Happy eye-lining!

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Thursday, November 3, 2016

Bethesda Skincare - a Totally Biased Review

Sometimes I am as subtle as a jackhammer. Today might be one of those times. It's because I am so excited about the soap from Bethesda Skincare! If I don't tell you about it, it will be on my conscience forever.

Okay, so in full disclosure, I did happen to get a few bars gratis, because my friend happens to be in charge of their marketing and product design. That said, I did offer to pay for the soap, because I had every intention of supporting them with my money.

So, what makes Bethesda's bar soaps so amazing that I'm shilling for them? I don't usually write reviews for products unless they are personally awesome sauce in my books, and I only ever write reviews as PSA's to warn you, or to bless you. In this case, I'm doing you a favour by sharing the love. ;)

1) This soap is good for you. 
Have you ever considered that your skin is a living organ? I had not. But when you think about it, soap is meant to be a surfactant of sorts. It takes bad stuff off the top of your skin. However, unlike our kitchen countertops, our skin is also permeable and breathes. This means that stuff that we put on our skin can actually seep through at least the top layer of our dermis and possibly into our bodies. Because of that, it is important to be mindful of what you're putting on your skin.

The Sun and Shield bar is a soap that contains no artificial or toxic products; instead, it is an all-natural formulation that is fortified with moisturizers, essential oils, vitamins and minerals. You are actually taking your vitamins while you shower! Not only that, it also contains zinc oxide and titanium dioxide, which act as a natural sunscreen for your skin. While that isn't a substitute for using actual sunscreen, it certainly is a helpful additional barrier from unwelcome UV rays. I have used the soap to shave, and I have used it on my entire body; I even tried it out on my face to see how it would feel! Verdict: my skin gets appropriately moisturized when I come out of the shower, and I don't have that weird tightness and dryness that sometimes happens after you use bar soap. 

2) This soap is good for literally everyone.
Bethesda's products were designed with the medically fragile in mind. The founder and her family all experienced medical conditions that prevented them from being able to tolerate normal commercial soaps, so she had to get creative for her own needs. From the Baby Pure soap to the Wake Me Up coffee grounds bar, this stuff is safe for every age group, and every person you know, including folks who have serious medical conditions. Little L uses their Baby Pure soap, and so do the little toy penguins that bathe with her :)

Truth be told, I wish my dad was around to enjoy this soap; I would have totally given him bars and bars of the Wake Me Up. He was a total luxury soap aficionado and would have appreciated having a safe, nice-smelling soap to use when his body was dealing with all of that intense chemotherapy. The sister of the company's founder also battled colon cancer, and this was one of Jamie Collins Doss's motivations for developing a product that was truly safe for every kind of skin, including her late sister's.

3) This company is good.
When I think of ethical companies, I can't name too many. Most cut corners and have profit as their bottom line motivation. Bethesda's goals are more noble; how many other companies can you think of that actually give away their products for free? The Melanie Policy of Bethesda Skincare offers a free bar of soap to every cancer patient who writes to them. That's pretty amazing, right? Not only that, but the company also donates 10% or more of their profits to various charitable organizations around the world.

If you're like me, you probably love what this company stands for and is doing, but have a natural preference for liquid soap or body wash. Trust me, I have bottles of the stuff sitting on my shower caddy as we speak. I would go back to using them if I was out of soap, but my bar is lasting a really long time, which isn't a complaint. If anything, it has given me pause to consider just how much liquid soap I use and waste when I actually do use the stuff. I mean, a bottle usually lasted me a month...maybe. I would try to dispense a small puddle onto my hand or my bath sponges, but inevitably I'd end up squeezing too hard and spilling some of it down the drain. I'm no water treatment expert, but surely that can't be good for our world to have so much wasted and spilled liquid soap in our water! With a bar of soap, you can't really "waste" it as readily unless you're leaving the bar to steep in your bath water. I've been using mine for over a month (I have about half to two-thirds of a bar left to go), and my Bethesda soaps have been good about not drying and cracking; their undersides also haven't turned to mega mush in my soap dishes. Quality!

Anyway, these soaps are available for purchase online at www.bethesdaskincare.com, which is an American site billing in USD. If you're in the Lower Mainland, however, you are in luck! My friend will be participating in the Lower Mainland Vendors' Christmas Event at the Yaletown Roundhouse Community Centre on Sunday, Nov. 27 from 11:00am-4:00 pm, and you can buy the bars there. She may be a cash-only table, however, so please bring $ when you come to this free event (that will also involve 40 other local artists and vendors)!

As with most products, you have to try it out to really fall in love with it. At $5-8/bar, don't you owe it to yourself to give Bethesda soap a try, and support a business with heart? It's good for everyone, and it won't break your bank. You won't regret it. :)

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Thursday, October 6, 2016

My WOE, or It Is Getting Personal

Since puberty, I've been plagued with all sorts of awful symptoms. I will spare you the details, but suffice to say that these symptoms have at times been embarrassing, often inconvenient, and at one point utterly devastating. I attribute our very difficult journey to fertility on some of these symptoms, and after recently consulting with an internal medicine specialist, I was finally referred to an endocrinologist.

Per the specialist, someone, somewhere along the way of my nearly three decades of seeing doctors should have picked up on the obvious: I very likely have a metabolic disorder called PCOS (polycystic ovarian syndrome). My symptoms are all suggestive of PCOS, which is basically an issue with hormones in the body being out of balance, and producing more (or less) than required; a symptom of this imbalance is in fact the formation of cysts on ovaries, although they can sometimes be very very small and are almost always benign. There is no treatment for this condition, only a treatment to reduce its symptoms. The best way to do so? Lose weight.

I've been through a few scans and tests since then, and while the results aren't very conclusive, it does appear that my situation is a fairly "mild" case of PCOS relative to many others out there who have a very hard time with this condition. I'm not insulin-resistant, I'm not 300 pounds, and with assistance, I have been successful in having a healthy pregnancy that resulted in a gorgeous little girl. However, for the sake of my health and to reduce the symptoms that I do endure, I have to lose weight. Have. To.

My endocrinologist has advised bariatric surgery to assist in my weight loss. I, however, am fairly afraid of scalpels and anaesthesia. The alternatives, then, are either medication (no thanks!) or losing the weight on my own. I've been placed on the waitlist for bariatric surgery, but it is about 12-18 months long, so if in the intervening time I am able to drop the weight on my own, it won't be an issue anymore, because I simply won't qualify for the procedure, *and* I should be seeing an overall reduction in my symptoms that would negate my need for such drastic measures.

Anyway, those are the boring details. What's not boring is that I have recently begun eating differently; I'm following a hybrid Keto/low-carb, high fat diet to help put my body into a ketosis and hopefully train it to feed on my very ample fat stores. It's a diet rich in meat and dairy and non-starchy veg, and low on breads and sugar and fruit. My WOE (way of eating) has taken nearly a month for me to get used to, and during those first four weeks I did nothing but choose low-carb options. I didn't track my calories or protein, nor did I exercise. Even so, from the time I had weighed in at the doc's office to the time that I started weighing myself, I had lost 10 pounds. Water weight, I think.

As of this past Monday, I began aggressively following this WOE; I've been tracking my calories, fat/protein/carbs, sodium and fibre, and I have been cooking like a settler woman from the 19th century.

In just a few days, I've lost 3 pounds.

I have many many more to go, and I expect I will probably have bad days when my calories or carbs exceed my limits, but for the most part, I am committed. I have to be, since my energy levels were tanking and I wasn't able to stay awake in the afternoons to play with Little L. That's pretty bad.

So what am I eating/drinking?

Lots of egg scrambles with sausage, pancetta, bacon bits and/or spinach

Cheese and nuts and seaweed for my snacks

Chicken salad lunches

Cauliflower cheese bread

Fish and stir-fried ginger garlic cauliflower rice

Low carb cream-cheese pound cake (it's the stuff that is cubed into little pieces):

Anyway, I feel like this WOE is more like a WOL (way of life), and so my Insta and FB and even my blog posts will likely be peppered with images and whatnot as I figure all of this out. I'm still picky about what I like and don't like, and lazy in the kitchen, so these factors make my eating adventures kind of tricky. I'm leaning heavily on Google and FB groups to get ideas and keep myself motivated, but the ultimate motivations come from having more energy and life to actually enjoy having adventures with my little munchkin.

I have no idea why I decided to blog about this rather personal topic, but I guess since it is already creeping into my social media, I might as well come clean about eating clean :) Hopefully someone somewhere who needs a kick in the pants like I did will find this useful!

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Friday, September 23, 2016

Friday's Face

As you may know, the Trader Joe facial antioxidant products that I had raved about in an earlier post ended up burning my face due to my sensitivity to Vitamin C acid. Since I had already had a prior reaction when using another direct sale product, my skin decided to punish me for putting it through hell a second time. This go round, the warm, inflamed scaly patches refused to be quelled with the LaNeige Water Night Mask.

What's a girl with sandpaper skin to do?

Enter Saadia Argan Oil. Made by Moroccan relatives of this local company, this pure and natural oil literally saved my skin. It was in full burning/dry/rough mode as of Wednesday night, so I dug up my bottle and applied a good dose yesterday morning, and by this morning, my skin was feeling 90% better. For good measure, I applied a second dose 😊 The redness is gone, the skin temperatures have returned to cool, the swelling is no more, and most of that awful bumpy texture has been replaced by smooth, moisturized skin. I figure that at this rate, by Sunday I should be back to my old healthy skin! 😊

Disclaimer: I was given my bottle of Saadia Argan Oil as a gift from Greg of Ferguson Moving, kind of as a "thank-you for your business" and a "sorry, my movers broke a bunch of sh!t" gift. He doesn't know I blog and that I'm raving about his family's amazing product, which I do plan to buy another bottle of once this one is done. Also, I will still use them as my movers in the future. 😊👍🏼

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Tuesday, September 20, 2016

Tuesday Tip

I'm not a big fan of synthetic things but I am a huge fan of efficiency, or maybe I'm just lazy. Whichever. Regardless, here's a life hack for ya! Disclaimer: it does involve chemical-laden materials so if you're all-natural, toxin-free, ethically-raised and locally-sourced exclusive, this isn't for your crunchy granola heart.

Today, yours truly burnt cream cheese onto her stainless steel pot today. Yes, I stepped away for all of a minute and it burned. Iron Chef I am not. 

So yeah, I remembered reading something about using a Bounce dryer sheet to help eliminate scrubbing and make cleaning the pot a lot less painful. Less scrubbing? Sold. 

I tossed a fresh dryer sheet into the pot with an inch of warm water and let it soak all day. The white sheet did a great job of covering up the nasty brown burns so I didn't mind leaving it on my stovetop, like some science experiment in the works.

Then, when I prepped dinner, I remembered to clean the pot. I mean, it was right in front of my face, so it was a great visual reminder too! And while the promise of no scrubbing was a lie, using the Bounce sheet did significantly reduce the amount of elbow grease I had to expend to salvage my cookware. I scrubbed at about 30% effort and it took all of a minute to return it to its former glory.

And now it is shiny again, although it smells distinctly of "Outdoor Fresh" so I'm gonna be dishwashing that pot before returning it to rotation. 

Easy peasy! 

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