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Making the switch to Non-Toxic Cleaning Products

posted by Elle    |   February 10, 2014 08:54

Call me crazy, but I kind of enjoy cleaning. I have created in my mind a continuum of household chores (based on the enjoyment and gratification I get from each) on which doing laundry is extremely low, and vacuuming is king. This is partially because I recently purchased an iRobot Roomba, meaning that I don’t actually have to put any effort into it. The investment in Roomba was mostly due to my longhaired cat - sort of to maintain a cat-hair-free home, but mostly for the potential for this to happen in my life.

Fairly high up on my home cleaning task spectrum is cleaning the bathroom, simply because I cannot stand a dirty bathroom. The surfaces typically found in bathrooms are just meant to  be clean. Sparkling faucets, shiny mirrors, pristine porcelain, spotless tile. I get a lot of  satisfaction from doing a really intense clean on a bathroom. In the past, this delight and contentment was paired with minor dizziness, accompanied by watery eyes, along with a feeling of slightly singed nose hairs. Why? Long story short, fifteen minutes spent cleaning the bathroom was enough time for the toxins in my cleaning products to wage a full-on war on my body. 

I don’t think the toxicity of common household cleaners is a secret, but perhaps this issue is not given as much consideration as it should when we make purchase decisions. 

For many people, the cheapest product on the shelf wins. Luckily, cost doesn’t have to be an issue, and you’ll find out why in a moment. First, allow me to convince you to switch to non-toxic cleaners. I pulled these points from an article found here


Why You Should Be Concerned About Your Cleaning Products

There is no requirement in Canada for manufacturers to warn consumers about the health and environmental hazards associated with exposure to chemicals found in many household cleaning products. 

Many common cleaning products contain chemicals that are not only irritants (the burning nose and throat), but are associated with blood disorders, reproductive problems, liver damage, migraines, and cancer. 

Exposure to toxins continues long after the cleaning job is done. The toxic chemicals we use in our homes linger in the air we breathe, they are absorbed through the skin, they end up on the cutlery and dishes that we eat from, and we ingest them through the chemical residues found on household dust. 

The toxins are also destructive to our environment, and are particularly damaging to aquatic organisms and ecosystems when flushed down toilets and drains.


Luckily, There Are Several Alternatives

Given all of that, it wasn’t a difficult decision for me to make the switch to cleaning products that are natural and non-toxic. However, as with most things, the price tag on products labelled natural, organic, or non-toxic tends to be higher. Like I said, cost doesn’t have to be an issue, and if you enjoy DIYs, you’ll love making your own non-toxic cleaning kit with these easy recipes. Ounce for ounce, homemade cleaning formulas cost about one-tenth the price of their commercial counterpart. Cheap, cheap!

If DIYs aren’t your thing and you would prefer to purchase your cleaning products, making the switch provides a great opportunity to support local retailers in Saskatoon who offer excellent alternatives. Check out Envirowise, The Better Good, or Dad’s Organic Market for some safe and effective brands. You can find helpful product ratings and reviews here

If you are someone who does not enjoy cleaning, or if you simply do not have the time to do it yourself, consider having local Saskatoon residential cleaning company Fresh Living take care of it for you. They use only environmentally friendly, health conscious cleaning products.

When you make the switch to non-toxic products, whether you whip them up yourself, purchase them, or have someone take care of it all for you, you can rest easy knowing that your health and the health of your family and pets is protected, and damage to the environment is reduced. 

If you choose to go the homemade product route, I highly recommend using the money you save to purchase a Roomba. And if you have a cat, a shark costume. And maybe a duckling. 

How To Fight a Cold with Natural Remedies

posted by Elle    |   February 4, 2014 15:43

You've probably been there. Its early afternoon, and you suddenly become aware of a very slight, nearly undetectable irritation in the back of your throat.  You swallow a few extra times, take a sip of water. This sudden awareness of your body leads you to notice that you're feeling a little more tired than usual- and that very slightly sore feeling starts to creep into the back of your eye sockets. By the end of the work day, the intensity of your sore body and throat has at least doubled, and you start to feel the congestion coming on. When this series of events happens to me, which it undoubtedly does at least a couple of times a year, I often feel as though I can still take measures to avoid succumbing to the impending sickness. There are some things that I usually do to fend off a cold when it comes around, and oftentimes I am able to bounce back from those initial symptoms with these simple home remedies (some more enjoyable than others). 


This is one of my first go-tos when I feel a cold coming on. I eat it raw, followed by chugging water. The water is necessary- I'll be honest, raw garlic burns the tongue a little bit. I have used garlic as a remedy in the past without really understanding how it works, so I looked into it. It turns out, garlic contains the compound allicin, which has been shown in medical studies to help fight the common cold and shorten its duration. It is antiviral and antibacterial, and supports the immune system. The antiviral effects of garlic are most potent when it is raw, but if you want to avoid the slightly painful raw garlic mouth, it does come in supplement form!


As I said, downing water goes hand-in-hand with the garlic, but I usually try to also continuously sip on water or tea to keep myself hydrated while I am feeling a cold coming on. I like to make a concoction using fresh ginger root simmered in water with lemon and honey. Ginger is reported to be both an antihistamine and a decongestant, so this homemade tea will help with symptom relief and will hydrate you all at once. I really enjoy the taste of it as well. 

Salt Water Gargle

This one isn't a ton of fun to do, but it does work, for a few reasons. Not only does gargling salt water ease the symptoms of a cold, it also can be used as a preventative measure. I did some research into this method, and found that people who gargle regularly are 40% less likely to suffer from upper respiratory tract infections. I find the salt water gargle difficult to work into a daily routine, simply because I dislike doing it. But, it can be great for symptomatic relief when you start to feel a cold coming on. Salt water kills bacteria and also breaks up phlegm, helping the phlegm move out of your sinuses. Yuck! It works, though. It also is an astringent, so it helps with sore throats and sinuses. I gargle with about a teaspoon of salt added to a small cup of warm water - a few times a day - when experiencing cold symptoms. 


This one is easy to get on board with! Get extra rest. Who doesn't enjoy an excuse to do that? When you sleep, your body produces proteins called cytokines that protect you from illness. Skipping sleep hinders the production of cytokines, and your immune system suffers. I personally love to sleep, so this one comes easy.

Honestly, I'd recommend the ginger bevy followed by a little extra sleep every single day- cold symptoms or not! :)

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Buying your first pair of maternity pants?

posted by Noël    |   January 31, 2014 09:26

It’s official, I am pregnant with my first baby! And wouldn’t you know it, the moment I found out, my pants stopped fitting right.  How is that even possible? 

At 7 weeks I was struggling to wear nearly all of my pants, except of course for my painting pants and those loose fisherman pants I wear on the rare occasion around the campfire. Unfortunately for me, those pants don’t really work with silky blouses and suit jackets.  In a panic, I ran to the internet to see if there was a solution to my quickly expanding problem.  

After reading expert columns and numerous blogs, I began to feel a bit ‘abnormal’. I realized that ‘most’ women don’t really need to buy new clothes until their second trimester, based upon the healthy amount of weight a woman should gain during the pregnancy.  Great.  Just Great.  Now what? 

For the next week I tried everything in order to wear my pants to work, and it was absolutely horrible! I found myself taking extra trips to the washroom just to unzip my pants and give my belly relief, even if it was only for a few moments.  At the end of the week, I was at the point were I was wearing unzipped pants to meetings, praying that when I stood up at the end of it my pants would follow my lead. 

During supper one evening I turned to my husband and said “Babe, I’m sorry, but I think I need to go and pick up some new pants for work, I just can’t wear the ones I have.  Is that okay?” and my husband’s reply was “Sweetie, you don’t need to be sorry, you’re PREGNANT, and you should do whatever you need in order to be comfortable.” And that was that.  The very next day I made my way over to Thyme Maternity in Saskatoon's Lawson Heights Mall in pursuit of a pair of maternity pants. 

Walking into the store, I felt embarrassed. I didn’t want to have to share with anyone that I was only 7 weeks along and already needing new pants.  As the associate approached me, I tensed up and nearly shouted out that I was there buying pants for a friend. Instead, I drummed up some courage and stated that I am there to get pants for myself.  

Sifting through the racks of clothing, the kind lady asked me how far along I was, and... I hesitated not wanting to share, because all I could hear were the expert columns reminding me that I shouldn’t really be there yet.

Looking back at her, she was smiling at me and awaiting my response.  I begin by apologetically confessing that I was only 7 weeks along, and she replied with “Oh how fantastic! Nearly two months along, how are you feeling?” I was shocked! Absolutely shocked by her response.  Thinking that perhaps she didn’t hear me right, I continued to explain that I know it’s not normal to need new pants already, but she quickly interjected stating “Who said?... Every woman is different and there is no need to be hard on yourself.  Whether you are 4 weeks, 7 weeks, or 18 weeks,  the most important thing is to enjoy this journey and embrace the changes that are happening to your body.”  And in that moment, I felt normal.  

My two hour outing at Thyme Maternity was exactly what I needed.  I walked out of the store feeling excited about what was on the horizon.  Instead of worrying about how quickly I was expanding, I chose to focus on how amazing this whole process was going to be.  

If you’re like me, needing new pants at 7 weeks, know that you’re in good company.   No matter if you are 4 weeks, 7 weeks, or 18 weeks, the most important thing is to enjoy this journey and confidently embrace the changes that are happening to you.  

I highly recommend paying a visit to Thyme Maternity for fantastic pregnancy apparel options. Check them out online for some great "Bump to Baby" checklists and shopping tips. 

(photo credit: Thyme Maternity)

I'd Rather Be Thrifting

posted by Elle    |   December 10, 2013 12:29

Upon simultaneously reaching my mid-twenties and completing my university degree, I took a look at my living space with a new set of eyes that were suddenly both mature and well-educated. What I saw was displeasing to say the least. During my time in school I had continuously placed homework before homemaking, resulting in a space that was characterized by boring, beaten Ikea furniture and decor (or lack thereof).

Being a recent graduate with high loan payments and a low income, I decided that I would try to re-decorate my space on the cheap. At one point in my life this had meant buying basics at Ikea, but I felt that I wanted something a little more unique this time around. I had accumulated a big black garbage bag full of clothing destined for goodwill, so I headed to Saskatoon's second Value Village location in Stonebridge, with the intent to drop it off and take a look through the housewares section for some interesting vintage-esque decor pieces to spice up my living room.

I sauntered down the three or four odd aisles of lamps, dishes, frames, and of course, knick-knacks. I was looking for something I could pluck off the shelf and plunk down on my end table or bookshelf at home. Ten minutes of scanning the shelves left me empty handed. It then occurred to me that I am a fairly creative and crafty individual, and that I mustn't sell myself, or the oddball Value Village knick-knacks, short. I resolved to re-visit each aisle with a different frame of mind. Instead of looking at the items at face-value, I tried to see the potential for my creativity to bridge the gap between the unsightliness of much of what I saw, and what a little paint or refinishing could do.

With this new perspective, items started to jump out at me.

A pastel ceramic fish could easily be painted over in vibrant folk-art style colours. A dingy brown porcelain owl could even more easily be painted a pristine, glossy white. I had apparently simply missed a pair of black horse-head bookends, no revamping required. I discovered so many treasures with this new outlook, that I had to retrieve a little basket on wheels from the front of the store to cart them around in. I was surprised by the feeling of elation that came over me as I trucked my newfound treasures to the cashier. The excitement of having recognized the potential in the seemingly awkward little knick-knacks was only enhanced by the incredibly low number on my receipt.

As I made my way to the parking lot, I was reminded of additional reasons, extending beyond my own personal enjoyment, why thrift shopping is awesome. Reusing items that would have otherwise gone to waste is obviously good for the environment for many reasons. Also, Value Village and many other thrift shops in Saskatoon do a great deal of social good for our community. Value Village specifically, uses the income generated by the sale of donated items to benefit people in our province who need support. Value Village partners with the Saskatchewan Institute on Community Living to ensure that funding, education, health, respite, and housing (among other things) are available to people in our province with intellectual disabilities. Not only did I have way more fun on this shopping excursion than I would have had at a typical home decor store, but I also saved a ton of money, left with several exciting creative projects on my horizon, and did a little bit of good for our planet and Saskatoon community.


How to buy a Free Vacation! Who doesn't like free?

posted by David    |   December 7, 2013 12:45

Things are always better when they are free. Vacations are no different. Almost every bank offers a 'travel credit card' promising free vacations if only we use their card for everyday purchases. According to Stats Canada (2011), the average Canadian household spends about $25,000 on transportation, food, telephone/internet, and clothing per year. This money can be leveraged to earn free vacations! As residents of chilly Saskatoon, many of us are craving a holiday in a hot locale come February. So which credit card offers the best deal for getting us on that warm beach as soon as possible?


BMO Air Miles World MasterCard

The BMO Air Miles World MasterCard gives you the ability to gain Air Miles through credit card purchases. If you already collect Air Miles, this credit card will allow you to 'double dip' on purchases and theoretically gather Air Miles twice as fast. The rate at which you will accumulate Air Miles is 1 Air Mile for every $15 spent.

If you use Air Miles to fly, this credit card gives you an extra discount, allowing you to use 25% fewer Air Miles per flight. This means that you can spend 769 Air Miles for a $400 flight to Calgary or 1575 points for a $612 flight to Toronto. Each Air Mile is worth around 40 to 50 cents, which means you'll be getting 2.5% to 3.5% back on your purchases. If you desire to fly within Canada for free, there is no better rate than with the Air Miles World MasterCard.

However, finding a non-stop flight outside of Canada is next to impossible. The average travel time for a flight to Minnesota is 8-10 hours, as they have you travelling to Chicago or Toronto beforehand. If time means anything to you, and you want to fly outside of Canada, it would be best to look elsewhere for free flights. The deal is still quite good financially, but is a free flight really worth it if it takes you 4 times longer to get to your destination?


Royal Bank Platinum Avion Visa

The Royal Bank Platinum Avion Visa offers 1 RBC Reward Point for each dollar spent with the Visa card. When redeeming points for air travel, each point is worth about 2 cents towards your ticket flight. (The TD Travel Rewards card is comparable to the Royal Bank Avion, but offers slightly less.) An example of travel would be a $900 trip to Hawaii for 45,000 points. So you would receive around 2% back on all your credit card purchases for flights. While 2% is lower than the Air Miles 3%, trips outside of Canada are more enjoyable since non-stop flights are much more readily available. If you want to fly outside of Canada, the Royal Bank Avion is the best card for you.


The Big Question: Where are you going?

The winner in this competition is dependent upon where you're going.

If you want to fly within Canada, your best option is the BMO Air Miles World MasterCard.

If you are more interested in flying internationally, your answer is the Royal Bank Avion Visa (unless of course you do not mind travelling for hours and hours taking painstakingly non-essential connecting flights).

Happy traveling!

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