fall 2016 sample source

I love that each time the seasons change here in Canada, Sample Source sends out another box full of samples tailored to you! Sample Source hits both the Canadian and the US market with their audience. Once you sign up, you’ll get an email from them letting you know to log in and complete a few questions to determine and then select which samples you want.

I’ve been getting Sample Source for about two or three years now. I love it! I even got my sister in the loop so she can receive samples to her house too. To determine which samples you will receive, you answer questions based on your living situation, lifestyle, current purchases, and a couple other factors. Here is the list of what I received.

1.Persil ProClean laundry detergent
I’m not picky with my laundry detergent. Earlier this year a German based company launched this product in Canada to compete with the handful of leading laundry soap companies we have. I used it on a load of towels and had no complaints or “wow” moment.

2. Emergen-C vitamin supplement
I’ve received this before in a Sample Source. I should have opted out to receive this item but it’s nice to have during cold season. I really disliked the taste. Essentially it’s a power you mix into your drinks and it provides 1000mg of vitamin C.

3. Tylenol Ultra-Relief (20)
I was surprised to see a bottle with 20 of their “eZtabs,” receiving a pack with a couple would be just another item but the fact that they sent an entire bottle was cool. It’s always nice to have an acetaminophen handy in case of a headache.

4. V8 +Energy drink // Peach Mango flavour
I was surprised to see a full size drink (the size of a Redbull can) in the package. Luckily it didn’t explode to break to damage my coupons! The drink is made with real green tea which offers the energy. The taste was light and non-carbonated which was a hit!

5. Tetley Balance tea (Cinnamon + Camomile + Orange)
I enjoy trying new teas. Although I haven’t gave this one a chance yet, I look forward to it!

6. Nutrigrain Fruit + Nut bar (Harvest blueberries + Mixed nuts)
Yum! This bar was good. The sugar levels were pretty high which is likely why I enjoyed it, so don’t be fooled by the package which kind of makes it seem healthy or good for you. I did like the taste and would purchase these as a snack or to add to a day when breakfast is on the road.

7. Special K Nourish bar (Dark chocolate + Almonds)
Same as above. Great bar, I loved the flavours. I actually have been buying dark chocolate with almond bars recently. They have a good amount of sugar in them, so don’t let that fool you!

8. Breathe Right nasal strips (Lavender)
Luckily, I don’t get a stuffy nose too often but I’ve used these in the past and they do provide relief. The lavender scent is a nice touch too! They are simple to use and are a nice alternative to using a sticky lotion or gel on your chest.

9. MotriMAX 12-hour liquid gels (4)
Sadly, I’ve used this product many times before. These naproxen pills provide relief of joint pain and inflammation from muscle and arthritis pain. I keep these handy at my desk at work.

10. Gaylea Real Coconut whipped cream
I love how they include full size items to try out! I wasn’t able to find this product at my local Walmart, but I think I’ll be able to get it at Foodland. I’m unsure what I’ll use the flavoured whip cream on but excited because I do love coconut!

11. Nordica Smooth Salted Caramel
I would have never tried this product, or any cottage cheese if it weren’t for Sample Source. I can’t even begin to tell you how much I really love this product. It’s like greek yogurt kind of! Salted caramel is a kind of new flavour, you’ll start to see it more and more now that it’s been brought to your attention. I’ve seen it in the grocery store and amongst other options at random coffee shops.

12. Astro Zero yogurt
I love yogurt. I wasn’t able to find this product at my local Walmart, but I think I’ll be able to get it at Foodland and I am pretty excited to try it.

13. Nescafe Sweet & Creamy instant coffee (3)
These were actually pretty good and definitely convenient. Simply add the package with hot water in your mug and stir. Sample Source sent out two regular coffee packages and one french vanilla flavoured package. I enjoyed both!

14. Arm & Hammer Truly Radiant toothpaste
To be honest, I haven’t used this product and likely won’t until I am going somewhere overnight or travelling. I am picky with my toothpaste options but enjoy using the sample size ones that I get from the dentist, etc. for when I am travelling.

15. Cesar Home wet dog food
This was the first time I’ve never let Ellie (my dog) eat wet food. I am pretty picky with what I feed her. She gets the limited ingredient, no grain added food but I knew she would love this as a treat. To be honest, I likely won’t buy it because wet food kind of grosses me out. 

16. Royal Canin Fussy Appetite dog food
Again, I am pretty picky with what I feed Ellie. She doesn’t get much “human food” ever and I’ve been buying the same brand of food since she was a puppy. However, I have received a ton of samples since having her from family or at events and have no problem mixing a bit of the package into her bowl with the regular stuff from time to time.

What I also like about Sample Source is that they include coupons from the manufacturers. That way, if you like something that was included then you might be able to save a bit of money when you decide to purchase it. Their service is a great way to try before you buy!

cooking for one // buffalo chicken shells

I love food with a little bit of kick to it. I’m not one to cringe at the thought of spicy foods. Buffalo chicken wraps.. buffalo wings.. I love them all. A couple weeks ago I saw some different variations of people stuffing the jumbo pasta shells online. This week I had a BBQ chicken breast left over and figured I would see what I could come up with.

The first step in making the buffalo chicken shells is to cook and cut your chicken up into little chunks, or step it up and use rotisserie chicken. While you’re doing this, start to boil the water to cook your jumbo pasta shells in and preheat the oven. I set the oven to 425 degrees.

You don’t have to cook the pasta shells entirely, in fact its better to have them done “al dente,” mostly cooked, but not enough for the shells to be super soft that they will rip open on you. Next I added shredded marble cheese, diced red onion and BBQ ranch dressing in with the pieces of chicken that I had cut up. Then comes the good stuff! I usually use Frank’s Red Hot Sauce but when I ran out, I replaced it with PC’s Hot Sauce! Drench the mix with that!

I’m sure red peppers would be great too, but I didn’t have any in the fridge. You can also use regular ranch dressing, but I’m currently lovin’ the BBQ ranch dressing from Kraft.

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You should leave enough cheese aside so you can top the shells off once you’ve stuffed them. Stuffing them was easy, I left the pasta shells cool down a bit so I could use my hands and that was much easier than when I was trying to stuff them and not touch them using a spoon. Once they were stuffed, I loaded them with some more shredded cheese and topped them off with real, little bacon bits!

PS. I was stuck for a side and wanted something quick. I didn’t have enough lettuce to make a caesar salad so I microwaved a regular potato and then cut it up into chunks. I then tossed these chunks in a little bit of olive oil and a generous amount of cajun seasoning. I never said this was a healthy recipe.. right? But this meal was pure comfort food and lacked veggies.

After about 15 minutes in the oven, dinner was ready!

marketing your brand

It’s no surprise that I grew up online. Feeling inclusive online was, and still is pretty important.. I know that sounds horrible. It’s key that not only do your followers feel inclusive, but that you are actually inclusive in their social media consumption. Get them engaging with your posts through likes, comments, and if you’re lucky: shares! To help, I have put together five quick tips for you. If these go over your head, it’s time to get some help. Remember, focus on your growth.

1. Be selective with your social platforms 
Are you using Pinterest? Why or why not? If you’re active and not seeing any traction, you need to review what you’ve done and where improvements can be made. Maybe Pinterest isn’t worth your time but creating and maintaining a YouTube channel is.

2. Social is an around the clock gig
Ask any social media manager, we’re constantly monitoring comments for feedback and engagement. After all, no one enjoys hate comments on their posts! Be there to dive into the conversation quickly before it escalates. If need be, don’t be afraid to ban users or even hide comments. Have a policy in place, maybe you will warn them first. While I was working for larger brands, the level of inaccurate information posted in the comments and the links filled with spam was always present and something I monitored. Social is more than marketing, remember that A LOT of people turn to their social media to vent or to reach out and receive customer service through tweets, direct messages, etc.

3. In-house vs. agency or contracting 
This ties into number two, social media is time consuming and not for everyone. You’re a blogger, a vet, a culinary expert, or a busy entrepreneur.. right? Remember you might not be cut out for new age marketing and that’s okay. Be involved and learn, or step away and watch. It’s key to decide early on if you or an employee will be responsible for all the marketing efforts including creating content, managing the budget and putting the time in that is required.

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4. Dive into paid-advertising
I could show you the results I’ve had while running some  (low-budget) campaigns for clients in the past, we were both impressed! The analytics that come with it are much more information than the letter you’ll receive by donating a couple hundred to a local sports team. The feel good warm feeling doesn’t always result in good or relevant marketing. Social networks let you customize your budget and really narrow your target market (even geographically, of course) Save the money on printing brochures or placing ads in the classified ads. You can start off with $10!

5. Promote your social media offline 
This is a surprisingly often over looked! Some of your regulars might not even know you have a Facebook page, or an Instagram account and whatever else for your business. Make it obvious! Present the idea for people to follow you by letting them know in-store, on your packaging, on print materials, by word of mouth, etc. You are on social media!

I created this blog while working freelance to assist local small businesses with their marketing efforts. Feel free to shoot me an email at boywhoblogs@gmail.com if you think I can help you. Bloggers, small business owners, online shops – whatever you do!

superfoods to grab next grocery shop

You’ve heard the saying, you are what you eat. The older I get, the more care I have about what I’m filling up on. Over the last few months I have been trying to cut out a lot of junk including eating fast food, sugary drinks, salty snacks and sugar-filled candy. I have and will always have a sweet tooth so fitting the urge to devour three chocolate bars, a bowl of ice cream or bag of candy from Bulk Barn kind of sucks. I’ve found some “super foods” that are delicious and healthy for you to pick up next time you are out picking up groceries.

1. Almonds
Not only are almonds loaded with healthy fats, they are also packed witj protein, fiber, and vitamin E. Almonds are great for your digestive system, your heart and your skin. The ideal time of day for almonds is not before bed, but as a snack through out the day. Grab a bag and keep them stored at the office or in the car for a quick snack.

2. Pomegranates
Pomegranates are one of my current obsessions right now. Although they take a bit of work to peel and gather the seeds, I love them! They are loaded with antiviral and antitumor power. Pomegranate is certainly a great source of vitamins, since it includes vitamin A, C and E, as well as folic acid.

3. Green tea
Green tea is loaded with a variety of antioxidants which lead to a variety of positive effects on your body. Green tea is known to help fight cancer, the development of Alzheimer’s and to help aid weight loss. Hot or cold, you should be drinking at least one cup of green tea a day. Another thing to look into is matcha green tea – matcha is the entire green tea leaf finely grounded into a powder substance that can be used in cooking and making drinks.

4. Quinoa
I was hesitant to try quinoa because I seem to have an allergy to random “seedy type foods” like chia and sunflower seeds but I didn’t react to quinoa – likely because it’s more a “grainy food.” Quinoa is an ideal source for fiber, iron, calcium and B vitamins. This superfood is one of only a few plant foods containing all nine essential amino acids.

5. Blueberries
Compared to other berries, blueberries pack more vitamins and minerals than any other. You can eat them as is, cook them into something like muffins or enjoy them mixed into your yogurt or salad. Blueberries are known to help fight off heart disease by lowering the total amount of cholesterol in your blood.

raising a puppy

I feel the most rewarded when I achieve a  financial goal that I had set for myself. I knew I wanted to travel more and I knew I wanted a puppy. Yes, I know, these two things don’t go well together. About nine years ago I created a bucket list for myself on a small little notebook. Eat a Big Mac was one of the things I’ve crossed off. Another item on that list was to raise a puppy. Growing up I had dogs, but they were never my own. I didn’t take on the responsibility to raise them, to train them, to be their “master.” About a year ago this changed.

Finding a dog online isn’t the easiest. I did so much research into various breeds, their common complications, different behaviours, etc. I knew I wanted a female dog  and then the search began. Where I live you can’t purchase a dog from a pet store and I support that. Unless you know someone selling puppies personally, you really only have four options: classified ads, a rescue, the local dog shelter or a registered breeder.

I was looking through local classified ads on Kijiji and then moved onto browsing the entire dog and puppies for rehoming section in Ontario. After emailing back and forth with a few sellers, I started to text back and forth with a lady. She wasn’t a breeder but her two dogs happen to have had a litter of two girls. The dogs were raised on a farm and this lady really cared about the puppies. She asked about where they were going, what my lifestyle was like, and what I did for work. The seller shared her opinions on vaccinations, spaying, etc. I appreciated this because I knew the dog was loved and that she was not just looking to make a quick buck.

Below are a couple tips for raising a puppy, in honour of mine turning one year old on October 25, 2016!

1. Take your puppy outside every hour of every day for a week or two
This was a piece of advice from an old coworker of mine. I swear this is why my pup was quick to learn that outside is where she can pee and poo, not inside. I should mention that I told myself I would never get a dog during the winter – but I did.  Of course you have a life and other responsibilities such as working, so literally every hour isn’t possible. You can however wake up during the night and set an alarm on your phone to remind yourself to let the dog out.

2. Trust your puppy without a leash
This tip might shock some people and would obviously depend on where you live and what your dog is like. The best time to build this trust is when you are working on housetraining. I don’t live close to the road, so I wasn’t worried of her running onto the road. I have a fenced off backyard, so I always took her to my front yard so she would learn to stick around without a fence around her. Reward your dog when they listen to you and discipline your puppy when they don’t. Remember, as a puppy, your dog is likely pretty nervous in new surroundings and will want to stay close to you.

3. Use a variety of training techniques with your puppy
Trying different techniques are important while teaching your puppy new tricks and commands. I could NOT get my dog to lay down, no matter what I tried to do. I did a Google search for how to train a puppy to lay down. I watched a quick two minute YouTube video and followed how the trainer positioned the food reward and how they moved their hand. The first try with this new technique had my dog laying down.

4. Teach your puppy hand gestures and verbal commands
I am sure everyone knows that dogs can lose their hearing and their vision. I made the decision to teach my dog to learn both hand gestures and verbal commands for each of her tricks. Of course she is just about one year old and in good health, so losing her hearing or vision isn’t an issue now but with time it could be.

5. Socialize your puppy
A huge piece of advice I would offer is to socialize your puppy with not only other animals but different people too. Men, seniors, young children – everyone and anyone! The different voices and figures are all new to your puppy. You don’t want them to be afraid of someone based on their deep voice, or to be scared of someone who is slow to move around. You should invite guests into your home so your dog knows that visitors are welcome and you should bring your dog to other people’s houses so they can learn and practice their manners.

6. Let your puppy be exposed and allow them to experience
I was lucky, our main vet clinic offers a puppy social class each month. This event is set up to expose your puppy to new experiences including sights and sounds. Myself and about six other dog owners brought our little ones to the vet clinic after hours where we walked through a route that was set up through the clinic. For example, one room had a staff member wearing a motorcycle helmet interacting with the dogs, one room had someone using a broom and the hallways had tunnels, sound effects and various objects along the path from area to area. This helped her get some exposure to people, dogs, sounds, and sights. They even brought out two turtles!

 

cooking for one // easy guacamole

I like avocados but I don’t love them like some people do, or at least how some people pretend to. I think the love for avocado is a bit of a trend but at least the fruit is a healthy one. Yes, you read that right.. avocados are considered a fruit and not a veggie! Making guacamole the easy way is well.. quick and easy! One avocado will make enough for two people to snack on.

Cut the skin and remember that there will be a pit in the middle, so cut around this. Twist the two halves in opposite directions and there you have it, fresh avocado! Using a fork, or whatever you have nearby mash the green stuff up leaving out the pit and skin.

Then add chopped garlic. I buy minced garlic because it’s so much better than dealing with cloves of garlic. Plus, I cook with garlic on the regular. Cut up a bit of red onion into tiny chunks and add this to your bowl with the garlic and avocado. Here is the easy “secret,” I throw a scoop of extra chunky salsa in – because I don’t buy tomato because I don’t really like them on their own. Mix the avocado, garlic, red onion and salsa up into a chunky but smooth mixture. Don’t add too much salsa, less is more! Now for the final touches – add a dash of pepper, salt and a tiny squeeze of lime juice to taste.

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And there you have it, quick and easy guacamole instructions. I wouldn’t call my “cooking for one” posts recipes since I don’t provide much direction in regards to cooking time or measurements. After all, it’s all about experimenting!

pamper yourself

I truly believe that everyone deserves (and needs) a little bit of time to themselves here and there. And for that reason have always made it a priority to have a little bit of “me” time. Some of you might pamper yourselves by going to the spa, hitting up the mall or taking a mini vacation for the weekend but I have developed a little routine for myself that helps me relax and feel at peace.

One of my first purchases while redecorating my place was from Balta, a store that has been in my local shopping mall – the Oshawa Centre forever. This store carries some authentic hand-crafted artisan goods that are to die for. I purchased a Himalayan salt lamp on sale from the store after looking around and discovering that there are actually a large number of knock-off salt lamps on the market.  When in use this lamp creates a refreshing, calm, tranquil atmosphere. The lamp naturally purifies and improves air quality by releasing negative ions into the surrounding space.

Another product to use to aid your relaxation is an oil diffuser. I purchased the Aroma Cloud from Saje Natural Wellness, which is also in the Oshawa Centre for about $70. All of their diffusers will turn off automatically once the water in the reservoir reaches a certain level, the ultrasonic diffuser. You add about 10 drops of any of their oils to the reservoir and soon enough you will smell and feel the effects of whichever you decided to use. They offer a huge variety of oils to help with natural healing.

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Ever since I was a kid I have been obsessed with soaking my feet in hot water. I’d do this after playing soccer, after standing on my feet for a long time or just for something to do. I fill up a plastic bin with pretty hot water and then I add Epsom salts and either bubbles or an essential oil to the water.

While I am no doctor, I have read that soaking your feet in Epsom salts helps to:

  • Flush out toxins
  • Reduce stress and anxiety
  • Relieve muscle aches, pain, and cramping
  • Eliminates odours
  • Treat foot fungus (I hope I never encounter foot fungus)
  • Regulate blood sugar

Another must try while pampering yourself is a face mask. When I first started to use face masks, I used the little packets from Walmart or Shoppers Drug Mart but I quickly realized I was playing some type of roulette game with myself. Some masks were great, while others I used left me a bit concerned. Two minutes after using a mask you really shouldn’t feel like your skin is melting off, or that you just dunked inside a deep fryer. To this day I am still unsure why sometimes I would react to these products, but it also happened to a couple friends of mine.. so now I pretty much only use LUSH face masks. I would suggest their fresh face masks, but you need to keep in mind that they expire and that they need to be kept refrigerated. Currently, I am using their Cup o’ Coffee mask. This doesn’t need to be refrigerated but does expire after two/three months. You can even use this on your body for the softest skin.

So there it is. Get the diffuser going, put the lamp on and run the water for a foot bath while covering your face with a mask and then just relax. The hardest part for me is sitting there, relaxing and being tempted to get up and do something but just try to focus on yourself for once!