make life easier!

Over the last few weeks I have done a couple things that have made life easier. I work full days and commute about an hour and a half each way – that’s three hours of my day spent on the train or on the highway in my car. The result is an unbalanced work/life mix. Sure I love what I do, it’s fun and I get to do some great things but it’s not always easy. Now that I have made a few changes, I am confident I have set myself for success by making life a little bit easier.

Here are some ideas for you! Of course, some of these may not apply depending on your living situation. Some are a bit much and might not be in the budget but hopefully one or two of these will be relevant to you.

1. Start a meal service (or make meals ahead and freeze them!)
I recently took the plunge with this one. After working with HelloFresh Canada, I was in love with the idea and convenience in a meal service. HelloFresh is a great, quality service but I wanted something even easier. No, I’m not lazy.. I just knew it would be jnice to have meals already prepared. The amount of time I save cooking and cleaning has been nice!

2. Use a property manager
I haven’t gone to the extent to hire someone to manage my property… yet. However, the idea of having someone cut my lawn and care for my gardens is very appealing. I love having a backyard and gardens but it’s not something I want to do after a long day at work. My weekends are often busy with running errands and being social so if I can’t make it work then my lawn doesn’t get the attention it should have. Imagine not having to worry about snow removal either? A boy can dream.

3. Find a dog walker
Using a dog walker is great for you and for your dog! Not only does this prevent me from feeling guilty when I leave my dog for an extended period of time but it also helps your dog get exercise and socialize. The hard part for me was opening my house to someone that I don’t know but then again, that’s why I have home security cameras.

4. Plan your outfits for the week
I’ve done this one on and off for years! It’s so much easier than trying on clothes and deciding on an outfit in the morning. Save time getting dressed and spend more time sleeping in!

5. Make a happy box
Honestly, this isn’t something I have done but it is something I kind of want to do! Come up with a few items you can put into a box that will make you happy. If I built one, I think I would include a “done list.” A done list is a list of amazing things I have done, this could be personal stuff, professional stuff or anything that I would be proud to say I’ve completed. Similar, another list would be a gratitude list. A gratitude list should include things you are thankful for. Think about your health, your income, family, relationships, etc. Other things could be photos of your pet, loved ones or a drawing from your kid. Be creative and think what makes you happy.

6. Meditate
Most of us are often too busy to stop and clear our minds! Meditation can actually help you create more time by making your mind calmer and more focused. I recently started meditating with the help of the app “Breathe” which was recommended to me. Meditation will help reduce stress, increase clarity and promote happiness.

7. Hire an assistant
As an assistant, I often think how amazing having an assistant would be. Especially one like me that will do anything. When you think of someone who has an assistant you likely think of an executive or an A-list celebrity. Why can’t you have one? Have you ever considered a business, personal or virtual assistant? Virtual assistants can assist with social media management, research, project management and much more. By delegating some of your “to do” list – you can make life much easier!

Hopefully, you found this post to be informative and took something away from it. With the busiest time of year coming up for many of us, I thought this would be a great post! If you have any questions about any of the ideas above – send me an email or connect with me on social media!

cooking for one // two quick beef dinner ideas

I love myself some red meat. Funny because I was also a vegetarian for a year and a bit in my early teens. That is probably why I still look 14, I think I lacked the protein and nutrition I needed to grow into a big burly man. Anyways, grill me a t-bone steak and let’s get it. So yes, I do like my beef. Yes, I love my BBQ and do use it year round. But these beef dinner ideas are sure to make your dinner an easy one. Both are good on their own – or can be used to create something else.

Honey Garlic Beef Strips
Okay, I don’t even know where I came up with the idea to make this. But damn, let me tell you.. these are so good. Not only is this cheap and quick to make, but you’re going to think you are eating honey garlic beef ribs from the chinese restaurant you adore. Tender and full of flavour, yum!

So easy. Buy the package of beef strips commonly used for stir fry or fajitas. Or, you can buy a think steak and cut it into 1/4 inch strips. In a frying pan, add a tiny bit of olive oil (tablespoon or so) and brown the beef strips up. Once the meat is browned, add a bit of honey garlic sauce. I like the VH brand best, but have used others too. Reduce heat and let it simmer until the beef soaks up all the honey garlic flavour. It shouldn’t be runny. BAM! You’re done.  You can mix this up with some rice and veggies – or just have it on a side. I often just make the beef and pair it with corn, broccoli, sweet potato or whatever else I am feeling or have on hand.

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Homemade Meatballs
I am a sucker for homemade meatballs.. well I am a sucker for meatballs in general. Let’s be serious, the only ones who don’t like meatballs at a potluck are the vegans and vegetarians. Nothing against that – I bet they love veggie meatballs too. I know I did when I was a vegetarian. You can do so much and get creative while making your meatballs.

Since I don’t love eggs, I never buy them. So instead I use panko bread crumbs to help them stick together and maintain that sphere shape. Other things I love to add in: minced garlic, minced onion, soy sauce, pepper, cayenne, and some parmesan cheese. As usual, I don’t weigh out how much goes in, I use my judgement. Again – super easy to cook. Fry the meat balls up in a frying pan. Don’t make the balls too big, this makes it harder to cook through and no one wants raw meat.

Hopefully these beef options will be coming to your dinner plate soon. After all, they are cheap to make and can be made up in less than 20 minutes. Both are pretty easy to clean up too.  Enjoy!

product review: soapstones natural skincare

Cruising through Instagram, I came across a post that showcased some piña colada lip balm. If you know me, you know my love for pineapple/coconut flavoured stuff. Drinks, Häagen-Dazs ice cream, hand soap.. whatever! I just love the smell and taste of piña colada stuff. I reached out to see if Soapstones Natural Skincare was interested in working with bloggers and to see if they would hopefully collaborate with me. They let me pick a few items that I would put to good use and enjoy and sent them my way.

I was super excited to open my package and see that they had sent an aluminum-free deodorant, a bottle of body wash and two piña colada lip balms. Soapstones is a Canadian company based out of Huntsville, Ontario. Being a Canadian company just made me want to work with them even more. But wait, it gets better. Soapstones takes pride in creating products that are not only good for those who use it, but they are also conscious of the environment and giving back to the community. A portion of their proceeds are donated back to the community in order to help develop youth leadership skills.

Piña Colada Lip Balm
The limited ingredients include beeswax, cannabis seed oil and soy wax. For 15ml, a standard size stick it will cost you $5. It’s pretty reasonable considering the effort that would go into making lip balm and packaging it with quality ingredients. The balm itself is soothing upon application and lasts. I’m a sucker for lip balms and have been using this one all week. My lips feel great! You can try their other scents: maple, raspberry, vanilla, peppermint or lemon.

Stones Muskoka Body Wash
For the most part, I used body wash in the shower. That being said, I have been using bar soap for the last couple months. Since the body wash arrived, I’ve been using it instead. The scent is great, I can’t really put it into words. It smells like men, but not too overbearing. In fact, I think ladies would enjoy it themselves too! It’s comforting to know that the body wash contains no parabens, no DEA and no PEG. It’ll cost you $16 for 250ml which should last you a while if you’re using a loofa! The body washes come in a variety of scents (over 10 to pick from) and of course they offer an unscented version.

Stones Deodorant
It may be TMI, but my armpits don’t like deodorant. I have to constantly switch between Old Spice, Adidas, Dove+ for men, and Saje. If I use the same deodorant for several days in a row I get a burn like reaction. It’s not cool. I remember telling my mom about it when I was like 16 and living with her. She said “so get a new deodorant,” thanks mom. I’ve been using the Stones Deodorant for the past four days and it seems my armpits like it! My Saje deodorant is pretty good, but it’s unscented and you have to apply water on it before each application. The deodorants from Stones are aluminum-free, vegetable based and easy to apply. They are lightly scented, so it’s not over the top either. You can pick between cedar and saffron scent, fresh water, or their Muskoka scent. I received the Muskoka scent and have nothing but the best to say so far!

If you’re interested in ordering from Soapstones Natural Skincare, you can shop online and receive free shipping for orders over $75. There is something nice about supporting Canadian businesses that put an effort into giving back.

should you get a dog?

It has been over a year now that I’ve had my very own dog. Raising a puppy was literally on my bucket list. Cruising through online classified ads is how I found “ellie,” my boston terrier/french bull dog mix. This dog is energetic, sassy and smart – kind of like me. 😉 After lots of research, I thought I wanted to get a french bulldog. But when I came across the photo online of ellie and her sister, I knew I found the right match for me.

Before I arranged to meet the lady who was selling her, I did a ton of research. I looked online for the best types of dog food, more information on the breed, some training tips, and anything else I could read or watch online before making the next step. Everyone has a different lifestyle and this is a big factor on if you should get a dog or not.

For me, I work pretty set hours through out the week. I don’t go out often during the week after work, so I am able to give ellie the time and attention she needs. Another positive is that I am able to bring her to work with me when I need to. I don’t everyday because I feel guilty having to take her out for bathroom breaks and for having to keep an eye on her when I am working. But it’s awesome that I can bring her in with me. For example, if I know I am going to be going out after work then I’ll bring her. This way, she isn’t alone all day and night.

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ellie likes to run and loves to play. Luckily, she is a small dog and wouldn’t require as much exercise as a big dog. I have to walk her everyday, but with Winter here – she doesn’t like to walk as much. If you live in a condo or somewhere with out a backyard, maybe a bigger dog isn’t the best idea. Another thing to keep in mind is the financial commitment that comes along with owning a dog. I saved money up before getting her. I knew I needed to cover the cost of not only the dog but all the expenses that come with it. Can you afford to spay/neuter? Can you pay for the vet bills that come along with owning a dog, especially a puppy? What happens if there is an emergency, can you handle that bill? For me, I always keep a chunk of money safe in case anything happens to her. It’s also a good idea to consider pet insurance. Also, having a credit card (that isn’t maxed out) is reassuring for me.

Not only do you have to be mindful of the vet bills, but remember you need to purchase leashes, collars, toys, likely a crate, treats and food. The list doesn’t end there.. be mindful of other things like bags for poop and the cost of anything they might chew or break too. I was lucky that ellie hasn’t been a big chewer. As long as she has a chew toy, my stuff is pretty safe.

Something else to consider is where will your dog go if you want to go away for a night, or for a week? Can you bring your dog to family events like Christmas or Thanksgiving? I leave town for two weeks in the Summer for work, but my family has always been there to watch her overnight at their places. Would you be comfortable with/can you afford a dog sitter or a boarding kennel? These are only some things to consider before getting a dog.

I have to say, being a dog owner has been awesome for me. I love how excited she gets when I see her. She is well behaved around other people and with other dogs – but she’s still a puppy. I was lucky to have a super easy housetraining process with her. Even though I said I would never get a dog in the Winter, last Winter I took her out every hour for the first week or two so that she wouldn’t have any accidents in the house. I love dressing her up in fun clothes and costumes too. Best of all, I love having a personal heating pad to keep me warm and to cuddle up with when I am lazy, hung over or tired.

If you recently got a dog, or are thinking of getting one then check out my post on Raising a Puppy. You can also follow ellie on Instagram: @elliethefroston

gift ideas for him

Some people may have finished their Christmas shopping by now, but a lot of us likely aren’t done shopping yet. I know some people who actually like waiting until the last minute to complete all their shopping! I find it less stressful and easier to budget by spreading my shopping (and spending) through out November and into December. I was lucky to take advantage of free shipping offers and some sales from a couple retailers for Cyber Monday. I’d say that is a good start!

Year after year I find the hardest people to buy for are men. That might be ironic because I am a guy after all. Dad, brother, grandpa, etc. all seem to have everything they want! I’ve put together a few gift ideas for the men in your life.

1. Faux Suede Slippers from Mark’s – $29.99
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2. Philips PowerTouch Electric Shaver from Walmart Canada – $52.96

screen-shot-2016-12-09-at-11-35-49-am3. Chocolate Brown Full Grain Leather Men’s Search Boots from TOMS – $135.00

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4. A Henley Style Shirt from H&M – $12.99

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5. 9.5 Inch Gotham Steel Frying Pan from Canadian Tire – $29.99

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6. Zurich French Press Coffee Maker from The Bay – $ 16.99

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Hopefully these items were able to get your creative juices flowing. I think most guys would be happy with any of the items above, as long as they don’t already have them. Electric razors are super convenient to have. Everyone can appreciate a nice boot that adds a little bit of style to your look. Henleys are perfect for layering and are a step up from a basic long sleeve. That frying pan is dope – I have it. It’s totally the one you’ve seen on TV that doesn’t scratch or dent and is super non-stick. French press coffee makers are sweet! Making a fresh cup of coffee with coffee grounds is so worth it.

Other gift ideas for men that you might consider are a frozen steak from the local butcher, a box of their favourite beer, instant scratch lottery tickets, new socks, new underwear and maybe a nice pair of gloves for the winter. Of course, only you know the person you’re gifting to and what to give them all depends on what they have and how they live.

tips to make winter better

Okay, ah.. winter is less than three weeks away. Although that doesn’t mean the cold weather, the blistering wind or the snow is going to hold off on us. In Canada our winter weather is very cold and our summer weather is very hot. If you’re like me, you could do without winter. Instead of being a debby downer about the season, I’ve compiled some tips that will improve your winter and help you survive the big frost. These tips should help you stay sane through out the next few months. Just remember, spring will be here soon!

1. Make DIY hand/feet warmers
These are easy enough to make with only a few supplies. The first step is to cut some material into squares. Get some thread to sew three of the sides closed, or get double sided tape to do this. Once you have three out of the four sides sealed, add a bit of uncooked rice in. Finally, seal up the fourth and final side. Bam! You’re done. Pop these little guys into the microwave and you’ve got yourself a reusable warmer. For inspiration, check out DIY’s on YouTube.

2. Avoid added sugar
Unless you’re a kid or you play more sports in the winter then you are likely participating in less physical activities. We tend to hibernate just a little bit this time of year. Spending less time outdoors can result in added weight gain. Not only does sugar aid weight gain, but it also will suppress your immune system. Be sure to get those fruits and veggies in ya!

3. Get some house plants
House plants can add so much for your living space. Not only are they decorative, but they also create oxygen and moisture. Ultimately, plants can help control the dryness that comes along with keeping your place heated during the winter.

4. Switch your bedding up
If you don’t have a duvet yet, you’ll totally appreciate having one during the colder months. There are so many different duvets out there but they all do the trick. Look for something that’s heavier than your comforter. If you already have a duvet, consider switching your bed sheets to a different material. Fleece or cotton are great alternatives.

5. Get a good lip balm
There is nothing worse than dry, cracked or even bleeding lips. The key is to keep your lips moisturized through out the day. Be sure to reapply a couple times a day and to avoid chap stick with scents or flavours.

6. Embrace the season
It’s key to stay positive this time of year. Get involved in the many things winter has to offer. This includes watching parades, building a snow fort, creating snow angels, going skating, ice fishing, etc. Kids often enjoy winter more than adults and this is probably because they take full advantage of the snow. Building snow men and having snowball fights isn’t just for kids! Dress for the weather and get into it.

must see series on netflix

Honestly, I contemplate cancelling my Netflix subscription often. Most of the time the shows I want to watch aren’t on Netflix yet. Plus, I’m not a huge movie lover. I need to be in the mood for a movie. This is probably because I am not the type of person that likes to sit still for long. If I’m going to watch a movie then I want comfy clothes, silence, my dog to snuggle with and of course, some snacks. What keeps me subscribed is the random series that I will come across or get word of online or from a friend.

One thing I love is the amount of television series they offer and how they have their own Netflix Originals. I will say, I am kind of sad that shomi shut down. They had “Unreal,” which is one of my favourite shows ever. I also wish they had Finding Prince Charming on Netflix but hey; they don’t. Hopefully this list will come in handy and help you avoid the dreaded scrolling up and down searching for something to watch next time you log into your account.

Skin Wars
Think Master Chef mixed with Miami Ink. Skin Wars is a body painting competition show. Each season they have a variety of contestants that compete for $100,000 and a trip to the World Bodypainting Festival. Ru Paul is one of the judges on the show. As much as I love the drama that unfolds between the artists, my favourite is seeing their artwork. Body painting is something I could never do, so it’s unreal to see them create such master pieces. My favourite challenges are when they have to camouflage their model into a specific scene – like the canned soup section at the grocery store.

Scream Queens
Okay, this show is kind of cheesy but I love it. This is a comedy horror series. People are getting killed and it’s a lot to keep up with, you have got to stay focused. I’ve described this as Pretty Little Liars meets Mean Girls before.  Although I haven’t seen the current season which is currently airing on City TV. I admire how they manage to get such a variety of people on board. Jamie Lee Curtis, Emma Roberts, Lea Michelle, Ariana Grande, Nick Jonas, Aaron + Austin Rhodes, John Stamos, Kirstie Alley and Abigail Breslin are just some of the people you’ll find on the show.

The Ranch
The Ranch is a Netflix Original staring Ashton Kutcher and Danny Materson (aka Steven Hyde from That 70’s Show), it takes place on a ranch in Colorado. Ashton plays Colt, a former semi-pro football player that has returned back to the ranch to help run the family business with his brother Rooster, played by Danny Materson. This series is full of cussing, comedy, and family-farm life shenanigans.

Narcos
Narcos is probably the most talked about Netflix Original amongst people I know. The series is based on drug lord and trafficker, Pablo Escobar. The crime based drama follows the ups and downs of Escobar as the Drug Enforcement Agency works tirelessly to take him down.

Weeds
Weeds is one of the first series I ever watched on Netflix a few years back. Essentially a widowed mother starts to grow and sell marijuana to keep her family afloat after her husbands death leaves her with a ton of debt. Her brother-in-law and the city councillor even get in on the business. I won’t give too much away, but this isn’t as intense as Narcos. It is one of my favourite series, which is no surprise since the creator, Jenji Kohan, is also the creator of the Netflix Original Orange is the New Black.

I’d love to hear what shows, documentaries, or even movies you enjoyed watching on Netflix. Keep in mind, the US Netflix is a bit more ahead of the times in regards to up to date content than here in Canada. Leave a comment here or on my Instagram with some must watch titles for me to check out! Happy binge watching!

no cooking kick ass party app

Last week I went to my first holiday party of the season. So I think it’s safe to say the holidays are finally here. After all, Remembrance Day has passed and we’ve had our first little snow fall of the soon to be winter season. Food is certainly something our culture has incorporated into the holiday season. You may have a turkey dinner, or a couple turkey dinners coming up. Maybe you’re just attending a pot luck. Either way, this no cook app should be your go to whether you are hosting, or attending.

After cruising through Instagram and Pinterest for some inspiration on what I could bring to the first Christmas party of the year, I found exactly what to bring. A meat and cheese board! It’s so easy to put together. There is very little preparation is required and no cooking required. I purchased all the items from my local grocery store and used a wooden cutting board to display it all.

My board included mild pepperettes, hot Genova salami, prosciutto, marble cheese, jalapeño Havarti, a cheese ball and a variety of olives. I also threw in some vegetable thin crackers on the side.

To prepare my “charcuterie,” or meat and cheese board, I cut up the marble cheese into small squares. I then cut the brick of jalapeño Havarti into thin slices, leaving them in the form of a brick. The cheese ball was easy enough, I just set it on the wooden cutting board with a cheese knife. I cut the mild pepperettes in half and then rolled the hot Genova and the prosciutto so they were in a tube like shape. I put the olives in a small glass bowl and positioned them on the cutting board too. Bam! I was done.

My board was simple but was a total hit. Often for pot lucks, there aren’t many meat options unless something brings meatballs. Meatballs are also a great item to bring. I received a lot of compliments on my board. People loved the variety and the set up. You can get creative while putting your board together and spice it up a bit by adding nuts, condiments and other types of cracks or bread.

six gift ideas under $20 for secret santa

Secret Santa is a lot of fun. You get assigned to purchase a gift for another participant and in some cases, you remain anonymous. If you are familiar with the game, you know that more than likely after the gift exchange everyone tends to tell one another who had who. Often secret santa happens amongst friends or co-workers. It’s a great way to get everyone involved and not have to buy everyone an individual gift because that can get expensive. Organizers always set a price range so that the gifts are in and around the same value and no one feels like they over did it, or under did it.

Here are six gift ideas that are within a $20 limit.

1. Canadian Olympic Team Collection Red Mittens – $15

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Photo by HBC

2. AROMACAR Ceramic Car Diffuser – $9.95
     + add refill pads for $4.95
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Photo by Saje

3. Burt’s Bees® Travel Essentials Gift Set -$14.97

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Photo by Walmart Canada

4. The Night Before Christmas Gift by LUSH – $15.95
includes Twilight shower gel and Sleepy body lotion
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Photo by LUSH North America

5. Polar Bear Rustic Mug by DAVIDsTEA

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Photo by DAVIDsTEA

6. A Pretty Christmas Tree Ornament – $15

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Photo by Indigo 

cooking for one // one pan ground turkey concoction

I love trying new recipes and food. As long as it isn’t game meat, eggs, or seafood other than halibut/ lobster/crab or shrimp then I’m down! I swear I’m not too picky but I can’t get into weird meat, egg dishes or creepy looking and smelling seafood. I picked up some ground turkey because I’ve had it  made up for me before a few times and enjoyed it. I also have heard that it’s a bit healthier than ground beef. So, I didn’t have  any bell peppers to stuff (I had a half of a red pepper) nor did I feel like making meatballs or a burger.

I asked my old roomie/coworker/friend from college how she uses her ground turkey. She responded that evening with some ingredients to throw together to make a dish she likes. It sounded good, kind of healthy, super easy to make and I had most of the ingredients already. But similar to how I share recipes; there were no cook times or portion sizes included.

So here’s what I did!

First off, I browned half a pound of the ground turkey. In the mean time I was chopping up onion and red pepper into little pieces. Once the ground turkey was pretty well brown I added these in.

I let the red pepper and onion cook a bit before adding the next ingredients: chick peas and kale. Before that I rinsed both the chick peas and the kale off. After washing the kale, I ripped the leaves into little chunks so it was a bit easier to eat and cook. Once everything was in the pan, I added the seasonings: cumin and red chilli peppers.

Next time, I think I might try to add a sauce of some sort. I’d love to hear what kind of sauce you would add. I was thinking making thai?