Mom Life · Real Talk

Welcome To The Shit Show

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If you’ve found yourself here and things like bacon and cuss words tend to offend you, you might want to re-think those two life strategies because I’m pretty sure you’re going to want to be friends with me.

I’m Rachel. I’m a Snack Bitch to two womb trophies by day, and a work-at-home mama by night. I’m married to a man who travels extensively for work, so I’m a bit of a lukewarm mess solo parenting most of the time. I’m also a digital creator, a bento box maker, (not a candlestick maker), and a writer of all things crafty, foodie, humour-y, life-y and parent-y. I’m authentic, sarcastic, hilarious, and a little messy – aren’t we all, though?

I think about food way too much, love making things, drink too much diet coke, and spend more time than I care to admit laughing at memes on the internet. I believe weekends are best spent at the local Farmer’s Market, followed by embracing my inner sloth and becoming one with my bed. I’m fluent in sarcasm, and humour is the way to my heart.

Here’s what you’ll find on my blog – healthy-ish bento box meal ideas for your little crotch fruit, some bomb-ass recipes that I mostly make up in my head, and hilarious stories from my actual real day to day life. Basically a metric shit-ton of fun stuff, so pull up a seat because I can’t wait to interact with all you forkers.

Thanks for popping by, you bloody champs. Drop me a line sometime.

 

Gift Guide · Holiday Traditions

My Christmas 2021 *Shop Small* Gift Guide

        If there is one thing we may have all collectively learned this year, it’s that home is where the heart is and some of the best gifts come in small (business) packages. Tens of thousands of small businesses nationwide have navigated the covid-19 pandemic like dinghy’s in a hurricane – and many didn’t make it. I wanted to curate some of my favourite Canadian small shops to share with you and encourage you to shop if you have the means. Purchasing from these shops goes a long way to making a small business owner do a little happy dance (and staying afloat). There is some overlap between categories, and I have some categories “gendered” (not because I believe some gifts should be for men/women only, but because these are the most common search parameters). This isn’t an exhaustive list, but here’s at least 160 of some of the best small shops/businesses I want you to know about while you’re hunting for the perfect gift this holiday season!

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Health and Wellness · Review

The REAL Truth – My Laser Hair Removal Experience

Let me just start off this blog post by saying if body hair, buttholes, or reading about getting one’s labia zapped offends you, this is your best opportunity to exit stage left and not read what I am about to share. I’m going to assume you found this blog because you are also interested in getting laser hair removal and in order to make an informed decision, you need to know it ALL – and that’s what I’ve got for you.

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Health and Wellness · Mom Life · Plant Based · Real Talk · Review

Product Review: Só Luxury


If you’ve been here for a hot minute, you’ll know just how much I love Só Luxury products. Not only are they a female owned local small company, but their products legitimately work. Living in the Prairies, the dry air is a sensitive skinned person’s nightmare and Só Luxury is one of the only brands that I can use without reacting to. My daughters also have dry skin and patches of eczema and this is all I use on them too. I thought it would be helpful to share what Só Luxury products we use the most around here, how they work, why I love them, and why you should love them too. Please note all opinions are honest and my own.

Read to the end of this blog post for an exclusive coupon code!

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Home and Design · Real Talk · Review

Product Review – Coulee Outdoor

This Spring, Mr Bows and Bentos and I were discussing landscaping ideas for our yard. We knew we wanted more planter boxes, some trees, gravel & paving stones down one side of our house – and he also pitched the idea of a fire pit. He grew up in the country surrounded by space and animals and a relax by the campfire at night was something he was accustomed to. Me? I’m a city girl and admittedly, I wasn’t interested at all.

  • I hate the smell of campfire smoke (which permeates every hair and piece of clothing on your body and means constant laundry on my to-do list)
  • Fire pits can be expensive and take up so much space in your yard (we live in an urban area and our yard isn’t huge by any means)
  • I didn’t want to commit to one spot for a fire pit (a firepit is usually permanent and it is so windy here, how can we know we picked the right spot)?
  • Obtaining and storing firewood is one salty pain in the arse (I don’t even know where to buy firewood, embarrassingly enough).

I suggested potentially looking into a natural gas firepit (you know, once of those Costco ones you can put on your deck?) – my husband told me those are ridiculous and not even real fires so he’d rather not even have one, than have one of those. The logic of a country boy….you know. We agreed to shelve the idea for a bit and think about it while we assessed the budget and considered if we wanted to make this work.

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Gift Guide · Holiday Traditions

My Easter 2021 Gift Guide

If you have found yourself in a pinch while mindfully choosing your Easter Basket gifts this year and don’t want to add one more chocolate Easter bunny to your household, you’ve come to the right place. Here, I’m going to share the absolute best Easter gifts for kids (and adults!) — gifts they’ll actually love and use all year – and the focus will be predominately on small Canadian shops. My roundup includes everything from cute craft ideas, to outdoor fun, to bigger-ticket, splurge-worthy items. Kids and toddlers alike will love each of our picks! Lastly, I’ll share some great ideas for adults if you have one to gift to this year (you count too!)

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Mental Health · Mom Life · Real Talk · Review

My Experiences with CBD for Sleep and Mood Support

I want to start this blog post off with the most important info of all – a disclaimer – that I am not a doctor, a medical professional, or anyone who holds any higher education in counseling folks on what is best for their health. I always strongly advocate that you fact check anything you read on the internet, and talk to your doctor before taking anything that may impact your health. Do not stop taking prescribed pharmaceutical medication unless under the direct supervision of a medical professional, and do not begin taking any new supplements unless you have ensured with your medical professional that it is safe. This blog post is to offer my anecdotal experience with trialing CBD for sleep and mood support and should not be taken as medical advice. Long story short – be smart. This is *my* research – and I am not a doctor.

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Mom Life · Real Talk · Uncategorized

Finding Balance

I heard an analogy recently that essentially equated a mother’s (or primary caregiver’s) work/life balance as juggling 55 balls at any given time. Between house stuff and kid stuff and life stuff and woman stuff and work stuff – sometimes it feels like you have WAY too much stuff on your plate (and you probably do).

The analogy suggested that some of those 55 balls are glass and you shouldn’t drop those balls – they will smash into a million pieces and cut you and cause a huge mess for you to clean up.

But, some of those 55 balls are plastic and can be dropped without repercussions. They simply bounce and roll across the room, not harming anything and ready to be picked up when you’re ready.

The trick is finding out for yourself which balls are plastic, and which ones are glass.

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Uncategorized

Claydough Keepsake Ornaments

This post (and many others on my website) may contain affiliate links and I may earn a small commission when you click on the links provided and make a purchase – at no additional cost to you. As an Amazon Affiliate I earn from qualifying purchases. I only recommend items I use and love, and this is simply one way I monetize my blog and content at no cost to my readers.

I was searching for handprint ornaments (for myself as keepsakes, as well as for family gifts) but I didn’t want to use flour/salt dough. Flour dough is typically grainy, beige (I wanted bright white), and raw flour isn’t something that I wanted to mess around with due to the risks of e-coli contamination. Enter – clay dough. Here’s how I made them:

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Uncategorized

So – We Bought A Smoker!

I wanted to surprise my husband with a smoker for an early birthday present. Yeah, you can make good food on a charcoal or gas grill, but the best smoked meat is going to come from a smoker. My husband is a meat lover and a hunter – this would be totally up his alley. There are SO many on the market though and what I learned is that I needed to figure out what kind of fuel we wanted first, as that would guide my decision-making.

  • Charcoal: Charcoal smokers use a combination of wood and charcoal that is easy to understand, affordable and customizable with combinations of wood chips for your own smoky flavor. The masters tend to use charcoal, but it also presents its own difficulties. Charcoal smokers rarely have precise temperatures, require a lot of experience in positioning and lighting and make the cleaning process really rough. If you don’t mind spending a lot of time on your smoking project, think about this option.
  • Electric: Electric smokers use a lot of energy, but have high-tech sensors and controls that allow for careful programming and temperature balance which ensures even flavouring. However, they tend to produce less smokey flavors out of all the fuel options.
  • Gas: Propane smokers are faster and easier to control than charcoal and produce decent flavours, but temperature is wildly difficult to maintain – still a very popular choice for beginners.
  • Pellet: We’re also seeing a lot more pellet smokers these days, which use electricity or gas to burn wood pellets—essentially adding modern tech to the charcoal approach. These have become more popular by the Traeger line of products, which are basically grill hybrids that can be used for a variety of purposes, including smoking. The all-in-one approach has a lot to offer buyers. Because of their small size and composition, food-grade wood pellets burn cleanly, producing a light smoky flavor. Wood pellet varieties include oak, maple, apple, alder, mesquite, cherry, maple, hickory, and pecan.

Lots of things to consider – what was my budget? What fuel did I think was best? Would it be for home use, or would we want portability? How big did it need to be? Would we want a horizontal, egg, or vertical smoker? Wi-fi or no wi-fi? What temperature range would we need? What brands brought the best reviews most consistently?

It didn’t take me long to settle on an electric wood pellet smoker. An electric smoker brought the stability of high end temperature balance, but wood pellets would bring the rich smokey flavour we would expect to achieve in a smoker. Because my husband hunts, I knew smoked sausages and racks of ribs would be at the top of his “must smoke” list – and vertical smokers offer so many options for these particular meats. Because you can “hang” meat in a vertical smoker (but also use the horizontal racks for standard smoking), I knew he would most likely prefer this to style. I had narrowed it down to an electric wood pellet vertical smoker.

During my research, I learned that Traeger (long considered the biggest name in smokers) had an exclusive patent on electric pellet grills for 20 years making them the best in the business, but it expired in 2006 – and since then, other manufacturers have been able to replicate and expand upon the Traeger technology. It’s name still commands a lot of authority, but I read a lot about them being overpriced. Traeger also does not make vertical smokers.

I had read a TON of amazing things about Green Mountain Grills – but the price tag was a hindrance. They are packed to the gills with amazing electronic features including high end wi-fi, an app, electronic alerts and timers and cooking profiles – very fancy, but not sure what I thought my husband would want. Where was the fun in setting it and forgetting it? While I knew he wouldn’t want to be outside tinkering with a smoker for hours and hours on end, I knew he would want more control over it that the fancy wi-fi smokers offered.

I finally settled on Pit Boss (this isn’t sponsored, by the way – I wish). They had a LONG history of quality workmanship and a reputation for a good reliable line of smokers, millions of amazing reviews – and they had an entire line of vertical smokers (and accessories including winter covers – a necessity – grill tools, their own line of wood pellets, and much more).

So, the Pit Boss Series 5 Vertical Electric Smoker was ours. From the Pit Boss website: “Innovation meets the outdoors with Pit Boss’ all new 5 Series Vertical Pellet Smoker. Never before has smoking been this versatile. The double walled insulation lets you smoke from 150°F to temperatures reaching 450°F, unlike any other smoker on the market today. The large front window eliminates the need for peek-a-boo cooking and its elevated frame makes transferring your meal from the smoker to the table a breeze. With the PB 5 Series Pellet Smoker there is no need to fret about cooking lengths – its 40 pound plus hopper allows you to cook for up to 24 hours! Its sleek design is not only unique, it is also functional. The PB 5 Series Pellet Smoker features 1,659 square inches of porcelain coated cooking racks, locking caster wheels, an easy to read digital controller and a notable hammer tone copper finish. The multiple position racking system ensures you’ll have enough room to smoke anything your heart (or stomach) desires“.

The difference in price between the 3 series and the 5 series was only $100 more, but the surface area inside DOUBLED. The additional upgrade in price to the 7 series didn’t bring enough features for us to feel it was worth it. The 5 series would allow us to do ribs, sausages, wings, brisket – almost any meat we wanted – as well as fit a full-size turkey for holiday smoking. We could smoke long and slow, or jack the temp right up if needed. Being vertical, it gave us a ton of space to smoke without a giant footprint on our back deck. It was an easy sell for me after that. Probably most importantly – they ship to Canada and their website was in Canadian dollars, so I didn’t have to worry about additional duties or taxes or charges when it arrived. It also showed up 12 days after I ordered it!

So far, we have done wings (probably 5 times now – and we’ll never go for another wing night again because we can do them better ourselves at home), brisket, and ribs – and we’re trying beef jerky, spatchcock chicken, and pork belly burnt ends this week. For Thanksgiving, we’re doing our very first smoked turkey!

I thought there would be a steep learning curve, but there is SO much info on the internet with a million recipes, and an electric pellet grill is a HUGELY popular option so tons of online support. If you have been on the fence about getting one – I can now attest to it and highly recommend it!

Uncategorized

The Great Thermos Debate

One of the questions I am asked most often is about how to send hot food with children to school. Most of you won’t like my answer – because there simply aren’t really any great hot food vessels on the market. Some of the big names Thermos’ on the market include:

  • S’Well Eats
  • Hydroflask Insulated Food Flask
  • Yumbox Zuppa
  • Thermos Foogo
  • Thermos Funtainer
  • Zojirushi Food Jar
  • Yeti Thermos
  • Klean Kanteen
  • Skip Hop
  • And the much discussed, Omie Box Bento Box

The questions I am asked most often include – what are the easiest to open thermos’ for kids, what thermos’ keep food the hottest. and are there any flatter thermos’ for things like pizza?

Which ones are “easy” for small kids to open? None. Heat retention is due in part to super tight fitting seals and screw lids. If children could open them willy nilly, they’d spill hot food on themselves, and that would be a liability for the manufacturer. For this reason, most children cannot open them solo.

What thermos’ keep food the hottest? Honestly – not many. All thermos’ require you to “charge” them, aka preheat them with boiling water for at least 5 mins prior to putting your food in to warm the thermos. However, this is rarely enough to keep your food out of the “danger zone” of bacteria growth. According to every healthy authority, food hits the danger zone between 4 °C and 60 °C. Most thermos’ CANNOT sustain that high of a temperature in the length of time between packing lunch and eating lunch in a day. Lukewarm food is almost certainly spoiled and should NOT be eaten unless you can confirm it hasn’t dropped below 60 °C.

Are there any flat thermos’ for pizza or foods that kids don’t want to mix around? No. No there isn’t.

Lots of people ask me about the Omie Box Bento Box too – it is marketed with a thermos bowl inside a bento box so cold food and hot food can go together. My opinion? It is TERRIBLE. Even with preheating or “charging” the thermal bowl, the hot food is lukewarm at best by lunch time. The cold food also heats up, and it’s all within the food safety danger zone. A bacteria breeding ground – bad news. Food safety requires food to stay at a specific temperature. This can be achieved for chilled foods with ice packs – but not for hot foods without a microwave (most schools have removed microwaves due to covid-19). The Omie Box Bento Box is also a super heavy box (3 to 4 pounds when willed with food) and is priced high at approximately $65-$70 CDN.

The advice I have to give – teach your kids, as EARLY as possible, to eat chilled foods or open any vessel you need to send their heated food to school in. Teachers cannot (and SHOULD NOT) be touching and opening 30 different lunches. This means bento boxes, lunch kits, thermos’, water bottles, and packaged food like fruit cups, yogurt tubes, cheese strings ( all of which exist in a teacher’s personal version of HELL). Teach them to open it all themselves – if they can’t open it, don’t send it. If they won’t consider eating cold food, they have to learn to open a thermos properly. (*this applies to neurotypical children – I recognize and empathize with the vast array of feeding difficulties that arise in neurodivergent children and I ALWAYS advocate for a parent to do the best they can with what they can*)

See? I told you this wouldn’t be a super fun conversation. A thermos for kids comes with a ton of challenges – if it’s easy to open, a kid could burn themselves and no manufacturer wants that liability. But most other thermos’ don’t keep food hot enough to ensure bacteria isn’t growing. Do people risk it? Sure. I just won’t sit in front of everyone and advocate for their usage (unless you can confirm the hot food vessel you use never dips below 60 °C before consumption. If you’re going to just send macaroni & cheese, or pasta with butter and parm, it’s “probably find” and you can buy whatever since they all kinda suck the same. Skip Hop ones are cute and go on sale often. Thermos FOOGO can be bought at Superstore. Amazon has tons.

I am definitely not the food police – but if you wouldn’t eat chicken nuggets out in a stainless steel container on a hot summer’s day and eat them after 4 hours – why would you send them in a thermos that won’t even stay as hot? Did you know most gastro symptoms in school aged kids are due to improperly stored/stored food? It’s food poisoning! Here are some helpful links:

http://www.bccdc.ca/health-info/diseases-conditions/bacillus-cereus

https://www.foodsafety.ca/blog/food-safety-tips-packed-meals

https://dairyfarmersofcanada.ca/en/teachnutrition/qc/healthy-kids/healthy-bodies/lunchbox-food-safety-tips

https://www.foodsafety.gov/blog/back-school-meal-prep-easy-1-2-3

Teach your kids to eat chilled food. Start now, even if your baby is only 9 months old. Start as soon as possible, and don’t get them accustomed to hot soups and pastas (or peanut butter and jelly sandwiches) because you’re in for a world of hurt when grade school starts.