I'm sure you've pinned and clicked through many of these on Pinterest. I'm a big fan of them myself - the only problem with the vast majority? They're not realistic. I have yet to find one which would actually feed my family - 6' 2" hubby, 6' eighteen year old son, thirteen year old son, and myself.
The taglines are so enticing... "How I Feed my Family of 7 on a $85 Weekly Budget", "How to Feed a Family of 5 on $200 a month", "How I Feed my Family of 6 for $200 a Month", and my personal favorite, "Real Food Meal Plan: Four Weeks Four Mouths $330".
I could spend this entire post breaking down the feasibility of each of these four examples, but I'm here for a better purpose today. Let me just point out that what these posts, along with the hundreds like them have much in common; they're only counting dinner, the meals are pretty much chicken, rice, and some canned stuff thrown in for good measure, and often they are talking about feeding small children who eat like mice. If these families are making this work, good on them, but not even one of them would work for my family. First off, we need to eat actual food. Secondly, we're not that fond of chicken. We like it, don't get me wrong, but if I served chicken on Monday, chicken soup on Tuesday, chicken rice on Wednesday, chicken tacos on Thursday (you get the idea), my family would revolt.
Yes, you cannot be too choosy when you're eating on a budget, but food is not just fuel, it should be flavorful, nutritious, and delicious. That is what we are used to. Which is probably why our grocery budget was absolutely out of control. I was spending my (pathetically sad) $300 weekly paycheck on food, and when you do that , there is not much left over for things like bills, or heaven forbid - fun. Which is why I decided to take a good look at some of these and come up with a plan that can actually be used on a large scale.
Another thing I'd like to mention is that I have yet to come across a Canadian budget meal planner. I'm sure they're out there, but I've only clicked through American ones. Why does that matter? Because I cannot go to the grocery store and pay .89 for a dozen eggs, nor can I get a whole chicken for $3. My cost could be double some of these in some cases. So I had to tailor it to my food prices. Now, if you're living in the States and you're reading this, you could possibly shave about a third off of my cost, just because your prices are lower in many areas, which is just an added bonus for you.
Before I get into the meal plan - three meals a day, every day, for one week - I'd like to share some pointers that will make this so much easier for you. What I'm about to tell you is no secret - many of the links and posts widely available offer much of the same advice. Actually, a large number of these "Feed your family on a budget" posts do not actually contain meal plans, they just give you pointers like 'clip coupons', 'buy in bulk', 'batch cook', and 'love your crockpot'. All fine suggestions, but we don't have a whole lot of coupons here in Canada (not like in the States), and I have yet to find a coupon for anything in the produce section. Buying in bulk means you need a place to store all of your bulk (and it means cans and boxes, which I am not fond of), no one wants soup or stew every night, and don't get me started on batch cooking. Tried it once - no thank you.
So here are my pointers:
Plan Out Your Week.
Whether it starts on a Sunday or a Tuesday doesn't matter. Get a pen and a piece of paper and find a comfy chair. I write out the days of the week, and the first thing I do is make a note of which days I'm working. Nights, actually, I work 11pm-6:30am, which should make this whole cooking three squares a day even more difficult for me, so if I can do it, so can you. The reason you're doing this is so that you do not plan a complicated dish on a day you're going to be excessively tired or busy running around. Use leftovers or simple dishes on those days to make your life easier.
Write Out Your Meals
Write down seven breakfast dishes, seven lunches, and seven dinners. You'll trim this down as you decide because some dishes are 2-day deals, i.e. oatmeal, chili, or soup. But writing down three for each day gives you a variety of choices. Whatever you decide to take out can always be pushed to the next week. Now trim your list. My list includes two different kinds of oatmeal, donuts, and muffins, and that covers my week. My lunches are tuna melt pie, scones, and sandwiches. My dinners consist of chili, soup, pizza, sliders, and pasta. More on all of these later, but you can see a wide variety of food - actual food. I highly recommend Pinterest for this exercise because you can just search "cheap dinner", "budget friendly meals", etc., and you'll get a ton of ideas. Draw on your own experience also. There's nothing wrong with meatloaf, spaghetti, or whatever your family has always loved. So trim your list by making notes of which meals will have enough leftovers for a second day, you'll see what I mean in my plan.
Write Out ALL The Required Ingredients.
You mean even things like salt or pepper? Why? A couple of reasons. First, you're going to make one trip to the grocery store. You heard me. One. Can't do that if you missed something. Second, you may think you have an ingredient, but when you go to the cupboard to get it while you're cooking you find that you are out of it. That sucks and has happened to me more times than I like to admit. Third, you may think you need an ingredient, but guess what? You have four of them in the back of the fridge because you keep buying it. Going once and getting everything you need and only what you need saves you time and money. If you're like me this will be very strange. I am used to shopping 2-4 times per week. I am also used to throwing stuff out because I forget I bought it because I had no actual plan for it, and now it went bad. More money wasted. And I work at a grocery store - so if I can limit my food purchases to once a week, you definitely can.
Trim Your List
Once you've written everything out, go through your cupboards, fridge, freezer, pantry, and everywhere else you house foodstuffs and cross off anything on your list that you have on hand. Most likely you have things like salt (I was almost out of pepper, so that will stay on the list next week), baking powder, or flour. But you may be surprised at what you do have sometimes, tucked away in the shadows. Now you have your basic list. I whittled a list of over 60 items to less than 30 - sweet. This is what you will venture out to buy. If you are a coupon clipper, now is the time to go through your coupons and see what you have that will help you with your list. I am not into coupons, not because I don't want to be, there just isn't much that I purchase in the coupon world. I do suggest 2 apps here that will help you immensely. If you are not using the flipp app to shop, you're nuts. I absolutely love it. At this point I pop in my basic list and look for sales on the items I need. I usually only shop at two stores, FreshCo and Real Canadian Superstore, the first because the prices are great (but the selection is meh), and the second because although the prices are a bit high, I can often find anything FreshCo doesn't carry here (plus I work there so I get my [truly mind boggling, how do they stay in business] 10% discount). Both stores price match, and I can do that right from the app. The second app I suggest is Checkout51, which saves you a little bit here and there. You just look to see if anything you bought is offered, take a pic of your receipt, and you're good. You won't get rich off of it, but it's easy and it helps a little. This week I got $1.00 cashback for buying the Eggo waffles, which I was buying anyway. *NOTE* I don't know how widely these apps are distributed, I live in Ontario, but I'm sure you will have something similar in your area.
And buy ONLY what is on your list. Yes, those strawberries look so delicious. Sure, that cake is on sale. Oh yeah, the chips are 2 bags for $5. Do not give in. You are on a budget. Whatever reason got you here, you must think of it and buy only what you see on your list. And only make this one trip. It may be to two or three stores, but do it in one go. It's a time saver in the end, but it also cuts down on the temptation to impulse buy.
The only time I encourage you to go off list is if it is an extremely good price and it is something that can keep for a bit. Maybe you only need one can of romano beans, but they're on sale for .88, and that's a good deal. I would buy maybe four or five cans (all different), and possibly use them the next week.
Okay, enough about all that. I'm sure I'm not really telling most of you anything you don't already know. Here is the part that made you visit here in the first place:
7 Day Meal Plan for a Family of 4 for about $100
Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day <$2, my cost was $0)
Lunch: Tuna Melt Pie + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day ~$7, my cost was $5.50)
Dinner: Beans & Pasta
(approximate cost <$5, my cost was $3)
Day One Notes: I made the muffins and pie the day before and the salad was simple, I bought a big bag of organic mixed spring greens for $5 which will make about 6-8 servings, a great addition to a smallish lunch and easy enough to take to work. The beans & pasta is a staple dish in our home and very simple:
1/2 pkg elbow macaroni
2 cans romano beans (do not drain them)
2 strips bacon
1 tsp oregano
2 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp paprika
1 onion, chopped
salt & pepper to taste
1] Boil pasta
2] While pasta boils, chop bacon & fry until crispy, do not drain. Add onions and saute until translucent, about 5 minutes. Add spices and stir.
3] Add beans and liquid to bacon/onion mixture and bring to a boil, stirring frequently. Once boiling, reduce heat to low and stir once or twice. Let cook another 5 minutes.
4] Drain pasta and add to bean mixture. Remove from heat. Stir until all pasta is covered and serve.
Day one cost about $14 if you purchased all the necessary ingredients. My cost was about $8.50.
Breakfast: Banana Chocolate Chip Muffin
Lunch: Tuna Melt Pie + Salad
Dinner: Southwestern Style Chili
(3-day recipe - approximate cost per day $5.50, my cost was <$4)
Day Two Notes: A pretty easy day with two meals consisting of leftovers so no need to cook. The chili can be made stovetop (as I did) or in the crockpot, as the recipe calls for. I froze the third day's serving as it is actually a little less than what would feed all of us and I think it would be great for chili cheese dogs next week. The chili pricing includes the toppings: cilantro, sour cream, and shredded cheddar cheese.
Day two cost about $14.50 & my cost was about $9.50.
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $2. My cost was $1.50)
Lunch: Bacon, Cheddar, and Chive Scones + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $6. My cost was $4.50)
Dinner: Southwestern Chili
Day three notes: The oatmeal cooked overnight and was hot and ready to go in the morning. I baked the scones the day before and froze half of them for next week.
Day three cost about $13.50 and my cost was <$10.
Breakfast: Pumpkin Pie Oatmeal
Lunch: Cheesy Frittata + Salad
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $6. My cost was $2.)
Dinner: English Muffin Pizzas
(Approximate cost $9.)
Day four notes: The pizzas are another fun staple in our house, and so simple to make!
2 packs (of 6) of english muffins
2 small cans pizza sauce (you can get away with one but we like a lot of sauce)
1 can mushroom pieces and stems
1 snack pack of mini pepperoni
1 onion, sliced
1 sweet pepper, sliced
2 cups shredded mozzarella
Halve the muffins, spread pizza sauce, top with cheese, then all other toppings. Bake at 350deg for about 10-15 minutes, or until the cheese is bubbly and slightly browned. Feel free to add or remove any of the toppings, put whatever you like on them, they're quick, easy, and delicious.
Day four cost about $17, with my cost about $13.
(Approximate cost is $3.50)
Lunch: Frittata + Salad
Dinner: Golden Coconut Lentil Soup
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day $2.50. My cost was $0)
Day five notes: Yeah, I know you got all excited about the donuts, then clicked on the link and got weirded out when you saw what the donuts were made of. Trust me, it's okay. It's just a little cheat and we are not a bunch of snitches, so our secret is safe.
Day five cost about $14.50 and my cost was $8.
Breakfast: Slow Cooker Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
(2-day recipe - approximate cost per day is $2. My cost was $0)
Lunch: Reuben Stromboli + salad
(approximate cost $12.50. My cost just over $11.)
Dinner: Coconut Lentil Soup
Day six notes: Remember when I told you to write out EVERY ingredient and then go from there? I did not write the dressing down for the reuben recipe because I really just glanced at it and came to the conclusion that it was only for the dip, and I was not going to make the dip, so I did not need the dressing. So I did not put it on my list at all. Boy was I wrong, and I don't even know how I missed the necessity of the spread on the bread. Anyway, I always have mayo in my fridge, so that was a quick save.
Day six cost about $17 and my cost was about $11.)
Breakfast: Apple Cinnamon Oatmeal
Lunch: Chicken Nugget Eggo Waffle Sliders
(Approximate cost $12)
Dinner: Sausage & Egg Sliders
(Approximate cost $14. My cost about $13.)
Day seven notes: Today turned out to be slider day, I don't think I planned it, but I didn't hear anyone complaining. I have to give you the link to Chicken Waffle Sliders because that's where I got the idea for my chicken nugget sliders, and I like to give credit when credit is due. I took their idea but made it easier by just buying a package of Jane's chicken nuggets and topping each one with a little mayo, lettuce, and 1/3 of a grape tomato. Yum!
Day seven was the most expensive day by far at $28, with my total around $25.)
The approximate total cost for 3 meals a day which actually, realistically, feed a family of four for 7 days turned out to be about $119. My total was a little lower at $84.50. Your total would also differ depending on what you already have in your home. However, even if your fridge is empty and your cupboards bare, I have shown you how to keep your family well fed on about $120.
One last thing I would like to comment on before I send you off: drinks. We drink a lot of water in our house. (Real) juice is a weekly treat, and pop is a rarity, really only when we have company and we all indulge, a few times a year. We also drink coffee (the adults) and tea, both hot and iced. If you're trying to wean yourself or your family off of pop and juice, try squeezing the juice of a lemon or orange into a pitcher of water. Maybe some fresh mint (slightly muddled), or even a few chopped strawberries. Ease your family into it. I won't judge, it's your family, you can ingest what you like, but I feel like if you just give good old H2O a chance, you may find you enjoy how refreshing it can be. And it's also a heck of a lot cheaper ;)
I thank you for sticking around, I know, this was a really long post, but I wanted to be as thorough as possible because the very simplicity of the other posts made me feel it was a waste of time to click through. Comments are always welcome - let me know if you've tried my plan, or if you have any inexpensive but delicious recipes I can add to a future plan.
After 20 years together (16 of them living together as common-law), David and I decided to celebrate our anniversary on Saturday, September 24th by getting married.
When we first decided to finally (legally) tie the knot, we thought we would just have a civil ceremony at City Hall, and find a country club or something to that effect that could host our small reception afterward. While researching this option I stumbled across the Toronto Wedding Chapel.
After I checked out the website, David and I discussed our budget and looked at the various packages available.
First off, I was incredibly grateful that the pricing structure was listed on the website. I looked at so many country clubs and other smaller wedding venues, and only about 15% had their fees listed. I understand that this price that I'm looking at here will not be the actual cost. We booked the "Two Hearts" package, and after we added all the extras, we paid well over the starting price of $3000. But when you're first trying to figure out what you want for your ceremony and reception, and you're looking for a ballpark of what this thing will cost you, seeing actual numbers on the screen are a godsend.
After choosing the 'Two Hearts' package, I sent off an email to make sure that our date and preferred time slot was available. Obviously it was. After that, we booked an appointment and went to discuss the package and our options.
I know, it doesn't look like much from the outside. David and I were questioning our decision about this place when we first walked up to it. However, the inside definitely makes up for how simple the exterior is. With everything in life, you have to weigh the pros and cons and decide if the choice is worth it.
One of the pictures from the TWC website.
After speaking with Lara, we decided to go ahead and book our wedding. The inside was pretty, elegant, and looked perfect to host our small wedding. Since we had to go all or nothing so we wouldn't offend anyone, we decided ours would only include our immediate family members - all told, we had 18 guests.
At the initial meeting we discussed colours, what kind of food, flowers, etc. My mind was definitely at ease once I left, as they would take care of almost everything. Pretty much all David and I had to do was get our license, clothing, and the music. When I say they take care of everything, I mean everything!
Once we signed our contract and paid our deposit, we really didn't hear much until about two weeks before the date of the ceremony. To be honest, by this point I was starting to panic a little. Would everything be okay? How would it look? What are we supposed to do? With larger weddings at churches and the like there is a rehearsal so that everyone knows what's going on. That is not the case here. That's okay with us, as we live in Oshawa and I really didn't want to drive an hour into Toronto for a fifteen minute walkthrough just to turn around and drive back. Plus, that was a really busy couple of weeks at work and I really wouldn't have been able to find the time to go.
I didn't need to worry. Katherine called about a week and a half before and confirmed the colours, the guest list, the food, cake, decorations, pretty much everything I was stressing about. And when we walked in and got our first look at the space, it was magic. Everything was perfection. She had chosen the perfect colours and everything looked wonderful. Katherine had even planned for a maid of honor - I didn't have one, and she forgot to ask, so she planned for one just in case. This is the attention to detail that you receive at the TWC.
The officiant came up to see me before the ceremony, to find out a little about David and myself, so she could make the ceremony more personal. She did a wonderful job. After we signed the register, we went outside and took some pictures (we had a photographer for an hour included in the price!) while the crew set up the tables and food.
When we got back inside, everything was set up for our dinner. The food (we chose Italian) was so good! So much better than I expected. We enjoyed penne, lasagne, veal cutlets, and a salad. Red and white wine was also served, along with champagne. Unfortunately, dessert was only cake, fruit, and some cookies my mother-in-law brought. I would have preferred to also have some pastries and coffee, but truthfully, since everything else was so good, that is definitely something I can let go!
While we were discussing the menu, I totally forgot about my mother-in-law's cheese allergy. I know, I'm terrible. If it makes you feel any better, I also forgot to mention my own allergy to pineapple (which was on the fruit plate, so I couldn't touch that). However, when Katherine found out that Mary couldn't eat anything but the salad, she first offered to run across to St. Louis Bar & Grill and get her some chicken wings (we all found that hilarious!), and when Mary said she was okay, and not to worry about her, Katherine went and got her some grilled meat! No one was going hungry at my wedding, thanks to Katherine!
I only have two gripes. The first is the parking situation. This is totally out of TWC's hands, since they are right in downtown Toronto (off Yonge, just south of Eglinton). There was one parking spot for us, thank goodness, but our guests had to park on adjacent side streets. There is no space for them to create parking, so it's not really anything that can be changed, but I am putting it out there. We did inform our guests and emailed out maps with available parking areas about two weeks before so that everyone would be aware and prepared.
Finally, I just want to comment on the photographer. Firstly, as I mentioned, we had a photographer included in our package for one hour. That was incredible, because in less than a week after our event, we received almost 300 pictures! Unfortunately, a number of the pictures were either pixelated or blurry, which was disappointing. There were also a large number of pictures taken of the flowers, tables, decorations, etc., where I would have preferred fewer of those and more of the guests.
That being said - I want to repeat that we received almost 300 pictures! That is amazing. And to get them within a week is pretty incredible. Although I was disappointed with some of them, on the whole, I am extremely pleased with the photographer and the photos we received.
So there you have it! I found a fantastic little gem of a wedding chapel in downtown Toronto. For an incredible price, you can have the small-scale wedding of your dreams - I know I did!
Review also posted to Yelp - click here.
Judging from news reports, I am one of the few people in Southern Ontario who was actually pretty excited that Toronto is hosting the Pan Am /ParaPan Am Games this time around. I know, It's not the Olympics, but I still think it's kinda cool that something this big is going on here. We had intended to see an event, just so we can say we were there and saw something happen. The nice thing about not all the events taking place in the city of Toronto is that those of us who just cannot stand the congestion can see an event in relative peace.
So on Canada Day I received an email that they were having a 25% off sale, and I jumped at the chance and bought 4 tickets to see Canada VS Nicaragua in a preliminary baseball game at the President's Choice Pan Am Ballpark. For 2 kids (under 16) and 2 adults, I paid $80 after discounts, taxes, and fees. Not bad. But I know why tickets are so affordable. Well, two reasons, I guess. The first being that they want people to come, so if they price the tickets reasonably, there's a better chance that families like mine will go. The second has to be the sick pricing structure for pretty much everything else at the venue.
I do also have one more thing to gripe about - the organization at the venue. Going into the game, I was not impressed. Happy during. Leaving the game I was not impressed. Living in Durham, we know the route to take to get to the location of the venue, Audley & Taunton. However, I suppose they did not expect too many people to be arriving from the Durham Region, because there was only one sign, approximately ten feet from the street we would have had to turn onto, telling us that Audley was closed at Rossland. As we drove past it, I saw it very quickly, but was not able to read the whole sign. Quite frankly, even if I had seen it sooner, we would not have had time to turn on Lakeridge anyhow. So we had to drive further West, then North, then back East, following the signs to get to the ballpark. I was none too impressed with that. There should have been ample warning so we could make a decision as to where to turn North sooner.
We get there, park in the grass, with very little direction at this point from signs or volunteers. You kinda just have to wing it and hope for the best. Did I mention the car was a 15 minute walk from the actual stadium? Well, it was. Ugh. Although it was lovely to walk in nature before we got to the event, I could have done without it, and I could have done without the weird walking path they had. There were these hard rubber sheets to walk on with deep grooves on them. Unless you're wearing thick-soled shoes (which I wasn't), they hurt your feet. Then came the gravel path, always fun to get stones in your shoes when you have a long way to walk. It's summer... people are wearing sandals and flip-flops. These two choices for something to walk on would probably be lower on my list, maybe just above 'hot coals' and 'broken glass sprinkled with salt'.
We get to the actual stadium (bottom of the second), and I was really, really underwhelmed as to the sight that greeted me. I was expecting some food, drink, and merchandise vendors. Instead, there was the ballpark to my right, I think a huge field of porta potties on the left, and a few random people selling bottled tap water or beer out of coolers. Since it was general seating, it was tough to find anything. There wasn't really anyone helping out, either. I wasn't really impressed at his point by my experience. Getting out was worse... no direction whatsoever, the only exit signs to be seen at the end of the lot, and if you're there, you already know where the exit is.
We finally did find some seats, and they turned out to be really great. We had a fantastic view of all the action, and since we were sitting in a predominantly Nicaraguan area, the players from Nicaragua were coming over and tossing balls into our area for the fans that stayed past the seventh inning.
All the doom and gloom aside, I enjoyed the game. I am definitely more interested in winter sports, however, I have to say that it's always fun when your team is winning, and after a slow start, that's exactly what Team Canada did. The crowd was great, the seating sucked, but the experience was still enjoyable. As I mentioned before - organization was poor, which is pretty sad.
Don't let my doom and gloom stop you from going to see a game or two yourself. It's a once in a lifetime thing happening right now, and you should endeavor to take part in it in some small way. It is a great thing, and we should take pride in it.
One last thing. There has been a whole lot of talk about how little everyone cares about these games. I do want to point out that although I think it's great that they're here and I'll support them, they were really doomed from the start. Here in Ontario we are way more interested in winter sports than summer ones. We're also not the rowdiest of fans on a good day. Then, you have to remember that these are North & South American games. No European countries. You want tourists and pandemonium? Host a sporting even with European countries as participants. They'll come in droves. Just sayin'.
Yesterday I gave the lowdown on two drinks our family have incorporated into a healthier lifestyle, along with the recipe for lemon water and a promise that one for golden milk would soon follow.
I won't give you the whole why this is awesome for my family spiel again (you can read yesterday's post here), instead here are the benefits of golden milk, and my own personal recipe.
This is another drink that is causing a lot of buzz on the internet. South Asia has known about the powers of turmeric forever and we in North America are just catching on. Turmeric is the spice (or root) that gives golden milk it's rich colour and one of the components that make it so great for your body.
Google 'golden milk' and you'll get a plethora of hits, most giving you the standard recipe of: coconut milk, turmeric powder and honey. On it's own, this combination has some benefits, but with the addition of a few simple ingredients, you can pack so much more punch into your evening drink.
About 90% (if not more) of the recipes call for turmeric powder. It is a fantastic spice and can be used that way if you prefer or if you do not have access to fresh. I will always choose the fresh option, picking up a whole bag of the root whenever I find it, however I do have ground turmeric in my spice cabinet and will use it when fresh runs out. Same goes for the ginger, although it is really easy to find in most stores.
A note about the ingredients: feel free to use cow, goat, coconut, almond, soy, or whatever type of milk you prefer. We started out with coconut milk, but we moved to cow's milk, as I find that we get a richer, creamier drink. The black pepper is added in because with it your body is able to absorb an astonishing 2000% more of the available curcumin in turmeric. Shocking, I know, what that little tiny addition will do. If you read yesterday's post you'll already know this, but I'm saying it again just in case: it is really important to mix the honey in after the milk has cooled slightly. High temperatures will kill the beneficial bacteria in it. Also, try to use raw, unpasteurized whenever you can. The difference in benefits is astounding when you remove the pasteurization (high heat...) process. To see yesterday's chart regarding this topic, click here.
2 cups milk
sliver fresh ginger
1/2" chunk fresh turmeric
2 whole black peppercorns
pinch cayenne pepper
2 tsps honey
1/4 tsp maca powder
1/2 cinnamon stick
(*note* I use a nutribullet for the first part. You can forgo the blending part and just chop smaller pieces and put everything together in your saucepan as is)
Add 1 cup milk to blender.
Add ginger, turmeric, peppercorns, cayenne and maca. Blend for 30 seconds.
Place this along with remaining milk and cinnamon stick into a saucepan.
Allow to cook on low heat, stirring occasionally, for about a half hour. Do not boil.
After a half hour, remove from heat and allow to cool about 10 minutes.
Strain into 2 cups and stir in 1 tsp honey each. Drink warm.
Why drink this? Once you read all these benefits, you're going to wonder "Why am I not drinking this?"
Yesterday we learned about the benefits of ginger and honey:
Ginger improves the absorption of essential nutrients, helps relieve gas, bloating & nausea, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Honey helps prevent cancer & heart disease, reduces ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders, has anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties, reduces coughs & throat irritation, regulates blood sugar, gives you great skin and is a probiotic.
In addition to those benefits, in each cup of golden milk you'll get these boosts also:
Turmeric boasts anti-inflammatory, anti-oxidant, antiseptic, & analgesic properties, boosts immunity, is an anti-carcinogenic, helps maintain cholesterol levels, promotes digestive health, detoxifies livers, regulates metabolism, lowers triglycerides, helps give you beautiful skin, and can help with high blood pressure, and improve memory & brain function.
Maca is rich in vitamin B vitamins, C, & E. It provides calcium, zinc, iron, magnesium, phosphorous & amino acids. It can boost to your libido, balance your hormones & increase fertility. Can alleviate cramps, body pain, hot flashes, anxiety, mood swings, & depression. Energy levels may increase, along with an increase in mental energy & focus. It helps restore red blood cells, which aids anemia & cardiovascular diseases. May help clear up acne.
Cayenne has the ability to ease upset stomach, ulcers, sore throats, spasmodic and irritating coughs, and diarrhea.It's an anti-cold and flu agent, has anti-fungal properties, can help prevent migraines, anti-allergen, digestive aid, helps reduce atherosclerosis, detox support, joint-pain relief, anti-bacterial properties, boosts metabolism, help balance LDL cholesterol & triglycerides, & helps prevent tooth & gum disease.
Cinnamon helps with heart health, blood sugar regulation, better brain function, & improved motor function.
So I ask you again, why aren't you drinking this? Trust me, your body will thank you!
As I move my family towards a healthier home little by little, we've also started to drink 'concoctions' (as hubby calls them) in the morning and evening as a small step on that path. Currently we drink honey lemon water each morning and golden milk each evening and we've seen a few changes since this has become routine. Hubby has lost a few pounds (ten at last count, I believe) and I have had some success in that area also. To be more specific, at the beginning of this year I caught a particularly nasty bug - one that had me wishing I could just die - and over the course of the four days that I feared leaving my home without wearing an adult diaper (I know, TMI), I lost sixteen pounds. Crazy, right? Well, that's what happens when you're petrified of putting anything into your body (like food), but your body still feels the need to get rid of everything that is still in there. Usually after such an illness, I'll put it all back on (and then some because I'm so happy to be able to eat again) but that was not the case this time around. Four pounds returned, but here I am, a month later, and that is all I've put back on.
We're not eating any differently than before and definitely not getting more exercise (although we both know we should), so we're laying this good fortune at the doorstep of the honey lemon water we drink each weekday morning. Yes, I said weekday. On weekends we all wake up at different times (my teenager just in time for brunch, usually) and since you can't have coffee for an hour after the lemon water, it makes for a tricky situation. So we forgo our 'concoctions' on the weekends. We've been taking our honey lemon water since before Christmas last year.
The second one we drink each weeknight is golden milk. I found out about the health benefits of this drink and a pretty good recipe online and we've been drinking this for about a month. I've tweaked the standard recipe slightly and will give you my version tomorrow. There is one really glaring benefit we've found with this one, and I can only attribute it to the golden milk because we did not have this benefit while drinking only the lemon water, and it happens within days of starting it. We smell better. I know that seems a really odd thing to say, but you don't realize what a benefit it is until you live it. No one likes to talk about personal odor issues, most of us are embarrassed by it, and do our best to mask it. Hubby didn't have much of an issue to begin with, he is blessed to only have to wear deodorant on the stickiest of summer days. I am not so blessed, and my poor son got my genes in this respect. Since he hit puberty, it has been a major issue. People may think he doesn't bathe or wear deodorant, but he does and it still doesn't help. My body is so good to me that I have to put on deodorant the second I get out of the shower or I already smell. Not fun, and not good for a person's self-esteem. I am quite aware of the correlation between deodorant and breast cancer, but it came down to do I want to lose one or both boobs later in life or stink to high heaven now. I did think about it every time I applied deodorant. It sucked.
Here's the fantastic change: we don't stink anymore! I can (and do, lol) actually go an entire weekend without showering or putting on deodorant. I now know freedom, people. It is quite liberating.
So, enough about our family's bodily functions, weight loss and level of stinkiness. I wanted to share my two daily drinks, but there are quite a few new ones that I'd like to try out over the course of 2015 and I may do another post like this one with my happy results.
I'll start with this one because it's pretty much the most widely known drink with health benefits and also because its the one I start my day with.
There are many different variations of this one, and we started with the basic: Hot water with a half a lemon squeezed in. If you google this one, you'll find recipes galore. My suggestion is to start with water & lemon sweetened with some honey. Next, add some mint. Lastly, try out the recipe below.
**note** It is really important to add the honey AFTER the water has cooled slightly. Hot water will kill the beneficial bacteria.
**note** Due to the acidic nature of the lemon, do not drink coffee or brush your teeth for one hour after consuming.
2 cups water
1 lemon (organic if you can, otherwise, wash it with soap & water)
2 tsp honey (organic, raw, unpasteurized is best)
sliver fresh ginger
4 leaves fresh mint
Toss mint leaves into a saucepan and muddle slightly.
Slice lemon and add along with ginger.
Bring to a boil, remove from heat and let cool slightly.
Mix in honey, pour into glasses (use a strainer) and consume warm.
(Quick, simple recipe for busy mornings at the end of this post)
Why drink this? Seriously, this one glass packs a punch!
Lemons are known to replenish body salts, aid in the production of digestive fluids, maintain eye health, helps prevent wrinkles & acne, help balance calcium & oxygen levels in the liver, potassium levels nourish brain and nerve cells, help reduce pain and inflammation in joints, help prevent common cold and some infections & diseases by helping slow the growth & multiplication of bacteria, balance pH levels, flush out toxins, and is a great source of vitamin C, citric acid, calcium, phosphorus and magnesium.
Ginger improves the absorption of essential nutrients, helps relieve gas, bloating & nausea, and has anti-inflammatory properties.
Mint relieves indigestion, gas, morning sickness, menstrual cramps & pain, anti-bacterial & anti-inflammatory properties help fight oral infections, great for skin & clearing up acne, Helps prevent asthma & allergies, boosts immunity, fights stress & depression and helps fight cancer.
Honey helps prevent cancer & heart disease, reduces ulcers and gastrointestinal disorders, has anti-bacterial & anti-fungal properties, reduces coughs & throat irritation, regulates blood sugar, gives you great skin and is a probiotic. Whenever you can, go for raw, unpasteurized honey, there are way more benefits. If you can, find a local beekeeper and purchase your honey from them. You are supporting your community and you know what you're getting. Just so you know, honey technically cannot be called 'organic' in Ontario (I'm not sure about other provinces) because the bees are flying around and can ingest pollen from anywhere.
I have included a graphic I found online which gives you an idea why raw is better:
I highly recommend that you incorporate at least a basic version of this drink into your morning routine. I know it's not easy - we're all so busy and time is at a premium - but it's such a simple way to do something good for your body.
Some mornings are busier than others, and a way to make this quickly (which I do some mornings) is this:
Boil water in your kettle. Pour water into each glass & add juice of one half lemon. Add enough cold water to cool slightly. Mix in 1 tsp honey. This method is per glass.
Here you have the basics: honey & lemon, and it's quick. Don't give up your health to save ten minutes!
Come back tomorrow for my Golden Milk recipe!
Last time I told you about my superworm colony, which is just exploding! I have so many new babies that I don't have to worry that my girls will go without this coming winter. Insects are difficult to get in the winter, because a lot of them die during transit due to the temperatures in our fair country.
A few months back I purchased a 100 pack of mealworms from the pet store because I was looking for something different for the girls. Variety is the spice of life, and not just for us humans. When I opened the container, I noticed a pupae inside. I thought this was odd, because my only experience was with supers, who have to be separated and stressed into pupating. So, off to trusty Google I go (what would I do without you?) and found a whole lot of info regarding mealworms and how to successfully breed them. Mealies make great treats for many lizard, fish, frogs, hedgehogs and chickens. They aren't packed with a whole lot of nutrition, but if you have the correct combination of substrate, veggies and minerals appropriate to your pet, they can be quite an inexpensive food source.
First a little education: Mealworms are the larval stage of the mealworm beetle, which is within the same species as the darkling beetle (which makes the superworms). They are much smaller than supers, and come in two sizes, the small regular mealworm, and the larger giant mealworm, which is somewhere in size between the regular and the superworm (also called the kingworm). They go from larval stage to beetle, where they reproduce, lay eggs and the cycle continues. As with the larger darkling beetle, they can fly, but really can't be bothered, at least in my experience. I have shook them off of cardboard and they just fall, I haven't seen them even attempt flight. Mealworms eat the substrate you give them and require fruit and vegetables for hydration. The beetles do not eat the substrate, they only eat the fruits and veggies.
So, what do you need in order to start and maintain your own feeder colony of mealworms? Surprisingly little. This is the easiest colony I've set up. The funny thing is that my beardies and gecko have absolutely no interest in eating them! They just do not move around enough. However, my beardies love eating the beetles. They have absolutely no nutritional value, so if you're thinking of feeding them to your own pet, make sure they're just a treat. I usually shake them onto a plate that's been dusted with calcium or a multivitamin, so they're getting something out of the deal, health wise.
There are two different schools of thought when it comes to breeding and raising mealworms. The first treats them the same as supers, segregating the beetles, pupae and larva. If you would like to try this method, you can read my post on breeding supers (click on 'pets' under the categories section to the right), it's much more involved, but some swear by it. The second is the method I use and have been extremely successful with, even though there is very little effort involved. It's all done in one container without ever moving any of the bugs. They live in their own community, all together. As I mentioned before, I started breeding them almost by accident! This second method is what I will outline below. Happy breeding!
These guys go thorough their life cycle relatively quickly and you'll have a population explosion in no time, so starting out small is a good idea. I started out with a 1000 worm shipment, and I have more bugs than I know what do do with right now!
Their substrate is their food. Just because they're bugs, don't skimp here. Keep in mind who you're feeding them to. Whatever they eat is what you pet will be eating. I go to bulk barn and pick out whatever is organic and on sale, bring it home, grind it in my nutribullet and I'm done. It's not as expensive as you think. Start out small, and add a little every month or so. Good things to use are; quinoa, millet, kamut, wheat bran, lentils, seeds and any other grains you find. You can also add dried spices. I add basil and thyme to mine because they are high in calcium and low in phosphorus, which is good for my girls. You don't have to go organic - buy a box of mutigrain cheerios and a box of weetabix. Shred and grind them and you have pretty instant substrate!
The size will depend on how many bugs you have. It can be rather shallow, they're small and not very good climbers. The sides on mine are not high at all and I have yet to find an escapee. They're just high enough so my beardie can't climb in.
Eggcrate or cardboard.
Both the beetles and worms like to congregate under things. You can use eggcrate or pretty much anything available to you. I also put some folded-over pages from the phone book in there for them.
If you do not give them a regular source of moisture in the form of fruit and/or vegetables, they will suck each other dry! Things like potatoes, carrots, cabbage and celery keep well and don't really mold. You can put pretty much any scraps in there, just keep in mind, again, that your pet is eating them. Do not feed your feeders anything that your pet cannot eat. For example: I cannot put onions or garlic in there because they would make my dragons very sick. It's a small fraction, but do you really want to take the chance? Replace their food every day or so. If you're using things like carrots, you don't even have to remove the old ones: they'll suck the moisture out of them and they just dry out. If you had melon for dessert and gave them the rind, make sure you take it out the next day (shaking well to dislodge any tiny babies) to prevent mold. If you see any, take out the whole section and dump it into your compost. Mold is insidious and will take over quickly before you even realize it, sickening and killing your colony and potentially your pets.
Okay - so you have your bugs, container and all the other things ready. What happens next? Depending on the age of the mealies you purchased, you'll start to see pupae. Once they start, they'll pretty much pupate at the same time, so one day you may have all worms, four days later all pupae and about a week after that, all beetles! Once you go through this with your first batch, you'll have a good mixture of all three at any time going forward.
Clean out your container and cover the bottom with about and inch or two of substrate. You don't need to start with a whole lot, as you'll be adding to it over time. Add eggcrate and any other hiding places you're giving your bugs. Dump your worms in and place some veggies inside. You can place them directly onto the bed or on top of cardboard or newsprint - they'll burrow right through to get to their moisture. That's pretty much it! Within a few months you'll start to see babies and your whole cycle begins anew. Compared to any of the other feeders out there, this setup is really the quickest and easiest method for having a constant supply of food.
You may notice that some of your beetles seem to have malformed wing cases. It doesn't seem to bother them too much, and from what I've noticed it's not too big of a deal. It may occur because they did not get enough moisture just before they pupated and didn't form properly. I don't notice too much of it right now (I'm on my second generation of beetles), but I did notice about 40% of my initial batch did have this issue. As they pupated shortly after arriving at my house, I think it may have to do with moisture issues and perhaps the stress of shipment. Don't worry about it of you see these guys. They'll go about their business and maybe even get eaten by their friends!
There is not a whole lot of cleanup necessary with these little guys. As long as you keep their fruit and veggies fresh, there's not really a whole lot else you need to do. You can remove dead bugs and shed skin, but it's really not necessary because, like I mentioned before, they're cannibals and will actually eat their dead, saving you cleanup.
And that's really all there is to breeding mealworms. It's really that easy! There's no need to move or separate them or have multiple containers unless you want to have multiple colonies. The only thing I would advise, with any insect you're breeding, is to add a new pool of bugs every 3-4 generations. Remember that they are inbreeding, and too much is not good for any living thing. All you need to do is buy a hundred or so new worms, I would suggest from a different supplier than the original batch (they're probably inbreeding also), dump them into your colony, and you're good for a few more generations. You'll probably do this once a year and you should have a pretty healthy bug colony.
Owning a lizard who eats insects can lean toward the expensive side if you’re buying your feeders from your local petstore. Since variety is the key to a healthy life, different types of insects should be fed to your pet on a regular basis. I own two female bearded dragons and a female leopard gecko. My trio of girls enjoy (apart from fruit and veggies) a mix of crickets, phoenix worms, hornworms, mealworms, superworms, butterworms and waxworms.
The first few months that I had my two beardies, I was making a trip to Petsmart 2-3 times a week, and let me tell you, that can get expensive! (See my price comparison chart after this segment) I finally did some research and found some online places which sell bulk quantities of insects to retail customers. If you’re interested in investigating this route for yourself, follow the links to the respective sellers in the chart below.
I found that not only was it much easier on my wallet to buy from online wholesalers, but the bugs seemed happier, and there is better selection (I haven’t been able to buy phoenix or silkworms at my local store). I know it sounds strange to talk about happy bugs, but think of it this way: The retailer places their order for 5000 superworms with the wholesaler. We know they’ll order more than just one type, but let’s follow just one bug today. The wholesaler gets the order on Monday. On Tuesday they measure out 5000 worms and pack them into 25 or 50 count containers with a little bit of substrate. They get packed into their boxes, put on the truck and get shipped out on Wednesday. On Thursday afternoon they finally reach their destination. That may not sound too terrible until you consider that they’ll now sit on the shelf at the petstore without food or moisture in that tiny container until you buy them and bring them home. Often when you do, you just open the pack and feed them to your hungry lizard, hopefully dusting a bit of calcium or vitamins on top first. Sure, they’ve retained some nutrients since they’re alive, but I wouldn’t say they’re in optimum shape. Alternately, when you order directly from the wholesaler, you get this box of a wriggling mass of 500 or so worms. Obviously you’re not going to feed them off all at once, so you give them some veggies and let them enjoy a few more weeks of life in the substrate you’ve prepared for them. So you have happier, healthier worms, and by extension, happier, healthier pets.
After a few months of high prices and lowered quality, I decided to try my hand at breeding feeder insects myself. It actually came about because my beardies simply lose their minds with excitement when I bring home hornworms, and they’re ridiculously expensive! Even buying these little green delights from wholesalers will break the bank. Unfortunately, breeding them is also pretty labor-intensive, so I decided to check around a little bit and find a feeder which would be a little easier for a newbie. I’d still like to make the attempt with the hornworms, but I think that will be the last species I try.
I am now in the process of raising superworms, waxworms, mealworms and waiting for a shipment of silkworm eggs so I can try my hand at those also. My primary reason for breeding these little guys is monetary, however, I am fascinated by their life-cycles and sometimes I just sit there and watch them as they go about their lives in their little micro-worlds. My goal is to write instructive posts according to my personal experiences on each species eventually, but I’m going to start at the beginning: Superworms.
Any website you read will tell you that superworms are not worms at all, but actually the larval stage of the darkling beetle. The “worms” can reach about 2-1/2 inches long and are a staple of my beardies diets. They're nutritious, easy to keep (no yucky 'cricket' stink!) and actually can be covered in calcium powder, contrary to popular belief. The girls love them, and I love hearing the “crunch, crunch, crunch” - I know it’s kinda sick, but I do. Whatever my babies enjoy makes me happy. All I have to do is put my hand on the superworm bin and Vexus comes running – she knows what’s in there!
Before I get to my adventures in breeding, here is the price comparison chart with links to Ontario wholesalers I promised. Please keep in mind that things change. Prices go up and down (usually up), websites go away and some things become unavailable, so use this list as a guide only. I cannot estimate shipping, because it usually depends on how much you're buying and where you live. My usual order is about $100.00 and shipping is usually approx. $20.00. All links on this site open in a new window. As you can see, the online places, including personal breeders all have about the same cost per worm. Large scale pet stores charge double and triple.
PetSmart - 25pc @ $3.99 = 0.1596ea 50pc @ 5.99 = 0.1198ea (no shipping cost, pickup only)
Kijiji - 100pc @ $5.00 = 0.050ea (no shipping cost, local pickup only)
Recorp Inc - 500pc @ $18.00 = 0.036ea 1000pc @ $30.00 = 0.030ea (+ shipping)
The Worm Lady - 500pc @ $23.95 = 0.0479ea 1000pc @ $40.00 = 0.04ea (+ shipping)
Supercricket - 500pc @ $19.99 = 0.04ea 1000pc @ $31.99 = 0.032ea (+ shipping)
Capital Dragons - 500pc @ $24.99 = 0.05ea 1000pc @ $39.99 = 0.04ea (+ shipping)
Silkworms.ca - 250pc @ $13.00 = 0.052ea 500pc @ $25.99 = 0.052ea (+ shipping)
Raising Superworms: My Personal Adventure
Stage One: Materials Needed
25-50 superworms - if you’re just a newbie it’s usually best to start off small and see where it goes from here. Pick the largest, liveliest guys you have. Happy larva = happy beetles!
25-50 small containers - use whatever is available to you. If you have access to old 35mm film containers, use them. Otherwise, plastic shot glasses are good (that's what I use) and you also have the option of using tackle or bead boxes, as long as you drill holes in the top for air. As long as the sides are high enough, you don’t even need a cover.
This is really all you need for the initial stage. As I said, pick the best, largest worms from your repertoire and place one in each container. It is very important that they are alone with no substrate or moisture. Taking away their nourishment will force them to pupate, which is the first step to becoming a beetle. Separation is mandatory because when they get hungry enough they’ll eat each other. That said, once you’ve done this, the waiting begins. I’d love to tell you that everything which follows happens en masse, but that would be a lie. Here and there, your little friends will begin to curl themselves into a ‘c’ or ‘e’ shape. This is good. Straight and black is bad. Curly = getting ready to change. Straight = dead. The changes will begin about a week or two depending on how warm it is in your house. I started in the winter months, so it was usually only about 21.5 degrees Celsius, and it took about two weeks for mine to start curling. In my experience, they will pupate all at different times. It could be one today, three tomorrow, then none, then only one again. There seems to be no rule, except maybe some had bigger reserves than others. They will usually shed their skin at least once during their stint in solitary confinement and I don’t know if it makes a difference, but I usually just remove this and toss it out. Of note: I have used both supers purchased from retailers and from wholesalers. The petstore ones seem to take much longer to pupate and have a higher death rate. I do not know why, as I would assume it would be the other way around, since they’re probably hungry when I get them from the store, but there you have it.
Stage Two: Materials Needed
During this stage, your little curly buddies will begin to morph into pupae. It’s so great! When they emerge, they’ll be light cream in colour and look like little aliens. As they get ready to become beetles, they’ll darken in colour, beginning with the eyes. As soon as they get a “face”, I know it won’t be long. At this stage, some people will remove them to a separate container to free up a container for a new worm. I like to leave them in there until they become beetles, unless I know I’ll be gone all day and one seems close, then I’ll put it in the corner of the beetle tank and hope he doesn’t get eaten.
You will notice that the pupae are pretty much motionless during this period unless you touch them. I have noticed that just before they emerge they’ll start to move their tail up and down slowly. While your larva are pupae, you will have about a week or two (again, depending on temperature mostly) to prepare for the next step.
Stage Three: Materials Needed
Container - you can use large Tupperware or Rubbermaid bins, old fish tanks, critter holders, pretty much anything plastic or glass (i.e. with smooth sides that can’t be chewed through) is good. Keep in mind how many beetles you’ll be housing, give them a decent amount of space.
Eggcrate and/or toilet paper/paper towel cores - anything the beetles can crawl on and congregate under.
Substrate - this is their bedding and they will lay eggs in it.
Food - veggie and fruit scraps are fine
When your little aliens begin to emerge as beetles, they will once again be a very light cream colour. Over the course of the day, they’ll progressively darken until they’re full black about 24 hours after emergence.
It’s really important, in my humble opinion, to have good substrate for your feeders. What they eat will be transferred to your pets. Happy bugs = happy pets. Most commonly I read oat bran or something along those lines as substrate. I am not saying they’re wrong; they’ve been doing this a whole lot longer than I have. However, I prefer to make mine nutrient and calcium dense to help all of my babies be as healthy as possible. My substrate recipe is listed at the end of this section.
To set up your new habitat, take your container (I use stackable plastic bins I bought at the dollar store usually, but an old frog tank [pictured] is also in use) and place a layer of substrate about 1/2” thick along the bottom. Place some items inside the container that the beetles can climb over and congregate under. I use eggcrate and sometimes will toss in a half of a paper towel roll core. In order to cut down on molding, you may also want to consider a plastic container lid to place their food on. I change their food almost daily, so this is not a concern for me, but better to be safe than sorry. Mold is never a good thing. Once you place your beetles in their new home, you need to make sure that they have access to moisture, i.e. scraps of veggies and fruit. Be careful with fruit, as it does mold rather quickly. Things like carrots seem to dry out rather than mold. If they don’t get enough moisture, they will eat each other. You do not need to worry about removing dead beetles, these guys take care of their own, and they will eat their dead. Yuk, I know, but at least you don’t have to worry about disposal. Good things to give them are lettuce, potato, apples, carrots, fennel, strawberries and sweet peppers. They’re not too picky. Please do not give them anything your particular lizard is unable to eat. Whether it filters down to the eventual baby that your pet will eat, I do not know, but my question is, do you really want to take that chance? For example, onions and tomato plant leaves are toxic to bearded dragons - so these are things that my beetles will never get in their tank.
And that’s pretty much it! You let them do their thing and be beetles. FYI, you don’t necessarily need a lid on your container. Although they have the ability to do so, these beetles rarely fly. I have read that they may do so when they feel threatened, but even then do not make it too far. None of mine have ever made the attempt, even though I grab at them and shake their eggcrate like crazy when I’m switching them to a new container.
As promised, here is the list of ingredients which make up my substrate (which I use for my worms and beetles):
Fluker's cricket feed
Reptile Munchies omnivore mix
Gerber rice and banana cereal
freeze dried bloodworms
wild birdseed mix
I take more of some (cheerios, oats) and less of others (bloodworms, flax) and grind them into a mix of fine and coarse ground substrate. The beetles don't burrow, so theirs is a little chunkier, but I'll add some more finely ground substrate to the super's container. I've done some limited research and tried to find dry things that are not poisonous to my beardies, lower in phosphorous and higher in calcium.
You’ll have to move your beetles to a new habitat every 2-3 weeks to prevent them from eating their offspring. Remove only the beetles, leaving their jungle gym and everything else behind, as they may have laid eggs on any surface within their enclosure. The eggs are tiny and you won’t be able to see them, so better to be safe than sorry. Just make up a new container using the guidelines in stage three and you can safely move them by picking them up by their sides. As fascinated as I am by them, I don’t actually want to touch them, so I utilize two methods: pick them up with long tweezers that I use to feed my lizards and the shake & dump. I just pick up their eggcrate and shake it into the new container. Some of them are really good at holding on for dear life, but they eventually fall. The tweezers method is not exactly easy; they can be pretty quick little buggers.
Whenever you’re going to discard anything coming out of these containers, be it food, substrate, eggcrate or whatever, ALWAYS put it in a plastic bag and freeze it for about 24 hours first. This is an important step where you kill off any babies or eggs that may be left behind. Please ensure that you are a responsible pet owner and that you never release your feeder insects into the wild where they can become pests.
Good luck & have fun! ~s
I guess sometimes I rant, and sometimes I rave. Warmer weather is finally here, so I'm in a pretty good mood. The next few posts are happy posts to mark the occasion.
I guess I'll start with a topic that I love: lizards as pets. I love our furry, feathered and finned friends, but I have found through experience that lizards make unique and pretty amazing pets. I had a green iguana as a teen and loved him dearly. Unfortunately I was pretty irresponsible back then (to say the least) and Gaby suffered. I had to have him put down at only 4 years old due to MBD (metabolic bone disease) - I did not take enough care with him. I did not give him the amount of calcium or UV lighting that he required to be as healthy as he could. He was a fantastic pet and believe it or not - he loved eating pizza and mac n' cheese. I cried like a little baby when he had to go. We buried him in the backyard surrounded by flowers. May he rest in peace.
But on to happier things. I am now older and wiser and when it came down to picking pets for my kids, I decided upon lizards. I did a little research on the easiest ones to take care of. Some require a lot of care, while others are pretty easy. There's also the subject of handling, some like it while others will bite your fingers off. I decided not to go with an iguana this time around because they do grow rather large and I wanted something which would stay pretty small. I started reading up on bearded dragons (Pogona vitticeps) and fell in love.
I was lucky that a friend at work happened to be looking to sell hers. Her kids liked them, but did not want to actually clean up after or feed them, so she was looking for a home for the girls. You can see them above at feeding time - Citrus is the one eating, Vexus is the one looking to eat. I gladly took them in, not knowing at the time that they were still juveniles, which is why they were perfectly happy to share a cage. Imagine my surprise a few months later when they finally hit adulthood and decided that they loathed each other. This may sound mean, but it was so funny when they got angry and chased each other around! We never let them hurt each other, and they have been kept in separate enclosures since then.
Lizards in general, and bearded dragons (beardies) in particular, are such fantastic pets for a number of reasons. I seem to have developed allergies to dogs and cats over the years. I do not have such issues with lizards. They do not bark in the middle of the night. They do not howl like a beaten child when they're in heat. Generally, they do not stink. I say generally because Citrus does have a habit of acting like a monkey and flinging her shit around and rolling around in it when she's pissed off at me. They will not try to smell your guest's crotch or hump their leg. They will not try to perch on your 102 year old grandmother's head, nearly giving her a fatal stroke. They live longer than 3 months (I'm looking at you, Betta). You don't have to walk them at 4:00am in the middle of a snowstorm, them pick up the shit in a little baggie to bring home. You don't have to clean a litterbox. The smell in your home doesn't give away the fact that you have pets (you know the smell as soon as a pet owner opens their door). I could really go on, but I'll leave it for now. These little girls are fantastic.
But you may be asking: do they do anything? Don't they just lie around their tank all day waiting to be fed and then lie around some more? I guess some lizards do. We also have a gecko. She cannot stand to be handled. She's a gorgeous little thing, but we adopted her when she was already 10 years old and her previous owner did not handle her. It's too late now. I try with her, but she's not impressed. So yeah, many lizards don't want to be touched, some can't be for safety reasons, but many can be held and played with and enjoyed. Some species, like the gecko and iguana, can be safely handled from the time they're small and they will learn to be OK with it. Some species, like beardies, crave love and affection.
Our little girls spend very little time in their enclosures, in fact. We give them their "basking" time, which is absolutely necessary for their health and good digestion. But they would rather be outside of their tanks and hanging out with the family. They are incredibly funny at times, and truly, their mannerisms often remind me of dogs. They'll sit by the sliding door looking out into the yard, watching the birds. They'll pace back and forth outside of Mica's tank (the gecko) trying to figure out how to get in there, probably to eat her, because she's little. Vexus has even been known to sit by the front door waiting for the boys to get home from school. They'll sit with you while you read a book or watch TV, and they'll even curl up with you and fall asleep. When you first take them out of their tanks, they're warmed up and raring to go, so they run around the house like little maniacs, sliding on their claws and slamming into walls. Tell me that doesn't sound like something a dog would do?
Having a beardie may sound like all fun and games, but there is a serious side I'd like to mention, in case you're thinking about a dragon for yourself. Lizards, all desert-dwelling creatures in fact, require specialized care. Sticking them in a cage and feeding them whatever is at hand is not going to cut it. Our girls have specialized lighting and large enclosures with basking spots and hiding spots and things to climb on, even though they don't like to hang out there much. Thankfully CFL lighting has been introduced, so that your pet can get the correct UV and heat requirements, while you can save a few bucks. Think 20w versus 75w 18 hours a day. My electric bill thanks me. They are also omnivores, which means they need a good mix of fruits and veggies, as well as insects. A few lizards are happy eating the freeze-dried ones available at pet stores, but mine will only eat them if they're moving. This can get rather expensive, because you have to give them a varied diet consisting of crickets, mealworms, superworms, waxworms, butterworms, silkworms and hornworms. Most of these are high in fat, but make excellent treats. Mine are crazy for hornworms in particular. When I pull one out for them, they actually hurl themselves out of the tank to get to them. Citrus is especially good at catching it mid-flight. They're so funny to watch while eating. They absolutely must have their calcium supplements at the least and a good multivitamin will keep them healthy. Balance is key - do not give them too much of either. Beardies also need baths so that they can soak up water, they generally won't drink from a bowl, although I have heard of a few who will.
You should also be aware of the extreme expressive nature of these lizards. Citrus is very good at letting you know when she's not happy - which is often. She's a grumpy little thing, but she's cute so we let her get away with it. She is particularly good at giving you "stinkeye", which is her equivalent of "meanface". We get that quite often, and especially after a bath. Beardies also have the ability to puff out their bodies and make their spikes rigid. When they're happy little clams, the spikes all along their bodies and heads are soft. When they puff out those little things can puncture you if you're not careful. This baby girl is excellent at using our hands as a pincushion. Bearded dragons get their name from their beards, which can be regular in colour and flat when they're OK. When they're upset, the beard goes dark brown in colour. When the beard is puffed out and black, stay away! This is an excellent signal that this particular lizard is in no mood for anything, you'd better give her some space. Citrus has either yellow or black beard - there is no in-between. Vexus, on the other hand, is so expressive that you know immediately what her mood is. She can have the black angry beard, the brown unhappy beard, or the wonderful orange happy beard. Her beard will go brighter orange the happier she gets. Since she's such a social creature, just picking her up and sitting with her will net you a happy orange beard. Note the orange beard while "releasing the dragon".
Other beardie behaviors to make note of are the head bobbing, which is hilarious, and the waving, which is the cutest thing ever. Our beardies only head bob at each other, never at us, and they're just trying to assert dominance over each other. Since we keep them apart, there's no danger, but head bobbing usually precedes one trying to jump on the other for a ninja attack frenzy. Since ours were almost adults when we got them, we did not have the pleasure of seeing the arm waving first hand. I have seen videos, and it's one of the cutest things I've ever seen. Juvenile beardies seem to wave to each other to let each other know "hey! I'm here, I'm like you!". It's quite amazing and I wish mine did that. Google 'beardie waving' and a bunch of great videos can be found.
So there you have it. I could probably go on forever about our girls, they're just that special. I probably missed half the stuff I wanted to say about them, but I hope I've given you a good idea of how wonderful it is to have these lizards. They're work and can be a bit costly (not like a cat or dog, though), but on the whole, they're so worth it. Lizards, as long as you do the research and get the right species, can give you just as much love as you give them. Thinking about a pet? Get a lizard, you won't be sorry! I only ask that you please remember that they are living things and should be treated with the proper care and respect.
This rant may be a little angry and rambling, so please bear with me.
My youngest son has not only ADHD (Attention-deficit/hyperactivity disorder is a chronic condition that affects millions of children and often persists into adulthood. It includes a combination of problems, such as difficulty sustaining attention, hyperactivity and impulsive behavior. Children with ADHD also may struggle with low self-esteem, troubled relationships and poor performance in school. - from mayoclinic.org) but also DCD (Children with developmental coordination disorder often have difficulty performing tasks that involve both large and small muscles, including forming letters when they write, throwing or catching balls, and buttoning buttons. Children who have DCD have often developed normally in all other ways. The disorder can, however, lead to social or academic problems for children. Because of their underdeveloped coordination, they may choose not to participate in activities on the playground. - from minddisorders.com). I'm willing to bet you've never even heard of the second one - I didn't either until he was diagnosed. After I scoured the internet for information, it suddenly became clear - he wasn't lazy or slow, he was having genuine difficulty performing the tasks we take for granted, like tying our shoes. He is an intelligent, loving, sensitive child, and maybe he has all of those wonderful qualities because he has these other major hurdles to deal with. One (ADHD) he may yet grow out of, the other (DCD) is his for life. Imagine being 34 years old and not being able to button up a shirt properly? I know, it seems strange to us, but this is something he'll have to deal with for the rest of his life.
Why the anger? My little guy came home for lunch today a little down. He's easy to read, so I asked what was up and he said "the usual". The boy next door was making fun of him in gym class because he couldn't tie his shoes quickly enough. There have been problems with this boy for years, and in the interest of neighbor relations (we get along just fine with the adults and the other two boys in the house), we try to ignore him and my son no longer plays outside with his brothers if he is there. It's sad, I know, but this is how it works. I asked him if this was outside or during class. Suffice it to say, I was a little surprised when he said during class. I asked where his teacher was. He told me that he was right there, calling out the length of time it was taking him to tie his laces, and saying that he is in grade four and should know how to tie his own shoes by now. What the hell is wrong with this man? Why are PE teachers always the first to get onto or start up the bully wagon for those children who may not be as athletically inclined as others? I could not believe that this teacher is belittling a 9 year old in the middle of class in front of the other students and allowing him to be bullied. In fact, getting in on the action himself.
When we enrolled our son in this school (boundaries changed and this is his first year at this school), we made sure that his records reflect his disorders, which include notations from his specialist stating the special needs he requires. Everything I had previously heard about this school was positive, however, I have to say this school and it's staff don't seem to give a rat's ass about my kid. (I can also say that at least one of my neighbors agree, her son hates the school also, and he doesn't have any disabilities, and is a star athlete.) He's been there for 8 months now, almost a full school year, and I can tell you he has received absolutely NONE of the special needs suggested by his doctor. Zero. Zilch. Nada. In fact, at his last school, he was not yet diagnosed, and they still went out of their way to scribe for him and encourage him to do his best. This particular gym teacher called our home in October or November to tell us how badly our son is doing in his class. My husband asked him if he took a moment at any time to look into our son's record, or if anyone had bothered to tell him that our son had some health issues. He said no, and that he is the only teacher for the whole school - implying that he just doesn't have the time. I am not quite sure what has happened to the school system, but if a teacher doesn't have time for their students, perhaps they should find another occupation - maybe gravedigger. You need to be strong and athletic and no one will hold you back. In fact, they're all waiting for you.
So this jerk has been told by us that our son has some learning disabilities. I sincerely doubt he actually went to read my son's record, but my husband did tell him specifically that he has ADHD and DCD. And instead of taking that into account, he mocks him in class. I am not saying he needs to give my son a free pass. He doesn't need it. He may not be good at sports, but he really tries, because he's interested in it, and he likes being part of a team. He tries out for all kinds of sports, unfortunately he doesn't make the cut. My point is that he really does try, and if he has a problem, maybe the effort should count for more than the result. Would this teacher fail him if he broke his leg and was in a cast? No? Maybe he would, he just seems like that kind of smarmy bastard.
So, I will print out some info on DCD and the Ontario Anti-Bullying Act and go in to see the principal tomorrow. I sincerely doubt that it will make any difference. Once I leave the office I'm sure they'll have a sitdown about what a bitch I am and how slow my son is. Maybe they'll laugh and have some coffee and talk about the weather. However, they do not know me very well. I will take a lot and I will take it for quite a while. However, when I'm done, I'm done. This will be their only warning to correct their behavior. Adults should know better. And adults working with children should definitely know better. If it happens again I just have to say that hell hath no fury. I will contact everyone I know and someone will pay.
My son has the right to have a good day, every day at school. We parents send our children out into the world and when we place them in the care of other adults we expect them to conduct themselves in a manner that is positive and nurturing toward our kids. This school does not do that. I hesitate to mention the name of the school or the teacher involved. However, should it happen again, I will definitely call them out.
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