Skinny Peppermint Iced Mocha

I almost don’t know where to start today. I’m pretty sure I was MIA from the world of Rowena Francis recently.

This last week has been a whirlwind.

I’ve been in over my head with our newest venture. However, I’m so excited to state that we are just about ready to launch our very first card game!

We have been working on this launch for almost 3 years, and now we are down to the nitty-gritty details of production and marketing.

If you’re interested in more info, check out soapboxgames.ca.

Nonetheless, at times like these, my kitchen counters get cluttered with tea bags upon tea bags. Caffeine is just a requirement for my utmost efficiency.

However, now that I have probably burned through a Costco-sized box of Tetley Tea this week, I’m craving a little something different.

That’s when Starbucks sent me an email luring me into the beloved Peppermint Mocha.

Ugh, this is my absolute favourite Christmas drink, but with all of the sugar in it, it’s a no-go for me.

For some reason, and much to my dissatisfaction, Starbucks has discontinued the skinny version of this drink. Why? I don’t know. All I know is that I need to figure out how to make my own skinny version at home.

So, here it is. My tried and true Rowena Francis Skinny Peppermint Iced Mocha!

PIN Pep Moch

Ingredients:

  • 1 1/2 cups Milk (I like 2%, but you can substitute almond or coconut milk for lactose-free option)
  • 2 oz Coffee
  • 1 Tbsp Cocoa (I love Hershey’s!)
  • 1/2 Tbsp Coconut Sugar (Splenda or Swerve for a lower calorie alternative)
  • 2 drops Peppermint Oil (or extract)
  • 3 Ice Cubes

Optional Toppings:

  • Whipped Cream
  • Crushed Candy Cane Pieces

Instructions:

  1. Mix the coconut sugar (or alternative) and cocoa together in the bottom of your mug.
  2. Brew the coffee over the cocoa mixture and stir until it dissolves.
  3. Add ice cubes and stir until they’re melted.
  4. Add drops of peppermint oil.
  5. Fill the mug/cup with milk and stir some more.
  6. Top with whipped cream and crushed candy canes.
  7. Enjoy!

I usually make this in a reusable Starbucks cup because it fits perfectly and I can throw a lid on it and take it with me in the Jeep. This is also a great hot drink. Since tonight is another work night, I’m going to try out a Skinny Orange Cafe Mocha – the possibilities are endless!

What Are You Going To Be?

I was debating on whether I wanted to write this post, but it’s part of who I am.

So, here it is.

It’s October 31st.

Halloween.

Most people are toting around in their costumes, posting pics of their (awesome) makeup tips and tricks and stuffing their face with candy.

Except us.

(and maybe a few of you too!)

For us, it’s just another day. However, it’s a day that we had to be very strategic with teaching our kids what we believe and why we believe it.

You see, we all love dressing up on occasion as well. So, what’s the difference between dressing up on any of the other day of the year compared to Halloween?

The truth is, when you know the history and reasons behind things, sometimes it can cause you to turn away from mainstream ideas. It’s not that we don’t believe in Halloween, it’s simply that we don’t celebrate it.

Sometimes this is hard for our kids to understand. I used to keep them home from school because our school still invites everyone to dress up. Last year, I finally felt like they were old enough to understand that other people might do things that seem fun, but that doesn’t mean that you need to feel compelled to do the same.

To my pleasant surprise, it didn’t even bother them.

Today was a bit different.

Today, we had to have another conversation discussing why we believe what we believe.

It was kind of hard. I mean, what’s the harm in wearing your sports uniform to school or adding a bit of fancy makeup to your eyes?

Nothing.

Except, now we’re talking about seeing how close we can get to the line without crossing it.

That’s a big concept to fathom.

It’s one that can be applied to anything that you believe is wrong. If you’re asking yourself how much you can get away with without appearing to cross the line, it’s quite possible you’ve gone too far.

So, if you wonder why I don’t post or participate in the festivities of the day, this is why.

Tonight, instead of hiding out in the basement with the lights off during trick or treating hours, we will be heading to an alternative option that our Church provides – Quest.

There kids will have the opportunity to have fun while going on a Quest to learn epic Bible stories and when it’s over, they get a treat bag filled with candy.

It’s a safe environment that glorifies what we believe in.

That’s something that I can stand for.

Carnival Magic | Cruise Review

It’s no secret that we went on a cruise.

It was pure bliss.

Well, after the first 2 nights.

Then it was pure bliss.

Let’s just say, when you travel during hurricane season, you are almost guaranteed to have at least a little rain.

…and maybe some rocky waves.

We traveled on the Carnival Magic (October 2018). Like always, we booked this cruise last-minute directly through Carnival. We left from Miami and our ports of call were:

  • Amber Cove, Dominican Republic
  • St. Thomas, USVI
  • San Juan, Puerto Rico
  • Grand Turk, Turks and Caicos

Stateroom

We stayed in a deluxe ocean view stateroom on the first floor. Many people don’t like the thought of staying on the first floor, but there are so many great things about it – like, being able to get on/off the boat quickly because you don’t have to wait for an elevator to take you to the gangway.

This was by-far the biggest stateroom we have ever stayed in. There was the massive window sill that you could sit on and watch as we pulled into port. We also had a king-size bed (could be separated to be 2 singles), a couch that turned into a trundle-bed and a bunk above the couch. On top of all of that space, we also had a double restroom – 1 full restroom with a shower and a 2nd one with a sink and tub/shower. Across from the couch was the desk area, and beside that, we had 4 separate closets.

So, even though you don’t spend very much time in your cabin, this one was more than enough room to party.

Food

Most people know that I’m partial to NCL because of the food (amongst other things), but I have to say, Carnival did not disappoint. The very first thing we tried was Guy’s Burger Joint – DELISH!!! I think I had a burger/fries every single day.

The dining room was ok. I wasn’t super wowed by it, but it was decent. There was only one night where I took one bite and was turned off by it – they offered to bring me something else, but after that first bite I was finished eating altogether. Except for dessert.

Yes, dessert.

I stayed sugar-free for this cruise, which is honestly getting so much easier. The sugar-free options were absolutely stunning! There was not one that I didn’t like! I should’ve asked what they sweetened them with because there were no adverse side effects that followed. If you’ve ever over-eating a sugar-free dessert, you know what I’m saying.

All in all, the food was delicious.

Ship

Here is where I get a bit partial. I don’t care for smaller boats, skinny boats, large boats or older boats. Maybe I’m a boat snob, I don’t know. Anyway, I find smaller, skinnier, older boats is where you’ll probably find the most opportunity to enjoy sea-sickness. Not my cup of tea, although I don’t get sea-sick very easily. Then, large boats seem too much like a floating city and I don’t want that either. I still want to know that I’m cruising the ocean.

So, all that to say that this boat was one of the rockiest I had ever been on, although I don’t think it was entirely due to its size. I’m still trying to do some research into stabilizers and what makes some boats rockier than others, comment below if you have any insight. I’m sure the tropical depression we were cruising into had some to do with that (we enjoyed storms for a few hours for the first 2 nights), but it wasn’t the first time we have traveled into a tropical storm/hurricane either.

As far as the layout of the ship, it was pretty decent. Everything was easy to find and get to. The water slides were a lot of fun, but made me dizzy for sure! My absolute favourite deck was the Serenity deck (adults only), because they had hammocks/swings, cabanas, padded lounge chairs and a beautiful breeze that kept us from overheating.

Spa

I’m saddened to say that we decided not to get the spa package, although it was quite reasonable with their couple’s rate. We did tour the spa, though, and it had a few steam rooms, salt rooms and a thalassotherapy pool. My only qualm – and my deciding vote on not purchasing it – was that the views were extremely limited. I guess the peaceful view of the ocean is a big deal to me when I’m relaxing.

As for the gym, I didn’t actually go. AHHH! Shocker, I know, but we decided to take the stairs all week, which was a lot of exercise since we were on deck 1.

Ports of Call

This section could be a whole blog post on its own, so for now I will give a very brief summary.

This was the first time we visited 3 of the 4 ports as we have been to St. Thomas a few times before. I love St. Thomas and feel comfortable enough to hail our own cab and head to the beach for some snorkeling. The taxi was $10/person each way.

I was most disappointed with Amber Cove because we didn’t book an excursion and the port was locked down so we couldn’t charter any locals to do anything. We walked around the shops in the port, but I didn’t feel like we got to see anything of value.

My favourite was Old San Juan because we could walk everywhere on our own. It was stunning with all of the colourful buildings and the forts were simply amazing! It was $7/person for the forts and it only took us (less than) 20 minutes to walk between them.

Grand Turk was also a great highlight! I love the beach, and the water was crystal clear. Simply stunning. The beach is literally right off the pier (and goes on for miles), but I was grossed out by the thought of swimming directly in front of the cruise ship. Also, it was crowded, so we walked down the beach and rented some peaceful beach chairs for $5 each. It’s not beneath me to pay for peace when I’m at the beach.

Final Thoughts

I absolutely enjoyed this cruise. I probably won’t sail on the Magic in the near future, but I will absolutely book with Carnival again. It wasn’t my favourite all-time cruise, but it did rank up there in my top picks. I was pleasantly surprised.

9 Cruise Essentials You Didn’t Know You Needed

I have decided that I want to become a professional vacationer.

Is that something that I can just decide? Just like that?

I don’t know, but either way, I’m already working on my next travel plans.

I’ve been on a handful of cruises in my life and each time I learn about things that make the trip more efficient.

Towel Clips

If you’ve ever tried sunning on the top deck of a cruise ship while it is cruising through the ocean, you understand how windy it can get. Towel clips help keep your towels and cover ups secure to your loungers.

Waterproof Phone Case

Previously, I bought waterproof pouches to protect my phone/money/etc. while on the beach or excursions. However, I recently bought a GhostTek waterproof case and it is so much better! I was able to get some very clear photos and videos underwater.

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Conditioner

Salty hair, don’t care. Right? Except, if you don’t have a good conditioner, chances are that you won’t be able to brush through your locks after a shower. With my long, bleached hair, if I don’t have an amazing conditioner, the only hairstyle I’ll be sporting is a rat’s nest…I mean, a messy bun. This time I brought this John Frieda conditioner, which actually worked so well that I didn’t even have to dry my hair to ward off the frizz. It just left my hair as smooth as a glassy sea.

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Wristband Card Holder

There are actually a few different options for this – it really depends on personal preference. The point is to have something to protect your ship card/ID/money/credit cards while out and about. I have a wristband that holds everything, so when I go snorkeling, all my important cards are with me. Some people prefer a lanyard or something similar.

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Snorkel Masks

This was the first time we brought our own snorkel masks and it was well worth it! Instead of doing excursions through the ship, we just took a taxi to a beach and snorkeled on our own.

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USB Charging Station

Ship staterooms usually only have 1 outlet. Let’s just say, it’s likely that the average person has more than 1 thing that needs to charge at the same time. If you have a wall charger that has multiple usb slots, you can charge everything faster.

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ZenGest EO

This is gross, but there’s such thing as cruise poop. I don’t know if it’s something to do with the water on board or something, but many people struggle with digestive issues on cruises. ZenGest (doTERRA’s digestive blend) helps keep your gut in tact and your close quarters from smelling foul.

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Earplugs

Cruises can be noisy. There have been many times where our sleep has been disturbed by waves crashing, engines running, tipsy guests in the hall and toilets flushing. Brian swears by earplugs and always keeps extras in his luggage.

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Water Backpack

This was also the first time we utilized a hydration backpack. It’s great because the pack doubles as a backpack, so you are carrying your water and anything else on your back. Also, it is insulated so the water stays cold and refreshing. There’s no need to lug around a heavy water bottle.

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Have you utilized any of these items on your cruise/vacation? I’d love to hear your thoughts on these.

Budget Wars | Caribbean Vacation

We are home from vacation.

Beautiful.

Caribbean.

Vacation.

carnival ship Pictures

The very first thing – and I literally mean the very first thing I do when we arrive home from vacation is…

…look for another vacation.

I love a good deal and sometimes they just land in my lap – but mostly after I chase after them.

Imagine taking a vacation with the love of your life for 10 days and it costs you less than $1500 for everything – flights, food, lodging, excursions.

How did we do it?

Flights/Travel

As you know, I put a lot of work into finding the best deals for the best getaways. I booked inexpensive flights through Spirit and we packed in one suitcase and one personal item (these are well worth buying!!). I saw people with multiple suitcases and carry-ons, but it never makes sense to me. How do you need so much stuff for vacation? There’s not enough room in your stateroom and it is such a hassle trying to move all that luggage on and off the boat. My goal next time is to pack in my personal item, to eliminate any added bag costs with Spirit.

The other travel gem I found was the bus trip from Miami to Orlando. I booked it through GoToBus.com and it was well worth it! It cost me double just to go from Fort Lauderdale to Miami through the cruise ship – and the trip to Orlando was about 3 hours. I highly recommend GoToBus!

Excursions

I have an interesting view on excursions. We got such a steal on our cruise tickets, that any excursion would cost more than what we paid for our vacation.

I just can’t do that.

So, we like to ‘do our own thing.’ Obviously, you have to be careful with security issues, but for the most part, we like to charter the locals for excursions. They cost less and are way less crowded than ship excursions. If you live life on the edge like that, it can be hit or miss, but that’s where flexibility comes into play. This time we brought our own snorkel gear – and seriously, these masks are genius!

snorkel masks Pictures

Food & Drink

Yes, food on the boat is included in the ticket. However, they have lots of options that cost extra. Also, one of the things that I noticed is that people get off the boat and instantly go to a bar or restaurant to eat and drink – which you have to pay for. We almost always stick with eating only on the ship. We also don’t drink alcohol, so that cuts out a lot of added costs (it was something like $56/day for the drink package).

Cruise

Ok, down to the cruise cost itself. How did we get such a steal on this? First thing was that we booked last-minute. Also, it was a flash sale directly through Carnival for those who have sailed with Carnival before. Lastly, it is hurricane season. You have a high possibility of rough waters, bad weather or missing ports. Like I said before, that’s where flexibility comes in. The thing to remember is that hurricane season comes every year between June and December and cruise ships maneuver the ocean waters every single day. They know how to handle the waters. They know how to handle the storms.

Add that all up and you have a beautiful vacation for less. It really makes traveling often affordable.

Now all we need is some friends to join us next time…

Study Series | Bible Mapping

As a strong Christian woman, one of the things I love to do is study my Bible.

But I’m not into boring.

I can read a lot in a short period of time. I love speed reading.

However, I don’t like the idea of things going in one ear and out the other.

So.

Creativity is key.

Especially if I’m going to remember things that I’m learning.

One of the ways I add creativity to my studies is Bible Mapping.

If you’ve never heard of it, it’s a creative visual of what you are learning. It can be hand-drawn or mastered digitally.

Bible Map Hebrews 1214

Here is the process I use when I do Bible Mapping.

Title

The title I use is almost always the Scripture reference I’m picking apart. There’s nothing overly complicated with this, but I like to doodle it in a creative way.

Write It

If you’re going to study a certain passage of Scripture, you might want to know what it says. I usually write my favourite version big in the middle (ish) of the page. I like to leave enough space around each word for further study.

Re-write Multiple Versions

I’m a KJV girl, through and through. However, there are sometimes that it’s understood just a little easier with multiple versions of the Bible. I like to write a good 3 or 4 versions along the side of my page.

Concordance

This is where the fun begins. I look up all the words in the concordance and I start writing down my findings. I like to include the concordance reference, plus the meaning. That way, if I have any questions when I’m re-reading it in the future, I can easily pull up the word in the Greek/Hebrew.

Dictionary

Sometimes it’s a good idea to look up what those words mean in the dictionary. My favourite dictionary is Websters 1828 Dictionary. Noah Webster was a Christian and the definitions often have Scripture references contained within them.

Summary

At this point, I like to jot down what I feel the general overall key points are within the passage I’m studying. There are usually themes that pop out when we begin to dive a bit deeper than the surface level of the Scriptures.

Personal Application

Once I’ve finished all of that, I like to re-write the Scripture with a personal touch. I like to include tidbits from the concordance and dictionary that stood out to me. This really makes the Scriptures step out off the page and hit me on a personal level where it’s all about me and God.

Bible Map Romans 157

That’s a wrap. When I do these, it usually takes me a good chunk of time because I tear every part of the Scripture apart.

What’s In My Travel Makeup Bag?

I’ve always found traveling with makeup to be interesting. Mostly because I like to challenge myself by packing in a carry-on – it just makes so much more sense to me.

However.

This time around, Brian booked our flights and he booked one checked luggage and ZERO carry-ons.

ZERO.

NOTHING.

NADA.

ZILCH.

So, that means packing will be very different this vacation.

Starting with my makeup. I will still have my purse on the plane, so I will still bring a makeup bag stashed with samples. However, I will probably pack more makeup than normal because it can go in my checked luggage.

So, here goes. This is what I’m bringing…

In My Purse

Samples

Travel-Size Makeup

Full-Size Makeup

Tools

  • Foundation Brush
  • Bronzer Brush
  • Blush Brush
  • Highlighter Brush
  • Brow Spoolie

In My Checked Luggage

I think this is the most makeup I have ever travelled with. Last year, when we went to Mexico, Brian successfully convinced me to leave my makeup at home.

Big mistake.

Every night I wanted to add a little get-up to my face, but had nothing. Not even a sun-kissed glow. It rained 5 out of the 7 days.

This time, I’m ready.

But I also hope for lots of sunshine.

Extreme Dieting | Does It Work?

I tried dieting.

I’ll stop right here and take a moment of silence for anyone who has dieted at any point in their life.

I’m sorry.

Dieting stinks.

All of my life I have been thin. I mean, to the point where I had people pull Brian aside and express their concern for my health. Lots of people thought I had anorexia, and some even offered to take me to the hospital.

Except!

I wasn’t anorexic.

I just had a fast metabolism and I never over ate because I didn’t love food.

Then, when I got pregnant with Violet, I actually tasted variations in food – and I loved it (and sometimes craved it)!

After that point, I enjoyed food, but never to the point of over-indulging.

Let’s fast-forward a bit…

2016 began my intense workout journey and continued until February 2018. In February, I was finding it hard to do any extra anythings because we had been through some pretty tough events over the last few years. I feel like I kind of came to my breaking point and the end of it wasn’t even in sight. The gym almost became too exhausting for me to endure mentally, yet I kept eating like I was working out 2 hours/day, 6 days/week.

That brings me to my heaviest weight in life.

I decided to get back to the gym because let’s face it, I can’t control when life is going to throw curveballs my way.

I forgot how much I love the exhaustion that comes from working out and the burn from pushing your limits. It’s exhilarating!

…but then we booked a last-minute vacation.

This summer I lived in my winter stretchy clothes because I keep the temp in my house around 68 degrees. So, when I went to try on my summer clothes, they didn’t fit.

Now, you probably know by now how much I hate wasting money, so I figured the next best thing would be to extreme diet for 2 weeks.

UGH!

GROSS!

I hate dieting.

I cut out all sugars, dairy, bread, sweeteners, and junk food. Then I limited my caffeine to 1 cup per day. Plus, I restricted my calories and set time frames to eat (9am-5pm) – although I was a bit lax on the time restrictions.

Anyway, I have never wanted food so bad! I mean, I want food that I don’t actually like! My body is revolting and I feel like I’m dying.

It shouldn’t have to be this way.

So here it is. My revelation of the day.

Stop dieting.

Instead, just eat a healthy diet.

Exercise.

But not the kind that makes you want to die.

Do something that brings you joy.

For me, that’s lifting weights.

So, even though this was my first time ever dieting, it will most certainly be the last.

Don’t give up.

Even slow progress is momentum in the right direction.

To all those who have ever struggled with dieting or body image, you are worth so much more than the labels that you’ve picked up over the years. Don’t let other people’s highlight reels discourage you from being the best you that you can be. God created you special and beautiful and uniquely different from everybody else.

For a reason.

Fall Fashion | 2018

Ok, next week I might be sitting on a beach somewhere in the Caribbean, but when I get back home to beautiful Canada, I will absolutely be diving right into my fall wardrobe.

This year, I’m kind of excited about it.

Unlike 12 years ago, when I had just had a baby and my fall wardrobe literally consisted of way-too-tight tanks and Brian’s pants.

Gross.

Money is a big part of my decision-making when it comes to clothes. I like good quality, but I don’t like spending an arm and a leg.

So, my main key to affording a new fall wardrobe is not buying things full-price.

Period.

So, all of my items I have bought, I may have had to wait a few weeks for them, but they were all bought at a considerable discount.

Pants

I like name brand jeans. They just fit in all the right places. Every time I have bought a pair of off-brand jeans, they either don’t zip properly, the seams are crooked or they distort after the first wash.

My top name brand choices for jeans are:

Thanks to a sale and a coupon in my inbox, I was able to snag these two pair of jeans for less than $80 at Guess!

If you follow me on Instagram, you may have seen when I posted those gorgeous navy velvet pants by Silver. I polled whether you thought I should buy them and you all said ‘yes’.

…but I didn’t…

Well, not right away, but I did eventually.

They went on sale for $20 off a few weeks ago and I snagged them up while the sale lasted. They are everything I expected them to be.

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Dress

I was on a hunt for a specific sweater for Violet when I passed H&M and saw this beautiful eggplant lace dress on a mannequin.

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Normally, I keep on moving because if I like it, it’s either expensive or sold out. Not this time. I walked in and saw a bunch in my size, for only $15 US! I told myself that I would go find the sweater for Violet and if this dress was for real, I would swing by on my way out of the mall.

It was.

I did.

So, with these items, I will begin my fall wardrobe.

…when I return from vacation, that is.

I will probably continue my fall collection with a thrifting haul, which I will post about in the near future.