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Steamed Bok Choy with Garlic and Soy Sauce

Once in a while, I deviate from my standard tried and true recipe and try something new. This was the case with bok choy. I have been using the same bok choy recipe forever and it was time for a change.

Here's a new recipe I tried for cooking bok choy. Try this recipe for your next meal.

Special Equipment: Steamer Basket
2 lbs Shanghai bok choy, separated and washed thoroughly

2 to 6 cloves of garlic, chopped (use less or more to your preference)
1 tbsp vegetable oil
2 tbsp soy sauce
3 tbsp water
1/2 tsp sugar
1/2 tsp cornstarch

1. Fill a large pot with water so the water level is just below the steamer basket.

2. Bring the pot of water to a rolling boil.

3. Place the shanghai bok choy in the steamer basket and lower it into the pot of water.

I love my OXO Good Grips Pop-Up Steamer. So many handy features.

4. Cover the pot and cook on medium heat for 5 minutes until it is tender crisp.

5. In a small pan over medium heat, cook the chopped garlic in oil until it just turns light brown. Do not overcook as it will make the garlic taste bitter.

6. Mix soy sauce, water, sugar and cornstarch in a small bowl and pour over the garlic. Stir until the sauce thickens.

7. Take the steamer basket out and transfer the bok choy to a plate.

8. Pour the sauce over the bok choy and serve as part of multi-course a meal.

Here is my other bok choy recipe: Steamed Baby Bok Choy.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


Copycat Starbucks Chai Tea Latte

In my circle of friends, they either really love Starbucks or they really dislike them. The purists believe there are better coffee shops, which I believe is true, but Starbucks to me is like McDonald's. Consistency is key to their success. Whether you are in Vancouver or New York or Seattle, my Earl Grey Tea Latte, extra hot, non fat, no foam, two pumps of vanilla tastes virtually the same.

Actually, I stopped buying the Earl Grey Tea Latte since it is almost $2 more expensive than when they used to customize a Earl Grey Tea Misto for $2.50 all in. Anyhow, I am a Starbucks fan (especially when their drinks go on sale) otherwise, I stick with my tall Pike roast and get a free refill to go.

Starbucks sells Tazo Chai Latte Black Tea concentrate. You can purchase this on Starbuck's website but I found it at my Costco on sale for $6 for three 946 ml cartons. At Starbucks, a Chai Tea Latte could costs you between $3 to $6 depending on your customization and drink size.

Shortcut to making your own Starbucks Chai Tea Latte
Here's my way to make these drinks at home for a fraction of the price. Next time, I will have to try making the chai tea latte from scratch!

Makes: 2 cups chai tea latte (250 ml each, equivalent to a "short" at Starbucks)
Cost: $0.42/cup

Special Equipment: Milk Frother (optional - see tip below to froth milk in the microwave)

1 cup Tazo Chai Latte concentrate
1 cup milk, any variety (cow, soy, almond, rice)
Cinnamon or Nutmeg to taste

1. In a small saucepan over high heat, bring the 1 cup of chai tea latte concentrate to a boil.

Bring the concentrate to a rolling boil.

2. Pour the boiled tea latte concentrate equally into two mugs.

Roughly equal amounts in each mug.

3. In the same saucepan over medium-high heat, simmer the milk until there are bubbles and the milk has not reached a rolling boil.

Simmer the milk so you see visible bubbles but not boiling

4. If you have a milk frother, froth the milk in the saucepan. (Optional)

Be careful of splatters if you use a frother!

5. Pour the milk equally into each mug. If you frothed the milk, using a spoon, scoop the foam equally into each mug.

6. Sprinkle with cinnamon or nutmeg to taste.

Tazo Chai Latte, extra hot, non fat sprinkled with cinnamon.

  • You can also pour equal parts of chai latte concentrate and milk over ice for a cold beverage
  • Blend ice, milk and chai latte concentrate for a chai latte frappucino 
  • If you do not have a milk frother, and you want frothed milk follow the steps below. Detailed link can be found at The Kitchn.
    1. Pour milk (skim, 1% or 2% works best) into a clean microwavable lidded jar (ie. mason canning jars).
      • Do not pour more than halfway full otherwise the milk will not foam
    2. Shake the jar until the milk doubles in volume. Remove lid.
    3. Microwave the jar (without the lid) for 30 seconds. Pour out desired amount of milk and scoop out foam.
Cost Breakdown for 23 cups (ratio is 1:1)
Chai Tea Latte concentrate (makes about 23 cups for 3 x 946 ml cartons) $6.00
Milk (2.84 litres of milk) $3.20
Cinnamon or nutmeg $0.50

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


Chinese Tea Eggs

Chinese tea eggs were an integral part of my childhood growing up. Apparently, my Chinese family never thought caffeine (in the Chinese tea eggs) would stunt my growth.

Infused with a smoky tea flavor, Chinese tea eggs really made eating hard boiled eggs much more appealing for me. It is still one of my favorite things to eat as a snack, in a noodle soup or on a bed of white rice.

Top left clockwise: Soy sauce, black tea, star anise, sugar and cinnamon stick

6 eggs, any size
3/4 cup soy sauce
2 star anise
2 tea bags or 2 tbsp black tea
1 cinnamon stick
1 tsp white sugar 

1. In a medium pot, place eggs in cold water with enough water to fully cover the eggs with 1/2 inch of water.

Submerge in water with 1/2 inch room.

2. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to low. Simmer for 3 minutes.

3. Using a slotted spatula, gently place eggs in a bowl and run it under cold tap water. Reserve the water in the pot.

4. With the back of a spoon or using your counter top, lightly crack the egg shell all around while making sure the shell stays intact.

Crack the shell but leave it intact

5. Once all of the eggs have been cracked, gently place them back to the pot and add your other ingredients.

Bring to a boil

6. Bring to a boil and lower the heat to a simmer. Simmer for an additional 40 minutes.

7. Transfer the eggs and the liquid to a heat proof container and place it in the fridge. Let it sit in the fridge for at least 24 hours for maximum flavor. The eggs can be kept in the fridge for up to 3 days.

The longer you steep the eggs in the fridge, the more intense the flavor will be. This is after 24 hours.

Source: Steamy Kitchen (I omitted two ingredients in the original recipe)


DIY Foaming Hand Soap

My friend A introduced me to vanilla scented foaming hand soaps from Bath and Body Works. On a shopping trip to Bellis Fair (in Bellingham, Washington), A and I stocked up on the aforementioned scented foam hand soaps. At that time, Bath and Body Works did not have any storefronts in Canada and this was the only way to get our scented foam soap fix.

At $3 for a 259 ml bottle, it seemed like inexpensive purchase. As I became more aware of my spending habits, this was one of the first to go since I was going through 2 to 3 bottles a month ($72 to $108 a year).

I have been making my own foaming hand soaps for a long time now using liquid hand soap purchased from Costco. The 2 pack of 2.36 litres of hand soap (5.72 litres total) would frequently be on sale for $8 to $9. I would use my empty foam soap dispensers and refill it 1/4 of the way with liquid hand soap and the other 3/4 with water to recreate my own foaming hand soap. It is a great way to save money.

Here's a quick tutorial on how to make foaming hand soap:

1. Take an empty foam hand soap container and fill it 1/4 to 1/3 of the way with liquid hand soap.

2. Fill the rest of the bottle with cold tap water.

3. Shake and use.

1. Buy unscented liquid hand soap and add your own essential scented oils.

2. If you do not have a foam soap dispenser, ask friends or family for their old ones destined for the trash.

3. If you cannot give up your scented foaming hand soap, buy one bottle to use in the guest bathroom and make your own foaming hand soap for the other bathrooms. 

Cost breakdown for the math nerds:
5.72 litres of liquid hand soap can be used to fill a 259 mL foam soap dispenser 88 times (if you refill the dispenser with 1/4 of liquid hand soap each time). For $9, I was only able to purchase 3 bottles of scented foaming hand soap. See the cost savings?


Food Dehydration 101

In this house, we used to eat a fair amount of dehydrated fruits and nuts. My favorite was the Kirkland Dried Fruit & Nut Medley. With peanuts and almonds as the main ingredients, this snack got the boot since my little man has been diagnosed with peanut and almond allergies.

While shopping for portable snacks for the little man, we wanted to buy some dehydrated fruits for him. It is relatively healthy, does not require refrigeration and provides some nutrition. We were unprepared for the ingredients list which included: preservatives (ie. sulfur dioxide), added sugar (ie. cane sugar), oil, and most of the packaged dried fruits we found contained nuts or have traces of nuts. Amazing how reading labels shocks you eh?

As part of our little man's allergy management, we now eat almost all of our meals at home. This resulted in significant savings in our dining out budget. My husband used the money saved to purchase a food dehydrator which can dehydrate practically anything: fruits, vegetables, herbs, milk and even meat jerky (another one of my weaknesses).

"The Beast"
Over this weekend, we put "The Beast" (my nickname for our dehydrator) to the test. In our initial batch we dehydrated 6 tomatoes, 5 apples, 4 pears, 2 peaches, small bunch of grapes, and a pound of red and yellow cherry tomatoes. Amazingly, all that fit into the 9 trays. The next day, I dried 8 bananas, a bunch of kale and some homemade hand molds.

Uniformity is the key to successful dehydrating. A good mandoline is a huge time saver.
The dehydrated food tastes amazing since the fruits I purchased were in season, so they are naturally sweet. We did not add any sugar or preservatives to our dehydrated loot and it is nut free too!

Top left clockwise: Dried apples, tomatoes, cherry tomatoes, pears and peaches.

My husband figured it costs between $0.03 to $0.06 per hour to run "The Beast". Most fruits and vegetables take an average of 5 to 10 hours to dehydrate so you are looking at about $0.60 in electricity. The total cost of your finished product depends on the cost of your raw ingredients and if you factor in other costs (such as gas, your time and the cost of the dehydrator). For us, it is the right move as our little man can enjoy fruit on the go, sans nut traces, sugar and preservatives. For an allergy mom, you truly cannot put a price tag on the peace of mind.

Dried bananas: 8 bananas yield a sandwich bag and half of banana chips. No oil or sugar added.

Choosing a Food Dehydrator
There are various models of food dehydrators available. I recommend that you do some research and find one that is right for you and your needs. Some things to think about when choosing a food dehydrator are:
  • Uses for the dehydrator
    • What do you want to dehydrate: fruits, vegetables, meats, yogurt or herbs?
  • How frequently would you actually use a dehydrator 
    • If it sits unused, it is actually a better idea to use your oven or purchase dried food.
  • Reasons for purchasing a dehydrator 
    • Do you have access to an abundance of fresh fruits and vegetables through a CSA box or your own garden, are you buying it for health reasons (food allergies, diabetes, etc) or lifestyle (want less chemicals and sugar in your foods)
  • Amount of food it can dehydrate in one batch and if the shelves are adjustable
    • "The Beast" has nine 15 square inch trays and each shelve is adjustable
  • Current consumption of purchased dehydrated foods
    • If you purchase dehydrated fruits as much as I did, it might be a good idea to dehydrate your own.
  • Cost of the food dehydrator
The 26 hour timer and adjustable thermostat won my husband over.

My husband bought "The Beast" (known to everyone else as the Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator) as it has a 26 hour timer, adjustable thermostat from 95°F to 155°F (can safely dehydrate meat jerky) and 9 trays capacity (15 square inches per tray). "The Beast" also has the capability to make fruit leather and yogurt as well.

Half way through the dehydrating process. Grapes take 22 to 30 hours hence why they still look plump.

We have a long list of foods we are keen to try. I am looking forward to sharing with you my adventures with "The Beast".

Tips for Selecting Food for Dehydration
  • Purchase fresh in season fruits and vegetables. These are naturally sweet and will also be the most cost effective
  • Pick ripe (but not overripe) and blemish free produce
Beautiful apple slices. I will have to top it with some cinnamon next time.

  • Use only fresh produce
  • Dehydrate foods within a day of purchase to maximize flavor
  • Sort through the produce and set aside any bruised or overripe produce for another use.
  • Thoroughly wash produce and remove all pits and cores
  • Use a mandoline (or sharp knife) cut slices of fruit into uniform sizes. This is to ensure that they all dry at the same time.
Tomatoes on the vine.

  • Whether you are using a food dehydrator or the oven, place food in a single layer leaving some space between each piece
  • If using the oven, use parchment paper or nonstick baking mats (such as a Silpat).
Please consult your dehydrator manual for times.

Excalibur 3926TB Food Dehydrator Dehydration Times (Based on my two batches)
Food Temperature Time
Tomatoes 125 degrees F 5 to 9 hours
Apples 135 degrees F 7 to 15 hours
Pears 135 degrees F 8 to 16 hours
Peaches 135 degrees F 8 to 16 hours
Grapes 135 degrees F 22 to 30 hours
Bananas 135 degrees F 6 to 10 hours

Dehydration Time Using Traditional Oven (Recipe on Link)
Food Oven Temperature Time
Tomatoes 250 degrees F 4 hours
Apples 200 degrees F 2 hours and 40 minutes
Pears 200 degrees F 5 hours
Peaches 170 degrees F 4 to 6 hours
Grapes 200 degrees F 2 hours and 30 minutes
Bananas 250 degrees F 1 hours and 30 minutes

  • If you do not have the time to dehydrate your own fruit, look for dried fruits with no sulfite and little or no sugar added. We have found a few good products at Trader Joe's.
Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.


Stovetop Macaroni and Cheese Recipe

Macaroni and cheese is one of those dishes that fall squarely in my husband's repertoire of dishes he is known for. Grilled cheese, eggs benedict, hash browns, anything grilled or barbequed, he is your man.

My little man loves his pasta and macaroni and cheese is one of his favorite. While my husband was at work, I decided to set foot in his territory and made a (slightly) healthier version of macaroni and cheese. My version does not have butter and I also snuck in a serving of vegetables. Given it is still 25 degrees here in Vancouver, I wanted a recipe that did not require any baking. After all, who can wait that extra 30 minutes to eat macaroni and cheese?

2-1/4 to 2-1/2 cups whole milk
6 tbsp all purpose flour
500g macaroni pasta
1 large yellow zucchini, grated
2 cups cheddar cheese, grated
1 cup Parmesan cheese, grated
Pepper to taste

1. In a jar with a tight fitting lid, pour in milk and add in flour. Screw the lid on tight and shake until the flour has been fully incorporated.

Shake, shake, shake it up!
2. In a large pot, add salt to boiling water and cook the macaroni pasta until al-dente. Drain the pasta water.

3. In another large pot over medium-high heat, pour in 2-1/4 cups of the milk mixture and bring to a boil. Reduce to medium heat and add the grated zucchini and cook for a minute.

You can grate the zucchini or leave it chunky.
4. Add in the cheddar and Parmesan cheese. Stir frequently until the cheeses have melted.

Stir until the cheese melts

5. Pour the cheese sauce into the pot of macaroni noodles. Over medium heat, stir until the cheese sauce is fully mixed in. If the sauce is too thick for your liking, add a tablespoon of milk at a time until desired consistency is reached.

Creamy and delicious.
Source: Frugal Allergy Mom


Kimchi Fried Rice Recipe

My husband is a huge fan of kimchi. He can eat a whole bowl of it on its own. A few years back, my husband ordered kimchi fried rice at a Taiwanese diner. So technically, the kimchi fried rice he had is not very authentic. Nonetheless, it was still tasty.

Fried rice is easy to make, delicious and a great way to use up leftover rice with ingredients you would generally have on hand: eggs and mixed vegetables. Traditional kimchi fried rice has gochujang, which is a spicy red pepper paste. I omitted this from my fried rice as I did not have any on hand.

When I told my husband that I am making fried rice for dinner, he suggested that we make kimchi fried rice. I happily obliged since I was craving kimchi anyhow.

Top left clockwise: canola oil, kimchi, rice, mixed vegetables, eggs

6 eggs
3 cups of kimchi, roughly chopped
4 to 5 cups of day old rice (long grain, short grain or brown)
4 cups mixed vegetables
1/3 cup kimchi juice
Vegetable oil (such as canola)

1. In a large nonstick skillet, over medium heat, add canola oil. Pour beaten eggs and scramble using a spatula. Cook the eggs until it is still slightly runny. Put aside into a bowl.

Scramble the eggs so it is slightly runny

2. In the same skillet, add a tablespoon of oil and stirfry the kimchi until it is fragrant. Set it aside in a bowl.

Cook the kimchi until it is fragrant and you can smell the spices.

3. Heat up a tbsp of oil to the skillet and heat up the leftover rice, breaking apart any clumps.

4. Add the mixed vegetables and stirfry for a minute.
Stirfry the vegetables and rice

5. Add the scrambled eggs until everything is mixed.
Add the eggs

6. To the skillet, add the kimchi and kimchi juice.
Add the kimchi and kimchi juice

7. Stirfry for 3 to 5 minutes until everything is fully incorporated.

Time to eat!
Source: Frugal Allergy Mom


Haystacks Recipe

The Armstrong Fair in Armstrong, British Columbia is an annual tradition for those who live in the Okanagan. It is a smaller version of the Calgary Stampede, which I hope to visit someday! My husband and I went to the Armstrong Fair many years ago with my BIL's family watching the rodeo, sampling the food and shopping for hot sauce.

SIL first had haystacks at the Armstrong Fair and recreated it for us when we visited. Naturally, we were looking for haystacks while visiting the Armstrong Fair but I don't recall finding it. I might have been too distracted from the burning sensation on my tongue after trying a habanero hot sauce against the dire warnings from the nice man who was selling it.

Simply put, haystacks is a salad of sorts; rounded off with tortilla chips, ranch dressing and beans. It doesn't sound like a likely combination of ingredients but when it is all mixed up, it tastes delicious and is a great way to use up leftover ground beef.

Next time when it is too hot to cook, make haystacks.

Tortilla Chips (I used Food Should Taste Good Multigrain)
Ranch dressing, to taste

Equal portions or adjust to your liking:
Baked beans in tomato sauce or refried beans (I used refried)
Dill Pickle, small dice
Tomato, small dice
Iceberg or romaine lettuce, cut into thin strips
Black olives, sliced
Ground beef, cooked with taco seasoning
Cheddar cheese, shredded

1. In a large plate, crush tortilla chips. (I did not crush mine since I like bigger pieces)

2. Spread beans so it covers most of the tortilla chips

3. Add beans, dill pickle, tomato, lettuce, olives, ground beef and cheddar cheese.

4. Dress with ranch dressing.

Source: Frugal Allergy Mom


Beef and Kale Burritos

I usually start panicking what's for dinner around 5pm. Some days I luck out and a bright idea comes up, and other days, dinner inspiration is much more challenging.

I had bought a Costco sized package of Mission flour tortillas over the weekend since I was quite happy to find out that Mission flour tortillas (and other Mission products) do not contain the top 7 allergens (it does contain wheat so it is not gluten friendly).

I have been craving burritos for a while, however, while scouring the fridge for dinner inspiration, I did not have romaine lettuce and sour cream. However, I was determined to make this recipe so I can use up my Mission flour tortillas, kale, tomatoes and ground beef.

This meal comes together in 20 minutes or less, assuming your ground beef does not require defrosting (which mine did). This dish is delicious and if you want to make it healthier, you can substitute ground chicken or turkey instead.

Top left clockwise: Tomato, seasoned ground beef, refried beans, tortilla, shredded cheddar cheese and kale

1 to 1-1/2 lb lean ground beef
8 flour tortillas (mine were 6" Mission tortillas)
1 can refried beans
3 cups shredded cheddar cheese
1 large tomato, diced
3 leaves of kale, washed, patted dry and sliced into strips
3 to 4 tbsp taco seasoning
Salsa to serve on the side (optional)
Sour cream (optional)

1. In a large skillet over medium high heat, brown ground beef until it is cooked through and no longer pink on the inside. Drain the fat. Add taco seasoning and cook for another minute or two.

2. In a small pot over medium heat, thoroughly warm the refried beans until it is heated through and bubbling.

3. When the ground beef and refried beans are ready, heat tortillas in the microwave for 30 to 40 seconds with a cup of hot water.

Place tortillas with a cup of hot water to steam the tortillas.

4. Assemble burritos in the order as follows:
  • Spread refried beans on the middle to lower part of tortilla
  • Add ground beef
  • Top with kale, shredded cheese and diced tomato
Layer it however you like...

5. Roll up the burrito and serve with salsa on the side.

Trying out filters with Instagram. Follow me on Instagram: FrugalAllergyMom. :)
Source: Frugal Allergy Mom


Buying Travel Insurance for Food Allergies

Living in Vancouver, we are very fortunate to be able to travel to the United States on a whim. We live less than an hour away from the Blaine-Delta border and when the little man was 5 weeks old, we got him his own passport.

We drove to Bellingham (an hour away from Vancouver not including border wait times) more than a handful of times before the little man was diagnosed with a food allergy. My husband had extended travel medical insurance that covered all of us incase we had a medical emergency.

After the little man was diagnosed, I heard a news story about people being denied coverage after purchasing travel insurance due to undisclosed preexisting conditions. That news story stuck with me and had me thinking about whether a food allergy can be considered as a preexisting condition.

So I called our extended health provider to find out if my son is covered. To my surprise, we were not covered as my son had to be in stable condition for 90 days. This included any follow-ups or even calls to our allergist (whom we had seen the week before). As a result, I was forwarded to another department to get a quote on travel insurance coverage for my nut allergic child.

Shopping around, I found a coverage that worked best for our short day trips to the US. BCAA offered a policy that allowed us to take short trips across the border and provided coverage up to $200,000 Canadian for pre-existing conditions. The stability period required was only 7 days and we were able to get coverage for an annual multi-trip for less than $80.

The whole experience of shopping for travel insurance was a little exhausting as I wanted to make sure the insurance we purchased actually covered us incase anaphylaxis strikes. This is the list of questions I had come up with while speaking with different insurance companies. I hope this will be a valuable tool in helping you select the right coverage.

Insurance companies can change their policy wording and premium rates at any time without notice. Frugal Allergy Mom does not guarantee the accuracy of the information found on this page or any links provided. We will not be held liable in any case, for any problem arising from using these questions. Please use this information at your own risk.

Sample questions to ask:

About the insurance policy

  • What is the eligibility criteria? 
    • Some plans require you to be in the country when purchasing travel insurance, others require you to be a citizen with provincial health coverage.
  • What is the deductible?
  • Are there any medical tests required?
  • What is the stability period required? 
    • 7 days, 30 days, 60 days, 90 days or no stability period required
  • Does the insurance coverage cover food allergies? 
    • Make sure to disclose any pertinent information required: ie. anaphylactic reactions, hospital visits, age of the patient, other health issues.
    • Do you have to purchase a special rider for pre-existing conditions?
  • What is the amount of the coverage provided and in what currency?
  • Do you need pre-approval from the insurance company before seeking medical attention? 
    • Certain insurance companies require you to call them before you seek medical help. Otherwise, you are liable for a portion or the full medical bill. What are the exceptions to this rule?
    • Do they have phone numbers you can call toll-free, collect or is there a phone number available?
    • Is there someone available 24/7 to answer calls?
  • What type of services are covered under the travel insurance plan? What services are not covered?
  • Who else is covered under the plan? 
    • ie. Are family members covered if they had to fly back home with the insured individual?
  • Will the insurance coverage automatically extend if there are flight delays or situations beyond the insured's control?
  • Are there specific conditions you need to fulfill to receive the insurance coverage? 
    • ie. Do you need to carry epinephrine and antihistamines with you?
  • Does the insurance company provide direct payment with the medical facility or do you have to pay upfront?
    • If you have to pay upfront, how quickly are you reimbursed afterwards?
  • Which location/countries is the insurance coverage valid for? 
    • Certain travel insurance is only valid for a specific location/country.
    • Does the insurance cover any stopovers at other locations or sudden detours beyond your control? 
      • ie. Flight from London to Vancouver with a stopover in Amsterdam.
  • Where can you find the policy wording booklet?
    • Read through it carefully and ask questions. Pay special attention to exclusions, sections which details pre-existing conditions and definitions.
    • Make sure to note down the name of the agent and time you spoke with them. Ask if calls are recorded.
  • Can you cancel the policy if you change your mind? What are the conditions or time limit to do so? Is there a cancellation fee?
  • Can you add on other optional coverage: ie. trip cancellation at a later time?
  • What is the time limitation on submitting expenses? 
  • Can you extend the period of the insurance coverage?
  • What is the lookback period for pre-existing conditions?
  • If there is a mistake on the application, can you change it on the policy? What are the costs associated with changing it?
  • What other features or services are provided with the insurance coverage?
    • Certain insurance offers concierge services to fast-track you through the emergency room

Disclosure Requirements

  • Do you have to disclose any other information between the policy purchase date and effective date of the insurance coverage? 
    • What type of information is required: hospital visits, doctor visits, prescription changes, or other medical conditions?
Sufficient Coverage
  • Will this coverage be sufficient to cover all medical expenses?
    • Medical treatments can be very expensive in certain countries. Check to see that you have sufficient coverage.

Before you purchase:

  • Ask for a quote and compare different insurance policies
  • Read the policy wording booklet in detail and ask questions. If the customer service agent is unclear or unhelpful, call back to speak to another agent.
  • Ask family members or friends for referrals; especially if they had to file a claim previously.
  • Google the insurance company and their reputation for insurance payouts or any issues others have experienced with travel insurance for people with pre-existing conditions.
  • Make sure the coverage you are getting is sufficient for your needs: time duration or amount of coverage.
  • Any answers provided for any medical questionnaires and/or information on the policy is truthful and accurate.

Before you leave:

  • Give one designated person (family or friend) who is not traveling with you your itinerary and travel insurance information. This individual should be reachable while you are away and listed as your emergency contact.
  • Update any information with the insurance company. ie. any new medical conditions as required per your insurance policy.
  • Check that the place you are traveling to has cell phone coverage.

What to bring:

  • A copy of your insurance coverage with your policy number
  • A copy of the policy wording booklet and contact phone numbers (know how to call the number when you are traveling)
  • Epinephrine, antihistamine and other medication needed
  • Medical bracelet or something that alerts others of your food allergy
  • Food allergy chef cards (translated if you are traveling to somewhere where English is not the primary language)
  • List of local hospitals in the area you are visiting and directions on how to get there.
  • Emergency phone number for calling an ambulance

If you have to file an insurance claim:

  • Call the insurance company as soon as possible.
  • Document and keep records (receipts) of all costs incurred and paid
  • Document any conversations with the insurance company: name/ID of the agent, claim number, etc

If you want to dispute a claim:

  • You can dispute a claim if you disagree with the insurance company by arbitration law in the Canadian province or territory where your policy was issued.


  • Travel Insurance Review - provides synopsis of different insurance companies and brief descriptions of types of services provided.
  • Kanetix - online tool to compare travel insurance prices
Edit (November 20, 2014) - Million Dollar Baby
The following link discusses a case of a pregnant woman who delivered a baby in the United States and was denied coverage by Pacific Blue Cross due to pre-existing conditions. Read more here:


DIY Felted Wool Dryer Balls

We use our washer and dryer a lot. Naturally I go through a lot of laundry soap and dryer sheets. Neither of which seem particularly expensive when you buy it on its own but over the years, it adds up. I would scour sales on dryer sheets as a Costco sized box disappears as fast as I buy them.

While at my SIL's place, she showed me that they cut the dryer sheets in half. I did that for a while and it helped to cut down costs a little. My mother-in-law then gifted me these plastic dryer balls which were great except I dropped them on the floor so often it started to crack and fall apart.

The little man came along and with his eczema, it did not react well to the traditional, chemical laden dryer sheets. The plastic dryer balls were loud as they clanked against the dryer and expensive to replace. I had to find an alternate option.

I came across a great DIY project to make your own felted dryer balls. The process is so simple that a 4 year old can do it. So last December, when Michaels (an arts and crafts store) had a sale on 100% wool yarn for $1.50, I stocked up.

There are many other perks of making your own felted wool dryer balls:
  • All natural: there are no chemicals in 100% wool which is great for people with eczema or sensitive skin.
  • Saves money: shortens drying time which means the dryer uses less electricity
  • Durable: Each felted wool ball lasts for years
  • Reduces static and cling: great for the winter time when static and cling is rampant
  • Safe for baby: wool dryer balls are safe for babies and toddlers who like to taste everything. It also makes an entertaining toy (ie. being thrown around).
  • Cheap: a box of traditional dryer sheets costs $9 for a box of 200 sheets. This lasts me 200 loads or roughly 8 months. To make 6 felted dryer balls, it costs me $4.50 and it lasts me a few years. (Alternatively, you can buy a 2 pack of felted dryer balls for $10 on, i'll pass!)
  • Quiet: unlike the plastic dryer balls, wool dryer balls are quiet (especially nice for those who have in-suite laundry and babies who are light sleepers) 
  • Easy to make: even this craft-challenged mom can wind yarn into a ball. 
Each 53 meter stein of 100% wool yarn makes two felted wool dryer balls. This equates to $0.75 per dryer ball. It takes an average 4 balls to dry clothes and about 6 or more to dry towels. 

Since December, I have only used my dryer sheets a handful of times (mostly for drying our bedsheets).

Give this DIY project a try!

Make sure to use 100% wool that is NOT "superwash" or "machine washable"

  • Skein of 100% wool yarn, in light colors
    • Do NOT use wool labelled "superwash" or "machine-washable" as it will not felt
    • Choose a lighter colored wool yarn to prevent the wool from bleeding color on your clothes
    • Thicker yarn = less work
Thicker yarn means less work for you.
  • Scissors
  • Old socks/pantyhose
  • Crochet hook (optional)
  • String or acrylic yarn (for securing the wool balls in the socks)
1. Wind the yarn around your index and middle finger about 20 times.

Wind it up tight or loose.

2. Take the yarn off your fingers, wrap it the other way (so it starts off looking like a bow) until a football shape forms.

Now it looks like a bowtie

3. Keep wrapping the yarn around until it reaches your desired size. (Mine are just a tad smaller than tennis balls)

4. Wrap a rubber band (or hair-tie) around the ball to secure the loose yarn from unraveling.

1/2 done. That took about 2 minutes

5. Find the other loose end of wool yarn (usually in the center of the yarn) and repeat the process until you have no more yarn left.

6. Roughly eye the two wool balls and adjust each ball so that they are uniform in size.

7. Using scissors, cut the yarn in the middle.

8. Using a crochet hook or your fingers, tuck in the loose yarn into each wool ball and tie a few knots to prevent it from unraveling.

6 minutes later

9. Insert each wool ball into an old pantyhose or inverted old sock (so that the smooth part of the sock is on the inside).

Save those holey socks! Or you can use old pantyhose.

10. Secure the wool balls with a string or acrylic yarn. (Note: You do not want to use 100% wool yarn to secure the wool ball as it will felt to the sock or pantyhose).

Tie it off with acrylic yarn.

11. Throw the sock into your next load of towels. Use a hot wash cycle and a cold rinse cycle.
Hot wash and cold rinse cycle.

12. Place the towels and socks/pantyhose (with the dryer balls inside) into the dryer on the hottest setting.

13. The wool dryer balls have felted once the strands do not separate. You may need to repeat this process a few times depending on the type of wool you use.

Ta- da!

  • Use thicker yarn to reduce the amount of work you have to do
  • Do NOT buy "machine-washable" or "superwash" wool yarn as it will not felt
  • Use acrylic yarn or string to secure the dryer ball in the sock
  • Use old "holey" socks and not your fancy dress socks

1. Use tennis balls
2. Unravel an old wool sweater you no longer use to make wool dryer balls
3. Throw in a clean, dry hand towel to speed up the drying time