Toys “R” Us Canada recalls Aqua Dots

My son has been asking for months for this Aqua Dots toy. Luckily for us, I did not buy it.

The toy consists of hundreds of coloured beads that can be arranged into various shapes and designs, and it’s approved for use by children ages four and above in Canada.

With a special 4 colour chamber pen you arrange the beads on a template, then spray water and wait for it to dry.

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Yesterday Toys “R” Us recalled the popular toy after it was discovered that a similar product in Australia releases a hallucinogenic drug when swallowed by kids.

The Australian version of the toy- called Bindeez- was found coated with a chemical that releases the drug gamma-hydroxy butyrate, also known as GHB or fantasy, when swallowed.

GHB, also known as liquid ecstasy, is a depressant that can lead to euphoria, lowered inhibitions, increase sexual desire, as well as dizziness, drowsiness and memory lapses. High doses can cause severe side effects, including hallucinations, seizures, vomiting, black outs, coma and death.

Bindeez, sold by Moose Enterprise in Australia, has been named toy of the year 2007.

Two kids landed in hospital after they swallowed some beads but recovered since then.

It was not immediately known where Bindeez is made.

Aqua Dots, distributed in North America by Spin Master Ltd  will not be available at Toys “R” Us for the foreseeable future. Spin Master noted that both Aqua Dots and Bindeez are manufactured by Moose Enterprise .

According to the media release from Moose Enterprise   they voluntarily recalled the Bindeez from Australian market and is fully cooperating with health and consumers organisations.

The products are manufactured by internationally approved Chinese toy manufacturers.

So the mistery is solved: the toys are manufactured in China.

Media release
7 November 2007

Organic food on a budget

Is there any way to buy organic food without going into bankruptcy?

Yes, if you select carefully what you buy.

Some things labeled ‘organic’ might not be that organic after all. Products like cleaners, cosmetics, even seafood does not face the same requirements as meat and vegetables.

 

What is worth buying organic:

– Fruits: Apples, cherries, grapes, pears, berries, peaches, nectarines, plums

– Vegetables: Celery, potatoes, spinach, bell peppers, lettuce, tomatoes, green beans

– Meat: Beef, pork, poultry

– Eggs and dairy

– Baby food

 

What is not worth it:

– Fruits: Bananas, kiwis, mangoes, papayas, pineapples, oranges

– Vegetables: Asparagus, avocados, Brussels sprouts, broccoli, cauliflower, sweet corn, onions, sweet peas

– Meat: seafood

– Processed food (including pasta!!), cleaning products, cosmetics

 

The price on organic meat and eggs very often is 100% more than regular one; the reason is the expensive organic feed for animals.

Alternative: consider antibiotic and/or hormone free meat

 

Long time I thought that free-range eggs were coming closer to the organic version. Actually I was wrong. Free-range means that the chickens are not living in cages, but allow roam freely within the farm and they are going to feed on greens and insects. But that does not mean they are going to be fed organic food.

The good part is that eggs from free-range chickens have higher nutritional value, more Omega 3, Vitamins A and E and lower levels of total fat.

From my shopping experience I can say that the price difference between free-range eggs and organic eggs is not that big, but if you buy on a budget it can be taken into account.

 Another way to budget your organic shopping: look for what’s on sale. Also, buy fruits and veggies that are in season when pricing becomes much more competitive.

Beachfront properties in France

Dreaming about moving to France?

Let’s take a look at France’s regions

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Cannes, the Riviera… the perfume of old times.

France enjoys miles of stunning beachfront property. Depending on your preferences, you can choose between the calm, family-friendly resorts of the Normandy coast, the rugged beauty of the Celtic Brittany shores, the sandy immensity of the Landes, the thrill of the surf on the Atlantic by Biarritz, and the timeless charm of the Mediterranean in the south, among other destinations. Needless to say, this is not the cheapest sector of the property market, but on the whole it represents good value, and there are still affordable areas if you look hard.

 

The Riviera

Properties along the Riviera tend to be pretty expansive. Prices have risen over the past couple of years and now rival those in Paris, but it is still possible to find compact studios in these coastal towns for under $150,000.

But you can still find a ready-to-move-in one-bedroom apartment of just over 450 square feet with a view of the sea in Marseille for $137,000.

 

Beachfront Property in Normandy

With its 400 miles of clean, uncrowded coastline, and easy access to Paris, beach land and beach lots here are much sought after-you’ll be competing with Parisians looking for an easy weekend getaway, and, with the arrival of a low-cost airline in Deauville, with Brits eager for the same. Low-key Trouville is popular with families, yet close enough to the casinos of Deauville for entertainment. Honfleur still draws crowds at weekends except in the depths of winter, and the old-fashioned resort of Granville has a slow charm of its own.

How to make an exotic trip hassle free

 

Typically when you are to travel you have two options: to book an organized tour or to hop on the plane and go.

The organized tour might be the most convenient having the hotels, meals, activity all booked in advance. You go to see or do what you like, but at the same time what you don’t like because the organized tour is designed to accommodate a common denominator.

Hopping on a plane and blindly going somewhere could be terrifying and time consuming when it comes to finding accommodations at your destinations. Then you spend time checking local travel agencies to see who has the best local tour at the best prices.

To make an exotic trip less stressful there is another solution: get in contact with local travel agents. First gather your information on the place you want to go.

Check the sites of Lonely Planet or TripAdvisor, along with their forums, to start with.

Once you have an itinerary in mind and the clear budget you are willing to allocate for this exotic trip, try to find a good, reliable local travel agent.

When you are pleased with your choice, gave the full information to your chosen travel agent and book your flight.

 To find the cheapest flights, check out kayak  which checks most airlines against each other and gives you the cheapest options. You can even set an alert to warn you if a cheap flight is advertised at the last minute.

If the flight is long, involving many hours and a few stops, maybe it’s a good idea to schedule a day or two to spend somewhere in the middle of the trip, Europe for example.

One important thing to remember is that is important to trust and listen your chosen travel agent, rather than second-guessing him. Often what you see in brochures or online bears little resemblance to what you find when you finally arrive at your destination, so having someone who has actually been there would be a valuable asset.

Your on-line agent will arrange all local transportation, including personal pick-up and drop-off at each airports and might provide you with a local 24-hour phone number in case you might experience difficulties.

 

One last tip: Cell Phones

You phone with a current Canadian provider’s card would be very expensive.

Take a GMS cell phone  that takes a SIM card. Make sure that the phone is ‘open’, meaning that you can use any service with it.

Resist buying the SIM card before you travel.

You can get one at the airport when you arrive. I will cost you usually less than $20 and it will come bundled with several hours of connect time.

Simple foods with extra nutrition and health power

Black tea

When it’s tea time, most health-conscious consumers tend to go for green. But black tea can be as good for you because it comes from the same antioxidant-rich plant that produces the green variety. Black tea may offer similar protection from heart disease and some cancers.

How to drink it: To get the most benefits use the regular, not decaffeinated version. As well, avoid bottled or instant teas because the level of antioxidants is barely detectable. If you are brewing it use boiling water and steep for three minutes to get the most antioxidants.

Celery

It’s a great source of potassium, a nutrient that helps reduce blood pressure and regulate the balance of fluids and minerals in the body. The suggested amount is 4,700 milligrams a day. Although banana is the most popular choice to get potasium into your body, munching four medium stalks will deliver about the same amount of potassium as a 105-calorie banana for a mere 24 calories. The crunchy crudité also contains compounds called phthalides, which moderate blood pressure, too.


How to eat it: Dip celery in hummus for an extra dose of fiber. Add it to soups, stews and stir-fries.
Tip: Keep a stash of precut celery sticks immersed in a tub of ice water in the fridge; the cool bath keeps them at their crunchiest.

Cherries

Cherries, both sweet and tart, are particularly rich in anthocyanins, micronutrients that may jump-start the immune system and mop up free radicals that cause disease, says Ronald Wrolstad, Ph.D., distinguished professor emeritus of food science and technology at Oregon State University at Corvallis. “This may give cherries the potential to help ward off cancer,” he says. Other research suggests they may also reduce inflammation associated with arthritis and gout.


How to eat them:  Fresh –available only for a limited time,frozen, dried and canned versions, which are available year-round, are equally nutritious. Freeze the fresh ones for a cool bite, add tart dried cherries to salads or top pancakes with the canned kind.

Edamame

If you want all the benefits of soy-protein minus the cholesterol, plus the heart- and bone-protecting isoflavones—but you’re tired of tofu, grab a handful of edamame.Edamame is the whole unprocessed soybean. Most often sold frozen in or outside the pod, these crunchy green beans have all the pluses of tofu, as well as almost twice the potassium and folate and nearly four times the fiber.


How to eat it: Boil in the pod, sprinkle with sea salt and eat warm or cold by squeezing from the skins. Or toss raw, preshelled beans into any green or fruit salad. You can also roast them by spritzing raw shelled beans with olive oil, seasoning with dried basil, garlic powder, parsley or salt and cooking in an oven at 375 degrees for 12 to 15 minutes. Roasted beans are a good crunchy snack but they’re higher in calories than fresh beans.

Mushrooms

Mushrooms have several redeeming qualities. Nutrition wise they’re low in calories and are a top plant source of B-complex vitamins, including riboflavin, which helps keep skin healthy and eyesight sharp. They also have high level of  selenium, an antioxidant that may protect against some cancers. All mushrooms offer benefits, but the big winner is the meaty portobello. It’s high in selenium and potassium.

How to eat them Grill them or mix them raw into salads or sauté and add to pizza.

Onions

What nutrition and health benefits do we get from onions?         they have blood-thinning property similar to that of aspirin         they are a source of quercetin, a flavonoid thought to reduce heart attack risks         they fight bacteria that can cause stomach cancer         they may bolster bone health

How to eat them: Raw onions (all varieties) are best because cooking can kill off their blood-thinning compounds; try slices on sandwiches or in salads. If you can’t take the strong taste, marinate them in balsamic vinegar with some water, sugar and fresh herbs. You can also sauté chopped onions with olive oil or roast whole in a covered dish in a 400-degree oven for an hour.

Pomegranate juice

Antioxidant-loaded pomegranates have been generating quite a buzz. The conveniently presqueezed pomegranate juice, which offers almost all the health perks of the whole fruit without the hassle, is available almost everywhere. The beverage has more antioxidants than red wine, green tea, cranberry juice or orange juice, and is loaded with polyphenols, a type of antioxidant that may protect against cancer and promote heart health

How to drink it To balance the flavor and cut calories, mix with an equal amount of seltzer or freshly brewed tea.

Quinoa

Quinoa delivers significant amounts of 20 different amino acids that your body uses to maintain and repair tissues, including all of the essential amino acids—protein building blocks your body can’t make and has to get from food, making it one of the best nutrition choices. It’s also an excellent source of magnesium, which helps regulate blood pressure. A half cup gives you more than 50 percent of your daily needs, as well as some iron and potassium.


How to eat it: Boiled quinoa, sligthly undercooked, makes a nice side dish alternative to brown rice. Or eat quinoa like oatmeal, mixed with skim milk and a spoonful of light maple syrup.

Sunflower seeds

With 25 percent more vitamin E than almonds, sunflower seeds are the latest go-to snack for reducing the risk for heart disease and stroke. Vitamin E may also fight inflammation, which can lead to joint pain and cartilage deterioration. 4 tablespoons of dried seeds provide 12 milligrams of vitamin E—that’s 80 percent of your daily needs. They’re also full of fiber, healthy fats, protein and iron.


How to eat them Shelled seeds are great tossed into salads, baked goods like muffins or spice cake, meat loaf or any recipe that calls for nuts. You can also crush them, add some olive oil and use them as a coating for baked chicken or fish fillets.

Whole-grain cereal

The nutrion and health benefits of eating them are known by almost everybody. Aside from making a nice, hearthy, low calorie breakfast, they will give you the morning boost to your metabolism. They claim health benefits as well:  Shredded wheat and Cheerios say their whole grains can help lower cholesterol, which can reduce your heart disease risk.

How to eat it Check the labels for calories intake and for types with at least 4 grams of fiber and no more than 6 grams of sugar per serving. Add a cup of skim milk for your protein needs.