tech thursday: c-pen reader [05/31]

This thing is cool.

Awhile back, I learned of the C-Pen Reader from the Learning Disabilities Association of Manitoba. After learning more about it, I felt like the C-Pen would be a tool that would help me as a person with a learning disability who learns best through listening rather than seeing—as I’ve written before, I primarily now read audiobooks, and frequently use text-to-speech or VoiceOver on my MacBook, iPhone and iPad when reading longer texts. This switch has greatly enhanced my retention of what I read. But what about actual paper documents? It becomes a hassle to scan dozens of pages to have them convert. 

Enter the C-Pen.

In video, because it probably makes more sense that way. 

Disclosure: I contacted Scanning Pens in the UK requesting to review the C-Pen Reader. They got back in touch quickly sent me one out via a Canadian distributor. I am in no way obligated to provide a favourable review.

interview with Debbie Spring, author of Breathing Soccer

One in ten Canadian kids has asthma—and a lot more than that have an affinity for soccer. Debbie Spring’s book Breathing Soccer (2008, Thistledown Press) focuses on both of these aspects in an approachable way that encourages kids to learn more about their asthma and find balance through developing an understanding of their disease, while not allowing asthma to hold them back. I received Breathing Soccer last week, and today had the chance to sit down to chat with Debbie about the book.

Breathing Soccer can be found on Amazon [Canada and USA], Chapters/Indigo, or directly from Thistledown Press.  Please continue the discussion by asking questions of Debbie [or I] below, and I’ll be sure to pass them on for her to respond to!

Disclosure: I received Breathing Soccer from Debbie for free after reaching out to her about the book; we agreed to conduct an interview following to my reading of Breathing Soccer–I was not required to provide a favourable review—I do certainly recommend the book, though :].

review: visalus vi-shape nutrition shakes

Give or take, one meal is roughly 350-450 calories. This is of course, dependent on a variety of factors, such as how many calories your body needs for energy, whether you are trying to lose, gain or maintain weight, and whether you are eating three meals a day or five meals a day or three meals a day and two or three snacks.  Whatever way you slice it, if you are paying attention and making intentional choices, 350 calories, given that you are making the right choices, is a lot to play around with.

Sometimes, though, it is hard to continually make those intentional choices.  I know that.

My original position, which I maintain, is that nutrition should come from food first.  That said, if you know me, you know I do not have the best nutrition habits, and I’m usually among the first to admit that. It’s not that I sit around and eat copious amounts of sugar or salt or fat, and don’t exercise, because that’s totally not true, but I am not sure I’ve ever had a solid span of time where I hit the 7-10 fruits and vegetables guideline, or the 8 grain products, and I sure as heck don’t EVER get two servings of meats and alternatives [*picky vegetarian waves* I don’t like straight-up tofu, or eggs, so that basically leaves me with nut butter and nuts and seeds, which I need to work better at).  That said, my macronutrient values [carbohydrates, fats and proteins] are usually in pretty decent check, and if anything, low in fats and higher in carbohydrates when I am logging to be more in check with what I am putting into my body.  I’m also pretty bad for not eating until like, 11 am or later. This is something I am working hard to change, but when you cut all those hours out of your eating time and you’ve only got twelve and a half hours left before it’s bedtime, that becomes an issue.

So I’m open.

When my friend Sara posted on Facebook about a 90 day health challenge she was beginning, I was, of course, interested.  Sara has two young [and adorable!] kids, and has filled me in that she and her husband, Drew, are on a journey towards making those choices that will continue to positively impact their health.  Making the choice to incorporate Visalus nutrition supplements is one of those choices.  Sara is an independent Visalus distributor and spoke candidly of her experience trying it out, and offered to send me some samples, which arrived yesterday (I should mention here that Sara and Drew used to live here, but within the last year moved back to Ontario–and I want to steal them back! :]  They are absolutely incredible, passionate and beautiful people).


On first glance, I was really impressed with the nutritional content and all the vitamins in the mix.  However, your total caloric intake for these shakes is totally impacted on your mix method.  Mix it with water, and you’re rocking 110 calories, 9 g [32% of the calories in Visalus] of carbs and 12 grams [44%] of protein and 2.5 g [4.8%] of fat–a perfect snack with less than one gram of sugar.  However, mix it with milk [I used 1%] and it’s basically a meal in a blender. The Sweet Cream shake mixed with 12 oz [1.5 cups or 325 mL] of milk (how I prepared it) adds up to 25g of carbs, 5g of fat and an amazing 26g of protein, totalling to 255 calories.  In my opinion, either way you look at it, it’s a pretty sound shake that’s ready to consume within a minute.


Most importantly, though . . . how it tastes! Unlike other protein shakes I’ve tried, there is little whey aftertaste (especially if you’re going with something with Boost as opposed to whey isolate, there’s also that unpleasant aftertaste that could be likened to burning, not to mention that Boost doesn’t taste all that great).  It also blends out to be pretty smooth, which is definitely something I couldn’t say about other protein powders–combined on the taste and the texture, I couldn’t really choke them down unless I combined it with ice cream, which kind of defeats the intent of healthiness. And while the claims that it tastes like cake mix are not full on, they’re closer than I’d imagined–pretty good on less than a gram of sugar.  It turns out that my aunt has made me shakes with VIsalus before, plus pumpkin, and they are amazing, so if you choose to include some fruit to the mix, you can add to all the good going on vitamin- and nutrition-wise.

So while I have yet to decide if Visalus has a place in my life for the long-term, I definitely have opened my mind a bit, and have not discounted it–I definitely think it could be a good addition on days I am home a bit but also pressed for time to pack some calories and nutrition back into the day.  It’s full of good things and tastes good (and even more so when other goodness is added to it!) . . . what’s not to like?

Thanks for sharing the goodness, Sara!

Disclosure: I received samples of Vi-Shape Nutritional Shakes free of charge from Sara, who is an independent distributor for Visalus.  I was not required to review the product publicly, nor has this influenced my review of this product.