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Monday, July 30, 2012

Evergreen Brickworks


Big A slept over at my in-laws on Friday and then they took her to Centre Island on Saturday morning.  They normally take both girls, but they wanted to take Big A alone so they could do some activities that aren't possible when Little A is with them.

Since Little A has been feeling a bit left out because of all the special activities Big A has been doing lately, Adam and I thought we would try to do something special with her. 

Just as suddenly as it seemed we'd moved into a phase of smooth sailing, I feel like we are now in another rough patch.  The girls fight constantly (they complain about how much they miss each other, then battle over every possible thing when they're together) and Little A has been demonstrating some disturbing behaviour.  Aside from her typical 3-year-old completely irrational, narcissistic antics, for the past two weekends she has been mortifyingly awful at playdates.  Normally, no matter what, she has been wonderful with other kids and absolutely delighted to have someone to play with.  In both these cases, she has been grumpy, sullen, and completely unwilling to share or cooperate.  In fact, she has been saying she wants to play alone and screams and cries when the other child even tries to play with her. We spoke to one of her daycare teachers this morning who was surprised to hear about this, because she has not been exhibiting any unusual behaviour at daycare, but suggested it is perhaps a reaction to the new summer routine, which means different teachers, different kids, and a whole new schedule during the week.  It's hard to say what's going on with her, but Adam and I are rather concerned.

I am also feeling really crappy about myself.  I feel like I am annoyed, stressed and angry all the time.  Between Little A's generally challenging 3-year-old antics and the fact that the girls are constantly fighting, there seems to be never-ending crying, screaming and complaining and I just don't have the patience for it.    Adam and I sat down today, however, and we've come up with a plan which I believe will help.  As ridiculous as this sounds, we've decided that each girl will have assigned days of the week when they get to: watch tv upstairs, get out of the bath first, press the buttons at crosswalks, unlock the front door, push the garage door button, etc., etc).  So, for example, Big A might have Tuesdays, Thursdays and Saturdays when she gets to do all of this, and Little A might have Mondays, Wednesdays and Fridays.  Sundays we are still discussing, but might be a day where the two of them have to work together or neither of them get to: watch tv, press buttons, etc.  At least if they know when they wake up in the morning what's what, then we won't have battles, and I won't have to be constantly remembering who got to do what the last time and who's time it is this time...which I really don't have space for in my brain.

In any case, Saturday we took her to the Brickworks, a place I've been dying to go for a long while. The Evergreen Brickworks is Canada’s first large-scale community environmental centre.  It's got a massive farmer's market on Saturdays, lots of activities for kids and families, a cafe, a shop, and a wide variety of special events.  This past Saturday there was live music, drop-in cooking classes for kids aged 4-7, a green transportation expo, and DIY bicycle repair workshop.  The Brickworks encourages visitors to bicycle or take public transport, rather than drive, but they do have paid parking available.  We drove, because we had to be back in time for Big A to be returned by my in-laws, but I'm hoping next time my parents stay with us, we can all try going by TTC.  They have special shuttle buses available to the Brickworks from certain spots on the subway system.

The farmer's market is extremely impressive.  Along with a wide variety of organic produce, cheese, meat, and other products available, you can get fruit pops and all-natural sno-cones, freshly made baked goods, crepes, burritos and sandwiches (all healthy!) and stevia-sweetened lemonade.

I had promised Little A we'd get her ice cream, so she was unwilling to do anything else until we did so as soon as we got there at 10am.  Mapleton Organics has a little vendor onsite offering a handful of their flavours.  After a cup of chocolate, we took Little A to the Chimney Court, which provides a huge outdoor space for kids to play in and explore.  If your kids love to get dirty, they'll probably love this...although little miss pig-pen generally falls into this category and she got bored fairly quickly of watering the flowers and making mud in the sand. 

I wish we could say we had a great time, but Little A was grumpy and even a massive chewy, gooey, whole grain, vegan chocolate chip cookie was unable to put her in a better mood.  It did make her thirsty, however, but when I offered her my water bottle, the fact that there were ice cubes in it made her have a full-blown tantrum.  In fact, the sweet guy selling the sno-cones felt so bad (more for us, or for Little A, I'm not certain), that he insisted on giving me a free one for her.  Unfortunately, she didn't like it so Adam ate it instead.

We weren't there long enough - because by 11:30am when Little A started melting down we decided to call it quits - but apparently they have a fantastic nature trail with lots of wildlife that is great for kids.  Perhaps next time we'll be able to take both girls to explore this.

Moody 3-year-old aside, I think the Brickworks is an amazing place to visit and I highly recommend checking it out.  There website has a monthly calander so you can keep on top of all the activities and workshops going on. 

Saturday, July 28, 2012

Swim to Survive

The Metro-Central YMCA is offering a FREE Swim to Survive program open to the public for all ages this Sunday at 1pm!  Click here for more info.

Friday, July 27, 2012

Backwards Treadmilling

Disclaimer: This activity can cause serious injury.  Please speak to your health care provider and/or trainer to make sure this activity is right for you before you attempt it.

As I get older I realize more and more that youth is not always superior and there is a lot to be said for experience and the wisdom that comes with it.  Of course that doesn't mean that I would mind a bit of botox between the eyes to get rid of those damn lines, or 'experience wrinkles'.  But lets face it, our society still worships youth and beauty.

And I have to admit, I am vulnerable to this too.  A few months ago Adam and I were forced to come to terms with the fact that our beautiful, sleek, 5.5 year old treadmill was dying.  This is it below (we never even took off the tag!):



The guy who services it for us explained that residential treadmills are generally not built to sustain a lot of mileage (i.e. the manufacturers anticipate you'll end up hanging laundry off it after a few months) and we were going to end up having to replace the motor and belt on an annual basis.  For a cost of about $800, this made absolutely no sense.  He recommended we purchase a commercial grade treadmill.  The only problem?  They cost between $6,000-$10,000.


Since the service company works for a lot of gyms in Toronto, I asked if they had any refurbished models from one of them that we might be able to afford.  Sure enough, they had 2 in stock that were under $2,000.  Both were well over a decade old, however, the frames and consoles were the only original parts, and everything else was brand new.  Never-the-less, when we went to look at them, I couldn't get past how old and ugly they looked.  It simply seemed odd that we were going to trash our 'pretty' one for a dinosaur.  But eventually, I came around to the idea that sturdy and dependable is better than pretty.   I am very glad I did, because our new one is smooth and strong and everything you want in a treadmill.  That's it below:




So what if it looks dated?  I actually don't even notice it anymore and now that I've gotten used to it, I don't think it's that bad.

Anyways...

In an effort to keep my body sturdy and dependable, I am always trying to improve my fitness and challenge myself in different ways.  I'm still limited a bit by my hamstrings, which are still a vulnerable area, and by the fact that I have to do most of my activity in our home gym, since I work out first thing in the morning and Adam is usually leaving for work just as I'm getting started.  I figure it's still another 5-6 years until Big A is old enough to be home alone watching Little A!  So I alternate between stairmaster, walking/running on the treadmill, and Insanity DVDs for cardio. 

As much as I love power hill walking, it's the one thing I still really can't do much of because it puts too much stress on my hamstring tendons.  Sometimes I do lateral training on the treadmill (like galloping sideways), but I was looking for something else to do when I decided to explore facing backwards on the treadmill.  My research indicated that this would target quads, calfs and shins, and is a great way to also work on balance and core strength. 

Admittedly when I first tried it, it felt very strange, and Adam also thought I'd lost my mind.  But I am now very comfortable, and love incorporating this activity into my workouts.  It's best to start out very slow, and gradually increase speed and incline.  I find that speed walking backwards gets my heart rate up higher than jogging backwards at the same speed (same is true of facing forwards), but I feel a bit less steady when walking.  I generally integrate intervals of it into my routine and alternate with running forwards and lateral work.  After the first time, I woke up 48 hours later with extremely sore feet and shins, which actually pleased me because I was hitting muscles that I'd clearly been neglecting.  My bodies adjusting to it now so I don't get as sore, but I love the challenge of doing something new and different.

Keep in mind that this activity may not be suitable for anyone with a medical condition or muscluloskeletal issue that affects balance.   It can be very dangerous and can cause serious injury if you fall, so make sure to check with a health professional to ensure that this is an appropriate activity for you before you try it.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Fresh Peach Muffins





The local peaches which are in season right now are so sweet and delicious that even Big A - who, when it comes to food, normally only gets excited about cake, candy, salty snacks or hotdogs - has been swooning over them.  Of course, they are best eaten fresh, out of hand, but they are highly perishable and because I bought so many, we couldn't eat them all before they started to get a bit mushy.

But you won't often catch me throwing out produce just because they are a wee bit past their prime.  Not when you can use them in cooking and baking and still get spectacular results!  These are incredibly sweet and moist, even though they are healthy and low in fat.  Everyone loved these, so I think they are going to become a peach season tradition.

You can actually make this into one big quick bread loaf, or muffins of any size.  I made mini loaves, which I love because they can be a serving for someone with a big appetite or sliced for sharing among those with smaller appetites.  You will have to adjust cooking time depending on what you make.

8 fresh peaches, halved, pits and stems removed, finely chopped
398ml jar unsweetened apple sauce
4 egg whites (or 2 flax eggs)
1 cup unsweetened vanilla or regular soy milk (or other milk of choice)
1/2 cup granular sweetener (coconut sugar, Splenda, xylitol, erythritol, etc.)
1 tsp vanilla extract
Dropper full of vanilla stevia*
2 1/4 cups kamut flour
1/4 cup ground flax
2 tsp baking powder
1 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk dry ingredients in a small bowl and add to wet.  Stir just until combined.  Pour batter into greased loaf or muffin tins and bake at 375F until tops are golden and toothpick comes out clean.  I made 7 mini loaves and they took 26 minutes to bake.  For something smaller, like regular sized muffins, start checking for doneness after about 18 minutes.  Let cool and then remove from tins.  Keep in an air-tight container for a few days or freeze.



*I still haven't broken into my NuNaturals stevia stash I got in Washington, however, I've been using my NOW brand French Vanilla stevia extract like crazy lately, with very good results.  Unlike NuNaturals brand, it's available in Canada.

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Wednesday, July 25, 2012

National Drowning Prevention Week



If you follow the news than you probably already know that there have been an alarming number of drownings this summer across the country, particularly in Ontario and Quebec, which authorities blame on the exceptionally hot weather.  Apparently the heat and humidity encourage folks, who may not necessarily have the proper skills, to take to the water in an effort to cool down.  Water safety is particularly important for children, as drowning is the second leading cause of accidental death for children under the age of four.

The Royal Lifesaving Society of Canada is having its annual National Drowning Prevention Week this week in an effort to decrease these tragedies from occurring.  They argue that in a country like Canada, which has numerous and vast bodies of water, that swimming is an important life skill.

This is certainly how Adam and I see it.  While the girls have been free to chose whatever other recreational activities in which to participate, we have insisted on having both of them in swim lessons since they were 6 months old.

While lessons at private pools and clubs can be quite pricey, most city programs offer affordable classes at public pools. The Ontario Medical Association is actually recommending that swim lessons be both free and mandatory for children.  I agree!

Tuesday, July 24, 2012

High Protein Caesar Pesto (vegan option)

Healthy, flavourful, and versatile.  This recipe is killer, AND it is super simple to make.  It's great with whole grain crackers, bread or crostini as an appetizer or lunch, or can be used as a sauce for pasta, or spooned over baked fish or chicken.

8 cups dark green romaine leaves (outer leaves), chopped
2-3 cloves garlic
50g can anchovies packed in olive oil (omit or throw in a handful of sea vegetables for vegan option)
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbls grated parmesan cheese (or nutritional yeast for vegan option)
2 tbls white wine vinegar
1 tbls worcestershire sauce
1 tsp dijon mustard
1 15oz can white kidney beans (or romano beans), drained and rinsed
Fresh cracked black pepper and salt, to taste

Place romaine in food processor and pulse until finely chopped.  Add remaining ingredients and puree until smooth.  Keep in the refrigerator for 4-5 days.

Monday, July 23, 2012

Recipe Favorites

I thought I'd compile a list of my favorite recipes because I publish so many and a lot have gotten lost at the back of this blog, particularly some that I didn't label very well.

These are recipes that each time I make them I think, "Damn this is amazing!"  If you try any, let me know what you think.

Meat/Fish Dishes

My Malaysian Curried Shrimp and Shirataki noodle dish is an all-time fave of mine (I can't make it for Adam because it has seafood, but I once made it for him with chicken instead and he loved it).

My take on chicken tajine turned out awesome.

You'll love my rhubarb apple butter chicken stew if you enjoy sweet/savoury dishes.  My apple butter chicken and squash dish, is also amazing.

My balsamic-glazed trout is simple but super-flavourful and is always a hit.  I make this one a lot.



Vegetarian Mains

My vegetarian pad thai, which I honestly think beats anything I've had in a restaurant.

You seriously have got to give my decadent-tasting creamy cashew pea curry a try!

My healthy take on Adam's bubby's sweet-and-sour lima beans is devine.

My vegetarian Italian "Meat"balls are easier than you might think to make, and so worth it.

This vegan pizza rocks, you gotta try it!

This is bar-none my favorite soup recipe, and hardy enough to be a whole meal.

Sweet and spicy curried chickpeas and kale is one of my favorite curries to make.

My chickpea apricot stew is another winner for people who like sweet/savoury dishes.

This Penne El Paso pasta dish is a tasty vegetarian or vegan meal incorporating all your favorite tex-mex flavours.

If your kids will eat vegetarian sushi, this recipe maximizes nutrition while still appealing to little ones' palates.  We make these all the time in our house and guests are always so impressed, they think we purchased them from a sushi restaurant!  No one will ever know what healthiness is hidden in them...

My falafel pizzas are definitely a favorite...drooling just thinking about them...

If you've been wanting to try Halifax style donairs, save your arteries and try my vegan version.


Side Dishes/Salads

I make my Italian Rice Pilaf all the time and it's always a hit. Great accompanyment to fish or chicken.

For an amazing twist on your usual sweet potato dish, try this one with Chinese Five Spice.

I am always a sucker for portobello mushrooms, but this salad is seriously amazing.


Condiments

This simple tahini sauce could make a rubber boot taste good.


Treats

For something so healthy, my gingerbread cookie dough balls are crazy-ass good!

I don't think a day has gone by since I first made these strawberry jam-filled mango muffins that Big A has not asked for one!

My apple cream tart was a huge hit with everyone, including the kids and the healthy-food haters.

Don't wait until Passover to make these cookie-dough truffles, they're too good, and were another favorite with everyone.

My cherry almond muffins have to be my all-time favorite muffin recipe, with these pina colada ones as the runner-up.

If you're a sucker for gooey cinnamon rolls, you gotta try this healthier version that tastes just as decadent!

Friday, July 20, 2012

Independence Week

Big A has been in Kingston for the week with my parents.  They have been extremely impressed with how grown-up and confident she is.  Starting a new camp with all new kids, in a relatively unfamiliar city without her parents around hasn't fazed her for a second.  My parents say she was instantly comfortable with everything and the camp counsellors reported that she is very well-behaved and getting on beautifully with the other campers.  Big A is beyond thrilled because she has learned how to jump off a diving board and do cannon balls.  My parents said she now does this everytime they are at their pool about 20 times!

Little A has been enjoying being "Queen of the Castle" but also deeply misses her sister.  She won't stop asking when Big A will be back and has had several tantrums over it.  But she's had a great week too.  She spent the day with my mother-in-law on Wednesday and visited a fire station.  The fire fighters let her sit in the fire truck, which delighted her.  Thursday she had an amazing time with Adam's cousin, Shawna, at Canada's Wonderland.  Admittedly, I worried that she was too young for this,  and thought I'd be getting a call from Shawna early afternoon that they had to come home.  But I was wrong.  They were there from 10am to 3:30pm, and then went to Adam's grandparents.  They didn't turn up until 5:15pm.  While Little A was visibly tired, we only had a few brief and not very dramatic (relatively speaking!) meltdowns before we got her to bed.  Remarkably, she didn't pee the whole time they were at Wonderland.  This worried Shawna, but what is amazing is that she didn't have any accidents.  She held it until they got to Adam's grandparents house!  She is finally showing a commitment to the potty training.  In fact, I was surprised to find her pull-up dry this morning when she woke up!

Tomorrow Adam goes to pick up Big A in Kingston and is going to take her to her first concert: Kristina Maria (I have no clue who this is) at the Live Green Festival at Yonge/Dundas Square.

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She's been begging him to take her to a concert and he figures this is a perfect one to start with since it's early (5pm), only 30 minutes, and free.  Little A and I might join them for it, depending on how hot it is and what time she her friend comes over for a playdate tomorrow.

Adam actually went to this event several years ago when Little A was an infant.  He went with her strapped into the Baby Bjorn and saw Carly Rae Jepson.  He said along with the music, there is all sorts of healthy/environmentally conscious food and consumer products and he even brought home a little free swag.  I can't wait to see what's on offer this year!

Wow, the whole family at a concert!  They really are growing up.  It's exciting, but scary.  Before we know it they'll be driving and dating and doing all sorts of other things that are going to give me gray hairs.

Thursday, July 19, 2012

Outside the Box


I recently finished reading Outside the Box by Jeannie Marshall.  Marshall is a Canadian journalist who has spent time living in Rome.  The book details the differences she noticed between the traditional food culture in Italy - which is, unfortunately, slowly changing and becoming more Americanized - and the food culture of modern North America.  Her focus is the impact of these distinct environments on herself and her young son, and on the families around her.

I enjoyed this book immensely and agree with most of what Marshall says: our food environment is toxic; large corporate food manufacturers and restaurant chains are in business to make money, and do so at the expense of our health; cooking is a life skill and should be taught in school; food marketing is often manipulative and detrimental, particularly for children; and there are many complex personal and systemic reasons why people are overweight and suffering from related chronic illnesses.

Like Yoni Freedhoff, I was disappointed that she did not provide potential solutions to any of the problems she addresses.  More than anything, the book solidified my belief that North Americans are not likely to make drastic changes to their lifestyle unless the environment changes.  In order for the environment to change, there have to be much more stringent regulations for food producers, manufacturers and the restaurant industry.

What was perhaps most poignant was her notion that we should be able to eat for enjoyment without being concerned about the macro and micronutrients in our food, or what additives or hidden fats, sugars and salts might be present.  This is not possible in our packaged-food dominated world.  Reading every label is essential.  Virtually every product is plastered with health claims, even if it is a highly processed item devoid of any nutritional value.

She also draws attention to the way food is marketed towards children, and how 'fun' is always associated with junk food.  Even family attractions in Italy now serve only fast food, and the same is certainly true of most attractions here in Canada.  It's both sad and sickening.

I try not to obsess about what the girls eat and hope they will eventually follow our example of eating mostly healthy, whole foods and having treats sparingly.  Unfortunately, the whole 'saving treats for special occasions' seems to still mean that they get junk virtually every day.  There always seems to be a party or event, a birthday, or some sort of outing where they are offered (usually not by us) candy, ice cream, cookies or cake. 

Sometimes I do feel like its a losing battle.  But Marshall suggests that all is not lost and that the food culture in North America is showing signs of positive change.  But her basis for this is the movement towards eating locally and eschewing industrial food.  I have already argued that eating locally sourced food does not necessarily mean eating healthier, if the food is bacon and donuts.  One look at Toronto's restaurant scene and current food trends indicates that healthy eating, whether it's based on a vegetarian, vegan or omnivorous diet, is not nearly as popular as eating poutine, donuts, fried chicken, burgers and hot dogs, charcuterie, and bacon everything.  I doubt it's much different anywhere else in North America.  And despite all the warnings about drinking soda and other sweetened beverages, I hardly see these products disappearing off of store shelves.

This book is definitely interesting food for thought, and I hope it can be used as a springboard for others to examine ways to address the serious state of our food culture that Marshall describes.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

Fat-Free Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Dressing


I am not a big fan of oil.  If you read my recipes, than you probably have already noticed this.  It's not that I'm fat-phobic, it's just that I'd rather get my healthy fats from real, whole foods like nuts, fish and avocados.  A lot of health professionals think this is better, but I also simply don't think oil is necessary or adds a lot to most recipes, unless it's something with a strong flavour like toasted sesame oil.

I also have a bit of an aversion to the 'feel' of oily foods.  Adam finds this amusing, but any cooking tool or vesicle that has been in contact with oil or very oily foods gets immediately thrown into the dishwasher by me.  I don't even like rinsing it out in the sink.  Just getting that oily feeling on my hands makes me shudder, much like fingernails on a chalk board.

So when I came across this recipe, I decided to give it a go even though I had no hazelnut oil on hand. 

If I do say so myself, it turned out amazing.  If you don't believe me, ask my parents.  They generally aren't big fans of low-fat or oil-free salad dressings and they both adored it!

Fat-Free Roasted Strawberry Balsamic Dressing (adapted from this recipe)

1 lb fresh organic strawberries, washed, hulled and halved
1/4 cup good quality balsamic vinegar
2 tbls red wine vinegar
1 tbls dijon mustard
2 large or 2 small shallots
1 clove garlic
1/4 tsp Herbamare or regular sea salt
Lots of freshly ground black pepper, to taste

Place strawberries on foil lined baking sheet and roast at 350F for 20 minutes.  Let cool.  Place strawberries and remaining ingredients in a blender and blend until smooth.  Optional: if you find it too thick (I don't mind it thick), thin out with apple juice or water.  Store for up to 2 weeks in the fridge.

Tuesday, July 17, 2012

Can-Am Games

Yesterday was my parents' 45th wedding anniversary!  

Yep, on July 16th, 1967 they got married in New York.

They came to visit this past weekend and to celebrate, we went for dinner at a new hot spot in our own neighbourhood: Actinolite Restaurant.  Great place!  I had an amazing endive, citrus and avocado salad, topped with black quinoa and then white fish over lentils.  Adam had a watermelon salad, my mom the bocconcini salad, and my dad the shrimp appetizer to start.  Adam and my mom also got the fish for a main, and my dad got the skirt steak.  We all loved our food.

My parents took Big A back to Kingston with them the next day.  For the first time ever, she is staying there for a whole week by herself!  My parents enrolled her in Queen's Sports Camp, which I used to go to as a kid.  I remember absolutely loving it, inspite of not being any sort of athlete, so I'm hoping she loves it just as much.

In 1970 my brother was born in New Haven, Connecticut while my father completed his PhD at Yale.

In 1974 I was born in Kingston, Ontario.

Because of my dual status, Adam and I had to drive to Buffalo, NY yesterday to go to the social security office...or so we thought.  It turned out to be a huge waste of time...it's a long story which I won't go into right now.  But I wasn't that upset - I got to spend the day with my husband, I got to see Buffalo, New York (okay it's no Paris), and I got to go to Target. Man, I love Target!!

We will soon have Target here in Canada in 2013 (for those of you in West-End Toronto, we appear to be getting one at St. Clair and Keele!!), but that's a long ways off, and I am not certain they will carry the same stuff at the ones here (much like the Whole Foods here don't carry all the stuff that they have at the U.S. stores).  So I begged Adam to let me go before we headed home.  After stopping to fill up on gas (almost 1/2 the price of what we pay in Canada!), we headed to Target.  I gotta say, having a  GPS is fantastic, we never would have found it without it.

Map of store location

I purposely avoided the women's and children's clothes sections or we would have been there forever (and my very tolerant husband's patience would have run out), but we picked up a few things including a Bubble Guppies DVD and Wiggles CD for Little A.  The poor thing is feeling quite left out because Big A got to go stay with my parents.  Although she is loving having all of our attention to herself, she doesn't understand why she couldn't go too, especially because she adores my parents.

On Saturday she was showering my dad with affection when he tried to excuse himself to go to the bathroom. She desperately wanted to come with him, but he explained that she couldn't, that he wanted to go by himself.  She came into the kitchen, lip wavering, looking incredibly dejected.  I asked her what was wrong and she burst into tears saying, "Baba wouldn't let me come to the bathroom with him."  Her heart was absolutely broken, she is such a sensitive soul.  Trying not to laugh, my mom and I tried to explain to her that people like privacy when they go to the bathroom and that this didn't mean Baba doesn't love her.  As absurd as it was, it was also quite sweet.  She gets her feelings hurt so easily though, it worries me.  Girls can be so cruel to each other, I can only imagine how she will handle it because it only gets worse as girls get older.  So anyways, Adam and I thought a new DVD (which she'd been begging us for for weeks) and CD might make her feel a bit better.

I don't feel that bad for her though, after having Adam and I all to herself for a few hours on Sunday she started singing, "I'm the queen of the castle!"  Unfortunately, Big A called from Kingston on Monday morning telling us excitedly about everything they'd done so far, and I think that, combined with having to go to daycare all by herself, made her feel a little left out.  But she has plenty to look forward to this week.  My mother-in-law is taking her for the day on Wednesday, and Adam's cousin is taking her to Canada's Wonderland on Thursday.

What Adam and I can't get over is how much EASIER it is to have two parents and only one child. After all, we can hardly remember what life was like before Little A came around.

We are signing up both girls for summer skating lessons.  This must be a sign that I'm really more Canadian than American.  Of course, there is really no doubt about that.  I've never lived or worked in the U.S. and I don't like apple pie.  Or baseball.  But then again, I don't like poutine or hockey either.  I definitely relate to "New York Jewish" culture more than "Toronto Jewish" culture though, but that's because virtually my entire family is "New York Jewish".  Anyways, realizing we've neglected to teach the girls to skate, we felt it would be ideal to get them started in the summer since they are already too busy with other activities during the school year.  Frankly I love the idea of sitting in a cold ice rink in the middle of summer!  In fact, I'm thinking if they like it, skating could become a year-round family activity.  Instead of suffering through park visits in the heat and humidity, we can strap on our skates and go to an indoor ice rink in July!  The Metro Toronto Skating Academy offers group and private lessons all summer long for people of all ages.  I could probably stand to gain from a few lessons myself too.  Skating in summer, that's pretty Canadian eh?

Monday, July 16, 2012

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Balls

Do gingerbread men have balls? Apparently they do...


I know it's summer and strawberry shortcake may be more popular for some, but personally I always prefer gingerbread.  For me, it's a favorite any time of year.

These are relatively healthy and outrageously delicious.  Oh, also easy to make and since they are no-bake, I think they are perfect for summer.

Gingerbread Cookie Dough Balls

1 cup raw cashews
2 cups (about 1 lb) pitted honey dates
1/2 cup oat flour (use gluten-free to make these gluten-free)
2 tsp blackstrap molasses
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbls crystalized ginger (this is optional, note that most is made with sugar but it really does enhance the flavour)
2 tsp ground ginger
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/4 tsp sea salt
Optional: 1/2 dropper vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste (or other sweetener)

Place cashews in food processor and blend until very finely ground.  Add all remaining ingredients and pulse until dough comes together.  Roll into balls and place on wax or parchment paper lined baking sheet.  Refrigerate until firm.  Store in an airtight container in the fridge or a cool, dry place.  Makes about 30 balls...depending on how big you like your balls ;)



Somewhere out there there are a bunch of gingerbread men with very high-pitched voices...


I have submitted this recipe to this week's Wellness Weekend on Diet, Dessert & Dogs.

Saturday, July 14, 2012

It's in my blood...

My uncle sent this to me.  I guess my feelings about camping/outdoors/bugs, etc. comes from my ancestors...

Friday, July 13, 2012

Please Check Out My Latest Piece for the Huffington Post

Happy Friday (the 13th)!  Here is some weekend reading for you.  I welcome your feedback.

Thursday, July 12, 2012

Pedalheads



For the first time this week, Big A has started at a summer camp.  Since her daycares have always run through the summer, we've never needed to send her before.  But Adam and I tend to really slack off when it comes to teaching our kids certain things like...ice skating and riding a 2 wheeler bicycle.  Kind of odd for a bunch of fitness fanatics.  We did take the girls skating once and Big A couldn't stand up for 2 seconds on her own, and Little A simply refused to get near the ice.  Period.  We've neglected to take the training wheels off of Big A's bike because she can be such a wuss when it comes to boo boos (or what she perceives as boo boos, which means absolutely EVERYTHING!), that we weren't eager to deal with potential falls and scraped knees.  So when my friend told me about Pedalheads camp, which her son adores (he now goes every year), and taught him to ride a 2 wheeler on his first day, I was thrilled to be able to download this responsibility to others.

I don't know what it is about this camp, but it's frick'n magical!  Big A also learned to ride without her training wheels on her first day and she is having a blast.  She is disappointed that the camp ends at 4pm every day and that we only signed her up for 1 week.  We've already decided to send both girls next year.

Pedalheads has locations across B.C., Alberta and Ontario and offers cycling camps for kids of all levels, ages 3-12.

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Virtually Calorie-Free Cappuccino Frosty




I don't know why summer is considered such a health-promoting time of year.  Cancer-causing UV rays, heat and smog advisories, carcinogenic grilled meats, ice cream, and high calorie drinks define the season.  And if, like me, you despise the heat, than you may actually get LESS exercise than during other seasons.  Personally, when it's super hot and humid, all I feel like doing is sitting on my ass (in an air-conditioned space) and drinking ice cold beer.

Sorry sun-worshippers, beach bums, and heat-seekers, I think SUMMER SUCKS!

Here are some of the many reasons:

Sun - No a tan is not a 'healthy glow'.  It's actually sun damage and frankly I think tanning is even stupider than smoking.  Why?  Because you can't even blame an addiction, it's just pure vanity.  Get over it.  Learn to embrace your pale, pasty self.  And don't give me the vitamin D argument 'cause it doesn't hold water.  Just take a friggin' pill. 

Heat - Related to sun is the heat, of course.  I hate it.  Like I really, really, really hate it.  It feels like being in hell to me.  I just don't get how people find heat pleasant.  Would you crawl into your oven and turn it on?  Anything above 20 C sucks.  I have no problem getting drenched in sweat during a workout, but I'd prefer not to just walking down the street.  And do not try to tell me that the heat is wonderful if you are near water.  I hate swimming in pools, nevermind in open bodies of murky water crawling with slimy things.  Besides, there is rarely any shade on a beach and I don't do sun.

Sun block - Because of the dangers of the sun, every damn day in summer I have to spend way too much time coating myself with sun block and chasing the girls around trying to get them coated too.  Big A doesn't mind at all, but Little A kicks up a huge fuss every time.  By the way, YOU SHOULD BE WEARING SUN BLOCK ON EXPOSED SKIN EVERY DAY!   Oh, and it's also important to protect your eyes and your kids' eyes, so wear sunglasses too.

Clothes - Yes it's nice not to have to wear a coat and boots, however, my favorite attire is jeans and in the summer it's just too damn hot for them, but I hate skirts, I haven't worn shorts in years (personally I think the short shorts that are all the rage right now look awful on everyone, even supermodels) and 1-in-10 pairs of sandals I buy end up giving me blisters no matter how much I spend or how cute or not-cute/sensible they are.

Bugs - We can't open a door in our house for a second without a big-ass fly swooping in.  Then we have to listen to the annoying buzzing sound for as long as it takes us to get the critter with our fly swatter.  And there is just the grossness factor of all the additional creatures that come out to play.  Last week when finishing my workout in the basement one morning, what looked like an ant, only as big as my head, crawled across the carpet and tried to swallow me whole.  Okay maybe I'm exaggerating, but just a wee bit.  It's really the mosquitos that are the worst.  I am hugely allergic and a magnet for them.  One mosquito and 2,000 people in a room and the damn thing will find me.  Each bite is so intensely itchy it's like torture.  In order to get relief as fast as possible, my strategy is to intentionally scratch the bite until is pusses and bleeds.  Then I douse it with either rubbing alcohol or an acid, like lemon juice or vinegar.  Then I pack it with baking soda.  Even after all this, it will stay itchy for a week or so.  Consequently, camping or any outdoor activity in a buggy environment is a fate worse than death for me.  I am also scared of wasps and every August Toronto feels like one big wasp nest.  Going to an outdoor market or eating outdoors is virtually impossible.  Because we had such a mild winter, I heard that this summer is going to be especially bad for wasps.  Great!

Boredom - I guess most people who enjoy typical summer activities and heat don't associate summer with boredom, but I do.  Television shows are in re-runs, indoor activities cease for the season, and summer-loving freaks (i.e. almost everyone we know) are going away camping or to their cottages (and therefore unavailable), and everyone is spending time outdoors basking in the gloriously dangerous UV rays.  This year I have really tried to be a trooper and we've taken the girls to Ribfest and yesterday to the Salsa Celebration on St. Clair, but I honestly can't say I enjoyed these activities.  I was miserable in the heat and intense sun, I just couldn't wait to get inside to an air-conditioned environment, and I worried constantly about the girls getting sunburns.

Urban Smells - Okay a BBQ can smell pretty fantastic, but rotting garbage overflowing on steamy sidewalks, and packed subways and buses filled with less-than-fresh-smelling people make me want to hurl.

Coffee - There are few things more pleasurable than wrapping one's hands around a hot mug of coffee when there is a chill in the air.  When it's hot outside, I can only drink hot coffee very early in the morning when the temperatures are more tolerable.  Unfortunately, I have never really liked ice tea or regular iced coffee.  Truthfully, in summer all I crave is beer, but alcohol is not healthy and should be considered an occasional indulgence or treat.  Before you go thinking I'm just a goody-two-shoes, consider that it was recently discovered that the heart-health benefits of red wine were exaggerated and that there is growing evidence that even moderate alcohol consumption increases the risk of a variety of cancers.  Alcoholic beverages, like pop and juice, are also a source of empty calories.  So as much as I'd like to crack open a brewsky on a regular basis, I resist the temptation as much as possible.

Back in my 20s, I developed an addiction to the blending ice coffee drinks from Second Cup and Starbucks.   I somehow convinced myself that these nutritional monstrosities were just coffee with a wee bit of milk, sugar and ice.  Ha!  Amazing what I considered healthy when I was younger.  But back then I also drank a lot more alcohol and ate tons of candy and sweets, thinking it was all harmless as long as it was low-fat.  Ignorance is bliss, eh?  It wasn't until I discovered that these drinks contain little actual coffee and are made (or at least back then were made) with prepared syrups filled with corn syrup and hydrogenated oils, that I gave them up.

So, finally, now that I have finished my rant, I will get to the point of this post: Recently I created a cold, creamy, sweet coffee drink that I adore, and is completely guilt-free!  Adam and the girls are amused by me, because I can't stop making them.  I'm averaging 2-3 a day.  They take 2 seconds to make, so it's really simple.  You won't believe how creamy and decadent-tasting these are, I swear!

If you have an espresso maker, you can, of course, make these with brewed espresso and water, but if you are a mere mortal like me, and do not own one, try it this way.

Virtually Calorie-Free Cappuccino Frosty

1 cup brewed coffee, cooled (regular or decaf)
2 tsp good quality instant espresso powder (not a sweetened cappuccino mix!)
1/2 dropper French vanilla stevia liquid, or 1/2 tsp vanilla extract + low-calorie sweetener, to taste
Dash cinnamon and/or cocoa powder
2 tbls skim milk or non-dairy milk
1 cup ice

Throw everything into your blender and blend for about 10 seconds.  Pour into a tall glass and enjoy!  Jeez, these might just get me through the summer without going bonkers.  Look at all that creamy, foamy goodness...

Tuesday, July 10, 2012

Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Pancakes (Vegan option)

While I adore vegetables and eat them in extraordinary quantity (or so I am told),  and I am happy to cook and bake with virtually any fruit, the only fruit I really eat out of hand are apples, citrus, berries and cherries.

I absolutely adore cherries but have weaned myself off of snacking on them often in recent years because I can easily gobble down $10 worth in as many minutes.  After all, I haven't been earning much while on mat leave with Little A and then as a student.

But it's cherry season now, and I am finding some beauties for $2/lb, so all bets are off.  We've been buying them like crazy.  Normally I feel it is sacrilegious to do anything with them except eat them fresh, pitted, out of a bowl, but I am also a sucker for the cherry almond flavour combo.  My cherry almond muffin recipe is one of my favorites so I don't know why I didn't think of making cherry almond pancakes before now.  Good thing I thought of it...they're spectacular! 



You can freeze them and then defrost them as needed for a quick breakfast, or have them as a breakfast-for-dinner treat, like I love to do.  Be virtuous and top them with plain Greek yogurt and more fresh cherries, or indulge with pure maple syrup or vanilla ice cream (with a cherry on top, or course!).  Garnish with sliced almonds, if desired.

Gluten-Free Cherry Almond Pancakes

2 cups oat flour (use gluten-free if you need to avoid gluten, you can grind oats yourself in your food processor)
1/2 cup large flake oats (gluten-free if necessary)
2 tbls baking powder
1/4 tsp sea salt
4 egg whites (or 2 whole eggs or 2 flax eggs)
2 packets granular stevia or other sweetener equivalent to 2 tsp sugar
1 tsp pure almond extract
2 cups pitted cherries
3+ cups unsweetened regular or vanilla almond milk, or water

Whisk together dry ingredients in a large bowl.  Place cherries in food processor and pulse until finely chopped (if pieces are too big, they will fall through the batter).


Add remaining ingredients and cherries to bowl with dry ingredients.  Pour in enough water or almond milk and whisk until you have a very thick batter (if batter is too thin, it won't hold all the cherries and pancakes will be difficult to flip).

Use a ladle and drop batter onto an oiled, hot skillet and cook until both sides are golden brown.  Makes 8 large or 16 small pancakes.

This recipe has been entered in this week's Wellness Weekend over at Diet, Dessert & Dogs.

Monday, July 9, 2012

Tandoori Fish with Roasted Cauliflower, Onions and Rice Pilau


I rarely cook with white fish because I tend to find it boring.  I am a much bigger fan of pink fish, like salmon and trout.  But white fish is also healthy, and it tends to be much less expensive.  So I figured there had to be a way to make it exciting.  Indian flavours are my favorite, so tandoori style seemed to be a good idea.  Also, I can never marinate meat in yogurt because of Adam's kosher-style diet, so using fish instead gets around this problem.

This meal turned out amazing.  Even Big A - not one to salivate over the aroma of Indian food - commented on how good this food smelled, and it tasted just as good.  The marinade actually makes the outside of the fish a beautiful bright pink!

Don't be intimidated by all  the 'minced' ingredients...I just throw it all in my food processor.

Tandoori Fish

1.5-2 lb white fish fillets (I had 4 massive basa fillets)
1 tbls tandoori masala spice blend (purchased or made yourself)
2 tbls fresh ginger, minced
2-3 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 cup plain yogurt
Juice of 1 lemon

For the fish, whisk together all the marinade ingredients and then spoon generously over fish.  Refrigerate for at least an hour.  Broil in the oven at 450F on a lightly greased, and foil-lined baking sheet for 8-12 minutes (all depends on thickness of your fillets), or until fish is still moist, but flakes easily.

Roasted Tandoor Cauliflower and Onions

1 head cauliflower, chopped into florets
2 onions, cut into eighths

Toss veggies with remaining tandoori marinade.  Roast on a foil-lined baking sheet at 450F for about 25 minutes, or until cauliflower is tender.

Rice Pilau

1 tsp coconut oil
2 shallots, minced
Chunk of fresh ginger, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1/2 tsp kosher salt
1/2 tsp cumin seeds
1/4 tsp garam masala
1/4 tsp turmuric (or a few saffron threads)
Pinch of ground cardamom
1.5 cups brown basmati rice
1/2 cup frozen green peas
3 cups water or stock

Melt coconut oil in a large pot over medium heat.  Stir in shallots, ginger, garlic and seasonings.  Cook for about 5 minutes and then stir in rice.  Cook for another minute and then add in water or stock.  Cover and cook until almost all the water has been absorbed (30-40 minutes).  Add peas and then recover pot and continue cooking until all the water has been absorbed and rice is fluffy.  Serves 4.

Coincidentally, we went out for dinner with friends on Saturday to Amaya , a lovely Indian restaurant (although not as good as our favorite, Banjara.  They had a halibut dish on the menu, which was delicious, but I think this recipe is even better!  The shrimp dish and aloo gobi, which we also ordered, however, were spectacular.

Friday, July 6, 2012

The Domestic Delinquent



Image Source

Due to the seemingly astonishing amount of cooking and baking I do, almost all of it from my own unique recipes, I've been teasingly called a little "Martha Stewart" by some of my friends.  Each time this happens I feel like a complete fraud.

Because the ugly truth is, aside from my cooking and baking skills, I am pretty much the Domestic Diva's polar opposite.

While I will shamelessly brag about the deliciousness I cook up on a regular basis, I can't, in good conscience, claim to be all that expert in the food presentation department.  You may remember the sperm cookie debacle:



Those squiggles are actually supposed to be "As".  The icing I flooded the cookies with was supposed to be pink.

Or Big A's birthday cupcakes from this year, which looked beautiful for all of 3 minutes before the piped pink icing practically melted off them in our hot kitchen. 



Adam's sister took up cake decorating just 2 years ago, and already she is producing magazine-cover quality products.  Mine do taste great...but sometimes they look a bit like they were whipped up in an easy-bake oven.

This is about as good as it gets for me:






But it gets even worse.  Despite my obsession with home decor and reno shows, I can't seem to apply what I learn to my own design attempts.  My questionnable artistic skills aside, I am a wee bit disappointed with the paintings and sketches I made for the girls' rooms, because the scale is all wrong.



 


 Perhaps I am just a dingbat, but admittedly, I didn't bother to measure their walls ahead of time nor research what sized canvases would be most appropriate.  Also - for the record - I am completely technologically disabled...which is why the photos are all misaligned...

And that, therein, lies my problem: I am very impatient and a little too task-oriented. I am so keen on accomplishing a goal and getting it done, that I often do a half-assed job. I rarely am patient enough to read instructions for anything and tend to just barrel ahead and hope for the best. Kind of a weird trait for a Type-A perfectionist, huh?


So...the paint colour (beige) I choose for our living room/dining room - I now realize - is too dark, the blue in our bedroom has too much green and not enough grey, and the brown tiles I chose for our downstairs bathroom are just butt-ugly.  Again, I can chalk all this up to being impatient...or maybe lazy?  I hate spending too long on these kinds of decisions, and instead, tend to be a little impulsive.

Not only do I have no future in interior design, but I am also rather incompetent at even everyday menial tasks.  Adam has banned me from folding laundry, or ironing clothes.  He carefully inspects every dish and pot I wash to make sure I haven't missed spots.

Truthfully, I hate domestic tasks.  With the exception of cooking, I despise it all: vacuuming, dusting, scrubbing, mopping, all of it.  Even the thought of putting away laundry or unloading the dishwasher fills me with dread.

I am embarrassed to say that even over the past 3 years while I have been on maternity leave with Little A, and in school not making an income, I have insisted that we continue to employ someone to clean the house for us.  I just can't do it.  I hate it, hate it, hate it.  If it were left to me, I suspect I would put it off until things became a sorry state.  I am lucky to have a husband who happily does his fair share.  Adam does all the laundry folding and ironing.  He takes care of the bills (another task I hate), and is in charge of the garbage/recycling/composting duties.  He mows our little lawn, shovels snow and rakes leaves.  He has always said he would happily clean our house himself, and while that seems lovely in theory, in practice, I know that when this responsibility is left to him, he does the same few things (vacuuming, scrubbing bathrooms and kitchen), and neglects all the rest (dusting, changing towels and linens,cleaning under and behind the stove, etc).  I'm not complaining, he is a very helpful man, but I just think we are a couple that need domestic help!

While we are fortunate to have the ability to pay for help cleaning our home, we can't justify the expense of having a gardener, and both Adam and I hate gardening.  So while the inside of our house is always sometimes clean, the outside sometimes looks rather pathetic.  My mom, a talented green-thumb, often takes things into her own hands and cleans up the yard for us when visiting.  In between, things tend to go downhill fast.  Although I like gardening more than I used to, I still don't like it that much, and this is another thing I tend to put off as long as possible.  I also seem to have a brown-thumb.  Give me a house plant - any kind - and I am guaranteed to kill it within a few weeks.  Given what a lovely job most of our neighbours do tending to their front yards, I am very embarrassed by ours.  But, of course, not embarrassed enough to do anything drastic myself.  Nope, I am now contemplating hiring a gardener or landscaper to clean it up for us and make it so low-maintenance, that even Adam and I can handle it.

Here are some of our neighbours' yards:



Here is ours:


 Notice all the brown grass and weeds?




Again...I can't get the stupid pictures to go where I want them to.  I guess I could research how to do it...but I suppose I'm too lazy.

Admittedly, I feel very guilty hiring other people to take care of our home, seeing as I am not currently working full-time and could do it myself, but life is short and I want to spend as little of it as possible doing things I hate.

Now you could throw this in my face and say that you hate exercising or eating vegetables, so you don't want to waste any precious time exercising or eating food you don't like, but if you don't take care of your body, your life is bound to be too short, or your health so compromised, that you won't be able to do the things you love.  So there!  Hire someone to clean your house, eat broccoli, and go out for a run!!

Thursday, July 5, 2012

Bubby's Lima Beans Made Over


When Adam and I started dating I was on a strict no red-meat diet so he warned me that I might not have much to eat when he took me to his grandparents' house for dinner.  Since I also avoided breaded chicken and other such dishes when we visited, I think his bubby eventually concluded that I was a vegetarian.  In order to accomodate me, she began making this delicious lima bean dish.  I happily spooned huge mounds of these sweet and savoury beans onto my plate every time, and eagerly took home all the leftovers.

Then I asked her for the recipe.

That was, unfortunately, the end of my lima bean love-affair.

I can't recall exactly the recipe, but what I do know is that aside from lima beans and onion, there was an extremely large quantity of ketchup, brown sugar and olive oil (like 1 cup of each!).

I had been eating dessert for dinner!

I've been meaning to give this dish a healthy makeover for years, but for some reason just got around to it.

Honestly, all that sugar and oil is totally unnecessary. This recipe turned out delicious.  I think even bubby would approve!  In fact, these are so good, I haven't even been willing to share them with Adam yet, as I know he will love them too.  Shhh, don't tell my husband I'm hoarding lima beans!

Bubby's Lima Beans Made Over
1 tsp olive oil
2 onions, minced
3-4 cloves garlic, minced
1 19oz can crushed pineapple, with juice
1/4 cup cider vinegar
1/4 tsp salt
Crushed red chili flakes, to taste (optional)
1.5 lbs frozen lima beans
1/2 cup tomato paste

Pour oil into a large skillet or pot set over medium heat.  Add onions, garlic, pineapple, vinegar and seasonings and simmer until liquid has reduced.  Add lima beans and continue simmering until beans are cooked through and all liquid has been absorbed.  Add tomato paste and turn heat down to low.  Cook for another 4-5 minutes.  Leftovers (if there are any!) can be frozen.

I have entered this recipe into Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend for July 26th-30th.

Wednesday, July 4, 2012

Strawberry Jam-Filled Mango Muffins (Vegan and Sugar-Free!)



These will totally knock your socks off!  Unless you are Little A and wild horses could not get you to take off your socks.  Oh wait, she's finally given up her socks...thank goodness, because like most of North America, we are in the middle of a massive heat wave.

These muffins are so sweet, moist and delicious, you won't believe how healthy they are.  I love making things like this that have the girls convinced they are getting a big treat, and me confident that they are eating something nutritious.

For best results, make the jam a day in advance so it has time to fully set.

Strawberry Jam (Adapted from Angela's recipe on Oh She Glows)

1 lb strawberries, hulled and sliced (or blueberries)
2 tbls - 1/4 cup xylitol (or other alternative sweetener), to taste
1 tsp chia seeds
1/2 tsp vanilla extract

Place strawberries and sweetener in a small pot and cook over medium heat until berries begin to break down.  Mash berries, but leave chunky.  Stir in chia seeds and vanilla and cook over medium-low until mixture thickens.  Refrigerate until cooled and thick (several hours).

Mango Muffins

1 large or 2 small, ripe mangos, pureed
1 large, ripe banana
1/4 cup oil
2 flax eggs (2 tbls ground flax seed + 6 tbls hot water)
2 tbls powdered stevia sugar substitute (or other sweetener)
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 cup coconut milk
1.5 cups kamut flour (or whole wheat or spelt)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/4 tsp sea salt

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Place dry ingredients in a smaller bowl and whisk to remove any lumps.  Add dry ingredients to wet and stir, just until mixed.  Spoon 2/3 or batter into greased muffin tins.  Top each with a general dollop of strawberry jam.



Take remaining batter and spoon onto the top of the muffins. 



Bake at 350F for 20 minutes, or until toothpick comes out clean.  Cool completely before removing from muffin tin.  Makes 12 muffins.  Keep refrigerated for 2-4 days or freeze.

Make these muffins. Eat them.  And don't wear socks!

This recipe has been entered in Diet, Dessert & Dogs Wellness Weekend.

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Time

Like most kids, my girls are incredibly impatient.  If you know me well, then you are snickering right now, because you know that I am also extremely impatient.  I hate waiting in lines, I hate delays, I hate when people make me wait, and I have a low tolerance for pretty much anything I don't like.

So I try to remind myself - when my kids' impatience is making me nuts - that they come by it honestly, and that children really do seem to have a different experience of time than adults do.

When you are a kid, 15 minutes seems like an eternity, while as an adult, it can take that long simply to remember where you left your keys.  Hours, days, weeks, months, and even years just seem to fly by at a speed that didn't seem possible when you were a kid.

Recently I read a piece in a parenting magazine by a mom of almost grown kids, who advises new parents to try and enjoy their young children and not take the special moments in this stage of life for granted.  While I do see wisdom in her counsel, I think this is much easier said than done.  Honestly, sometimes it just really isn't possible to enjoy the present. 

I look back at my first year with Little A and I do not for one second regret my misery and see this period through rose-coloured glasses.  It was awful. I was miserable.  When I think about it, I can only be grateful that I survived it and life is much better now.  I did not enjoy the baby stage with Little A at all and frankly I don't think I should have to apologize for it.  I enjoyed it much more with Big A, but still, I think there is much more to enjoy about having children who can walk and talk.

Of course, as I have said many times, the toddler and preschool years with Big A were no picnic.  Between the ages of 18 months and 5 years, she was an incredibly challenging, defiant and difficult child with Adam and I.  And now, Little A at 3 can be an absolute nightmare.

But despite the ongoing challenges of parenting, I now feel like there are pleasures and special moments of the present that I need to appreciate and cherish.  I recognize that these are likely fleeting and are things that I will miss.

Things like Big A's complete unself-consciousness and confidence.  I have never, ever heard her say a disparaging thing about her appearance, or anyone elses for that matter.  She loves dresses, jewellery, nail polish and funky hair dos, but not to impress anyone else, just for herself.  I love that although she is taller and heavier than most of her friends, neither her size nor anyone elses is important to her.  I love that she is completely unaware that there is any connection between what a person eats and how they look.  She is proud to tell anyone who will listen how much she weighs.

 I am told that as she gets older, this will all likely change.  The day she criticizes herself or her appearance will be a very sad day for me.

Even though I am very happy to be done with babies, I will miss the sweet remnants of the baby stage I still see in Little A.  Her giggle, her baby-fine hair, the funny way she prounces certain words, such as 'cookie' like 'kooky' and 'berry' instead of 'very'.  I remind myself to appreciate this frequently as she gets very angry and upset with Adam and I when she is trying to tell us something and we just don't understand what she is trying to say.  She is still little enough to pick up and cuddle and hold on our laps, and she positively makes my heart melt when she throws her little arms around my neck and says, "Mommy I love you berry much!"  I love when she announces to everyone we see on the street that she has sparkley Dora underwear on (over her pull-up), but they gets very upset when strangers ignore her.  "Why aren't they listening to my words, mommy?" she asks.

But in the heat of the moment, appreciation and gratitude can still be challenging.  Overall we had a great long weekend, however, yesterday morning was miserable.  Little A woke up at 6:15am in a rotten mood.  Just pouring a glass of milk for her when she didn't ask for one, was enough for her to start shrieking and, I feared she was going to wake up not only Big A, but the entire neighbourhood.   When Big A woke up at 7am the girls almost instantly began fighting over everything.  I struggled to entertain them and keep them from tearing each others' hair out until Adam returned from the gym just before 9am.  A brief jaunt to a local park let them burn off some steam, but when we got in the car to head out to Ribfest, Little A had a fit over a wipe* that left her screaming for almost the entire 30 minute trip.  By the time we arrived I felt like I had been run over by a train and it was not even noon.

But then it all changed.  We sat down for lunch, the girls got face paints and balloon animals and we took them on the carnival rides.  They devoured ice cream cones that melted in the heat faster than they could lick them.  When we got home, Big A wanted more action, so Adam took her swimming, but Little A and I were beat (being out the heat friggin' kills me!) so we stayed home.  Suddenly she decided she wanted to take her pull-up off and wear ONLY underwear.  She informed me several minutes later she needed to pee and we made it to the toilet on time.  A little while later, she informed me she had to poo (we've been struggling most with getting her to poop in the toilet).  I whisked her to the bathroom and we had success.  She was so pleased with herself, she insisted we call all her grandparents to tell them the good news. She was so thrilled, she kept saying, "I can do it, I can do it."
For the rest of the day she was in a spectacular mood: playful, joyful, affectionate and sweet.

I certainly won't sugar-coat the challenges of having a 3-year old, but I will try to cherish the special moments that also come with this stage.  It won't be long until instead of spending a hot summer holiday with their parents, the girls arer hating us and will be taking off to the mall with their friends to buy skirts that are too short and get piercings that we never find out about.   Until then, I will enjoy the small pleasures and milestones (not only did Little A poop in the toilet yesterday, she also decided to give up wearing socks for the summer!).

*Not that you're intrested, but in case you are, here are the details of this particular tantrum: Little A's hands were sticky from eating cherries so she asked for a wet wipe.  I gave it to her and she began screaming that it wasn't wet.  It was.  She screamed and screamed that it was not.  Big A suggested we douse it with water and Little A agreed.  Even after doing so, Little A claimed it was not wet.  After fruitless arguing, Adam, Big A and I simply gave up and let Little A scream.  This is a pretty typical tantrum for her.

Monday, July 2, 2012

Bosu Ball Training

If there is one piece of fitness equipment - aside from the stepmill - that I think is under-utilized by most gym goers, I would say it is definitely the Bosu Ball.

It is such a versatile fitness tool, I absolutely love them.  They can be used to all sorts of strength training, balance and agility exercises, as well as for cardiovascular workouts.  Think of it like a STEP, but with the added challenge of an unstable surface.  Awesome!

Each year when I go to the Can Fit Pro conference, I try to do at least one training session with the Bosu Ball to get new ideas for using it.  Last year I picked up Mindy Mylrea's Bosu DVD workout, but forgot about it until recently.



A few weekends ago I finally gave it a try.  It is a lot of fun and perfect for someone new to Bosu training, but I didn't feel the cardio workout was intense enough for me.  Unfortunately, there seem to be very few cardio DVDs using the Bosu Ball, which is a shame because it can be a killer workout and, seriously IT IS SO MUCH FUN!  Nevertheless, there are tons of DVDs you can buy that focus on strength and core training

If you work out at a gym where they have Bosu Balls, but aren't sure how to use it, just ask a trainer.  Or, if you workout at home, I encourage you to invest in one (you can usually find them for between $100-$140), and pick up a few DVDs to get you started.  You won't regret it.  You'll boost your fitness and have fun doing it.