Thursday, February 28, 2013

Getting Organized

Weird thing, but I have a dirty dark secret: While on the surface of things I look like a very tidy, together person (people often comment on how tidy our house is), if you open my drawers, you'd see another side.  I don't know what it is, but I have never been good at organizing.  I just fling things in drawers so you can't see them.  I am forbidden from folding or putting away anyone's laundry but my own because I just roll things into balls and stuff them in.  My desk isn't horribly messy, but open the drawers and things are disasterous.

Lately, however, this tendency is starting to have consequences, and now that I'm running a business, it is important for me to be organized.  I am great with my client files, but other things have still been sliding, and the truth is, all the disorganization makes me anxious.

One area of our home that's been quite a mess for some time is our storage room in the basement.  We hadn't cleaned it out in 7 years and we never bothered to get proper shelving or storage so it was being very inefficiently used.  The result was that we could never find anything and there was eventually no room to even walk in it.  Adam and I talked about getting someone in to help us with it because it just seemed so overwhelming, but the reality is, we don't have the money to throw around on things like that, that we can technically do ourselves.

Motivation to tackle this project came recently when my friend gave us all her old shelving, in perfect condition, after she and her husband had built-ins put in their basement.  I finally decided it was time.

Now, I may have broken a bottle of red wine all over everything in my first 5 minutes of cleaning out the room, but things thankfully improved from there.  It was a ton of work, and not particularly fun, but the result is worth it.  I no longer feel stressed when I enter the room.  I know where everything is and there is plenty of room to move.

I am pleased to say there was less stuff that needed to be thrown away than I feared - except all my notes and readings from 4 years as an undergrad - and not even as much to be given go Goodwill as I thought.  The area just really needed to be tidied up.

Unfortunately, my loving family wasn't terribly grateful.  The girls complained about how the room now smells like red wine, and Adam simply criticized where I put everything and told me he will eventually have to organize the room 'better'.  Ha, no good deed goes unpunished!  Well, too bad, I still am very proud of myself.

Here are the before shots:

And her are the afters...which honestly don't do it justice:

There is actually quite a bit of empty shelf space...dare I say we finally might be able to take our remaining wedding gifts from my in-laws house!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Vegan Sweetened Condensed Milk/Dulce de Leche

Okay, this cannot really be considered 'healthy' given the fat and calorie content, but it is vegan, and does not contain any refined sugar.  Oh, and it is beyond amazingly and ridiculously delicious, which makes it worth the occasional splurge.  Coconut sugar has such a caramel-y taste, that this actually tastes more like dulce de leche than plain sweetened condensed milk.  But that's not a bad thing in my book.

If you refrigerate it, it will harden into a fudge-like consistency...which can be a good thing!  If you want it spreadable, you have to keep it at room temperature and you might want to use 1 cup boiling water.  If you want it pourable, you will want to add additional boiling water until you get the desired consistency (about 2 cups).

The potential uses for this are endless: coffee drinks, candy, chocolates, frostings, squares, etc.

Vegan Sweetened Condensed Milk/Dulce de Leche

1 cup coconut milk powder
2/3 cup coconut sugar
3 tbls creamed coconut*
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 cup (or more) boiling water

Place coconut milk powder and sugar in blender and blend until sugar is a fine powder.  Add remaining ingredients to blender and puree until silky smooth.  Pour into a glass jar with a tight fitting lid and keep at room temperature.

*Creamed coconut is the stuff you get in a block like this:

This recipe has been entered into Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday, Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend, and the Healthy, Happy, Green & Natural Blog Hop.

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Kangoo Jumps

I bet you've never heard of Kangoo Jumps, right?

They are a fitness phenomenon, of sorts. 

I discovered them at the CAN FIT PRO conference about 6 years ago.  Believe it or not, I actually own a pair.  As you can see from the photo, they are like ski boots with springy things on them.  They supposedly allow you to perform high impact activities while providing much more cushioning for your joints than regular footwear.  This is why I initially purchased them about 5 years ago.  Having fallen in love with running after Big A was born, and then developing runner's knee, before I gave up on my new-found activity, I bought a pair of Kangoo Jumps to see if they really work.

I purchased them for $300 on Ebay - and no, Adam was never thrilled with this whole idea.  Admittedly, I wore them 2-3 times before I put them in a closet and kind of forgot about them.  My knees still felt achy afterwards, so it didn't seem to be the cure-all I'd hoped, and soon after I gave up running regularly.  I received a lot of "I told you so"s from my husband.

But each year at the CAN FIT PRO conference I see them and this past year it made me wonder if I should try them out again since I can now do moderate amounts of running without any problems.  Last week I woke up and was really in the mood to do a new workout.  I instantly thought of my Kangoo Jumps, so I found them in the closet and dusted them off.

I had planned to try and do a 60 minute run on the treadmill.  Set to 5.6 mph, I was able to get my heart rate up to where it usually is when I run at 6.6 mph, however, I stopped after just 35 minutes.  I just don't find it fun to run with massively heavy things on my feet.  It definitely makes the workout harder, hence you can run slower, which might be better for people who experience pain when they run fast, but it just is not fun...or at least not in my opinion.  Part of it could be doing it on the treadmill, because when I first got them I was running outside and I did find it fun, or maybe my memory is a bit foggy.

In any case, I haven't given up on them yet because what is fun is jumping in them and there are now Kangoo Jump group fitness classes across North America as well as fitness DVDs.  You can find classes in Toronto here.  They offer inexpensive boot rentals so you can give them a try.  I think I might purchase one of the DVDs at some point, so I can do classes at home.

Kangoo Jumps may or may not be for you, but they are just one of a bajillion fitness modalities out there now.  Honestly, if you think you don't like exercising, or don't have the time, just start doing a bit of research.  There are endless ways to get active and many do not even require any equipment or gym memberships.

As I've said many, many times, being physically active is so important.  I keep reading research studies demonstrating how critical regular exercise is for prevention of a myriad of health problems and diseases.  As they now say:  "Physical Inactivity is the New Smoking!"

Monday, February 25, 2013

Dangerously Delicious Banana Bread

Happy Monday!  How was your weekend?  Ours was good, thanks.  Big A had a big night out Friday.  She went to a kids movie night at a local community centre with one of her friends and it didn't end until 9:30pm.  She got home at 9:45pm (I was already in bed reading), and didn't get to sleep until 10pm.  This was all very exciting for her.  Despite sleeping to 7am Saturday, she was bagged, and after a busy day and another late night (we went to friends' for dinner), she passed out in the car on the way home. 

Little A had an awesome day on Saturday.  She was the happy, delightful Little A that I feel like we haven't seen much of lately.  Sunday we had a Purim party which was lots of fun. 

The only downer this past weekend was that on my way to teach my spinning class Sunday morning, I lost my cell phone.  Since it is the primary way clients reach me, I was in a big panic.  I went out looking for it, but in the snow, it was hopeless.  I hoped a good samaritan would find it and figure out a way to contact me, but it didn't happen.  So I went out and bought a new one and had my number transferred.  Then this morning a guy Facebooked me and said he found it and would like to get it back to me!  Although it's kind of too late to matter since I already bought a new phone and transferred the number, it warms my heart that this man DID perform a random act of kindness.  Much better outcome than when I left my wallet in Pearson Airport in 2007 when Adam and I were going with Little A to New York.  I was so hoping the same thing would happen, however, it did not.  But there ARE good people in this world and that makes me very happy!

Okay, on to the topic of banana bread...

I know I've probably got half a dozen variations on banana bread or muffins floating around this blog, but this one really is the bomb.  I think it's the coconut sugar that is the key.  It's hard to believe it is actually a healthier alternative to refined sugar because the stuff tastes just heavenly.

I've named this recipe 'dangerously delicious' because it is crazy addictive.  I made muffins out of it for my brother's family a few months ago and my sister-in-law called a few days later for the recipe because she said her kids were eating the muffins like it was crack.  It's basically another variation of the recipe I adapted from my mother-in-law.  It's healthier than most, but still a bit of a treat with all the coconut sugar (when I bake for our household I mostly use stevia or other non-nutritive sweeteners).

I made the big banana bread loaf with chocolate chips for the girls' daycare staff.  Despite the Toronto District School Board teachers strike on December 18th, they bent over backwards to keep the daycare open all day long to accomodate parents.  We were all so grateful!  To thank them, I whipped this up.

This past weekend, I made the recipe into little mini muffins for our Purim party, and once again, they were a huge hit.

Dangerously Delicious Banana Bread

3 ripe bananas, mashed
1 cup coconut sugar
1 cup plain, low-fat yogurt (non-dairy, if desired)
2 eggs (or flax or chia eggs)
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups whole wheat flour (or spelt or kamut)
2 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt
Optional add-ins: 1 cup chocolate chips and/or chopped nuts, dried cranberries or cherries, raisins, fresh or frozen berries, etc.

Whisk together wet ingredients in a large bowl.  Whisk together dry ingredients in a small bowl.  Add dry to wet and stir, just until mixed.  Add chocolate chips or other add-ins and fold into batter.  Scrape into greased loaf pan.  Bake at 375F for 20 minutes.  Turn heat down to 350F and cover top with foil.  Bake another 40 or so minutes, or until a toothpick comes out clean.  Let cool and remove from pan.  Freezes well.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Opening Some Doors, (Pretending to) Lock Others...

Although all 3 of the women in this house are totally thrilled to have Adam back, I wouldn't say it's been all rainbows and butterflies in this house since his return Wednesday night.  Thanks to Little A.  While she's been over the moon to have daddy home, it didn't stop her from having one of her hysterical screaming fits yesterday morning. 

I am literally at my wits end with her and I really am starting to believe that it's so genetic thing, that Adam and I just produce children that are destined to be impossible for several years early in their life.  I also HOPE this means that when they are teenagers, it will be a breeze.  Ha!

I spoke at length with Little A's daycare teacher and she reported - as has generally been the case - that at daycare, she is perfectly capable of controlling her emotions and has the ability to calm herself down when she gets upset.  THIS IS NOT THE CASE AT HOME AT ALL!!!  Her teacher suggested a bunch of things, all which I've tried, and all that have failed.  In the end, she didn't have any more answers than we do.

I have one more tactic up my sleeve, but it makes me uneasy.  Everyone I talk to says I should put her in her room and make her stay there until she calms down.  This has been impossible since her door doesn't lock.  Neither of my kids have EVER obeyed us when we tell them to stay in their room...or anywhere else for that matter.  I've locked myself in a different room, but she just stands outside the door and shrieks.  Geez, when I was a kid, my mother would order me to stand in the corner of a room, and I would do so without question and not dare budge.  Clearly my kids neither fear us nor care about having our approval. 

So...I installed a lock on the outside of her door.  I've told her that from now on, when she pitches these fits, she is going to her room until she calms down.  Is this a terrible thing to do?  It feels a bit wrong.  Actually, the kid is so strong and stubborn, I wouldn't be surprised if she could break the door down!  Apparently it is wrong though, and we can't actually lock her door from the outside.  Ever.  I consulted a mom and social worker I know, and she told me that Children's Aid does not permit locking children in rooms.  Hmm, I know quite a few parents who do so.  So the most we can do is make her think we are locking it, but not really lock it.

So far so good though.  This morning when she started in on her first screaming fit of the day (within 3 minutes of waking up), all I had to do was remind her that she would be sent to her room, which now has a lock on the door, and she calmed herself down immediately.  Nice!

My Random Acts of Kindness for the week have been letting everyone go ahead of me: holding the door for everyone going in and out of public buildings, letting cars in while I'm driving, etc. My observations are that it's really quite simple: Kindness begets kindness while rudeness/aggressiveness begets more bad behaviour.  If, like me, you live in a big city, you probably see how quickly things can escalate in a bad way everyday: dangerous drivers, rude public transport passengers, people budding, shoving, racing to the front of the line.  And all for what?  It can take just one act of kindness to start things going in a better direction.

My sweetie thoughtfully brought home from London for me a Random Acts of Kindness calender, which has an idea or quote related to acts of kindness for every day of the year.  Love it!

Here is a Chinese Proverb from my new calendar:

If you want happiness for an hour, take a nap.
If you want happiness for a day, go fishing.
If you want happiness for a month, get married.
If you want happiness for a year, inherit a fortune.
If you want happiness for a lifetime, help someone else.

Have a wonderful weekend.

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Portobello Pastrami


Pastrami is a classic Jewish deli food.  But I don't think I've had it since I was a kid.  I am not much of a Jewish deli lover.  It's not healthy, and for the most part, it's not even food that I like that much.  So I don't know how I came up with the idea of making mushrooms seasoned like pastrami (maybe I was thinking of ways to make Adam love a vegetarian meal?), but boy I'm glad I did, because these are delicious, and they make a mean Rueben style sandwich!

Do they taste like pastrami? No, of course not.  Your Uncle Moishe won't be fooled.  They taste like super delicious mushrooms.  And  really, is there anything better?

Portobello Pastrami

1 lb portobello and/or oyster mushrooms, sliced
1/2 cup cider vinegar
1/4 cup vegan or regular worcestershire sauce
1/4 cup spicy or garlic pickle juice, or additional vinegar
1 tsp paprika
1 tsp ground coriander
1/2 tsp garlic powder
1/2 tsp onion powder
1/4 tsp celery seed
1/8 tsp ground allspice
A few drops liquid smoke, or pinch of smoked paprika to taste
Salt and fresh ground black pepper

Place mushrooms in a shallow dish.  Whisk all the additional ingredients together and pour over top.  Marinate in the refrigerator, covered, overnight (do not skip this step!).  Spread mushrooms on a single layer on parchment-lined baking sheets and roast at 350F for 25 minutes.

To make Ruebens, take whole grain rye bread, or any bread of choice.  Spread with Thousand Island dressing or a good, spicy mustard.  Pile on mushrooms, saurkraut and top with thinly sliced swiss cheese or vegan cheese.  Place under broiler, just until cheese is melted.

These mushrooms are also delicious on their own, of course, or on a salad.  I also discovered they rock with a little bbq sauce!

This recipe has been submitted to Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday and Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

My Self-Help Kit

Adam gets back tonight (insert big sigh here!).  The girls are still in one piece and I'm still standing, although I've developed an eye twitch, possibly lost some weight and gained a few more wrinkles in my forehead.

I'm still certain that if I was a single mother, my children would be filthy, toothless, illiterate, delinquents. Ha ha!  I only missed one bath and a few days of flossing, but I forgot about brushing the girls hair after bathing them most nights.  Big A had quiet the rats-nest going by last Saturday.  Yeah, I know, I'm mother of the year!  Fortunately, after spending the night with my in-laws, the girls were delivered to me the next day with glossy manes.  Getting Big A to read every day was as difficult as I thought it would be, but I managed to push her through it for at least a few minutes most days.

I'm trying to accept that Little A is going through a difficult period, much like Big A did between the ages of 18 months and 5 years, and it just has to ride it's course.  Nothing I do seems to help.  I don't  think it's any coincidence that Little A's phase began at age 2, right when she gave up her nap.  She is clearly chronically tired, but stubbornly refuses to even take so much as some quiet time.

For the most part, Big A has been pretty good while Adam's been gone, but I would say both she and I having been starting to come apart over the past week.  She's been copping more and more of an attitude and trying to press my buttons.  Yesterday morning, for example, she demanded I make her breakfast.  I told her I she could wait until I got dressed, or make herself something in the meantime (note that some mornings, she INSISTS on making her own breakfast.  She burst into tears and shouted at me, "Fine, but the only things I know how to make are really sugary, so it will be like I'm eating a donut for breakfast!"  Yeah, she knows how to piss me off, doesn't she?

At least I've been feeling great lately thanks to my new Self-Help Kit!

After I decided to nix the extremely expensive procedures with potential side effects and no guarantee of success to treat my tendonitis, I decided to try some more affordable options.

Meet my new self-help kit!

- A high density foam roller
- A heatable acuball
- Procompression socks (3 pairs)
- Running Room Compression Socks (3 pairs)

...long story on why I have 2 kinds of compressions was kind of an accident, but now it's part of my plan...

I am actually very surprised how helpful it's been so far.  The problem for me has been that while I need to stretch regularly to avoid flare-ups, really deep stretching can be risky (as that's how I reinjured my left hamstring some months ago), and often regular stretching just doesn't seem to be getting the tightness out.  Up until now, I've been occasionally using the foam roller at the JCC on Sundays when I'm there to teach spin, but once a week isn't enough.  Fortunately, just a few minutes a day is!  It's honestly done wonders, particularly for my calves and hamstrings.  The acuball is great for the bottom of my feet and for my back.  The socks are awesome for both prevention and recovery.  I wear the Pro Compression socks during cardio workouts, and the Running Room ones, which aren't quite as 'compressive' afterwards.

It's amazing how such simple things can have such a huge impact.  If you are not familiar with foam rollers and what they can do, you might want to acquant yourself with them.  They are great for both promoting flexibility and myofascial release, as well as for strength building exercises.

Check out this article if you want some ideas on how  to use one.

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Horseradish Dijon Baked Fish

So Adam is coming home tomorrow, assuming his flight gets in, and I'm still standing!  Barely.  Man, the weekends are the hardest, and with Family Day yesterday, this was a long weekend.  Honestly, I'm never a big fan of Family Day: an extra day with the kids in the dead of winter with half the city closed down and any open attractions and venues crowded with families trying to entertain their own rugrats.  Yeah, thanks, not really a holiday.  With Adam away this year, I was especially underwhelmed.  Fortunately, his cousin offered to take the girls for the day.  Oh halleluhah!

The weekend was really up-and-down.  Saturday morning, Little A had one of her major screaming fits before 8am.  My crime?  I dared give Big A the mug she wanted.  Once she calmed down, 45 minutes later, she became sweet, happy Little A, and the girls surprised me by playing together nicely for about 90 minutes while I had a quiet breakfast with the newspaper.  I was so proud of them, I told them I'd take them to the mall for lunch after we did our errands.  Unfortunately, as soon as we left the house, the good behaviour ended and I was subjected to non-stop fighting and whining.  The fighting really gets to me.  These two fight over the most ridiculous things.  At the grocery store they fought over who got to hold every new item I put in the cart.  After screaming ensued over cheese, they were both forbidden from touching ANYTHING.

My in-laws, who are angels, took them for a sleepover Saturday night, which game me a bit of time to recover.  Unfortunately, Little A woke up screaming about her ear, and sure enough, she's got another ear infection.  Yes, please, someone put me out of my misery now!

But it's all good.  The end is in sight.  Daddy will be home soon and life can go back to normal.  As if it's EVER normal around here!

I haven't had much time to cook since he's been gone and have been surviving on a lot of sandwiches, wraps and pancakes for dinner.  But I'm trying hard to continue to nourish myself properly so I did pull this together last week.  And it was fantastic!  Along with some roasted sweet potatoes and steamed asparagus, it was a wonderful, comforting meal.

This used to be one of my favorite recipes and I made it all the time.  In fact, I made it for the last New Year's party we ever hosted, which was BK (before kids), and it got rave reviews.  It's actually from the Moosewood Lowfat Cookbook, although I've altered it a bit. 

I know white fish can seem boring, but I promise you this is anything but.  Not only is it so yummy, it is really fast and easy too.  Also, you can use whatever white fish you want.

Horseradish Dijon Baked Fish

1.5-2 lbs white fish fillets (Basa, tilapia, halibut, sole, etc)

1/4 cup dijon
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
2 tbls horseradish
2 cloves garlic
1/2 tsp dried dill
Fresh cracked black pepper, to taste

Whisk together all the ingredients for the sauce in a small bowl.  Place your fillets on a foil-lined baking sheet or dish and pour sauce over top.  Bake in the oven at 425F until fish is cooked and flakes easily (time will depend on your oven and on thickness of fillets).  Serves 4.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Meyer Lemon & Dijon Roasted Vegetables

Okay I have to admit something: I've never had a Meyer lemon until a few weeks ago!  I don't know why...  So when I spied a bag at Fiesta Farms, I snatched them up.
I used half to bake some blueberry, buckwheat, lemon muffins, and then I used the rest for this dish: yummy, flavourful (and of course nutritious), roasted veggies.  To be honest, I think I actually prefer regular lemons, they have a brighter flavour.  But since I've never had them before I don't know if these ones just weren't stellar, or if they just aren't to my liking compared with regular lemons.

If you don't want all your veggies to turn purple, you may want to roast the beets separately, but frankly I didn't care.  You can also swap out these veggies for your favorites.  I think broccoli, zucchini and peppers would also be delish with this marinade.  If you have no Meyer lemons, sub regular ones. 

Meyer Lemon & Dijon Roasted Vegetables

1 head cauliflower, cut into florets
2 lbs beets, peeled and cut into small pieces
1 lb brussels sprouts, trimmed and halved
4 Meyer lemons
1 heaping tbls dijon mustard
2 cloves garlic, minced
Salt and pepper, to taste

Juice and zest the lemons.  Whisk together lemon juice and zest with dijon, garlic and seasonings.  Toss veggies with marinade and spread on a foil (or parchment) lined baking sheet or two.  Roast at 350F for about 45 minutes.

Friday, February 15, 2013

Trying to Pay It Forward

Join OneMatch

Oy, last night was the toughest yet since Adam left.  I don't know if the girls were just tired or it was a full moon, but I don't think there were 5 minutes that didn't involve screaming and crying over I don't know what.  I needed several time outs.

I am kind of happy and sad that it's Friday.  I'm happy simply because it's another day closer to Adam coming home (next Wednesday if his flight is on time!), but sad, or perhaps weary is a better term, because the weekends are toughest when he's away as I have the girls all day long.  Hopefully this weekend will be a bit easier, and we'll get out to do more stuff, assuming we're not hit by another massive snow storm!

Big A and I discussed what Random Acts of Kindness we could do this week.  We decided to surprise the custodial staff at her school - who I am assuming are not the recipients of gifts as often as are the teachers - with a big box of good chocolate on Valentine's day.  We left it in their office in the morning, so I don't know what their reaction was, but hopefully they liked it.

Despite Adam being away, it was a busy Valentine's Day this year.  We had to do cards for both girls' daycare classes, as well as Big A's grade 1 class.  The girls also bought gifts for their boyfriends.  Yes, even Little A has a boyfriend - our neighbour's son who is in her daycare class.  Big A and I also made a music video and sent it to Adam.  It's really cute, if I do say so myself!

I also had an appointment yesterday to donate blood.  This is a way of giving back that I have tried to make a regular part of my life.  Unfortunately, last time I was refused because of low hemoglobin.  So I was a bit nervous that my iron would still be too low, however, this time I passed with flying colours.  Looks like the supplements are doing their thing!  But then I flunked the blood pressure test.  Sigh!  This is frustrating because my blood pressure is always low (usually I just squeak by the cut-off) and it's also pretty normal for a fit person.  However, at 89/56 it was even on the low side for me.  The nurse recommended that next time I eat a bag of chips and a Gatorade before coming in.  Right, like that's going to happen!  I'm sure I can think of healthier ways to boost my blood pressure. 

Anyways, lately I've been seeing pleas on Facebook and the media for potential bone marrow donors for individuals with life threatening illnesses.  So, I decided that if I can't donate blood, I'm going to do this!  There are a few steps to get on the registry, but it's not really a lot of effort considering you can save someone's life!

If you are interested, follow this link to One Match and follow the directions to register.  If you do not live in Canada, I am sure other countries have similar services.  I'm going to find some way to help others, darn it!

Thursday, February 14, 2013

The Newlywed Cookbook - Review

Product Details

Happy Valentines Day! Here is low-down on a new cook book aimed at couples.

I was recently sent an advance copy of The Newlywed Cookbook (3rd Edition) to review.  I had no idea what the purpose of it was, but figured it would be recipes to serve two people, rather than the standard 4 for most recipes.  Turns out, its focus is on quick, simple to prepare dishes and meals, which I may have figured out if I'd researched the author beforehand.  Robin Miller is the host of the Food Network's Quick Fix Meals.

I knew, since there was no focus on nutrition, that this book wasn't going to be for me, but I was interested to see what made it unique anyways.

The book definitely gives you breadth and variety, with chapters for:
1. Pizza and bread
2. Pasta and risotto
3. Chicken, turkey, duck and game birds
4. Beef, pork, veal, venison and lamb
5. Seafood and shellfish
6. Side dishes, salads and salsas
7. Desserts and other sweet treats
8. Special occasion recipes and menus

It also has glossaries of the back for ingredients and cooking techniques, which makes it ideal for novice cooks.  I'm guessing that's what makes it intended for newlyweds, since todays' youth seem to practically live at home with their parents until they get married, I wonder if that is one of the many factors that has led to a decline of from-scratch cooking: people simply never learn to cook for themselves because they're parents are doing it for them well into their adulthood.

Most of the recipes have just a few steps, and each one features a list of the items needed, which includes not only the ingredients, but the cooking vessel, appliances, etc.  This helps you get everything assembled and ready ahead of time.  There are no pictures at all though, so this might not be ideal for new cooks who need visuals to guide them.

Anyways, while I appreciate her emphasis on making cooking accessible to those who are inexperienced and those who think they lack the necessary time to cook, I'm not overly impressed with the recipes themselves.  First off, they are pretty generic and don't emphasize nutrition.  Virtually all the baked items use refined flours and sugars, which, of course, ticks me off.  It's also not suitable for anyone on any kind of restricted diet.  Most recipes are not particularly novel, while some are downright weird: Chicken Marsala with Jack CheeseChicken Curry with Lemongrass and Figs?  A few are sort of interesting: Seared Tuna with Anchovy-Olive Crust and Roasted Fennel sounds nice.

Except for making a cutsie wedding shower gift, I can't really think of a good reason to buy this book.

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Orange, Fig and Wild Rice Pilaf

When we had dinner with Adam's colleagues a few weeks ago, our hostess made a rice dish with  figs that was outstanding.  I used it as inspiration for this dish, but, as usual, put my own spin on it.  It. Is. Amazing!!  This would make a perfect side dish for a romantic Valentine's meal.


Orange, Fig and Wild Rice Pilaf

1/2 tsp olive oil
1 onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 cup brown rice
1/2 cup wild rice, soaked for at least 1 hour
1 cup dried figs, chopped
1-946 ml carton chicken or vegetable stock
1/4 tsp ground cinnamon
Juice and zest of 1 large navel orange
Salt and pepper, to taste

Place a large skillet over medium heat.  Saute onion and garlic in oil for 3-4 minutes.  Add remaining ingredients and simmer until all the liquid is absorbed and rice is tender (30-40 minutes).  Adjust seasoning to taste.  Serves 4-6.  Leftovers can be frozen.

This recipe has been added to Diet, Dessert & Dogs' Wellness Weekend.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Gut Feeling


Along with our weight and what we put into our bodies, North Americans seem to be obsessed with our guts and what's coming out the other end. 

While some people suffer from serious diseases that affect GI tract health such as Crohn's, colitis, celiac or even irritable bowel syndrome (IBS), it seems like virtually everyone else is on some sort of specialized diet or supplement to improve digestion, bowel function and/or a host of what is believed to be associated symptoms.   Gluten-free is the new diet du jour, having replaced past favorites such as low-fat and low-carb.  But is avoiding gluten really going to cure what ails you?  Honestly, I'm willing to bet that in 5 years, most North Americans are no slimmer nor healthier, even if many of us jump on the gluten-free bandwagon.  Therefore, I was very pleased when I saw that the Nutrition Action Healthletter for January/February 2013 was dedicated to GI stuff.

Here's the scoop on poop (and related stuff):

Gluten - There is no evidence that avoiding gluten leads to weight loss.  For those with celiac disease, once  they cut out gluten from their diet, some lose weight, some gain, but the vast majority remain the same weight.  For healthy folks, if weight loss occurs, it's more likely because they have cut out a whole lot of junky foods or decreased their caloric intake.

Individuals with celiac may also get an energy boost when they eliminate gluten, but the energy boost some individuals feel has been attributed to the placebo effect (or perhaps, again, because they have cut out some of the crap from their diet and may be eating more nutritious foods), and tends to wear off after a few months.

Should you cut out gluten?

Not until you see a physician.  If you cut out gluten before going for testing, you may get a false negative for things like celiac and Crohn's.  Moreover, similar intestinal symptoms may be due to cancer.  Get checked out first, then try eating gluten-free, if warranted, to see if it improves your symptoms.

Gas (Farts are a favorite subject of mine...come on, they're funny!) - While beans, vegetables and milk usually get blamed for causing gas, alot of the fibres added to processed foods (like inulin and chicory root extract) contain sugars that cannot be broken down by our digestive enzymes.  So that Fibre 1 granola bar or Skinny Cow ice cream may be the actual culprit.  Sugar alcohols such as sorbitol and maltitol, often found in sugar-free and low-carb processed foods can also cause gas, bloating and diarrhea.

Colon Cleanses - Your colon does not need cleaning.  Our liver and kidneys are designed to detoxify our bodies.  In addition, many of the colon irrigation products on the market are potentially dangerous.  Also, any weight you lose by pooping your butt off is going to be temporary and most likely due to fluid loss (which can lead to severe dehydration!).

Lactose - Many people who believe they are lactose intolerant, actually have irritable bowel syndrome.  Individuals who are lactose intolerant can sometimes eat cheese and yogurt without a problem, while low-fat/fat-free milk causes the greatest distress.

Fibre Supplements - Some are not very effective at promoting regularity.  Look for ones that contain psyllium and/or wheat bran.

Another common gastrointestinal condition is diverticular disease.  This is when you develop little pockets or sacs in the colon that can bleed.  While more than 50% of adults develop diverticulosis by age 60,  less than 30% of those with the condition experience bleeding or symptoms.  A long held belief was that eating things like nuts, seeds and popcorn can lead to diverticulosis, however, a large study that tracked 47,000 men over 18 years found no link between consuming these foods and developing the condition.

What puts people at risk for complications from diverticulosis?
1. Eating too little fibre
2. Obesity
3. Inactivity

So, what's the take-home message?  If you are having bleeding in your stool, or digestive or bowel issues, go get yourself checked out ASAP.  Once any serious condition is ruled out, take a look at your lifestyle.  Before you start spending your money on expensive supplements or gluten-free diets, make sure you are at a healthy weight, if you are sedentary, get active, and make sure you are eating enough fibre (from food rather than supplements).  Women should aim for about 25g of fibre per day while men should aim for 30-35g.

The following chart lists the amount of fibre in various foods:

Serving sizeTotal fiber (grams)*
Raspberries1 cup8.0
Pear, with skin1 medium5.5
Apple, with skin1 medium4.4
Banana1 medium3.1
Orange1 medium3.1
Strawberries (halves)1 cup3.0
Figs, dried2 medium1.6
Raisins1 ounce (60 raisins)1.0
Grains, cereal & pastaServing sizeTotal fiber (grams)*
Spaghetti, whole-wheat, cooked1 cup6.3
Barley, pearled, cooked1 cup6.0
Bran flakes3/4 cup5.3
Oat bran muffin1 medium5.2
Oatmeal, instant, cooked1 cup4.0
Popcorn, air-popped3 cups3.5
Brown rice, cooked1 cup3.5
Bread, rye1 slice1.9
Bread, whole-wheat or multigrain1 slice1.9
Legumes, nuts and seedsServing sizeTotal fiber (grams)*
Split peas, cooked1 cup16.3
Lentils, cooked1 cup15.6
Black beans, cooked1 cup15.0
Lima beans, cooked1 cup13.2
Baked beans, vegetarian, canned, cooked1 cup10.4
Sunflower seed kernels1/4 cup3.9
Almonds1 ounce (23 nuts)3.5
Pistachio nuts1 ounce (49 nuts)2.9
Pecans1 ounce (19 halves)2.7
VegetablesServing sizeTotal fiber (grams)*
Artichoke, cooked1 medium10.3
Green peas, cooked1 cup8.8
Broccoli, boiled1 cup5.1
Turnip greens, boiled1 cup5.0
Brussels sprouts, cooked1 cup4.1
Sweet corn, cooked1 cup4.0
Potato, with skin, baked1 small3.0
Tomato paste1/4 cup2.7
Carrot, raw1 medium1.7
*Fiber content can vary between brands.
Source: USDA National Nutrient Database for Standard Reference, 2012

Monday, February 11, 2013

Cinnamon Glazed Sweet Potato Banana Cookies (Gluten-Free, Sugar-Free & Vegan)

Friday (snow day here in Toronto), I drove the girls to school/daycare and then drove a few hours later to volunteer at the school and then pick up some stuff at the market.  By that point, the snow was so deep, I barely got the car back in the garage.  At that point I knew I was walking to get the girls later on, which I knew was going to be tricky.  I suspected the stroller would be impossible, so it meant Little A was going to have to walk, which is not easy for someone so little.  I brought their snow shoes with me and hoped for the best.  To my surprise, they were total troopers and snowshoed enthusiastically the whole way home without any complaints. 

In any case, once I knew we were going to be on foot, I also knew we'd need a reward for trudging through all that snow.  So the girls munched on these while they warmed up and watched cartoons while I shovelled for the 3rd time.  As soon as I was done, our neighbour got out his snowblower.  Sigh!  My mother also miraculously made it in from New York, so I wanted a nice dessert to serve after dinner.  What better reward then soft, spicy, sweet cookies?

Sweet Potato Banana Cookies

1/2 cup mashed sweet potato
2 ripe bananas
1/3 cup coconut oil, softened
1/2 cup stevia baking blend
2 chia or flax eggs
1 tsp vanilla extract
2 cups brown rice flour
1 tsp guar gum
1/2 tsp cinnamon
1/2 tsp ground ginger
Pinch fresh grated nutmeg
1/2 tsp baking soda
1/2 tsp sea salt

Place all wet ingredients in food processor and process until smooth.  Add dry ingredients and pulse until dough comes together.  Roll into balls and then flatten slightly onto baking sheet that has been lined with parchment paper.  Bake at 350F for about 12 minutes, or until golden.  Leave on baking sheet and while still warm, top with cinnamon glaze (recipe below).  Makes 22 cookies.

Cinnamon Glaze

1/3 cup coconut oil, melted
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1/2 tsp vanilla extract
2 tbls xylitol and/or 2 droppers full of stevia, to taste

Whisk together ingredients for glaze and pour over cookies, allow to cool and set.

This recipe has been entered into Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday for this Valentine's Week of February!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Pumpkin Spice Cereal and Snack

It figures that we'd get a freakin' huge snow storm while Adam is away!  But, hey, it gave me an opportunity for another random act of kindness.  It's been harder than I expected to find opportunities, at least to do the things I think are most kind.  Things like giving what we don't need to Goodwill are things we already do, so I am trying to look for opportunities to do additional kind things.  This week I only managed to drive Little A's daycare teacher home in the storm and shovel for the neighbours again.  But when I woke up this morning, the teenage son of the neighbours west of us was shoveling our front walk...this is the first time anyone in that household has moved a single snowflake for us in the 7 years we've lived in this house!  Maybe because I shoveled for them last week?  Just goes to show, kindness begets kindness.  The snow is coming down so hard that after I was showered and dressed, you couldn't even tell he'd done it, so I went out and shoveled again for them, AND our two sets of neighbours to the east.  Of course, by the time I got home from dropping off the girls, you couldn't tell I'd shoveled either.  Sigh! To be honest, the greatest act of kindness I performed this week was NOT giving Little A to the zoo.  She's been a total nightmare, having ridiculous tantrums and fits pretty much daily.  My mom, who was supposed to be coming back to Toronto from New York today is goodness knows where.  I've heard all flights have been cancelled but I haven't heard from her....It's a miracle I haven't had a single drink this week.

At least we've had this new delicious, healthy snack to eat!  I've been taking this and crumbling it over yogurt and topping with fresh blueberries for Big A in her lunchbox and she's been loving it.

Most boxed cereals are total garbage.  Even the high fibre kinds.  I call them 'cookies in a bowl' because really, most of them have so much damn sugar.  I don't think they provide very good fuel for the day either.  They leave you hungry very quickly, probably because of all the sugar.  But Adam loves cereal, so we always have it in the house.  And the girls love it too.

I went on a mission to create a cereal they would like, but that doesn't have so much sugar.  This can be eaten as a snack, or with milk as cereal.  Or, you could crumble it over yogurt or ice cream or use it  to crust French toast. 

I chose to use unsweetened wheat squares (no sugar, no salt) but you can start with whatever unsweetened whole grain cereal you want (gluten-free, etc.).

Pumpkin Spice Cereal and Snack

1-675g box unsweetened, whole grain cereal
1 cup pumpkin puree
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted
2 droppers full of plain or vanilla stevia liquid, or to taste
1 tsp vanilla extract
1/2 tsp ground cinnamon
1 tsp pumpkin pie spice
1/4 tsp sea salt

Whisk together pumpkin, oil, vanilla and seasonings.  Pour over cereal and toss to coat.  Lay in a single layer on 2 large baking sheets.  Bake at 275F for 1 hour, rotating positions of 2 trays every 15 minutes.  Let cool and store in an air tight container in a cool place for up to 3 weeks.

This recipe has been added to Diet, Dessert & Dogs Wellness Weekend.

Thursday, February 7, 2013

A Few Good Books

I am always grateful at the end of a busy day to be able to crawl into bed and escape with a good book.  Here is what I have been reading lately.

I will admit it, I recently finished the entire 50 Shades Trilogy.  Come on, tell me you haven't read them all too!?!

To be honest, I think the hype is absurd.  This is not porn for heaven sakes!  It's actually a love story, although a complete fantasy one for sure.

I think the appeal for most women is not the kinky sex scenes (which become more 'vanilla' in the later books), but the romance between Christian and Ana.  Many women will admit to, at least at some point in their life, having that desire to tame a 'bad boy'.  Why?  Because many of us believe that this is the ultimate measure of our worth.  Awful, but true.  Luckily, I grew out of this, and I hope most other women do too.

In any case, the other piece of it is simply the desire that we all have, men and women, to be desired, coveted and worshipped.  Oh, and a hot looking billionnaire with seemingly endless power and influence is a key part of the equation too!  Heck, the guy buys her fancy cars, the most expensive jewellery and clothes, and a company to run (!).  And don't forget the private jet, helicopter, house in Aspen and team of employees to cater to their every need.  Um, frankly, all that's probably a lot more exciting than any S&M!

These books are not fine literature, but they are entertaining and easy to read.  My favorite parts were the email exchanges between Christian and Ana, which often had some very witty repartee.

What is so laughable about it all though, is that he is 27 and she is 22!  No wonder they are having such crazy sex, they're practically teenagers!!  I'd like to read a sequel of what happens in 15 years once their hormones settle down and they are dealing with the trials and tribulations of parenthood.  Of course, even then it will be fantasy because they will still have a whole team of employees catering to their every whim.

Oh funny story: After reading the first book, I decided to pick up the other 2 on a recent trip to Costco.  When we were waiting in line at the check-out, Little A grabbed one out of the cart and started flipping through it.  A woman in the next line, with 2 small kids in tow, looked at me sternly and said, "Good thing those aren't picture books." I laughed, but then found she wasn't smiling at me. "Is she judging me?" I asked Adam.  He shrugged.  Sheesh!  She's 3, it's not like she can read, and no, they don't have any illustrations!  Anyways...

A few more high-brow books I've enjoyed recently are the following:

The Paris Wife

The Paris Wife, about Ernest Hemmingway's first wife.  I loved this book, it is absolutely wonderful!  It had me Wikipedia-ing as much info as I could find about the folks in this novel.  I highly recommend it.

Foursome is not another kinky sex book.  It is actually very PG.  The focus is on relationships.  I enjoyed this novel a lot, partially because the protagonist is so flawed, but ultimately likeable.  The one thing that bothered me is how one of the other character's eating disorder - a serious mental illness - was trivialized as if it is just a personality quirk.  But that's the therapist in me, I guess.

Rutherfurd - New York Coverart.png

I am now reading New York, which I am loving.  Just like Rutherford's book, London, which I loved, it weaves historical facts and real figures into a provocative novel.  If you enjoy reading history and have patience (both these books are loooooooooooong reads), you will enjoy these.

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Spanish Chicken

I nagged Adam several times before he left to remember to eat carefully because of his cholesterol.  I know he'll be careful, but I also know he won't be eating lentils and rice either.  Nonetheless, since chicken is one of his favorites, I decided to indulge him with this dish for the last supper we ate together.  Yes, the last supper!

Marinating the chicken overnight is a must, don't skip this step!  I served this with an amazing rice pilaf and some roasted veggies (recipes to come).

2 lbs boneless, skinless chicken breasts
1/2 cup red wine vinegar
Zest and juice of 2 navel oranges
1/2 cup Spanish olives, pitted and sliced
3-4 cloves garlic
2 tsp paprika
1 tsp dried oregano
Salt and pepper, to taste

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Kid-Friendly Sweet-Not-Spicy Chili

All the parents at the girls' daycare have noticed an annoying trend: foods that the kids won't touch at home, they gobble down at daycare.  Perhaps it's peer pressure, I don't know, but the kids tell us they ONLY like x, y or z the way the daycare makes it and it drives us all mad.  I don't doubt the food is good, the daycare has their own cook who makes, fresh, homemade vegetarian meals each day.  But some of the parents have tried using her recipes and their kids STILL won't eat the food at home.

Nevertheless, when the girls both came home last week and told me they like chili - as long as it's not spicy - I couldn't miss the opportunity to make something new.  Now, anytime I serve something new for the first time, it's ALWAYS a disaster.  Generally they will refuse to try it or say they hate it before they try it, or will try only a microscopic amount.  I end up furious, and Adam asks me why I even bother.  Fun stuff.

So this time, I decided to adjust my expectations and simply expect that they wouldn't touch it.  I now know that sometimes (and only sometimes), after a few tries, they end up loving something they initially claimed to have hated (like my chicken soup with kamut alphabet pasta).  This time, however, I got a nice surprise: Big A was willing to try it, AND she really liked it!  In particular, she gushed over the kidney beans, and it's been years (she ate hummus until she was about 4) since I've been able to get her to go near a legume (peanuts excluded).  Little A, however, refused to even taste it, but hey, I expected that.  I'm willing to try again until she comes around.  Admittedly, she could be leaving for university by then...

I toned down the seasoning in this chili, added a sweet element with some mango puree, and hid some white veggies (green cabbage and cauliflower), which are undetectable.  Just make sure that if your kids hate 'bits' as much as Little A does, you puree everything well.  Also, if little spots might freak them out, you might want to use white instead of red quinoa.

Kid-Friendly Sweet-Not-Spicy Chili

1 tsp olive oil
1 cup red lentils, soaked overnight then drained and rinsed
1 onion, minced
1 cup green cabbage, minced
2 cloves garlic, minced
1 tbls mild chili powder
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
1 tsp kosher salt
2 cups pureed mango
500g frozen cauliflower (or 4 cups fresh, cut into small florets)*, cooked and pureed
1 650ml jar passata (strained tomatoes)
4 cups water or vegetable stock
1/2 cup red (or white) quinoa
2 cans red kidney beans, drained and rinsed

Set a large pot over medium heat.  Saute lentils, onion, cabbage, garlic and spices in oil for about 5 minutes.  Add mango and cauliflower and cook for another 5 minutes.  Pour in tomatoes, and water or stock.  If chili is 'chunky' at this point, use an immersion blender to get out any big 'bits' of veggies.  Add quinoa and beans.  Turn heat down to medium low and simmer quinoa is cooked and chili has thickened (at least 30 minutes).  Serves a crowd.  Freezes well.

*Frozen cauliflower is softer and easier to puree, but well cooked fresh will do too.

This recipe has been entered into Vegetarian Mamma's Gluten-Free Friday.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Single Parenting Challenge - Day 1

So Adam left for London yesterday.  Luckily, my mom is coming through town today on her way to visit family in New York, so I at least have back up tonight.

Several people have suggested to me that there could be some benefits to Adam going away.  They have said that when their partners go away, they create a new routine with their kids that sometimes ends up being simpler and that, in fact, when their partner returns, it just messes up this system.

But this is not how it goes in our home.  I just have too wonderful a partner.  Adam is not just my husband, he is my best friend.  He is not just the primary breadwinner, he is also my equal partner in looking after the household.  I do the cooking, most of the laundry, dropping off and picking up the girls from school/daycare, and planning their meals and organizing their clothes.  But Adam pays all the bills, deals with all the garbage/recycling/composting, he runs the dishwasher, folds the laundry, fills the car with gas, bathes the girls, reads with Big A, and shuttles the girls to and from their recreational activities.

Nevertheless, it's always helpful to look on the bright side of things, so I'm making a list of the perks of him not being here (grasping at straws here!):

1. When I wake up in the morning to do my workout, I can watch my choice of television without having to wait for Adam to finish his workout first;

2. It's easier to make the bed since I only disturb a tiny little corner of the blankets and sheets;

3. I'll be able to read the front section of the Globe and Mail everyday (usually Adam takes it with him to read on the subway on his way to work);

4. I can cook stuff for dinner he doesn't like...oh wait, I probably won't have time to do much cooking.  I know! I can have breakfast-for-dinner (which I love and he hates) whenever I want!

5. I won't have to clean up after him.  Actually, he cleans up after me more than the who the heck is going to clean up after me???

6. I can read in bed with the light on for as long as I want every night (usually I have to switch to my itty bitty book light as soon as he comes to bed).

Yes, as you can see, being luck enough to have such a wonderful husband means that it's hard to find much to be happy about when he goes away.  Perhaps THAT is the silver lining I need to focus on!

Friday, February 1, 2013

The Countdown is On...

It's coming, and coming soon!  Nope, I'm not talking about the Superbowl folks.  I could not be less interested in that, or to put it another way: I would rather poke myself in the eye with an ice pick than watch sports, pretty much any sport, on television.

But on Sunday, Adam goes to London, England for 17 days!  This will be longest I will be a lone parent to date and I'd be lying if I said I wasn't terrified.  Yes, it is getting easier as the girls get older, but Little A is still prone to (daily) bouts of what can only be called completely irrational hysterical fits.  Take yesterday morning for example.  She woke up seemingly in a fine mood.  Then as I got her dressed she randomly said, "Big A never shares her gum with me." This is actually not true at all.  A few minutes later when Big A woke up, she was greeted with Little A screaming at her, "You never share your gum with me!"  Given this ridiculous accusation, I really couldn't justify forcing Big A to give her a piece of her gum.  Particularly since I told Little A she could have a piece from her own pack of Trident.   Within seconds Little A was lying on my bedroom floor shrieking.  And as I have mentioned before, she really does shriek very very LOUD!  I finally calmed her down with the promise of cocoa-loco pancakes for breakfast, and I told her I would bake her some banana muffins.  Unfortunately, she decided (in her head without telling me) that she wanted the not-yet-made muffins, not pancakes for breakfast so when I put the girls plates on the table another round of hysteria ensued.  Even after I explained there wasn't time for me to bake the muffins before we had to leave the house, she screamed and carried on.  Thank goodness I found some of my black forest muffins in the freezer and she deemed them an acceptable alternative.  This is the kind of stuff that happens with her that really makes me feel as if my sanity is at risk.

But unlike past trips, when I simply just hope to survive until Adam returns, this time I've got a few strategies up my sleeve.  Usually the literacy rate in the house declines (because I don't have the time or energy to read with Big A the way Adam does every night), as does the dental hygiene (I hate flossing the girls' teeth at the best of times, so if I'm struggling to get them into bed, it doesn't happen).  I am hoping not to let this happen, however, if it does, I am not going to beat myself up.  I am used to being alone with the girls in the morning, so its really the evenings that are always the biggest challenge.  To maximize my chances of success (and ability to maintain my sanity), this time I am going to:

1.  Sit down with the girls and make up an evening routine we can stick with each night (when we are all tired and I am on my shortest fuse) so all our expectations are in sync;
2.  I am going to try and get Big A's reading done at least 3x week in the mornings instead of at night;
3. Every Monday he's gone, I'm treating myself to a massage (hey, they're covered by insurance anyways!);
4. I have scheduled a million playdates for the girls to ensure they get time with their friends (who's parents happen to be my friends), but more importantly, that I get time with other adults so I don't go cuckoo! 
5. I am going to be diligent about my own self-care and stress management: getting enough sleep, doing yoga at least 2x week, and giving myself time-outs when the girls fight or have fits, which works far more effectively than giving them time-outs. 
6. Listen to classical music as much as possible.  I used to do this all the time, as I love it and it relaxes me.  Unfortunately, Adam hates it and it's basically forbidden when he's around.
7. Take it day-by-day.  It is much less intimidating to break it down into manageable chunks and just focus on one day at a time.
8. Not just try to survive, but actually have fun.  Ha! 

So, um, wish me luck!

Random Acts of Kindness

My random acts of kindness for the week are admittedly rather pathetic.  On Monday when I awoke to a thick layer of snow on the ground, I decided to shovel for as many neighbours as I could before passing out.  But then, our neighbours to our left, shoveled their walk and ours before I could even set foot outside.  To make up for this, I shoveled for our neighbours on the right, who are not very friendly and NEVER shovel a single snowflake for us.  But then the weather got warmer and all the snow melted anyways. 

Wednesday I went to renew my Canadian Passport.  I pulled into the parking lot and a woman knocked on my window.  I rolled it down and she told me she still had an hour of parking left and she gave me her ticket!  How nice is that?

Interesting, isn't it?  See a pattern here?  Just when I commit to doing more Random Acts of Kindness, all of a sudden it's being paid forward back to me!

Yesterday there was still snow on the sidewalk when I returned from dropping off the girls.  I quickly got out the shovel and shoveled for our nice neighbours, as well as our not-as-nice neighbours.  Then I used up all of our de-icing stuff to melt the ice quickly forming. 

Sadly, I know shoveling snow for neighbours isn't much more than being neighbourly.  Honestly, I was having trouble coming up with ideas for what I could do, which is absurd since there are so many people out there who can use help. 

Fortunately, I just discovered this Random Acts of Kindness website, which conveniently provides you with ideas.  Hopefully, I can do better next week.

Your greatness is measured by your kindness; your education and intellect by your modesty; your ignorance is betrayed by your suspicions and prejudices, and your real caliber is measured by the consideration and tolerance you have for others.

William J.H. Boetcker (1873-1962)
Religious Leader, Influential Public Speaker