Strawberry Heaven

On the weekend, my gorgeous little family and I embarked out to the country in search of some delicious strawberries. Living in Hamilton, we are blessed to have a large rural setting just 15 minutes outside of the city so finding a U-pick berry place was relatively easy to find.

Rewind… For weeks I had been stressing out LARGE that strawberry season had come to an end and I didn’t get to make my yearly supply of strawberry jam. I know what your thinking, “Richelle, they sell that in a million different varieties at the store.” I know, I know but the taste and the fact that you created something from just 3 ingredients is magical.

So on Sunday, the last day of my partner’s week-long vacation from work, we decided to hit the farm to pick some berries. There is something about being in the country that just brings balance to my life. Being a momma, a partner, a sister, a daughter, a full-time teacher, and an aspiring mompreneur- life is crazy but when I am surrounded by wide open spaces and can breathe in fresh air, it’s a total energy boost.

My 2 year old does not share my love of berry picking-yet. She picked one berry, got her hands dirty, and proceeded to protest until it was time to go home. My partner, being born and raised in the city, does not necessarily share my love of the great outdoors, however is a great sport and ended up doing the majority of picking while I dealt with the diva.

Ok, so why do I bother making jam? It’s simple- it makes me happy and it’s what I know. I grew up with my parents who always had a large garden. My dad would spend hours toiling and tampering with his fruits and vegetables to ensure they turned out perfectly (or he may have been avoiding any confrontation that living with a wife, three daughters, and one bathroom can bring. Nonetheless, his garden was perfect). When it was time for harvest, my mom and dad would set up a make-shift assembly line making homemade salsa, tomato juice, tomato sauce, pickles, etc. for days. Our basement shelves were always stocked with homemade deliciousness to enjoy for the winter to come.

My grandmother was also a huge influence in my love to create things from scratch. Having been born in 1916, she lived through wars, the great-depression, and several other experiences which would be hard to a farmer’s family. She grew up utilizing EVERYTHING. Nothing ever went to waste when grandma was around. You ate everything on your plate and you never threw anything out. My mom had the same mentality so it is natural to me to utilize the ingredients I have to make things instead of being dependent on running to the store to buy everything.

So, there you have it. A glimpse into my strawberry heaven. Equal parts strawberries to sugar, and a quarter-cup of lime juice for every 4 cups and you can have your own strawberry jam too.

Richelle

 

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Food for a Threenager

52113835401__5227311C-2B1E-42DF-A58B-2FE2F4BD32B4Am I the only mom out there that cringes with the thought of making her threenager meals? Seriously! How could something so cute, innocent and sweet turn into the dreaded ‘food monster’?

When Memphis was little, she LOVED all food. She happily ate all the baby food she could handle and thoroughly enjoyed my homemade, creative concoctions.

Enter the terrible twos.

It was around two-and-a-half that we really noticed a difference in her eating habits. She went from being a fruit and veggie lover to a dairy, meat and carb fanatic, practically overnight. No matter how I tried to hide them, she always picked around the veggies or just outright refused to eat it.

Enter the threenager stage.

Although we have only been at this stage for a little over a month, it’s been an interesting experience to say the least. Rage, loud screamed ‘NOs’ and tears suddenly turned up mealtime. My parents (our amazing childcare during the workweek) began to hear ‘I already had that’ followed by the pushing of her plate away when her leftover dinner lunches were placed in front of her.

#seriously #fml #yourethree

What I’ve learned over the last few weeks is that getting mad or upset over the demands of the diva isn’t worth it. I don’t want to be that parent who gives in, but at the same time,  I also don’t want to take away the concept of family dinners, especially conversations between the three of us while we eat our dinner.

What do we do?

We offer our daughter lots of option at breakfast and lunch time. Toast, apples, yogurt, strawberries and eggs is not an uncommon breakfast for her. One day, she’ll be all over the eggs and yogurt, the next day she won’t touch it but will eat all of the toast and fruit. At lunch, she has a ‘main’ and a few side options of fruits and veggies or some almonds. Dinner time is non-negotiable. What mommy cooks is what Memphis is given and there isn’t much wiggle-room.

Where she eats is up for some debate. During dinners, she has the option of her highchair or sitting at the table with us on one of the dining room chairs. On the weekends, we are pretty flexible with where she eats her breakfast and lunch. Her picnic table, ‘picnics’ on the floor, her highchair or the couch is a new option.

Snacks are huge in our house right now. It doesn’t help that I’m 40 weeks pregnant and love to snack. Watermelon, almonds mixed with chocolate chips and rasins and cheese and crackers make the top of our ‘must have’ snack list.

These are just some things that work for us. I’m not sure if they are the ‘right’ or ‘wrong’ ways to deal with threenagers and their food freak-outs, but it’s how we choose to deal. The beauty about kids is that nothing will be the same for long and just when you think you’ve got it all figured out, they’ll find something new to challenge you on and you’ll have to start from scratch all over again. Thankfully, we have an amazing community of moms who are able to talk us through different situations, to make mistakes and learn from them and to support one another ❤

Always Learning: A Place for Authentic Learning in the Summer

IMG_1624.JPGIt’s summer. The idea of learning and teaching is such a difficult concept to comprehend right now as we spend our days with our kids lounging by the pool, playing at the parking and just enjoying summer. We hazily make an effort to quiz some mental math facts or maybe work on a worksheet or two, but aren’t really surprised or phased when the work gets pushed aside for a water balloon fight or when the kids take one look and run in the opposite direction.

What we need to remember is that there is a good chance the kids are still learning. What?! I know! Seems crazy, but it’s true!! It’s all about how you approach the summer and it’s events or actions that makes all the difference.

Authentic learning is learning by doing and it involves learning things that pop up in everyday happenings and situations.

Take, for example, grocery shopping with your 10 year old. In grade 5, students are learning how to add and subtract more complex decimal numbers and are reiterating the concepts and importance of estimation. Why not have your child mentally add the items in the cart and compare their total to the cashier’s total? Discuss their findings with them. How close did they come? Do they think this is an accurate way to stay in a budget? The questions are endless.

Another example is baking. Baking is AMAZING when it comes to fractions. Doubling or tripling or reducing a recipe by half means you have to add, multiply or even subtract fractions. I even bake with my three year old. We count, learn about what goes into our food, the importance of filling but not overflowing etc.

We are proud Canadians over here and Canada has just turned 150 years old. There is a ton of trivia and information circulating everywhere about Canadian culture and history. So many authentic history or geography questions can be asked or answered totally dependent on the grade level of your student. From discovering provinces and territories and their histories on family vacations, to experiencing  some of the amazing pow wows and aboriginal cultures of Canada’s first settlers, to learning about different plants or insects on a nature walk.

Authentic learning is everywhere. So maybe skip the worksheets today, quiz the multiplication questions later and dive into some awesome family fun. It’s an opportunity for you to share the things you know or for you to learn something new yourself. Whatever it is, you won’t be disappointed 🙂

Happy learning,

Richelle

 

 

Earth Day: Not just a day but a lifestyle

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Every year it happens, and every year I try to make a conscious effort to put my best foot forward to celebrate Earth Day. Of course, it comes and I end up sick or Memphis gets sick, it rains, friends pop by, and my pinterest-worthy earth-friendly ideas end up on next year’s ‘to do’ list.

It wasn’t until recently that I became an advocate for greener living. Being the head of my school’s ‘Green Team’, it’s my responsibility to teach the students how to live a more sustainable lifestyle, all about the 3 R’s and of course, how they can encourage others to live a greener lifestyle. As the students were learning, I was also learning, and I was loving it! I quickly began to trade in some of my wasteful ways for more earth-friendly ones.

Here are some simple, little things you can do to make a big difference.

Recycle- Duh! Obvi! We have been drilled for years on the importance of recycling, and yet it is still evident that we, as a society, still haven’t quite mastered it. In order for a tin can to breakdown it takes around 100 years, aluminum cans up to 500 years, and a plastic bottle up to 1000 years. So, next time you think to yourself, “it’s only one bottle, it won’t make that much of a difference,” think again!

Compost- No, I’m not implying that everyone should run out and buy a composter, dirt, and some red wigglers, but utilizing composting programs, just makes sense. Living in an area where municipalities encourage the use of green bins and provide pick up for it along with your weekly trash collection, makes it beyond simple to do your part, and put compost where it belongs instead of ending up in the trash destined for the landfill.

Grow something, anything!- I most definitely do not have the most elaborate green-thumb, but I certainly try. My garden has progressed over the years, as a science experiment mostly, but every year I give it my all, and progressively I’m seeing my efforts increase. I figure if I can reduce even one drive to the store to get a supply of fresh produce, that’s energy saving!

Reduce phantom energy-Phantom energy? Is that even a thing? Imagine your cell phone charger. You plug it into the wall on one end and on the other, into your phone. You remove your phone but still leave the plug in the wall, that’s phantom energy. Yes, your cord is still sucking energy even when it isn’t charging anything. In an age of electronics, phantom energy is everywhere. Laptop chargers, iPad or tablet chargers, Fitbit chargers etc. Simple, unplug when not in use.

Reuse something- Have an old t-shirt that is ready to be thrown out? Turn it into grocery bag, a scarf or rags to curl your hair. The internet is filled with amazing DIY upcycle projects where you take something destined for the garbage, and create something new out of it. There are even some crafts for kids that require very little material but teach a valuable lesson in reusing such as toilet-paper roll pencil/ marker organizers or piggy banks made from reused coffee containers.

Shop second-hand- In the market for some new casserole dishes? A new roasting pan? Candlesticks? Mirror? A new purse? Check out your local second-hand stores first before you buy new. Not only is it cost effective but there is still so much life left in items that people just don’t have use for.

These are just a few ways you can help make a big difference. The most powerful thing we can do is educate younger generations about the importance in treating our earth well, but we must also practice what we preach.

Happy earth day!

A Blank Canvas: Decorating your child’s room on a budget

image1 (1)You’ve seen them. In magazines and on reality tv shows are the most gorgeous nurserys and bedrooms for kids. Everything matches and is colour coordinated, the chandelier in the middle of the room creates the perfect ambiance, there is an abundance of storage tastefully hidden inside the most beautiful set of closet doors and the most luxurious bedding sets the stage for the most comfortable night’s rest.

Enter reality.

Don’t get me wrong. There are so many moms out there who can make magic with their children’s bedrooms, and serious kudos to them. I am jealous because I am not one of them.

When I was pregnant with my first I OBSESSED about every detail that went into decorating her room. I avoided displaying certain toys because they didn’t match the decor and I must have changed the layout of the room around 100 times before I felt the room had the perfect flow.

Once the infant moments were over and the toddler years hit, I began to incorporate more and more of my daughter’s personality and ‘likes’ into her bedroom.

Here is a list of budget-friendly, DIY ideas to decorate your child’s room or a play room.

1.  Finger paint. One way to remember an afternoon of fun with your wee one is by picking up a canvas or two from the dollar store, and having a blast with some finger paints. Choose colours that work with the room and the rest is totally up to the imagination.

2. Wall decals. These are the coolest! Just peel, stick and voila! You can make any room stand out with minimal effort and the best part- they’re not permanent. Such a great idea if you’re renting or nervous to commit to a specific look.

3. Quote signs. When it comes to quotes, I’m a total sucker. I love inspirational and motivational quotes on items but I have a hard time spending the hefty price that usually accompanies them. My solution is to use some spare wood or even pick up a cheap canvas, some paint, and paint brushes and create your own. Don’t dwell on the fact that ‘you’re not crafty’ or ‘there’s no way I could do that’. Try something new and give it a go. You may surprise yourself. A little bit of time and next to nothing in cost, you can create your own customized quote boards ready to inspire.

4. Photo frames. As mentioned in some of my previous posts, I’m a second-hand store addict and LOVE to shop for old picture frames. Spray paint or regular paint can give an old frame new life. It’s also never been easier (or cheaper) to print photos. Print your favorite pictures of you and your babe, frame them, and hang.

However you choose to decorate your little one’s space, make sure to have fun with it. At least once a day, Memphis points to one of her ‘originals’ and the look of pride and happiness on her face, knowing that she made something so pretty that mommy hung it up, is the greatest!!

Much love mommas

xo

 

 

 

 

Breakfast…Eat It!

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I know, you’ve heard it all before. From your mom to your favourite talk show host, to your kids and beyond, ‘You need to eat breakfast’ is a phrase which I used to hate.

Being in the restaurant industry for so long, my days used to start late and I always felt I needed to compensate by getting stuff done quickly. Laundry, grocery shopping, cleaning, meeting friends for lunch, etc. all had to happen as soon as my feet hit the ground in the morning.

I used every excuse in the book to avoid it, ‘I’m not hungry’, ‘I don’t have time’ and my favourite ‘I ate the crust off of my daughter’s toast so I’m good.’ I used them all and for years I avoided the dreaded ‘breakfast’.

I have no idea really, why I was so high and mighty on avoiding breakfast. Growing up, my mom never let me leave the house without something in my belly. I think the transition hit when I was in high school and when it became ‘cool’ to come to school with a big cup of coffee and skip out on the breakfast. It took me until I was pregnant with my first, and especially now that I’m pregnant with my second, to actually embrace and kind of look forward to the idea of breakfast.

Here are 3 easy peasy breakfast ideas to I use to fuel me for the day. I alternate between them, depending on the day, and it has been relatively easy to find the few minutes it takes to make and eat them. Plus, I always have the ingredients on hand 🙂

Morning smoothie
1 cup of spinach
3/4 cup mixed frozen berries
half an avocado
half a banana
*1/2 cup water
2 tablespoons chia seeds

*Add as much or as little water as you like. I like mine a little thicker so I may use a little less than 1/2 cup.

Throw all ingredients into a baby bullet, or a blender if that’s your preference, and blend until smooth. Pour into a travel cup and you have breakfast ready to go.

Overnight Oats
I just got hooked on these over the March Break. I’ve eaten them everyday for breakfast and they’re fantastic because I can prep it the night before. The original recipe I tried was from SkinnyTaste and it was delicious (click here for the recipe). I’ve modified the recipe a little to suit my constant craving for anything peanut butter.

Peanut Butter Overnight Oats
1/4 cup quick oats (different oats will give different results)
1/2 cup almond milk (or any kind of milk)
1/2 a banana cut up into chunks
1 tablespoon peanut butter
1 teaspoon honey
pinch of cinnamon
1/2 tablespoon of chia seeds
mason jar with lid

Combine all ingredients into a mason jar and shake well. Pop in fridge overnight and enjoy in the morning. I also like to add a few almonds on top for some crunch 🙂

Chia Seed Pudding
I LOVE chia seed pudding. I eat it at all times throughout the day and can’t get enough. There are a million recipes for it on the internet that sound divine, but I really like mine relatively plain. This recipe can also be made at night and ready for breakfast the next morning.

3 tablespoons chia seeds
1 cup almond milk (or any milk)
1 tablespoon honey
3 or 4 strawberries cut up into chunks (optional)
1/4 banana cut into chunks (optional)
Mason jar with lid

Throw all ingredients into a mason jar and shake. Refrigerate overnight and enjoy.

Although these breakfasts take a little effort and a little pre-planning, you will feel better about having a healthy way to start the day and will help to avoid the 10am, ‘I’m so freaking hangry’ freak-out (make sure to keep snacks in your purse or diaper bag for these moments).

Until next time,
Keep it simple and try to enjoy every second 🙂

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Weeknight Made from Scratch Hacks

image1Is it just me or is there is never enough time on the weekends? Weekends are filled with music lessons, play dates, cleaning the house, grocery shopping, meal planning, laundry (oh the laundry), organizing for the upcoming week and trying to get in some ‘rest’ time, which for me it’s an hour of watching Gilmore Girls and eating popcorn in my bed.

Although I probably work harder at home on weekends, if it wasn’t for all of the prep work to set me up, there is no way I’d be able to survive the week. Here is a list of some of the things I do to ensure I set myself up for success throughout the week

Wash and prepare your produce. My daughter is on a carrot and celery kick lately so I am all over keeping these snack-ready in the fridge. I also wash, cut up and store lettuce, bell-peppers, and cucumbers. Having these on hand makes making dinner so much simpler- hello having a salad ready to eat in two minutes 🙂

On Sunday, lay out children’s clothes for the week. Sounds crazy, I know, but this has been an awesome time saver. Match shirts with pants and have socks, undershirts or whatever is needed ready to go.

Use your crockpot as much as you can. My crockpot is my most utilized kitchen appliance, besides maybe the coffee maker. We cook EVERYTHING in there. Besides the usual soups and chili, we often cook roasts, chicken breasts, pork chops and even meatloaf in our crockpot. I throw in the frozen meat in the morning before I leave for work and by the time we get home, we have a hot meal waiting for us. The meat does tend to end up quite tender and can sometimes break when taking it out but I’ll take the hot, cooked, tender meat versus getting home late and trying to figure out what to make.

Write it out. Trying to keep track of meetings, doctor appointments, birthdays etc. can be chaotic. No matter how much I’ve tried to become apart of the technology world with my scheduling, nothing beats writing out where everyone has to be and at what time on one, good, old-fashioned calendar.

Do your grocery shopping once a week. For years I would run to the grocery store 3 or 4 times a week to get ingredients for dinner. With a two-year-old, that just can’t happen anymore. Either myself or my partner are running late or the little one is exhausted and if we stop or don’t follow the exact route home there is going to be some serious two-year-old hell to pay. We don’t meal plan exactly every meal to a T but we know what we like and what we need to make it.

Lastly, when weekends seem to be scheduled to the max, we have been using Walmart’s grocery pick up service. It takes ten minutes to place the order and the next day I can just pick up what I ordered. For $3 someone shops for me, bags it and loads it into my car. AMAZING!

These are just some suggestions on what I do to try to make life a little easier throughout the week. Everyone has their own groove so please share what hacks you have to survive life during the work week.

Until next time friends
xo

Fall Funk

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Fall is my favourite time of year. The beauty of nature as it changes from vibrant greens to golden yellows, reds and browns is magical. The smell of crisp air, pumpkin spice and apple everything is heavenly. The abundance of fall fairs, family Thanksgivings, pumpkin patches, apple orchards and Halloween decorating is  exhilarating. So then why do I always seem to be in a funk around this time?

By nature I am a relatively positive, always look at the bright side, “How does she have so much energy all the time?” kind of person.My family is incredible, I have the greatest friends known to (wo)man, I love my job and yet, I almost always suffer with Debbie Downer attitude this time of year.

I have thought long and hard about what it is about this time of year that gets me feeling all funky; the incessant need to reassess my life and everything in it. If it’s not broke, don’t fix it right? Well then, what gives?

It has been suggested to me that maybe because my birthday is in October I’m feeling some ‘getting older blues’ but I’m that crazy lady that LOVES my birthday and wholeheartedly embraces getting older. Every year is a new adventure and I am content being in my 30s. My 20s were a complete gong show filled with insecurities, unknowns, and all that ‘who am I?’ nonsense. So that can’t be it.

Is it because of the weather? The days are getting shorter and it is getting darker and darker earlier making it reasonable to be in bed by 8pm throughout the week.  Fall is the gentle reminder that winter is coming and it will hit with a vengeance with all of its polar vortexes and wind chills. It will eventually take ten minutes longer in the morning to get enough clothing on so I don’t freeze but it will take even longer to psych myself up enough to walk out the door. Clearly there is some hostility there so it could be due in part to the weather but I don’t think that’s the sole cause.

Regardless of what causes my fall funk, I always snap out of it after a week or so and relinquish all the negative vibes floating around in my head. What helps me combat my Negative Nancy state? It’s simple- me time. Seriously! Spending a little time by myself usually kicks the funk away. Taking a bath by myself, reading a book (not a children’s book), binge-watching a TV show made for adults or watching a movie (that isn’t animated) from start to finish on Netflix and dabbling in my hobbies are always the first to be cut when I run out of time at the end of the day, so I make sure that when I’m feeling funky, I amp up the me time.

So for all you momma’s out there feeling a little fall funk, pour yourself a glass of vino, cuddle up in a blanket and indulge in some Netflix or have a hot bath and read a can’t-put-it-down book. Take some much deserved YOU time, forget about the laundry and dishes, and kick that funk!

Much love ladies,
Richelle