Simple Summer Picnics

One of my favourite things to do with the kids is a family picnic. We usually wait for Doug to get home from work then pack up the car to head to a nearby park for a fun filled dinner different from our everyday. I put the picnic together in the afternoon while the kids are down for their naps (if they fall asleep – they have been little devils lately!) that way we can head straight out the door when Doug is home from work. He’s usually very hungry so he’s happy to go sooner than later!

Some of my favorite foods to pack include:

  • cheese and crackers
  • pepperoni sticks
  • salami
  • ham and cheese sandwiches
  • caprese salad (for Doug and I; the kids refuse to eat this!)
  • mixed nuts
  • apples and almond butter
  • strawberries
  • watermelon
  • oatmeal cookies
  • juice boxes

Most of this stuff we usually have on hand already, it’s just a matter of cutting everything up and putting it into containers. Since we drive to the park, I just throw everything into a big cooler and Doug packs the car. We have a huge blanket we bring to sit on and some reusable plastic plates and cutlery I have in a picnic basket. I also usually bring some things for the kids to play with like their favorite stuffies, books, and toys for the sandbox.

Picnics have been one of my favourite traditions to start with my family! I plan to do for many years to come. Eventually I hope the kids won’t be such picky eaters and we can be a little more adventurous with the meals! What’s your favourite family tradition?

Baking Day – Yummy Cookie Edition!

Hey guys! So today it was raining outside and I thought I would whip up some cookies. I don’t know about you, but cookies always put a smile on my face.

I have been on a new health kick recently so surfed around on the web to look for a healthy-ish cookie recipe. I found a great one for oatmeal raisin cookies. Check out the recipe below!

It’s super easy to make and very nutritious. I have plenty left over (even after my kids got into them, lol) so I will have a nice heaping plate of cookies to bring to my book club tomorrow night. We mostly drink wine at my book club so the cookies will be a nice addition!

Anyway, give the recipe a try and let me know what you think!

Ingredients

  • 1 1/3 cups of quick cooking oats or rolled oats
  • 1/3 cup of all purpose flour
  • pinch of salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking powder
  • 1/4 teaspoon of baking soda
  • 1 teaspoon of ground cinnamon
  • 1 teaspoon of vanilla
  • 6 tablespoons of room temperature unsalted butter ( margarine may be substituted)
  • 3/4 cup of light brown sugar
  • 1 egg
  • 3/4 cup of dark raisins
  • 1/3 cup of flax seeds

Instructions

  1. Preheat the oven to 350 degrees and line a baking sheet with parchment paper.
  2. Using a hand mixer, beat the butter and brown sugar until fluffed up ( 1-2 minutes) and add the egg, cinnamon and vanilla and beat for another 30 seconds until smooth.
  3. In a separate bowl, mix the oats, raisins, flax seeds and flour with baking powder and baking soda and pinch of salt.
  4. Then using a rubber spatula, fold the oat mixture into the egg mixture. The dough will be a little crumbly, that’s ok.
  5. Using a standard tablespoon measuring spoon or a small ice cream scoop or oiled hands, pick up golf ball sizes of the dough and place them on the cookie sheet about 1/2 inches apart ( these cookies don’t spread too much).
  6. Bake the cookies ( middle rack) for 12-14 minutes depending on the size of your cookies. Take them out while the centre is still soft but the edges have set ( if you like a chewy cookie) or let them bake an extra 2 minutes until the centres are set too if you like a crunchier cookie.
  7. Cool on the baking sheet for 2 minutes before attempting to remove them.
  8. Now enjoy!
  9. To freeze the dough: wrap it in wax or parchment paper and freeze it as a log or pre-measure it into golf ball sizes. When ready to bake slice the dough ( if it’s a log) or bake the gold ball frozen doughs at the same temperature for an extra 2 minutes longer.

Yours truly,

Cindy

Spring Break Activities

Spring Break has arrived in Canada and I am have been searching for activities to keep Alicia and Jamie busy over the next two weeks. We were hoping to go away, but unfortunately Doug has to work. But that’s okay because the kids and I are looking forward to relaxing at home and having some fun too! It can be so expensive going to museums and aquariums so I’m trying to brainstorm free things to do at or around home. Without further ado, here are some of the free activities we are looking forward to over the next two weeks:

  • Go for a walk in our neighbourhood park and complete a scavenger hunt with items from the forest
  • Have fun in the kitchen and make baked donuts
  • Attend a St. Patrick’s Day parade
  • Create some fun St. Patrick’s Day crafts for the kids to wear to the parade and decorate their bedrooms
  • Make a chia pet
  • Organize the kids room together and give away at least three toys
  • Make our own playdoh
  • Prepare some Easter cards for the kids friends at school
  • Bake cookies together
  • Clean up the garden together (aka let the kids dig in the garden)

I’m planning on doing one of these activities a day to keep us busy during our holiday! We will also make sure to save lots of time for naps and nutritious meals to keep everyone happy! What is everyone else up to for Spring Break?

Yours truly,

Cindy

Nutritious and Kid Friendly Pasta

With two kids under the age of five, it can be very challenging to prepare healthy meals the kids will actually eat. We all know how fussy our kids can be about eating their vegetables! I like to get creative and sneak veggies into some of their favorite foods in a way that they won’t even notice! The Italian in me loooves traditional pasta dishes, but with a healthy kick. There’s a great basic marinara sauce recipe I found on AllRecipes that’s very similar to the one my grandmother taught me to make. She adds a couple of secret ingredients I have been sworn to secrecy on, but trust me that this recipe is very similar and very delicious! I’ve modified the original recipe slightly to increase the health factor to my unsuspecting little ones. 😉

Marinara Sauce

Ingredients:

  • 2 (14.5 ounce) cans stewed tomatoes
  • 1 (6 ounce) can tomato paste
  • 4 tablespoons chopped fresh parsley
  • 1 clove garlic, minced
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • 1 teaspoon salt
  • 1/4 teaspoon ground black pepper
  • 6 tablespoons olive oil
  • 1/3 cup finely diced onion
  • 1 finely grated zucchini
  • 2 finely grated carrots
  • 1 cup finely diced mushrooms.

Directions:

  1. In a food processor place Italian tomatoes, tomato paste, chopped parsley, minced garlic, oregano, salt, and pepper. Blend until smooth.
  2. In a large skillet over medium heat saute the finely chopped onion in olive oil for 2 minutes. Add the blended tomato sauce.
  3. Use grater attachment on food processor to grate the zucchini, carrots, and mushrooms. Add to tomato sauce.
  4. Simmer for 30 minutes, stirring occasionally.
  5. Serve over whole wheat spaghetti noodles with lots of Parmesan cheese.

If you try this recipe, please let me know what you think! Once the vegetables have cooked in the tomato sauce it’s hard to taste or see them – your kids will be none the wiser!

Yours truly,

Cindy

Hello from Hawaii and Merry Christmas!

Hi everyone! Wishing you all a merry Christmas from Lovely Honolulu! Doug and I got tired of the cold in Toronto so we decided to spring for an extended family trip to the Lovely Island this Christmas. I’m writing this at the reception of our hotel in Honolulu, Right before we head down to the beach and catch some sun and waves.

There is so much to do here in Honolulu! This morning I persuaded Doug to stay with the kids in the hotel room while I tracked out to Diamondhead, which is a local inactive volcano which has become a hikers paradise! It takes about 40 minutes to make it to the top if you’re going at a good speed, and the views are absolutely incredible! If I lived here I’m sure I would do it every day and never grow tired of those incredible views.

The food here is also pretty amazing. There is definitely an Asian influence here, particularly Japanese, which means that there’s plenty of great sushi to go around. Doug grew up in the prairies , so sushi is not very popular, and he wasn’t particularly fond of it. But me and the kids love it, so we definitely been eating our fill. Yum!

We’re spending a couple more nights here in the city, before we head up to the North Shore for a few days. We’ve heard that the North Shore is very different: it’s much more peaceful, there’s far less development, and therefore far fewer crowds. It should be the perfect place to rest, relax, and have a lovely family Christmas. If you’re interested in planning a similar trip then you should definitely check out the Go Hawaii website, which was super helpful for us!

I’ll be sure to update you on the rest of my trip soon! Until then, from my family to yours wishing you a very merry Christmas and a happy new year!

Yours truly!

Cindy

 

Lovely Gift From Doug! :)

Hello everyone! I hope you’re having a lovely fall! The air is getting a whole lot colder here in Canada, but the romance of the season makes it all worth while.

My husband bought me a lovely gift the other day for our anniversary and I thought I would tell you about it. I had heard about them for a long time and I’ve always been curious, but leave it to Doug to push me to take the plunge and try something new outside my comfort zone! Ha ha.

He bought me this amazing sounding handmade singing bowl from Tibet! What’s funny is that Doug isn’t really into things like yoga or natural health, although I am. I guess all of those dinnertime conversations that I have led about natural health are rubbing off on him! 🙂

The bowl has been really amazing to use. I have never heard anything sound quite the way it does. You can play it in a few different ways. For example, you can use the padded mallet that comes with the bowl to strike the bowl, which creates a louder noise that’s sort of like hitting a gong. Or, alternatively, you can rub the padded mallet on the rim of the bowl, which creates vibrations which essentially sound like a pack of angels from heaven singing in unison. It’s pretty incredible!

The singing bowl is made in Tibet and sold by a company called Shanti Bowl. They have a really nice website – check them out!

It definitely takes some practice to make your bowl sing, and, between you and me, it took me the better part of an afternoon to get it right! But, it’s sort of like riding a bike: once you pick it up, it’s pretty easy to do it anytime you like. Doug has been struggling to make the bowl sing, and I’ve been teasing him for lacking the right soft touch! Leave it to a man to be too rough with the padded mallet! Ha ha.

Apparently singing bowls have all sorts of health benefits, like decreased blood pressure, better sleep, and they can even help you enter a meditative state. I practised yoga for a long time and I’ve always enjoyed the meditation at the end, but I’ve never really been that good at it. Hopefully it’s something I can do more in the future, and hopefully my bowl can be a great aid to that! Every mother can attest to the need for a little bit of relaxation and alone time once a while, and meditation seems like a great natural extension of that.

Anyway, all of this writing about my singing bowl has made me want to play it for a while! So that’s what I’m going to do, haha. That’s all for me for now. Hope you’re all having a great week and talk to you next time!

Yours truly,

Cindy

Back From Vacation on West Coast!

Hello everyone! I just got back from a lovely vacation with Doug and the kids. We went to British Columbia, which, for the non-Canadians out there, is the western – most province in Canada. It’s also the warmest province, at least during the winter months, where they tend to get lots of rain but little if any snow. It’s also an absolutely gorgeous province filled with mountains ocean views and plenty of nature!

I have been to Vancouver before but never with Doug and the kids, and I must say we had an amazing time! We have a few friends in Vancouver, they were more than happy to show us around and take us to some of their favourite places.

The highlight was definitely spending time on the Grouse Mountain, which is this lovely mountain with the gondola something like 30 minutes by car from downtown Vancouver. In the winter it’s a great local ski hill, and during the summer it’s a great place to catch amazing views Vancouver. They even have some amazing attractions at the top, like a miniature zoo with a couple grizzly bears! The kids were so thrilled to see Winnie the Pooh! They also have a couple very nice restaurants at the top of the mountain, so you can enjoy a lovely meal with the family while catching amazing views.

Vancouver is also really well-known some of it’s amazing beaches. There’s this amazing park right next to downtown Vancouver called Stanley Park, which is sort of like Central Park in New York City. There are three or four excellent beaches in the vicinity of Stanley Park, clued in one: third beach which is somewhat isolated. That makes it perfect beach to relax and get away from the throngs of crowds you typically see at other beaches.

We also spent part of our trip in Victoria, which is the capital city of British Columbia, and located on Vancouver Island, a short ferry ride from vancouver. The ferry ride actually turned out to be an amazing experience, since halfway through the ride the captain announced that a group of whales were swimming some distance away from the boat. After the announcement, most of the passengers rush to the window and we caught some amazing views of how lovely pod of whales. The kids loved it!

Victoria is a very cool city with lots of fascinating architecture, so Doug and I really ate it up. There are also lots of really nice gift shops, so, being the shopping adict where I am, I enjoyed touring the shops and picking out gifts for my friends back home. The food in Victoria is also amazing, with plenty of healthy options.

All in all, it was an amazing trip. I truly envy people that make their home in British Columbia. How about you, have you been on any exciting trips this summer, or do you have any in-store? Let me know!

Until next time – yours truly,

Cindy

Best Chicken Soup Ever!

Hello, welcome to my second blog post! On today’s episode, I’m going to tell you about this amazing recipe that my family absolutely loves, and which has been handed down to me from my mom and her mom before that! This recipe is sure to please everyone!

This is a recipe for a really, really, really good chicken soup! Its very simple, cleansing and great for a cold day when you’re craving something warm and liquid!

The first step is to prepare the broth. Start with a big pot and place a whole chicken inside. I tend to prefer organically raised chicken, but if your budget requires it non-organic will be fine as well. Then, fill the pot with water leaving about an inch or two clearance from the brim. This is key to make sure that the soup doesn’t boil over the rim!

Once you’ve got your chicken bathing in it’s bath, bring the pot to boil. I don’t bother putting any salt or spices in the soup at this point, as there is a risk that you’ll put too much in. In addition, it’s also good at this point to not salt or spice the water so that it’s free to pick up as much flavour as possible from the chicken.

Once you have brought it to boil, reduce the heat to a simmer and start putting vegetables into the pot. I tend to begin preparing vegetables while the water is heating up. You can be creative here and put in pretty much anything, although you certainly can’t go wrong with some carrots, onions, celery, and other such vegetables. If you’d like the soup to be a little bit heavier, it’s a great option to put in some chopped potatoes. This will add a delicious flavour and make the soup a bit more starchy, which I love.

Once all of that stuff is in you can increase the temperature a bit and bring it back to a low boil. After 10 or 15 minutes of this, I tend to like to dip a spoon into the pot and check the flavour. In most cases a few tablespoons of salt and a dash of pepper will be enough, and that’s typically how I like it since I enjoy the flavour of the chicken vegetables and don’t want to drown those out with spices. This is your chance to be creative!

If you haven’t added any potatoes and you’d like to add some carbs to the soup, I recommend adding whole wheat noodles to the mix. In the past I would typically cook the pasta in a separate pot, strain it, and then add it to the soup, but in recent years I have found it just as easy, and just as delicious, to put the noodles directly in the pot for the last 15 minutes of the cooking cycle. That keeps things simple and I also find that the noodles are more flavourful that way as well!

The result is a simple, super cleansing and delicious soup that didn’t cost very much and which will feed and please the entire family! You can take the chicken out, slice off the meat, and use that for packing lunches for the rest of the week. It’s pretty handy! And, while chicken soup can’t cure a cold, it will definitely make you feel a lot better if that’s the case!

That’s all for me for now! Hope you enjoy the recipe, and don’t hesitate to be in touch if you have any questions!

Yours truly,

Cindy

Introductions!

Hi! My name is Cindy, and I’m the one behind this blog! Thanks very much for stopping by and reading my very first blog post. Let me tell you a little bit about myself. I’m 36 years old and live in Scarborough, Ontario, Canada. I’m a lucky mother of two (Alicia, 3, and Jamie, 5) and have a hard-working husband named Doug. Doug has done pretty well in his business (real estate), so I’ve had the flexibility to stay home, take care of the house, and raise our kids.

Before I had my second son, I worked as a paralegal in a small law firm in Toronto. I practiced mostly family law, which was frankly very trying emotionally. However, it was very intellectually stimulating, and sometimes I find myself missing that aspect when my days are filled with keeping the house in order!

One of my favourite things to do is find healthy meals to make for my family. I come from a family background which includes a bit of Italian, so I have plenty of interesting recipes handed down from my mother and grandmother.

Another thing I absolutely love to do is exercise and enjoy nature. We live very close to a great gym, so after my morning tasks are done I often try to sneak out for an hour to enjoy yoga class or some time on a stationary bike. Winters in Canada can be pretty harsh, so I tend to spend more time in the gym during the winter months. During the spring and summer, and even during the fall, I love to spend time running on forest trails.

Like many other people, I’m also quite addicted to certain TV shows! Perhaps it’s my legal background, but I found myself particularly addicted to Suits and breaking bad (Saul Goodman is such a funny character), which makes it a challenge because it’s not exactly something I’d like my boys to watch on the television, not the best influences! I call it my little sin, and Doug agrees!

That’s a little bit about me! I plan to write on this blog about family life, interesting meals I make at home, and fun things I do with my family. Stay tuned for many more posts!

Yours truly,

Cindy