Thursday, June 30

I'd Like To Kiss the Inventor of the Shellac Manicure

I love nail polish, but I hate chipped nails. All year long, my ritual has been to sit down on Sunday nights in front of Desperate Housewives and give myself a manicure. And all year long, by about Wednesday or Thursday, the colour is chipping and I have to remove it.

Doesn't matter what I try: different brands, base coat, top coat, magic potions. I get four good days, tops. And I can't stand walking around with chipped nails. (Of course I can't. You know I'm weird about stuff like that.)

Then, a few months ago, a coworker showed me her incredible looking nails, and bragged that she was on week two of her manicure, with not a single chip! I was intrigued. She told me it was called Shellac, which I had heard of, but never actually seen in person.

Finally, for Mother's Day, I asked for a gift certificate to go see the same nail technician, and my husband obliged. It took me almost a month to get an appointment, but the results were so worth it.

What happens is this: a special type of polish is used (our technician uses the "Creative" brand; I've seen it described as a polish/gel hybrid) and after each coat, you stick your hand into a little UV light box. The light seals the polish, and it is virtually bone-dry after the last blast of light (not requiring evaporation time like regular polishes). Reach right into your pocket for your keys; your colour won't budge!

You still have your natural nails, but with a gorgeous, shiny polish that will last at least 14 days! (I made my next appointment for three weeks' time. Once you get new regrowth by your nail beds, it starts to look messy.)

The most stressful part for me was choosing a colour, since three weeks is a big commitment! Although I'm much more of a red girl, I went with a gorgeous pink that I couldn't resist. I've been pulling all the pinks out of my wardrobe for the last few days to go with it.

Here are my hands on Day 10 of the manicure...not a single chip or sign of wear! You can see a bit of regrowth, but that's it. (There's a bit of glare at the tips from the light, but in person they still look perfect.)



Some people wonder if the UV lights are dangerous, and while the power is very minimal, there is no real research to answer one way or the other. Wearing sunscreen on your hands couldn't hurt.

It's possible to take off the Shellac at home by soaking in acetone, but it's recommended that you return to the salon. Removal takes about ten minutes and most of the time is free (of course, the technician is hoping that you're back for another treatment). There is no damage to the nails.

How much would you expect to pay (or be willing to pay) for the Shellac experience? Personally, I find it a bargain at $35. Now, to keep it up permanently would be a bit of a luxury (which at this point I intend to indulge in), but for any occasion that would normally send you scurrying to the salon, this would absolutely be worth it.

To steal from an old (if slightly inappropriate) expression: once you go Shellac, you never go back.

Note: In case this post sounds suspiciously like a paid advertisement, I'd like you to know that I'm not receiving a cent, just sticking with the original theme of my blog: sharing the things This Mom Loves.

Monday, June 27

Am I Normal? Wait, Don't Answer That...

This is not meant to be humorous. Now, if my self-deprecation amuses you a little bit, that's an acceptable by-product, but I am actually dead serious.

I have had people remark (especially after seeing my home or classroom) that I seem to have it all together. And while I know that is of course untrue, I've been okay with that misperception being out there.

But you know how some stars will show themselves without makeup to prove that they're just like us? Well, here I am without makeup. So to speak. (I don't think there is a great need out there for me to prove that I'm not always red-carpet ready from head to toe. My physical have-it-togetherness doesn't seem to spark as much discussion.)

Deep breath...here it is:




If you don't get the point, then you may not know me very well, or perhaps you're all set to answer the title question in the (h - - -,  no!)  negative.

You see, these are photos of my daughters' rooms. And this isn't a "ha ha, kids cause clutter" kind of moment. Instead, I am going out on a limb and sharing with you that when I walk in each of their doors, my blood pressure spikes and my heart races. I'm really not kidding.

At this point in life, despite my (or perhaps because of my) neat-freak role modelling, Frannie is clearly a hoarder. I used to think that Maggie was more like me, however this is what her room now looks like, thanks to her birthday haul:


I'm sure there are moms out there who could not care less about such things. However, even at work, when somehow my mind drifts to the state of my daughters' rooms, it stresses me out.

Why don't I just clean them? Well, here's the thing: I can remember reaching a point as a child (and I wish I had an age reference to help me out) when my parents no longer touched my room, and in fact did not enter without permission. That said, I was obsessive-compulsive about clutter from an early age, so it was probably easy for them to relinquish that control.

I want my girls to have the same privacy and ownership of their space and "stuff" that I valued as a child, but at this point I can't get it to surpass my (excessive?) need for order in my home.

I cannot wait for summer holidays to start next week, when we will have the time to devote to the sorting, storing and donation of toys. (I'm thinking a movie afternoon may be the carrot I need to dangle to get the girls feeling energized and generous enough to be of assistance here.)

There was once a blogger who wrote about letting go of her need to keep the toys sorted, and that perhaps it infringed on her child's creativity. My (convenient) theory is: if the Littlest Pet Shop animals want to have tea with the little rubber Princesses, or the Barbies and Strawberry Shortcake are remote-control-car cruising together, that's fine by me. As long as they all go back to their own homes at night like civilized people do. (This isn't the place to discuss exceptions to that rule.)

By the way, why do kids have so much freakin' STUFF anyway? I would swear on a bible that we do not spoil our girls with material goods...but between Santa, two sets of grandparents, and more aunts and uncles than they can count, even Christmas and birthday gifts accumulate pretty quickly. I've heard of philanthropic little children who give away their presents, or ask for donations to charity...but if your child isn't suggesting that, wouldn't it be mean to put it on her? What sorts of gifts can be requested that actually make kids happy (as the giver always wants the gift to be well-received) but don't just end up in the pile with all the rest? (Note to Frannie's future gift-givers: Cineplex gift cards will be a huge hit. She does take after her mother in that regard.)

Oh, and if you have any tips or suggestions for what to do with the accumulation of Frannie's first year of school products, I would LOVE to hear them. I want to save the really few important pieces, and sneak the rest into the recycling, but I know there are cool ideas out there for amalgamating such things.

(On a related note, as a teacher, I would like to humbly say to every parent of every student I ever sent home with a whole bunch of crap: I'm sorry. But it had to be done.)

I know when people have two storey homes, it's easier to just let the kids' rooms be as they are, but guests at our bungalow frequently walk down the bedroom hallway where they can be affronted by the mess...and just closing the doors makes the hall too dark and suspicious looking.

So, am I the only one with these issues? Are others just mildly annoyed by (or oblivious to) clutter, or do some of you share my physical and mental reactions to all of the "stuff"? When do you start allowing your kids to have responsibility? I know I am teaching them all sorts of organizational skills which will benefit them in the future...but am I stifling them by choosing the "hows" and "wheres" of their systems, and passing along my own slightly unhealthy practices?

HELP ME!!!

Sunday, June 26

Kids Books: Anastasia's Newest Picks

My nine year old niece "Anastasia" (her self-chosen pseudonym) has both the honour and the responsibility of reading and reviewing books that come my way which are geared to kids in her age bracket. Here she shares a few of her recent favourites:

Bless This Mouse by Lois Lowry




Summary: Hildegarde, a mouse, sent all of the mice to the church cemetery in fear of the Great X. However, Hildegarde figures out  a way to stop it from happening. When they enter the church, the blessing of the animals has begun and Hildegarde, after saving a friend, gets saved as well.

Favourite Part: I liked the part when Hildegarde is blessed by the priest.
Non-Favourite Part: I did not like when the mouse friend is trapped! It was scary!

Age group: I think this book is for 7 to 11 year olds.

(This Mom's note: Who doesn't love Lois Lowry? Sure, she's written some classics, but when I was a kid I devoured her Anastasia series. I bought them with my own money and read them over and over. They rank right up there for me with The Babysitters' Club, Nancy Drew Files, and Sweet Valley High.)


World Without Fish by Mark Kurlansky

World Without Fish

World Without Fish is abook that inspired me to help stop overfishing and pollution as much as I could. It gives a detailed look at what could happen if we stop caring for our planet. I recommend this book for kids 10 and up. If you care about our planet, then World Without Fish is perfect for you!

From the publisher: Written by a master storyteller, World Without Fish connects all the dots—biology, economics, evolution, politics, climate, history, culture, food, and nutrition—in a way that kids can really understand.

World Without Fish tells kids exactly what they can do: Find out where those fish sticks come from. Tell your parents what’s good to buy, and what’s not. Ask the waiter if the fish on the menu is line-caught. And follow simple rules: Use less plastic, and never eat endangered fish like bluefin tuna.

Trouble at the Zoo and Rescue! (Bindi Wildlife Adventures) 

(These titles are from a new series based on the fictional adventures of Bindi Irwin, daughter of the late wildlife expert Steve Irwin.)





Says Anastasia: "Trouble at the Zoo" teaches us that sometimes what you want isn't best for everyone. A teenage boy tries to steal a Komodo dragon from the zoo! However Bindi catches him and uses her parrot to retrieve it. Zac realizes that he would npot be able to care for the Komodo dragon and apologizes. This book is for kids aged 7-8.

In "Rescue!", Bindi goes to Africa and discovers tha the place she is staying is where tourists hunt big game! It teaches us that you shouldn't be dishonest, and the person who owned the park was caught. This book is also for 7 and 8 year olds.

Rebecca's Rashness (Book 7 in the series called "The Sisters Eight") by Lauren Baratz-Logsted


I thoroughly enjoyed this book. Rebecca's time has come! She is to receive her power! If you like magic, friendship and wisdom then this book is just right for you. I liked when Rebecca received her power. This book is for 8-10 year olds.

And finally...

Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Projects For Kids by Michael J. Caduto

Catch the Wind, Harness the Sun: 22 Super-Charged Projects for Kids

This book teaches that there are many ways to destroy and save the earth, and you are a part of it. You can destroy the earth or save it. Of course, the book encourages you to save it, because it includes 22 science projects to help save the earth, and is packed with ways to avoid our earth being destroyed. I tried an experiment myself and loved it! This book is for 8-13 year olds.

Thanks, Anastasia! Always a pleasure to have my talented niece sharing her thoughts here on my blog.

Thursday, June 23

Great Canadian Blog Bash and a Hallmark Giveaway!







Perhaps I'm biased, but I feel confident saying that Canada is the best country in the world. I enjoy visiting elsewhere (the sunny south, or incredible New York City, for example) but I could never imagine living anywhere else.

As a teacher, I am well aware that many of our systems (e.g. education, health care) are models which other countries strive to follow...or should! How lucky we are to be able to enjoy such a high standard of living and offer it to  our children!

I appreciate the beauty of the four seasons...although one season I enjoy much better from the inside looking out. Where better to enjoy a fire, a hot tub, or a steaming mug of hot chocolate than right here in Canada?

I'm also proud of our Canadian talent, particularly the moms I've had the opportunity to speak with for my Momterview feature. Click here to read my interviews with Canadian celebs like Dr. Marla Shapiro, Debbie Travis, Tracy Moore, Marci Ien, Sarah Richardson, Hayley Wickenheiser, Jamie Sale, Laurie Gelman and Jessica Holmes. (This has been my absolute favourite part of blogging, in case you couldn't tell.)

So, welcome to my Canadian blog. I come with the perspective of a teacher and freelance writer, as well as a mom to two girls (ages 5 and 3). I blog about parenting and education, offer reviews and giveaways, and sometimes just editorialize...which is the luxury of being your own editor! See the sidebar if you'd like to follow through GFC or Twitter or subscribe through e-mail to catch all the action.

To celebrate the Great Canadian Blog Bash, and since I'm a member of their Press Pause Panel, Hallmark Canada agreed to give away a fantastic prize to one lucky Canadian reader: their recordable "Life Makes the Best Story" picture frame.
Hallmark Frames FRT1013 Life Makes the Best Story 4 X 6 Recordable Frame
It comes in a wood finish, large enough to hold a 4 x 6 photo, and the best part is that you can record a 10 second personal message...or leave it to the recipient to record their own. O Canada, perhaps? :-) The frame retails for $29.99 at Hallmark stores across the country.

This would make an amazing gift for any number of Canadian summer occasions: baby shower or birth, engagement, wedding, anniversary, graduation, retirement...what moment would you use it for? Standing in front of one of our country's monuments on vacation? Enjoying the Canadian wilderness? Or just to show off your favourite little Canadian(s)?

This giveaway is open to Canucks only, and is shorter than usual to wrap up at the end of Blog Bash week. I'll choose the winner after 11:59 p.m. on Friday, July 1st.

I just started using Google Docs for my giveaways, so please DO NOT leave a comment below as your entry. Instead, fill out the following form and click "Submit". That's it!



Just to recap: The comments section for this post is not connected to the giveaway. Please complete the form to be entered to win the Hallmark frame. If you have anything else you'd like to share, then feel free to comment away below! A note to GCBB visitors: this is the last week of school, so I won't be able to return too many visits until the final bell rings...but then I'll hop away!

Enjoy the Great Canadian Blog Bash!

Wednesday, June 22

Wednesday Words from Michael J. Fox

From the June 2011 issue of Today's Parent magazine:

"Always be available to your kids. Because if you say, 'Give me five minutes, give me 10 minutes,' it'll be 15, it'll be 20. And then when you get there, the shine will have worn off whatever it is they wanted to share with you. I've never gotten up to see something one of my kids wanted to show me and not been rewarded."

Michael J. Fox


Monday, June 20

Have You Thanked Your Child's Teacher Today?

Let me get this out of the way: I know several of my students' moms read this blog, and this is not a hint. I feel very valued and appreciated by you, and so my mission is to help ensure that other teachers out there feel the same way.

To those of you without school aged children, this tip can also apply to any sort of caregiver, daycare provider, etc. who likely spends more waking hours with your child than you do.


The end of a school year is a very natural time to let these special people know what they have meant to you and your child, and you don't necessarily have to spend a cent.

I promise you that the very best gift a teacher can receive is a heartfelt letter from you and your child outlining the best parts of the year, and what specific class trips, projects, units, and teacher's actions were memorable and helped to make the year positive. It has to be genuine, but hopefully your child's educator offered you something praise-worthy in 2010/2011!

If you insist on spending money, feel free to take a look at my What Teachers Really Want For Christmas article, but I swear: store-bought gifts are not the point.

I have several touching notes and cards that will forever remain in my "keep" file, because they mean so much to me, and give me the affirmation and strength I need to keep inspiring me in the classroom. This year, after sharing with parents that I was a little nervous about EQAO (our provincial standardized testing) one mom wrote me a beautiful letter about how she didn't care what the scores are, because I had provided her child with so much more than testing could ever show. (A tear-jerker, for sure!)

Yes, of course, we teachers are just doing our "jobs" (and here in Canada are paid very well for it) but "jobs" in this sector involve very personal and important relationships with your children, and a little bit of appreciation goes a long way.

I can guarantee at least fifteen* sets of parents that I have devoted my heart and soul (and many sleepless nights) to your children this year, and I'm surrounded by colleagues who have done the same.

On the flip side, I'd like to offer my own gratitude to the parents out there who make their child's education a priority: by checking and signing the agenda book, looking at homework, getting their child to school every day and on time, volunteering when possible, and communicating all concerns and questions. (My daughter is only finishing Junior Kindergarten and I already see that filling out the reading log and writing in the communication book takes effort!)

Forget gifts for the teacher: valuing education is one of the most important gifts you can give your own child.

* Yes, I only had fifteen students this year. Gotta love the primary class size cap!

Saturday, June 18

Cars 2 Prize Pack Giveaway (CAN)!

Lightning McQueen and Tow Mater are back with some new wheels and fresh tracks in Cars 2, only in theatres June 24!



When star racecar Lightning McQueen (voice of Owen Wilson) and the incomparable tow truck Mater (voice of Larry the Cable Guy) head overseas to compete in the first-ever World Grand Prix, Mater gets caught up in an intriguing adventure of his own: international espionage!

To go along with the release of this much-anticipated sequel, I have a great prize pack to give away which contains:
  • Cars 2 t-shirt (youth sizes)
  • Cars 2 official movie poster
  • Cars 2 temporary tattoos (2)
  • Cars 2 bumper stickers (3)
  • Cars 2 puzzle
There must be a little Lightning McQueen or Tow Mater fan in your life who would be thrilled to win this prize!





Cars2_3x4_TattooFINAL.jpg

 

This contest is open to Canadians.

This is my first time using a new format for giveaways (Google Docs), so here it goes.

DO NOT leave a comment below. Instead, fill out the following form and click "Submit". That's it! I can access all of the entries in spreadsheet format, and will continue to use random.org to select my winners. (Email readers may have to click on the post title in order to access the form...this is the first time, so I'm learning here too!)

Extra entries if you can (honestly!) answer yes when asked if you:
If you win based on an extra entry, I will be checking to see that you indeed follow/subscribe/etc. So far I have never chosen a winner who hadn't been honest, so I'm not too worried.

The contest will run until 11:59 p.m. Eastern on Saturday, July 2nd 2011 (which just happens to be my birthday, in case you're interested!)

Good luck!

Friday, June 17

Fitness/Nutrition Excuses? TV Host Nadeen Boman Quashes Them All!

What better way to officially wrap up the first Food Week at This Mom Loves than with an expert interview?

I had a chance this week to speak with celebrity trainer and nutrition coach Nadeen Boman (you know her from Slice's "Last 10 Pounds Bootcamp" and "Bulging Brides").

Before our chat, I surveyed my readers for the biggest excuses as to why they don't exercise enough or eat properly. I shared these with Nadeen so she could offer her words of wisdom to kick all of you (us!) into gear. I'll warn you in advance: she's tough!

This Mom: The first excuse has to do with not having enough time for nutrition: being too rushed to make healthy lunches in the mornings, no time to make several trips to the grocery store for fresh produce, or to wash, peel, chop the healthy things that we should be eating. Any tips there?

Nadeen Boman: We don't have time if we don't plan for things, so if you can choose one day a week where you buy all your groceries, and then you come home and prepare them and get everything ready for the week ahead, then there's no excuse not to do it that way.

This Mom: The same "time" excuse came up a lot in terms of exercise as well: the kids are involved in extracurricular activities in the evenings, moms are up early and late doing chores, some have work commitments at night...how do we squeeze in the exercise we need?

Nadeen Boman: You know, we don't need a lot of time to do exercise, and it doesn't have to be that you go to the gym and work out for half an hour on the treadmill and then do some weights. You can do just a walk around a block, and if you're extra keen find a bench to do some pushups or stepups, or do some lunge walking. It really is just about staying active and moving around and not so much having to specifically work muscles, especially for people who can't fit that time in. The other thing is, they do offer half an hour training sessions now that you can book with a personal trainer, so if you do have the funds, that's a great way to utilize just a half hour, to specifically get in there and do it. That way you know you're covering all your body parts, you're getting a balanced workout in, and then you don't have the alignment issues that come from not spending time making sure you're getting stretched and getting your muscles worked in a balanced way.

This Mom: Several of my readers talked about taste, and the fact that sugary snacks just seem to taste better (especially because of cravings) and healthy things aren't always as appealing. What are some good-tasting foods that are still good for us?

Nadeen Boman: It's kind of a myth that healthy food doesn't taste good because we've become addicted to sugar. {I swear she was looking right at me through the phone line when she said this}. We crave it because we haven't gone through that withdrawal to get off it. {Did she say "withdrawal"? If this is a 'blog interview intervention' someone is going to pay! I am now looking around the room frantically.}

If you have a nice fresh salad with all kinds of different vegetables, some fresh chicken, shrimp or salmon in there, and throw on some strawberries or blueberries and pine nuts, that's a delicious-tasting concoction. There's no trick to it; it's a mental thing more than anything where we think it doesn't taste good, but try some different things out. My parents had never tried strawberries on their salad. I just introduced them to that the other day. We have this misconception in our mind, but until we try something I think we have to be open-minded about it.

This Mom: What about snacks? I know I'm an M and M's kind of snacker where I like little pieces of something I can munch on for a while...are there any healthy alternatives to those types of snacks?

Nadeen Boman: Edamame beans are good, or baby cucumbers, snap peas, baby carrots, cherry tomatoes, radishes...for protein, nuts are a great option as long as they're raw and not roasted, and again, one handful is a serving size; you don't want to go overboard as they are high in calories and fat. Popcorn can be a good snack too, especially if it's a choice between chips or popcorn, and as long as you're not soaking it in butter or salt.

The Bulging Brides team

This Mom: What about when you have kids who are picky eaters? Sometimes it seems like why bother making this fresh healthy meal if the kids are just going to turn up their noses at it?

Nadeen Boman: Well, my view is, make the kids do it! {Laughs.} People should force their kids to eat. I know that happened with us and sometimes it backfires, but it's harder when we get older, because you have to eat vegetables and you have to eat fruit. Maybe there's one or two that you don't like, but you can't have kids {or freakish mom bloggers?} saying "I don't want to eat any fruits or any vegetables", because they're just not going to grow up to be healthy people, and parents don't want that for their children. They want their kids to be healthy! So let your kids say that maybe they don't like liver or don't like brussels sprouts but for the majority of things I think we have to lead by example {whoops!} and say "This is healthy and it does taste good," and eventually they will start to like it.

This Mom: What about the issue of motivation? Sometimes TV or the internet are more appealing than getting up and moving, or our to-do list is long and exercise is continually bumped to the bottom.

Nadeen Boman: A lot of the time, we don't feel motivated because it seems like it's too overwhelming and too big a change. The Controlex product {which Nadeen is currently representing; more on it later} really works great as a breakthrough to get over a plateau or kickstart a new program because it gets you results right away. It doesn't take weeks to start working. You take that pill 15 minutes before you eat a meal, and you take it with a glass of water so you're staying hydrated, and it will curb your cravings so you're only eating as much as you need, you're not overeating. So right there, you're already cutting the calories and you're going to see results within a week or even a few days, but you'll even notice that first meal you're not eating as much because often we gain weight because we are overeating.

This Mom: I know you'd like to talk about Controlex. Can you speak to how it works, and how safe it is?

Nadeen Boman: Controlex is a natural, plant-based product, made of three ingredients: glucomannan, pepsin, and yerba mate. These ingredients work together to moderate hunger, so they're not suppressing your hunger, just making you feel fuller. It's done with water. The glucomannan absorbs 100 times its weight in water, and when we're overweight it's due to overeating, and our stomach size has been stretched out, so with Controlex, our stomach gets filled but not stretched. After we follow the regime for a while and reach our ideal weight, we can go off it without the risk of gaining weight back because we've developed healthy habits and our stomach has shrunk back down to size.

{This sounds way too good to be true...if any of you decides to try it, I would love to hear your feedback.}

This Mom: And it's a safe product?

Nadeen Boman: It's safe, with no known side effects. And it's not a miracle pill. It really works slowly and in a healthy way in conjunction with healthy eating and exercise. You can get it at Walmart for around $35, and there's a deal right now where the first 500 people to like the product on Facebook receive a free three-day trial, and they really can see if it works for them.

This Mom: Last question: my readers and I all share "momhood" in common. Any tips for incorporating the kids into our exercise routines?

Nadeen Boman: That's an interesting question, because they've done some research and there are some programs set up for resistance training with kids as early as five years of age, so we really can start doing workouts with our kids, and just going out to the park and doing lunges or line drills, playing tag...what kid doesn't like to do that, and the moms get the cardio in there. You can make fitness into a game with your kids, just doing it on the fly and chasing them around, and doing pushups and chinups and situps.


For more on Nadeen, including info on fitness training and meal plans, visit her website.

Thursday, June 16

What's Eating Your Child?

Food Week will soon be wrapping up here at This Mom Loves (collective "awwwwww"!) and I wanted to share a fascinating book with you.

"What's Eating Your Child?", written by nutritionist Kelly Dorfman, reveals the hidden connections between nutrition and chronic childhood ailments (recurrent ear infections, anxiety, ADHD, stomachaches, picky eating, rashes, sleep issues, growth problems, etc.) and offers parents solutions.

As the back cover reads: "Why treat your child with drugs when you can cure your child with food?"

What's Eating Your Child, by Kelly Dorfman

I was a bit skeptical at first, as I was worried that the book would be a little too "Eastern-Medicine-y" for me, but that's not at all the case. The underlying point is a good one: yes, medicine can treat certain issues, but if you can go back to the cause of the problem and eliminate it, why wouldn't you?

As a teacher, I almost always see huge improvements when a student diagnosed with ADHD takes medication. However, I'm no drug pusher. I would be even more thrilled if a nutritionist could solve the problem without requiring a prescription pad.

While I'd like to doubt some of Dorfman's findings, her case studies and science speak for themselves.

On the website for the book, Dorfman explains that while many informative nutrition books existed before hers, many of them were boring. Her goal was to write a book that would be not only useful but entertaining. Mission accomplished: her book is overflowing with nutritional information, but also engages the reader with real-life anecdotes and humour.

Some of my favourite points: 
  • "We eat fast food because everyone else does...By showing continuous images of busy modern families grabbing burgers on the way to soccer practice or eating together at the local fried chicken establishment, the fast food industry has successfully defined the norm, and helped pattern our behaviour."
  • Studies of identical twins with different diets have shown that picky eaters may have lower IQ's {I take offense to that one, although I have no twin to help me disprove it.}
  • The difference between food allergies (which by definition cause a histamine response: itching, swelling) and intolerances/sensitivities
  • Dorfman does recommend multivitamins for children, but avoid artificial colours and gummy-style multis which often lack B-vitamins.
  • She is also a supporter of using Melatonin to help kids sleep (and note: it is not addictive, as it is a hormone which should be naturally produced in the brain. Taking a supplement just adds the extra that a particular child - or adult- may need to trigger sleep.) By the way, I've tried it for myself, and it works!
Here's the quote that hit home with me the most, as a "healthy" picky eater with a daughter who is a "healthy" picky eater:

"Nature is not wasteful. Everything you eat is expected to have value, and to get 100 percent function, you need to 100 percent of the diet working for you. If 20 percent of your diet is made up of empty sugar calories, then you're operating on 80 percent." Defensively, I think my little girl and I are just fine. However, how much happier, more energetic, and brainpower-boosted could we possibly be if we could function at even a higher level? Definitely food for thought. So to speak.

The one aspect of Dorfman's book that I know I cannot adopt is her "EAT" program program for picky eaters. "E" and "A" are fine: Eliminate irritants and Add foods one at a time, but I struggle with "T": Try one bite of this food each night for two weeks. Dorfman stresses that this can be difficult on parents, and offers scripts and reward ideas for getting through it, but speaking for myself, I would be traumatized if someone forced me to take even one bite of something that I knew I did not want to eat.

That one sticking point aside, the book is very detailed with a thorough index and FAQ section at the back. If your child suffers from any chronic problem, or you're just interested in learning more about the topic, I'd strongly recommend you check out "What's Eating Your Child?"

Visit the website at http://www.whatseatingyourchild.com/.

Disclosure: I received a copy of the book for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own. Why would I make this stuff up?

Wednesday, June 15

Healthy Cooking For Healthy Kids

Food Week here at This Mom Loves continues, and today I wanted to draw your attention to a new website which is a great resource for parents:

T-FAL Nutritious and Delicious Healthy Cooking For Healthy Kids



On the site (which is Canadian - yay!) you'll find kid "meal makeovers", recipes and tips, BMI calculators and healthy weight charts, proportion placemats, grocery lists and rewards charts (I just may print off a couple of these).

The scariest reminder for me on the site is this: "Be a Role Model: Ultimately children will do what you do, not what you say." I am active and fit, I eat sensible portions from three of the food groups...but I pray to God that my daughters follow their father's example when it comes to fruits and vegetables!

(And if you're wondering what T-FAL has to do with it, they're sponsoring the site, and have also come up with a new innovation called the Acti-Fry, which requires only one spoonful of oil to prepare favourites that are usually fried.)

The fact that 26% of Canadian kids are overweight or obese should be enough to spur us into action... but a point made on the site is so true: "Today's hectic lifestyle means that many parents are low on time, and often resort to buying prepared or processed food that is often low in nutrients and high in fat." Guilty. I'm hoping I can take at least a few tips from this new resource to up the nutrition value for my daughters...and myself.

Tuesday, June 14

7 Summer Nutrition Tips: Food Week Continues!

I was recently sent the following 7 Summer Nutrition Tips, from Funky Monkey Snacks. Now, don't be surprised when you see that they recommend their product as a healthy children's food, but I still thought these were worth sharing (with my own annotations, of course!)

Healthy Summer Nutrition Tips from Funky Monkey Snacks:

1. Get Your Fill of Water. Hydration is critical, especially where the sudden transition from air conditioning to high heat can shock the body. To help avoid muscle cramps and headaches—and to nourish skin—drink plenty of liquids, especially water. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition outlines the following choices along with the maximum recommended daily eight-ounce servings: water (9 for women, 13 for men), unsweetened tea (8), unsweetened coffee (4), diet sodas and calorie-free beverages (4), skim or low-fat milk (2), 100% fruit juices, whole milk, or sports drinks (1), soft drinks or juice drinks (1). {These are daily??? I drink a couple of Diet Cokes a week...I can't imagine someone guzzling 4 a day!}

2. Find a Farmer. There isn’t a better time of year to visit local farmers markets where an amazing array of healthy produce awaits. Many vegetables are high in nutrients and fiber—kale, chard, and mustard greens offer Vitamins C and E, which are good for eyes strained by the sun. Potassium-rich potatoes and spinach help avoid muscle cramps as well. Try putting vegetables on the backyard grill along with your main course for a special treat. {Again, I feel so lucky to live in the country. My favourite? Corn on the cob! Great on the BBQ, and so yummy with butter and salt. Does that completely counteract the nutritive value? Our own vegetable garden is entirely dedicated to our goal of winning the giant pumpkin contest this year.}

3. Up Your Fruit Quotient. The sun can wreak havoc on skin during outdoor activities. To nourish skin, complement your increased water intake with fresh fruit like raspberries, blueberries, and strawberries, all of which have antioxidants and vitamin C. Bananas are also good sources of potassium; make smoothies or fruit kabobs to add variety. Freeze-dried Funky Monkey™ Snacks are also a good fruit alternative—crunchy, bite-sized 100% real fruit snacks that are nutritionally equivalent to their fresh fruit counterparts and made with bananas, pineapples, apples, papaya, raisins, and açai. {Next.}

4. Lighter is Better. Eating smaller meals more often is always a good idea, but especially in summer when people tend to miss eating at meal times or are suddenly presented with a picnic or party smorgasbord. Lighter fare is also a good way to get nutrients without excessive calories—make gazpacho or other cold soups, and try BBQ alternatives like turkey or skinless, marinated chicken. Chili is another convenient and fun summertime entrée; make a potful in advance, using nutrient-rich chicken or vegetables, so it’s on hand when no one feels like cooking. {I'm definitely a grazer. I'd rather snack all day long than sit down to heavy meals, especially in the summer.}

5. Go Fishing. Fish, along with lean meats, beans, chickpeas, and soy products, are all high in protein, making them great not only for muscle development, but also to help hair that is overcome by exposure to sunlight and saltwater. Grill fish for a great summertime meal—and while you’re at it, up your consumption of eggs, another important source of protein. {My girls absolutely love fish, as long is it's covered in [fat-free, low-cal but sodium-heavy] soya sauce. Eggs are very popular in our house, and breakfast-for-dinner is always a favourite.}

6. Limit High Calorie Treats. It’s easy to make ice cream a habit during warm weather, but ice cream, not to mention cookies, popsicles, pies and fried desserts, can add fat and calories much faster than increased summertime activity can work off. Newer low-fat versions of ice cream or sorbet are better-tasting than ever; another alternative is to eat a healthy meal and then plan an after-dinner diversion to take everyone’s mind off big desserts. {Our kids have become much too accustomed to dessert, and don't feel a meal is complete without it. Where on earth do they get it from? I know we need to change this habit, for all of our sakes.}

7. Think About the Kids. Erratic eating can be especially hard on children during the summer—and their demand for treats can ruin anyone’s commitment to good nutrition. Try to maintain a regular meal schedule as much as possible, and keep only healthy snacks in the house, so no one is tempted. Having healthy snacks in the car at all times also helps when kids suddenly start complaining. Funky Monkey Snacks are easy to carry and better for kids than dried fruit or fruit snacks (dried fruit does not preserve all the nutrients of fresh fruit, and fruit snacks often contain added sugars, colors, flavors and preservatives.)

And to thank Funky Monkey for writing my post for me today, I'll even throw in a shot of their product:





Disclosure: I received nothing for this post. Just thought there was some valuable info to share.

Monday, June 13

Father's Day Recipes: Food Week at TML Begins!

Do any of these sound good to you (or might they sound good to Dad)?

Grilled Turkey London Broil
Pasta with Broccoli and an Alfredo White Northern Bean Sauce
Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar
Flank Steak with Mango Salsa and Vegetable Kabobs

Are you a bit confused right now, and worried that perhaps you're not reading the right blog?

It's Food Week here at This Mom Loves! Do not adjust your computer, you read correctly: Food Week.

I had an epiphany in the staff room the other day. My coworkers were poring over the Treat Day (i.e. Thursday) selections on the table, and throwing around strange words like "lentils" and "cumin". Finally I burst out laughing and said "I feel like you people are speaking a foreign language in front of me!"

And it got me thinking...just because I hate to cook...and eat normal food...that doesn't mean my readers are the same! (The Oprah Show may be gone, but let me tell you: the Aha! moments will never cease.)

So for all of you chefs and gourmands, this week I will bring you all sorts of recipes and nutritional tips from some fantastic experts. I can't guarantee that I will make said dishes or follow said advice, but I will be proud of myself for shaking things up here on my blog. Enjoy!

Today's recipes are in honour of Father's Day, and brought to you by registered dietician and Real Food Mom Tracee Yablon Brenner (http://www.realfoodmoms.com/).

Tracee has co-authored two comprehensive and practical guides for family nutrition, Great Expectations: Best Food for Your Baby and Toddler and Simple Food for Busy Families. She provides busy families with practical information, strategies, and healthy recipes for feeding nutritious, tasty meals and snacks quickly and easily every day.

Says Tracee: "It’s nice to start traditions, and making a family meal for Dad on Father’s Day can be a fun tradition. It can also help children begin to try new foods because helping with the food preparation usually peaks their interest to try what they have prepared." {Wonder if it helps Moms in the same way?}

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Grilled Turkey London Broil {This Mom's note: I would actually eat this! It looks amazing!}

Turkey London Broil is a skinless, boneless turkey breast. When marinated it takes on the flavor of the marinade and is quite juicy. Turkey breast is quite lean. It’s best to buy organic pasture raised turkey. The turkey will be lean and flavorful due to the healthy environment, fresh air, water and pasture that are part of their daily routine. Pasturing allows them to live and eat grass, clover like they were intended to without pesticides and hormones or antibiotics.

 

If baking, pre-heat the oven to 350 F or pre-heat the grill

1 ½-2 lbs turkey breast half “Turkey London Broil”
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
¼ cup orange juice
¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup low sodium tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
2 teaspoons fresh minced ginger
2 garlic cloves, Crushed

Place turkey breast in either a shallow baking dish or a gallon size plastic bag.

In a small bowl or glass measuring cup add marinade ingredients and whisk together.

Save ¼ cup of the marinade. Pour the remainder of the marinade into either a baking dish or plastic bag. Add turkey and marinade in the refrigerator 30 minutes to overnight turning occasionally. The longer it’s marinated the stronger the flavor

Remove turkey from marinade, discard marinade.

To allow for cooking evenly, turn over the turkey breast and open up the flap of the breast. Turn back over and lay flat.

Grill or bake turkey, allow for 15 minutes a pound and turn the breast about every 10 minutes for even cooking.

Test with a thermometer. The thickest part of the breast should read 165 F

Place turkey on a platter and cover it loosely with foil for about 10 minutes before carving.

Carve thinly on an angle.

Pasta with Broccoli and an Alfredo White Northern Bean Sauce {You lost me at "broccoli".}


Broccoli is a powerhouse cruciferous vegetable that most children enjoy! Broccoli has anti-inflammatory properties. Broccoli is very high in vitamin C, K and A. It is also high in folate, dietary fiber, manganese, tryptophan, potassium and B vitamins. This pasta dish is served with a northern bean dairy free alfredo sauce which adds protein to this dish which could make it a complete meal for some. I used Andean Dreams Quinoa pasta which is gluten and corn free. A 2 oz serving of the pasta has 207 calories, 6 grams of protein and 3 grams of fiber. Quinoa is a complete protein rich in vitamins and minerals. The kids love this dish and don’t notice the different type of pasta.

Ingredients:

4 Tablespoons Extra Virgin Olive Oil
2 garlic cloves (chopped or pressed)
1 head of Broccoli (peel and cut stems and cut broccoli into florets)
1 lemon juiced (3 Tablespoons lemon juice)
¾ cup low sodium organic vegetable broth
½ teaspoon oregano
¼ teaspoon sea salt
1- 15 ounce can of Great Northern Beans (preferably Eden Organic which is in a BPA free can)
Black pepper to taste
1 package of Quinoa Spaghetti (I used Andean Dreams Gluten Free Spaghetti)

Preparation:

In a food processor or blender add beans, garlic, lemon juice, oregano, sea salt and puree until smooth.

Cook pasta in a 6- to 8-quart pot of boiling salted water until al dente. Reserve 1/2 cup pasta cooking water, then drain pasta in a colander.

While pasta is cooking In a large skillet over medium heat, warm olive oil and add garlic and sauté for about 1 minute. Add broccoli and sauté for about 2- 3 minutes.

Add pasta and ¼ cup reserved cooking water to broccoli continues cooking for another 3 minutes add more water if necessary.

Add pureed bean mixture and cook over moderate heat, tossing, until combined well.

Strawberries with Balsamic Vinegar: a Simply Delicious Combination

Serves 4
50 Calories
2 grams of fiber
10 Grams of sugar

Ingredients:

16 ounces fresh strawberries washed, hulled and cut in half
2 Tablespoons balsamic vinegar
1 Tablespoon honey

Place balsamic vinegar and honey in a bowl stir together. Place strawberries in the bowl stir gently to combine. Cover, and sit at room temperature for about an hour but not more than 3-4 hours max.

It's strawberry season! Enjoy some local or organic strawberries. Strawberries are on the top of the Environmental Working Group’s Dirty Dozen list http://www.foodnews.org/walletguide.php



Strawberries are very high in anti-oxidants and fiber. If buying Conventional strawberries to remove pesticides it’s great to make a veggie wash for soft-skinned fruits and vegetables. Fill a bowl with equal parts of white wine vinegar and water. Spray the solution onto fruits and veggies fill a spray bottle with equal parts white vinegar and water. Spray the solution onto fruits and veggies, scrub with a brush and rinse.

Flank Steak with Mango Salsa and Vegetable Kabobs

Meat and fruit is a refreshing combination; the sweetness of the fruit complements the tender succulent meat. If possible it’s to your health’s benefit to buy organic grass fed beef. Grass fed beef’s fatty acid composition is lower in overall fat and in saturated fat, providing more omega-3 fatty acids. Meat from animals that graze on grass is high in omega-3 fatty acids, and conjugated linoleic acid (CLA) which is associated with a decreased cancer risk. Grass-fed animals raised on pastures not confined to feedlots have more positive life force energy which then in turn effects your body.

Veggie Kabobs are fun for kids to put together and will help them explore tasting new vegetables.

Serves 6
Serving size: 4oz

Ingredients

1.50 lbs Flank Steak, (Grass-fed pasture raised preferably)

Marinade:

1/3 cup Olive oil
1/4 cup Red wine
2 tablespoons Tamari (wheat free soy sauce)
1 clove Garlic minced
1 tablespoon Gingerroot, minced or cut in slices
2 tablespoons Honey

Mango Salsa:

2 Mangos, peeled and diced
1 Roma Tomato, diced
1 Tablespoon lime juice
2 Teaspoons Cilantro chopped (optional)

Combine all ingredients together and mix gently. Adjust ingredients to your taste. Store covered in fridge until ready to use. Keeps in refrigerator about 3-4 days.

Marinade Directions:

Pierce steak with a fork. Place steak in a glass dish with marinade. Cover and marinade for best results at least 2 hours to overnight.

• Prepare and preheat grill. Remove steak from marinade; discard marinade. Grill for 5–7 minutes on each side, turning once, until the steak reaches desired doneness.

• Let steak stand, covered with foil, for 10 minutes, then slice very thinly across the grain. Serve with Mango Salsa.

• Flank Steak Nutrition Facts per serving Calories: 212 Total Fat 10 g Saturated Fat 3g Cholesterol 75 mg Sodium 90 mg Total Carbohydrate 0.2 Dietary Fiber 0g Sugars 0g Protein 27 g

• Mango Salsa Nutrition Facts Per serving Calories 70 Total Fat 0.5 g Saturated Fat 0.1g Cholesterol 0 g Sodium 1.8 g Total Carbohydrate 18 g Dietary Fiber 2g Sugars 16g Protein 1g

Vegetable Kebobs: 6 servings

1 large Red peppers cut in 1 inch chunks
1 large Zucchini
1 cup Baby portabella mushrooms, cut a small portion of the bottom of the mushroom off, clean with a damp paper towel so they don’t get mushy.
1 medium Vidalia onions cut into small pieces
6 Kabobs (if using wooden kabobs soak them in water so they don’t burn).

Marinade:

¼ cup olive oil
¼ cup balsamic vinegar
1 garlic clove crushed
¼ teaspoon paprika
Black pepper, to taste

Cooking Instructions

In a large bowl or plastic bag combine the marinade ingredients. Marinate in the refrigerator for 2 to 24 hours.

Pre-heat the Barbeque on medium-hot or the broiler and the broiler pan. If broiling, position the broiler pan 3 to 4 inches from the heating element and spray with a high temperature cooking spray like grapeseed or Expeller pressed sunflower oil. Thread the vegetables and continue to make a pattern on the skewers. Broil or grill for 4-6 minutes, turning the skewers occasionally until soft and light brown. Serve hot with a whole grain such as brown rice, couscous, quinoa or millet.
*If there are leftover vegetables prepare more vegetable kabobs.

Basic Nutritional Values

Nutrition Facts per serving Calories: 40 Total Fat 2g Saturated Fat 0.1g Cholesterol 0mg Sodium 5mg Total Carbohydrate 9g Dietary Fiber 2g Sugars 4g Protein 2g

Thanks, Tracee! Be sure to check out http://www.realfoodmoms.com/, and stay tuned for more great recipes and nutrition tips as Food Week continues at This Mom Loves!

Friday, June 10

Perfect Parties Theme Seven: The Butterfly Party

Guess what? This party theme post is NOT brought to you by my friend Krista...I actually did it myself! Wait! Don't leave! I think I did a pretty decent job. The three year old guest of honour loved it, so what else matters, really?


pink butterfly clip art

Keep reading to see how I pulled off the Butterfly Party, as well as other ideas I came across but wasn't able to (read: was too lazy to) incorporate this time around.


Decorations:

Anything butterfly will do. I hung two of the wind socks (shown below) outside to greet the guests, and had each child's name written on a foam butterfly and stuck to the windows. These were later decorated by the kids as an activity.




I took the photo before I wrote the full names (for the privacy of the guests!)


Activities:

Face painting (butterflies, of course!) and butterfly tattoos
Butterfly colouring sheets (make it a colouring contest if you feel like it)
Pin the antennae on the butterfly
"Butterfly landing": Make flowers out of large paper and spread them on the floor. Play the game like musical chairs: the kids flutter around when the music is on, and when it stops they have to land on a flower.
At our party, the kids decorated the butterfly with their name on it (using markers, stickers, glitter, etc.) and also did a foam butterfly craft (I bought a kit at Michael's, and it came with everything but the glue, and enough to make 24 complete butterflies. The little pieces were self-adhesive, so only the clothespin had to be glued on.)



Food:

Gummy worms (caterpillars)
Sandwiches, pancakes, pizza, jello jigglers etc. shaped with a butterfly cookie cutter
Bowtie pasta
Honeybee crackers
(We had non-butterfly-shaped pizza, pasta, salads and biscuits. Not everything can go with the theme, especially when you're feeding more adults than kids!)

Cake:

We enlisted our fabulous baker to make a cake in the shape of a butterfly. I wasn't sure if it would be enough to serve everyone, so I ordered a dozen cupcakes to go along with it...which was smart on my part, as everything was eaten. (Ordering three pizzas too many wasn't so smart...but you never know!)


Loot bags:

Here are some pics of what our party-goers fluttered away with (the wind socks were from Zellers, everything else from Dollarama):

Butterfly net


Wind sock

Wall stickers (the lone little boy got car stickers instead.
He was not the least bit upset that they didn't match the theme.)

Butterfly hair elastics

And Smarties. No loot bag can be without them, theme or no theme.

Other ideas include butterfly stickers, clips, cookie cutters, and flower seeds.

This was a fun, girly, springtime party...and it was very easy to find supplies and decorations. Pulling this one off in November, however, might be a little more difficult.

Please feel free to add any other Butterfly Party ideas you've used or seen...or just comment to let me know what a fantastic party planner I am! (Hint: my three subscribers who were at the party are obliged to comment!)

Wednesday, June 8

Why I Love MeebleMail!

So, do any of you ladies send e-mails at all?

Okay, that's a yes. Wouldn't you love to have stylish, personalized stationery that works within your e-mail program?

I had never even thought of this until I heard from MeebleMail...and now I am a huge fan. What is MeebleMail? you ask. Here's what they say about themselves:

MeebleMail is customized stationery designs for your e-mail - transforming the ordinary look of everyday email into a stylish expression of your personality. By partnering with talented artists and fabulous designers such as Trina Turk, Kara Ross, Lela Rose, thomaspaul, Celerie Kemble, Bonnie Marcus and Boatman Geller, MeebleMail has a library of stylish and unique email stationery designs fit for anyone’s taste. MeebleMail’s email stationery integrates directly into the most popular Windows email clients such as Gmail, Hotmail and Yahoo! Mail; and users can personalize the designs with their name, monograms, addresses or a motif.

Here's how it works: go to http://www.meeblemail.com/, choose your design, personalize it (name, monogram, address, etc.), and purchase it for $4.99 (yes, that says four dollars and ninety-nine cents, which includes unlimited edits and use for 1 year, with the option to renew).

I chose "Beach Stripes" by Jack and Lulu (shown below), placed my name at the top, and then my website and email address at the bottom.


Beach Stripes

It takes a minute or two to integrate MeebleMail with your e-mail program, and you're done! It is now one of my favourite things...although I must apologize to the company and warn them that those words, coming from me, do not exactly have Oprah's revenue-boosting magical powers.

You should definitely check out MeebleMail...and if you order by June 12th, you'll get 20% off, just in time for the end of National E-mail Week (who knew??) Use code EMAILWEEK to get the discount.
Disclosure: I was provided access to MeebleMail samples free of charge for review purposes. Opinions are, of course, my own. How could you not love this?

Tuesday, June 7

Father's Day Ideas? Look No Further!

The newest issue of Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids is available now, and in it my article:
"Make This Father's Day Special".

I conducted an informal poll to find out what Dads really want for Father's Day, and the results are in. Click on the link for ideas for gifts, celebrations, and outings...as well as some cute quotes about fatherhood.

Peterborough Kids Magazine

Oh, and just to get you revved up for a special theme next week here at This Mom Loves, here's a Father's Day gift idea for your consideration:

Canada Grills! (recipes compiled and edited by Lisa Kahn)

Char-Broil's Canada  Grills!

I received a review copy of this book, which boasts incredibly mouth-watering colour photos of fresh-of-the-grill food (225 recipes in all). I could even put a meal together for myself with items from every category:

Appetizers: Smokin' Soon's Hobo Potato Skins, Patio Daddio BBQ's Pulled-Pork Pastries (2 ingredients)

Meat: CB's Slow-Grilled Rib Eyes, Grilled Stuffed Chicken Breasts With Artichokes and Italian Cheeses - hold the artichokes  (The book actually divides main dishes into separate sections for Beef, Pork, Lamb and Game, Poultry, and Seafood)

Sides: CB's Smoky, Cheesy Cornbread, Better-Than-Mom's Mac and Cheese

Desserts (yes, for the grill!): CB's Nutella and Marshmallow Quesadillas, Bacon Chocolate Chip Cookies (not so sure about the bacon part...is that kind of weird?)

If you think the names even sound delicious, wait until you see these photos! As I write this, I am trying to cut back on eating unnecessarily in the evenings, and looking at these juicy dishes is not helping! I wonder what we have up in the fridge...

Anyway, silly me, when the box from the publishing company arrived I opened it right up in front of my husband...so it's too late to try to make this his Father's Day gift! But heck, if it in any way contributes to him grilling more and me cooking less, then we know who the gift is really for, don't we?