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Veggie Sloppy Joes

EAT, family meals By October 5, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Veggie sloppy Joes  are like childhood on a plate. Growing up in the ’70s, you just couldn’t escape this meaty dish. Since it’s such a comfort food, Ceri and I decided to go retro and bring back the sloppy. We’ve updated it, of course, for a more health-conscious family, substituting all that ground beef with a flavor-rich black bean sauce.  This recipe was excerpted from the great new cookbook entitled How to Feed a Family: The Sweet Potatoes Chronicles Cookbook, by Ceri Marsh and Laura Keogh.  As two urban, working moms, Ceri and Laura learned quickly how challenging healthy meal-times can be. So they joined forces to create the Sweet Potato Chronicles (, a website written for, and by, non-judgmental moms, packed full of nutritious recipes for families.
This great cookbook is available across Canada at Chapters Indigo

Prep time:   10 minutes
Total time: 35 minutes
Makes:      6 servings

1 Tbsp   (15 ml) olive oil
1 medium onion, diced
5 cup  (125 ml) diced carrots
1 cup  (250 ml) trimmed and diced mushrooms
4 tsp (1 ml) ground cumin
4 tsp (1 ml) paprika
3 cups  (750 ml)  canned  black  beans, drained and rinsed
1 cup  (250 ml) prepared tomato sauce
2 Tbsp (30 ml) red wine vinegar
1 tsp (5 ml) Dijon mustard
1 tsp (5 ml) maple syrup
Salt and pepper
6 whole wheat hamburger buns
5 cup  (125 ml) shredded cheddar or Monterey Jack cheese

Heat the olive oil in a large frying pan over medium heat. Add the onion and carrots and sauté until they begin to soften, about 5 minutes. Now add the mushrooms, cumin and paprika. Stir everything together and allow the mushrooms to soften, 2 to 3 minutes.

Add the beans, tomato sauce, vinegar, mustard and syrup, and allow to simmer and thicken for about 15 minutes. Taste and add salt and pepper if you like.

Toast the hamburger buns (to make those Joes a bit less sloppy). Spoon a generous amount of the bean mixture onto the bottom half of each bun and sprinkle with a good pinch of shredded cheese. Put that hamburger lid on top and serve.

diagnosing autism

Diagnosing Autism

FAM, health By May 20, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , No Comments

The process of diagnosing Autism in a child can be a little bit difficult for parents at home since it involves a series of observations on a child’s behaviour. Specialists in this field agree that it is best to identify and treat this disorder in children at an early age. Parents are usually concerned about the warning signs to look out for in their babies for them to be concerned. There are particular signs that children who end up with this disorder start exhibiting at a tender age. There are standard Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) indicators which are very common to autistic children.

Indicators of Autism

These indicators include: inability to babble words, point or make a meaningful motion at least by the age of 1 year, inability to speak or pronounce at least a word by 16 months of age, inability to respond to name, loss of language and interactive ability, inability to maintain good eye contact, signs of hearing impairment, inability to play with toys lack or absence of smiles.

According to Autism Canada, all individuals with the diagnosis demonstrate some of the following:

  • Impairment in Social relationships
  • Deficits in communication/language
  • Perseveration on interests and activities
  • Dependence on routine
  • Abnormal responses to sensory stimulation
  • Behaviour problems
  • Variability of intellectual functioning
  • Uneven development profile
  • Difficulties in sleeping, toileting and eating
  • Immune irregularities
  • Nutritional deficiencies
  • Gastrointestinal problems

These signs are not in themselves a confirmation of autism in a child. The signs are meant to be warning signals which a parent should act on if they observe any of it in their child. The next thing to do when any of the indicators mentioned above is observed is to consult your paediatrician or family doctor. With the support of an occupational, speech and physical therapist a doctor will be able to appropriately diagnose the disorder in a child or confirm otherwise.

Strengths Exhibited by People with Autism

Although some areas of development in a child with autism are delayed, children with Autism Spectrum Disorder (ASD) often exhibit skills beyond their years in other areas. These intellectual strengths may overshadow the developmental problems experienced by your child. These strengths may include one or more of the following:

  • Non-verbal reasoning skills
  • Reading skills
  • Perceptual motor skills
  • Drawing skills
  • Computer interest and skills
  • Exceptional memory
  • Visual Spatial abilities
  • Music skills

For additional information, Autism Canada is a fabulous resource.


They're Still Loud but Boiron Camilia kept them Happy

FAM, health By May 16, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

Camilia and ColicMany readers know that my son went through colic.  But I’ve never really admitted the full extent of the turmoil that swept our house for 18 months.  So in the spirit of our new blog, I will dish it.  I was kicked out of mommy and me pilates.  (Twice).  And then excused from a breastfeeding group with nurses due to the excessive noise.  People would come up to me on the street with advice (constructive criticism..).  “I think he’s hungry!  Wet!  Tired!  Overstimulated!”

What kind of mother would take a child that screams for an hour into a grocery store?  The kind that needs groceries and has no other option, thank you.  If you would care to watch him at home while I shop I would be grateful.  But he will cry – no matter how many needs you satisfy.  And he won’t get tired BY THE WAY – not even after 4 hours straight.  It went on and on, and experts weighed in as close friends worried my husband and I would drive off a dock hurdling the whole family into the ocean in our LandRover.

Camilia teethingAlong with the other suggested colic remedies, we were introduced to Boiron camilia.  I had used their arnica montana as a homeopathic remedy after giving birth and we decided to try the camilia.  Typically recommended for teething, this natural herb is free of acetominiphen and anisthetics and is fully safe for babies.  More important, it had a calming effect on our little (screamer) monkey.  You twist the tip off the plastic tube of the convenient individual dose and can even slip the liquid into baby’s mouth while nursing (or better yet, have them pretend it’s a nipple and suck it out).  We would have ‘picnics’ and I would have chamomile tea when he had his ‘medicine’.

Dapis Insect BitesNow that my two boys are bigger, though not quieter (now they never stop talking), they catch colds at school and get boo boos as they tumble.  Insect bites while tree climbing are common.  Boiron has (thankfully) expanded their lineup so I can keep curing the boys with natural medicines.

DAPIS gel is an ointment to relieve hives, itching and promote the healing of insect bites.  Now they tell me.  (I didn’t have to buy all of that mosquito netting after all.)  The flip cap ensures a tidy application and the 40g tube is easy to slip into a purse or diaper bag.

STODALI was one of those parents taken aback by the research on and subsequent removal of traditional childrens’ cough syrups from the pharmacy shelves.     And it, of course, became another bone of contention with the older generation, “Well I gave it to you and you turned out fine! Kids these days…”   Thankfully, STODAL honey-based cough syrup is great for kids over one year of age and – ahem – looks like any other ‘traditional’ cough syrup.  So your mom doesn’t need to know that you’ve changed up the parenting practices.  It’s so yummy my kids keep asking for it on their pancakes.  When you come from Canada and it ousts maple syrup you know you’re onto something.  (It now also comes in sugar-free).  Unfortunately it doesn’t make the kids drowsy, so they keep talking and talking, but at least they’re not keeping me up at night with the cough.  And I have Boiron camilia with my nighttime tea, so I’m relaxed anyway.


Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Boiron.  As always our opinions are our own.




In Anticipation of Play

International, ROAM By February 24, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , No Comments

Play in AfricaI am packed.  The technology is charged (and needs its own bag).  My sneakers are ready to go.  And there is only 1 pair of wedges in the suitcase (I couldn’t go cold turkey).  To have been given this opportunity is astounding.  In a few days I will participate in an all-female Liberian kick-ball tournament, meet representatives of other organizations that support Right To Play’s efforts in Liberia and chat with families and children in more than 5 communities in Monrovia.

The mayor of West Vancouver has sent a letter and dozens of pins and my communities are brimming with support and well wishes.  Facebook. Email. Phone calls.  Twitter.  Personal hugs.  I am humbled and overwhelmed.  A few short months ago, I knew so little about the development of communities, including my own.  I’m actually quite a shy person and can be reluctant to share and truly know people.

This campaign to raise awareness for Right To Play made me realize not only the incredible things that come out of play, but how a community can truly come together for a cause.  I have bonded with people who were once strangers by mentioning my involvement with Right To Play.  Eyes light up and all of a sudden I realize that a parent at the school lived in Africa, the passport picture photographer used to volunteer teaching sports to inner-city children and my doctor donates to Right To Play.  Advice is rampant.  Everyone wants to know how they can donate, and for the first time since I last performed in the theatre, I feel part of something much bigger and more impactful than I can even imagine.

Play teaches determination, leadership, how to be a part of a team, how to balance sport and school and discipline.  Gender equality and sportsmanship are enhanced.  Laughter abounds.  And Right To Play has already truly taught me to be part of my own community.  I am bursting to see the programs in action!

My final task is to pick the boys up from school and do a bit of shopping.  Very exciting shopping.  (Not that my heart doesn’t usually skip a beat when I see a store.)  This task, however, will be a selfless one.  It will be an exciting excursion for my kids when I hand them a few bills at the dollar store and ask them to choose whatever they think the children of Liberia would love.  How amazing as a parent to see what my children will think kids in Africa would want!

My heart is so full and my head may explode with the lessons I have already learned.  I can’t even imagine what is waiting for me in West Africa.

Let the games begin!  I am ready to play and can’t wait to share the journey with you all.


Mandarin Oriental Elbow Beach Resort Bermuda

International, ROAM By January 30, 2013 Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , No Comments

I’m on a plane and a Humphrey Bogart film is playing on the seat next to me.  I think of the photos on the wall of the Mandarin Oriental Elbow Beach Resort Bermuda and smile.  To be alive in those days.  To have been at the 1925 party with the hair and dresses on the patio.

And I see the property on a stunning November day with the turquoise water calling me to get down to the beach.  After a grueling walk (don’t wear heels) I set foot on the famous Bermudian ‘pink’ sand and looked both ways aver the half mile of private beach.  Somehow as a mom, happiness came and went before the guilt set in and I trundled up to met the director of Communications, Sophie Dier.  (Not to worry – working with the therapist on that.  Carry on feeling awesome).

Elbow Beach LibraryA tour of the property revealed that there is a zen-like mixture of feminine and masculine.  The warm tones and high tech features of the library open up to well groomed bougainvillea and soft sand.  Rooms are opulent and uncluttered as well as larger than the original hotel’s suites.  Recently altered into a more exclusive and intimate resort, the rooms have been renovated with modern luxuries.  Suites boast sliding ‘doors that separate the pullout Great room from the master bedroom and large walk-in closets would make the biggest shopaholic jealous.  Not that I look there first or anything.  The big shocker for me was the weather.  Bermuda is so far north that I expected it to be cool.  But no.  Even in November, bikini-clad women with perfect abs lay on the beach.

Elbow Beach RoomFor kids there are some extraordinary programs.  The Clubhouse on the property provides games, crafts, tech and childcare for kids ages 6-12.  I was uber-excited about the Kids Adventure Camp, which embraces the unique character of Bermuda and sends kids off-property to ‘study and explore various characteristics’ of the island.  One day they might snorkel and find indiginous fish and another they might visit local caves.  If you’re a diver you will be thrilled that the kids’ adventure club can certify your prodigy (while you dive the awesome shipwrecks around Bermuda yourself)!  The resort (owned by Mandarin Oriental) also offers fab rates for family vacation packages (including aquarium passes and babysitting hours).

Many guests would opt not to leave the premises, so there are many choices of restaurant.  Meeting the chef at The Lido I was impressed – not only for his vegetarian risotto and bolognaise on my pasta, but that, after 27 years (the day he was married), he finally shaved his famous mustache in support of the Mandarin Oriental’s Movember efforts (Note the MO tie-in).  The other eateries include Mickey’s (seafood), Blue Point (light bites), Sea Breeze (tapas/sushi) and the Deep Lounge and Nightclub.

Spa Elbow BeachAnd then there was the spa.  All I can say is – private room.  Private locker, WC, bath, shower, table and safe.  Not that I used it.  I was too relaxed to think anyone would steal anything.  I did a 2 hour Mandarin Oriental Signature Spa treatment, where the therapist determines what you ‘need’ and has the skill and talent to tailor your service as required.  The beginning and end of treatment are bookended by a chime and by the end I was no longer fluish and sniffly.  I was wrapped, scrubbed, smeared in thick creams and left the building with soft skin and mellow muscles.  (Now I wasn’t stumbling because of my stilettos).

Looking at photographs on the walls, I wish that college weeks would come back.  Roaring ‘20s parties and ‘60’s honeymoons fit for kings. (My parents did that).  Bermuda is a re-discovered oasis only 2(ish) hours from all of the east coast of the Atlantic, and is gaining serious tourist traction.  I’m sure it has nothing to do with the hunks in Bermuda shorts, ties and knee socks that frequent the bars of Hamilton after a busy day of finance.


The Final McDonald's All-Access Mom Trip

charity, FAM By November 27, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , 3 Comments

About to take off on my final journey I am quite sad, actually.  The whole experience as a McDonald’s All-Access Mom has been transformative, but not in any of the ways I expected.  Sure – lots of questions have been answered, I’ve traipsed around farms and plants (check out the videos), and worn way too many un-sexy lab coats.  But I also feel like a better mom.  A better citizen.  The corporate culture of McDonald’s and its suppliers is much friendlier – much more transparent, than I was expecting.  After almost 6 years of momm-ing, I think I’ve gotten a bit too insular.  Charity work had lapsed and a disconnection to the world and it’s news had set in.  The opportunity to participate in the MAAM program has helped change that.

I am most excited about seeing the Ronald McDonald House Charities.  Giving back.  Sharing.  Helping. These charities give homes and home cooked meals to families whose children are hospitalized with severe illness.  I will be spending a full day with the children and families involved in the London, Ontario house, learning about the program and more importantly, the people.  I hope that I can take the lessons of charity and giving back to my own children and incorporate them into our daily lives.  I know there has been criticism of the All-Access-Mom program, but this is an opportunity to get a glimpse into something that nobody could say McDonald’s doesn’t do really well.

The second part of the trip?  Chicken at the London, Ontario Cargill facility.  Shall I cluck like when I moo-ed at the cows?  Want to know the deal with the shaped McNuggets?  (I already asked about chicken lips and toenails getting into the mix.)  Nada.  Any other questions?  Reconstituted white meat?  Glue? Sawdust? Last chance!!


Next Stop For the McDonald's All Access Moms: Alberta Beef

EAT, family meals By October 24, 2011 Tags: , , , , , , 3 Comments

The next stop on the McDonald’s All-Access Mom journey is to the Cargill beef facility and cattle farms near Edmonton, Alberta.  (Apparently 100% of the beef used by McDonald’s in Canada is Canadian).  Packed: thigh-high stilletto boots.  Watching: Food Inc.  Refraining from: Cow-tipping jokes.

Please ask your questions about burgers, beef and cows below.  As always, I promise to ask them all.

encourage friendships

How to help encourage friendships with other kids

FAM, kids By August 30, 2011 Tags: , , , 1 Comment

Friendships are important to every child. Peer relationships allow kids to see themselves against a larger backdrop, to learn empathy and sympathy, and how to fit in with society at large.Some kids are naturally shy or more reticent than others; it’s as basic as introverts and extroverts. Still, introverts, or people who are not as bubbly and public about everything, have friends, too—usually very deep and long-lasting friendships. Making friends isn’t always easy for some people, especially some kids who are naturally more withdrawn. So how on earth do you encourage friendships for your a child?

Tips for parents to encourage friendships with others:

Start Slow. The last think you should do with a shy child is to plunk him or her down in the middle of a busy play-date with a bunch of strange kids and expect miracles. That is a recipe for disaster, actually. Start slow and start small: one new kid, on your home turf, or on a common ground your child is familiar with.

Don’t Push. Think of it a bit like a romance: don’t push it. If it’s meant to be, it will be. Sometimes it will take a bit of time to elapse before they truly start warming up to each other.

Choose Play Friends Wisely. If you have a shy child, don’t ask the rowdy, rambunctious neighbor kid over as your first choice. Try to find someone more like your child, who won’t frighten or overwhelm them.

Provide Common Ground. Have some cool stuff to play with and do available, to avoid boredom. Do something fun, like go to a kid’s museum or animal exhibit, where the kids can get tactile. Get outside so they can roughhouse. All these things are conducive to bonding.

Teach Manners and Courtesy. No one worthwhile wants to be friends with a rude bully. So, do your kids a favor and teach them how to be polite, courteous, and kind. It goes a long way in fostering friendships and earning a good peer reputation.

Do Team Events. Encourage your child to participate in team-based events. This doesn’t mean just sports; it can include debate and other intellectual teams, clubs, volunteer groups, etc. They will meet like-minded kids and spend time with them in a positive arena. When they’re small, try out Gymboree, baby gymnastics, music and other groups, where they can get used to socializing with other kids early on.


Fairmont Pacific Rim

Canada, ROAM By September 26, 2010 Tags: , , , , , , No Comments

Heading to the car with luggage, 2 screaming toddlers and wearing a ducky backpack (that quacks), I wasn’t too sure about the whole vacation-in-my-own-city.  Pulling up to the stunning Fairmont Pacific Rim, though, things improved quickly.  We were greeted with juice boxes, and the doorman remembered the kids (by name) from the time we had come to Oru for lunch.  (Orange chopsticks and the best kids menu ever keep us coming back).