I call this recipe ‘secret’ because it is just so good. It’s my ‘secret weapon’ when I forget I’ve invited people for dinner and haven’t had time to cook anything spectacular, so I pull this from the freezer and douse a bit more wine on top as it bubbles away in a favourite Le Creuset casserole.
Fall is usually the impeccable period to initiate new family traditions for several years to come. As winter is imminent, gather round to pop some corn, cozy up on the couch under a blanket and play the favourite movies of your family on Netflix.
I adore fall and winter. Not so much for the weather (I’m personally more of a summer gal) but for the fashion! Living in Vancouver, fall and winter fashion stretches all the way from fall to spring. Fall clothing for kids is just as fun (if not more) than the clothing for adults.
At Urban Mommies we are currently loving kids clothes from Noch Mini, a New York based children’s line designed by Jina Jang. Noch believes in protecting the environment and our children’s bodies by using only certified organic materials and low-impact dyes.
Check out the Noch Mini Fall/Winter 2014 Lookbook for great looks for your kids for the fall.
What a winter we have had! But the cold should not keep Canadian families indoors. Bundle up, get outside and get physically active every day with one of our 10 outdoor winter activities for kids. Why? Because active play is essential to every child’s physical, cognitive, emotional and social development—even in winter. Unfortunately, one study shows Canadian kids spend only three hours per week playing actively in the winter, compared to four and a half hours in summer. (via www.participACTION.com). A part of this lack of play during the winter months is due to the four main barriers to play; safety concerns, too much screen time, unruly weather and not enough hours in the day.
According to the Canadian Physical Activity Guidelines, children need at least 60 minutes of physical activity per day, but only five per cent of children in Canada are meeting the guideline. We’ve racked our brains for outside winter play ideas and think you’ll be excited by the results:
1. Use the time after school or after activities when lots of kids are around to structure playtime. 30 minutes of tag, soccer or snow play can impact kids’ fitness levels significantly.
2. In a cold climate? Pack a hot chocolate picnic and find a frozen lake or snow-covered toboggan hill. Reward the kids afterwards with jammies and a movie under the covers. (It’s also budget-friendly!)
3. Encourage your kids to have a race around the block and make ‘Olympic’ medals for participants.
4. Scour yard sales and second hand stores throughout the year and pick up snowshoes or cross-country skis. These activities are fun for the family and help everyone (ahem) break a sweat.
5. Use different months of the winter to structure activities to raise money – October is breast cancer month, January is Personal Self-Defense Awareness Month and February is diabetes. You can find a full list of months and their meanings here – we’re willing to bet you can structure a tae kwon do or skipping fundraiser for a great cause!
6. Shut off screens and let the kids get bored. It’s amazing how this stimulates imagination.
7. Darkness and safety concerns can be a barrier. Why not organize a ‘party’ outside on a Friday evening with lots of kids, parents to supervise and flashlights to illuminate! Dodgeball, Capture the Flag, What Time is it Mr. Wolf and relay races can be great bonding exercises for both big and little players.
8. The Girl Guides are a great group, and we can’t say it any better than they have! Here is a comprehensive list of winter games that also help teach a few lessons.
9. Geocaching is an incredible adventure that incorporates travel and orienteering. It’s a great travel-focused activity for kids that can be found worldwide.
10. Often winter brings not only deep freezing but deep discounts. Bundle up and take advantage of inexpensive canoe rentals and less expensive winter camping sites (if safety and lakes permit). Just be sure to protect yourself from frostbite and weather. And don’t forget the hot chocolate!
More ideas? Let us know, and have fun outside!
UrbanMommies had the pleasure of taking part in one of the smartest, inspired fashion events of the season. Coquitlam Centre set up an area divided into four sections. Stylist Catherine Dunwoody pulled coats for each of the mall’s stores and categorized them. After filling out a quick questionnaire we were directed to a section of coats that fit our style personality: Uptown Girl, Jane Bond, Urban Casual and Provocateur. Despite being pegged as an uptown girl (are you shocked?!) I wandered the racks and found no less than 5 coats I needed. Catherine Dunwoody pulled bags, hats and glasses in order to style us, and as we are sharing her tips below on how to rock your winter coat. Not only did the exercise help me discover new styles, but stores that I haven’t visited in years blew me away with fabrics, designs and reasonable price points. Well played, Coquitlam Centre.
4 Tips & Trends to Help you “Rock That Coat”
– By Catherine Dunwoody, Style Expert at Coquitlam Centre
She rocks the trench coat, inspired by British labels like Burberry – where classics are considered ultra-chic – not ultra-conservative.
- Trend towards the traditional – a khaki or navy trench in a cotton poplin must have all the correct bells and whistles. The buckled belt – cinched at the waist in a tight knot (style note: never actually use the buckle, always tie it, leaving buckle hanging), plus epaulets on the shoulders, contrasting tortoise buttons, and storm flaps.
- London-chic accessories are the way to go here. A gorgeous, quality, croco handbag, a classic felt beret, a soft plaid or dotted scarf, pearls, blouses, and tartan trousers. Cuppa tea? Of course, darling.
- Jacob and Hudson’s Bay carry this well-heeled, lady-like look.
She’s more of a short-jacket over long-coat, kinda girl.
- Motocross and motorcycle jackets are the hot trend in casual jackets. The stylish girl rocks that same jacket with Saturday’s jeans, and her at-work pencil skirt. Pleather, or faux-leather is the fabric of choice here. Inexpensive, low-maintenance, and perfect for our rainy westcoast climate. Colours this fall include putty, greige, plum, claret, and navy blue.
- Accessories can re-work this jacket in a heartbeat. Make it eclectic by mixing up soft, sheer floral scarves, and feminine jewelry with punk studded bags, belts, and boots. Or keep it classic with a structured handbag, comfy flats, skinny pants with stretch for running all those errands, and a print scarf.
- Find this look at Suzy Shier, Cleo, Reitmans, and Alia N Tan Jay
What IS she wearing under that trench coat?
- Wear the classic trench coat unbuttoned ‘just’ enough to be, you guessed it, provocative. Military-inspired details make it down to business, but your ownstyling makes it sexy. Choose a coat in a classic trench poplin or canvas, but also look for a soft wool for chillier weather. Details like brass buttons and leather sleeves add interest – and give it a bit of edge.
- Accessorize with a fedora pulled low, oversized spy-shades, a clutch and sky-high pumps.
- Ricki’s, H&M and Mantique have the Provocateur-look, in spades.
She’s the modern-day Bond-girl. Rocking a super-sleek coat and ready to hop on her motorbike to chase down bad-guys, you don’t want to mess with Jane.
- Not the trench this time – but a functional coat a girl can really move in, with lots of edgy details. Tough, citified, often in black, with unexpected asymmetric zippers, silver or brass snaps, and patches of leather. Micro-fibre with some stretch is the ideal fabric, as is melton wool or leather. ¾ length works well in these coats, especially paired with skinny jeans or sleek stretch python print pants. Cue the slow-mo of helmet removal, headshake, and walking away from that massive explosion.
- Trends in accessories with this look follow suit, with the tough-girl vibe. Nothing fussy or femme – just functional. Think crossover handbags for hands-free movement. Low boots with studs and high heels.
- Jane Bond looks can be found at Le Chateau, RW & Co, Guess, and Jack and Jill
They had me at the s’mores gift bags. Sticks, Marshmallows, Chocolate and wafers. And fire pits by the pool and hottub on which to create the s’mores. The Ritz-Carlton, Lake Tahoe was built around a main fireplace/chimney, from which the rest of the building emanates. The main floor is more a great room than a lobby, with families eating, trendsetters having drinks and skiers doing après. It’s like the community centre of the rich and famous. Or at least that’s how it makes you feel.
The rooms boast soft sheets, stunning views, fireplaces and insanely amazing toiletries. Combined with turndown service and fluffy robes? Epic. My room overlooked the slopes of Northstar and I was torn as to whether to ski or stay in the gorgeous room. (The skiing was too good to pass up though).
I was to be on TV the day after I left Northstar and the Ritz-Carlton, and my nails were a mess. A devotee of Shellac, I needed acetone and foil to remove the 3 week-old colour from my fingers (it still looked great but not up to TV standards). The spa attendants let me in after they had closed to figure it out (how amazing is that?!). Not only did I see the alpenglow at the end of the day, but the healing, serene environment made me giddy. And I chose a very au courant blue lacquer for the TV appearance. You must check out the copper bathtub in the spa when you go. Stunning.
Similar to other Ritz-Carlton properties, the chain gives tribute to local culture and the art throughout the hotel was sourced locally. My favourite pieces were the 160 beer-can butterflies in the lobby bar, of which only one has been stolen since opening. You would never know they had been up-cycled. Hopefully I can find them on Etsy.
I wish I’d had my family there. As I watched a little boy have his boots nudged on by a valet, I remembered all of the weekends at Whistler mountain with my boys, screaming about their boots being tight. The Ritz-Carlton staff had magic that I do not. How I wish my boys could ride the uber-cool snowmobile sleigh and get their gear laced up by a pro! (The valets at the Ritz even place your skis and poles for you so your only job is to hop into them like an Olympian.) And watching the families après in the huge lobby are, surrounded by fireplaces, warmth and sun made me decide to return with my boys in tow.
The dining at the Ritz was like none I had ever experienced. (Knowing Shaun Whyte was ‘in the house’ didn’t hurt either – we toured his world-class halfpipe the next day). I began with a BNB. That would be – bacon and bourbon. The bacon being the stirstick. Yeah. I’m hard-core, BTW. Try to catch up to me on the slopes. Ha ha.
The food was amazing, (Trying not to be cliché but I can still taste it and I just can’t find the words). There were 6 of us around a table, getting to know each other over dinner. How rude was I when I asked for a taste of everyone else’s meals!
I’ve stayed with several Ritz-Carltons – New Orleans and I am off to Key Biscayne in Miami right now. What impresses me the most is how each hotel embraces their environment, meshes with the locals, incorporates the history of their surroundings into everything from the architecture to the menu. True vibrant hotels allow a parent to teach as well as relax, and taking your kids to this property you can’t help but feel the history, the gold rush, and the national forest emanating from the environment.
My drive back to the airport at Lake Tahoe was unforgettable. I was fidgeting with my Blackberry, fielding calls from work, and the driver was silent. He was the same driver I’d had on the way in. Feeling rude, I struck up a conversation which may have changed me forever. He told me of his ancestors. The railway tracks to the right that helped Lincoln win the Civil War. He told me of his great grandfather who was a guide in the gold rush as his eyes gleamed and his pride showed clearly. As a river guide in the summer he knows these parts. He stopped in the perfect location so that I could take one parting photo if the Ritz-Carlton. Remember in The Thomas Crown Affair – the smile of a Father? – That’s what it was like. The smile of a man who not only loves the land, but loves the businesses who prolong the history – his history.
Easiest, funnest (is that a word?) most perfect thing to do with kids in the winter. Sun Peaks Maple Syrup Candy. Kid’s Part: Fill a roasting pan with snow. Use a spoon to carve thin lines/troughs in the fluffy white snow they have collected. Adult’s Part: Place a pot on the stove and pour in your desired amount of pure Canadian Maple Syrup. Never leave the syrup unattended as you bring to a near boil. (It can come to heat very quickly and you never want it to boil over.) Once it is near boiling, have the kids stand back, and gently pour the syrup into the troughs they have made in the snow. Wait one minute while the syrup begins to harden. Using a teaspoon or a popsicle stick, begin at one end of the first trough and roll the candy onto the spoon. Voila! You have a maple syrup candy popsicle. Now for the lesson in teeth brushing..
Remember those days as a child, coming in from the rain and snow and sitting down to a huge mug of hot cocoa? If you’re going to indulge, you might as well do it from scratch. It’s easy, healthier, and you can’t beat the taste. Fill a pot on the stove with the desired amount of milk. Next, mix equal parts sugar and cocoa with a bit of the hot liquid. This prevents clumping. (You can also use Callebaut chocolate, chocolate chips, honey or brown sugar). Add the chocolate mixture to the hot milk and pour into cocoa cups. We like the china kind, but for kids, try mini tin camping mugs. Warm memories and special traditions. Try it with our shortbread if you dare!
As summer slips into crisp and busy autumn, we have always been taught to switch gears. When we were in school, this time of year meant new outfits and funky pencil cases. Time to learn. Time to re-aquaint with the friends who were at the cottage all summer. And then you got older. Don’t you remember pouring over the thickest Vogue of the year to master that year’s trends? Tweed? Chocolate brown?