Friday

Simple, warming turmeric latte, because, it's November


Turmeric Latte (Golden Latte)

350 ml milk (almond, dairy, whatever you like)
1/4 tsp turmeric powder
1/4 tsp cinnamon
scant 1/4 tsp ground ginger
dash black pepper
dash of cardamom powder
2 tsp maple syrup

Blend together on a stovetop pan using either a whisk or a handheld milk further until warm & frothy.
Alternatively if you own a Nespresso Aerochino, you can just throw everything together in there, and simply tap the button and you're done.




Wednesday

Halloween around here: carving the cutest white pumpkin and roasting pumpkin seeds


We've been really getting into the Halloween spirit around here. My boys get spooked pretty easily, so we keep our decorations pretty tame.

Last night we carved pumpkins. I decided to try carving a white pumpkin, which I had never done before. I carved sleepy eyes, and I'm so happy with how it turned out. I think it's absolutely adorable!









And of course, we roasted the pumpkin seeds.
If you're interested, read the recipe after the jump...

Monday

School Safe Chocolate SunButter Cookies

Here's a school-safe (nut-free) adaptation of a classic chocolate peanut-butter cookie. Only they're not made with peanut butter. Instead they're made with healthy protein-packed sunflower seed butter.


I like to pack my boys homemade desserts in their lunches. But I've felt frustrated lately, as most of the desserts I like to make use a lot of nuts (I almost always swap out 1/3 to 1/2 of the flour in any recipe for ground almonds for nutritional purposes). But this means my boys can't bring what I make to school. 

So I was inspired to find a decently healthy cookie that I could make, that didn't contain any nuts at all (our school is very strict on this issue, for good reason).

I won't lie, I don't love the taste of sunflower seed butter on its own. But I do love that it's packed with protein, and rich in iron and vitamin E. So this is where the cocoa powder comes in - it completely masks the  "seedy" flavour.

I am so pleased with these! 




Read on for the recipe.....

Wednesday

Healthy Fruit & Nut Chocolate Power Balls (vegan, gluten-free)

power balls recipe


These little power balls don't take their name lightly - they are literally packed with healthy fats and protein, and they will keep you going when you don't have time to eat a full meal.

Some days when I'm hustling to get the kids ready for school and out the door, and simultaneously trying to get myself ready for work, I'll realize at the last minute that all I've ingested is caffeine. And on those days, I love when I have a container of these power balls in my fridge - they are total life savers. 


vegan gluten-free power balls  recipe

This recipe is quite adaptable. I change it up all the time - varying the types of nuts and dried fruit to match what I have on hand (but keeping the overall ratios approximately the same). They always turn out great.

You'll need a food processor for this recipe, and you'll need to devote a bit of time to roll them into balls. That part is a bit of a labour of love - but I promise you, it's worth it.


vegan gluten-free power balls  recipe

Read on for the recipe....


Best Ever Granola Recipe - with olive oil and maple syrup


Homemade granola is such a wonderful thing to make. It's so simple, and tastes a million times better than any store bought version. And you can make it your own by crafting your own perfect melange of nuts and seeds.

I have perfected my favourite version (in my humble opinion!). The kids and I make a big batch every few weeks and we eat it almost daily for breakfast. It's so hearty and satisfying and utterly delicious.

If you've never made your own granola before, this is a great way to start.


Read on for the recipe...




Best Ever Granola Recipe 
- made with olive oil and maple syrup -


3 cups whole rolled oats
2 cups slivered almonds
1 cup pumpkin seeds
1 cup raw sunflower seeds
1 cup unsweetened shredded coconut or coconut chips
1/4 cup raw whole flax seeds
1 tsp cinnamon 
1 tsp salt
1/4 tsp cardamom powder
1/2 cup olive oil
1/4 brown sugar
3/4 cup pure maple syrup

Mix everything in a large bowl.
Spread on a large baking tray (I line mine with parchment paper for easy clean up - but not necessary).
Bake at 320 degrees F for 15 minute intervals x3 (total 40-45 minutes) - stirring in between each, or until the granola is nice and golden but not too dark. 

* if you want granola clusters, do not toss the granola when you take it out of the oven for the final time, and let it cool completely in the tray before breaking it up into delicious bite-sized clusters.

*I don't like dried fruit in my granola, but feel free to toss in some dried cranberries/currents/raisins/chopped apricots at the end (after baking).

* Recipe inspired by the famous New York Times version - I've adapted it to my own personal tastes and preferences over the years.




Store in a large jar at room temperature. It keeps very well for several weeks.
Enjoy!

Thursday

Healthy Whole Wheat Carrot & Zucchini Muffins

healthy muffin recipe

These healthy muffins have a wonderfully crisp lid and a decadently moist interior. They are absolutely scrumptious and an all time favourite in this household.

healthy carrot zucchini muffinsThe best part, in my opinion, is that they are literally loaded with carrots & zucchini.... but you wouldn't know it. 

I feel good about serving them to my own kids - but it also still feels like a treat for them. 
Win-win.
 I took my all time favourite muffin recipe and made it a whole lot healthier. I swapped out half of the white flour for ground almond flour and the other half with whole wheat flour. I reduced the sugar content and upped the vegetables. And my kids didn't even notice!

These make great breakfast muffins, and are perfect after school snacks for hungry kiddies.



Read on for the recipe...

How to prevent Social Media Depression


For the most part, I like social media. I think we are lucky to live in this age of unprecedented connectedness. When used appropriately, social media can be an incredibly powerful tool to give voices to people who might otherwise not be heard. Or simply to connect with like-minded people across the planet.

But. Social Media is making people depressed. Or at least negatively affecting their mood and wellbeing. We now have more and more data to back this up. (here's a good review on the topic).

I have definitely gone through phases where I overuse social media (ahem: Instagram) and it results in me feeling depleted, and simply put, down on myself.
It's so easy to lose perspective of real life when you scroll through all those seemingly happy shiny people's feeds, and in comparison, your own life can seem rather boring.

So what can a person do? How can we prevent social media depression?
Obviously, not going on social media in the first place would do the trick. But for a lot of people, that's not a realistic or desirable solution.

I've been thinking a lot about this lately.
And I think we can learn to survive in this age social media if we continuously remind ourselves of a few fundamental truths about human nature:

TRUTH #1:
PICTURES DO NOT ACCURATELY REPRESENT A PERSON'S LIFE

People post carefully curated, highly edited/filtered photos of themselves and their lives on social media, which can give the illusion of perfection.

There is nothing inherently wrong with this. Most people want to show the best version of themselves to the world. This is why we dress nicely, put on make-up, brush our hair, etc.

But with the incredible photo editing apps available these days, you can make yourself (and your life) appear way better than it is. And when everyone is doing this, especially when viewed by someone emotionally vulnerable, it has the potential to create a false understanding of what is normal ("the grand social media illusion").

I love this picture. But it doesn't show the whole truth.
My son was cold & miserable and whined most of the time.
Pictures are deceiving.

TRUTH #2:
NO ONE'S LIFE IS PERFECT. NO ONE!

The perfect life does not exist. Everyone has problems.

Social media makes some people depressed because of the way they interpret what they are seeing on it. People draw false conclusions about other people's pictures/lives and then make it mean something equally false about their own lives.

  • That gorgeous couple in the sunset who live in an eternal state of romance.  They don't.
  • That family with five perfect kids who have it all together and never lose their temper.  They don't.
  • That girl with the amazing wardrobe and perfect face who is completely flawless.  She isn't.
  • The ones with the gorgeous houses, and cars, and wealth, who literally have it all.  They don't.
As a family physician, I am privy to some very personal information. And let me tell you, everyone has problems! Even the seemingly "perfect" ones. I remember being completely blown away by this when I first started practicing. So many people's emotional lives do not match what you see on the surface.
I remember naively thinking: how could this woman be depressed when she has everything?! She has the perfect life, she has no excuse! Well it just doesn't work like that. (Obviously!)

You can be rich and depressed. You can be skinny and depressed. You can be pretty and depressed. You can have 500K followers on social media and still be depressed.
Everyone knows this, of course, but it is easy to forget.


how to prevent social media depression

TRUTH #3:
COMPARISON IS THE THIEF OF JOY

Ok so maybe this isn't always true, but on social media it's a heavy hitter.

At it's best, comparison can be a tool to inspire you. To motivate you to make positive changes in your life. But more often than not, comparison leads to feelings of inadequacy and jealousy.

(Ugh - jealousy is such a yucky feeling to have - I hate when I catch myself feeling that way!)

We scroll though social media for whatever length of time, and leave feeling bad about ourselves. Whether it's about our bodies, the way we dress, our lifestyles, where we live, whatever.

Usually we are sitting at home wasting an hour or more of our precious free time on our devices, looking at pictures of other people getting out and doing fun things. And then we feel bad about just being on our couches and not getting out and doing fun things ourselves. It's a vicious cycle!

If you want to survive in the age of social media, in my opinion, you need to stop comparing yourself to others.
How does one do that? With a lot of practise!

If you catch your mind going down a negative comparison cycle, or feeling unwanted jealousy creeping in, here's what I do:

  • Stop and acknowledge the feelings. Name them! Tell yourself - "this is jealousy", "this is envy",  etc. Naming and acknowledging emotions is a very powerful tool.
  • Once you've named the negative emotion, you can choose if you want to keep feeling it or not.
  • Remind yourself of what you do have. Remind yourself of what is good about your own life. Honest gratitude and being thankful for what you have will always help you feel better.

TRUTH #4
TRUE HAPPINESS DOES NOT COME FROM EXTERNAL SOURCES


It's human nature to want to be "liked" and accepted and popular. It feels amazing when our posts get a lot of attention and positive feedback.
But we need to be careful here. Anything external that produces a temporary "high" is potentially addictive.

People can actually become dependent on social media attention and validation for their happiness, and this is a precarious situation to be in. Because when the reverse happens (when you lose followers, when you get "un-friended",  or when your post gets little attention), then the source of your happiness is gone and you feel empty.

External sources of happiness are not constant, and they are usually not in your control.  In other words, you can't count on them. So it's a much better idea to gather your happiness from your own internal sources.

For more reading on cultivating those internal sources of happiness, read this and this and this.

* A little side note about dealing with those negative feelings that come from being unfriended/unfollowed... 
Think about a peach: 
You can be the most succulent, most perfect peach in the world, but there is always going to be someone out there who just doesn't like peaches.
It's not the peach's fault, and it's not that person's fault either. Just the way it is.
You cannot please everybody. Fact of life! Just keep on being the beautiful peach that you are!



So what's the bottom line?

  • limit your time on social media to make time for real life
  • remember to keep things in perspective. Constantly remind yourself that the photos you are seeing are edited and curated and staged, and that there are real people behind those photos with real people problems.
  • remember that true happiness does not come from external sources
  • And finally, choose kindness. Always. When you are commenting, with your opinions, and with yourself. There is way too much negativity and hostility on social media. Choose to be kind.
  • Here's another great piece on this topic with additional tips.

I'd love to hear your comments here. Does social media ever get to you? If not, what are your tricks?!

Tuesday

My Tips for Traveling with Kids


Before we had our kids, we travelled a lot. When we had one kid we travelled a fair bit. And when we had two kids, I became terrified. 

At the time, we lived in the far north and I had to take flights every 6-8 weeks, often on my own, with a baby and a toddler, and it was SO stressful at first.
Initially I would only do short flights of max 3hrs, but slowly but surely I built up my confidence.

My kids are pros at the airport now. They go through security faster and more efficiently than a lot of adults do!

We are still learning and evolving but we have certainly gained a lot of parental-travel experience over the past 5 years.

So I thought I'd share my tips for traveling with young kids with you. I'm not claiming to be an expert here, and obviously every family is different, with different numbers, dynamics, needs and budgets.
But this is how we like to travel, and what works well for our family...




1. Stay in an apartment, not a hotel.


This is hands down the most important "tip", in my opinion. It's usually way cheaper than a hotel, and you get separate bedrooms, a common living space, and most importantly a fully-equipped kitchen.
Being able to make meals at home is such a stress reliever. I love going to restaurants, but I hate eating out 3 times a day for a full week.

We usually eat our breakfasts at home and lunches/dinners in restaurants. But I love having the option of a healthy home-cooked meal if we want it.

We usually book our rentals with Airbnb or VRBO. Sometimes we hit the jackpot and rent a place from a family with kids - which means it's stocked with toys and books and kiddie cutlery.


Enjoying a lazy morning in our rental apartment



2. You can still go to nice restaurants


Good food is really important to me. And trying out great local restaurants is a major part of the whole travel experience for me. The problem is that a lot of the restaurants that I want to try aren't exactly "family-style" restaurants with kids menus and crayons, if you know what I mean.

We get around this in a few ways.... First, we go early - like at 5:30pm or 6pm. The restaurants aren't usually busy, the waiters are less stressed, our kids are generally in better moods, and we don't have to wait long to get our food. Second, we don't stress about the kids eating a full "balanced" meal. The fact that I even get to go to a "fancy" restaurant with my young kids is already a huge success. I pick my battles. Who cares if they eat 3 slices of bread - it keeps them quiet and happy and I get to enjoy my wine ;)

I find that most restaurants are extremely accommodating. They can usually modify a dish and omit "kid-offensive" things from the plate if you ask them to (get that fresh green herb sprig out of my sight!). And if all else fails, and there's nothing remotely child-friendly on the menu, we ask the chef to serve up a bowl of plain buttered noodles. We've never been denied, and the boys think it's the best restaurant ever!


raw salmon? - why not!

Oh and I almost forgot - very important - make sure your kids are hungry! Not hungry to the point of being hangry, of course, because that could backfire... but they should be ready to eat. I find that kids are much more willing to try new foods when they have a good appetite. So if we have a 5:30pm dinner reservation, we don't let the kids snack in the afternoon (except for maybe an apple).


When I clearly pushed it too far,
and they can't make it through dinner.

3. Don't set your expectations too high. 


You probably won't be able to see and do everything you would if you didn't have your kids with you.

This has taken me a while to accept. I'm the kind of person who wants to see everything! But loss of routine can be hard for kids, and too many structured adult-centred activities is asking a lot of them. When I try to pack in too much site-seeing, I usually pay for 
it in bad moods and tantrums.

So as we become more seasoned parental-travellers we have
 learned to take a more laid-back approach... We usually plan one daily outing/event in the morning and then schedule some down-time in the afternoon (an outdoor kids park is ideal, weather permitting, or even just some free play time at home). If the kids 
are up for it emotionally/mentally we will add another outing spontaneously later on in the day.


4. Keep your basic routine from home 


Most kids thrive on routine. I know ours certainly do!
So we try to keep somewhat of a consistent wake-time, mealtime and bedtime schedule, to what they are used to at home.

This isn't always possible. We completely caved on this one when we were in Disney World, and we let the boys stay up until 10pm to watch the fireworks (a few days in a row!)... and well, we were all very exhausted and a little cranky. Sometimes it's worth it though.

Keeping a routine can be especially challenging with time-zone changes, but I find that it only takes around 1-2 days to adjust. 
We've tried both methods of forcing them to stay awake until bedtime (local time) on the day of arrival, as well as just letting them sleep whenever they're tired. In my opinion, there's no big difference, and there are no real tricks here - you just have to surrender to it ;)

Despite the challenges, and occasional extra late night, we really strive for consistency with their natural rhythms as much as possible. I think it makes for happier children.





5. If you can, travel with others!


Some of our best trips have been when we rented a shared house with friends and their children. We put the kids to bed early and then enjoy some lavish late night cooking and cocktails with our friends. 

Or if you have willing parents/in-laws, see if they want to come along. We love traveling with the grandparents.. and the kids love it too (Plus: babysitters!)




6. A final note on Airplane Travel

This is more of an issue with really young children. If your little one is going to sit on your lap for the flight, I highly recommend a baby carrier to free up your arms while your baby naps. This saved me so many times when traveling alone with an infant and toddler.

And if your child is used to watching videos, or is old enough to have a video sustain his attention, this is all I have to say:

easiest flight ever!

Ok I think that's all I've got!
If you have any tips, I'd love to hear them in the comments below!
xo
Vanessa


Saturday

New Beginnings....

So it's been a few years, but I've missed this space.
I've missed this blog.
And I've missed you!


Year after year, I've kept renewing this blog domain (it only costs 10$ per year), even though I haven't been posting. Because somewhere I knew I'd want to return to it. Ok, maybe "knew" is a strong word. I had an *inkling* I might return to it one day.
(Also, when I travel - I just really love having online access to my favourite recipes!)

I don't think of myself as a writer by any means, but one of the things I've missed the most has been the writing. It's therapeutic for me.

I have continued to share my life on instagram, which has fulfilled my need for connectedness in the interim, but it's not enough. 

Nothing compares to the freedom of a blog. 
I can write as little or as much as I want.
There are no hashtags, no "like" buttons, or filters.
This post isn't going to appear in anyone's feed, or bombard them if they don't choose to see it.
People read your blog only if they want to. I don't even know if they did or didn't.
And to me, that is what makes it magic. 

And so, here I go again. 
No promises of commitment of course, because life is unpredictable. 
But I've changed and I've grown and also I'm just completely the same. 
And I miss this space. And I miss you.

 

Sunday

Chocolate Chip Pumpkin Muffins


I make these muffins about 5 times every year... in rapid succession, every October. They're so good! Delicately spiced, pillowy and moist on the inside, with a crisp top, and loaded with pure pumpkin... everything I want in an autumn muffin.

Here's a copy of my recipe (let me know if you can't read it, and I'll get around to actually typing it out)...







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