Be The Change Series: Santa For Seniors

Often during this season, we tend to focus our donation efforts on children and families in need. It’s hard to think of children going without at Christmas, yet sadly, there is just as strong a need for assistance for our seniors.

Many seniors are living at or below the poverty line – with few options for improvement due to their limited pensions and fixed incomes. This problem will only become greater in the coming years as the population ages and the economy fluctuates.  With many seniors struggling to maintain their hydro this winter or pay their bills, they will be in need of basic items many of us take for granted. If they do not have family to support them, who else can they turn to?

Luckily there’s still Santa.

Be a Santa to a Senior is a program being run through Home Instead Senior Care in Niagara Falls that helps send gifts to lonely and financially challenged seniors that receive assistance through the Niagara Region Community Services Dept.  They have been provided with names and wish lists from seniors in our communities.

By visiting one of the 4 donation sites in Niagara, one can select the name of a senior in need from a specially designated tree. The tags are gender specific, and will provide a short list of items requested. These can range from $25-$40 and include basic items like toiletries, cleaning supplies, pet supplies, and non-perishable food items. Completed donations can be returned unwrapped to the donation site, where they will be wrapped and delivered by volunteers.

Pleasantview Funeral Home  in Fonthill is one the locations participating and the only one in the Pelham area. “It is really heart-breaking to read through (the wish lists.)” says Funeral Director Andrea Stubbings.  She is pleased to announce that to date, their location alone has provided donations to 100 seniors this season.  (In total, the program will be providing gifts to over 350 seniors in Niagara.) The last of the ornaments are on their tree in the Main Office lobby off of Merrittville Rd, and the response from the community so far has been wonderful.

This is the third year for this program and it has already grown exponentially due to the high demand.   While they are pleased with the support from the community to date, there is still more that can be done.  Even though the program is winding up for this year, they would still welcome donations of warm items like blankets, sweaters, slippers, hats, scarves and mittens. In addition to gifts, donations of wrapping paper and gift bags would also be greatly appreciated.

All donations must be received by December 12th, as that is the final gift collection day.  Wrapping will commence Dec 16th and 17th.

Other Ways to Show Kindness

In addition to those being helped by this program, there are still many seniors in retirement homes that would appreciate an act of kindness this Christmas.  Many do not receive visitors and this can be a sad and lonely time for them.  I encourage you to keep this in mind this season if you are visiting a relative in a home, or simply want to do something kind for a stranger.  Consider contacting your local senior’s home to see how you can be of service.  Get the family together to make some Christmas cards that could be distributed to lonely residents, or plan a day to visit.  Either way, the gift of your time and effort will be appreciated, and giving someone a reason to smile this holiday season is the greatest gift of all.

Like what you read? Please share, or drop me a line.  I’d love to hear from you!

Be The Change This Season

 

If you’re like me, you’ve had enough of all the negative news and doomsday preaching happening these days. With so much focus on the pending #Trumpocalypse in the USA, I for one am glad that the holiday season is around the corner; but not for the reasons you might think.

Sure, it would be easy to crank up the 24-hour Christmas music stations and bury my head in a pile of ugly Christmas sweaters for as long as possible, but what good will that do anyone? It certainly won’t change anything. The fear and anger that is building in our world won’t just dissipate on Christmas morning, no matter how many letters we write to Santa.

No, the real reason I am looking forward to this holiday season is the message of peace and love that it brings and the faith that it rekindles – in ourselves and in the world we want to help create. There is no denying – a certain magic does exist surrounding this season and it is there for all to find if we seek it. It’s in the little things we say and do; the simple ways we show care and kindness to each other.  Holding open a door for a stranger, helping an elderly neighbour, or donating to a local charity.

Yes, there is a darker side too. I know the holidays can be a stressful and depressing time for many.  This is true of most situations in life – we cannot have darkness without light. But we seem more open to possibilities at Christmas, as if the added warmth we feel in our hearts towards each other can give us extra strength to push back a little harder against the cold, dark shadows that threaten us.

I want to help bring back hope to our world. I want to renew my own faith in humanity. I want to be a channel for change. That is why I will be focusing on promoting a few local charities in my next series of blogs. My goal is to help spread the word on local efforts that are in need of volunteers or donations.  I will be providing details on the fundraiser/charity and whenever possible, contact information and links.  ( I wish to further state that I am not affiliated with any of the charities, nor am I being compensated for doing this. )

This world needs healing and I want to start by helping my own community. We need to feel empowered – for ourselves and our communities. We also need to instill these virtues in our children so that they will keep spreading the good long after we are gone. If you feel the same as I do, let’s spread a little light together.

Bonnie

Healthy Holiday Recipes 

Today I finally had a chance to get back in my kitchen after a month of constant running and juggling. I know I’ve been a bit slack with my posts lately, so to make up for it, I tried and tested 2 recipes this morning which I am pleased to share the results of here now.

I’ve been on a pumpkin/gingerbread kick lately but trying to avoid anything too rich or fattening. I recently committed to participating in a 30 day exercise challenge due to the muffin top I’ve been harbouring, and so anything resembling a Starbucks Pumpkin Spice Latte is officially off the menu until further notice. Time to find healthy alternatives that still have all the flavour I crave.

Both of these recipes are relatively clean and can be found on Pinterest. They include very easy to follow instructions.  My first recipe pick comes from The Big Man’s World and is a simple, quick and clean snack called (take a big breath for this one)…

Healthy 4 Ingredient Flourless Pumpkin Gingerbread Blondies

While the name may be a workout, the recipe itself is not. It took less than 10 minutes to prepare and about 20 minutes to bake. Since my kid is a picky eater I chose to add a tablespoon of chia seeds and 1 egg to the batter to up the fibre and protein but the recipe does not call for them.  According to the recipe, they will be soft and doughy when done but cooling allows them to firm up. While allowing them to cool for a few hours is recommended, mine were ok with a few extra minutes in the oven thanks to the egg. Since my husband ate half the pan within the first hour, I assume they are still good slightly warm.  

Banana Gingerbread Muffins 

The second recipe – and my new favourite- is a healthy alternative to gingerbread. It can be found at Amy’s Healthy Baking and is entitled Banana Gingerbread Muffins. 

Simple ingredients, lots of holiday spices, and molasses instead of sugar results in a moist and fluffy muffin with all the flavour of the season you could ask for. I highly recommend these and as you can see from the picture provided, my kid does too. (All that was left was the muffin wrapper!)

So there you go – 2 family approved recipes to add to your holiday baking repertoire. I hope you will enjoy them as much as our family does.  Here’s wishing you a healthy, happy, holiday season!

Bonnie

Recipe: Apple Ring Pancakes 

Sunday mornings are usually my time to relax around here.  I get to move a little slower, savour my morning coffee and spend some time puttering around the house. I also try to spend some quality time with my daughter as my husband works weekends. One of our favourite things to do is to look up and test new recipes. 
I like to take recipes and find ways to clean them up without sacrificing flavour. This morning as I scrolled through Facebook I came across one that was perfect for us. I showed it to my daughter and she agreed. As luck would have it, we had all the ingredients too! We got started right away.

I had a small amount of pancake mix left on hand and it was perfect for 3 apples. Aim for about 2/3 cup dry pancake mix and follow the instructions on your package. I have included mine below as a guideline. We also used ambrosia apples but royal gala or any apple that works for making pie will work here.  Try not to cut the apples slices too thick or they won’t cook through before the batter burns. 

The original recipe called for dredging the finished pancakes in a mixture of cinnamon and sugar before serving, but I felt this was overkill. We chose to omit this step and our pancakes had a lovely apple pie characteristic instead.  We used a drizzle of maple syrup and a dollop of Nordica’s salted caramel cottage cheese for toppings, but the options are endless.

So quick and easy to make -and delicious!

 I’m looking forward to making this again and trying some hemp hearts and nut butter or lemon curd as well. Be sure to let me know if you try this out and what toppings you try – don’t be afraid to get creative!

Apple Ring Pancakes 

  • 3 medium sized apples, cored (peeling is optional)
  • 2/3 cup dry pancake mix
  • 1 tsp cinnamon 
  • 2/3 cup milk
  • 1 tblspn agave nectar (or maple syrup)
  • 1/4 tsp vanilla extract 
  • 1 egg

Directions:

  1. Slice apples into rings approximately 1/4inch thick or less. 
  2. Mix dry pancake mix and cinnamon and keep in reserve.
  3. In a medium bowl, add vanilla extract to remaining ingredients as outlined on pancake mix package (or as shown above)
  4. Add dry mix to bowl. Stir until combined  (OK if lumpy)
  5. Heat skillet on medium-high heat. Coat with tablespoon of butter or coconut oil.
  6. Dip apple slices in batter, coating both sides well. Place in skillet 
  7. Cook on first side until batter begins to bubble and crisp at edges; then flip.  Continue to cook until both sides are done.
  8. Remove from heat and allow to cool slightly before serving. Top with maple syrup or your favourite toppings.

Post Election Parenting

4156535452_9f2ee39b7e_nThis week has been a tumultuous one at best.  While the collective American fate was being decided at the polls, we Canadians stood by watching and biting our nails.  The mudslinging and accusations propagated by both parties, the constant updates and sensationalism put out by every media channel in the US (and to some degree, Canada) not to mention the countless #hashtags and memes put forth by anyone with a social media account lately has meant that it has been virtually impossible to escape the 2016 US Election.  This is also true for us Canadians.  While the election has been on my radar and causing me more concern than I’d like to admit, I was not expecting my own daughter to be concerned as well.

Many parents have been commenting on the discussions they are having with their children following the announcement of the US election results.  I think this is a new precedent in our shared culture: young children – many not able to perform long division or tie their own shoes yet- are concerned about the future of their society.  They are asking questions that are tough to answer, and fearing the apocalypse this presidency may cause instead of believing in Santa Claus.  This says more about the state of our world to me than anything else being reported on CNN.

4082932968_a37828a0fc_nYoung children are paying closer attention to what is happening around them than we think.  Their fears and concerns are real and many parents are questioning how to respond to them. How do you answer the child who fears her schoolmates may be “sent home?”  Other children are asking if this means World War 3 is about to happen, and I suspect a few adults are wondering the same.  My own daughter informed me this week that she needed to skip school today so she could go to the Canadian/US border and help start building the wall to keep Trump out of Canada.  She is eight.  I was hoping to keep her from becoming jaded about politics until she was at least old enough to vote.

Media personalities, politicians, and voters alike beware.  Out generation’s beliefs and actions NOW are shaping not only the next few years of our combined futures, but the development of the mindset of the next generation of voters that is watching in the wings.  As adults, we need to think about what our decisions are portraying to them, and how we plan to explain it.  Trump has shown very little sportsmanship in or out of the political ring.  I do admit that I have my own fears about how he will represent the American people internationally.  Is this the future of politics then?  Can we expect this sort of circus to become the norm from future candidates?  For the sake of both our countries I sincerely hope not.

Being neighbours means that our countries share a close connection – sometimes whether we like it or not.  With one of the longest unprotected borders in the world, we have been able to maintain a cordial relationship for much of our shared history.  Canada has often been viewed as a little sibling to loud big America; with similar features and attributes but calmer tendencies.  While in America the phrase “Go big or go home” may run true, here in Canada we take a more stoic approach to things.  Our penchant for multiculturalism, “odd” pronunciations and spellings of common English words, and a love of poutine for instance.   Where Americans like to dive into situations with their guns drawn and blazing, we Canadians prefer a different approach.  As is our nature, we will remain vigilant and watchful as events unfold for our American neighbours, and like good neighbours we will support them as best we can.

This is what I hope to convey to my daughter.  By opening up a dialogue and sharing information in a safe and calm manner I hope to alleviate her fears for the future.  I want her to know that she can come to me with her questions and concerns, and trust that I will try to help her find the answers she seeks.  I won’t sugar coat the details, but I will try and keep things from being as dire as the media tends to make it sound.  Children need to understand that sensationalism sells, and tends to be to overused my news media.  Many people avoid the news for this very reason.  We need to work harder to find the more positive stories to keep them in balance.

I hope that this election brings America the positive changes they are seeking while maintaining the respectful relationship between our two great countries.  Here’s to a brighter future for all our kids regardless of gender, race or economic standing.  Because isn’t that what we’re all fighting for after all?

Toasted Pumpkin Seeds

The weekend is here again, and I woke up today with a desire  to do something in my kitchen besides  cleaning it. Looking around, I saw the pumpkin seeds I had been drying on the counter but hadn’t had time to finish. Perfect.
I wasn’t sure  how I wanted to season them at first,  and was leaning toward a slightly sweet pumpkin spice mix (I know, obvious) until I remembered my darling husband’s preference for savoury or spicy flavours. I felt lieke surprising him with one of his favourite snacks so back in the cupboard went the cinnamon and nutmeg and out came the jerk seasoning and barbecue salts.

If you haven’t yet toasted pumpkin  seeds…well what are you waiting for? Their super  easy to do, hard to ruin, and healthy. Toasting pumpkin seeds with the kids can be a great way to spend some time together in the kitchen and make use of all those pumpkins sitting around. I usually pick up a few more after Halloween on sale just for the seeds. There are so many flavour combos that you can literally just pull out your favourite spices and herbs from the cupboard and have fun experimenting, but for those of you seeking some guidance here are a few of my faves.

Pumpkin Spice: cinnamon, nutmeg, a dash of ginger and clove. sprinkle some brown sugar as well and you have the perfect fall flavours.

Garlic & Herb: garlic salt, rosemary, oregano and thyme. Add a little parmesan  cheese for fun.

Caribbean Jerk: garlic salt or seasoning salt mix and your favourite jerk seasoning. Add some brown sugar for a sweet and spicy mix.

Once you have your mix, toss the cleaned and dried pumpkin seeds in a bowl with a little oil (I prefer to use coconut) and then toss in your seasonings to coat. Mix well. Preheat your oven to 250 degrees.

Spread the seeds on a parchment paper lined cookie sheet and bake in oven for 45 minutes, tossing seeds occasionally.

When done, seeds should be slightly crunchy but not burnt. Allow to cool then store in a container. No need to refrigerate.

Do you have another flavour combo you would like to recommend?  Drop me a line – I love experimenting!

Bonnie aka The Stay At Home Workaholic