March Brings The Winds Of Change

 

Wow! What a busy start to March, and so many exciting changes! Does anyone else feel like this windy weather just blew half the week away??

March has come in with some crazy weather here in Niagara, but despite this, I find myself actually feeling pretty energized despite a hectic couple of days. A lot of opportunities have come my way this week and I feel blessed and excited about them. I’ll be announcing some more exciting news around here very soon so stay tuned!  But for now…first things first.

As some of you may already know, I’m in the process of redesigning my website and the format of my blog. While it’s been fun writing about anything and everything, it’s now time to start to streamline my focus. As such I plan to take my blog in a new direction; one that is more in line with my actual website.

Going Forward in a New Direction

My focus will be moving away from the “mom blog” format many of my contemporaries offer, as this is really not my intended purpose for writing a blog. Initially, I wanted to test the waters and spread my blogging wings over a variety of topics. Having now done this, I will be archiving many of these posts into a sub-section on my blog page. Thus they will still be available and will serve as examples of my writing style.

Going forward, I will be sharing more on my journey into freelance writing and starting my own business. There will still be a focus on finding a balance between work and family, all wrapped up in my keen workaholic intellect and warped sense of humour.

“The only thing constant in life is Change.”

The Greek philosopher Heraclitus is credited with this saying, and I have come to live by these words.  They have both comforted and inspired me in my varied career paths as well as my daily life.

I hope that those of you who have followed me so far will continue to enjoy my new format as well. I thank you all for your continued support and as always, I appreciate your suggestions and feedback.

Cheers!

Bonnie

 P.S. – If you want to learn more about my blogging journey or how to become a better entrepreneur yourself, sign up for my new email newsletter!  I’ll be sharing all the tips and tricks I’ve learned so far on my own journey as a freelance writer/solopreneur.

 

Easy 4-Ingredient Meyer Lemon Coconut Squares

meyer lemon, coconut squares, blue background
Easy No bake lemon coconut squares. Nut free, dairy free, kid approved.

Attention coconut lovers! Today I am sharing a quick and easy recipe I developed using only 4 ingredients. It’s so easy even a monkey can do it, which is good because some days I feel like I live with a bunch.  Finding recipes that are nutritious AND delicious for kids can be enough to drive you bananas, but this one has been a real crowd-pleaser with my gang, so it gets a double “opposable thumbs up” in my book!

I love coconut.  I use it every single day in some form or another.  I even use coconut oil instead of butter in most of my recipes, as it can be substituted perfectly with no measurement adjustments to the actual recipe.  Another fave fact about coconut oil: it works perfectly to remove waterproof eye makeup! (More on that in another post.)

Anyhoo, the dullness of winter has me craving fresh and light flavours at present, so I bought a bag of Meyer lemons with the intention of working on some new recipes this past week.  I love that this is a “no bake” recipe too. It only takes about 15 minutes to make from start to finish which means you can feel accomplished and still have time to catch up on Netflix.  Keep them in the fridge for an easy snack – I’d say they should keep for a few weeks there, but I doubt they will last that long if you have coconut lovers around!  Anyway, I hope you will enjoy this recipe as much as my family has – it was hard not to eat a few extra squares as I was taking the pictures!

Lemons and coconut squares

Lemon and coconut – such a bright and lively flavour combo!

Easy Meyer Lemon Coconut Squares

  • 1 Meyer Lemon (juice of and zest)

  • 1/4 tsp fine groundHimalayan sea salt
  • 1 cup coconut oil
  • 2-3 cups shredded, sweetened coconut
  1. Grease small pan or dish (no bigger than 9×9) with a small amount of coconut oil.
  2. Melt coconut oil in medium saucepan over low heat.  Add salt and stir until dissolved.  Remove from heat.
  3. Add lemon juice and give a quick stir.  Slowly add 2 cups shredded coconut until blended and liquid is mostly absorbed.  Set aside to cool 5 mins.
  4. Check consistency of mixture.  If it appears to be too runny, add more coconut and allow it to absorb oil for another minute or so.  If a spoonful of liquid appears to be floating around the edges still it will be ok.
  5. Transfer mix to greased pan, and pat down gently but firmly.  Cover pan with plastic wrap and put in the fridge to cool for 30 mins.
  6. Cut into small squares and keep in the fridge for up to 2 weeks.
Variations:

Keep in mind, that if lemon is not your thing, you could easily substitute lime, or perhaps a teaspoon of either vanilla or almond extract. I think these would also be great with a scoop of vanilla protein powder. If you want to cut out most of the sugar, substitute unsweetened coconut and add a few tablespoons of honey, maple or agave syrup instead.  Just check for sweetness as you go. Stevia would also work, but check your brand for recommended equivalence as many have varied concentrations.

Love coconut as much as I do?  Got an idea for a recipe?  Comment below and share away! Don’t forget to sign up for my blog newsletter as well.  I share lifestyle tips, recipes and stories all wrapped up in a workaholic’s sense of humour.

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?

Out of My Head – I Mean Office

 

Well it’s Sunday morning again, and the sun is shining through the leaves that are just beginning to turn colour outside my kitchen window.  It’s been a slow change this season, and I’m surprised how many are still green this late into October.  I’m sitting here enjoying the view with my first cup of coffee while deciding what to do first today. So far, here’s my list:

– go to gym
– tidy kitchen
– yard work
– clean and re-caulk the shower
– dig up bulbs
– clean out fridge
– finish laundry

Normally my weekend “To Do” lists are much longer, but technically I only have until noon today to finish this one.  I’m still cramming in as much as I can in true workaholic style, but after that, I’m on vacation for a few days.

Yes that’s right.  I am looking forward to some much needed quality time with The Fam.  As such, I may be out of touch with my social media channels for a bit. Over the next week, I’ll be checking in periodically and available to my clients via text or email, but not actively posting blogs.

I’m committing to focusing on my family over these next few days. Face time with your loved ones is more important than Facebook updates and I want to show them I haven’t forgotten this. Working from home more now this year has allowed them to see more of me, but some days its just the back of my head as I sit hunkered down over my laptop.  I highly doubt that this counts in their book.

I swear to everything holy he hasn't even FOUND his suitcase yet. I'm tempted to hide all his laundry that I washed and sorted just to make things more fun (well for me.)
I swear to everything holy he hasn’t even FOUND his suitcase yet. I’m tempted to hide all his laundry that I have spent days washing and folding just to make things more fun (well for me.)

The kid is so excited about our pending adventure that she was up at 6am this morning with daddy as he prepared to head to the gym.  They both kindly let me sleep in a few hours longer but the calm didn’t last as long as I had hoped.  Now we are in a state of simmering anticipation to be on our way.

Of course, this means I need to finish my chores and have everything ready so my husband can waltz in, shove some clothes in a bag and proudly pronounce he is ready to go.  If he has to wait more than 15 minutes he will start to get cranky.   So on that note, I’d better put this post to bed and go make mine.  My “To Do” list is waiting. Please enjoy your week and stay sane. We’ll chat again soon.

Now where did I put my work gloves?

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A Workaholic Weekend

The Stay At Home Workaholic
The Stay At Home Workaholic

What a glorious October day – and a Saturday to boot! Weekends are wonderful, but seeing that sunshine and blue sky streaming through the autumn leaves outside my front window was a better start for my soul than sipping that first cup of coffee. That, and knowing that the day was mine. (Well, mostly.) Upon stepping out my door this morning, I felt as though I’d been turned loose from within a dark cave and couldn’t decide what to do first with my freedom. Should I take down the gazebo? Dig up bulbs? Clean the garage? There were literally dozens of projects and errands I wanted/needed to do. Not to mention my daughter had a soccer game followed by TWO parties this afternoon… I knew what I needed to do to stay organized. I grabbed a pen and jotted down everything on my mind so I could visualize and prioritize my tasks. This is my go-to trick for keeping on top of things when my husband works every weekend. Usually its just me and the kid holding down the fort. So in the midst of playing soccer mom/ chauffeur, I managed to achieve the following in true workaholic style:

  1. Clean the kitchen. This is a never-ending battle isn’t it? Some days I want to take a picture to preserve the moment. It seldom lasts half the day before I have to do it again. I’ve taken to getting up early just to sit in the kitchen with my coffee so I can enjoy it before all hell breaks loose.
  2. Survey yard and plantings. Start planning to dig up bulbs for proper storage over winter. Note I didn’t actually get to the digging up part yet, but I found my spade and tools and I eyed up my plants so I’m halfway there. My husband also wants to plant garlic this year so I have to find a spot in the yard for that to happen…
  3. Put gazebo cover away. OK, my dad came over and took the cover off for me while I was at the soccer game but I had totally planned to help him with it. I did have to find a storage solution that would be rodent-proof and neighbourhood stray cat-proof, so I’m claiming some points for this.
  4. Do laundry. By “do” I mean not just sorting it and pre-treating it but actually finding it first. This often involves scouring the entire house to collect all the dirty socks my family likes to leave for me to find. They each have their own secret hiding places, and I’d like to hope I know where most of them are by now. Sometimes I feel like I’m on some messed up scavenger hunt and the only prize I can win is keeping this place from stinking.
  5. Hang up exterior Halloween lights. Ha! Take that neighbours. Let’s give the kids something to look at when they go out this year besides a carved pumpkin.  Plus, my driveway is pretty uneven, so I don’t want any lawsuits from injured trick-0r-treaters.
  6. Hang up exterior Christmas lights UNDER the Halloween lights. Yes, I hang the lights around here and yes, I do it early. I prefer to stand in my warm and cozy, well-lit front window drinking hot chocolate and waving at my neighbours as they struggle with their lights after the first frost. Or even better, during that first snow storm.
  7. Make dinner using frozen meal I prepped for the slow cooker two weeks ago. This was one of those little tidbits I found on Pinterest that has become a new favourite thing for me. I have always loved using my slow cookers (yes, that’s plural) and having everything prepared for a meal in a bag in my freezer has been wonderful. I highly recommend doing it. Just pick up a few packages of bulk chicken breast next time they go on sale and portion them out with some veg and sauce. You won’t regret it on days like this.
  8. Get groceries. I should start this by apologizing to anyone I may have run over with my shopping cart today at Sobey’s. All I can say is I had 35 minutes to get it done and I was on a mission. But of course, half of the things I went there for were not stocked, so now I’ll be making another trip to Zehrs today instead. You’ve been forewarned.
  9. Get gas in car. Well this only makes it to the list because of dumb luck. I could very well have run my tank dry before noticing my fuel gauge today. In my defense I had a lot of random stuff on my mind today and as long as I didn’t forget to pick up my kid somewhere or end up stuck in a field with no gas I count it as a good day.
  10. Write a new blog post. Honestly this started out as a quick Facebook update, but once I got started I realized it had potential. I had planned to start writing on Sunday based on the rainy weather forecast, but when the creative juices start flowing you have to go where they take you.

My scribbled up “To Do” list is a part of my weekend routine. To some, it may seem like I’m overdoing it but my list helps to keep me sane. Writing down my tasks helps me to stay focused on my goals. If I don’t finish my list that is fine. The world will not end and I’m not a bad mom. I know I’m not alone in this, so please share your stories and solutions. After all, how many parents out there can relate? How many of you have days like this, feeling like you need to tackle the world in one weekend? Drop me a line on Facebook or Twitter, or comment on my webpage. Here’s wishing you a sedate Sunday full of no obligations and a chance to actually unwind. Cheers!

Celebrating Fall Flavours: Sweet Potato Cinnamon Roll Cake

The fall season is once again upon us here in Niagara.  Surprisingly, the leaves have retained their lush green hues for much longer than usual.  Personally I have enjoyed the extended summer-like conditions, being a flip-flop wearing sun-lover, but I must admit that I am finally ready for autumn.   Time to break out the boots and scarves!

"O suns and skies and clouds of June, and flowers of June together. Ye cannot rival for one hour October's bright blue weather." -Helen Hunt Jackson
“O suns and skies and clouds of June, and flowers of June together.  Ye cannot rival for one hour October’s bright blue weather.” -Helen Hunt Jackson

But seriously, I love this time of year. I can finally go for a walk without the oppressive heat and drought we have had here in Niagara all summer, and there are ALMOST no mosquitoes following me either. The air is filled with crisp scents of leaves turning and grapes ripening, with hints of rosehips and woodsmoke, and the blue of the sky is made more brilliant by the changing colour of the leaves.

This would also be the time of year when everyone seems to remember their spice cupboard. For some reason, we North Americans (yes I am calling out both Canadians and Americans on this one) share a common taste.  We absolutely loose our collective minds for a spice blend known as Pumpkin Spice. We will put that stuff on just about anything. Frankly it is shocking how much it appears in everything from coffee and tea, confections and condiments to pasta. I like it as much as the next person, but I do have to laugh when I see things like this video posted in fun at our own obsession:

The Holderness Family’s Pumpkin Spice Anthem

So having said this, here is my own contribution to the pumpkin spice craze. Instead of pumpkin, I am using sweet potato although I assure you that it can quite easily be substituted for it. I originally came across the basis for this recipe on Pinterest, so I am including the details in case anyone wants to look it up, but I did adapt it to be dairy free and reduced the sugar as I was using sweetened almond milk. I often leave off the final glaze as I find it sweet enough without it, but do what you like.
The texture of this cake is amazing and the glaze is completely decadent. It tastes absolutely heavenly when served still slightly warm from the oven, but is also quite excellent when sneaking a square out of the fridge for a late-night snack after the kids and your spouse are asleep. Another bonus is that it contains vegetables and I guarantee you will not have to convince your kids to eat this.  I wish I had a picture to post, but every time I make it the thing is devoured before I can get my hands on the camera.

I hope you have enjoyed your (Canadian) Thanksgiving weekend. Do let me know if you decide to try this recipe out – remember, it also works great with leftover mashed sweet potatoes. I sometimes keep them in the freezer just so I can make this. Canned pumpkin or sweet potato will also work in a pinch. As always, I love to hear from readers, so drop me a line and let me know how it turns out!

Sweet Potato Cinnamon Roll Cake

Originally Posted To GFCAV Presents Food Recipe Central
Posted By: Sharon Daniel-Roane
Adapted By: Bonnie Servos (The Stay At Home Workaholic)

Cake
Ingredients:
3 cups flour
1/2 tsp nutmeg
1/4 tsp salt
3/4 cup sugar
4 tsp baking powder
2 cups cooked sweet potatoes or pumpkin
1 1/2 cups Vanilla Almond Milk
2 eggs, beaten
2 tsps vanilla
1/2 cup coconut oil, melted

Topping:
1 cup coconut oil, softened
1 cup brown sugar
2 TBLS flour
1 TBLS cinnamon

Glaze (optional)
1 1/2 cups powdered sugar
5 TBLS vanilla almond milk
1 tsp vanilla
1 cup chopped pecans (optional)

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Grease a 13×9 inch baking pan.

In a large bowl combine flour,sugar,salt, and baking powder using a fork.  In another large bowl beat sweet potatoes and almond milk until smooth. Add beaten eggs, and vanilla, then blend until combined. Slowly add flour to sweet potato mixture, mixing until just incorporated. Slowly stir the melted coconut oil into the batter until well combined. Pour batter into prepared pan. Make topping.

Topping directions:
Mix all the topping ingredients together until well combined. Drop evenly over the batter and swirl with a knife. Bake cake for 30- 35 minutes. After cake is baked, cool slightly while making the glaze.

Glaze directions:
Combine glaze ingredients and mix until smooth. Glaze cake while still warm.

Learning to Jump With Help From Madonna

As I began to make this new blogging venture of mine a reality, I experienced a tumultuous riot of emotions. Waves of ecstasy and happiness at being in pursuit of a dream I had sheltered for many years. These feelings would be followed by moments of sheer panic and doubt over what it meant I was walking away from. It truly felt as though I was standing on the edge of a cliff and testing a pair of wings I have never used, trusting that they knew what to do once I stepped off into the unknown.

Turning your back on the familiar is extremely difficult and can lead you to question your own sanity at times, but the older you get the more you begin to realize that you it’s true what they say – you only live once. “There’s no time like the present” and “the longer you wait the harder it gets” and all that. Yeah. No kidding. Like many today, I knew I was spinning my wheels and time was wasting. It was time to make my own way.

“There’s only so much you can learn in one place
The more that I wait, the more time that I waste
I haven’t got much time to
waste
It’s time to make my way
I’m not afraid of what I’ll face
But I’m afraid to stay
I’m going down my road and I can make it alone
I’ll work and I’ll fight till I
find a place of my own.”
-Jump, Madonna
Confessions on a Dance Floor 2005

header stay at home [214800]

So here we go. This blog will be a reflection of my own journey into freelance writing and blogging, and I hope it will serve as a source of inspiration for others seeking to make a change. I will be sharing tips and tidbits here on a variety of subjects that I am passionate about including ways to live a healthier lifestyle, and the buzz here in my local stomping grounds of the Niagara Region in Ontario Canada. I have a strong background in retail and tourism, and networking is my middle name. As such, I want to help spread the word on local business and restaurants. I will also be testing out and giving feedback on popular Pinterest recipes. I hope my blog will also be a source of positivity for those seeking a little push in the right direction just like I was, or at the very least an escape from the tedium of daily life. I also look forward to sharing my learning process as I grow and evolve my freelance writing business, Niagara Writing Services. If you like what you find here, or have an idea for a post please feel free to drop me a line – I look forward to interacting with my readers and sharing ideas. Jumping into a new venture is always easier when you have someone to do it with.

Thankfully I have a great husband who gave me the push I needed to make my dream of writing a reality. His love and support has always been strengths I have drawn upon and cherished. I don’t think I can say I jumped of my own free will so much as got lovingly shoved into this, but however it happened I am glad it did. Our work schedules had become very conflicted and the demands were placing stress on our family. We both knew it was time for a change and it is in part thanks to him that I have followed through on this new path. Having the support of your loved ones is always beneficial, but sometimes you do start to wonder if your loved ones are in fact slightly biased in your favour and not the best focus group to be bouncing your ideas off of. Fortunately for me I had other guiding influences and a great group of friends which helped with me making my decision to jump.

When the time finally came I was surprised at how easy it was to do it; to make the decision to walk away from a stable paycheck and familiar routine. For a time, I felt like I was in free-fall – floating around, weightless, and ungrounded. I admit I did feel a bit lost at times, as I struggled to bring my dream to reality. During my transition to becoming a freelance writer/blogger, I also rediscovered an old favourite Madonna song which always helped me to focus on my goals, and in this case helped to reaffirm my decision. It is a song which has always lifted my spirits and continually reminds me to seize the day.

The funny thing is I was never a huge fan of Madonna. I don’t recall how I came across it, but from the first moment I listened to it, her 2005 album Confessions on a Dance Floor has resonated with me and several songs have found their way into my permanent iTunes collection. The song “Jump” in particular has always struck a chord with me. The lines quoted above have always struck me as less of a love song and more about finding the strength to move forward. Like the song says, I knew I didn’t want to stay where I was and I felt time slipping away from me (I turned 40 this year – ugh!) I too was more afraid to risk staying where I was for the rest of my life than I was to face the unknown.

I think many of us today are in this same spot – questioning the path we are on and wondering if we are making the right decision. Do we risk it all for a chance at our dreams, or do we stick with the way things are – for our own sake and the sake of those that depend on us? Can we afford to take that risk and what happens if we fail? While I can’t offer a solution that will offer a simple answer that works for everyone, I can share here what I have found to work for me so far. Don’t be afraid to think outside of the box when it comes to your views on success and fulfillment. By this I mean that what makes me feel successful and fulfilled may differ significantly from you. Find out what being successful means to you and what you find fulfillment from in life and try to create a balance between them. Making subtle changes in your life now may result in significant improvements in these areas over time. For me, finding a balance between my career and my family was key.

By asking myself what I was more afraid of – the unknown of pursuing my dreams or staying in my present reality – I was able to make the decision that was right for me. This of course implies that you have done your homework on the subject and considered your financial situation – don’t take a leap without a parachute! And just like Madonna says, I know that “I’ll work and I’ll fight till I find a place of my own.” Every day I am working to bring my own dream to reality and I feel blessed to be doing so. I no longer feel like I am in free-fall, but am heading down the path I was meant to be on. I wish the same for you my readers and look forward to sharing this path with you through my blog.

“Are you ready to jump
Get ready to jump
Don’t ever look back oh baby
Yes, I’m ready to jump
Just take my hand
Get ready to jump”

Jump with me. Let’s see where we land.

Bonnie

I always appreciate feedback; so drop me a line below!

Summer Fun Ideas for The Family (That Won’t Break the Bank!)

 

Summer goes so fast, doesn’t it?  Here we are in the fourth week of August, and September is fast approaching.  But despite the need for back-to-school shopping, there is still time to get in some last-minute family fun this summer. Here are a few ideas that involve minimal planning and won’t break the bank.  I have tried to include links when possible.  Many of these activities are available well into the fall, so the fun doesn’t have to end with the start of the new school year!

Summer Fun Ideas For the Family
A view of the South Entrance Main Trail at Merritt Island
A view of the South Entrance Main Trail at Merritt Island
  1. Have an old-fashioned picnic. Fill a cooler with your favourite grub and make use of a local park or even your own backyard. There are so many lovely spots tucked away in Niagara, you really can’t go wrong.  Merritt Island in Welland is one of my favourites, as it offers a view of the water, a playground, and a well-maintained 4km trail for biking, rollerblading or walking.
  2. Go outside and play. Turn Hide and Seek into a water fight.  Water balloons, squirt guns and super-soakers aside, a couple of buckets will work nicely.  Want to be a bit devious? Arm yourself and then leave a message for your kids and a water gun for each one outside. In the note, tell them mom and dad are hiding somewhere in the yard and challenge them to find you.  This can also be done without the water if you prefer to stay dry, but the simple act of playing with your kids will be a great bonding moment and show them that you still know how to be silly.
  3. Explore the local parks and splash pads – many of which are free to use. In fact, why not combine this with a picnic and spend the day playing outside?   (Note to Parents: avoid the temptation to sit on the sidelines just watching your kids – get involved and play too!)  You can also use the playground equipment to get in a quick workout.  There are lots of great ideas on Pinterest for exercising with your kids and many that can be easily adaptable to a playground jungle gym.
  4. Plan a day trip or weekend getaway. Pack up the family and go exploring!  Can’t afford to spend a week at a cottage?  Why not take a day trip and explore attractions nearby?  Here’s a great link to get you started which can be used to plan a last-minute summer road trip or a fall getaway:  Visit Ontario Travel
  5. Set up a tent in the backyard. Use it either for a camp out, or simply let the kids play in it during the day.  You’ll be surprised at how easily they will put down their electronic devices, and if you’re lucky you may even get a quiet night in if you can convince them to sleep outside.
  6. Go Stargazing. Seriously, when was the last time you did this?  While it may not be easy to do from your backyard if you live in the city, a short drive out-of-town can provide the proper setting to view the celestial show.
    Image of Big Dipper provided by Sky & Telescope
    Image provided by Sky & Telescope

    There are many phone apps now that offer stargazing support that even a beginner can have fun whether the sky is clear or not!  Do some research beforehand, and be prepared to share some stories about how the constellations got their names.  Greek Mythology is rich with these, and your local library can be a great resource.  Late August is usually a great time for meteor showers, and with a little luck, you may be able to see some interesting phenomena with the naked eye.   For a detailed summary of this week’s sky forecast, click this link to Sky & Telescope.com

  7. Try something new! Rent a paddle-boat, kayak or canoe on the Welland Canal (visit City of Welland’s site here.) Hourly rates are quite reasonable and the waters of the canal provide a great place for beginners.  Not into water sports?  Why not go hiking in the Niagara Falls Gorge, or try rock climbing at an indoor facility like Peaks Rock Climbing in St. Catharines.  They will offer instruction and assistance so that even the most tentative of beginners can feel secure.  Pricing for initial lessons are a bit more, but a day pass is quite reasonable and they are open late most days.  (Note to Parents: Children under 18 years of age will need a parent to sign a waiver.)  If climbing doesn’t appeal to you, why not try bouncing instead?  Plan a visit to the new Sky Zone in St. Catharines.  They offer a range of activities utilizing trampolines and climbing apparatus.  You will have to buy a pair of special socks, but these can be used on return visits and really, why should the fun end with summer?

There’s still time to do something together before school starts.  Just do it as a family, and make some great summer memories.  Now put down that iPad or phone, and get outside!

Have an idea for a fun family activity that won’t cost a fortune?  Share your ideas below!

Reasons Why I Love/Hate My Yoga Mat

 

I have a love/hate relationship with yoga. I generally love it, and have practiced in a haphazard way since my early twenties. When I remember to practice on a regular basis, my body and soul respond with flexibility and strength, resulting in a deeper level of peace and fulfillment. My stress and anxiety melt away. I breathe deeper, and the world looks brighter.

The hate part of my relationship occurs when I allow myself to lose the connection to my mat and put aside my yoga practice. For whatever reason, I will at some point become busy with other things and miss a day, which then becomes a week, then a month, then two. My rationale will be that I am either too tired, too busy, or too sore. Ironically, these are the very times in which I should focus on my practice the most. I know this. Yet somehow, I will justify putting it off.

It may take some time before I catch my pattern, but inevitably I will see my yoga mat standing in the corner and have that familiar “duh!” moment (not unlike Homer Simpson) in which I mentally slap my forehead and shake my head. How can I have forgotten? It’s as if I can hear my yoga mat laughing and shaking its own head at me, smiling in a knowing way as I unroll it and dust it off.

If you are like me, and run a similar pattern, you’ll know what I am talking about. While I know that yoga is non-judgemental, I still hear my own inner voice admonishing me for slacking off. But this does not bother me anymore. At one time, I would have been angry with myself for it, but as I’ve grown in my practice I have learned to let these feelings go. I no longer beat myself up for skipping practice, but rather smile as I admit my oversight. The first step in changing any pattern is to recognize it. The faster one does this, the easier it becomes to avoid repeating it.

So in an effort to reconnect with my practice I am sharing some of the reasons I both love/hate my yoga mat. You may have your own list – what we love and hate is often a reflection of ourselves, so consider how your feelings reflect where you are in your own practice. Here is my own list:

Top Reasons Why I Love/ Hate My Yoga Mat
  1. It is a mirror of my own mental state (good or bad). When I practice, I am able to focus on my inner state and discover the root of my feelings. Sometimes I realize that I have been on edge because of a situation that has been at the back of my mind. When I am calm, I am able to turn my attention inward. This can be both enlightening and empowering.

    20160822_162740
    How many of us can still touch our toes after 40? After 50? Remember: use it or lose it….
  2. I find tight muscles I didn’t know I had, and discover if I need a pedicure while in forward bend. It’s amazing how seldom we bend over as we get older! Yoga encourages me to stretch and bend in ways I don’t on a daily basis. I am often surprised at how my flexibility can change after time away from my mat. Luckily the same can be said once I return to it.
  3. I discover if I need to clean the floors again – especially that stubborn spot beneath the couch. Yoga provides new perspective. It can also be humbling. By looking at the world from different angles, we can remain modest and open to new ideas.
  4. My mat never judges me; it simply exists. I know my mat isn’t actually chiding me for losing touch with my practice, and that any voice I hear in my head is actually my own. Knowing this helps me to remember that being on my mat is a chance to put aside my ego and for a short time, to simply be.
  5. I start to see the world differently after a session. Whenever I am feeling challenged, yoga helps me to find a solution. Sometimes this is as simple as getting out of my own way. Breathing deeply in sync with your movements can quiet the mind and lessen stress and anxiety. Even a short 10-minute session can help increase feelings of positivity and relaxation. (Note: If you ever feel you are struggling in a pose, remember to smile! This will help to relax the face and jaw muscles; a common place of tension.)
  6. My mat both humbles and challenges me to realize my limitations, and then move beyond them. Never judge your own progress by comparing your ability to hold a pose with anyone else. We are each on our own journey, and must progress at our own pace. Yoga allows us to explore so much – starting inwardly with our own muscles and joints and where we feel pain/freedom of motion, to our emotional responses to these sensations, and ultimately how all of this affects our interactions with the world around us. Turning our attention inward allows us time for reflection and appreciation.
  7. Like a good friend, I know my mat is always there for me. Never judging the lapses in my practice, I know my mat will always welcome me back. It may take some time for me to find my way back, but I know it will always be there to support me when I do. And as I finally dust it off, clear a space and start unrolling it, I know I will hear a faint voice whispering with a smile “I knew you’d be back.”

Have a thought or comment to share?  Drop me a line!  I’d love to hear from you.

My First (and Last) Hip Concert

 

Tonight is a momentous and historic evening for all Canadians, both home and abroad. If you are not yet aware (and really if you don’t know about this by now you must be living under a rock,) this evening marks the career culmination of one of the most revered music groups in modern Canadian History. Tonight we will bid a fond farewell to one of our most treasured musical gems: The Tragically Hip.

While the rest of the world concerns itself with obtaining Olympic medals, this weekend Canada has its own reason to celebrate. In true Canadian style, we will continue to support our athletes in Rio, but for one night we will politely excuse ourselves from The Games to pay tribute to a band that deserves its own medal. Americans have their Superbowl. We Canadians have our Stanley Cup. And apparently our taste in music.

Founded in Kingston, Ontario in 1984, The Tragically Hip (heretofore referred to as “The Hip”) is a band that has worked its way across all of Canada and into the hearts of most Canadians. It has inspired us with its witty and poetical lyrics. Gord Downie’s storytelling paired with the appealing sounds of talented musicians Ron Baker, Gord Sinclair, Johnny Fay and Paul Langlois have created a uniquely Canadian phenomenon. Their sound has become a part of our very culture. Somehow they have won the hearts of a rather reserved and stalwart people. Despite their efforts to cross the border, their popularity has never made it into the US on the same degree. In a way, I am proud of this.

I was first introduced to the band in my early teens, when I started grade 9 at E.L. Crossley. To this day, I am instantly transported back to the summer of 1991 whenever I hear songs from their album “Road Apples.” That year was a formative one for me musically, as I began to explore and develop my own tastes. I have discovered many different bands since then and while my tastes have changed somewhat over the years, The Hip have remained a constant for me. I am not a dedicated fan like some that I know, but am proud to say I know most of their songs. Like the old family cottage, The Hip have always been there in the background, quietly waiting to flood me with memories from my youth upon my return. The urge to see them live was never very strong with me. Somewhere in the recesses of my laid-back mind I think I always thought I’d get around to it. One day I’d see them live. Well it would seem that ship has now sailed, and I am still standing on the dock.

Quite literally. As I write this, I am sitting at the family cottage, located well within cottage country. While this may not be the ideal location to partake in a concert experience, it is for me the perfect one in this case. The Tragically Hip has been a part of many a summer experience for me, and I can honestly think of no better way to celebrate their career than by continuing this tradition. I will be one of the many who did not score tickets, and that is ok. Rather, I will tune into CBC’s live coverage of their final concert in Kingston, and toast the band with a cold Canadian beer from the comfort of the deck as I overlook the lake. To quote Gord’s lyrics from the song Bobcaygeon, I will “watch the constellations reveal themselves, one star at a time.”  Somehow I feel this to be an ideal tribute.

So tonight I will join in with my fellow Canadians to celebrate this band that has become a part of us so deeply that we cannot simply let them go. The Hip are more than a part of our culture. They are in our blood and bone, and even though we must bid adieu, we will cherish their music in our very souls.

Farewell Gentlemen, and thanks for the music.