It truly does. Happy Friday!
It truly does. Happy Friday!
Getting ready for a wedding this past weekend, a few old, familiar thoughts came up while I was figuring out what to wear. Being someone who has struggled with body dissatisfaction in the past (to put it mildly), events like weddings sometimes stir up some old issues. People tend to dress up and look their best, and there are lots of opportunities for comparison.
These days, I am pretty comfortable in the knowledge that no matter what I weigh, I am fine exactly the way I am. I try to make sure I have clothes that fit and that I am comfortable in, and hopefully that I love, for every occasion. It is very important to me that my daughter can learn to love and respect her body and reject the diet and scarcity narrative of our culture. So I do my best to walk the talk.
However, since we are living smack dab in the middle of this culture that encourages us to continually shrink (often under the guise of optimal health), it can be hard to be comfortable taking up space. And I have the occasional bad day.
Frankly, this is aggravating, because when I have other things to do and life to live while I am lucky enough to have it, I would really prefer not to be worried about how large I look in a fun dress, and to not waste time comparing myself to others when I could just be enjoying their company.
As I was thinking about this today, I decided to sum up some of the main ways I fight back against these negative thought processes.
I do something physical that encourages body awareness and gentleness. I love yoga for this reason. It calms the body and mind, and it is hard to be angry with your body when you are taking such good care of it. Any kind of joyful movement or even deep breathing are great for this.
I remember the research. Some truths: Weight is generally linked with health in a much less straightforward way than we tend to believe. The size of your body is not indicative of how you live, what you eat, or what kind of person you are. Fat is not a moral failing. For more on this, the Health at Every Size movement is a great place to start. See below for a few extra resources!
I remember that body dissatisfaction is a very slippery slope. I am a fairly average size and weight that I have maintained for years. In years of yo-yo dieting in my teens and early twenties, I have been much larger and much smaller. I know from experience that no matter how low the number on the scale, you will always feel like it could and should be lower. If you happen to reach a goal weight, you will live in fear of it creeping back up. The work is never done. And we do not need to be fixed.
I do something that I enjoy and am good at. I can write. I can spend time with my daughter. I can master a difficult yoga pose, organize large events, paint a picture, take nice photos, cook a delicious meal and craft two kissing fishes out of cupcakes (more on that later). There is so much we are each capable of, and doing something I love reminds me there is much more to us than our sizes and shapes. Plus, it never hurts to get out of your own head for a bit.
Be kind to yourself. There are not certain conditions that have to be met first. You deserve it right now!
There are lots of great resources that deal with the science around weight and health and the social and cultural influences on both. Here are two great books to start with that are thorough but very readable:
Health at Every Size by Linda Bacon, PhD
The Diet Myth by Paul Campos (formerly The Obesity Myth, which is the edition I have)
And a recent favorite of mine:
One of my favorite parts of being a parent is discovering cool books and authors that I might not have known about otherwise (Sandra Boynton, to wit). Once in a while we come across a book on a library excursion that we end up borrowing again and again. Here are a couple we’ve loved recently that are in the preschool to early-grade-school range:
Extra Yarn by Mac Barnett
About a little girl and a box of colourful, seemingly endless yarn she finds in a town that has become devoid of colour. The story is sweet, it has a fairy tale quality to it (a random archduke shows up!), and the illustrations are beautiful. It is probably up there with my favorite children’s storybooks.
Froodle by Antoinette Portis
A little brown bird decides she is tired of making the same old sounds every day. Clever and silly.
Kindergarten Diary by Antoinette Portis
By the same author and illustrator of Froodle , Kindergarten Diary features daily diary entries from the perspective of a Kindergartener’s first month at school (especially relevant to our family right now). Very cute and addresses some common fears. (The main character, Annalisa, also physically resembles a certain rough-and-rumble four-year-old I know.)
Big Bear Hug by Nicholas Oldland
Our whole family loves Nicholas Oldland’s books; we’ve been hooked since getting Up the Creek a few years back. They are hilarious and have a very distinctly Canadian feel. Big Bear Hug features a lovable black bear who loves hugging and spreading his love around, especially to trees. It’s curious to him that not everyone is receptive to being wrapped in his embrace.
Charlie the Ranch Dog by Ree Drummond
My daughter has had three television loves: Bubble Guppies, Doc McStuffins, and The Pioneer Woman. We love curling up together and watching Ree Drummond prepare recipes and showcase various goings on at her family’s ranch, especially the animals. So when we stumbled across this series featuring the basset hound Charlie, who makes frequent appearances in the show, it was pretty exciting. There are three books in the series and they are told from Charlie’s witty perspective. They also include a recipe at the end to try out. This first book in the series is a good place to start!
What are some of your favorite children’s books?
Fall is here! It’s my favorite season, but lately I’m in a stretch of time where it feels like things are moving way too quickly. Two weeks ago, the kiddo finished up preschool, and this week she is a full-fledged Kindergartener! The passing of time feels surreal.
So, June this year marked the return of the summer bucket list. I am often aware of the push and pull in wanting to take things slowly and one at a time. Yet, if I don’t put some thought and planning into what I would like to do, it can feel like the things that would be nice to do get pushed to the wayside in the momentum of summer. Like last year, I drew up a quick list of a few things I would like to see happen, made some plans in advance where possible, and crossed my fingers.
Here are 25 fun things that happened that were on our summer bucket list (and a few that weren’t!):
The summer felt slow and relaxing, and yet it was also filled with fun things we wanted to do. I really love how having a rough bucket list seems to make the summer feel more full. It also meant that it was punctuated with smaller, fun things to look forward to, and doing some tourist-at-home outings made it feel special. (Plus for me, lists = happiness.)
I’m looking forward to working through my fall bucket list. What would be on yours?
While I generally love all things coffee, I have never been a big fan of cold coffee drinks, especially those that are just regular coffee over ice. I think to me, it feels counterproductive, as I am usually trying to consume my coffee before it gets to that state. (Many moms of small children likely feel me on this one.)
However, on a particularly humid day recently, I found myself ordering an iced coffee instead of my usual hot brew. To my further surprise, I loved it! It got me wondering how easy it would be to make at home.
In my past experiences trying to reproduce lattes and the like, the results have been disappointing. (The one exception to this has been the Oh She Glows version of the Pumpkin Spice Latte, which I would argue when made as instructed is even better than the original.) Recipes for iced coffee usually call for pre-made coffee concentrate, so I wasn’t sure how this would go.
I loved the way it turned out on the first try, and have made it several times since.
While pouring coffee over ice doesn’t seem particularly noteworthy, apparently a good iced coffee is more straightforward than I thought. If you like them too, it is worth giving this super-simple method a try. I have a feeling it will be adding some extra happiness to my summer!
It has been a while since I’ve updated here. About eight months to be exact…yikes!
Things dropped off a lot in the fall last year. It felt like a lot of my posts, while I was writing about things I am genuinely interested in and am often passionate about (yep, I am truly passionate about smoothies), were a little wooden. Being somewhat reserved, I hold back a lot, and additionally I wanted to write about things that very often did not fit with the theme of my blog, such as it is.
However, I want to continue to blog and feel it is a great outlet to get some of my thoughts out into the world.
So where to go from here? As I have discussed in previous posts, being a stay-at-home mom is my primary occupation at the moment.
As such, a lot of what I am compelled to write about concerns things like cultivating contentment, day-to-day life with a preschooler, finding outlets to maintain sanity, juggling priorities, food, the joys and tribulations of feeding kids, meal planning…and the list could go on. While I have not wanted to have a ‘mommy’ blog per se, it is a key part of my identity, so some of my writing is naturally going to fall into this category.
The fact is, there are a lot of things going on right now. We are all so many things and our roles change as we pass through different seasons. I am a wife, mom, writer, friend, feminist, daydreamer, music lover, avid reader, and home cook. I am a trained researcher and am interested in social change. I like finding ways to be creative, and I like exploring the minutiae of everyday life. I want to write about the other things that are of interest to me, too.
To a certain extent, the theme of my posts will not change dramatically, for the aforementioned reasons! But since this is a personal blog, I want to write a bit more generally, and see what sticks in terms of a more specific focus.
If you are reading this, I hope you will follow along to see how it goes! See you in a week or so.
As my friend Sherrie mentioned in a recent post, when care of a small child is your full-time job, it is taunting the universe a bit to make any declaration as to how you will regularly spend your time. Particularly in regards to taking specific actions at specific times.
Such as making a statement, if only to myself, that I am going to try and post weekly on the blog. This was my intention when I first started out in January. I was able to keep up with this for a while, and I have more ideas for posts than I know what to do with. However, as any parent knows, a change in circumstances (as in the loss of naps in my case – RIP) means you need to work a little differently to work in what’s important to you. It is possible, it just requires some imagination and tweaking. Until there is finite time to regularly devote to writing, I will just have to squeeze it in where possible! I would much rather post less often than I would like than give up in frustration because I have set a standard I am not able to meet.
Speaking of tweaks, I intend to spend some time rethinking and sharpening the direction I would like the blog to go in. (Ahem. As time permits, of course. ) Over the next little while, I am going to continue to post what interests me and see what comes of that.
Recently I have been having a little fun with a chalkboard we put up in our kitchen/main hallway area.
It turns out that it not only brightens up the area quite a bit, but it’s nice to encounter a positive message each time I walk by. And it’s a reason for me to regularly play with coloured chalk and be creative in tiny chunks. Chalkboard art for the win!
Happy Friday, everyone!
Although summer has officially ended, the days are growing shorter and there is a definite chill in the air, I just cannot be sad about the arrive of fall, my favorite season. It is not too late to soak up as much fun and outside time as we can, and now that I have (mostly) gotten the hang of grilling, I intend to enjoy it as long as possible! Our family has been enjoying these easy recipes all summer long, but they are great any time of year.
In keeping with my goal of
mastering learning to properly use the barbecue this summer, shrimp were the first thing I tackled. They are extremely easy and quick to cook, and the great thing about shrimp on the grill is that it can literally be done five minutes before you would like to eat.
This marinade from Closet Cooking is tangy, fresh and summery. The first time I made it, I did not have fresh cilantro on hand and used a paste instead – it was still fantastic. Some lime zest as well as juice is awesome, too!
These skewers would be a great appetizer at a barbecue or other get-together and are particularly good with coconut rice. And they are a delicious accompaniment to a summery salad, like this one. But perhaps my favorite thing about this recipe is that you can pair it with just about anything and throw together a meal in no time.
Raise Healthy Eaters is one of my favorite sites to visit for practical, research-based advice on feeding children, and it is also a great source of easy, family-friendly recipes, this one being no exception.
I have been regularly making this yummy chicken pita dish since getting my slow cooker last year. The slow cooker is a great way to infuse flavor and tenderness into otherwise bland and dry chicken breasts, which I often find difficult to cook to my liking. And the addition of broth, herbs and lemon juice give this shredded chicken amazing flavor. I have often made it on its own to have on hand for things like wraps, salad and pizza.
Additionally, the accompaniments for this recipe (tomato, onion and feta mixture, tzatziki) come together very quickly and are great for using up summer produce. This is a fun meal to serve family-style where everyone can add their own toppings.
I love Greek flavors and these pitas feel like a real treat without being too heavy, plus the slow cooker takes care of the chicken with no need for the oven. Perfect for summer! One of my favorite ways to enjoy this recipe is to skip the pita or bun and serve the chicken and toppings over spinach or other greens. I have also served this to company several times with rave reviews and it is kiddo-approved. (Not by my kiddo yet, although she is happy to dig into the hummus and pita bread!)
This is not a ‘summer’ recipe as such, but I’ve made these blondies several times in the past few weeks, and am officially hooked. As a disclaimer, I am all for regular brownies and blondies as part of a ‘healthy’ lifestyle in all their gooey, sugary glory. That said, I do love finding ways to incorporate more wholesome ingredients into baked goods, since there are lots of ways to add moisture, richness and body besides flour, butter and oil. It is also nice to have an arsenal of recipes that are less treat and more snack.
Bottom line: These blondies are good. Chick peas do not immediately spring to mind when thinking of wholesome baking substitutes, largely because they have a relatively dry texture. And I admit that although I love to experiment with beans in baking, I may not have tried these on my own. But after trying some made by a friend of mine I was sold.
The chick peas work surprisingly well! They blend up in the food processor with peanut butter to a hummus-like consistency, and essentially it is hummus with maple syrup added for sweetness. (I have used PB as a tahini substitute in hummus many times, as I am much more likely to have it on hand.) I like the chewy, dense texture of these, and they are especially good chilled.
What I especially love about using ingredients like these is that you get a satisfying snack that does not leave you lethargic ten minutes later. The kiddo also loves to help make these and gives them two thumbs up.
What are some of your favorite summer recipes?
Productivity and goal-setting are popular topics these days, with many of us trying to sort out the best ways to effectively accomplish what we need to do each day while squeezing in time for the fun-to-dos as well. There are endless sources of information out there in the forms of websites, blogs, apps, books, podcasts and many others that focus on how to make the best possible use of your time.
Generally, I tend to be fairly organized and goal-oriented, so my problem is not coming up with a plan of action or things that I want to accomplish. However, I often have trouble with focus. I know there is only so much time to spend in a day on certain tasks, like writing, without them crowding into other areas I am responsible for. And like many parents of small children, I am subject to often unpredictable pockets of time. I am grateful for the nap, for example, but how long will it last? (I learned long ago not to rely on what normally happens, as that will be the one day the kiddo decides to change things up.)
As a result, when I do have time to sit down and read, write, meal plan, or whatever, I find myself thinking about all the other things I could be doing, even when I’ve decided beforehand that this time will be for a certain task. Or worse, I start my task, but then go down a rabbit hole of distractions around the house or online.
To combat this, on almost a daily basis I use one of my favorite tools: a simple timer. Here’s why I love them.
1. Timers help keep goals spaced into manageable chunks.
To state the obvious, setting aside a small amount of time to dedicate to something you want to accomplish will help prevent being overwhelmed. You only need to spend the allotted time on it, and then you are done.
In her book Happier at Home and on her blog, Gretchen Rubin talks about the power of ‘suffering’ for 15 minutes. That is, when a task is daunting and overwhelming (Rubin uses the example of wrangling her large collection of digital photos), devoting 15 minutes to it daily until it is finished is an effective way to deal with it. The idea is that you can stand anything, no matter how annoying, for just 15 minutes a day (or even every couple of days). It may take time, but slowly chipping away at small chunks can accomplish a great deal over the long-term.
I have used this idea several times now, including to work on organizing my own digital photos. It is great for tasks that technically don’t need to be done (there will not be dire consequences for you or your family if you don’t eventually organize your photos), because they are likely never even to get started. Starting a timer for 15 minutes, and keeping to the definitive start and end points, helps make space to complete goals that can be overwhelming into tiny chunks that are doable. On the other hand…
2. Timers can work as a kick-starter for things I have trouble getting the motivation to do.
If I want to work on a piece of writing but just can’t seem to get started, or am struggling with an idea, I will set a timer for 5 or 10 minutes and just start in. Usually, this helps me focus in and not think about all the reasons I am having trouble with it. This is different from the point above in that my goal is to get a little momentum and keep going once the time is up. Sometimes, this helps me break through the apathy and keep on writing. But if not, at least something has been started!
3. Timers reinforce how much can be done in a very short amount of time.
15, 10 or even 5 minutes may not seem like a lot of time, but we tend to overestimate how much time it takes to do a dreaded or annoying task. I tend to put off certain chores like changing the bed sheets or emptying the dishwasher because I don’t like doing them. But if I set a timer for 5 minutes and complete a task like this, it becomes obvious very quickly how little time it takes. (The dishwasher can often be unloaded in as little as three minutes.) I’m far more likely to just do these things when they need to be done because I’m aware of how little time they will actually eat up.
As an aside to this, you can use a stopwatch (most smart phones have this feature now as well) to time certain tasks you dislike. You might discover that they take far less time than you think they do.
4. Timers help keep my least favorite, ongoing tasks to a minimum.
Unlike emptying the dishwasher, some tasks can take an infinite amount of time if we let them. I do not want to spend large chunks of my day cleaning or tidying beyond the necessary. Especially when, in the case of things like picking up toys, things will get messy again pretty quickly. At the same time, clutter and mess tend to drive me nuts.
If I want to pick up and tidy a bit at the end of the day or any other time, I will often set a timer for 5-10 minutes and just go at it. (The kiddo loves setting timers, too.) Whether you attack the clutter or go slowly and methodically, your space will often look very different after even 5 minutes of picking up. And then you can stop. There will always be more you could do. But setting a timer will help things stay relatively manageable without having to feel like you are spending half your life cleaning.
5. Using a timer keeps my overactive brain in check.
If I set a timer for 10 or 15 minutes or even longer, I know I have a finite amount of time to use. Writing a blog post or working on other writing projects, brainstorming ideas, or even working on a household chore can really get me thinking about other things that need to be done or all the ideas I have, and before I know it I am overwhelmed. Setting a timer reminds me that right now, the task at hand is all I have to think about, and generally this helps me feel calmer.
What is your favorite way to manage your time?
I hope everyone out there is enjoying the summer months (although lately for us, summer has more of an early-October feel some days. At least I can generally get away with wearing a hoodie and not something heavier!). I am
working playing away at my summer bucket list and enjoying breaking out of our usual routine a bit. In keeping with that, here are a few things that are making me happy at the moment.
1. Road Tripping
Living on an island, it is often pretty time-consuming to get anywhere outside the province quickly unless you are going to fly, and that’s generally what we do. So it was lovely to get an opportunity recently to spend some time in Ontario, and take a detour through the northern United States and a few other provinces before heading home. The kiddo was a great sport as at three, she is now old enough to mostly appreciate seeing different sights (punctuated with frequent stops, snacks, chances to run around and the odd episode of Bubble Guppies) and she thought it was awesome to have taken a plane, a train, a subway, a car and a ferry all in one trip. And we enjoyed crossing a few destinations off our bucket list (hello Baseball Hall of Fame), trying some fantastic restaurants, and finding some places we knew little about beforehand but would love to return to. (Like this one!)
2. Some New Mugs to Admire
Nope, this post is not sponsored by Starbucks. But I have to admit that although I’m usually adverse to picking up more stuff to have around the house, I do have a thing for mugs. In Florida a few months back I picked up one of the new You Are Here series, and I loved the colorful and whimsical design. We had a fantastic time on that trip and I’m reminded of that whenever I use the mug, which is often.
On our recent trip I picked up a few more. I love mugs as souvenirs anyway regardless of brand, since they are functional, often beautiful, and you can relive a memory from a trip while sipping your morning coffee. New York might be my favorite so far.
3. Getting Up Early
This is a repeat from last time, but it is still at the top of my list. If I have to choose between getting enough sleep and getting up earlier than the rest of my household, I will
always usually choose enough sleep. (Lack of sleep=cranky mom.) But that is why getting to bed on time is a priority. Second in awesomeness to enough sleep is getting some quiet time and the opportunity to plan my day a bit. Plus, as cliché as it might be, watching the sun come up and enjoying the stillness cannot be beat.
4. Reading Some Fun Fiction
I’ve been reading a ton of non-fiction the past few years, and recently have been trying to pack in a little more fiction, both for inspirational and relaxation purposes and to get out of my own head a little bit (it’s crowded in there!). Since titles like The Book Thief and Adult Onset have been on the list, it was nice recently to stumble upon some lighter-read novels, namely the Stephanie Plum series by Janet Evanovich. These are a lot of fun and are the type of books you can read through in an afternoon.
What is making you happy this summer?