The Mother of Adventure

An ode to summer (Parenting Times)

ode-to-summerI’ll never forget that feeling of pure exhilaration — a moment of absolute, uninhibited joy — right before I plunged into the cool, crisp water.

It all came rushing back to me as I looked at that old photo, captured back in the summer of 1991. Read more…

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Nursing pioneer Isobel MacLeod turns 101 (Ottawa Citizen)

0621 life isobel-34.JPGI recently had the privilege to meet with a centenarian – and an amazing one at that.

Earlier this month, I interviewed Isobel MacLeod – an Ottawa resident who spent much of her life blazing a new trail in the world of nursing. This upbeat woman – who turned 101 years old today – was incredibly lucid and witty during our hour-long interview. It was truly a pleasure to get to know her – and hear about life over the span of more than a century.

My full article, “Nursing pioneer Isobel MacLeod turns 101“, was published in the Ottawa Citizen. Happy birthday, Isobel!

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Home-run snacks for little athletes

Lily's first gameOur six-year-old daughter is in Little League again this spring, and I can’t decide what’s cuter: The proud look on Lily’s face when she gets a run or the over-the-moon proud look on her dad’s face (he is arguably the world’s biggest baseball fan).

Well, I think Lily wins the cute contest; it’s pretty hard to beat that face…but I digress.

A couple of weeks ago, it was our family’s turn to bring post-game snacks for the little athletes. Since the coach’s wife had brought these adorable fruit skewers – with a chocolate-dipped marshmallow at the end – as the snack after the first game, the bar had been set pretty high. A careless bag of ‘Chips Ahoy’ were just not going to cut it – I had to come up with something a bit funkier.

A bit of messing around on Google images turned up a bunch of baseball-themed snack ideas, including these Rice Krispie snacks. Clearly I didn’t re-invent the wheel here, but it was fun to put a new twist on an old classic – and it turned out to be a total hit (get it? Hit? Ahh…the puns just keep coming!).

Here’s how I made them – the basic recipe is from the back of a box of Kellogg’s Rice Krispies:

IngredientsIngredients:

  • 1/4 cup margarine or butter
  • 5 cups miniature or 40 regular marshmallows
  • 1/2 tsp. vanilla extract
  • 6 cups Kellogg’s Rice Krispies

Method:

1. In large saucepan, melt butter over low heat. Add marshmallows and stir until completely melted. Remove from heat.

2. Add cereal and stir until well coated.

3. Using a buttered spatula or wax paper, evenly press mixture into 13 x 9 x 2-inch pan coated with cooking spray. Allow to cool.

Decoration:

So here’s where the fun part begins – turning a regular old pan of Rice Krispies into a plateful of little baseballs!

1. Use a round cookie cutter to cut your Rice Krispies into ‘baseballs.’ If you’re preparing them for a team, make sure you cut them small enough that everyone gets one (with a couple to spare for little siblings at the game!).

2. Spread a layer of white icing over the top of each circle (I used a store-bought jar of icing).

3. Allow the icing to cool and dry; I put my tray into the fridge for about half an hour.

4. Using a tube of red decorator’s icing, pipe semi-circles on top of each ‘baseball’ to make the main lines for the stitching.

5. On either side of your two red lines, carefully pipe a few smaller red lines for the side stitches.

Did the kids like the treats, you ask? Well, let’s just say I hardly got the lid off my Tupperware before they disappeared in about 2.7 seconds…I felt a bit like a piece of meat being attacked by a team of hungry piranhas.

Now that’s what I call hitting it out of the park.

 

 

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‘Our little miracle baby’ (Parenting Times magazine)

Sonia and ElissaSeeing as it’s Mother’s Day today, I thought it was fitting that I share the story of our difficult entrance into parenthood.

Our first-born daughter, Elissa, was born with a large cyst in her brain – which made for a lot of uncertainty in the latter stages of my pregnancy and through the major surgeries she underwent in her first year of life. We have been infinitely blessed with a very happy ending – and I wrote about how it feels to look back 10 years later in ‘Our little miracle baby’, published in the latest issue of Parenting Times magazine.

Wishing all the moms out there a very Happy Mother’s Day – take a moment today to savour the blessing of a happy, healthy family.

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Sweet addiction

Smiley coffeeIt sat in the corner for a full week. Cold and empty…forlorn.

My poor coffee pot didn’t know what hit it…relegated to the sidelines with no love at all. If you had told me a month ago, I wouldn’t have thought it possible – but it’s true: I went without coffee for a WEEK!

Those close to me are well aware of my java habit…my day just *cannot* truly begin without my cup o’ joe (my family may well argue that you don’t want to be around me until it does!). It warms me from the inside out, it simultaneously soothes and stimulates.

Of course, I’ve tried it all…drip coffee, pressed coffee, BOILED coffee (my parents, bless them, still have the stove-top coffee maker they received as a wedding gift 50 years ago!), expresso, cappuccino, latte. I’ve frequented Tim Horton’s, Second Cup, Starbucks, Timothy’s…I’ve choked down gas station coffee out of desperation. I’ve been served instant coffee by non-coffee-drinking friends.

Coffee has also seen me through some memorable moments over the years. Late-night study sessions in Grade 12 and through university, the 3 p.m. energy slump in my grey office cubicle. I relied on it on all those mornings when I had two very small children, very little sleep and a husband who travelled for weeks on end. I’ve sipped my morning beverage while nibbling a fresh croissant in Paris, and I’ve crawled out of my tent in many an Ontario provincial park to gather kindling, build a fire, boil water and kick-start my camping bodum.

Yes, coffee and I are pretty tight…we go back. So whatever could come between us, you ask? Nothing but a truly nasty gastro bug…one that gave me a “cleanse” like I’d never imagined (I’ll spare you the details). Five days later, I woke up and realized I had been without my “addiction” for nearly a week.

I have to admit, it gave me pause. After all, I’ve contemplated giving it up. I’ve wondered if it’s bad for me; I’ve obsessed over the amount of sugar I add to it. I’ve shuddered at the thought of going through days of withdrawal headaches to get it out of my system, but I’d never gone through with it…until now. Inadvertently, I’d given up coffee – as well as every other food and liquid on the planet – for the better part of a week.

Life is shortSo this morning, as I stood in my kitchen at 6:30 a.m., I found myself at a caffeinated crossroad. Should I continue down this new, coffee-free path in pursuit of renewed health? Or should I return to the closest thing I’ve ever had to an addiction – my caffeine crutch?

In the end, I went with my gut (no pun intended). I realized that I couldn’t imagine “coffee dates” with girlfriends where I was drinking anything other than coffee. Nor could I fathom working on my next writing project without my favourite mug in hand.

Yes, on this cold, grey morning, I pulled my tried and true pal out of the corner, and smiled as I heard the quirky hiss and sputter of the drip cycle finishing up. Welcome back, old friend – life is simply better having you around.

 

 

 

 

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Ottawa event: Parents, Children and Technology workshop

Book coverAs a parent to two young girls, I sometimes struggle to determine what boundaries to set on technology. My husband and I try to put reasonable limits on TV and Internet use, and we talk to our kids about what’s appropriate to look at in terms of both TV shows and web sites. But I do wonder – are we doing enough?

That’s exactly why I’m looking forward to hearing Natalia McPhedran’s advice on the topic – she’s an author and parent/child coach and she’s putting on a workshop this Sunday evening in Ottawa. McPhedran promises to share the coaching secrets all parents need to know, and she’ll talk about easy techniques to improve communication with your children at home.

McPhedran is the author of a new parenting book called Life with Kids: Empowering Our Children to be Ready for the Real World. On Sunday, she’ll be offering up signed copies for the discounted price of $10.

For more information on the event and to purchase your ticket, click here.

 

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Earth Day: Initiatives make it easier to be green

CompostingAs a salute to Earth Day this year, I wrote a feature for the Ottawa Citizen about composting. When our family visited a nearby St-Hubert franchise recently, I was impressed that the restaurant is keenly committed to composting absolutely all waste – they even have compostable cutlery. I spoke to the restaurant manager about these green initiatives, and also talked with Councillor Maria McRaie – who implemented our residential green bin program four years ago – about how we can improve habits in our own homes.

You can link to the full article, ‘Earth Day: Initiatives make it easier to be green’ here.

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Easter crafts with Leanne Cusack

CTV SegmentToday, my two young daughters and I were thrilled to be invited back to chat with Leanne Cusack on CTV News at Noon in Ottawa.

Our focus today was craft and activity ideas for Easter. The girls and I talked about dyeing eggs with natural ingredients - using beets, red cabbage, turmeric and coffee – and how to make an Easter basket using paper plates. We also suggested a non-cavity-producing gift idea – homemade playdough, which can be funked up with glitter and even fragrances for a fun effect.

I recently posted step-by-step instructions for two Easter-themed crafts – a “stained glass butterfly” and a bunny candy-holder (or placeholder for an Easter table), which we talked about on today’s show as well.

As always, Leanne was a warm and wonderful host, and we all had a great time. You can watch our segment from today right here.

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Stained glass butterfly craft

Stained glass butterfilesButterflies are such a lovely symbol of spring, so I thought it would be fun to make a “stained glass” butterfly-themed craft this week.

This craft is simple to make, but it does require a bit more parental participation since it involves an Exact-o knife and a hot iron. Here’s what you’ll need in the way of supplies:

  • Black cardstock paper
  • A white pencil crayon
  • An Exact-o knife
  • Wax paper
  • Tissue paper
  • Glue

To assemble your butterfly, follow these steps:

Butterfly template1) Create a template of the shape you wish to use, and trace it on to your black cardstock. I’ve included the template for my butterfly here, and you’re more than welcome to use it.

 

 

 

 

Cut out template2) Once you have your outline on the black paper, use your white pencil crayon to draw the “cut-outs” that will be filled with coloured tissue later. Use your Exact-o knife to cut them out.

3) Take a piece of wax paper that’s twice the size of your project, then fold it in half. Open it up and fill one side with torn pieces of tissue paper. When it’s filled and arranged the way you like, fold over the other half of the waxed paper. Place it between two towels and iron until the waxed paper has melted enough to stick together.

4) Glue your black “frame” over the waxed paper/tissue paper and cut away the excess.

5) Tape on a window to add some instant “art” and colour when the sun shines!

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Hop to it!

Bunny placeholderWith Easter around the corner, the girls and I have been crafting up a storm – mostly with simple materials that we already had lying around the house.

The other day, I was about to toss an empty egg carton into the recycling bin when it struck me that it would be great to use for a craft project. I dreamed up this little bunny placeholder – perfect to have sitting at each plate if you’re hosting friends or family for Easter brunch.

This is all you need for materials:

  • Cardboard egg carton
  • Bristol board
  • Non-toxic paints
  • Stickers, googly eyes and markers
  • Glue

Easter bunny templateTo make it easy to put it together, I created a little template (at left) that you’re welcome to print off. Then simply trace it onto your Bristol board, cut out and fold to get your bunny shape. Cut apart the ‘pods’ of the egg carton, and paint as desired. While the kids are waiting for the paint to dry, they can decorate the bunny – it’s easier to do this while it’s lying flat on the table. Once the paint it thoroughly dry, you can glue it to your bunny’s tummy (I used a hot glue gun to get a good hold).

Once your bunny is decorated to perfection, fill his egg-carton basket with some little treats. This makes a great gift for you child to give to a special friend for Easter.

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