one card

30 10 2009


A note or email is always welcome encouragement, but I love the sentiment of a paper greeting card… especially “just because” or one with a lengthy, endearing message like the ones that my maid of honour often writes… so heartwarming, so personal.  I have saved every birthday card my mom has given me since I was about 4… I remember that one vividly – it had a photo of a collie pup.

$3-7 for a greeting card… that, unless you’re a saver, is likely heading for the recycling box.  Plus, an envelope – more paper.  As your family grows… more occasions, more cards!  The tally of the cost and the impact of greeting cards started to tweak my conscience.

So, in our home, just among our immediate family, I have designed one card.  Starting with C2’s first birthday, we will use this greeting card for every birthday from now until….. ?  Well, it will be interesting to see how long we can stretch out the tradition of the one card.  I love entertaining the thought that we will bring out the family birthday card 25 years from now and read about all of the memories written there.

For other occasions – birthdays, Mothers Day, party invitations – I have been designing postcards using my own photos and an online photo editing website called Picnik.  Unique, personal, with limited environmental impact.  Nice.

Olivia's Birthday Card joan birthday cardFathers Day Card 2009Mom's Birthday Card


the only thing you need in your makeup bag

27 10 2009

Smashbox Fusion Soft Lights - DuskIf, in the process of getting you and your kids out of the house, you have 2 minutes to yourself to brush your teeth (and floss!) and splash some water on your face…. but, you don’t want to look like a haggard housewife on 3 hours of sleep — even though you feel like one — I want to share with you my #1 go-to cosmetic product.

smashbox Fusion Soft Lights is a bronzer – with 5 hues that work on any skin tone and swirl together for a soft, shimmery look.  AND, not only do they work to give your face a lovely sun-kissed, but not shiny, glow… you can use the individual palettes for eyeshadow and blush as well!

Ever since my wedding day I have loved using smashbox cosmetics… and now that they’re available at Shoppers Drug Mart (and I can strategically get 20x Optimum points when I time my purchases just right!)… they are readily available.

I know that this totally sounds like a gratuitous marketing for smashbox and Shoppers… but, I get so many compliments on my bronzer, I just had to tell you!  If you don’t have time to put anything else on your face, Fusion Lights is all the makeup you need!

out of the box

22 10 2009

Krusteaz Apple Crisp mixNormally I would cringe at using a mix for baking … (NOTE: I don’t judge anyone who uses mixes or pre-packaged food.)  But, for me – I have total joy when I bake something delicious from scratch, including my Gramma’s Apple Pie, complete with flaky, pastry crust.

Ahhhh… when planning Thanksgiving dinner this year, the task was monstrous, so (as the hostess supreme) I elected to short-cut a couple of dishes – well, namely one – dessert!

I had a solid review from my cafe latte about Krusteaz‘ Blueberry Pancake Mix.  So, when I spotted the Apple Crisp in the baking aisle at Costco…. I walked past – initially.  It took me a few weeks to actually get up the nerve to cave and buy pre-packaged Apple Crisp (especially since P’s mom was coming for dinner and her apple crisp is the best).

Well – am I ever GLAD that I did!!  Krusteaz Apple Crisp is so unbelievably easy to make – just add butter to the crumble topping package, empty the apple filling package into the pan, and sprinkle crumble topping on top.  Bake for 45 minutes!  It is unmistakably the best Apple Crisp (from a box) you will ever lay your taste buds on!  Kind of has this nice, sticky caramel-ly crisp

And – you know what else is great?  With the same mix you can bake a Caramel Apple Cheesecake, a Dutch Apple Pie, and Spiced Apple Bread Pudding.  I love a mix with such versatility!

Check out Krusteaz’ other great mixes for muffins, pancakes, cookies, scones, and even for your bread machine.  I am officially a “mix” convert!

craigslist versus freecycle

19 10 2009

craigslist vs.


Craigslist originated in 1995 in San Francisco – initiated by Craig Newmark, craigslist started out as an email list of local events in the SF area.  Today, craigslist has expanded to 700 areas in 70 countries.  Users can post, largely for free, classified ads ranging from jobs to housing, goods to services, romance to local activities – even personal advice!  For parents, craigslist can be a literal goldmine of baby and kids gear – well-used, in good condition, used only once or twice – or the real find: still in the box!  Received doubles at a baby shower!  My best craiglist find – a backpack carrier for $30, barely used, the day after our carrier broke in half (*yikes*don’t ask – no injuries!).

The Freecycle Network, born in 2003 thanks to Deron Beal, is a non-profit organization and a movement of people interested in keeping good stuff (not always working or perfect stuff) out of landfills – up to 55 tons of goods a day!  Freecycle exists to establish a “worldwide gift economy”… and many folks are thinking – “awesome!  free stuff!”  But, freecycling’s a two-way street – freecyclers are expected not only to take, take, take — but, also to benevolently contribute to the community.  You can google Freecycle groups in your area and to find out more about how Freecycle works, click here.  Wanna check out some extreme freecycling?  Junk Raiders is a Discovery Channel Show featuring two freecyclers and a crew on a mission to transform a fully functional live/work space in Toronto on a budget of $5000 – and everything and anything that can be re-used, re-shaped, re-fitted, or re-built.  It’s so cool!  Our best freecycled gift – a 4-drawer filing cabinet.

What I love about Freecycle is the transparency and genuine sense of community.  Freecyclers are not shy about letting you know that what they are offering is used, slightly damaged, or missing parts. A face-to-face encounter with a fellow freecycler is warm and personable – it’s like a mutual pat on the back because you just did something good for planet Earth.

And, it’s not to say that craigslist doesn’t hold an important place in our communities – though a step up from a neighbourhood garage sale – sometimes I feel that craigslist users perhaps exaggerate or over-estimate the worth of the item they are posting… I would be wary and do a bit of homework.  Also, I have experienced craigslist buyers often trying to make a low-ball offer.  Personally, I just find that it lacks the warmth and friendliness of a freecycle “gift”.


craigslist factsheet,

How the Freecycle Network Works, How Stuff Works,

“stroller-itis”: parenting and posture go hand in hand

14 10 2009

IMG_0335This is an article I wrote as an assignment for one of my graduate classes in June, 2007 at UBC.  It emphasizes the importance of carefully considering your posture and protecting your joints when performing baby care activities.  But, I think it’s timeless advice, even if you’re past the baby stage – because let’s face it, we’re just not getting any younger!

You’ve been caught up in the wonderful bliss of becoming a new parent, bonding with your baby, and proudly walking along the sidewalk displaying your shiny new stroller … you are eager to show the neighbours that you can be an active and energetic new mom or dad, even on four hours of sleep!  However, one day you notice that your wrists ache when you lift your baby from the crib and your shoulders feel tightly knotted when you hover over your baby’s change table.  What happened to your youthful mobility?

Within a few months of my son’s arrival, this nagging discomfort started cropping up in my wrists, shoulders, and lower back.  I realized that the new activities I was performing as a new mom: nursing, changing diapers, lifting and carrying a car seat, and pushing the stroller with one hand (while holding a cup of coffee in the other hand!), were compromising my posture.  So, I coined the term “stroller-itis” to describe this cluster of baby-care aches and pains.

As a new mom or dad you want to get out of the house, stay fit, and feel energized.  However, pain resulting from baby care activities can hamper your ability to stay active, not to mention experiencing all the joys of parenthood.  In a recent North American study, researchers discovered a relatively high incidence of lower back, neck, and shoulder pain in parents with children under the age of four years associated with performing child-care tasks1.

Poor posture can be a major contributor to soreness in the shoulders, neck, and lower back.  The next time you pass by a mirror, observe your posture.  Do your shoulders seem to roll ahead of your earlobes?  Does your chin tend to protrude forward?  Are you slouching?

Incorporating a few basic strategies into your routine baby care activities and gear can help you develop better posture habits, limit aches and strains, and enjoy time spent with your little one.

Stroller Selection

Your baby’s stroller is your ticket to freedom from your home.  Find a stroller that is right for you and your lifestyle and practice good posture using these tips:

  • Select a stroller with a handle that is elbow-height or height-adjustable.  3-wheeled strollers tend to be more maneuverable, especially in winter conditions.
  • Relax your shoulders with your shoulder blades pressed down toward the middle of your lower back; make sure that the handle height of your stroller allows you to do this comfortably.  Keep your chin tucked and your abs firm.
  • Gently grasp the handlebar with your thumbs resting on top and your fingers and wrists relaxed.

Car Seat Handling

Inevitably, you will find it awkward to lift your infant “bucket” carrier in and out of the car without bending and twisting your lower back.  Not to mention the strain on your neck and shoulders as you tote the carrier around with you.  To avoid injuries related to lifting, ensure that you:

  • place one foot inside the door to alleviate strain on your lower back when taking the carrier in and out of your vehicle.
  • carry the “bucket” carrier by grasping the handle with two hands from the side, holding it close to your body.  Do not plan to tote the carrier for long distances – because believe me, it is only getting heavier!
  • bend at the knees and grasp the carrier at the head and foot when lifting the carrier from a low surface.  Keeping the carrier close to your body, lift, avoiding bending at the waist.

Change Table Set-Up

You will likely visit your baby’s change table on numerous occasions throughout the day.  A changing surface that is too high or too low can contribute to shoulder and neck pain, therefore:

  • ensure the changing surface is at least elbow height, or slightly higher if dad is six feet plus.
  • alternate your baby’s position on the change table to prevent excess strain on one side of the body.
  • use the flat surface of your hand when picking baby up to reduce strain on your small finger joints.

Feeding Time

Feedings are special interactive times with your baby.  Manage your posture by:

  • sitting in a comfortable chair with your back supported when nursing or giving a bottle.  Use a breastfeeding pillow to support your baby; relax your shoulders and practice tucking in your chin.
  • sitting at baby’s eye level to reduce strain on your back, neck, and shoulders when your baby is ready to eat in a high chair.

If you experience persistent discomfort after trying these strategies, or if you notice any redness or swelling, consult with your family physician to discuss options for treatment.

Creating healthy habits now will ensure good posture and pain-free parenting in the future so that you can be as active as your growing children!

1Sanders, M. J., & Morse, T. (2005). The ergonomics of caring for children: An exploratory study. American Journal of Occupational Therapy, 59, 285–295.

cooking resources – part 1 of n

12 10 2009

Parmesan Brussels Sprouts - the good food book for families

Where do I go for a good recipe?

How ideal would it be to rely on one tried and trusted resource for all cooking endeavours — but, the fusion homemaker needs to continuously expand her culinary horizons.

I think we all want to be sneaky and secretly, selfishly keep our favourite “famous” recipes to ourselves!  I admit it.  That’s me.  But, I am shifting my mindset and want to let you in on the fun!

When planning a menu I want interesting, but not complicated; delicious, but not an overwhelming number of ingredients to track down (on-hand is ideal!).  I do find recipes all over the place, but, these are my go-to resources that never let me down:

good food bookthe good food book for families – a cookbook that makes sense to have on your shelf if you have kids – or even if you don’t.  It’s chalk full of recipes and nutritional information that are based on Canada’s Food Guide.  Lots of tips and strategies for feeding finicky children and sample meal plans for children of all ages.  Favourite recipe: Oatmeal Raisin Cookies

cooks illustratedCooks Illustrated – thank you, Mom, for this subscription!  Cooks Illustrated reads like a scientific journal – the writers provide a full rationale for their methodology followed by an easy-to-follow recipe – often with photos.  You will feel like a gourmet chef when you turn out delicious dishes from this magazine!  I also love their kitchen appliance and utensil reviews and recommendations.  They frequently select a less expensive tool as superior to the high end.  Favourite recipe: Chewy Chocolate Cookies – and discovered a new way to do turkey this year.  I will never cook a whole bird again!

America's Test KitchenAmerica’s Test Kitchen – affiliated with Cooks Illustrated; I’ve signed up for emails from them and weekly receive “Notes from America’s Test Kitchen.  Scan over the sample menus, recipes, techniques, and product reviews and you’ll discover some great finds!  Favourite recipe: Easy Chocolate Ice Cream – oh, and Icebox Key Lime Pie

ChatelaineChatelaine Magazine – yes, I do enjoy Chatelaine!  And very often find some very tasty recipes!  It’s a bit overwhelming because there are soooo many recipes in each issue.  But, definitely worthwhile.  Favourite recipe: Steak Sandwich (with a bit of modification)

Canadian FamilyCanadian Family Magazine and online – I follow Canadian Family on Twitter now and almost always follow the links for recipes.  This magazine totally takes into account the busy lifestyles of families and offers quick, kid-friendly recipes for every meal and occasion.  Favourite recipe: Wicked-Good Pizza Muffins

Mennonite Girls Can Cook – I have this blog bookmarked on my toolbar.  8 wonderful ladies contribute to this food blog and offer the most wonderful homestyle recipes ever — not to mention my favourite Mennonite dishes, just like my Grandma used to make!  Favourite recipe: Bran muffins – I use this to make my Raspberry Bran Muffins

If you find a resource that works for you, stick with it – you will definitely simplify the process, especially when it comes to decision time for preparing a large menu.  Select recipes that don’t intimidate and when possible, make things with ingredients you have on hand… it’s amazing what you can concoct with limited supplies (e.g. Emergency Chocolate Cake – a wartime cake made with mayonnaise, cocoa powder and instant coffee)!

I have discovered so much joy in cooking (lol – cliche!)!  Preparing a meal for my family, the challenge of tackling a large, special occasion meal, finding that one-of-a-kind recipe that everyone raves about, learning new skills and having that much-needed sense of achievement.

top five weight loss tips

7 10 2009

before & after

Virtually every woman’s magazine and ad on the right-hand side of your Facebook page advertises a quick slim-down “solution,” sure fire ways to melt the fat in… ONE week?  10 DAYS?  Nuh uh.  I’ll relate my weight loss story another time (size 14 to size 6!)… but, it started with a conscious decision to change my thinking around eating.

First of all — don’t expect a quick weight or body shape change ever.  You need a good 6-8 weeks of good eating and exercise…also gives you time to create a routine and good habits.  I have a few strategies to get you started – they are not profound and it’s nothing you haven’t read before, but if nothing else, these tips can get you going down the right path.

Here are DeirdreSpeak’s weight loss Top 5:

  1. Drink H2O – aside from the hydration and cleansing benefits, drinking water keeps you away from sugary drinks and curbs your appetite.  Snacking (on junk food) is a huge weakness for me; water fills me up, keeps me satisfied until the next meal.
  2. Become calorie conscious – this was something I never wanted to do — I couldn’t be bothered because it seemed like a hassle to calculate calories for everything I ate.  But, try becoming calorie conscious – simply flip over the packaging on whatever it is you’re about to eat and make a mental note of the calories per serving.  Your goal is approximately 2000 calories per day (I’ll talk to you about good, bad, and ugly calories later)
  3. Reduce or better yet, eliminate simple carbohydrates – sugar, bread, potatoes, pasta, rice.  These foods break down quickly, and in the absence of high intensity exercise, get stored as fat.  Limit high GI fruit & vegetables (check the glycemic index website for a list).  Use a zero calorie sugar substitute such as Splenda.
  4. Take small bites – you’ll send your brain the appropriate message about how full you really are.  If you eat too much too fast, your brain won’t realize you’re full until you’ve consumed twice the calories you should have.
  5. Run or walk – I’m a firm believer in high intensity cardio coupled with a good weight training routine to really axe those pounds.  Customize with any other physical activity you want: yoga, pilates, swimming, hip hop dance, etc.  My best combo was ballet + running + weight training.  But, as a mom with limited time and a lapsed gym membership, a regular run (20 minutes, 3-4 times a week is great!) or long walk.

I want to talk about food as fat burning fuel – but, that’s another blog.