Nov 30, 2010

The Insomniac's Guide To Possibly Sleeping Again

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You look at the clock on your bedside table... its 11:05. You toss and turn. Your pillow is too hot so you flip it over. Your blankets are irritating you tonight and there's a small lump in the mattress that has never bothered you until now.

The clock now reads 12:20. You toss and turn some more. You risk your marriage by nudging your husband and telling him you can't sleep. Why should he be sound asleep while you're suffering (and at the mercy of his deep breathing, or worse yet, snoring)? The alarm clock now reads 1:17. So begins the game of, "If I fall asleep now I'll get five hours of sleep." On and on it goes until the alarm clock goes off and you groan, "How will I ever get through the day?"

We've all suffered from insomnia at one time or another. Whether it's one random night or a series of sleepless nights, insomnia is dreadful. Here are some strategies that I've found to be very effective in my times of sleeplessness.

Breathe - Concentrate on breathing. Take a deep breath in, let a deep breathe out. Every time your mind wanders, draw it back to your breath... in and out.

A warm bath - Draw a nice warm bath. Slip into it and try to think about nothing. Concentrate on breathing slowly and deeply.

Chamomile tea - If you don't mind the taste, try drinking a cup of chamomile tea with honey in it.

Exercise - A few hours before bed, do some gentle exercises. In particular, exercise outdoors can help you get a restful night's sleep. A walk, bike ride or yoga can help later in the evening when you're trying to drift off to sleep.

Relaxation yoga - I have a great yoga DVD entitled AM/PM Yoga for Beginners. There is an actual segment that's 25 minutes in length entitled Good Night's Sleep. It has consistently worked for me on those sleepless nights.

Guided relaxation - I know I've blogged about this before but the Kelly Howell Guided Relaxation CD does wonders for me! I fall asleep within minutes of starting the guided relaxation exercises. Listen to a sample of the CD HERE.

Soothing music - Listen to some soothing music. There are lots of good CDs with great relaxing tunes on them. I am a huge fan of Deva Premal... her voice flows like honey. Some of her music can also be found on YouTube. My favourite is the Gayatri mantra... absolutely beautiful.

Cover your alarm clock - Break the habit of looking at the time and cover your clock. By not having the glaring reminder of time (or lack thereof) you may be able to ease some of the pressure to fall asleep quickly.

A dark room - Make your room a dark cave. Draw your blinds (room darkening shades are the best). Make sure any illuminated electronics are covered or dimmed. Also, avoid having a night light in the room.

Read a book - This is not the time to read an edge-of-your-seat thriller or mystery. Drag out the dullest of books and begin to read. You may be surprised at how quickly your eyes will begin to droop.

Make a list or journal - Sometimes our restlessness is due to the amount of information we're storing in our brain. Making a list of things you don't want to forget or journaling about the day's events can help free up your mind to focus on relaxation.

Chant a mantra/meditation - Find a word or two to repeat over and over again. Focus your mind on saying/repeating the word(s). My personal favourite is... peace.

Power down - Resist the temptation to check your e-mail, surf the web or watch television. Your brain needs to slow down. Don't stimulate it with new images or ideas!

Cool off - A cool room helps promote a restful sleep. Make sure you have enough blankets for warmth but keep the air temperature cool.

Lavender - Sniff a few drops of lavender (or add to your bath water or pillow). "In pillows, lavender seeds and flowers aid sleep and relaxation. An infusion of three flowerheads added to a cup of boiling water soothes and relaxes at bedtime" (Wikipedia, 2010).

Don't force it - Get up and go to a different area of the house. Sit in a chair. Meditate. Relax. Return to bed about twenty minutes later.

Establish a routine - It works for children... it can work for you too!!! Do the same routine every evening before bed. Make a list of the things you need to do the next day. Have a cup of decaffeinated tea. Set out your clothes. Take a warm bath. Read a book. Turn off your light and go to sleep. Doing the same thing every night can help train your mind to recognize that it's bedtime... time to sleep.

Eat sleep-inducing foods - We've all heard of tryptophan... this notorious amino acid is known for being in turkey (hence the post turkey-eating nap). It's also present in other high protein foods. According to WHFoods (2010) the following foods contain tryptophan; "red meat, dairy products, nuts, seeds, bananas, soybeans and soy products, tuna, shellfish, and turkey"(para. 30). Calcium helps with the absorption of tryptophan so combine that turkey sandwich with a glass of milk!

Hopefully these tips help you in your quest to fall asleep. Is there anything you do that makes sleep come easier? Feel free to share your thoughts, tips and/or suggestions.

Good night. Sleep tight.


 References
WH Foods (2010). Tryptophan. Retrieved November 30, 2010 from, http://www.whfoods.com/genpage.php?tname=nutrient&dbid=103.

Wikipedia. (2010). Lavender. Retrieved November 30, 2010 from, http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lavender.
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Nov 28, 2010

Crafty Countdown To Christmas

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I'm addicted to Etsy.com. Quite often many of the beautiful crafts I see on Etsy, I decide that I can make them myself so I end up rarely purchasing them (and embarking on the long, arduous task of figuring out how to recreate the craft myself). Recently I saw a great fabric countdown to Christmas chain which I decided I could easily make.

So, off to Fabricland I went and I purchased an assortment of Christmas patterned fabrics.

I loved the "retro" look of some of these fabrics!
I analyzed the pictures from Etsy and decided that my sewing machine would not be able to plough through the heavy-duty backing material. So I had to come up with my own creative solution. I cut rectangular pieces of each fabric, I folded them in half (lengthwise), ironed them flat and then sewed two of the three open sides.

I also used pinking shears to trim around the sewed edges.
I then carefully turned the fabric so that the right side faced out.

This step has to be done carefully so as not to accidentally tear the seams.
After turning the fabric rectangle with the right-side out, I ironed the fabric once again and inserted a piece of iron-on binding material. I then ironed the rectangle once more. The binding material gives the chain the weight it needs to form a solid loop.

I purchased the width that would fit best and cut desired lengths.
This is the tricky part. I folded in the unfinished end and sewed it closed. Afterwards, I sewed on hook and loop fabric (Velcro) on both ends of the rectangle (the "hook" square on one side and one end of the fabric and the "loop" square on the alternate side and opposing end of the fabric).

The greatest struggle was to figure out how to do the numbering on the chains. The iron-on transfers did not fit the width of my chain. I was concerned stickers would not last, so I ended up writing my own numbers with a fabric marker.

Good penmanship is need for this step!
I've done six of twenty-four chain links. As I get more proficient with the process I am picking up speed.

I haven't decided if the chain will be a decoration on its own or will be hung on the tree.

Hopefully I don't lose steam and finish this project soon. I can't wait to have my little girl add links to the chain during the month of December.

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Nov 26, 2010

{this moment: peek-a-boo tree}

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Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see.

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!



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Nov 24, 2010

Crooner Christmas

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Call me old-fashioned, nostalgic or traditional... but when it comes to Christmas music, there's nothing like the old crooners. Bing Crosby, Dean Martin, Ella Fitzgerald, Nat King Cole, Elvis Presley... the oldies but goodies.

During the festive holiday season I walk through the malls and grocery stores and I'm inundated by all  the Christmas music but nothing calls to my spirit as much as the crooners. To me, their rich voices are made for the soulful tunes of the Christmas season.

When I hear the crooners I'm suddenly flooded by memories of; making fudge in my grandma's kitchen while Bing Crosby's mellow and dreamy White Christmas plays in the background. I also have images of my mom dancing out a jig to Dean Martin while the family sits around the Christmas tree. Speaking of jigs, in 2008 my dad presented me and my husband the 20th anniversary edition of our 1988 family Christmas video tape. This video captures me doing a wild jig in the kitchen to Bing Crosby's version of Jingle Bells (all while wearing my Tweety Bird nightgown and my floppy slippers, which fly off mid-dance). Thanks for the memories dad!

Oh the music... the rich, beautiful Christmas music. I can't help but reminisce about laying under the Christmas tree rearranging the manger scene while listening to Elvis Presley belt out Blue Christmas. I also recall countless Christmas Eves sitting and watching the twinkling lights on the Christmas tree and hearing Nat King Cole's The Christmas Song. I even recall one Christmas Eve when my dad tried roasting chestnuts just like the song... it was disastrous but at least we tried.

Then there's Ella and her beautiful, riveting, dreamy voice. I still get goosebumps and tears in my eyes every time I hear the song, The Secret of Christmas. As I listen to the tune I envision the coming year as the best year of my life... I envision being a better, nicer, kinder person. Only Ella Fitzgerald can evoke these kinds of thoughts and emotions.

It's amazing how music can be closely linked to memories. What Christmas music rivets you? Is there a particular song or musician who you must listen to during the holiday season? I invite you to take a moment to share your thoughts or Christmas memories. Happy listening!

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Nov 23, 2010

Vegan Pizza

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At last! We found a way to make great tasting vegan pizza. Thanks to food.com for the great pizza dough recipe. You can put whatever toppings you like on this pizza. We particularly like the Daiya mozzarella-like shreds. Daiya is made in a facility that is free of dairy, lactose, casein, soy and gluten. It's delicious and quite frankly the best cheese-like substitute we've found thus far.

The Ingredients
3 -3 1/2 cups flour
2 1/2 ounces fast rising yeast 
1 teaspoon salt 
1 cup water, very warm
2 tablespoons olive oil
Pizza toppings (we used tomato sauce, pineapple and Daiya cheese-like shreds).

The Process
Preheat oven to 400 F.

In a large bowl, combine flour, yeast, and salt.

Add warm water and olive oil, knead about 5 minutes or until mixture is well combined and forms a ball. Let dough sit for 10 minutes in a warm place.

Roll out dough and fit to oiled cookie sheet or pizza pan.



Place in oven and bake for approximately 10 minutes or until very slightly browned.

Remove from oven and let cool. Add pizza toppings of your choice.



Return pizza to oven and bake approximately 10-20 minutes or until cheese is melted. Cool, slice, and serve.


**For more great recipes like this one, make sure to check out:
The Deliberate Mom In The Kitchen.**

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Nov 21, 2010

Great Dairy-Free Products

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Dairy-Free Substitutes For Recipes #allergies #recipes #cooking #baking #dairy-free

Ever since we discovered my daughter had life-threatening allergies to all dairy products, my husband and I have been making various changes to our own diets. It has been a struggle to eliminate certain foods but in this time of change we have made some great discoveries of delicious products available to us and our little girl.

**Disclaimer: This is not a paid review of these products. We just love them and thought we would spread the word!**

Becel Vegan Margarine
Prior to discovering this margarine, baking was a challenge. We now use this vegan margarine in all of our recipes that call for butter or margarine.

Rice Dream
This beverage has served as a great alternative to milk. My daughter drinks it regularly and we use it in all of our recipes that call for milk. Since its low in fat, we ensure she gets enough good fats in her diet through avocado, fish and olive oil.

Daiya Substitute Cheese Shreds
This is by far, the best cheese substitute there is! It comes in various flavours. It is made with arrowroot and tapioca flours and is produced in a facility that is free of dairy, lactose, casein, gluten, nuts and soy. We especially like that this cheese substitute melts and stretches just like real cheese. It also tastes delicious. It is not a significant source of vitamins or minerals but it does fill the gap for recipes that call for cheese. Bring on the pizza!!!

Chocolate Silk
We are chocolate fiends! Finding a safe delicacy that satisfies our sweet-tooth has been a challenge. However, Chocolate Silk is the richest, most delicious chocolate beverage we've found. It does not have the typical aftertaste that most soy beverages have. We can even warm it up and drink it like hot chocolate. Of course our daughter loves it too!

Enjoy Life Foods Semi-Sweet Chocolate Chips
These chocolate chip substitutes are made in a facility that is free of dairy, nuts, soy and gluten. A fantastic chocolate chip substitute for all those dessert, cookie, loaf and muffin recipes!

My daughter is also allergic to eggs. There are various egg substitutes available but we save money by making our own. This homemade egg substitute is a fantastic leavening agent.

Egg Substitute
Whisk the following ingredients together until frothy. This recipe sufficiently substitutes one egg. 

1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp water

Have you discovered any great dairy-free products? If so, we would love to hear about them!
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Nov 19, 2010

{this moment: helping to vacuum}

3 comments:
Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


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Nov 18, 2010

Five Beauty Items Every Busy Mom Should Have

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Do you remember the days before children? Your beauty regime would take a whopping hour or more? I've compiled a small list of items which I think are essential to every mom's quick and efficient beautifying routine. Please note this is not a paid review. These are products that I absolutely LOVE and when you love something you have to shout it from the mountaintops!

Aveeno Positively Radiant Daily Moisturizer SPF 30
I start my day by slathering this moisturizer all over my face and neck. It truly does even out skin tone and texture. I swear this product keeps my skin supple and youthful. Also, we've all heard the drill about wearing a moisturizer or make-up with SPF. This moisturizer is SPF 30 and also serves as a great base for makeup (I don't even use foundation).

Body Shop Tea Tree Gel
As a woman in her mid-thirties, there is nothing worse than a breakout that makes pubescent teens look like airbrushed models in fashion magazines. This product is amazing! At the first sign of a little red rebel, I dot this gel directly onto the forming zit. The blemish either goes away overnight or has a brief visit of less than a day. This product used to be referred to as the Tea Tree Blemish Stick. I don't know why The Body Shop changed its name but it is truly miraculous!

A great eyelash curler
Plain to sexy in one minute. A great eyelash curler can be a girl's best friend. I love my Tarte eyelash curler. It has a deluxe handle that's comfortable to grip and it has quite a bit of spring to it. The Shu Uemura eyelash curler is also a great tool (it was mentioned in the movie The Devil Wears Prada, so it has celebrity status too). Obviously, beautifully curled eyelashes need a great splash of mascara. I'm still experimenting with various mascaras but I don't have a "must-have" favourite yet.

Cake Hair and Body Powder
I discovered this product in the past week and I don't know how I lived without it for so long! I try to wash my hair every second to third day. However, usually by the end of day two, my roots look like a catastrophic oil spill. This product has come to the rescue. I rub the delicious smelling powder on my hands and then run my fingers through my hair. Instant oil absorption, a wonderful smell and even a little volume! The powder is available for light and dark tones. Like I said, I don't know how I lived without it for so long. It is the perfect tool for a busy mom on the go. I could now go three to four days without washing my hair (but I won't).

Covergirl Outlast All-Day Lip Colour
So I've covered the basics. Great skin, great eyes, great hair... but an absolute must-have is great lips. As a busy working mom, sometimes all I can manage to do is put on some lipstick. This is THE lipstick to have. The product boasts that it lasts for sixteen hours. I would say it lasts closer to twelve hours, but for me that's good enough. The colours are rich and beautiful. This product has two steps. You first paint your lips with the colour. After letting it dry for a minute, you apply the sheer gloss (which can be reapplied throughout the day). I love this product and I highly recommend it as a make-up bag essential.

Do you have any beauty products you can't live without? A fantastic mascara perhaps? If so, please feel free to comment and share!


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Nov 16, 2010

Mourning Lynette

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In 2005, one of the most beautiful, inspiring women I have ever met was taken by cancer. Lynette was born in 1973. If you do the math, she died much too young. She was a young wife, a new mother, and an amazing person.

I had met Lynette in 2003 when I first began my employment as the director of a child care centre. I was immediately taken by her gentleness, kindness and generosity. She had just finished an aggressive round of treatment and was celebrating being cancer-free. Over the year that followed I got to know Lynette both personally and professionally. She briefly returned to work as a substitute for our centre and I was immediately impressed by her diligence, hard work and the quality of care that she provided to the children.

In 2005 Lynette was diagnosed with cancer again. This time the diagnosis was grim. She was told there was little hope for recovery.

A few staff from the centre went to visit Lynette in the hospital. I was told several times by the staff that I should go visit her. At that point in time I was in denial about her illness and also paralyzed by my own fear of death. I couldn't visit her. I couldn't confront my own fear of death by seeing it in the eyes of someone I loved. Shortly afterwards Lynette died. I never got the courage to visit her and she died before I could say how much she meant to me.

I didn't get to say goodbye.

There were several staff who wanted to attend Lynette's funeral. The staff who didn't know her very well worked that day. After reworking the schedule several times, I realized we had so few staff that I needed to work as well. So, not only did I not get to say goodbye, but I didn't get to pay my respects.

In the months that followed, a staff member and I got a plaque made to place on a bench in our park playground. We wanted something to commemorate Lynette's wonderful spirit. Every time I see the bench I think of Lynette; the joy she brought to the world, no matter how short her life was, will not be forgotten.

But still, I didn't get to say goodbye.

Thoughts of Lynette are alive in my mind. There is one specific day that I will always recall. Lynette and I were in the centre kitchen; she was getting herself a cup of tea and I was getting myself a coffee. We reached for the same mug and started laughing. I told her how the mug was my favourite mug and she said how it was her favourite mug. Big, bright sunflowers are pictured on the mug. Each of us stated that the mug was a "happy mug" and that drinking from it made us happy. Lynette then said, "You use the mug... I'm just having a tea before I go home but you still have the whole day ahead of you." It seems silly but we bantered back and forth. I wanted her to use it... she wanted me to use it. I finally agreed to use the mug. That was one of the last times I spoke to Lynette in person.

For years I would drink my morning coffee out of the sunflower mug. The staff knew it was my favourite mug and they knew its significance. I found solace in holding onto the mug, looking at it, and remembering Lynette.

I wish I had said goodbye.

I left the employment of the child care centre in September of 2009. The staff gave me the sunflower mug. I cried... my memories of Lynette were coming with me. I cherished the idea that I could have something so special in my possession. Within a week, my husband accidentally broke the handle off of the mug. He felt awful... so awful that he hid the mug for a few days while trying to figure out what he could do to fix it. Before he could come up with a solution, I asked him if he knew where it was. The poor guy confessed that he had accidentally broken it. I cried off and on for a week. It felt so tragic, so awful. My sunflower mug was broken. My heart ached so much... I can't describe the pain I felt. I couldn't part with the mug, so it's displayed on a shelf in my kitchen. I've had the occasional thought that maybe I should take a picture of the mug and then dispose of it. The mug no longer makes me feel happy. It's a sad reminder of something that once was, but is no more. I then feel racked with guilt for having such thoughts. I don't think I can ever let go of that mug, it feels like my last and only connection to Lynette.

Sometimes I wonder what is wrong with me. Is it peculiar that I have this odd attachment to an object that I've associated with this person? I wish I could let go but I can't. I'm still mourning Lynette and I wonder if these feelings will ever pass. Am I normal? Is cherishing an inanimate object normal? I feel so much remorse for not visiting Lynette in the hospital. I feel so much regret for not being able to go to her funeral. At times I sob uncontrollably when I think of this beautiful person who I will never see again.

This posting is for Lynette. Please forgive me for not saying goodbye. I am so sorry. I love you. I miss you.

This is my goodbye.



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Nov 15, 2010

Make Your H2O Exciting!

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We all know the drill... for optimum health we need to drink 6 to 8 cups of water daily. According to Jegtvig (2010) "at least twenty percent of the water you need will come from the foods you eat. The rest will come from the beverages you drink" (paragraph 6). Unfortunately those 6 to 8 cups of water can get a little boring.

Here are some ways to add some excitement to your daily dose of H2O.


Serve your water in a beautiful pitcher. By having a pitcher of water readily available, you're more likely to enjoy it.

You can also try leaving a pitcher of water and a few glasses on your kitchen table. You would be surprised how quickly the water disappears when it's in view.

Serve your water with sliced fruit or veggies in it. Sliced lemons, limes, oranges, grapes and cucumbers make attractive and delicious combinations. For the holiday season, serve your water with some pomegranate seeds or cranberries.

Serve your water with sprigs of fresh mint in it.

Drink water out of your finest crystal. Using a wine glass to drink water can add enough flair to make the consumption of your H2O that much more enjoyable.

Serve your water with fancy ice cubes. Fill your ice cube tray 1/2 full with your favourite edibles (pomegranate seeds, blueberries raspberries, sliced strawberries, whole maraschino cherries, mint sprigs and watercress are a few examples of what can be used). Then fill the tray with water and freeze. These make for cute ice cubes that also serve to flavour your water as they melt.

Shaped ice cube trays can be purchased to make interesting ice cubes as well.

Always have a water bottle available (glass or stainless steel is best). Whether you're at work, driving or at the gym, your body will thank you for the hydration.

Still can't stand the daily dose of water? Try drinking herbal teas instead.

Do you do anything to make your consumption of H2O a bit more exciting? If so, please share your ideas!



Jegtvig, S. (2010). Drinking enough water. Retrieved November 15, 2010 from http://nutrition.about.com/od/hydrationwater/a/waterarticle.htm .
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Nov 13, 2010

I'm Dreaming of a Green Christmas

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Yes, I'm dreaming of a green Christmas... not the type of Christmas with no snow but the type of Christmas that has minimal impact on the environment. I've put together a list of ways in which to put some green into the upcoming Christmas season.

Decorating
For your Christmas tree, you have a couple options. If you already have a synthetic tree, then stick with it. Don't buy a new one. Synthetic trees have a terrible impact on the environment (the products which they are made of and the transporting of the trees leaves a huge carbon footprint). A real tree is the "better" alternative, but make sure to purchase from a local lot and contribute to a tree planting program so that what you take from the ground is replaced.

If you don't have LED lights yet, then get some as soon as possible. They consume a lot less energy and therefore are better for the environment. Some home hardware stores such as Home Depot offer a Christmas Light Recycling program. While the program is running, you bring in your old lights for recycling and receive a significant discount off of new LED lights.

When your decorations or lights are not in use (or during the day) ensure all your lights are unplugged.

Make your own decorations. You can string some popcorn or you can surf the web for some other great Christmas ornament projects. I love these paper ball ornaments... they make for a great decorative touch!

Beware of candles. Burning candles in your home can release toxins into the air. Furthermore, you're burning them during the coldest time of year (when you're least likely to open windows and air out the house... thus trapping the toxins in your home for months). Opt for soy, beeswax or natural vegetable oil candles. Scentless is best.

If you like the smells of Christmas in your home, there are a few environmentally friendly options. Greenery (holly, ivy, pine and spruce) or flowers (carnations, poinsettias and roses) can make the house look and smell delightful. You can also use pure essential oils in burners. Another way to make your house smell scrumptious is the holiday baking you would be doing anyway (shortbread, apple cider and gingerbread are a few wonderful scents).

Paper plates and napkins may be convenient but they have a terrible impact on the environment. Make sure to use real linens, dishes, cutlery and stemware (plus it looks more elegant than the disposable alternatives).

Gift Giving
Try giving handmade gifts. A knitted scarf, homemade candle, crocheted hat, or bath salts are a few creative ideas. The time and effort used to make the gift usually means so much to the recipient. If you're not crafty, then try buying your gifts from a local market or craft fair.

Buy environmentally friendly gifts. For example, instead of purchasing the usual toothbrush as a stocking stuffer, spend a little more and buy an Ekotec toothbrush with replaceable heads. Want to give a handbag as a gift? Eco-Handbags have some great, unique, purses, bags and wallets!

Try giving experiences. Some examples of experiences to give include; a subscription to the ballet or a local theatre, a spa day, yoga lessons (my personal favourite), horseback riding lessons, etc.

Try giving gifts that contribute to the world and/or your community. Some great charities include:

  • Canada Helps - I love this program! A gift card can be purchased online to use toward any charity of the recipient's choice. I love this idea because the recipient is an active part of the charitable process; they can research the hundreds of Canadian charities and apply the gift card to the charity of their choice. The gift giver can also choose the picture featured on the "card" and the card can either be printed off and given to the recipient or it can be e-mailed (which is even better for the environment)! A similar charity is Alternative Gifts International.
  • Make a Wish - Help an ill child have the wish and experience they've always wanted.
  • Operation Eyesight - Give the gift of eyesight.
  • Oxfam - You can give a goat, donkey, chickens or clean water to a community in need.
  • Save The Children - A gift card is provided for you to present to the recipient of the gift. This charity helps children throughout the world.
  • UNICEF - Many wonderful giving options to help make a difference in the lives of children.
Contribute to your local homeless shelter. The gift of food and a warm bed could make a huge impact on a person's life.

Gift Wrap
Gift tags can be made out of last year's Christmas cards.

Use old maps to wrap gifts. Paired with raffia ribbon, this can make for attractive gift wrap for the men in the family.

Buy gifts that don't require extensive wrapping. For example, purchase a gift card to a favourite store.

Give gifts that also serve as wrapping.
  • Instead of wrapping a purse, place a gift inside the purse.
  • Reusable shopping bags serve as great gift wrap.
  • A reusable lunch bag.
  • A scarf, mitts or toque can be used to wrap various sizes of gifts.
  • Wrap your smaller gifts in Christmas tea towels or Christmas oven mitts.
If you must buy gift wrap, purchase paper with recycled content and after Christmas, make sure to recycle your gift wrap.

Greeting Cards
In the age of computers, you could always send a digital Christmas card. There are many online card companies that have a variety of templates available. You could even go through Smilebox and make a digital greeting card that also has a slide show embedded into it!

If you prefer the traditional greeting card, then consider making your own from recycled scraps.

You can also make your own photo greeting card (our family has done this for three years now). A photo card can be framed and kept as a keepsake.

Food
Buy an organic turkey. Support a local farm and eat the best, freshest turkey this season!

Buy local organic fruits and vegetables to fill out your Christmas dinner.

Compost leftovers (meat, bones, fish, fatty foods and dairy products excluded).

You too can have a green Christmas. Remember, little changes can go a long way! If you have any other environmentally-friendly Christmas suggestions please share for all to see and read.

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Nov 12, 2010

{this moment: graduation day}

5 comments:
Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!




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Nov 11, 2010

A Bit of Inspiration

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I just came across an inspirational quote that I thought I would share...
"The best and most beautiful things in the world cannot be seen or even touched. They must be felt with the heart."
~Helen Keller
Wishing you a wonderful day.



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Nov 10, 2010

Vegan Biscuits

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Once again, I've been on the prowl for a good recipe that I can "veganize". I recently stumbled across this Yeast Biscuit recipe and thought I would try altering it. What do you know? It was fantastic. Delicious, melt-in-your-mouth biscuits!

Here's the recipe (and of course my little girl helped make the biscuits).

The Ingredients
1 Tbsp yeast
1/4 cup water
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tsp baking powder
1/2 tsp baking soda
1 tsp sea salt
2 Tbsp organic cane sugar
1/2 cup shortening
1 cup plain (unsweetened) rice or soy milk + 1 Tbsp vinegar

The Process
Dissolve the yeast in water, set aside.

In a large bowl, mix dry ingredients in the order given.


Cut in shortening until it's the size of small Lima beans.


Mix rice/soy milk and vinegar together in a small bowl. Add to the large bowl.


Add the yeast mixture to the large bowl. Mix well.


Cover bowl with a warm, wet towel and let sit until ready to use. (At least 1 hour, but it is fine to let sit for a couple of hours). Dough will be very sticky.

Scrape out onto a well floured board. Flip over and knead lightly (4-6 times).


Roll out and cut with a biscuit cutter. We didn't have a biscuit cutter so we used the mouth of a glass.


Place on a greased cookie sheet and let rise slightly (10-30 minutes).

Bake at 400 F until light brown (10-15 minutes). 

Enjoy!


**For more great recipes like this one, make sure to check out:
The Deliberate Mom In The Kitchen.**

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Nov 9, 2010

Graduation Day

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In 2006 I began the long road of part-time, online study. This past June, I completed the last of the courses towards my Bachelor of Applied Human Service Administration Degree. While working on my degree my life changed dramatically. I got engaged, planned a wedding, married, got pregnant, stayed at home for maternity leave for a year and I even changed jobs. Throughout these life changing events, I was always enrolled in at least one or two courses.

My final class towards my degree fell on the university's graduation day which meant that I had to wait until the fall to graduate. At the time I was extremely disappointed that I would have to wait six more months to graduate. I wondered if I would even feel like going to graduation after so much time had lapsed. However, last night I attended my convocation. It was a wonderful evening and a joyous occasion. It was so unusual to finally meet people who I had only known through online classrooms. We had challenged each other and worked on projects together but until last night, we had never met face-to-face. In one brief moment we met and then we had to say goodbye.

Today I sit here and I wonder, what does this mean for me? What next?
"     You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself in any direction you choose. You're on your own. And you know what you know.
You are the guy who'll decide where to go." Dr. Seuss.
The problem is I don't know what to do or where to go.

I am a consummate learner. I love writing research papers and filling my brain with challenging thoughts. I love the smell of a ream of paper as much as I love opening up a new course package. I even love the intense study days in which I sat huddled in front of a computer for fourteen hours and wrote the "best research paper" ever. I'm going to miss the feeling of euphoria when I would open an e-mail from my instructor and get a great grade. I'm going to miss plotting out my study days and times on the family calendar. I'm going to miss challenging myself to find more research, to dig up more supporting evidence and quotes to back up my theories. I will even miss APA format.

This can't be it, can it? I always thought I would go on to pursue a Masters or a PhD but today I wonder, will that happen? Can I financially bear the costs of tuition? Can I sacrifice another two to four years of time with my family?

Today I am little sad. It feels like the end of an era. It feels official. I am done. I can stop here. The question is, will I?


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Nov 8, 2010

The Sentimental Mom Series - Part III

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Call me sentimental. Call me nostalgic. I am notorious for collecting keepsakes which capture moments in time with my little girl. Welcome to the Sentimental Mom Series; assorted ideas to inspire your own commemorative mementos of the time spent with your children.

Part III
In my family Christmas is one of the biggest occasions of the year. The festivities begin with putting up the Christmas tree in November. We then have numerous festivities that fill the days that follow. When I was pregnant with my little girl in 2007, I wrote a letter to her at Christmas which highlighted all the activities we experienced while she was in utero.
The Christmas card we sent out last year.
I have continued this tradition. Every year I write journal entries and include pictures of our celebrations. There are photos of her with family members, with gifts, cards, and special moments. I originally started assembling these mementos in a scrapbook but who was I kidding... I have neither patience nor talent for scrapbooking. So I assembled all the collected memories into photo books that I create through Snapfish. Each book contains two years of Christmas festivities. 
 
A snapshot of the 2007-2008 photo book.
One day I will give my little girl the entire anthology of Christmas books. I hope it will be something she will enjoy and share with her loved ones for many years to come.

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Nov 7, 2010

Random Thoughts After Two Glasses of Wine - Drive Me Crazy!

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Originally posted on my previous blog June 15, 2010

This is not just another rant about bad driving habits. I find it interesting that the longer that I drive, the worse the drivers get. Is this because Driver's Education classes are lacking? Is it because of the volume of vehicles on the road? Perhaps we can blame yet another societal annoyance on video games. Who or what is to blame... I don't care.

So here it goes, my list of things on the road that drive me crazy!

#10 - People who think that I want to see the pile of stuffed animals in their back window. All I have to say is... WHY?

#9 - Tailgaters. I get this crazy urge to slam on my brakes. Also, did you ever notice that the majority of tailgaters are in pick-up trucks? Enough said.

#8 - People who drive in the winter like it's summer. Ice... slippery. Got it?

#7 - People who drive in the summer like they're in the Indy 500. Get a hobby, go to a race track and endanger your own life.

#6 - People look at me when I'm stopped at a red light. Don't look at me! I'm guessing there's a 90% chance we don't know each other. Plus, I'm driving and probably already miserable from all the stupidity I've already encountered on the road that day.

#5 - Truck testicles. "Nice" fashion statement.

#4 - Pedestrians who think they're invincible. See the crosswalk??? Use it.

#3 - Cyclists who think they are pedestrians. Quit riding on the sidewalks and creating havoc for the people who are walking!

#2 - Cyclists who think they are vehicles. I can't stand these types of cyclists! They hog a whole lane of traffic and they're biking at 20 km/hr... max!

#1 - The people who flake out when the left turning arrow is flashing. It's a window of opportunity, why aren't you paying attention? If you knew a plane would be flying over your house three minutes from now and dropping a bag with $100, 000 in it, would you decide that now is the time to make a phone call , do your hair or pick your nose??? I think not.

Cheers.


This post has been brought to you by Bonterra Vineyards' 2008 Organic Chardonnay. Since I love our beautiful planet, I thought I would try to purchase more organic wines. I tried this wine a few weeks ago at a restaurant and thought I would try it again (sans food). It's fantastic! I found the first initial taste to have somewhat of a soapy flavour but then my mouth was quickly filled with fruity goodness. A great wine. And hey, it's organic.
http://www.bonterra.com/

**Disclaimer: This was not a paid review. I like wine and I'm adventurous in selecting wines to try. Pretty labels, organic vineyards, interesting names and/or price usually persuade me in my decision to try a particular wine. Although free wine would be pretty cool, wouldn't it?**
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Nov 6, 2010

Vegan Oatmeal Raisin Muffins

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One of my favourite breakfasts is a delicious muffin with a cup of coffee. I've been wanting to experiment with some vegan muffin recipes but I ended up modifying a lighter but scrumptious oatmeal raisin muffins recipe from http://www.food.com/. Of course my little girl helped.


The Ingredients
1 cup organic cooking oats
1 cup vanilla rice or soy milk
1/2 cup all-purpose flour
1/2 cup whole wheat flour
2 Tbsp ground flax seed
1 tsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 dash salt
1 tsp cinnamon (optional)
Egg substitute (enough for 1 egg)
1/2 cup organic cane sugar
1/2 cup unsweetened applesauce
1 tsp vanilla extract
2/3 - 1 cup raisins

The Process
Preheat oven to 375 F (190 C).

Spray 12 cup muffin pan

Combine oats and milk in a small bowl, let stand.

In a medium bowl, sift together the flours and all the dry ingredients.













In a large bowl, mix together the egg replacer, sugar, applesauce and vanilla.

Mix the oats and milk mixture into the egg mixture.

Fold in the dry ingredients.

Fold in the raisins.

Transfer into the prepared muffin pan.

Bake in the preheated oven for 15-20 minutes, or until lightly browned.

Remove from pan to cool on wire racks.

Enjoy!

My little girl calls this delicious snack "puffins" (FYI - we would not eat puffins).
IF YOU DON'T HAVE EGG REPLACER AVAILABLE
Whisk the following ingredients together until frothy. This recipe sufficiently substitutes one egg. 

1 Tbsp baking powder
1 tsp baking soda
1 Tbsp flour
1 Tbsp water

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Nov 5, 2010

{this moment: beautiful flowers}

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Inspired by SouleMama

{this moment} - A Friday ritual. A single photo - no words - capturing a moment from the week. A simple, special, extraordinary moment. A moment I want to pause, savor and remember. If you're inspired to do the same, leave a link to your 'moment' in the comments for all to find and see. 

Wishing you a wonderful weekend!


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Nov 4, 2010

5 Minutes To Calm

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How do you keep up with the hectic pace of life? Children, marriage, work, activities, cooking, events... so many things pulling at your attention and focus. I've decided to put together a list of activities that take less than five minutes but deliver a long-lasting calm.

1- Breathe. Take a few minutes and breathe deeply in and out through the nose.
2- Go for a brisk walk. Five minutes of fresh air and some vitamin D can really help settle the nerves.

3- Close your eyes and imagine the most beautiful place on Earth. Be there for five minutes... wade into the water, walk along the beach, bask in the sunshine that your mind creates.

4- Read. Whether it's a book or a magazine, the mental escape can do some good.

5- Blow some bubbles. Really, truly, this can be such a relaxing activity.


6- Meditate or pray. A few moments in deep thought can help calm the nerves.

7- Speaking of meditation, check out Do As One. This is an online, universal, meditation site. It's actually quite neat. You choose a "room" to meditate in. Then you select the colour which you want to look at while you meditate. Afterwards, you set the volume level and a timer (5 - 30 minutes). I also like that you can select an intention to meditate on (such as peace, health, joy, etc.). It's worth trying and it only takes 5 minutes!

8- Laugh. Think of the funniest thing ever and laugh out loud. Can't laugh on cue? Keep some funnies on hand for such an occasion.

9- Give yourself a massage. Massage your hands, feet or temples and scalp.

10- Have a cup of herbal tea. I find the best herbal tea to calm the nerves and mind is chamomile tea.

11- Do some calming yoga poses. One of my favourites is viparita karani (legs up the wall pose). The pose is pictured here. I remember unintentionally doing this pose when I was a child. I still find it to be calming. You can also do child's pose, which is pictured here.

12- Do some toe exercises. Take off your socks and look at your toes. Ball your toes up as tight as you can. Now release them. Do this a few times then try to spread your toes far apart; release and repeat a few more times. Breathe deeply while performing this exercise.

13- Stop and smell the flowers (or at least look at some plants). Research shows that flowers and plants have a positive effect on mood and well being.

14- Listen to some calming music. There are many meditation and relaxation CDs available. Find the ones which work for you.

Hopefully these five-minute quick fixes help you find your inner calm. Is there anything that takes less than five minutes and calms you? If so, please share! 
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Nov 3, 2010

Om Is Where My Heart Is

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A few weeks ago I confessed that I was "downward dogging it". Months had passed since I last attended a yoga class and my body, mind and spirit were beginning to feel the ill effects.

Tonight I went to yoga. As I entered the studio my heart leapt with excitement. The familiarity of the tile and wood on my bare feet, the flickering of candles, and the sound of soothing music welcomed me.

As I returned to familiar positions and deepened into poses, I began to feel something unfamiliar... peace. Peace in my mind and peace in my heart. I also felt overwhelmed with love. Love for this form of exercise... love for the way I feel as I do the postures and love for the body in which my soul resides.

I've never been taught by this particular yoga instructor before. She talked us through methods to find proper alignment in our postures, which was enlightening and challenging at the same time. She also provided a mindful narrative. She reminded us to thank ourselves for taking the time to attend this class. She encouraged us to pay gratitude to all the people and circumstances that allowed us to attend this evening's yoga session. Lastly, she prompted us to recognize that we each bring a gift to the world and persuaded us to spend a few moments thinking about what that gift is.

As I sunk into the floor during savasana my mind quietened. My eyes welled up with tears as I inhaled and exhaled. I can't help but be amazed that something as simple as the breath can be taken for granted. My breath gives me life. My body is mine and mine alone. I have this one chance to take care of it... and from now on I will.

Tonight I returned to Om... and that is where my heart is.

Namaste.


Photo Credit
Image courtesy of [ponsuwan] / FreeDigitalPhotos.net
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