A Colourful First Birthday Party

We recently celebrated our son’s first birthday. Um, how has it been a YEAR already?!

It was a perfect Sunday, sunny and hot. I love late summer just before it tips into fall, and now we have an extra special reason to have a party every year around Autumn Equinox.

I created a Pinterest board to share our photos. Enjoy!

We love you, little man! You’ve brought so much love and joy into our life, wow. And we’re only one year in! Happy Birthday Baby…

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Quinoa: even more reasons (and ways) to enjoy this ancient grain

Time for another re-blog! (hey, my baby is 3.5 months old, I barely have time to shower let alone write. Lol!)
I LOVE quinoa – it’s quick and easy to cook and super nutritious. I personally adapted this recipe from the original one in Vegetarian Times. Try it, you’ll like it!

Kristy Ware Vancouver Personal Trainer

I was first introduced to quinoa (pronounced keen-wah) 6 years ago while working at the Kootenay Co-op in Nelson, BC. This ancient grain, native to South America, has become a staple in my home ever since. It’s versatility, nutritional value and taste make it the perfect all around superfood. When comparing quinoa to other grains, meats and white rice, here’s how it stacks up:

* great source of protein
* contains all 8 essential amino acids (not the case with any other grain)
* ideal for those who suffer from digestive disorders, wheat and gluten intolerance, Celiac disease, Crohn’s disease or colitis
* helps promote weight loss, stabilize blood sugar levels and even helps to build muscle
* can be used in both savoury and sweet dishes and takes mere minutes to prepare…15-20 to be exact!
* it’s even great cold and stores in the refrigerator for up to one…

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Making Holiday Magic

As Joni Mitchell sings, “It’s coming on Christmas, they’re cuttin’ down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singing songs of joy and peace…” and some of us LOVE the holidays, whereas other wish they had a river to skate away on.

Winter Solstice 2013

I for one look forward to Christmas holidays, even as a Pagan. For me, the celebrations start on Winter Solstice and carry straight through to New Years! I suppose it helps that I get along with my family and my inner child still loves the magic of the season and all the special traditions like decorating, having a Christmas tree, singing carols, baking and cooking.

This year is extra special because we have a new addition to the family. I’m already a sentimental person and I’m even more so now that I have a child. Even though he won’t remember these first few years, my wife and I have already been talking about which family traditions we will keep.

Like decorating the outside of the house and yard with lights and hanging a wreath on the door (but not before December 1st!)…

Baking special cookies that we eat only at this time of year, like ginger snaps and shortbread…

Lighting pillar candles or starting a fire as the sun sets on Solstice and keeping them (safely) burning all through the longest, darkest night (a ritual I hold dear to my witchy heart)…

Reflecting on the year you’ve had and writing down what you want to let go of, and burning it in the Solstice fire…

Finding the perfect tree and decorating it with all the beautiful and nostalgic ornaments that we’ve collected and hand made over the years…

Opening a single present on Christmas Eve, and our stockings on Christmas morning (filled with chocolate and mandarin oranges)…

Skating, tobogganing, snow-shoeing, x-country skiing, or just walking in a winter wonderland with the family…

And gathering with loved ones to sing and make merry together tops my list of favourite holiday traditions.

The way I see it, it’s a personal choice to make the holidays memorable and magical! And it doesn’t have to cost much money at all. As a dear friend recently told me, it’s about presence, not presents, yes?

Here’s wishing you all a magical Solstice, a merry Christmas, and a very happy new year!!

The best homemade granola bars ever!

It’s time for another recipe! These bars are delicious and easy to make (no baking!) and you control the ingredients for cost and your personal taste. Try them out and let me know how you like them.

Kristy Ware Vancouver Personal Trainer

The next time you go to purchase a box of granola or snack bars take a good look at the ingredient list. They are generally loaded with sugar, soy, dairy and wheat; all of which are allergens that most of us could use a lot less of!

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A close friend of mine gave me this recipe that she discovered on the “Winnipeg Hippy Chick” website. I finally have a really amazing recipe for homemade granola bars. More often than not, I opt to make things from scratch rather than purchase pre-packaged. This way I have total control over the quality of the ingredients and can modify things to suit my family’s taste and dietary restrictions.

I have made three different variations of this recipe over the past month and these bars are truly amazing! When you’re trying to care for a newborn and need a quick but healthy…

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Easy & delicious Basil Pesto recipe

I love pesto. But it can be kinda expensive in the grocery stores, so it used to be reserved for “special occasions”. Then a couple of years ago I was taught how to make my own and it was like a major epiphany for me. You know, clouds parting, angels singing… “you can have pesto whenever you like…”

Now is the best time of year to do it, since it’s in season and easy to buy in bulk. Since I’m lactose intolerant I use a recipe that is cheese-free. I also don’t add pine nuts since we add them to the meal. This is a quick, easy and delicious way to always have pesto in your freezer. Enjoy!

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Presto Pesto
Credit: Maggie Jones

Ingredients:
1/2 lb of fresh basil
10 garlic cloves
2 cups of olive oil
1 tsp sea salt

How to make:
Process the basil by tearing the leaves off the stalks. Little stems are ok, but not the thick stuff. Peel the garlic cloves and place in the bottom of the blender. Fill the carafe with the basil, pressing down. Pour in almost all of the oil (I find I need to add a little more once half is blended) and add salt. Start to blend.

You may need to use a utensil to continue pushing down the basil until it “catches”- do not do this while the blender is on! Add the rest of the oil to help it all blend, and let it blend for a good 30 seconds. Pour into ice cube trays and freeze.

To remove, let sit on counter for a minute, then gently use a butter knife to help the cubes release, store in a freezer bag, et voila! You have pesto any time you need it.

I find that one cube per serving is a good ratio. Because it is oily, we now have two dedicated pesto ice cube trays, separate from our actual ice cube trays.

If you try this recipe, let me know how it works out. 🙂

Making natural baby products

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As someone who cares about saving money and the planet, making my own natural baby products just makes sense. Before I even had the time to think about it, my Mother had already done the research and wild crafted the flowers. So during our last visit, we made Baby Bum Ointment and Baby Powder. It’s so easy! These recipes came from wellnessmama.com

Baby Bum ointment

Ingredients:
1/2 cup coconut oil
1 Tbsp calendula flowers
1 Tbsp chamomile flowers
1/4 cup jojoba butter
optional: 1 tsp arrowroot or zinc oxide powder or more to thicken if needed- these will add additional drying power for really bad rashes

How to Make:
Heat a couple inches of water over medium high heat in a double boiler or small sauce pan. Melt the coconut oil in a glass bowl or double boiler top above the boiling water. Add the calendula and chamomile flowers and keep the heat going on low/medium for at least an hour or until coconut oil has started to turn yellow and smells of chamomile and calendula. Make sure to check the water level often and make sure it hasn’t gotten too hot or evaporated off.

Carefully strain the flowers out, reserving as much of the coconut oil as possible. A fine mesh metal strainer is best for this, or a cheesecloth will work, though you’ll lose more of the coconut oil. Make sure all visible pieces of the flower have been removed.

Add jojoba or shea butter to empty pot – add strained oils and warm until stirs easily – pour off into small jars.

Store in a small glass jar and apply as needed. Use a liner with cloth diapers. This is much more concentrated and effective than store-bought versions and a little goes a really long way! It can also be used for adult yeast infections or for healing of the perineum postpartum.

Baby Powder

Ingredients:
1/2 cup arrowroot powder
1 tsp chamomile and/or calendula flowers, powdered in small mill and pestle

How to Make:
Powder the chamomile or calendula if using. Mix with the arrowroot powder and store in a glass jar or sugar shaker for easy use. Use as you would regular baby powder.

I am also planning to make our own Baby Wipes! Have you ever read the ingredients on the packages? Methylparaben, Propylparaben, Benzyl Alcohol, Hydroxymethlyglycinate… whaaaat?! No thanks. Check out the recipe and instructions HERE.

It’s so important to look past the “greenwashing” that has become popular these days. If a product says “natural” that actually means… nothing.

Next week I’m attending a Cloth Diapering 101 class led by New and Green. At this point our plan is to cloth diaper and use biodegradable eco diapers for nighttime and when out of the house for long periods, or traveling. This way we can save money and not send more plastic diapers to the landfill. Did you know they take 500 years to decompose? That means that every diaper that’s ever been used is still out there, somewhere. Rotting. Gross.

What eco-responsible choices are you making with raising your family? Do tell!

Meal Planning: Easy & Economical

My wife and I have been meal planning for years now, so it’s second nature to us. I smile when I read articles about how to simplify your life or save money on groceries and they mention meal planning. Honestly, I don’t know why everyone doesn’t do it!

In case anyone is still unclear about how it works — and how easy it is! — I’ll break it down for ya.

You need two slips of paper for two lists, and maybe 15 minutes, tops.
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One list is for your weekly meal plan, what you’d like to make and eat. For us, we just plan dinners since we take care of our own breakfasts, and lunch is often dinner leftovers, or we’ll make a sandwich, wrap, or grab something out if need be.

The other list is for the groceries you need to buy to make those meals, plus anything else you are running low on.

Before you go grocery shopping, spend this time planning, looking at what you have in your cupboards and fridge already, and what your week looks like. By knowing what you’ll be making, you know what ingredients you need to buy. Simple! This saves you money because you’re only purchasing food that you will use. We waste very little in our house because of how we plan.

Also, it’s fun having meals to look forward to. To make it even easier, you can theme your nights. For example, we often do Mexican Mondays, or Pasta Wednesdays. Meal planning saves you time at the grocery store, but also in your day, since you won’t be wasting half an hour or more figuring out what you can/want to cook when you get home from work!

Here’s a sample of our weekly dinner plan:
Sunday: Tuna Mac Casserole
Monday: Bean & Cheese Quesadillas
Tuesday: Solo (we both work late on Tuesdays)
Wednesday: Pesto Veg Pasta (soon I’ll post my recipe for homemade pesto which saves a lot of $$!)
Thursday: Coconut Thai Green Curry on Rice
Friday: Nachos
Saturday: dinner out

We also decide who is cooking what meal, according to our work schedules. It makes our life very smooth during the busy work week having these plans in place.

I should also mention that we are still open to spontaneity. Things come up, plans change, and that’s life. We can usually still make the missed meal a day or two later, or use the fresh produce in something else before anything goes bad. We find that having a weekly meal plan is a structure that gives us more freedom, not less.

Do you already plan this way? Or are you newly inspired to try it? Let me know!

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