12 Ways I ‘Self-Care’ That Make A Huge Difference In My Day

‘Self-Care’ is a term we’re all hearing these days, and for good reason: life is busier and more stressful than ever. I often wonder why that’s the case for me, given that my kids are in their teens and need less physical attention…but it is what it is. I thought life might get a bit easier, but it’s a different type of worry that creeps in as your kids grow up. That’s why self-care is something I’m focusing on more and more.

What is self-care? It can be whatever you want it to be, as long as you’re doing things that make you feel better mentally, spiritually, emotionally, and physically. It’s also important to be cognizant of the need for self-care, because if you don’t manage your stress and energy, nobody else will do it for you.

And, what works for others might not work for you, so taking the time to figure out your best self-care techniques is important. Only you know what works best for you.

July 24th is National Self-Care Day, so I thought I would share my self-care techniques in the hopes of inspiring you to engage in the self-care that you need.

Here are the 12 things I do in terms of self-care that make a huge difference in my day and, consequently, in our family atmosphere:

Number 1: Start the day by doing stretches, mainly for my back. I take a few minutes to lie down on the ground and let my back relax. I look out the window and see sky and trees. Looking at nature and concentrating on being quiet calms me right down.

Number 2: Exercise! I am on my treadmill 5 days a week, watching reality TV and catching up on news. This is my time and I can’t do without it. Sometimes I talk to family and friends on the phone while I’m walking, and other times, I just kind of zone out. I’ve added weights to my routine and I like how that’s making me feel, too.

Number 3: Read at lunchtime, and anytime I can. This might sound very anti-social, but lunchtime is my time, unless I’m out with friends or family. I think I associate reading at lunch with the days when my kids would nap and that was my only free time. Reading is so important to me that anytime I feel stressed, it’s the number one thing I want to do! Continue reading

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Making Cream Puffs At Home Is Easy!

Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs
Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs

This post is sponsored by Conestoga Farms Eggs. All opinions are my own.

Making cream puffs at home is like discovering your inner pastry chef! Yes, they’re that easy to make. And, you can have fun with the sizes and fillings you choose to make and use. Cream puffs are also perfect for bringing to a summer gathering because they’re a finger-food dessert.

Eggs are the key ingredients in cream puffs, and recently I made a batch using Conestoga Farms’ Free-Run Omega-3 brown eggs. I love that local Southwestern Ontario farmers produce these eggs because buying food raised close to home makes me feel good about what my family eats.

Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs
Homemade Cream Puffs Using Conestoga Farms Free Run Omega-3 Brown Eggs

The Conestoga Farms’ Free Run Omega-3 brown eggs are laid by hens living in weather-sheltered barns where they can run freely to forage for food. The hens are grain-fed and their diet includes flax seeds, a high source of Omega-3 polyunsaturates. Omega-3 fatty acids can benefit heart and brain health. Continue reading

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Fattoush Salad – A Favorite In Our House!

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

Fattoush Salad, a popular salad in the Middle East, is one of the tastiest and most requested salads in our house! As my kids have gotten older, their tastebuds have evolved and cooking for them is a pleasure.

Fattoush is an easy salad that is forgiving in both the quantity and variety of ingredients. If you went to ten people’s homes, you’d find ten versions of this salad! There are so many ways to make fattoush. People refer to it as a peasant salad in that people used whatever leftover vegetables they had on hand to make this dish. I’ve even seen it made using only purslane, tomatoes, and cucumbers, which is very different from the recipe I’m sharing below.

With Ramadan entering its second week, this salad is a staple found at many Iftar meals. Iftar is the evening meal that breaks the fast for Muslims around the world. I thought it would be a good time to share the recipe my mom has taught me for making fattoush.

Fattoush Salad
Fattoush Salad

There are a few things that distinguish the typical fattoush salad from a green salad. The simple green salad has lettuce, tomatoes, and cucumbers. Fattoush adds onions, sumac, green peppers, mint, parsley, pita chips, and a dressing of oil and lemon with the option of adding pomegranate molasses. My mom doesn’t use pomegranate molasses, but many restaurants use it for a tangy taste. Continue reading

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Egg Salad + The Easiest Way To Peel Eggs!

Egg Salad With Celery Seed
Egg Salad With Celery Seed

Making an egg salad is one of the best ways to use up eggs and to pack some protein into your meals. I often find myself with eggs about to expire, either because I didn’t get around to baking or because my kids didn’t ask for scrambled eggs breakfasts. When eggs ‘pile up’ in the fridge, I boil a dozen and make an egg salad. We eat the egg salad for dinner and have leftovers for breakfast on toast, or as a snack.

There are so many ways to make egg salad! I’ve seen the simplest of recipes, like eggs mashed with a fork, with added salt and pepper. And, I’ve seen eggs dressed with lots of mayonnaise, and egg salads made with curry powder.

Egg Salad With Celery Seed
Egg Salad With Celery Seed

In our house, we like our egg salad with celery, green onions, whole celery seeds, mayonnaise, and dijon mustard. I usually use 6 whole boiled eggs, and 6 boiled egg whites. The reason I don’t use all 12 yolks is because I want to cut down on the taste of too many yolks as well as cut down the cholesterol levels.

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Cornmeal Banana Oatmeal Waffles – Vegan & Gluten-Free

Banana Cornmeal Oatmeal Waffles
Banana Cornmeal Oatmeal Waffles

My love for waffles is never-ending, and these Cornmeal Banana Oatmeal Waffles are my latest creation! (You can also check out the recipe for my Strawberry Banana Waffles).

I often have waffles more than once a day. If it’s not for breakfast, it’s as the base for a savory lunch waffle sandwich. Lately, I’ve been looking for ways to add fiber and protein to my diet. When I saw that 1 cup of yellow corn meal contains about 9 grams of fiber and about 10 grams of protein, I got very excited. I spent some time subbing out part of the flout for cornmeal, and came up with this recipe.

Cornmeal gives food a crunchy texture that you either like or you don’t. I’m a huge fan of cornbread as well as any Middle Eastern desserts that contain semolina or cream of wheat. The texture is satisfying for me. So, I didn’t need much convincing to make these waffles part of my weekly meal prep. I make these cornmeal waffles, store them in the fridge, and toast them for meals.

Although photos on my blog and Instagram include syrup, I rarely eat the waffles with syrup. Syrup is for extra special occasions! I usually eat my waffles plain, like a piece of toast, and add fruits when I have time.

Banana Cornmeal Oatmeal Waffles
Banana Cornmeal Oatmeal Waffles

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Peanut Butter Oatmeal Freezer Fudge

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Freezer Fudge
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Freezer Fudge

For the past few weeks, I’ve been making batches of this delicious peanut butter oatmeal freezer fudge and I wanted to share my recipe with you. These peanut butter oatmeal fudge pieces taste a bit like an Oh Henry or Baby Ruth candy bar! (BTW, check out this post for the recipe for Homemade Oh Henry Bars.)

I’m kind of addicted to freezer fudge these days, and for good reason: it’s easy and quick to make, there’s no cooking required, and it’s a satisfying treat. There’s something about having a cold snack/treat that makes it that much more tasty. I have a few other fudge recipes that I’ve also developed, and I will be sharing them with you over the next few months.

In the past, I’ve made tahini freezer fudge, and the recipe is on the blog, here. The main ingredient in freezer fudge is coconut oil, which helps the fudge set.

Peanut Butter Oatmeal Freezer Fudge
Peanut Butter Oatmeal Freezer Fudge

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The Freshest Tomato Bruschetta Recipe

Tomato Bruschetta
Tomato Bruschetta

This fall I attended an event at the Miele Experience Centre in Vaughan, Ontario, where the Miele chefs gave us many kitchen tips and taught us how to make delicious, classic dishes, like tomato bruschetta.

The event was part of the Kitchen Stuff Plus and Henckels & Staub combined product knowledge day on the functions of the various knife offerings. Making bruschetta using the sharpest and most appropriate knives for the job was an absolute delight.

It seems strange to post a recipe that calls for fresh tomatoes in the middle of the winter, but I think this is the time of year we start to crave a variety of fresh vegetables! Continue reading

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‘Go Swimming’: A Mural In The Heart Of Toronto’s Forest Hill Village

'Go Swimming' Mural By James C Jennings In Toronto's Forest Hill Village
‘Go Swimming’ Mural By James C Jennings In Toronto’s Forest Hill Village

(A version of this post first appeared in the August 2017 issue of The Neighbours Of Forest Hill Magazine.)

Have you ever walked or driven by street art and wondered how it all came to be? Well, in Toronto, we’re lucky to be surrounded by lots of intentional, thoughtful street art – and each installation comes with a story.

The Forest Hill Village is the home to ‘Go Swimming’, a 6 by 40 foot black and white mural behind the building at the southwest corner of Montclair and Spadina in Toronto.

James C. Jennings Next To His 'Go Swimming' Mural In Toronto's Forest Hill Village
James C. Jennings Next To His ‘Go Swimming’ Mural In Toronto’s Forest Hill Village

The self-taught artist, James C. Jennings, and his friend were in the Village last fall, admiring the building. The owner, Lorne Rose, overheard them and the they soon began discussing how to turn the blank garage wall into a piece of art for neighbours and passersby to enjoy. The request was simple: a positive, whimsical, cartoonish piece that would make people stop, engage, and smile. And, it does just that!

Ultimately, this mural represents three things: community art, created with humour and meaning, about the world we live in today.

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The Gift Of Being Around Other Mothers

(This article was first published in Issue 04 of Flourish Motherhood, a quarterly and motherly publication sowing seeds of love and faith.)

When I was blessed to become a mother, it didn’t take long to appreciate the built-in community that comes with motherhood.

The first place I met other mothers was at my local library where our public health nurse taught us how to care for our newborns and where I heard how other mothers were coping. These mothers made me feel normal and not alone.

Then, when I took my toddlers to parent-child programs and eventually nursery school, I met more mothers and formed friendships. Grade school, high school, camp, our local playground, and athletic events – all of these places provided me with classmates in motherhood. Continue reading

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How To Assemble A Stunning Cookie Box !

New Year's Cookie Box
New Year’s Cookie Box

As much as I love to bake, I also love the creative process of packaging said baked goods — and, nothing does it better than a cookie box!

Cookie boxes have been around for a long time, including old-fashioned tin boxes, cardboard bakery boxes, holiday-themed boxes, and basically any container you can get your hands on.

But, have you ever assembled a cookie box that contains separate compartments for cookies and other treats? They’re so easy and fun to put together, and the presentation can be quite spectacular. You just have to check Instagram and Pinterest for inspiration!

New Year's Eve Cookie Box
New Year’s Eve Cookie Box

Here are my tips for assembling a stunning cookie box:

  • have a theme. It’s so much easier to know how to compartmentalize and what to include when you start with a theme
  • keep a large shoe box or other large shipping box on hand for special occasions. You can even use in-season packaging, like a wooden clementine crate, or an old cookie tin to which you add compartments or smaller boxes
  • wrap a plain box with kraft or wrapping paper. You can also paint a wooden box, or use a deep dish baking pan. If the plain box is sturdy and elegant, like the one I used here, then there’s no need to adorn it
  • collect smaller boxes and containers from around the house, such as: cardboard jewelry boxes, tins, jars, old drinking glasses, bowls, etc
  • choose boxes that are different shapes and sizes
  • use tissue paper to add color and height to the box and treats
  • wrap cookies in bakar’s string or place in clear cello bags
  • use a combination of store-bought and homemade goodies, as well as in-season fruits
  • if you’re transporting or shipping the box, make sure you have a lid or safe way to cover the cookies
  • wrap with twine for a rustic look, or use ribbons

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