Thanksgiving is just around the corner and if I’m being honest, I’m finding that this year I’ve had to dig a little deeper to stir up feelings of gratitude. In my mind, I can acknowledge the many things that I have to be grateful for…my family, my friends, my health, my home and my calling in life. Add to that list the many other things that I’m sure I often take for granted.
This year my spirit needs a little more coaxing. Maybe yours does too? My heart is heavy from pandemic fatigue. I miss welcoming friends into my home, big parties to celebrate milestones as well as the freedom to freely explore this world we live in without seriously considering where we will be able to eat or use the washroom. And, I really do miss sneezing without worrying that I’m making others around me nervous.
While this pandemic continues to challenge us in ways we never dreamed of, I want to encourage you to go the extra distance, dig a little deeper and don’t let guidelines intended to keep us safe steal your joy or gratefulness for the world around you.
Start by spreading some fall joy. I happen to think that a little homemade dish made with love is just the right way to start. Make these delicious carrot cake muffins, a batch my almost famous Butternut Squash Soup or one of my all time favourite fall drinks, Cozy Chai. Package it up in something pretty and spread some joy to your neighbours, family and friends. While the pandemic is hard on us all in varying degrees and ways, we will overcome. And when we do, may we look back on this time knowing that we did our very best to take care of one another.
I had promised to stop talking about school when I wrote last week, but alas with the recent announcement regarding school in the fall, I thought that perhaps we should chat out a few things and then get back to summer!
In my little part of the world, families can once again send their elementary children back to school full time come September, or opt to do distance learning. For some, there was great rejoicing at having the kids back in school full time. For others, you are feeling a little panicked by the whole idea. No matter which side of the fence you sit on, or if you hover between both sides of the lawn, I’ve got some suggestions to help make your September a little smoother. While there are obvious differences in how this Fall compares to every other start of school we can remember, there are many things that remain the same. The main thing that hasn’t changed is that your children are looking to you to lead them, encourage them and help them feel safe and secure. Let’s all take a deep breath and dive in. Don’t worry, you’ve got this!
Make Friends With Routine
While I will be the first to say that spontaneity is a blast, it can leave us feeling like there is no rhythm to our day. We are left walking in circles, wondering what to do next. Routine is a parent’s best friend. When you establish a routine, the day just goes a little smoother. Everyone knows what to expect next and this leads to fewer meltdowns for everyone involved. While I still want to enjoy the lazy days of summer, we will be starting to incorporate a little more routine as we get closer to the start of school. Start small by having consistent bedtimes and wake up times during the week. Save later nights and sleep in mornings for the weekend. This leads me to my next tip…
Get Enough Sleep
Sleep is often underrated in our society. There is so much value in consistently getting enough sleep, no matter your age. This is where routine is once again one of your biggest allies. If the timing of going to bed has started to get out of hand, begin by inching your way back to a regular bedtime in 5 minute increments. Not sure how much sleep your child should be getting? Check out this great resource!
Practice Wearing Masks
When I first started wearing a mask for groceries, it felt so strange. While it is still not my favourite accessory, I have gotten used to it. Our kids will too. While in our area, masks are only mandatory for grades 4 and up, they are still suggested for the younger children especially in common areas, such as bathrooms or the library. Consider having your child get used to wearing a mask by gradually extending the time they wear it at home. I am not recommending that they wear it all day long, or even every day. I am however suggesting that home should be their safe place and learning to do something that feels strange is better when we are at home. Perhaps they can wear it while having screen time just to get used to the feeling. Once they have it down pat, no more practice is needed. Remember to label your child’s mask with their name. While you are at it, send an extra because life happens.
Practice Washing Hands
Now, you might be thinking that this only applies to those of you with small children, but honestly, take a good look at how your middle schooler washes their hands. It wouldn’t hurt to brush up on hand washing skills across the board. It is shocking I know, but soap actually works better when you take the time to rub it all over your hands and in between your fingers rather than taking a pump of soap and washing it right down the drain.
Lunch Box Help
I’ve spent many a nutrition break in kindergarten classrooms as a supply staff. I’ve sanitized the table before eating time begins, I’ve encouraged proper handwashing and I’ve seen kindergarteners try to drag their lunch bag on the floor all the way to their eating spot. Yes, I’ve stopped them, but not before they’ve collected a little something special along the way.
Consider sending a little tea towel to use as a place mat while eating. While I do believe that schools will do their very best to keep surfaces clean, the reality is they can use all the extra help we can give them.
While I am a big advocate of bite sized finger foods for the smaller ages while at school, this year is a little different…okay, a lot different. I still recommend bite sized foods, but encourage your child to use a fork for eating and keep those fingers out of their mouths. In the next couple of week’s, we will dive into what to pack. For now, my focus is on practicing skills that will help prep your child for school.
For our younger learners, start practicing with lunch bags and food containers now. Let them use their new lunch bag and dishes at home so that they can get really good at opening their own things. Imagine a class of 25 and staff having to open containers for even half of the class. Needing to wash hands or use sanitizer between each child’s belonging will be very time consuming and harsh on hands.
Even if you are choosing to do distance learning with your children this year, I still believe that there is value in packing a lunch. This will save time mid-day and also help your child develop responsibility and independence as they help pack their lunch.
Just like at the beginning of the pandemic, we banded together and supported one another the best way we knew how. As school approaches and we are all trying to figure out the best thing for our families, may we once again band together and encourage one another. May we come alongside the people who are welcoming our children back to school, be it custodial, administrative, teaching, support staff and transportation services and let them know we have their back. Together is the only way to do it right!
Are you struggling with unmet expectations? This summer just isn’t what you were hoping for? What about the workout routine that you were convinced would move the scale and it hasn’t made a difference? Or how about the new position that you applied for & didn’t get, that you thought you had in the bag?
Daily, we are faced with the chance to see issues as a battle to fight or an opportunity to take advantage of. Where do you see yourself here? Ideally, I want to find myself in the camp of opportunity. If I’m being honest though, this isn’t where I always land. Authentically looking for the silver lining takes practice. It is critical that we acknowledge our disappointment and our heartbreak. Without this piece, it is difficult to be true to yourself and even others. Once we can acknowledge the tough stuff, we can choose to stay right there taking inventory of hurts, or we can decide to boldly walk forward and do our best to see the opportunities that lie in front of us.
In my home, there has been some discussion about how this just doesn’t feel like a real summer without camping. I get it. I believe that we have camped in some fashion every single summer of my children’s lives. There is always much anticipation over our yearly trip – where we are going, who we are going with and what we are going to eat. This year is different. And while I am in full support of all of the steps we have taken to reduce the spread, the reality is that there is loss. There is no need to give you the list of all of our missed out on activities and disappointments because you have yours too. Thankfully we have not experienced a tragic loss due to the pandemic. For those of you who have, my heart aches for you and I in no way mean to minimize your hurt. The reality for my kids though is that this summer just isn’t measuring up to their expectations.
As their mom, I realize that I can’t fix everything for them, but I can try and bring some summer magic back. One of the things we plan on doing is epic backyard camping. With a little creativity, we can turn our backyard into a fantastic camping destination. This may surprise you but my plans include a makeshift candy store with straight-up sugar, just the way we find in Sauble Beach. A croquet course to mimic mini golf. Outdoor cooking. Movies under the stars and sitting around the fire until we can barely keep our eyes open. Then we will all pile into the tent to fall asleep after a good giggle session. While I am looking forward to all of it, I’m particularly excited about not having to wear my flip flops into the shower and sharing the bathroom without other random campers!
Want to join in on the fun? Plan your own backyard adventure! Click here to read some of our favourite camping foods. Let me know what some of your favourite camping foods are. We are always looking for new things to add to our menu!
Let me help you keep your cool in the kitchen! I will readily admit that summer is my favourite season. I appreciate the virtues of each season and would miss falling leaves, crisp winter mornings and new spring growth, but when it all comes down to it, summer takes the first place prize in my little world.
Having said that, there are a few drawbacks to actually cooking in the summer.
The kitchen is stifiling!
Turning on an oven while the a/c is trying to cool the house seems just plain silly. Last week I actually heard myself saying, ‘Close the door, we aren’t trying to cool the outside!’ That statement comes from a long list of things my parents said that I thought I would never say.
During the warm weather, we make great use of our barbeque. From burgers to grilled veggies and everything in between, a large portion of our cooking happens outside. Try something a little different and add turkey burgers to the menu. You can also give grilling fruit a spin. There is something magical about eating a peach or a pineapple slice that has been grilled. When making chicken on the barbeque, we often grill a little extra to use in lunchtime salads. This helps ensure that your salad is balanced with protein and you won’t be on a snacking mission right after lunch.
Another sometimes forgotten appliance in the summer is the slow cooker. My friends, this is just bonkers! Pull that beautiful kitchen marvel out of the cupboard and use it for summertime cooking. Did you know that the average slow cooker costs under a dollar to run for the whole day? It won’t increase the temperature in the kitchen and it will make you feel like you have the night off in the kitchen. While I will acknowledge that we tend to want to eat lighter in warm weather, there is something so satisfying about a warm curry even in the middle of the summer. If you are feeling adventurous, try this recipe for Slow Cooker Potato Soup. Where is the adventure you ask? Eat it cold! Yes, you heard me. Eat it cold. If Gazpacho can do it, so can this recipe. Cold soup is not my idea. Go ahead and search it on the internet. You’ll find all kinds of interesting ideas.
For those of you who have joined the tribe of pressure cooker lovers, try this recipe for delicious lentil tacos. Pile those babies up with diced tomatoes, avocado and sprouts and you have a winning combination!
I have better things to do…
I want to be outside enjoying the weather, not stuck inside prepping food all day long. For those of you with children, they seem to be hungry all day long. Whether it is a growth spurt, boredom or a bit of both, the kitchen can start to feel like it is always open.
Solve the constant, ‘What can I have to eat?’ conversation by taking the time to cut raw veggies & fruit into ready to eat snacks. Cutting the watermelon up instead of leaving it on the counter where we hope someone else will cut it up is not good enough. This falls into the same category as putting things on the stairs hoping that the owners of said items will independently sort and put it all away. I know I am not alone in this wishful thinking.
Make a plan. I promise you, taking the time to menu plan saves me so much time, frustration and money. I shop more efficiently, waste far less and don’t have to spend all afternoon trying to figure out what we should eat.
Don’t Cook – I Dare You!
Yep, you heard me right. Don’t cook. Hot summer days are the perfect time to skip cooking and turn to simpler meals. Before I knew anything about, ‘charcuterie,’ there were, ‘nibbly lunches.’ This is what my boys and I would call our favourite lunches which included fresh veggies, fruit, olives, cheese, meat and whatever else inspired us. No-fuss and everyone was happy.
Living in a pandemic is hard. There is no easy way around it. No matter where you find yourself and what your reasons are, this is hard.
Sure we have plenty of things to be grateful for. There are many life lessons we can draw from this time – the opportunity to slow down, to connect with long lost friends and family over the phone and a chance to perhaps linger over a meal rather than rushing out of the door. Those things are all beautiful benefits but they also come with a cost.
For some of us, we are living our best life. There is plenty of time to read, reflect and connect with our immediate family in a way that has been difficult to do in our pre-COVID paced life. We are working from home and are grateful for the opportunity to do so. We are visiting old hobbies and learning new ones too. We aren’t worried about getting sick because we are pretty confident we would get better quickly.
And then there are others of us. We are concerned about our own health and that of our family. We are having to leave home to work long hours in conditions that leave us feeling uneasy. When we get home, we are trying to support our kid’s distance learning and still offer care to our extended family loved by taking care of their essential needs.
I think most of us find ourselves somewhere in the middle. Some days are great and some days are hard. Some days feel footloose and fancy-free and some days leave us feeling imprisoned in our own homes.
As we manoeuvre these big feelings together, I want to ask you a few questions. These questions will help me to know how I can be of best service to you. While I can’t help you in each area of struggle, I do know food. I know which foods to eat to help you feel your best. I know which foods to prepare that are nutritious, delicious and quick to prepare. This leads me to my big ask.
What are the challenges you are facing in trying to feed your family?
What would help you resolve these issues?
How can I help YOU?
I’m working on bringing content that matters to you. I want to make feeding yourself and your family easier for you. If you could take a moment and share with me your thoughts on your nutrition struggles, I would be ever so grateful. And, chances are you aren’t the only one struggling with that particular issue. Let’s start talking, so we can keep helping each other.
We all have our favourite pair of lounge pants that feel like home. They are soft and cozy and non-judgemental. The thing is, those comfy pants can get us into trouble whether it is over the holidays, or as in this case during a pandemic.
I think for many of us, instead of getting dressed into our regular clothes, those lounge pants…or pyjama pants for that matter, have started taking over our daily clothing choices. Am I right? We soon forget that we even own anything without an elastic waistband. While it may feel marvellous at the moment, it likely isn’t a good long term strategy.
Next thing we know, and believe me I am looking forward to that day, we are back to our ‘new’ normal routine, only to find that our pants have all ‘shrunk.’
Now is not the time to take on a strict diet. I would actually offer up that rarely is it the time to take up a strict diet with the exception of health conditions that may require swift & significant changes to your daily diet. However, it also not the time to completely throw caution to the wind either.
If you spend more than 2 minutes on social media, you will notice that baking has become one of our favourite past times on a global scale. I’ve seen everything from decadent brownies, white fluffy bread and cakes that look like they are right out of a magazine. There is something comforting and grounding about baking. I get it. The smell of apple pie brings warmth to my very soul. But here is the thing…we need to be able to find comfort in other things right now than eating our troubles away.
Here are a few thoughts to consider…
By all means, enjoy the process of baking if it brings you joy, but be mindful about making it a weekly event instead of a daily one. Also, look for recipes that use wholesome ingredients and minimal refined sugars. One of my favourite recipes is my Maple Granola Bar. It is loaded with whole grains, seeds and uses maple syrup as a sweetener.
The weather is changing and it is finally starting to get warmer in my part of the world. Now is a great time to begin incorporating lighter foods to your menu – smoothies, salads and grilled veggies are great places to start.
Get dressed. Let’s enjoy those comfy pants, but also be mindful not to let waistband eating take over our lives. Putting on regular clothes & maybe even doing my hair, inspires me to be productive and helps me to find more purpose in my daily activities.
Find comfort in other activities besides eating or drinking your troubles away. Go for a walk, listen to an uplifting podcast, call a friend, take a bath or watch something funny. My new family favourite show is John Krasinski’s Some Good News
If you are finding that you are having a tough time with emotional eating, I am here to help. I continue to offer virtual sessions to help you keep healthy eating and self-care a priority. Reach out to me at email@example.com
Wishing you peace, calm and slices of joy, today and everyday!