Wednesday, December 23, 2015

Merry Christmas from The Complete Family

Family is...TEAMwork!

Family comes to us in all different shapes, colours and sizes, its not always forged by blood but crafted through shared commonalities, interests and passions.

Family is TEAMwork!
If I were to ask everyone’s definition of family, I can almost guarantee it would vary but there are always the common variables that remain the same.

When I think of family one of the first words that come to mind is TEAM, family is TEAMwork!

A team comes together, they work and play hard together, they respect one another and stand strong beside the other, they support one another…they encourage and lift up each other, a team teaches and learns from the other, they grow together, love, respect and honour each other.
"Coming together is a beginning, staying together is progress and working together is success."                                                                        - Henry Ford
The Complete Family thrives on the premise of TEAMwork, working together as a family unit aids in the healthy development of the whole child.

Check us out in the New Year and see what’s new!


Thursday, December 03, 2015

Holiday Gift Ideas from Posterjack *Sponsored*

Picking a decor themed gift to give for the holidays can be daunting - does it match their existing decor?

Posterjack makes it easy with their Acrylic Block. The Acrylic Block’s small format makes it the ideal decor holiday gift as it can be easily incorporated into any mantel, shelf or desk display - no hanging required.

The Acrylic Block by Posterjack
Acrylic Blocks can be customized to suit the personality of each person on your list. Simply choose a photo you feel best represents them and Posterjack prints the photo on a perfectly clear, thick one-inch piece of premium cast acrylic.

And at only $49.99 Acrylic Blocks are a win for both the giver and the receiver. Other budget and design-friendly gifts from Posterjack include Woodstand Prints and Photoboards.

The Holiday Gift Guide from Posterjack

Saturday, November 07, 2015

Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce

by Arja Pennanen Lytle

Nothing really says fall to me like fresh, local apples.  I get hypnotized by all the varieties I see at the farmers’ markets and I happily accept apples from friends’ trees.  Add in a trip to go apple picking myself and all of a sudden I have more apples laying around than I know what to do with.  Crisps and pies are great (and delicious!) but sometimes you just need a quick way to process a bunch that doesn’t involve much effort.

Enter my super easy, slow cooker applesauce.  No added sugar, no peeling, and no watching a pot on the stove involved – just chop, core, add cinnamon and lemon and let your slow cooker do the rest.  Sounds simple right?  Many applesauce recipes involve using sugar, but there’s no need to bother with added sugar because apples are so sweet on their own and the cinnamon enhances that natural sweetness. 

Apples are very good for you and keeping the skin on maximizes their nutritional value.  Apple consumption has been shown to be associated with reduced risk of heart disease, cancer, asthma, and type II diabetes. 

Apples are:
  1. An excellent source of vitamin C
  2. A good source of potassium
  3. Full of fibre 

Easy Slow Cooker Applesauce
Makes approx. 7 cups 
  • 4-5 lbs apples (enough to fill a 5-6qt slow cooker)
  • 2 cinnamon sticks
  • Juice from 1-2 lemons (start with juice from 1 lemon - you can always add extra juice at the end if you want to make your sauce tangier)
  • 1cup filtered water 

Step 1 – Wash, core and roughly chop apples leaving skin on.

Step 2 – Load apples, cinnamon sticks, lemon juice and water into your slow cooker.  Cook on low for 6-7hrs, stirring once or twice.

Step 3 – Once apples have totally fallen apart turn off slow cooker, remove cinnamon sticks and blend with an immersion blender until smooth (you could also do this in small batches in a blender).

*Note:  If you prefer a chunkier sauce where you just mash up the cooked apples at the end, you will want to peel the apples when prepping them, then follow all the same steps above skipping the blending.

Forget the packaged stuff and make a big batch yourself!  I freeze it in small containers (easier than water bath canning) so that I can pull some out for a week of snacks.


Learn more about Arja of  Balance Body and Soul!
"I'm a holistic nutritionist & mama to a busy kindergartner with a passion for teaching people how to eat to feel good!  I love to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally more balanced by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel your best.  I use whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people correct imbalances and achieve their health and wellness goals."

Thursday, October 29, 2015

Pt.2 of My Equine World's Interview with author Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

By My Equine World

Part 2 of my interview questions with author of The Guardian Herd series, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez is now live...check it out!!!

My Equine World

Windows of Opportunity for Learning

 By Dale Ho

Getting ready to build a bird feeder!

Building bird feeders for our winter friends is another window of opportunity for learning more about different types of birds, what is migration, design, measurement and more, it also encourages growth in areas such as creativity, imagination and social skills. It's the ideal opportunity to spend quality time together.

Construction in progress...

There is always so much to take away from everyday life experiences and once we learn to recognize these windows of opportunities for our kids, they now become opportunities for learning, growth and development.

Thursday, October 22, 2015

My Equine World interviews author, Jennifer Lynn Alvarez

By My Equine World

Hi everyone and welcome to my second official post as My Equine World.

A little while ago I interviewed Jennifer Lynn Alvarez, author of The Guardian Herd series, today I want to share it with you.

The Guardian Herd series follows these amazing herds of pegasi and their adventures, one of my favourite series of all times!

Jennifer has two already published novels, Book 1: Starfire and Book 2: Stormbound and Book 3 coming out in 2016, Landfall... I cannot wait!!!!

Watch Jennifer Lynn Alvarez below as she answers some of my questions in part 1 of the interview: 

Thank you so much Jennifer for all your time, this was an experience and so much FUN! 

Follow her blog at and don't forget to pick up a copy of her new book Landfall in 2016!

See you guys soon!
Victoria aka My Equine World :)

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Meet the Maplelea Dolls! *Sponsored*

By Dale Ho

Just as there are many forms of play, there are many benefits TO play, as outlined in one of my previous articles ..."Play Is"

the Maplelea Friends
Imaginative play and role playing are two that come to mind when I think of the Maplelea dolls, to be honest I can't imagine a time that I was AS intrigued with a doll and as the name suggests this is a Canadian owned and operated company that has delivered nothing short of quality and affordability to its customers since 1988.  With a vast array of 18" dolls that include the Maplelea Girls, each representing the provinces and an assortment of Maplelea Friends to choose from, I guarantee you there's something that's sure to please all.

So exactly why are these types of play so integral to any child's development...they build on socio-emotional and literacy skills, play such as this also helps children make sense of the world around them, by providing the time, space, opportunity and the resources we can support this growth at home.

Both the Maplelea Girls and the Maplelea Friends come with a wide array of furniture and accessories to compliment each doll to facilitate these types of play and very much like us the Maplelea Girls comes with their very own story or you might have the kids get creative and create their very own story for the Maplelea Friends using the journal provided.

Meet Charlsea
We are the proud owners of the newest addition to the Maplelea Girls, Charlsea!  Charlsea hails from
Canada's west coast, she lives on Salt Spring Island, one of her favourite pastimes include going on adventures and her goal is to become an more of her story here. Overall I can say we are VERY pleased with everything about the brand from the attention to detail that goes into each of these dolls, the accessories and the furniture, the positive message of living a healthy and active lifestyle they portray and the stories that bring them to life for each child.

As an educator I see all the benefits of the Maplelea brand and as a parent I enjoy watching the hours of endless fun our daughter takes away from it each time as she is fully immersed in the wonderful world of PLAY.

If you would like to find out more about the Maplelea Dolls please visit their website at or visit them at their newly opened seasonal store in the Promenade Mall, Vaughan, ON.

Thursday, October 01, 2015

It's more than just blogging

Opportunities arise to learn something new everyday
She's blogging right along with me, pretty soon the little guy will join me too!

My Equine World is her pseudonym, you may have read her very first blog post already, if not head on over! The Basics of Grooming Your Horse

I believe blogging has many benefits for children and youth. In my eyes I see it as much more than simply 'blogging', children are acquiring a myriad of new skills along the way.  Literacy is the first one that comes to mind...from coming up with new and intriguing ideas for articles, interview questions, writing scripts, editing to interviewing, the opportunity we can provide for learning and growing are limitless.

The connections they make within the community is priceless, especially those within their field of interest, once they've found their passion this now becomes an open window of opportunity and the learning begins!!

Confidence is built, self esteem goes on the rise, imaginations soar and creativity is sparked.  Then there's that sense of fulfillment, accomplishment and sheer pride.

Keep in mind with all the advantages of blogging it is important to always keep safety as a top priority. 

So you can see exactly why I don't think of it as simply 'blogging'...Instead, I see it as a multitude of opportunities and experiences to connect, explore, learn and grow.

Tuesday, September 22, 2015

The Basics of Grooming Your Horse by My Equine World

By My Equine World

Welcome to my regular space on the Complete Family, I'm just your extra-ordinary pre-teen sharing my adventures! I learn something new everyday in the world of equine and as I do I'll share them with you, from interviews with industry experts, rider fashion, health, advocacy and more on My Equine World!

A great big W.E.L.C.O.M.E to my very first blog post...Maybe you just started taking riding lessons, you're thinking about it or you just want to find out more about caring for the equine.  Today I'll be explaining what you should know about basic grooming and what you should have in your grooming kit as you start out.  Video to come!!!

Curry Comb

Curry Comb:  The purpose of the curry comb is to loosen surface dirt and hair. When you use the curry comb you want to go in a circular motion all over their body. Avoid their face and legs, these are sensitive.

Dandy Brush

Dandy Brush (Hard brush):  The Dandy brush is used for removing the loosened dirt and hair.  Use it in a sweeping motion and go in the direction of your horse's coat growth.

Finishing Brush

Finishing Brush (Soft brush):  The finishing brush is used to remove any left over hair and dirt and is used to smooth and shine your horse's coat. You can use it on your horse's face and legs as well.

Mane Brush

Mane/Tail Brush:  You can use a brush or comb on your horse's mane if he allows you to.  Begin where the mane starts and brush down.  Using the tail comb (or rake), start from the top of their tail and brush down.

Some people prefer to finger comb their horse's mane and tail to prevent damage.

Hoof Pick

Hoof pick:  A hoof pick is used for picking out any stones or dirt that can injure the horse. Remember not to go near their "frog", it looks like a triangle on the bottom of their hoof (see picture below), it can hurt your horse.

Clean your grooming tools frequently. I use an old comb to pull out any hair from the bristles, soak them in warm, soapy water and rinse.  Repeat this several times depending on how dirty your tools are.

**Important Facts I Learned**

What is the "frog"?

The "Frog" 
I asked Ms.Gayle Ecker Hon. B.A., B.Ed., M.Sc., and director of Equine Guelph more about the frog, here's what she had to say:
"The frog is a spongy "V" shaped structure on the bottom of the foot.  The frog is part of the concussion-absorbing structure on the bottom of the horse's foot and helps to protect the hoof and legs from hard landings on hard surfaces (this is known as the "concussive force" of landing).  The spongy nature of the frog helps cushion the impact, much like "gel insoles" will work in your shoes!
When cleaning out the hoof, which ideally should be done every day, you should not dig into the frog or cut it as you can cause pain or infection. It is important to gently use the hoof pick and brush to make sure the deep grooves of the hoof are clean and dry when you clean out the feet.  The farrier should visit your horse every 6-8 weeks and with the proper tools, the farrier may trim up the frog as needed but this has to be done carefully.

The frog also plays an important role in assisting with blood flow to the hoof and legs, and regular exercise is really important to the horse each day.  Keeping a horse in the stall all day standing on wet bedding can cause serious problems for the horse, so regular turnout on grassy, dry areas is really helpful.  Don't let the horse stand in mud for prolonged periods (have pasture turnout areas where the horse does not have to stand in the mud) as this can make the frog too wet and thrush and other issues can develop."  
                            - Gayle Ecker, Hon. B.A., B.Ed., M.Sc.

*Artwork supplied by Equine Guelph, with permission.*

Thank you!! Ms. Ecker from Equine Guelph for all your expertise.

Thank you!! Greenhawk Mississauga for generously supplying me with the grooming tools seen in this article. Greenhawk Mississauga is located at 5665 McLaughlin Rd, Mississauga, ON. Follow them on Instagram @greenhawkmississauga and look for them on Facebook at Greenhawk Mississauga

Thanks for reading!!

Thursday, September 10, 2015

Project-Based Learning (PBL) for Families

By Amber Chandler

        I was a teacher before I was a parent, but it wasn’t until I was a mom that I started thinking of my teaching as truly student-centered. It’s all well and good to walk into a room of 25 middle school students and want what’s best for them, but it is a whole other ball game when you are sending your child off to school, hoping that the people there are going to notice his interest and her sense of humor. You might say that since I became a parent, I started looking at children differently. I’ve come to believe from my own children, and the 150 or so kids I have a year in my 8th grade classroom, that Project-Based Learning is one of the best ways for students to learn, allowing for individuality and creativity.

            Project-Based Learning, sometimes called Problem-Based Learning, unleashes the highest level of critical thinking through hands on, student-centered, and inquiry based strategies. There are many websites that will explain the ins and outs of PBL, as it is often called. Buck Institute for Education is definitely the best I’ve found, though it can seem overwhelming. The way I explain PBL to my students is to tell them that we are going to do a project with BAM:
Burning questions. Gotta know, dying to know, really need to know, want to find out so much that you’ll stay after school, talk about it at lunch, and text about it
Authentic audiences: Share with the world, publish it online, put it in a class blog, make a movie, call the newspaper, do whatever it takes to reach over 300 people (double your class size)
Millennial skills
: Make memes, create a gif, record a song, make a video game; essentially, this means posters won’t cut it in the 21st century!
            My students love this approach, though some are overwhelmed by the daunting task ahead. However, I tell students they should become “obsessed” with what they want to know and go at finding answers like a reporter digging for details. Last year, my 8th graders read The Giver, and teams built what they considered to be a Utopia (keeping in mind that we had spent many days discussing unintended consequences and Dystopia). Read about this project here. They voted that I begin this year with this novel and project, not because I am a fabulous teacher of the nuances, but because THEY were the ones who did the learning and presenting, while I facilitated.

The reason PBL works so well in classrooms is the same reason it works for homeschoolers. As a teacher, I’m well aware of “summer slide” and what the National Summer Learning Association says about it: "A conservative estimate of lost instructional time is approximately two months or roughly 22 percent of the school year.... It's common for teachers to spend at least a month re-teaching material that students have forgotten over the summer. That month of re-teaching eliminates a month that could have been spent on teaching new information and skills." Needless to say, my own children do a project each summer to keep them on their toes.

Building a Pinata
A few years ago, when my daughter Zoey was six and my son Oliver was three, we decided that we’d capitalize on their love of Dora the Explorer and learn all about Spain and Spanish. (I didn’t think they’d understand a whole conversation about speaking Spanish in Mexico, but you might feel more ambitious depending on the child’s age) The first thing they wanted to do was build a piƱata (can you blame them?!). I used this opportunity to show my kids how to Google a topic. We used these directions, though you can’t blame them for how it turned out! They loved every minute of it—from blowing up balloons (where we talked about not smoking and lung capacity) to using a ruler to measure (in inches and centimeters) the tissue paper.

A Spanish Meal
The next adventure in “Project Spain” was to have an authentic meal. Obviously I didn’t let my small children do much, but they shredded lettuce, and helped with the dough and made apple cinnamon stuffed empanadas. I let Zoey type up the menus on the “good” computer (the one without chubby fingerprints on the screen) and even let her print in color. Oliver worked on the flag, and at three that was pretty adventurous of me! We talked lots about color and what flags are for.

I bet right about now you are thinking, hmm…, what’s so special about that? This is what homeschooling (or good parenting for that matter) looks like. You are correct. However, to gain the most impact from projects, to truly utilize all the characteristics of PBL, there must be an intentionality to the work you do as facilitator. Me personally, I was so exhausted from the entire project that our “authentic audience” was a few friends we had for dinner, which was perfectly ok because my kids were so young. However, this summer, as Zoey (now 10) tackled “Why are dinosaurs extinct?” and Oliver (now 7) “How do you make a movie?” I had to recalibrate what I should be expecting of them. As you do what you are already doing—teaching children in authentic and rewarding ways—keep going about it intentionally and with BAM in mind.

Amber Rain Chandler is a National Board Certified ELA teacher and education writer in Hamburg, NY. She leads professional development in Project-Based Learning, Danielson's Domains, and Differentiation. Follow her on Twitter @MsAmberChandler and visit her website,

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

The Easy and Affordable way to update your child's room

By Dale Ho
As kids grow their style evolves and their needs change for example, older kids ideally should have a dedicated space to sit and work on projects anywhere from hobbies to schoolwork.

I highly recommend kids have a hand in the redesign and decorating of their space. It's gives them a sense of accomplishment, pride and ownership. It can quickly become a learning experience. It's showing them you value their opinions too. Work together to create a space they will appreciate. Keep it light and FUN! 

But the cost to redecorate each time can quickly add up!

Benjamin Moore's Colour & Design Expert Sharon Grech offers up some quick, easy and cost effective ways to update any child's room.

Add small accessories
  • Save money on small accessories, such as throw pillows which can easily be replaced as their personal style evolves.
  • As children can be very rough on walls, don’t skimp on paint. “A high quality paint, particularly one in a higher gloss finish, will endure the wear and tear, be easier to clean and be less likely to need touch ups,” says Sharon Grech. “Benjamin Moore Natura has incredible durability and also has zero VOCs and zero emissions. This makes it a safer paint for your family and for the environment without any sacrifice to performance.”
  • Multi-functionality is key for investment pieces - look for bedding with reversible patterns, or furniture that can be refinished or has hardware that can be changed as tastes mature.
  • Don't shy away from bold tints – painting is an easy and affordable way to refresh and transition a room from childhood to adolescence.
  • “Geometric patterns are very popular in kid’s room this year – and there are so many fun ways to incorporate this fun, kid-friendly trend into their room,” says Sharon Grech. A geometric statement wall, dresser or ceiling can easily be achieved with a can of paint and stencil, and will allow for a trendy room that can be changed easily if needed.

Big ideas for kids' rooms
To help you further, here are also some links to great colour schemes for kids bedrooms:

Have fun working together to create a space they will love!

Photo credits: Benjamin Moore

Tuesday, August 25, 2015

My Fab Find of the Week...The 3D Deco Light! *Sponsored*

by Dale Ho

I'm working away at a piece on decor for the blog all the whilst looking for some easy and affordable ways to update a child's room and came across this novelty find, the 3D Deco Light from 3DLightFX.
3D Deco Light

It's F.U.N, functional, affordable and a simple design update for any room. Coming in an assortment of colours, designs and characters, it looks as though they have something for everyone. We snagged the baseball themed pair of lights for the little guy's room.  The remote control is a hit!
Easy installation! 
I like to recommend kids have some form of input in the design process of their room, helps make it their own. We got the little guy involved every step of the way, from choosing a location to helping with the easy installation process. They've got some pretty valuable contributions to make too!

Definitely consider these 3D Deco Lights when planning a room update for the kids.

For more info please visit

Monday, August 17, 2015

Create Some DIY Backyard Fun!

 DIY Chalkboards for the backyard
by Dale Ho

Summer's not over yet so grab every chance you've got to enjoy the great outdoors.  With that said, I've got another DIY backyard project to share, it's easy, inexpensive and a great way to keep the creativity flowing.  The kids all love it and so do I!

To start you'll need some thin sheets of plywood, cut them into any shape or size, don't be scared to get creative with it!

Paint the sheets of wood using several coats of chalkboard paint, once dry hang in any desired location in your backyard, I mounted them on the fence.

Backyard fun for the entire family!

To keep chalk from becoming misplaced I used miniature pails I found from our local Dollar Store and hung them beside the chalkboard for easy access.

Simple project, took very little time to pull together for hours of family fun!

Monday, July 13, 2015

DIY Outdoor Games

Setting up a game of Backyard Tic-Tac-Toe
by Dale Ho

Here's a quick DIY backyard game for the young and old to enjoy all summer long, who doesn't love a fast paced game of Tic-Tac-Toe?!

I put this one together last year and its held up pretty good. I mainly used items I had around the house such as leftover tiles from another project a few years back and some decorative rocks.

Game Pieces
Use permanent marker to clearly print the "X's" and "O's" on each rock.  I made seven of each letter and stored them in some dollar store finds like these tin containers.

Setting up the game is easy as seen in the picture above, make sure you choose a comfortable spot in the yard where kids and adults can sit and enjoy hours of fun playing this all time favorite...let the games begin!

Monday, July 06, 2015

When Passion Ignites Learning

by Dale Ho

If you're anything like me, I'm always looking for new things for the kids to do throughout the year. Things that are guaranteed to keep them entertained for some time with little or no prompting from me. Something meaningful that will add value to their day and so much fun they will NOT want to stop!

The idea is to peak their curiosity, spark some imagination and keep them engaged!  A pretty tall wish list but not that hard to fill.  I start with their interests and passions, things they absolutely love to do and go from there.

" It's Just Me & My Shadow"
I'll give you an youngest loves taking pictures and also enjoys everything about the outdoors, so why not combine these two passions?  Now equipped with a camera in hand his "mission" is to document his summer vaca, giving us a new perspective on the world around us, help us see it all through his eyes.

And for those kids who absolutely love all things Minecraft...see it as an opportunity for your child to learn more about the wonderful world of programming over the summer months among many other with everything in life moderation is key, when used correctly technology is a great thing!

These were just a few examples of how we can help support our child's interests, encourage growth, development and learning, cultivate creativity, ignite imagination and just let them have some good old FUN doing something they love.

Monday, June 01, 2015

Family Snacking Made Easy

by Arja Pennanen Lytle

Kids can eat a lot of food. On top of their regular meals, many (like my own son) also eat numerous snacks throughout the day without spoiling their appetites for other main meals.  If your child fits this description it’s important to make sure that the snacks you’re feeding them aren’t just junky filler. Reaching for a packaged granola bar may be easy, but it’s also likely loaded with sugar, along with a few other ingredients that should be avoided. Snacks don’t have to be elaborate in either ingredients or planning, but they do need to be balanced in order to do their job.

Kids tend to be very active, which burns a lot of calories. You’ve probably noticed that after a bike ride or a good play at the park your kiddo is immediately hungry. Add in things like extra curricular activities and you’re definitely going to need to have some nutritious fuel on hand to keep them going. 

While the ultimate goal of snacking is to satisfy hunger and sustain us until our next meal, filling your belly with any random food won’t get you far. If what you feed your child is loaded with sugar or refined carbohydrates with nothing to slow down the uptake of sugar into their bloodstream, their blood sugar will spike and eventually come crashing back down, leaving them irritable, foggy, and hungry all over again. You’d be surprised at all the areas where sugar is hiding though, so don’t let that seemingly healthy yogurt or granola bar fool you. 

What makes a healthy snack?  

You should treat your snacks as miniature versions of your larger meals and aim to have a little protein, a little fat, and some healthy complex carbohydrates (which don’t have to be grain-based!)  Eating this way helps keep blood sugar levels stable, fills you up, and keeps you feeling satisfied for a longer period of time.

Consider some of these options if you’re looking for inspiration:

- Brown rice cake with unsweetened almond butter (or any other nut butter); you can also top these with things like hemp hearts, cacao nibs, or even sliced apple or banana!

- Berries are a great fruit to add to any snack because they’re sweet tasting, full of fibre and antioxidants, but have a very low glycemic index (won’t spike blood sugar levels).

- Veggies and dip (feel free to think outside the hummus box here and use other beans, or come up with tangy yogurt or kefir based dip with herbs); I’m particularly fond of carrots, sugar snap peas, and peppers.

- Apple or banana with a tbsp. of nut butter (another personal fave!)

- Yoghurt (dairy, or non-dairy like coconut yoghurt or almond yoghurt) with fruit, hemp seeds, or other desired toppings; try packing toppings separately and add them after if taking to school or work.

- Homemade whole grain muffins.

- Boiled eggs with fruit or veg.

- Cooked edamame (soybeans) either in the shell or out, with some fruit.

- Kale chips, toasted seeds, and fruit.

- Popcorn (skip the microwave and pop your kernels on the stove with coconut oil!), fruit or veg.

I’ve used all kinds of variations of these snacks both at home and on the go (many work well as school snacks) and most don’t take a lot of effort.  There are some great recipes online for things like energy balls and granola bars too and I find them very easy to make and store at home.

Make sure nobody in the family is going longer than 3 hours without eating whenever possible to keep blood sugar levels stable, and with a little advance preparation you’ll find it takes little effort to have easy snacks on hand for either at home or to grab and go. 

Learn more about Arja of  Balance Body and Soul!
"I'm a holistic nutritionist & mama to a busy kindergartner with a passion for teaching people how to eat to feel good!  I love to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally more balanced by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel your best.  I use whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people correct imbalances and achieve their health and wellness goals."

Monday, April 20, 2015

Park It!

by Dale Ho

Explore sounds, rhythms and language structures with this fun and very easy to set up word game called “Park It". Ideal for all learners.

What you need:
Create several parking lot sheets like the one pictured on your left using various sight words or vocabulary, you'll also need some toy cars.

How to play:
Take turns with your child reading the words and parking the cars. One partner reads while the other parks, then switch! This activity is also ideal for practising new vocabulary, spelling words, match the word or letter, word families and more!

Do you have a preschooler? Instead of words use letters and have your little one say the letter and then sound it out.  Best of all...have FUN with it!

Thursday, April 02, 2015

Are You Drinking Smoothies Yet?

Some of our favourite ingredients.
by Arja Pennanen Lytle

Shakes, smoothies, no matter what you call them, these blended liquid meals continue to grow in popularity, and with good reason!  They’re portable, easy to make, and a great way to get a little extra nutrition into your day.  In order to make a shake a balanced meal, however, and not just a sweet tasting drink, you need to do more than just blend up some fruit and yoghurt. 

A well-balanced meal or snack is made up of protein, good quality fat, and complex carbohydrates.  All of these components keep your blood sugar levels stable and keep you feeling full for much longer than just eating something like fruit on its own will.  You don’t need fancy (and expensive!) protein powders, though if you’re making a recovery shake for after a good workout you may want to consider a good quality, clean protein from companies like Genuine Health, Sunwarrior, Manitoba Harvest, or Progressive (to name a few).

You can use whole foods to build a filling, balanced shake that still tastes great!  Here are some of my favourite ingredients:

A well balanced snack!
Liquid (base):
-nut/seed milk (almond, hemp, coconut, etc)
-coconut water

Fresh vegetables:
-spinach, Swiss chard, kale or other leafy green
-celery (if you don’t have a high speed blender it may stay a little stringy)

Fruit (fresh or frozen):
-banana (I prefer to only use ½, and definitely don’t add it to every shake)
-citrus (orange, clementine, etc)

-pumpkin seeds
-sunflower seeds
-hemp hearts
-cooked chickpeas
-good quality protein powder (no sugar or artificial flavours, from a clean source)

-cinnamon (helps balance blood sugar)
-fresh ginger (anti-inflammatory, and tastes great with things like pears and blueberries)
-turmeric (fresh or dry – powerful anti-inflammatory) 

Fat/fibre (especially high in Omega 3 fatty acids):
-flax seeds
-chia seeds
-hemp hearts

Fun add-ins:
-raw cacao
-goji berries

If you’re new to making shakes I would suggest keeping it simple to start; almond milk, baby spinach, strawberries/bananas/oranges, pumpkin seeds, cinnamon, and some chia seeds.  You’ll need to play around with ingredients and amounts as time goes on, but don’t be afraid to experiment!  As your taste buds adapt, add more greens and other add-ins, and use less of the sweet fruits (banana, mango, etc).

Shakes make great snacks and meals for kids too, especially kids on the go with a lot of activities!  They provide a hit of balanced nutrition, but are easy to digest.  Perfect for sipping in the car after school on the way to an activity.

As far as blenders go, there are so many to choose from.  Lots of people just use a simple one like the Magic Bullet, though blending tougher greens like kale, and even some nuts and frozen fruits might leave you with a shake that needs to be chewed.  I’d recommend going with a blender that has a stronger motor, but you don’t have to get a Vitamix or BlendTec if that’s not in the budget!  Oster Versa has a new high speed blender that might be worth trying, and Cuisinart and Kitchen Aid also have models with slightly more powerful motors too.  I made the switch to a BlendTec a few years ago and can definitely tell you it was worth every penny I spent.  When you’re ready to make the jump, you won’t regret it!  You can often find Vitamix and BlendTec on sale through Costco.

Even if you’re already a seasoned shake maker it might be time to switch up your routine and try some new ingredients.  You’d be surprised how yummy fresh turmeric can be with some ginger, pineapple, clementine, and Swiss chard!  Give it a try!

Happy blending!

Learn more about Arja of  Balance Body and Soul!

"I'm a holistic nutritionist & mama to a busy kindergartner with a passion for teaching people how to eat to feel good!  I love to help people sleep better, think better, feel sexier, and just generally more balanced by putting the focus on eating foods that make you feel your best.  I use whole foods, lifestyle adjustments, herbs, and some supplements to help people correct imbalances and achieve their health and wellness goals."