Wednesday, 27 June 2012

The Last Day

Today is the last day of a difficult year, our son has officially graduated from Junior Kindergarten and moves up to Senior come September.

Most things do not always go as planned, and it seems that this will be the theme for today. When our son started JK in September 2011 we were nervous, but felt prepared. After all, we had sent him to "pretend school" (a program where kids spend an hour away from their parents once a week) and it may have taken him until the very last class to be comfortable, but he did well.

So the first day of school comes and I'm on my own, seven months pregnant with our 4 (Kairan) year old and 3 year old at my side. I behave enthusiastically and walk with confidence up to the mass of children running around on the playground. Inside, my stomach does flips and every nerve is tense. I could not wrap my mind around how many children were there, and I seriously wanted to grab my son by the hand and run away to the safety of our home. But I stayed strong, and so did he. Kairan was so overwhelmed that when the bell rang, he got in line, looked really dazed and followed the herd. He had no idea what was going on and didn't even notice that I wasn't there beside him! My heart broke, and I cried on the short five minute walk to our front door.

I could not contain my excitement when it came time to pick him up from school that day. Having no idea what to expect, his sister and I waited anxiously for the kids to start coming out of the ominous building before us. He wasn't the first class to come out, which made me nervous and a little bit bummed, but then there he was! It was so hard to not pummel him with question after question about his day. Happily I said "Hi, honey! How was your first day of school?" and in a monotone, bored way said .."It is hot, can we go home please." The next few days were not so easy, once Kairan knew what to expect.

From that day on it was one challenge to another. He cried every day at lunch time from September until February, anytime the teacher left the room. Kairan was not making any friends, he still would not eat any of his lunch, and was often bullied. Talking to his teacher did not do any good. Finally though, february came and he had friends to invite to his birthday party! But once the crying stopped, the friends were made, and his 5th birthday had passed, he started to have accidents both in school and out.

In honour of Kairan's first year of school completed, and obstacles overcome, we made something we have never really had before (twice for me, and once for hubby, not at all for the kids). We made SUSHI. And it took all day long. The plan was to make a smorgus board of picnic foods and take them down the river for a picnic with the ducks and play at the park. When lunch time came and I had only just started to prep the rice for sushi, and our seven month old was still all about the snuggles, I realized that today might go a little bit differently. And it did, the rain came, so we had our picnic in the living room.

Now, the first of school completed and celebrated, we await to go through it all over again with Rhylie come September. And I'm sure, with obstacles overcome and friends to get squirrely with, Kairan is also looking forward to school next year. We can not wait to see what September brings for our family. <3

Sunday, 24 June 2012

Make It or Break It

(Your bank account, that is!)

Most things are better made from scratch, with love. It is healthier, and often times cheaper (but not always). You will have to do a cost comparison to really know for sure.

This past Saturday we again went to the market, and we spent a lot more money than we did the week before. I was so excited to buy a flat of strawberries for $22, and the kids each bought a quart of their own. That is one heck of a lot of strawberries! So we brought them home and washed them up and I dove in enthusiastically. Hubby says to me in a sarcastic voice "Good strawberries, honey?" because, oops, they taste bland and sour! He could see it all over my puckered face. I was told that this week is the last for the strawberries, due to Mamma Nature and our wonky Ontario climate as of late. But rather than waste all of those berries, I will dice them up and freeze them for smoothies, baked goods, maybe even a new soup recipe.

Speaking of soup, that brings me back on track. We visited our favorite booth, the chef guy. The chef guy makes vegan and non-vegan things for all occasions. We particularly love his soups, but this time he was almost out of EVERYTHING. There was one soup left that was vegan acceptable that when simmered can double as a spaghetti sauce. It tasted so savoury! But at just one container (enough for two servings) it costs $11.00! We bought two. Mr. Chef Man is very generous though, for on all of his containers lay the ingredients and if we ask him he will tell us how he makes the dishes that he serves us. This will make it much easier on my family and I, because we now know how to make it at home for a small fraction of the cost. Mr. Chef Man also sells hummus, salsa and salads (bean and noodle, potluck dinner salads). We will continue to support Mr. Chef Man in the purchase of a new dish, and hummus, every week. Trust me, I have made hummus at home and my family does not like it. I am hummus impaired. In this case, it is cheaper to buy it than to make it and have it sit in the fridge until we throw it away. Mr. Chef Man was also kind enough to offer a free container of hummus with a minimal amount missing for samples.

By the way, one quart of strawberries at the grocery store rounds up to about $5. Sometimes more! So to purchase an entire flat for $22 (6 quarts) is much more friendly to our wallet. Besides that, this week they had a deal on that if you buy a flat of strawberries you can take home a free bundle of rhubarb. It is an excellent deal, as later this week I plan to make gluten-free, banana muffins with a rhubarb crumble. So I was going to buy some anyway.

We were also able to purchase an entire box of oranges for $35 that will be made into our Super Orange juice (freshly juiced with some carrots, to give a richer colour and sweeter taste). The kids purchased bags of peanuts, a small bottle of apple cider each, and their strawberries. They each came out of it with around $1 left over for their piggy banks. Hubby bought some hot pepper jelly, we made sure to get lettuce, two bunches of scallions, 3 containers of sprouts, 8 bell peppers, a container of mushrooms and a head of cauliflower.

As mentioned before (and getting back on topic) I will be baking muffins this week. Here are the three things I will make:

Banana Muffins with Rhubarb Crumble
Chocolate Chip Banana Bread
Multi-grain Hemseed Bread

All of these will be gluten free and will do three times as much per recipe as buying it from the store. The ingredients are costly, but the premade stuff in the store costs even more than that, and does not taste very good. My plan (because our oven was broken and just became fixed today, though the plan remains) I am going to bag up all of the dry ingredients in large ziplock bags per item and have a bake fest at my parents house. This should make transporting the ingredients easier, and whipping up the recipes easier at the time of baking too. So, I will do an extra batch of each and have it ready to go for the next time I want to make it. The week after, I will switch to three different recipes. Note though, I tried to keep the recipes in relation to each other. This was to save on costs and convenience. I will be using banana's in two of the recipes. I'm going to try and keep this theme going, and next week will be either blueberries, or strawberries.

Pizza on take out? $60
Pizza at home? $25

Burritoes in the grocery store? $4 each
Burritoes at home? $1.50 each

Canned soup to feed one? $3 (for 4 people, twice? $24)
Soup at home to feed 4 people at least twice? $10 total (or $1.25/serving)

Enough said.

Friday, 22 June 2012

Money Saving Tip One

As promised I will be sharing money saving tips on my blog, sometimes mixed in with regular bloggy messages. Here is your first tip.

Use what is available to you! These days, there is zero reason to have cable or satellite T.V.
Most people live in an area that has a local library. Surprisingly to some, most libraries carry more than just books. They also have DVD's and CD's available to borrow. ABSOLUTELY FREE. Well, as long as you turn them in on time, that is. And unlike renting a movie where you have to take it back the next day after paying almost $5 for one rental, you get to keep the movie for an entire seven days. If you check your local libraries website, I bet you will even find a lot of new releases. So, between movies, books and music you can be entertained for quite a while at no cost.

And don't forget about that thing you are currently staring at, your computer. While libraries don't carry a lot of seasonal T.V. shows, your computer probably does. Sometimes it can take a lot of digging around to find a website that carries the show you want, especially if you are in Canada, but start with the network channel that the show is hosted on.

If all else fails, find another way. You can set up a movie swap with your friends and family or find a friend who enjoys the same shows you do and make a mini party out of it (just bring some appetizers!). Cable and Satellite T.V. can be very costly, and this is just one simple way to cut out that cost by 100%.

Living is Expensive

These days, good jobs are impossible to find and food is getting costly. Over the next little while I am going to be posting money saving tips and recipes.

Luckily, there is help for some. My husband and I are currently receiving money from Ontario Works (aka welfare, to some). But not only are we receiving OW, we have the ability to use our local food bank, and get help for further education and eventually an actual career. Hubby just applied to two seperate colleges and will be applying for financial aid so that he can become a police officer. We are not abusing the system but rather we are at a point in our lives where there is no other choice.

Some people however, can not get this help for various reasons. This, breaks my heart. Our system seems backwards to me. We are a young couple, so jobs should abound (they don't). But for those who are more experienced in life, it is harder to find a job. A lot of factories have closed where we live, and now only hire students or through temp agencies. However, many temp agencies will not help those who need it because there are not enough jobs out there or they are too close to retirement age. Because some of these older unemployed people still own a house, the food banks will not help them. So now, bills start to fall behind.. houses are lost.. and so are the people. I have seen all walks of life go through our food banks, alcoholics, drug addicts, students who decided to drop out of school and won't bother to look for a job. Yet just because when you were employed, you bought a house - you do not qualify for help. I get it, they want you to sell your house and use that money to get set up. But a house is more than a box that you live in. A house is something that you put blood, sweat and tears into. It is an investment not only of your bank account, but of your heart. It's where you raise a family (if you are lucky), it is where you make your garden, it's that furnace that you have to fix with your bare hands four times each winter and though you curse it, you secretly love it.

I am very lucky to have the parents that I do, for they have raised me to be very resourceful. I can whip up a good budget in five minutes, tell you where to get the best deals, and cook dinner for a family that will last all week long and cost a minimal amount. I have my parents to thank for this and for so much more. Because of this, I want to share my knowledge with all of you.

Stay tuned.

Monday, 18 June 2012

There are HORMONES in Soy Milk! *GASP*

Seriously, people? THAT is your big excuse for why Soy products are "bad" for you?

I don't buy it. I mean, yes I KNOW that there are hormones in soy. Everybody knows that by now, it's common knowledge. But wait a minute, what is the alternative there that you are consuming? Cows milk, ohh. Hmm lets take a closer look, shall we?

The hormones in soy that we are "concerned" about are phytoestrogens. Other food containing phytoestrogens are apples, grains, potatoes, and beans. These phytoestrogens also lower cholesterol. Compared to the body's own estrogen, phytoestrogens are very weak and thus make a very weak to no impact. Currently there is no sound evidence that soy milk is actually harmful. It is possible to have an intolerance to soy, because lets face it: Soy is not a "natural" thing for humans to consume. At least not in the processed way that most soy products are made. It is okay to eat edame, the young soy beans in the pods. You do have to watch for phytates though, which is also found in beans, nuts and grains and can interfere with the absorption of calcium. I have heard of cases where soy is blamed for hormonal imbalances in men and in children, but in these cases I fail to see where other sources have been explored. Personally, do what you want, but if you do not explore all sides and all options then you can not say you have made an informed decision, or informed diagnosis.

"Bovine somatotropin (bST) is a hormone that occurs naturally in bovines; it regulates growth and lactation. BST has no effect on humans.1 Recombinant bST (rbST) is a commercially produced version of the natural hormone and it can increase milk production by 10% to 15%.2 But it may also increase the risk of mastitis and infertility and cause lameness in cows,3 which is why Health Canada has not approved it.4 It is important to note that rbST has not been shown to have a negative effect on human health4 and its use is permitted in other countries (such as the United States), where it is considered safe."

Cow's milk, organic or not, has 59 active hormones, cholesterol, allergens and fat. Dairy has known connections to cancer. Added hormones, pesticides, diseases, e-coli, and more. That milk was made for a BABY COW to grow from 70 lbs to 1500 lbs in a matter of months, up to two years. After the age of around six, we no longer produce the enzymes needed to break down the milk of any species, and almost all humans are dairy "intolerant!"

There is a lot of suffering and pain that goes into producing milk. It is not good for us. It can cause disease, cancer and all allergies are in some way caused (or contributed to) by dairy. Before cows became domesticated, how would you get their milk? I'm sorry but you were weaned from your Mamma a long time ago, and that milk is for a calf that needs it more than you do. If this post seems a little bit scattered, well it is. Such is a busy life with children and daily stresses, so maybe tonight isn't the time to do this post. But it's been a long time coming.

I'm tired of people telling me that soy milk is bad for you. We don't use it often, that is true. Yes, it has hormones. Yes, a lot of it is GMO. Sure, it likely has some pesticides as well. But in comparison? I would take soy over the milk that was meant to nourish somebody elses baby any day. I prefer soy hormones to hormones from a cows breastmilk, and minimal pesticides to an overdose of antibiotics. I choose compassion over cancer, and peace of mind over death and disease.

Here are a few links you can look at yourself:

The Truth About Diary...

Cows are living, feeling, emotional, beings:

Vegan in Season

This past Saturday we finally had a chance to go to the local market as a family. It was a wonderful experience!!

We started out by giving the kids each $10 that they could spend, and circling the outside vendors. There were a lot of different veggies, things like honey and goats milk, homemade jams and sauces, even apple cider!

I asked our two wee ones to decide what they wanted before they bought it. Rhylie (our four year old daughter) chose Strawberries. Oh my, the air smelled so rich of strawberries I wanted to make myself a bath of them. It was delightful! She paid $4 for her quart and carried them in her own special bag. I also bought three quarts at $4 a piece. Our son, Kairan (he is 5) decided that he would like some bell peppers. Six of them, to be exact! He chose a good variety of colours, as only he would.

It was really nice to buy local food, knowing that it did not have to travel half way across the world and that the packaging was minimal to nil. However, many of the produce is sprayed. I will try to break down what everybody bought, but I do not know the cost of hubby's purchases. It was a nice experience and I can not wait to go back next Saturday and restock. Only this time, we'll be buying a flat of strawberries.. because all four quarts are already gone and it is only Monday.

Rhylie's Purchases:
1 quart strawberries $4
1 bunch bananas (just over 2 lbs) $1.75
1 beaded bracelet $2
1 bag of dill pickle peanuts to snack on $3 (we added $1 to her purchases for her).

Kairan's Purchases:
6 bell peppers $6
1 zipper pull (for his backpack) $2
1 bag of dill pickle peanuts for snacking $3 (again, threw in an extra $1).

My Purchases:
3 quarts strawberries $12
1 head lettuce $1.50
2 plants (thai basil and 4 banana pepper plants for fathers day) $2
1 jar hot sauce (for fathers day) $7
2 bags apples (20 lbs) $7
1 (with 4) bell pepper plants $2

Hubby's Purchases:
1 bunch of garlic (about 5 clusters) $2
3 bottles of water $3
1 container of soup (indian tomato grapefruit) $7
1 container hummus (chipotle) (with the salsa, $9)
1 container salsa (black bean chipotle)
1 tomato plant $5
1 dill plant $1.50

So in total, we spent $80.75 and I purchased food for our family of five, a fathers day gift for my Dad, and sustainable food sources that will continue to give over the course of summer.

The kids really enjoyed the freedom and independence of buying their own food. When they brought home their purchases Kairan and Rhylie's faces were lit with pride and excitement. That pride extended to us, their parents, at having been a part of that experience and by how well our day went because of it. Those little things often matter the most, so it is very important to cherish every precious moment you have with your children. Soon they will be at the market, buying their very own groceries for their very own households. For now, I'm happy to hold their hand while they ask vendors all manner of questions.

Wednesday, 6 June 2012


That's right, I have a job now. It's not an official "on pay-roll" job though, it is emotionally taxing and physically exhausting. I am babysitting.

Babysitting is not an exceptionally difficult job. In fact, it is quite easy. I however, am a little out of practice. Case in point, feeling completely useless with a baby strapped to me, a little girl holding one hand and my 4 year old daughter trying to help while we chase after a 2.5 year old spirited little girl that did NOT under ANY CIRCUMSTANCES want to leave the park! I felt like I had tried everything, but the truth is I am ill-equipped because it has been a while since my children were at that stubborn, limit testing age. It struck me: she likes puppies! Why is this significant?? "Okay it's time to go see the puppy!" worked like a dream. She ran over to me, grabbed my hand, and off we went down the yellow brick road towards home. It's days like this that I am so glad we have a mangy mutt chewing up those markers everytime we leave the house.
A child's basic needs are food, shelter, compassion and creativity. The biggest tool for any parent or care giver is to be flexible. Distraction is a great way of getting kids to listen and think that it was their idea.

So if you are wondering where I am for a few days, I will be up to my elbows in diapers and spaghetti sauce. I will be caring for two little girls under the age of three, plus my own six month old, four year old and five year old. These two sweet little girls will be with us for 9 hours a day, five days a week, all of June. I'm not sure what next month has in store for us, but I am excited to find out and see many possibilities all around me. One day, we will buy a house.

Sunday, 3 June 2012

Stepping Back

As parents, we all want our children to be independant. Sometimes that means you have to take a step (or three) back.

Everywhere we go I am observing other parents for new ideas of how to help my own children. What I see most though, are parents who are frustrated and exasperated by their childrens behavior. And usually, the behavior is not even that severe.

We need to have realistic expectations of our children. They are kids, not hobbits. They are going to jump around, they are going to shout, they are going to act silly. Sometimes we get so wrapped up in our own stress from daily life (bills, relationships of all kinds, getting to the bus on time, etc) that we easily forget that our children need room to breathe and just be a kid.

Here are some of my favorite ideas to keep my own children busy while we wait for the bus:

1 Piece of Chalk
1 Mini Bottle of Bubbles (they have cute party favor ones at the dollar store, 4 or more to a package)
1 Mini box of 4 Crayons (see above)
1 Tiny Coloring Book (make your own!)
1 Bouncy Ball
Play I Spy
Collect Pinecones for Crafts

Sometimes my children get a little too silly when I need them to stay with me, so I will tell them to stand in one sidewalk square. That is their space (for instance when our son and daughter are fighting). They each get one square of the sidewalk to stand in, but they can do whatever they want in the square!

I really relate to those frustrated parents. It is really easy to feel powerless with our children, especially when trying to go through lifestyle changes. In our house right now we have decided to veto time-outs. We now use our "cuddle corner" instead. How is that going? So far, not so well!

Earlier today the two of them were bickering back and forth and calling eachother names (just being silly).  My husband and I would get involved and say things like "we don't call names in this family" or "stop bothering your sister!" After about ten minutes of trying to interfere and intercept, we decided there was nothing we could do and ignored the behavior. Let them figure it out themselves for a change. *gasp!* I know, right?

Here's the thing. They spent all of two more minutes of this behavior before our son went and got his magnadoodle that said "I (heart) You Too" and shared it with his sister, and they wrote loving messages back and forth to each other.

You do not have to be perfect, who is? Desfinately not me! So be willing to make mistakes, and don't be afraid to take a step back. We need to let our children learn how to solve problems. Life is an experiment, grab that lab coat and get to work!

Friday, 1 June 2012


*sigh* There's nothing like a huge dent in your account that comes from buying food. I can break down our grocery list for you, but do not judge. Until you are a vegan family of five who is trying to buy gluten-free products for your son that also has sensory issues and a daughter close enough in age that you have to get them both the same things to make it fair, you can not fully comprehend the challenge that this becomes. So we do buy some packaged junk, and for now that is okay with me.

Our grocery budget per week currently is $175, though this week I went well over that. Let me break it down for you now.

2 packages of applesauce (6 packs) $3.98
2 cartons Coconut Dream "milk" $5.98
2 Gardien products (beefless tips and crispy tenders) $8.58
2 packages Enjoy Life chocolate chips $7.98
3 cans beets $5.97
1 box Earths Best Organic letter cookies $1.99
2 packages low-salt organic vegetable boullion cubes $4.48
5 packages Mr. Noodles (vegetable) $1.95
2 cans mushroom gravy $2.78
1 large carton coconut water $5.99
2 juice box cartons coconut water $7.98
1 package shredded coconut $3.29
1 package mini chef raisons (14 snack boxes) $2.79
1 package sea salt rice crackers $1.99
1 package sweet chili rice crackers $1.99
1 jar toasted sesame salad dressing $2.99
1 huge box fruit leathers $19.99
1 jar sweet and sour plum sauce $2.99
1 tube cruelty free childrens toothpaste $4.99
1 package Daiya "cheese" shreds $5.29
1 more package Daiya "cheese" shreds $5.29
1 package garlic hummus $4.49
1 package topped hummus $4.29

1 bunch dill $1.99
1 lb organic kiwi $3.69
1 head iceberg lettuce $1.99
4 mangoes $5.00
3 lb yellow onion $1.79
2 bins green seedless grapes organic $11.98
1 pint organic strawberries $3.49
4 discounted sweet yellow peppers $8.45
1 pint organic raspberries $6.98
0.715 kg roma tomatoes $1.56
3 large watermelons $11.97
1 large box baby wipes $12.99

With taxes and all the total is..(drum roll please) $196.71

PHEW. As you can see there was a lot of "other" items there like baby wipes, tooth paste and condiments (that we rarely buy, but in the interest of getting our son to eat more food it was time). Might I also add that many of these items were "one time only" items as a special treat (the coconut water!). Before I left for groceries today I sat down with him, and we made a list of foods he will eat and foods he won't eat. That list can go on the fridge, to make it more convenient when we are trying to come up with meal or snack ideas. Frankly I'm at a point in our lives where I'm ready to throw my hands up in the air and say "whatever will be, will be..."

This grocery list also does not include a few others that we need to buy, such as a box of banana's (around $28), a box of oranges, and a fruit platter ($15) for our wonderful daughters fourth birthday party tomorrow. Oh, and add on $20 to the above total for cash back so that I could take a cab ride home. There is NO WAY I could have carried all of that on the bus.

Next weeks groceries will be much, much different. Many things on this list will not be needed for at least two weeks, and we will be going to the market with the wee ones. Stay tuned for a blog on the market experience next weekend, as it should be quite interesting to see what our children will do with our game plan.

Now if you'll excuse me, I have a nice big bunch of raspberries to tackle right before diving into a sea of watermelon.