Sunday, July 31, 2016

Plastic-free with S'well bottles

 S'well bottles

It has become my mission to rid our family of plastic in all its forms. The child-friendly melamine dishes were replaced with bamboo, plastic cups were replaced by glass, storage containers were replaced with glass or stainless steel and drinking bottles with any trace of plastic were replaced by stainless steel.

S'well bottle is a must in our family. Made from non-leaching and non-toxic 18/8 stainless steel, these fun bottles come in three sizes (9oz, 17oz and 25oz, which holds a bottle of wine!) and keep your drinks cold for 24 hours and hot for 12 hours. And, the kiddos love to pick their favourite designs.

S'well bottles

You can feel good about supporting this company too. S'well has teamed up with the U.S. Fund for UNICEF to provide good, clean drinking water to children around the world.

Next on my plastic-free mission is helping Little Bean say goodbye to her pacifiers, which she so loving calls her 'soo-soos'. This will be tough ... for us all.


Thursday, July 28, 2016

Book club: Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood

Margaret Atwood

My most recent read with my book club was Stone Mattress by Margaret Atwood. It is a collection of nine stories, three of which are related and one of which is a treat for Atwood readers as it is a sequel to her novel The Robber Bride. The stories are unusual and thought-provoking with the expertly crafted characters I so love to meet in Atwood's fiction. Aging is a theme that ties the majority of the stories together, creating a slightly darker undertone.

This was a pivotal read for my book club (since moving to Bermuda our pub time has morphed to FaceTime). At the start of our club, one bookclubber, who shall remain nameless, was steadfast in the rule that we never read a Margaret Atwood book. He was not a fan like me. It took me a decade, but finally we cracked the spine of an Atwood. The second rule of our club is that we never read an author twice, so this was the chance for Atwood to charm him with her delightful storytelling.

In the end, only two of three book club members praised the book. Atwood is a polarizing author with equal fans to critics, and I was unable to change my fellow bookclubber's opinion. At least he didn't despise the book, giving it instead a so-so rating.

I highly recommend it, but then again, I have been known to praise every Atwood book I read.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

Currently loving: This dress

Everlane shirt dress

This shirt dress by Everlane has quickly become my favourite summer travel dress. It's a simple dress that can be worn with sandals or runners, and with a sweatshirt or light sweater, you're ready for warm or cool weather (or those air-conditioned planes and trains). It even has pockets, a most coveted detail when travelling!

Sunday, July 17, 2016

Currently loving: These earrings

Enamel Copenhagen

These beautifully-designed earrings are my new favourite. I discovered the jewellery line Enamel Copenhagen on our family trip to Denmark this past Spring, and was instantly drawn to the clean designs and use of metals mixed with colour. I've been wearing the gold and ivory combination day in, day out ever since.

Enamel Copenhagen

Monday, June 20, 2016

Recipe: Banana chocolate chip muffins

Banana chocolate chip muffins

These banana chocolate chip muffins are in heavy rotation at our house. It is another crowd-pleasing recipe from At Home: Sarah Style. This recipe makes about three dozen mini-muffins, so I always make a dozen at a time and freeze the remaining batter, making it fairly easy to always have fresh muffins on hand for snack. My favourite part is that it uses a nutritious flour blend that can be swapped for all-purpose flour in most recipes.

Ingredients:
3 very ripe bananas
1/4 cup butter
1/4 cup coconut (or cane) sugar
1 cup organic yogurt
3 large eggs
2 teaspoons vanilla extract
1 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon baking soda
1 cup unsweetened coconut flakes
2 cups flour blend (see below)
1 cup dark chocolate chips

Flour blend:
Mix equal parts of dark rye flour, ground flax and ground almond meal. I use two cups of each to create 6 cups of flour blend, and store in an airtight container. Use quinoa flour instead of dark rye flour for a gluten-free version.

Directions:
Preheat oven to 350°F.

In a food processor or blender, combine bananas, butter and sugar and purée until whipped smooth. Add yogurt, eggs and vanilla, and purée again until blended.

In a large bowl, combine and mix salt, baking soda, coconut and flour.

Pour banana mixture into the dry mixture and stir with a spatula until just mixed. Do not overmix. Add chocolate chips and fold them in until just combined. 

Spoon the batter into mini muffin tins and bake for 18-22 minutes. 

Enjoy!

Monday, May 30, 2016

A tip for public speaking

 Prime Minister of Canada, Justin Trudeau

I vividly remember a speech I gave about Pygmies in my Grade 9 History class. It was in French and we were not able to use cue cards or notes. My safety net was gone and I was terrified. I stood in front of my class with my back against the blackboard desperately trying to keep the quiver from my voice and remember each and every word I wrote down. Then my foot started unconsciously banging against the cabinet below the blackboard ... yes, the experience still haunts me.

My husband has the gift for public speaking. He comes across as articulate, smart and downright funny whether it is in front of a large industry conference or a gathering of friends and family. I asked him to share his secret ...


How do you become a good public speaker? Good question. You should ask a good public speaker. I'm an average public speaker, which means I can generally deliver speeches that receive reasonably positive feedback. While mediocrity is nothing to be celebrated, in the realm of public speaking the ability to deliver an average speech puts you in a fairly high percentile. Most people dread public speaking and it is reflected in their performance. Why is this?
"I know it's important, I honestly do but we're talking about practice. We're talking about practice man. We're talking about practice. We're talking about practice. We're not talking about the game. We're talking about practice." --Allen Iverson 
Most people do not give speeches on a regular basis and so they are not practiced public speakers. Like anything, practice is the key to public speaking. I had a job where I delivered tons of presentations. Actually, I delivered several versions of the same presentation tons of times. I became very familiar with the material, which allowed me to shift my focus from speaking notes to the audience. I noticed that people disengage when they are being read to. Eventually I abandoned speaking notes altogether and memorized a general narrative of the presentation. I developed the story. 
"Now this is the story all about how…" --Fresh Prince 
I like to think of delivering a speech or presentation as telling a story. Good story tellers know which elements the audience needs in order to follow along, and where the opportunities are to truly engage (for example with humour). Whenever I have to speak publicly, whether it is a best man's speech or work presentation, I always know the story inside out. This is very different from memorizing a specific text and saying it in front of people. If I had to tell the story of The Three Little Pigs I would not try to regurgitate a specific printed version of the tale, rather I would memorize the core elements (3 pigs, 1 wolf, straw/sticks/bricks, fail/fail/pass, etc) and build around that.
"So, in conclusion, good luck on tomorrow's big final exam." --Professor, The Simpsons, Homer Goes to College
Nervous? That's ok, I am sure that many of the world's top politicians, lecturers and comics still get nervous before speaking, regardless of how many times they have done it before. However, I bet they know their stories backwards and forwards, which plays a significant role in overcoming their nerves. So take those speaking opportunities to practice and make sure you know your story. 

(Photo of Justin Trudeau, Prime Minister of Canada)

Monday, May 23, 2016

Currently loving: this house

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

I am smitten with homes designed by California-based Disc Interiors. Take a look at this house to see why I could happily move in with just a box or two of our personal treasures and call it home...

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors

Rustic Canyon by Disc Interiors


Friday, April 29, 2016

Happy Friday!

Kennedys sailing

The sun is shining and the weekend is close at hand! This weekend is going to be a relaxing one as we all try to recuperate and recover from an awful week of bad colds. Beach time and fresh sea air should make us all happy again.

Let's start the weekend off with a fun pop song by an old favourite of mine. Here's Starz In Their Eyes by Just Jack.

Happy Friday!

(Photo)

Tuesday, April 26, 2016

A family trip to Copenhagen

Copenhagen

The four of us recently spent 10 days in Copenhagen. It was glorious. The city is perfect for exploring by foot or bike (we rented a 'family bike' and the kids had a front row seat for our adventures).

Monkey and Little Bean were captivated by the imaginative playgrounds, diverse animals at the Zoo, interactive games at Experimentarium City, sea creatures at the aquarium, a castle with not one, but two moats, and of course the yummy Danish treats.

I was enamoured with the picturesque architecture, fresh nordic cuisine, an impressive modern art gallery, embracing chilly temperatures with blankets on sidewalk cafes and absolutely everything that made up Danish style and design. And, Tivoli, the second oldest amusement park in the world, sits in the heart of the city and enchanted us all with its bold colours, thrilling rides, carnival games and live band music that marched throughout the park.

There is so much to adore about this progressive city, and country, that it is no wonder the Danes are considered to be the happiest people in the world.

Here are a few snapshots of our trip if you'd like to see ...

Family bike in Copenhagen

Copenhagen playground

Copenhagen playground

Copenhagen

copenhagen zoo

Copenhagen zoo

Copenhagen zoo

Experimentarium City, Copenhagen

Experimentarium City, Copenhagen

Copenhagen aquarium

Kronborg castle, Denmark

Kronberg castle, Denmark

Danish treats

Louisiana Museum of Modern Art, Denmark

Copenhagen

Tivoli, Copenhagen

Tivoli, Copenhagen


Monday, March 21, 2016

Recipe: Banana oatmeal cookies

Banana oatmeal cookie

These are the most simplistic cookies ever. Monkey made our first batch with just a little help from me to find and measure out the ingredients. You start with two ingredients -- bananas and oatmeal -- and from there the cookie is up to you. We added dark chocolate chips, cranberries and cinnamon for a yummy cookie that the kids devoured.

Ingredients:

2 ripe bananas
1 1/2 cup of large flake oats
1/4 cup dark chocolate chips
1/4 cup cranberries
1 teaspoon cinnamon

Directions:

Preheat oven to 350◦F. In a medium bowl, mash bananas and add the oats. Add any additional ingredients you crave (dried cherries, nuts, etc.).

Using a tablespoon, scoop out the batter and place the balls on a cookie sheet lined with parchment paper. Bake for 15 minutes, until the cookies are firm and turning golden brown around the edges.

Enjoy!

The original recipe was found here on GlobeandMail.com.
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