Wednesday, March 27, 2013


Easter is about new beginnings, new life and new hope.

I've been thinking a lot about the word, hope.  As a parent, it's one of the biggest drivers to be "successful".  It's our motivation.  Our raison d'ĂȘtre.  It is the one common denominator that ALL parents have, no matter what background, financial situation or country we live in...we all have hope for our children's future.  When my kids were born, not only were we in awe of the miracle of their birth, our new found hope and dreams for their future was immeasurable.

With the word hope, I've also been thinking a lot lately, about two little girls with a lot in common.  Both are sweet and bright, who brings light and a smile to anyone that meets them.  This light in their eyes also brings hope to their parents, who have worked tirelessly to help their daughters live through very difficult medical situations.

Just before our son was born, good friends of ours had a little girl named Makaylah, who was born with spina bifida, and has had more surgeries than any human being should ever endure.  Recently she had 12 hours of surgery and her Mom posted on Facebook about her difficult recovery.   A true testament to her parent's strength is the overwhelming obstacles they've had to overcome in order for Makaylah to get the proper treatment, therapy and surgeries so she can have the best possible life.  We've watched their journey throughout Makaylah's life, and we hope and pray for her speedy recovery so she can come home to be with her family this Easter weekend.

A few weeks ago a dear friend of mine told me about little girl in her neighbourhood who was diagnosed with acute myelogenous leukemia (AML), a serious form of leukemia.

Sarah is a bright little five year old girl who is desperately looking for a bone marrow/blood cell match. You can read about her journey on Facebook (Sarah's Drive for  Hope).  Sarah's family is working with, an organization that helps find blood cell/bone marrow matches.  An amazing organization that we learned about when a friend of ours also had to use their services a few years ago. (I wrote about him, here).

I can not begin to imagine what these parents must be feeling right now.  How many prayers they've had, especially during these past few weeks.  How Makaylah's parents spend weekends driving through snow to get to the hospital, instead of playing in the snow with their kids.  How Sarah's parents have to do media interviews to raise awareness so she can once again, lie on the gymnastic mat instead of in a hospital bed. How they all must yearn to one day spend the holidays again with family instead of nurses and doctors.

Hope is a very strong and powerful word.  It gives you the courage to fight.  It gives you the motivation to accomplish anything, and I smiled when I read "Sarah will pull through this, I know it", because it shows that her family will never give up hope.

During Easter this weekend, we will be thinking of and praying for these two little girls.  Whether it is donating blood, donating your time to see if you're a bone marrow match, or even words of prayer, support or encouragement, we need to help Sarah, Makaylah and many other families who deal with life threatening medical issues like these.

With all our hopes and prayers, these girls WILL pull through this.  We know it too.

Please Give Hope

Sarah's Drive for Hope Facebook page (click here): Sarah's Drive for Hope

To learn more about spina bifida, visit: (in Canada) (in the US).


In Canada:

To donate bone marrow (and check if you're a match):

To donate blood:

Donations in the USA:

Wednesday, March 20, 2013

go fish

When I was in elementary school, we would often write a short story or essay on what we did during March Break upon our return.  Depending on where we went, it felt like I had to remember every little detail in order to fill the page.

After our family travel getaway, I often wonder what my kids would find most memorable enough to write about.

On the eve before the kids headed back to school from March Break, I asked them what they enjoyed most about our time off.  I will admit...this conversation was partially self serving.  I guess I wanted to know...Was there anything we should have done differently?  Were there things on our list that we didn't get to check off?  Are there things they'd love to do again?

A pelican visited the beach one day and it was amazing to watch it circle above
the water, then dive right in to catch the fish.

Both kids said they loved snorkelling with sting rays.  They enjoyed the beach and splashing around without a care in the "private pool" (our suite surrounded a small but quiet pool where for the most part, we were the only family swimming there).  But oddly enough, my son said one of his favourite things about our holiday was the food.  "It's not every day we get to eat all the bacon you want for breakfast, BBQ pineapples on chicken burgers at lunch and try different variations of blue marlin, swordfish and fish fritters for dinner!"

While in Antigua, I was reading the book "The End of Overeating", and my son's comment about the food reminded me of this particularly striking quote from the book.

"Given the sensory power of sugar, fat and salt, we might expect everyone to be drawn to much 
the same foods.  But we're not, in part because our preferences are strongly influenced by 
what has happened to us in the past.  A history of personal experience gives particular 
foods an emotional charge, and those emotions become lodged in our memory"
 {quoted from  "The End of Overeating", by David A. Kessler}

It made me think of our food choices, not just the ones we make every day, but how much we associate food with special occasions...particularly the ones that would be associated with positive memories, like a beach vacation.  Although the kids enjoyed indulging in the hamburgers, pizza and nachos at lunch, I'm glad they were keen on trying the different flavours of the Caribbean.  Grilled fish.  Guava.  Pineapple juice.

Just as our previous beach vacations (I wrote about our trip to Prince Edward Island, here), some of the greatest memories have always been water related.  And we were either catching, watching or eating something from the sea.

I'm hoping that when the kids get older they will always have fond memories of all of our ocean explorations, but will also associate those great childhood memories with healthy culinary explorations as well.

Given our history of seaside vacations and their love for seafood...I think we'll be smooth sailing.  

Pan Seared Swordfish
(serves 4)

Since today is the first day of spring, this dish is a perfectly light dish for the season. This recipe is also amazing when grilled on the BBQ.  Unfortunately it was still too snowy on the day I made this, so I pan seared then cooked it in the oven.  It still tasted great.

  • 4  swordfish filets
  • olive oil for searing/grilling
  • garlic cloves, minced (I used 1 tsp. or 2 garlic cloves)
  • 1/2  cup extra virgin olive oil
  • 1/4  cup lemon juice
  • 1 teaspoon dried oregano
  • black pepper to taste
  • Lightly coat a cast iron skillet with olive oil and heat on high.
  • Preheat the oven to 400F.
  • Lightly rub the fish with oil, then add garlic, salt and pepper to taste.
  • Heat the skillet on a stovetop.  Once the skillet is very hot, add the fish and sear on both sides. (do not flip the fish for the first few minutes so it can sear nicely).
  • Place the skillet with the fish in the oven for about 10 minutes (usually fish cook for approximately 10 minutes per 1 inch of thickness...cook according to size).
  • In the meantime, mix the olive oil, lemon juice, oregano and black pepper.
  • Once fish is cooked, remove from oven and pour the olive oil mix on top of the fish.  Let rest.
  • Serve.

Wednesday, March 13, 2013


After record breaking snowstorms this past winter, we took refuge and reconnected as a family during our winter vacation in Antigua.  It's an island that my husband and I visited before having children, and have always wanted to return to this beautiful, quaint island that boasts 365 beaches (yes, you can visit a new one every day of the year).  With our child-centric vacation last year to Disney, we wanted to go to a more sophisticated (but still kid-friendly) destination, where we could really take in the natural beauty of sand and water. No slides, no rides, no digital distractions.

At first, I think it was an obstacle for everyone to adjust to a slower pace.  WiFi was limited, so our digital devices also had to take a break.  I have to admit it, but I think we were all a little agitated at first.  It felt like our connections to the outside world was broken.  And as much as we were very grateful that we were able to fly to a beautiful resort in the Caribbean while it was cold and wintery back at home, it took a few days to remove ourselves from the hustle and bustle of on-line "life", and

Once we lured everyone away from the digital devices, down at the beach my daughter spent quality time with her Dad wading in the water and building sand volcanos, while I coerced our son to take a private sailing trip with me around the cove at our resort. After he reluctantly agreed, we were taken to the deeper parts of the ocean on our sailboat, as we quietly chit-chatted with our sailor about life in Antigua.

I asked about the weather and if they were lucky enough to enjoy 30+ degree weather all year.  He smiled yes and said the previous guests he sailed with actually complained about the heat, but he told them it was nothing compared to the heat in June and July, when it can reach to upwards of 40 degrees!

He couldn't understand why those visitors complained so much.  They complained about the heat.  They complained about how quiet it was.  They complained about the lack of internet access.  "We're in can anyone complain?" he exclaimed.  No gadget, game or "all that internet stuff" (his words) can compete with the real-world interaction with such beauty and nature that surrounds us.  I felt a little guilty.  Although I didn't voice those complaints (out loud), I realized that we too, were not seeing the bigger picture of our "first world problems", and we weren't seizing the opportunity and appreciate what many people in this world would never have the opportunity to do as we were doing...travelling to paradise.

My son was quiet for most of the trip, and part way through our excursion, I could see that he was starting to go "off-line", as he started to really take in his surroundings.   It was so peaceful and quiet.  The water was glistening in the sun, and I watched my son close his eyes as he enjoyed feeling the cool breeze on his face, as we heard the gentle waves underneath us.  As we went further into the depths of the ocean, we saw grouper fish, angel fish and even manta rays swimming in the clear turquoise sea.

After our sailboat ride, my son and I headed back to the beach.  His iPod was on the beach lounger, and as he reached for it, I thought he would go back to all those digital distractions that I so painfully wanted all of us to stop, even for just one day, and I momentarily felt disappointed that he wasn't going to take advantage of the beach lying in front him.  Instead though, he reached for his iPod and packed it away, and headed towards his sister who was playing in the water.  I overheard him tell her about the fish and sea creatures that he saw while quietly floating with her.  She asked him if he liked the sailboat, and he said it was amazing.

When I went back into the water to rinse off the sand, my son came up to me and asked me to join them as he held my hand briefly.  My daughter then asked me what I thought of the sailboat ride.  I smiled at her as I watched them both peacefully enjoy the sand and water.

I told her it was paradise.

Pina Colada
(serves 4)

I had my fill of Pina Coladas during our stay in was my own little paradise in a glass!  I asked the bartender what he used to make the drink...the "virgin" ones for the kids just omitted the alcohol (they called it Pineapple Coconut "crush" for after the crushed ice).

  • 2 cups fresh or canned pineapple juice
  • 3/4 cup cream of coconut, such as Coco Lopez (or add coconut extract to canned sweetened condensed milk if you don't have cream of coconut on hand)
  • 1 cup light rum
  • 3 cups crushed ice
  • Combine all ingredients except garnish in a blender. 
  • Pour into tumblers, garnish with pineapple spears, and serve immediately.


Wednesday, March 06, 2013

it's all about perspective

One of our goals as a family, is to visit as many places in the world as possible.  Before having kids, my husband and I travelled around Europe, the Caribbean as well as locally in North America.  Our love for travel has definitely rubbed off on our kids.

As much as I am a strong believer that solid academics are important for children to learn at school, it's what they learn outside of school that also makes a great impact.  I am a huge advocate of the whole child approach...building the mind, body and soul.  And the "soul" part is learned through experience...seeing first hand how other people around the world live and prosper.  

There is so much to learn about the world that just can't be learned by watching documentaries or reading books. (although that helps!)  It's the experience, the senses that you get when you visit a foreign land...the smell, the taste, the feel.  This is why I believe travelling provides children with a different perspective of cultures...sometimes it's that understanding, the empathy of witnessing how others live that can help you empathize with new people that you meet here at home.  

I often like taking the kids "sightseeing" in our own city.  Trying to experience our city again as if it's for the first time.  Often, we'd meet real visitors who are vacationing in our city, and it often provides an eye-opening looking at yourself through their eyes!

Another great way to view things for the first time is to re-imagine what is in front of you as part of "perspective photography"...creating a visual perception of the way objects appear based on how close it is to the camera relative to the object of your photographs.  It makes you stop and really look at a place, time or just a statue in a different, creative way.  And photographing the kids in different scenarios is a great way to spend fun, creative time with each'd be surprised how quickly the time passes when they are looking for ways to ham it up for the camera!

And that is what travelling, whether it is abroad or in your own city means to me.  Looking at things with a different perspective and understanding, being creative with what you see, and having really being present in the moment.

When my kids explore, whether it's here or abroad, being in front or behind the camera, it's as if the world is in their hands.

Hope you enjoy your March Break!