Friday, June 27, 2014

swimming upstream

My children's school started summer break one week earlier than most of the surrounding schools this year.  So we decided to take advantage of what I seemingly thought would be a quiet week, going to attractions that wouldn't be busy since most of the kids were still in school.

We decided to visit the new Ripley's Aquarium, going early in the morning thinking we could have the whole place almost all to ourselves.  Little did I factor that many schools do field trips during the last two days of school (ughh!), and we found ourselves swimming upstream, so to speak.

Our day started by missing the train...we saw it leave the platform as we ascended the stairs.  Once we arrived at the aquarium, my jaw dropped as we saw bus load after bus load of school children line up to get in.  Luckily we were able to "fast pass" the crowd by purchasing our tickets online the night before.

We decided to do what we did at the "back nine" first (I'm sure many of you golfers out there understand this).  In other words, we headed to the end of the aquarium and worked our way back towards the front entrance.  We were able to miss most of the crowds, we ate lunch ahead of the long line ups, and got to see a few interesting shows to boot.

After the lunch crowd dispersed, we were able to really enjoy the best part of the exhibit...the shark tunnel!  And we made it just in time for feeding, so we felt like we were swimming with the sharks.

Although the day may not have started as we had originally planned, it worked out after all and we learned that sometimes going against the crowd works out better at the end.  

{Disclaimer}: There are no endorsements or affiliations with any of the businesses or establishments mentioned in this post.  I just wanted to share the simply beautiful  experience my family enjoyed, and all opinions are my own.

Garlic Scallop and Bacon Pasta
Makes 4-6 servings.

  • 10 scallops
  • 10 slices of bacon
  • 4 cloves of garlic, minced
  • 3 tbsp. olive oil
  • ¼ cup unsalted butter
  • 1 tsp. dried parsley or 1 tbsp. fresh parsley
  • ¼ cup of grated parmesan cheese
  • 450 g of pasta (linguine, spaghetti or fettucine work here)

  • Preheat oven at 375 degrees.
  • In a cast iron skillet, wrap the scallops with bacon, and bake for approximately 20 minutes.
  • Boil the pasta as directed.
  • In the meantime, in a small saute pan, brown the garlic in olive oil and butter, until the garlic is softened.
  • Remove from heat and stir in the parmesan and parsley.
  • Add cooked scallops and bacon, and toss until scallops and bacon are coated with the garlic oil.
  • Toss with cooked pasta.
  • Top with more parmesan, as desired.


Friday, June 20, 2014

out of the shell

During a town hall meeting at our kid's school the other week, a parent balked at how much "love" and attention the kids were expressing towards each other in the classroom...particularly some of the girls towards the boys, and the school should have much stricter policies that would eradicate emotional expression and focus more on academics.

I know as a parent of an expressive child who's genuinely kind to everyone, I understand the need to guide and protect our children from the backlash of showing "too much love", as it may be distracting or misinterpreted.  Although there is a fine line between innocent and inappropriate adoration, suppressing the freedom of expression, especially positive expression in our children, is NOT the answer.  It would rob our children of the innocence that childhood brings...the untainted, unbounded generosity and kindness in humanity that we now as adults fight so hard to hold on to.

If children aren't allowed to embrace and accept each other within the safe environment of the classroom, how can we expect them to learn how to embrace others outside of it?

The school had a hot dog lunch fundraiser to help one hundred families displaced after a tragic fire. That morning as I was rushing out the door to drive to school, our daughter was carefully (and slowly) preparing her glass jar (with pretty bow to boot), not counting her money, but making sure all of her recently earned allowance went into the jar, to give more than just her lunch money, to those who lost their homes.

We were late for school but this time I wasn't upset, because my kids reminded me what really mattered...not rushing to be punctual, but deliberately slowing down to ensure that glass jar made it to school in one piece.  In the car ride, I could hear my son quietly talk about the jar, and how proud he was of his little sister.  With his extra money for snacks, my son added a bit more into the jar. For a sweet moment, they both sat patiently during the ride, as if they were about to deliver something precious. Participating in charities have certainly taught them to empathize with others and they truly feel accomplished when they help those in need (as mentioned in my last post, here).

Since this is the last day of school before the summer break, the grade I give their school isn't going to be solely judged based on an academic numeric mark on my kid's final report card.  After seeing how beautifully generous my children are, accepted in a loving and caring environment amongst good, upstanding friends, I think they've learned much more valuable lessons than any grade can reflect...striving for excellence, intelligence, kindness, thoughtfulness and the confidence to come out of their shells and onto the path to becoming strong leaders.

Simple Baked Scallops
(makes 4-6 servings)

  • 8 large scallops rinsed and patted dry on paper kitchen towels
  • 1 tbsp cubed butter (approx. ¼ tsp. on top of each)
  • 2 garlic cloves peeled andsliced thinly (one thin slice on top of each)
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • Preheat the oven at 400°C (392°F) 
  • In a cast iron skillet, coat the bottom with the olive oil.
  • Arrange scallops one layer.
  • Place one pat of butter (approx. ¼ tsp) on top of each scallop.
  • Slice garlic clove and place one slice on top of each scallop.
  • Bake for 20 minutes (depending on the thickness of your scallops), flipping the scallops at the half-way mark ensuring each side is browned.

Serve & Enjoy!

Monday, June 16, 2014

going the extra mile

One of my favourite family activities is to go for a family walk: on the trails, to the dog park or just around the cottage.  Not only does it give us the opportunity to get some exercise while enjoying our natural surroundings and breathe the fresh air, we’re not running from place to place…slowing down enough to connect with the kids.  Our walks gives us time with no pressure or restrictions, so we can talk to each other about anything, both big and small. Whether we’re observing how the seasons change around us, or confiding our big aspirations of making the world a better place, with our own dreams and visions.

According to a national opinion poll, conducted by the SickKids Foundation, 73% of Canadians believe that children’s lifestyles are not as healthy today as compared to their own youth.

I’m probably part of that statistic. As it becomes more and more difficult to compete with digital distractions, sometimes I find as parents, we have to go that extra mile to find opportunities that allow us to just be with each other…time to talk, observe and participate in something healthy together, both physically and mentally.

Last September, our family participated in a unique fundraising event that encouraged all ages to participate in (what is normally reserved for adults) a family type “walk-a-thon”. The Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk to benefit SickKids was an amazing opportunity to take part in a family adventure that not only fed our body…but also fed our soul.

Looking back at that day, not only did my husband and I show a good example of challenging ourselves physically to participate in the full 20km walk (which was not mandatory…you can choose to do 5 or 10kms or complete the whole 20km route), the kids learned that it helps our spirit by helping others…by supporting SickKids and helping improve the health of children nationwide. Knowing we were helping others gave them the determination to keep walking to reach the finish line.

Although we were part of a team of families who worked together to raise money for this cause, we felt like were a part of a larger family consisting of thousands of walkers who were united for a common goal. Everyone cheered each other on, especially during that last final stretch of the route.  Cars that drove by honked in support. There were perfectly thought-out, family friendly stops along the route: fun-filled “campsites” that either entertained the kids with games and activities (where they earned badges for each activity they participated in), or provided a reprieve (for the adults)…a little break to nourish with food, drink or rest.

$1.3 million dollars was raised.  After crossing the finish line, not only did the kids feel accomplished achieving their own physical fitness goals (completing the 20km walk), they also felt rewarded, knowing that their contributions really made a difference.

My kids learned that although the journey may sometimes be long and difficult, nothing beats that great feeling when you stay determined to reach your goals, because you will get to your destination if you keep moving forward…and go that extra mile.

This September 27, 2014, join The Canaccord Genuity Great Camp Adventure Walk to benefit SickKids.  Register at as an individual participant or as part of a team and all your fundraising efforts will go to support The Hospital for Sick Children.

Twitter: @WalkforSickKids
Hashtag: #WalkforSickKids

{Disclaimer} This post was brought to you by The SickKids Foundation, however the opinions and images are my own. For more information please visit

Sunday, June 15, 2014

d is for dad

I love to watch my kids with their Dad.  He has such amazing grace and ease with them, and their relationship is filled with love, laughter and giggles.

It goes without saying that my husband plays such a huge role in our children's lives, and I see a lot of his special qualities in our kids:  leadership, intelligence, kindness and understanding.  

One of his favourite Father's Day gift from the kids was a "secret" year-long project (we dubbed it "project D") that the kids concocted last year...something special that showed how they cherish him, not just on Father's Day, birthdays or other special occasions...but every day, every season, all year long.

When he opened the framed photo, he cherished knowing we were dedicated to complete our "project" for him, wherever we were together as a family. Whether we were on our family vacation on the beach...

...or after a day of skiing together...

...or just hanging out in our backyard...

...we cherished our time together.  I think their Father's Day gift was worth a thousand words.

Happy Father's Day!

Wednesday, June 11, 2014

six degrees of bacon

As vast and wide our world is, I am continually awestruck with how connected we really can be. I truly believe there really is "six degrees of separation"...that two people at opposite ends of this earth can be somehow be six or fewer acquaintances apart from each other.

Obviously with social media and it's "domino chain" effect, it's easier to "meet" people through common links on Facebook, Twitter or even Pinterest.  But I think good old fashioned travel and the ability to make fast friends, especially when crossing paths with other travellers with similar (or even polar opposite) views...can help us expand our knowledge of the global world, feeling just a little more connected, and accepting of others.

Sometimes there have been moments while watching a movie, when I'd recollect working with the person on the screen, or recall stories I've heard from others who've worked with that very person.  We used to play "Six Degrees of Kevin Bacon" on set, and oddly enough, I'd come fairly close to winning (I'm only 3 degrees away).

It's such a funny game, but it demonstrates how we really have the ability to be connected to someone out there, some how, through the relationships we have currently...or had in the past.  

These connections whether brief or long term are just part of the path to finding out who we are.   I believe there is a reason certain people are placed in our lives, and these chance meetings, more than we will ever know, have long term effects down the road. Some people challenge us to rise to the occasion.  Others are there to support and guide.  And a select few are there to give infinite and unconditional love.

This Father's Day, I hope my husband (and all the Dads in our lives) relish the day, acknowledging their role in raising amazing children who challenge, as well as guide us, to be better parents.  And I will cherish my husband's role in our life story together, giving and receiving everlasting unconditional love to me and our kids and guiding all those who know him, whether directly or six degrees away from rise to the occasion and be a better person.

To all the Dads this weekend,

Happy Father's Day!

Bacon Sausage Pasta
Serves 6-8

Although our kids have really great, diverse tastes and have a international palate, one of their favourite foods is a breakfast one...specifically bacon (although sausage runs a very close second). This dish uses up left over (if we ever have any!) bacon and sausages used at breakfast or lunch.  Perfect to go with pasta and make a quick meal for dinner.

  • 450g penne pasta
  • 6 Breakfast Sausages (or Italian Sausages of your choice), sliced.
  • 6 Slices of Bacon, cut into 1" pieces
  • 750 ml of tomato sauce (or 300ml cream plus ½ cup of water, if you're doing a cream sauce)
  • ½ cup of parmesan
  • ¼ tsp. dried parsley (¼ cup fresh)
  • Cook pasta according to the package.
  • In a sauce pan, cook onions and garlic with 1 tbsp of butter or olive oil, until tender.
  • Add cooked sausages and bacon from breakfast. (if you didn't make this for breakfast, then cook the meat first, then add the onions and garlic to the meat). 
  • Add the tomato sauce and parsley.
  • Bring to boil, reduce and simmer for 5 minutes
  • Add ½ cup parmesan
  • Toss the sauce with the pasta.

Serve topped with more parmesan.


Wednesday, June 04, 2014

the comfort score

Competition is a funny thing.  For some, it's a driving factor to succeed, no matter where you're positioned within the game. For others, it's a validation of your greatness...or weakness.

Our son recently competed at the regional level for track and field.  Although he performed very well for his first event, he strived to exceed his own personal record set during the qualifying rounds at school, and was disappointed.  As much as it would have made ME feel better to wrap my arms around him with reassurance, instead we gave him space and freedom to be consoled by his amazing group of buddies, whom with their support, gave him just the amount of encouragement he needed to re-group, bringing his determination back to excel on the next round of competition.  It also gave him the gratitude of having such friends by his side, and in turn, he became their biggest supporter during their events.

Although individually, each of these boys can be competitive and strive for excellence, witnessing their camaraderie on track and field day to me, validated their greatness not in the sport itself, but their sportsmanship.

As we wind down during the final weeks of school, it feels like we need just a little more encouragement to complete final assignments and tests that seem to compete with the lure of warm weather and summer vacations looming around the corner.  After a year's worth of work, it's like the last leg of the race when you feel like you're starting to lose steam but can see the finish line right in front of you.  Once the kids cross the finish line, I hope they don't just reflect on their academic achievements, but take comfort knowing that they achieved far more personal accomplishments with their friendships than any score could ever give.

Potato Leek with Cod Chowder
Adapted from Epicurious
Makes 4-6 full servings

Nothing beats fresh corn and seafood in the summer.  Although most people think of chowders as comfort food during cold weather climates, this chowder is surprisingly fresh...perfect for cool summer evenings.

  • 6 slices bacon, sliced.
  • 2 tbsp of butter (instead of using bacon fat to cook leek)
  • 1 large leek, whites and greens separated 
  • 2 cloves (teaspoons) finely chopped garlic
  • 2 tablespoons all-purpose flour
  • 4 medium Yukon gold potatoes, peeled and cut in 1/2-inch dice
  • 4 cups milk (2%...I used 3% homogenized)
  • 4 cups reduced-sodium chicken or vegetable broth (I used organic low sodium chicken stock)
  • 4 teaspoons finely chopped fresh thyme (or 2 tsp. dried)
  • 3/4 teaspoon kosher salt (optional)
  • 1/2 teaspoon freshly ground black pepper
  • 1 ½  pound cod, skin removed, cubed (I used 400g package of frozen Wild Pacific Cod Fillets)
  • 2 1/2 cups cups fresh or frozen corn kernels (or one 12oz can of peaches and cream corn--omit salt if using canned corn as it already has a high sodium content)
  • While dicing potatoes and leeks, cook bacon in a cast iron skillet in the oven for 20 minutes at 400 degrees. (or brown over medium heat until crisp, 6 minutes on the stovetop)
  • Transfer to a paper towel–lined plate; slice. 
  • In a large stock pot, sauté leek and garlic (white part) for 2 minutes with butter until softened.
  • Add flour; cook, stirring frequently, 2 minutes. 
  • Stir in potatoes, milk, broth, thyme, salt and pepper; bring to a boil. 
  • Reduce heat to medium-low; simmer 10 minutes. 
  • Stir in fish, corn and bacon; simmer 10 minutes or until fish is cooked and flakes.
  • Garnish with extra bacon or chopped scallion.