Thursday, November 21, 2013

Creative Flow Activated!

It seems my posts have gotten further and further apart. The simple truth is, life as a mother and homemaker is busy. I wish there were more time for my creative pursuits, but that will come. In theory. At the very least, I will soon, finally, FINALLY have a proper desk in my writing studio/laundry room, with a view of our yard full of trees and wildlife to inspire me while I work. It is no small thing. I have never had a designated place to write before, and with the awesome counter space in there I should be able to set up a fantastic creative space.

In the meantime, I have been trying to fit in the creative stuff when I can. I did my first ever artisan market in September at the Prospect Lake Community Hall. Truthfully, the profits were pitiful. It poured rain, which I think hurt all of us vendors - I was not the only one to pack up most of what I had come with at the end of the day. That said, I met some really great people and neighbours, and had a great time coming up with products to sell. Here are a couple of pictures:

First business cards - very makeshift!
I only managed three of my painted signs, but I am thrilled with how they turned out. I did them freehand.

Brown sugar fudge, fresh organic sage (grew it myself), fig and roasted garlic compote (made with figs from a friend's farm nearby).
I also did burlap & lace headwraps, with vintage lace and vintage brooches, and a pile of earrings, necklaces and bracelets.

 So...all in all, I finally made some great stuff, but the venue did not prove successful. Will have to put some thought into that. My girlfriend Kristin and I came up with the Two Sparrows concept, and she has more market experience thanks to a venture she and her husband started a few years back selling specialty teas and body/bath products. So once we get a grip on how to run a household, raise our littles AND generate time for our creative business, we'll be off like a shot.

In the meantime, I am off to start my Christmas shopping, which I am determined to get done early this year! The kids and I made snowglobes last night with their friends, inspired by this pin from Pinterest: waterlesssnowglobe8.jpg . They turned out quite adorably! I picked up a few of those little figurines you can buy for Christmas Village displays, and each kid got to pick one of them and one tree. I plan to make more, and have many other ideas for gifts I will make in the next week or so. Will try to get back here with some photos when I am done!

By the way, I want to share my newest mentor with you. Kelly Rae Roberts is an amazing creative genius, artist and, by her own description, "Possibilitaran" who inspires me with pretty much everything she does. And what she does, to be specific, is run her own creative empire while raising her son. Kind of exactly my dream job. So while the pieces come together, her reality is one I aspire to. Check her out: .

Now, go and have a beautiful day.

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Recipes, Recipes, Tasty and Clean!

Yes, I have been on another one of my unintentional blogging hiatuses. Hiati? Not sure what the plural is on that one. Make up your own. I'm down with that.

So without going into a big old tirade about how busy life is with two kids and work to do, I will just say HEY! It's good to be back. The idea of sitting down to write seems like such an impossibility at times, but here I am again. And your reward for sticking with me? I have been on a little recipe-building spree!

My good friend, Corrie, and I have been back on our fitness and nutrition program with Vicki Waters. I have spoken about her before; to read more about what it entails read here. It's good to be in control...when I fall off track with my food and exercise, I feel physically and mentally depleted. For me it is worth the time and effort required to take care of myself; I am happier and accomplish more, and am generally just a whole lot nicer to be around. Have I mentioned that exercise is THE BEST cure for depression? Can't say it enough.

I haven't reached my final goal yet (and it is not a number - for me it will be about how strong and energetic I feel, and okay, how my jeans fit to a degree). But in this round of the program my goal has really been more about making a permanent lifestyle change. Weight loss is a nice side effect of it all, yes, but I am very focused on the mental shift I am going to need to have made to survive this summer. Because last year was a bust! Too many BBQ's, too many houseguests, too many cocktails, before I knew it I was putting a winter layer back on. In August.

So here we are, and I am back on track and determined to keep living a cleaner, more active life so I can be here for as long as possible for my kiddies and other loved ones. Without further ado, allow me to share some of my new recipes. I am particularly excited about my homemade "instant" oatmeal packets. Let's start there.


Note: I saw a few people doing versions of this around Pinterest and other idea sites - it is basically oats in a baggie without all the added junk they put in the store-bought stuff. I did develop this recipe myself, though, by using ingredients other than just oats and brown sugar. I need a little more than that to get my energy up in the morning.

If you are following Vicki's program to a "tee," you will have to omit the stevia. 




Take one cup of your oats and grind to a fine texture in a food processor or blender. It should look a bit like oat bran or a coarse whole wheat flour. Have you noticed in the store-bought instant oatmeal packets there is a fine powder in with the oats? I figure with the flavored ones it's mostly sugar and chemicals, but there might be a bit if flour or starch in there to help it bind when hot water is added (I haven't verified this, but given what we know about processed foods there is a chance I am onto something, no?). This oat-grinding thing is a way to achieve that without all the added junk.

Next, put your oats aside and get your nuts into the food processor. Pulse them to your desired size. I make mine pretty small so my kids can't identify them as different from the oats (they are fussy about texture), but if you prefer bigger chunks, go for it. Now, combine all ingredients. Using a half-cup measure, place a scoop in each of your 14 baggies.

To serve, add 1/4 cup of boiling water (or adjust slightly, depending on how thick or soupy you like it). Stir, top with yogurt or a little almond milk or other nice things. If I were really living on the edge, I would dribble a wee spot of maple syrup on it. Delicious, really. Let me know if you love it too.


Yes, you heard me right. Curry in granola. Why? The real question is why the heck not? Curry actually makes pretty much everything taste better. I try not to be judgemental, generally speaking...but if you don't like curry, I will probably think you're kinda weird.

This is a double batch so you will need around three baking sheets lined with parchment paper. 

If you are following Vicki's program to a "tee," you will have to omit the maple syrup and the stevia. I feel they are necessary to balance the flavour and given that this is a huge batch, when you look at a small portion it's not a high sugar snack. The only caveat there is the whole carbohydrates converting to sugars the second they hit your bloodstream watch your portions. I like 1/4 cup sprinkled on my yogurt and fruit in the morning.




Preheat over to 325 degrees. Line your baking pans with parchment.

Put the nuts in a food processor and grind to your desired coarseness. I like them in medium-sized chunks for this recipe so they still add some crunch.

Mix all dry ingredients in a large bowl. Whisk wet ingredients to combine in a smaller bowl. Add the latter to the former. Mix well to combine.

Spread the mixture in an even layer on each of the baking sheets. Bake for 45-55 minutes, stirring every 15 minutes or so to keep the mixture at the edge of the pan from burning. When golden brown, cool and store in a jar. Serve with milk or on top of fruit and yogurt. YUM.

Friday, March 8, 2013

I Do Love Crepes in the Springtime

Finally, spring has sprung! Well, for some of you that statement might incite a little jealousy...but here on the west coast of Canada, our longer warm season has a trade-off: a winter season with less sunshine and more cloudy skies than anywhere else I can think of.

Tomorrow we turn the clocks forward and while the mornings may hurt for a little while with my two little boys waking us up around 6am already (that's right - translating to 5 am for the next week of spring break), I am ready to eat my supper with light in the sky! The snowdrops, crocuses and cherry blossoms are in bloom everywhere and with a few new ventures on the horizon I am "digging" this spring (sorry, that was a really cheesy foreshadowing to my plans to plant vegetables this week). The sun is showing herself more often and I am feeling that vitamin D. Ahhh.

Life continues to be busier than I might like but I cannot complain. Not one iota. I have my health and the ones I love and I am getting more fit and strong as I continue to pursue cleaner eating habits and regular exercise. Not an easy change for me - not at all. I am by nature much more inclined to sashay than to run, to lounge and eat bonbons than to experiment with lentils and sip wine than herbal tea. But here is the cold hard truth: When I do the latter, I feel amazing. I make better choices, and become happier and more productive. As they say, "Do the same thing and get the same results." So, slowly, I am doing differently. Old habits are so hard to change and I am struggling with some aspects of the journey. But I am staying the course. And this year I am going to rock the spring 10k in under an hour. So there, old self.

I am going to include a recipe for you which I adapted from the program I just did with the formidable Vicki Waters, of whom I have spoken in many of my previous posts (because she is AMAZING and a huge inspiration to me). Can you believe that even when trying not to indulge in refined carbohydrates and sugar, I am able to eat delicious, low-calorie, nutritionally dense CREPES for breakfast or a morning snack? That's right, folks. You've gotta try this one...

(Adapted from the "Lisa's Protein Pancakes" recipe in Vicki Waters' Program)

Scant 1/2 cup regular oats
Scant 1/2 cup low-fat cottage cheese (1% or 2%)
Brimming 1/2 cup egg whites
Almond milk (or your choice of liquid) for thinning
Spray Pam (I use butter flavour)

1 banana
1 tablespoon natural peanut butter

Combine first three ingredients in a blender, food processor or with a hand blender, slowly adding your chosen thinning liquid until you get a batter recipe that is thinner than what you would want for pancakes, but thicker than you would want for soup. You get the idea, right? We're making Crepes here, not those hockey pucks they bring you at the pancake house.

Warm up your griddle or pan on high heat for a minute or two, until hot but not scorching, then turn down to medium. Spray with a light coating of Pam. Pour enough batter in that you get one medium-large crepe but have enough room to slide a spatula under for flipping.

When little air bubbles start to appear, turn the heat down a little more (medium low-ish - know your stove. They are all different). When the bubbles are evenly scattered spray the top of your crepe before carefully flipping it. I have used two spatulas to do this without tearing the crepe. They can be a little delicate so be patient.

You should get around four medium-sized Crepes from this recipe. If you need to serve more than two just double your amounts.

In a bowl, mash the banana really well, whipping well with a fork. Blend in the peanut butter (if it's too thick to blend easily, you can warm it in the microwave to soften). Fill each crepe with the mixture and serve topped with berries or yogurt. If desired, use a little stevia to sweeten your filling or drizzle a tiny bit of maple syrup or honey on top. I also like to add my morning seeds (part of Vicki's Program) on top of it all, but as I tallied the calories without them I will leave that add-on to your personal tastes.

Makes two servings. Approximately 350 calories each. Am I having these for breakfast tomorrow? HELL YES. My kids and husband love 'em too.

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

Looking Forward...To Everything!

And now it is February. So soon, but I am ready.

I am down almost ten pounds since beginning Vicki's program again and feeling great. Found a great sale today and dropped some coin on a few new duds. I went looking for workout pants and left with a lot more than that (though I found three pairs, so job done). It continues to be a journey, both physical and mental. I swing back and forth between the profound knowledge and understanding I am building about how to properly care for my body and why, and the lull of old, comfortable habits with their equally cozy rationalizations. But when I did cheat and have a little wine, I was amazed at how crummy I felt during my workout the next day. Really. It was two big glasses. Not like I should have had a giant hangover or anything... but in fact it seems that is enough to derail my strength and motivation. So I will continue to stick to the plan for now, and not indulge too frequently. Other little cheats creep in too, but I am staying away from wheat products and most sugars. When I do cheat it is small and the choices are still better than they were when I was off track. You know, fruit instead of cheesecake. That sort of thing. Speaking of which, I can't wait to try this super-simple, healthy banana ice cream my pal Jana posted about (check out her awesome designs too, or just follow her links to the recipe):

Now, I realize my posts from last week don't exactly jive with my new cleaner living plan, like even a tiny little bit. However, there are times for indulgence, and the recipes included are actually ones I made and combined in tins as Christmas gifts for my sons' teachers and a few other lucky friends (there was only so much to go around). Since one of them requested the recipes and I had to type them up anyway, I thought I would post them as a start to my recipe collection here. If you like them, you may also enjoy (or, okay, become incomprehensible as you chomp and exclaim your delight simultaneously) the ones I posted on the food page of my old blog:

 As far as recipes go, I am a true collector and inventor. You will be seeing many of my ideas and experiments here as I explore a whole new level of eating clean.

I have a lot of exciting stuff on the horizon this year, which I will keep you apprised of as it unfolds...Firstly, we had an opportunity arise in December and our house has been featured in our local, awesome magazine, YAM (which stands for You And Me)! I had the good fortune of being home to watch our friend, local design god and style editor for YAM, Ivan Meade, and YAM photographer Joshua Lawrence, as they set up, tweaked and photographed our home and made it look amazing. You know that expression, "to be a fly on the wall?" Well, I was, and it was a creative party! A bonus was the citations given to my husband, Tim's contracting company, Horizon, Ivan's business, Meade Design Group, and my dad, Mal Jeffers' artwork - one of my favourite paintings ever. You can read the magazine online at this link - I believe our feature starts on page 23:

Additionally, I have some writing gigs in the works. One of my oldest friends (since kindergarten!), Jill Amery, has asked me to pick up where I left off when things got hectic with our move last winter and write for her website, again. This will possibly involve book reviews; I will post links as they come together.

I will also be doing the writing for my husband's company website and Facebook page and will post about that too as it unfolds.

In a couple of weeks I think we will be ready to plant our first full, honest-to-goodness food garden at the new place. It's going to involve a lot of planning and learning and the kids and I will have a blast with it! Pictures for sure.

Sunday, January 27, 2013



"I like to brush the biscuits with mustard before baking because it gives a tangy flavour, but this can be omitted. Keep in a tin for one week or in the fridge for two."

1/2 cup soft butter
2 and 1/2 cups grated old cheddar (I use Imperial Cheddar)
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard
1/2 teaspoon salt
1/4 teaspoon cayenne (or more to taste)
Optional: 1/2 cup crushed potato chips

1/8 cup sesame seeds
3 tablespoons coarsely ground black pepper
2 tablespoons herbes de Provence
2 tablespoons Dijon mustard (brush on first if using)

Preheat oven to 375 degrees.

In a food processor or by hand, cream the butter until soft. Add the mustard and process until well-combined. 
In a medium bowl, combine flour, salt, cayenne and potato chips if using. Add to cheese mixture and combine just until dough holds together.
Divide into two, roll into cylinders about 1-2 inches in diameter. Roll in sesame mixture. Refrigerate to harden. Cut into 1/4 inch slices. 
Place on cookie sheet, brush with additional mustard and sprinkle with extra herbes as desired. Bake 12-15 minutes. Makes 60 to 80 1 and 1/2 inch biscuits.


(My Adaptation of) MOM'S BROWN SUGAR FUDGE

Warning: this stuff is like crack. Seriously. I only make it when giving it as a gift or when I know others will be around to help me inhale it. Because I WILL eat an entire recipe over the course of a few days. This does not fit into my current fitness and nutrition program AT ALL but one of my son's teachers requested the recipe after I gave her some for Christmas. So here it is; proceed with caution! My mom, Christine Buckham, adapted this recipe from one for frosting when I was a kid, and I recently added the salt, taking into crazyville on the delicious scale.

(This is a small recipe and can be doubled). 

1/4 cup butter 
3/4 cup packed brown sugar
2 tablespoons of milk
1 cup sifted icing sugar
1 tsp vanilla
Around two teaspoons sea salt 

Optional: 3 tablespoons wheat germ (gives a fine crunchiness, though I prefer it without)

Bring butter, sugar and milk to a full boil on a medium-high heat. Reduce heat to medium low and allow to boil for four minutes, stirring frequently. 

Do not leave the stove - this boiling time is crucial and the sugar cannot be allowed to burn.

Remove from heat and stir the bubbles down. Add vanilla, sifted icing sugar and the wheat germ if using.

Stir and gently whip the fudge with a wooden spoon for a few minutes. When the fudge begins to harden onto the sides of the pot, scrape it into a low- sided dish or pan. 

Optional: My personal adaptation is to sprinkle an even, light layer of sea salt into the bottom of the pan before I pour in the fudge. The feedback I have received about this trick is that it makes the fudge even harder to stop eating! 

Cut into squares while still soft. Allow to cool. Share with friends before your pants become too tight.



3 cups rolled oats
3 cups all purpose flour (I use whole wheat)
1 cup granulated sugar (I use brown sugar)
1/2 teaspoon salt
2 cups butter
1/4 cup cold water
Optional: your choice of dried herbs for a savory touch. I like to add lavender and/or thyme.

Combine dry ingredients. Work in butter with fingers; stir in water. Dough should be crumbly and just barely hold together. Place it on a greased 18x12 inch jelly roll pan or baking sheet (I use a baking sheet). 

Spread evenly over pan and into corners. Use a rolling pin to make it flat, smooth and firm. With a greased knife, cut into two-inch squares. Bake at 350 degrees for 15 minutes or until light brown. Let cool. Squares should snap apart easily along cut lines.

Makes 60 squares.

Monday, January 21, 2013

2013, Here I Come!

So. It's been a while since I posted. I think I mentioned last time I was having a difficult couple of months through the fall, and I really was. I had gotten off my fitness and nutrition program. I wasn't eating very well and I was drinking too much wine, too often. The existing challenges of motherhood and running a household, combined with my general lethargy and depression left me feeling like things were spiraling downward, and not within my power to turn around. Even the weather had its impact. It got colder and in turn I just wanted to eat sandwiches and drink hot mugs of things while sitting on my butt under a blanket by the fireplace, with a cat or two on my lap and a good book. It really seemed unfair that life had other plans for me. That my family needs me every minute of every day. That they couldn't just all start taking care of themselves with no warning. Sheesh.

I am a creative and sensitive individual and there are times when a combination of lack of self-care and just being overwhelmed by the details of living put me in this state of mental paralysis. Even while feeling it, though, I was thinking "suck it up, buttercup!" 

I have had to do this before. Pick myself up, dust myself off and take the steps required to rise above. To have fun anyway. To make better choices even if it means an annoying dose of self-discipline and no sugar in my coffee. And all this aside, I owe it to my family to be better than this. I owe it to myself.

So. With all the goings on of two little boys in two different schools, a working husband, a household to run and maintain, and the various neurotic dramas that crop up from time to time when you have, well, people around (boy does that part of life make me appreciate my amazing family)...I decided to reign it in.

I got in touch with my Jazzercise favourite, the amazing Vicki Waters. I have talked about Vicki before. Her classes lift me up and work me over and give me the physical release that is so important when I am carrying what I do. She has such a large following that I know I am not alone in feeling this way. Last spring, I did "The Program" with Vicki. This is separate from her Jazzercise classes. As a fitness and nutrition expert she has devised a seven week program that resets your body's metabolism through dietary change and exercise. As she says, "it's not new information." But it's about more than just making changes for the seven weeks as outlined in her plan. Each week we attend a meeting where she teaches us about the science behind this stuff. We weigh in while we're there, but are not allowed to at home. She wants us to move beyond the numbers on the scale and adopt a new way of thinking about how we fuel our bodies, and how we move them. 

I did well last spring. Lost some weight. And I knew I was on the brink of something important, which I will discuss in a moment. But I was SO excited about the number on that scale. I knew I had some work to do yet to get to where I really ought to be, but it took me years to get to where I was at that point. I was elated. 

And then, there was summer. Houseguests almost every week. Celebrations. Food, drinks, food, drinks, food, drinks, rinse, repeat. It was less of a falling off track than a careless leap into a landslide. I kept thinking "Oh, I'll get back on track next week. I'll pull out my program guidelines and start at week one again. No problem." But things were busy and that didn't happen. Then it was fall. And much of the weight had returned, and I was miserable, and that went on for a few months. As Christmas approached I knew it was time to get back on it. And beyond that, to make a more complete mental shift for the long-term. 

Vicki sent me back an email saying she had two programs lined up for the new year. One was to begin the day before our return from our vacation, and the second not until mid-February. I opted for the first one. While I had to miss the first meeting, I knew I couldn't put it off any longer.

When you sign up for The Program, you sign a contract. You agree to follow the food and exercise guidelines she gives you each week. And, if you don't have a partner, she connects you with one. I have been fortunate enough to find a new friend at my son's preschool. A mother to twins and a full-time doctor, Corrie has little time for herself and felt this was a good fit for her to make some positive change. So in we jumped. It's turned out to be such a good match!
We are both emotional eaters and with her at work all the time, my recipes and cooking tips have been a help to her. Her support and feedback have been consistent and devoted and it has made a huge difference to me. I feel accountable and valued and love that her scientific mind can follow my tangents about all of this stuff. I think our partnership will continue to be mutually beneficial even after we finish the final week.

We both struggle with the emotional eating. I mean, of course eating is emotional. We have to eat to live, and our first experiences with food are tied into being taken care of. It's pretty hard to separate the two - especially now that the tables are turned and we are taking care of our families - and I notice even the most rigid practitioners of the "clean eating" approach still post recipes for "comfort food" from time to time. With that in mind, I made this Italian Wedding Soup this weekend (with a few modifications) when she and her family came for dinner:
It was delicious!

Cellular communication. This is just one thing Vicki discusses at our meetings. What and how much you eat affects how your cells talk to each other. For real, people. I thought I was listening last spring, and I did take in a lot of what she said. But on this second round I am really getting into the macro and micro of what these lifestyle choices do for our bodies. More than that, I have become very focused on what this is all doing for my mind, and in turn for my whole freakin' life! I really do think it's that monumental a shift. Not just about getting rid of the muffin top, though that of course is a side effect I won't reject.

When I work out regularly and eat properly, I am reminded that I, ME, I am the one driving this vehicle. I have control over how I do things and how I respond to others. I have choices that can make or break the impact I make in this one life of mine. More than that, I can FEEL how my mind and body are connected, in a way that literally makes me smarter. Does that make
sense? It's hard for me to articulate what I mean because I am not a scientist. I am not sure I can describe the physiology of this mind-body connection.

Related to this is what a sense of empowerment and accomplishment and pride can do for one's sense of happiness and even to their decision-making processes every day. I am more myself and more sure of myself and hell, fitting into my skinny jeans doesn't hurt either. There is a fundamental way of BEING that comes out of this that can change you. Who you are may fundamentally be the same. It's what you DO, though, that really determines the course of your life and how you feel about it. Let me repeat Vicki's words of wisdom: "This is not new information." Yet it seems to be information people are fundamentally lacking. If everyone had this information, maybe we wouldn't be in the midst of an international obesity epidemic. But therein lies the rub: to really HAVE this information, you need to put into practice a different way of living. Because only then does it really start to make sense; to sink in as hard fact. So what comes first? The chicken or the egg? No wonder it's so hard to get people to make the change.

Adding to this are the automatic responses to proper exercise and food intake that allow my entire body to function better. From my muscles to my brain (technically a muscle as well, if i am not mistaken), I am drinking more water. Having fewer cravings. Making better decisions when cravings do arise because I understand the real, long-term consequences I will face otherwise (the wrath of Vicki aside, ha ha). 

Making the time IS hard. But so very worth it, and of so much benefit to my family as well. So, can we do this long-term? I think for the first while it can be a kind of two-steps-forward, one-step-back sort of thing. After the final week of The Program, life will continue. There will be celebrations, and libations, and dessert. Slowly, we can retrain ourselves to enjoy those times with a new kind of moderation. I think it will be kind of fun coming up with new recipes and rituals for those times when we do want to "partake." Movie nights, holiday meals etc. can all be
enjoyed, and done in a way that lightens the caloric load without getting ridiculously deprivational.

Will we fall off? Yup. But with focus we can train ourselves to hop back on quickly before we end up in a self-destructive avalanche.

This is changing what I want to feed my family, too. My husband is happier and feels better because he is eating cleaner, more nutritionally dense food. My kids are surprisingly compliant, most of the time. I am also reading "Wheat Belly" right now, and I have a feeling that by the time I finish it, I will have further motivation to make healthier adaptations in our diet.

That's all for today, but I am going to be aiming to post every Monday from now on - at minimum. The new year is full of great stuff which I will discuss next time! Unfortunately our three year-old stomped the laptop that holds our photos, so I will have to wait to post them. Have a lovely Monday and thank you for reading.

Please do leave comments! I would love to hear what you think about all of this. If you want to try Vicki's program or a Jazzercise class, she can be reached at, or on her Vicki Waters Jazzercise page on Facebook.