Pink Icing without Food Colouring

But what do you do when your child wants pink cupcakes? Well, I’m happy to report that I have an answer you will love. Beets my friend. Beets.

While food colouring does make icing look spectacular, it’s not so spectacular for us or the earth.  Artificial colours have been linked to behavioural problems and even certain kinds of cancer, according to the Environmental Working Group.

But what do you do when your child wants pink cupcakes? Well, I’m happy to report that I have an answer you will love. Beets my friend. Beets.

All you have to do is make a regular batch of icing, and simply add the juice from one small beet (about 1-2 Tbsp) using a juicer. And when you do, this is what happens!

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How PINK is that! Pretty impressive I think, for a beet (which is not even pink to begin with).

These cupcakes helped us celebrate Eily’s 4th Birthday over the weekend and I’d say, judging by her little grin, that the amount of pinkness was to her liking.

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3 ways to Have Fun in January, Victorian Style

Poor January. After all of the merriment and festivities of December, January often stretches out in front of us endlessly. But it doesn’t have to. Whenever the weather gets too cold or there’s a cold or flu running its course and we are home-bound, I always turn to one of my favourite books for inspiration: Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions: Reviving Victorian Family Celebrations of Comfort and Joy.

Poor January. After all of the merriment and festivities of December, January often stretches out in front of us endlessly. But it doesn’t have to. Whenever the weather gets too cold or there’s a cold or flu running its course and we are home-bound, I always turn to one of my favourite books for inspiration: Mrs. Sharp’s Traditions: Reviving Victorian Family Celebrations of Comfort and Joy.DSC_0010

Victorian’s were experts at amusing themselves indoors and out without any technology to speak of. Celebration was a way of life and because of this, life was very family focused. Certainly we could all take a cue from some of their simple pastimes, guaranteed to draw your family close together.

  1. Board Games:  This is such a classic way to spend time together as a family. I still remember a 3-day round of Monopoly that my family played during a winter power outage when I was 8. If you have young children, I recommend co-operative games. Dealing with winning and losing when your brain can’t understand that concept is NOT very fun (for anyone involved).  Co-operative games are great because they encourage sharing and working together, and victory feels so much sweeter when the whole family wins 🙂  We just bought Herbal Wild Craft (love it!) and are hoping to add more games to our collection.

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2. Puzzles: Admittedly, I was not from a puzzle family, so this took me a little while to get into. However, my husband and children LOVE puzzles so much that I am starting to see why. Puzzles can be very meditative and are a great way to develop problem solving, reasoning, co-ordination, and spatial arrangements (especially important for girls).  Working on puzzles even encourages the production of dopamine, the feel-good hormone!

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3. Tea Parties: Get out your good china (yes, seriously!) or play with a toy set. Whether real or imagined, tea parties are pure fun. Set a little table, invite favourite dolls or friends and watch the magic unfold. Get dressed up, make little invitations, and bake (or buy) a little treat.  Add a little classical music or even read some poetry to be extra fancy!

How to make an UnPin-Worthy Gingerbread House

Our Gingerbread House may not be perfect, but with the light shining on it just right, it wasn’t half bad, and today, that’s good enough.

Over the Christmas break, we made the worst gingerbread house. That’s right. The worst. I had made the (crooked) cookie cut-outs for the house a week before and we were waiting for some fancy candy to decorate it (and perhaps hide the flaws of the over-all structure). But of course, time went by quickly, as it does at the Christmas season, and before we knew it, it was Christmas Eve, and we hadn’t made our little house yet.

I had two options. Either scrap the whole idea or go ahead and do it with whatever we had in the pantry. I really wanted a pretty, pinterest-worthy gingerbread house. But my kids? They just wanted to experience the fun of making a gingerbread house.

So we did it. We made a house without a big pile of bright, pretty candy. We made a house and did not have quite enough icing. And, after each child meticulously decorated their half of the roof, they were completely satisfied. Because, in spite of of what we lacked, the process was still fun and they were proud of what they had contributed.

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Eily “patiently” waiting for her turn

I could have kicked myself. I almost took that little moment away from them because I had an expectation of what it should look like. I almost missed those adorable, serious little faces as they placed each, tiny, chocolate chip as if the fate of the universe hung in the balance.

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Focused Fynn

But I didn’t miss it. I let the process be more important than the end result. And isn’t it? I think so! Although it’s easy to forget that these days when we see so many beautiful images floating around social media.

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Our Gingerbread House may not be perfect, but with the light shining on it just right, it wasn’t half bad, and today, that’s good enough.

 

 

Slowing Christmas Down

Regardless of your reason for celebrating, the Christmas season can be full of warmth, relaxation, and joy if you take a little time to reflect on what works for you and your family! If you keep the focus on the simplicity of being together you will experience all the true magic the season has to offer.

Before we had a family, Christmas consisted of cramming as much visiting and food into 48 hrs as humanly possible. We were driving an absurd amount trying to fit everyone in to our tight schedule. It was exhausting and super emotionally charged. Once we had our own family, it became clear that our old traditions stopped working.  I remember wondering one Christmas day when my daughter was a baby, “Why did I just drive an hour to my family celebration to nurse my child in a room by myself on Christmas day?” It didn’t feel very festive. And it wasn’t anyone’s fault. It was just time to make traditions that reflected my new season of life.

At first, we didn’t know how to change them without hurting people’s feelings or feeling like we were missing out on what was important. But when we started talking to our family about it, everyone was quite understanding and we eventually came up with a few solutions that felt right.

The first thing we did was extend the season of celebrating.  It took so much pressure off and also gave us more to look forward to over the month. Food even tasted better when it became spread out over several events, rather than 3 back to back turkey dinners.   We started new traditions like our Sibling Christmas dinner one week before the big day. We also invited people to our house when possible. And we learned that it was actually nice to be able to enjoy Christmas day with the 4 of us. After all, we were a family now too! It was so wonderful to be able to slowly savour the excitement of Christmas day when we didn’t have to rush off anywhere. We could stay in our pajamas, play together, and watch the snow fall where it may without having to go anywhere. 

If you are looking to make changes to the way you celebrate, here are some ideas to help you sort it all out:

  1. Reflect on what events/celebrations actually bring you joy. Ask your partner and kids how they feel too! Pare down what you will attend by offering to alternate years with people (ex, this year you will go to your parents, next year your partner’s parents).
  2. Try spacing out events over the course of the month and if possible, only commit to one event per weekend (Especially if you have any introverts in your family!)
  3. Keep a list this year of what worked and what didn’t and remember to read it in November of next year so you can modify your plans (we do this every year and I cannot express how helpful it is!).
  4. Buck tradition. Tradition shouldn’t be a chain that ties you down, it should be something that brings you happiness and comfort. If it’s time to make a new one, that’s okay! And don’t let the new one be set in stone either. When our children are growing, each phase allows for different possibilities, so it’s natural to need to change things up every few years.
  5. If your extended family is less than supportive about your new ideas, be gentle but firm. Encourage them to be open to coming up with a new solution. Sometimes people forget how difficult it is carting young children around who are tired and/or over-stimulated from so much excitement! Your family should always be top priority.
  6. Don’t compare yourself to what other families are able to do. Each family is unique and has different needs and energy levels. Make a plan that feels right for you.
  7. Make sure you are getting enough rest and taking good care of yourself during the season. Take those supplements, dial UP the self-care (not down!).

Regardless of your reason for celebrating, the Christmas season can be full of warmth, relaxation, and joy if you take a little time to reflect on what works for you and your family! If you keep the focus on the simplicity of being together you will experience all the true magic the season has to offer.

Halloween Without Sugar Overload

What I learned that night,  was that sometimes a thing isn’t about what you think it’s about. I thought Halloween was about collecting and eating a pillowcase full of candy. But it turns out, it’s about getting a little spine-tingling thrill, sharing with your community, and finally feeling (and looking) like the superhero that you really are.

We may be unconventional in our house, but I have come to believe that you can still participate in many traditions without violating your own personal values.  So, when my son was old enough to start trick-or-treating, we started to think about how we would celebrate Halloween in a more healthy way.

We weighed the obstacles:

  1. Typically, the candy being given out is full of ingredients and practices that we are not comfortable with ( ingredients that are artificial, detrimental to the environment, or produced using slave labour).
  2. Too much sugar weakens our immune systems, and negatively effects behaviour and sleep cycles (as well as a host of other things).
  3. Knowing all of the above, I would, without a doubt, end up eating most of that candy, which is a) terrible and b) completely unhelpful to me

That being said,  it’s super fun to trick or treat! I wouldn’t want my kids to miss out on any kind of old fashioned fun, especially when dressing up is involved. So, with a slight alteration, we found a way to join in.

We would dress up, we would trick or treat to our heart’s content, but when we got home we would swap out the candy for a special treat that we parents approved of. We also tried to purchase candy for the trick-or-treaters that was sweetened with fruit juice and contained no artificial ingredients.

When the big night came, we took a very spooky and exciting tour around our  neighbourhood. When we got back home, Fynn promptly poured his bag of treats into the bowl for trick-or-treaters. No fuss. No disappointment. We quickly handed him his treats-to-keep and he was delighted!

Much to our surprise, what made him even happier, was handing out candy to all the trick-or-treaters. He stayed by that door all night, waiting to dish out generous supplies of candy to pirates, ninjas, and princesses galore.

What I learned that night,  was that sometimes a thing isn’t about what you think it’s about. I thought Halloween was about collecting and eating a pillowcase full of candy. But it turns out, it’s about getting a little spine-tingling thrill, sharing with your community, and finally feeling (and looking) like the superhero that you really are.

That’s something I can get on board with.

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Happy Halloween!

If you would like more information on chocolate made without slave labour, check out  slavefreechocolate . You might be surprised to discover that GiddyYoYo, an amazing local company (Mono, Ontario) has made the list of ethical chocolate producers 🙂