Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Easy Goodie Bag Alternative: Caramel Apples!

It was recently my daughter’s 6th birthday and I had all the details of her party ironed out. The cake was ordered, the games planned, the decoration organized – everything was good to go, except one minor detail:

THE GOODIE BAGS...

Ah, the dreaded goodie bags - A plastic baggie full of candy and junk plastic that ends up inducing a sugar high moment of mania, and mere seconds playtime with a kazoo or balloon before being tossed into the landfill. Let’s not mention the amount of money that we spend on these things!!! It’s pure insanity.

There had to be a better way, right?

I was inspired by a girlfriend to do exactly this – find a better way. And that better way was the ingenious idea of making CARAMEL APPLES for the party favours. What a win-win-win situation!! It’s a project that I can engage my kids into, it consists of a somewhat healthy alternative, and it’s inexpensive – only amounting to about $30 for 20 caramel apples!

Method:
• Apples (I used 20 Braeburn as I prefer the tangy taste against the sweetness of the caramel)
• 4 bags of Kraft caramels
• Popsicle sticks or dowels
• Toppings of choice (we used rainbow sprinkles) spread out on a small plate
• Plastic treat bags
• Parchment paper

Wash and dry your apples thoroughly, remove stems, and insert dowels or popsicle sticks into the bottom of each apple.


In a deep microwaveable container (I used a 2 cup glass measuring cup), unwrap and microwave 2 bags of caramels with 2 tablespoons of water. I zapped them for one minute at a time, and then stirred, then microwaved for another 45 seconds. Stir until all caramels are melted – you don’t want the caramel to be scorching hot; rather you want the remaining chunks of caramel to melt as you stir (if it’s too hot the caramel will slide off the apples).


Dip each apple into the caramel mixture and let it drip off; then roll in the topping of your choice.
Leave the caramel covered apple to dry on the parchment paper. Once dry (I left mine out overnight), place in plastic treat bag and tie with a ribbon!

SOME TIPS TO MAKE THESE THE BEST APPLES EVER:
1. Ensure that your apples are COLD
2. Completely DRY before you dip them into the caramel
3. Ensure that your CARAMEL is not too HOT or it won’t stick to the apples

Viola! A great goodie bag alternative!
Thanks to #AmberOrchardEvents for the amazing idea to make these Caramel Apples!

Monday, February 20, 2017

Travel Inspiration: Five Spring Break Family Travel Ideas

Is the rain and the snow and the darkness getting to you? One of the things I do to get out of a funk is to plan my next family vacation (Ok full disclosure, I am always planning my next vacation or family trip). I love talking travel and helping others plan vacations. So here we go, here are 5 ideas to help inspire your spring break getaway.

Hawaii Aloha
Hawaii is one of our favourite family getaways. From the west coast, it is a nice direct flight, and on arrival it is instant relaxation. From the open air airport, to the welcoming nature of those who make the Hawaiian Islands their home, it is an oasis for all visitors. Hawaii is a good introduction to the exotic, without having to stray from the United States. English is spoken by all, renting a car and driving the island is no different from renting a car in Canada or other US States and if you forgot anything at home, chances are you can find it at Costco, or the many grocery and drug stores. Hawaii is great for children of all ages, from newborns to teens. While newborns are happy to hang out in mom or dad’s arms as they lounge in the sand, teenagers can snorkel, swim and surf in the year-round warm water.


Disneyland The Happiest Place on Earth
Do you wonder if your child is too young for Disney? Well, in my opinion, the answer is No! Different aged children make for different types of trips. While babies are happy most of the day in a carrier or stroller, parents can take turns with rider-swap so they both can enjoy the thrill rides. If you have a busy toddler, there are lots of places where you can find some room to let them run around. While line-ups were my biggest concern having a 2 year old at Disney, he did amazingly well. Disney knows how to move people, and with the line almost always moving, we didn't go crazy! And the characters! See the faces of your preschoolers and young children as they see the smiling ace of their favourite character waving in front of them! (and hey, your teenager might want a hug from a childhood favourite too!) For some, the characters make the trip, so check out the Disneyland App and schedule your day around some character appearances. If you are travelling with school aged children, Disneyland is their playground. Whether it is thrill seeking rides, or parades or taking in the magic of the evening fireworks, there is something for everyone to do. Disneyland is also offering discounted tickets to Canadians until February, making it a little easier on the wallet!

London and Beyond
With so many schools having two weeks for spring break it is the perfect time to fly over to Europe. With direct flights from many airports in North America, it is not as scary as it sounds to fly across the pond! London is a great starting place for your European travels, it is an English speaking start, yet you can get yourself to Paris in only 2.5 hours by train! While the weather is not yet ideal in much of Europe, there are less crowds than in the peak summer months, so you can get on the front seat of a double decker bus, or get to the front of the room to see the Mona Lisa in the Louvre in Paris. There are so many itinerary options in Europe, with little ones, I suggest only visiting a few cities, so you can have more of a home base to travel from. We love renting a flat and getting to know a local neighbourhood as we explore for a week or so than chasing hotel rooms each night.


Jordan The Rose City
You may wonder why I am suggesting you visit the Middle East despite the instability in some of Jordan’s neighbouring countries. But I will tell you, Jordan is NOT at ALL what you may think it is. A progressively Muslim country, it is safe, friendly and has some amazing history to share with your children. I visited with my 5 and 3-year-old last fall and we had
the trip of a lifetime. While a 7-day tour was a little too rushed for the little guys, you can see so much of the diverse country in a week. From the ancient roman ruins in Jerash, the second most well preserved site outside of Rome, to covering yourself in mud and floating in the Dead Sea, to Petra, well, visiting Petra is out of this world! Spring is a good time to visit weather wise, where in the summer months, the heat can be excruciating.

Mexico Cheers to You
Known for its all-inclusive options, and variety of activities to keep everyone entertained all day and night, Mexican resorts are popular Spring Break vacation destinations! For the little ones, there are kid’s clubs, the pool, the beach, and many resorts have play grounds and water parks. For older kids and teens, the freedom to wander the resort, lounge by the pool listening to music or swim in the ocean will occupy them. Moms and Dads can take advantage of the all-inclusive drink menu and know that once they arrive, all costs have been taken care of!

Feeling overwhelmed? It can be stressful to book your first holiday. Consider popping into a travel agent and have them take care of everything for you. I am also happy to share any travel advice or answer any questions, feel free to contact me anytime! I am always happy to talk travel.

Lindsay is a freelance writer, photographer, lifetime traveller and a lover of learning. She resides in Langley with her husband and two sons and you will likely find her on the soccer field she she is not jet setting abroad. Follow her family travel adventures at www.carpediemourway.com

Saturday, February 18, 2017

Researchers Warn Popping Balloons as Loud as a Gun Blast

Bill Hodgetts doesn’t want to be a party-pooper.
The Edmonton audiologist and father of two young girls says he often wondered if there was something more dangerous than disdainful about noisy children’s birthday parties, so he went to his lab and started bursting balloons. What he discovered was surprising, he says. Popping a balloon next to someone’s ear is as loud as firing a high-powered shotgun.

“I doubt that any parent would let their child fire a gun without hearing protection,” Hodgetts says. “Yet the balloon is considered a benign party favour."

“It still is, as long as you’re not popping it.” The finding is part of a study, co-authored by engineer Dylan Scott, recently published in Canadian Audiologist. Both researchers work in the speech pathology and audiology department at the University of Alberta.

Hodgetts says they used standard party balloons that came in a package with a warning label about choking and possible eye damage — nothing about hearing.

The loudest pop came from a balloon that was inflated until it ruptured. At close range, the sound measured nearly 168 decibels — slightly lower than a blast from a .357 Magnum pistol (167 decibels) but higher than a 12-gauge shotgun (161 decibels) and a .30-06 rifle (162 decibels).

Balloons popped with a pin or by hand were not as loud at 155 and 159 decibels, but within the range of gun noise. The Canadian Centre for Occupational Health and Safety recommends people not be exposed to impulse noise of more than 140 decibels.

Hodgetts says he hopes the study will encourage parents to consider hearing protection as important and as routine as putting sunscreen on their children before they go outside.

“It’s not to say balloons should be banned or that we’re trying to take the fun away from kids,” he says. “But this is one of those things —until you actually look at the levels, you don’t know how loud they can really be.”

Kids typically find popping balloons irresistible, especially at birthday parties, says Hodgetts. But repeated pops may contribute to long-term hearing loss.

“Hearing loss is insidious, it’s invisible and it happens over your lifetime. And every little exposure can add up to a significant problem later on down the road.”

He has taught his children about the noise danger of popping balloons and when they now go to parties they police their friends, he says. “My daughters are always saying, ‘Be careful. Those are really loud. Don’t pop them.“’ Children won’t really miss balloons at parties, Hodgetts suggests, as long as there are still presents and cake.

Bill Hodgetts is an Associate Professor in the Department of Speech Pathology and Audiology. He has a joint appointment with the Institute for Reconstructive Sciences in Medicine (iRSM), where he is program director of Bone Conduction Amplication.

Sunday, January 29, 2017

UBT Review: How Fab is Fabletics?

At this time of year most of us think about our New Year resolutions regarding fitness. Satisfied with your progress on losing weight; getting fit and trying out the latest fitness challenge? Need some extra incentive? I have discovered that nothing makes you feel better than wearing workout attire that fits and shapes your body properly.

I recently had the opportunity to vacation with my husband in Hawaii and was thrilled to enjoy some much-needed leisure-time and fabulous days in the sun. However, I was even more excited to see the opening of Fabletics at the International Market in Waikiki.  (You have no doubt heard about Kate Hudson's fitness apparel (Fabletics) advertised all over Facebook and TV).

We have all seen the company’s ads posted on Facebook with awesome deals available to those who sign up for an ongoing membership. If you're anything like me, not being able to see, touch and try on the clothing typically makes me hesitate to be committed to something I am unsure about. The reality is: being a fitness instructor and busy mom to two active boys means I live in my workout gear so quality and comfort are everything to me.

So how fabulous is Fabletics? After spending an hour in their store trying on pants, tops, sports bras, shorts, I was very impressed! The styles are awesome and the fit is very flattering. Sizing includes traditional options including xx-small (size 0-2); x-small (size 4); small (size 6); medium (size 8); large (size 10-12) and x-large (size 14-16). The company also offers products in xx-large ( size 18-20) which is a great option for full-figured women.


Unfortunately the sports bras didn’t work for me. With only a limited amount of sizes to choose from and no cup sizing available, their sports-bras didn't fit me properly (yes, having big bust and a small frame is a downfall with standard sizing).

Fabletics carries several different styles of clothing with six different fabric qualities and thickness. Products in the heavy-weight fabric would be good for the cold BC mornings especially if you are a runner or take an outdoor bootcamp class. The light-weight fabric is perfect for taking a step class, barre or yoga. You can choose clothing items in fabrics that are well-suited to the type of fitness classes you participate in. Choices include bright and bold colour patterns in matching coordinates. Enjoy some creative freedom by mixing and matching styles with solid prints to create multiple outfits. If you're like me and gravitate to – yet another pair of black crop pants – I encourage you to look for tops in your favourite colours and then find a matching pant which is what I ended up purchasing (see my new outfit below).

Stores are opening across the US although there are no plans to open in Canada as yet. As a Canadian, you can sign up for a membership to purchase products. One needs to factor in the exchange rate and duty charges (bear in mind that on the Canadian site, funds are still calculated in US currency).

Getting started with the monthly membership is easy. Simply go to the website Fabletics and take the brief quiz to help their stylist create personalized outfit recommendations that suit your style.

Visit the www.fabletics.ca website every month (between the 1st and 5th day) for an outfit personalized just for you. If you’re not happy with the outfit selected, you can skip the month and not pay anything.

If you like the outfit, you’ll be charged $49.95 USD. Keep in mind that you need to cancel by the 6th of the month or you’ll be automatically charged the $49.95 USD, which will apply as a credit to your account.

When it comes to making year-long progress with your commitment to stay fit, Fabletics might be just what you need for an extra incentive. If wearing the apparel makes you smile as you catch yourself in the mirror at the gym, then it is definitely an investment worth considering.

And if well-fitted and stylish workout wear encourages you to get active with your kids at the park – then by all means, I say go for it; you won’t be disappointed!


Lara Leontowich is a BCRPA Certified Group Fitness Instuctor and Pre & Post Natal Fitness Specialist. She is the owner of Runners and Booties Fitness helping new moms stay fit through weekly exercise programs offer at local shopping centres. For more info or to sign up for a class checkout www.runnersandbootiesfitness.com 

Monday, January 23, 2017

4 Easy Breakfast Smoothies for Busy Moms

We’re all guilty of skipping breakfast from time to time – it’s a bit of a gong show in the morning anyways, what with getting the kids dressed and ready, getting yourself ready, and prioritizing yourself around the coffee….did I mention coffee? I think we’d all be hard pressed to find a morning where we didn’t lose our minds on our kids, who seem to turn from tornadoes to sloths when it comes to brushing their teeth…

Luckily, I’ve been pinning away on Pinterest a variety of easy to make smoothies that you can whip up with very basic ingredients that will fill you up until lunch time - the best part is that they’re portable and you can drink them while you take the kids to school. I’ve had the pleasure of sampling all 4 of these, and I’ve given them a mark out of 5!

1. Iced Coffee Protein Shake
I’m a coffee junkie, and I liked the fact that this one combined health with energy. Throw the following ingredients into your Magic Bullet/Vitamix/Blender of your choice:
• 2 cups of ice
• 1 cup of cold brewed coffee
• 1 scoop of vanilla or chocolate protein powder (I love Vega brand)
• 1 frozen banana
• 1 cup of almond milk (I like the vanilla sweetened one)
Blend it all up and voila! Yum, I liked it a lot!



2. Chunky Monkey Protein Shake
I’m obsessed with bananas and peanut butter, but strangely enough not a big fan of peanut butter in smoothies. Alternatively I use almond butter in this one.
• 1 Cup of Ice
• I cup of Almond Milk (chocolate, preferably)
• 1 heaping tablespoon of almond butter
• 1 tablespoon of honey
• 1 scoop of chocolate protein powder
• 1 frozen banana
Blend away and drink it up!


3. Matcha Green Tea Smoothie
If you want energy but you don’t like coffee, this matcha green tea smoothie is an ideal substitute. Matcha powder is a beautifully vibrant green powder made from the nutrient-rich young leaves of Japanese green tea, stone ground into a fine powder. You can purchase matcha powder at David’s Tea, Teavana, or just about any health food store. It is extremely good for you and packed with antioxidants – apparently 120x the amount than in green tea alone – and packs an energy punch that will give you pep for the entire day. It also contains fibre and amino acids that help you feel calmer. I add mango and a banana to my smoothie, as well as some honey or stevia to add a bit of sweetness.

• 2 ripe mangoes, peeled and chopped
• 2 ripe bananas, peeled and frozen
• 1 cup unsweetened almond milk
• 1 cup orange juice (optional)
• 2 teaspoons honey, optional
• 1 tablespoon matcha green tea powder
Blend up and serve!

4. Fountain of Youth Smoothie
This one is super refreshing and packed with ingredients that will not only reduce bloating, but make your skin look and feel super healthy. While the above smoothies are mainly savory/nutty, this one is sweet and tangy and perfect for a boost any time of the day.

• 1 grapefruit peeled and quartered
• 4 strawberries hulled and sliced
• 1/2 avocado, peeled, pitted and flesh cut into chunks
• 1 handful fresh parsley.
• 1 handful fresh mint.
• 4 ice cubes.
• 250 ml coconut water

Some additional tips:

• If you want the smoothies to be slushier, use frozen fruit in place of fresh
• If adding yogurt, look for low or no sugar options; also look for natural or Greek yogurt for extra protein
• Add chia seeds, moringa powder, flax seeds or omega liquid for extra health benefits
• Add kefir, a fermented milk drink that adds lots of probiotics

Melissa Collins is a freelance writing mother of 2 girls. When she’s not cleaning up cheerios and play dough, she can likely be found curled up n her hammock with a good book. Check her out at www.mellysmommymanual.com.

Saturday, January 21, 2017

5 Creative Ways To Keep Kids Hydrated

Hydration can play a huge role in keeping kids healthy - and it becomes even more important when kids do get sick. If your little one isn’t a huge fan of drinking, use these 5 tips to keep him hydrated this season.

 1. Make it a game
Set a timer and see how much he can drink in 5 seconds. Or challenge her to a drinking
race to see who can finish their glass of water first. Get creative, and try not to get too competitive...


2. Use a fun straw or cup
Sometimes adding a colorful straw or offering a fun cup is all it takes to get kids to drink more.

3. Set a timer
Set a timer to go off every 10 minutes or every hour to remind your child to take a sip.

4. Offer something special
If your child is sick, fluids become an important part of helping them feel better faster. If
they refuse water, offer juice or a special drink that they don’t usually get to drink.

5. Freeze it
Yes, popsicles count as hydration - especially when you’re desperate.


Article courtesy of Boogie Wipes

Thursday, January 12, 2017

There's An App for That!: New App to Keep Kids Safe

SitterAdvantage™ is the new app developed by stay-at-home dad Brian Presley and designed to have emergency help in the palm of the babysitter’s hand while helping the sitter do more than just let the kids watch television. The app also features links to the website whattodowiththekids.com where you’ll find a great collection of games, crafts and activities that don’t involve electronics or batteries. Developed in part by the students of Ottawa’s Algonquin College, it is now available on Google Play and the App Store. For the cost of a cup of coffee, babysitters and nannies can become better at their job while parents will have the peace-of-mind in knowing that their kids are happy and safe.

When the sitter arrives, it takes only a few minutes to enter important information about the kids including any handicaps, allergies or medications they may have. A photo is also taken and becomes part of the kid’s profile so that in the event of an emergency, all of the important information is available for the sitter to pass on to the authorities. All information is secure since the app does not transmit information and all of it can easily be deleted at the parent’s request.

An emergency button appears on every page of SitterAdvantage™ and with one touch, the Call 911 icon appears allowing the sitter to call for help and if they are out of the house, the Show My Location icon uses the phone’s GPS to find where they are so that help can find them. The home address along with the profiles of all the kids and parent’s contact information are also displayed so that there is no delay in providing the right information to the 911 operator.

Parents also have one less thing to worry about when they have instructions for the sitter. The Task section allows the sitter to enter the task, instructions and can set a reminder so that nothing gets missed. It’s a great feature to help put the kids to bed on time or for the really important things such as when to give medication.

With links to whattodowiththekids.com, the sitter can keep the kids away from a screen by finding the right games, craft or activity to play with them.The resources section also feature checklists that will help the sitter or nanny choose a job, prepare for it and offer advice on what to look for when they arrive at the job.

Other apps can help you find a sitter or nanny but SitterAdvantage™ is the app that will make that sitter or nanny better. SitterAdvantage™ is available for the iPhone and Android smartphones. More information about how SitterAdvantage™ works can be found at www.sitteradvantage.com.