The Healthy Family Expo is coming up this Sunday for the 6th year and I’m looking forward to checking out some new exhibitors plus some returning favourites (there’s going to be 200+!). Our family has gone every year since it started and each event gets bigger and better (and based on what organizers have planned, Healthy Family Expo 2019 looks like it’s going to be the best one yet!). See below for event details and highlights, what’s new to the 2019 event, plus some of my picks to check out this year, returning and new.
Click below to shop some of my favourites from #HFE2019 (I’m just a little excited to try out Nora’s dairy-free ice cream!). Love Child Organics and FreeYumm are two of our family’s favourite snack brands, featuring healthy and allergy-friendly options for your little ones (also, the LCO Cookbook by founder Leah Garrad Cole is a great addition to your cooking library. And if you’re looking for some music the whole family will love (aka the adults won’t cringe when the kids request it! 😉 ), Jessie Farrell is a local Vancouver singer-songwriter who has produced several albums for kids; you can check her out during the Gumboot Kids Live Shows.
Have you ever thought about working with a personal trainer? For the past few months, I’ve been working with Erin from Muscles and Mommies and have been enjoying getting my butt kicked trying out her Ultimate FitB!tch training package. I consider myself fairly disciplined when it comes to exercise, but this experience has taught me that an added layer of accountability can go a long way. Whether you are trying to add fitness into your routine, or want to switch things up and try working with a personal trainer, I hope you find this post helpful.
Self-care has become a buzz word over the past few years and whatever form it takes for you, it’s a positive reminder we’re seeing everywhere to find time to take care of ourselves. For me, self-care comes in a few forms, but exercise is one that satisfies me on many levels with the added benefit of getting my body in better shape. I heard about Erin and her personal training business, Muscles and Mommies, at my friend Janette’s third annual #AtoZSelfLove Yoga Retreat last October, and the rest, as they say, is history. After working with Erin for two months I want to share a progress report and why I’m continuing to work with her moving forward (initially Erin and I agreed on an exchange for a two-month period, so I could share about her services with readers. I have enjoyed our sessions so much that I’m excited to continue working with her as a paid client! If that doesn’t tell you something about Erin and her personal training services, I don’t know what to tell ya).
From our first conversation, I felt an instant connection with Erin and knew I’d love working with her.
This is the first time in several years that I have worked with a personal trainer. I came into this experience with Erin and Muscles and Mommies not really sure what to expect with my only hope being that I could work on strengthening my body and feeling better from the inside out. For me, this journey wasn’t going to be about a number on a scale (even though that lurked in the back of my mind), but about making my body stronger and healthier.
My fitness journey over the past couple of years has been largely focussed on cardio (running) and yoga. In general, that routine was working well, and my cardio was great, but my overall strength was lacking. I was only focusing on certain areas and neglecting others; then I just fell off the exercise wagon altogether, which brings me to last October…
When I first met Erin and talked to her about my fitness journey and goals, there was an instant connection and comfort. Here was someone I could talk to openly and comfortably about my body, my fitness experiences, and goals, and in return have a realistic expectation of where my body was capable of going since having two kids. What I loved about Erin right off the bat was that she advocates for women in a way that transcends physical goals related to training; she has a respect for and understanding of the female body and its capabilities, and has an amazing way of helping her clients feel encouraged and empowered but not limited by the physical changes that they have gone through (pregnancy, childbirth, aging). Her overall message: enjoy the journey.
After deciding that working together would be a fit, Erin checked out what workout equipment I had so she knew what I had to work with and conducted an initial assessment and spoke to me about my goals and expectations. What did I hope for? What areas did I want to focus on? She then made it her goal to help me get there, but with a gentle reminder that it may not happen as fast or possibly quite in the way I wanted it to. For example, I like a flat stomach and having toned abs, but since having two children achieving that goal has become a lot harder, if not impossible to obtain. No matter how hard I try, things are just a little softer and squishier where my babies spent 9 months each; something I’m proud of my body for doing, but nonetheless a change I have had to accept. But through our initial conversation, Erin was able to help me understand what realistic expectations of my body were, and that regardless of the results at the end of this two months, the process was going to be an amazing one, to embrace the journey.
In addition to the initial consultation and a personalized workout plan, Erin also offers access to the Muscles and Mommies closed Facebook group, The Fit B!tches, as part of her personal trainer programs, which you gain access to upon signing up for one her monthly fitness packages. Here she offers demonstrations of certain exercises, fitness tips, links to articles of interest, recipes, and group challenges. She also sends out monthly newsletters featuring a recipe and exercise of the month, and specials, among other info. If training with Erin wasn’t value enough already for the monthly fee, the additional resources she provides further extends their investments in her services.
Her mantra and outlook is something I absolutely love about Erin and her approach to physical training.
As a former Doula and as a mother herself, she understands how our bodies change as we age and the changes that pregnancy and childbirth bring. Two factors that are not always related but certainly can be. Erin’s outlook and understanding have been things that continue to motivate and inspire me as I continue my fitness journey with her. Thanks to my weekly Skype sessions with her (2 per week), I’ve come to a point with my body that falls somewhere between pride and acceptance. Pride of what my body has done and has been able to accomplish through these training sessions, and acceptance that how I feel means waaaaaay more than any number I see on a scale and that the strength I have built both inside and out surpasses any ideal I had to let go of in my head.
My body is not what is used to be; it’s better. In all it’s imperfect, post 2- babies glory.
It’s safe to say, I’m loving seeing the results and the hard work paying off. But just so you don’t think I’m dancing around every week like a unicorn bouncing on rainbows, let’s be real for a minute. Admittedly many nights I am tired and burnt out heading into our sessions, the idea of relaxing with a book much more appealing than ramping up for a workout. But I know I’ll feel so much better afterward and I look forward to my time with Erin, so I push through my lack of motivation and am always better for it. When we started working together, Erin was just launching her Skype sessions and they have proven to be a valuable option for me; I love working out in person, but training with her via Skype has made her services much more accessible and eliminated the challenge of coordinating childcare, etc.
Working out in the convenience of my own home with a personal trainer? Yes, please!
As I have mentioned, I am looking forward to working with Erin on an ongoing basis, and can’t recommend her enough. Even if you don’t live within her service boundaries, but are wanting to work with a personal trainer, her online personal training sessions via Skype are a great option to consider. If you would like to learn more about her range of services, make sure to visit the Muscles and Mommies website. You can also find Muscles and Mommies on social media: Instagram | Facebook.
Disclosure: I was provided with two months of personal training services in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own.
There’s something about a good, warm muffin right out of the oven that’s hard to beat. Even more so when it’s gluten-free muffins that are just as good (if not better!) than the regular version. We’ve experimented with a variety of recipes over the years but this one for gluten-free blueberry banana out muffins has been a hit on many levels: Healthy? Check. Tasty? Check. Liked (loved) by the kids? Check. Easy to make? You guessed it, check!
I’ve made these muffins with both regular unbleached flour and GF flour and you can’t tell the difference, they’re that good.
If you’re gluten-free, you know how satisfying it is when you find a recipe that doesn’t taste like cardboard, isn’t loaded with sugar, and is as good (maybe better?!) than the regular version. Whip up a batch of these for weekday breakfasts or snacks, or add them to your weekend brunch selection. Whatever way you make them, I hope you enjoy them as much as our family does! PS for more GF recipes like this one, make sure to check out the blog’s Recipes page!
Ok friends, I’m just going to say this up front: I’m excited about this post. Our family has been juicing for some time and having the chance to work with a company whose products you love was a great way to kick off this month. Will and I shared a comparison of two styles of Breville juicers on Instagram Stories earlier this month (look under the Food highlights and tap through to see)- our existing, centrifugal juicer and our new slow compression juicer- and I’m now sharing some more information about them, plus giving away a juicer to one lucky Canadian reader!
If you’re interested in trying juicing, or already do, read on to learn more + enter to win!
We’ve been really happy with the juicer we got from Breville five years ago, the Juice Fountain Elite, but we’ve been wanting to try a slow compression juicer like The Big Squeeze for some time. The main difference between the two styles is that the centrifugal juicer (the Juice Fountain Elite) uses rotating blades at high-speed to extract the juice, while a slow compression juicer (The Big Squeeze) crushes and squeezes the juice out. The idea being that there is no heat generated during the process, leaving the nutrients intact.
When we had the opportunity to try out a slow compression juicer, we wanted to test the two juicers to compare and honestly both perform very well, it just comes down to the style of juicer you prefer and what your budget is.
As I mentioned with our existing Breville juicer, the Juice Fountain Elite, that we purchased a couple of years ago, we’ve been very happy and impressed with the quality and performance. Before purchasing Will did research into the different styles of juicers and Breville came back at the top of the list. This juicer still performs great, and we have replaced the filter basket twice simply due to use (which cost us approx $55 CAD each time, an investment we feel was well worth it both times to extend the life of our juicer).
Let the testing begin!
When it came time to try our new juicer, we decided to test them side-by-side and use an equal amount of ingredients for both juicers to get as accurate of a comparison as we could. This was a fun way to try out out new The Big Squeeze while also comparing the performance of two different styles of juicers. Having recently replaced the filter basket in our Juice Fountain Elite it was almost like having two brand new juicers to compare.
Centrifugal vs Slow Compression: The Results
To cut right to the chase, the new The Big Squeeze is quieter than our other juicer and produced more juice with the same amount of produce, and the pulp that was leftover was much dryer (we weighed the pulp from both batches of juice to compare how much moisture was left over, ie how efficient the juicers were at extracting the juice). One item to note in the preparation process for The Big Squeeze is that you have to cut your produce into smaller pieces than with a centrifugal juicer like the Juice Fountain Elite to fit into the shoot at the top, as opposed to simply feeding it straight down. It’s a minor additional step in the preparation, then you simply use the wand to help push the produce down the shoot where it is crushed and then squeezed. (Visit this link for our go-to juice recipe)
To view the juicing process of both a centrifugal juicer and a slow compression juicer, check out the videos on my Instagram Stories under Food highlights. Our family has been very happy with all of the Breville products we have bought over the years, especially the juicers, and we would happily recommend this brand and either of these juicers. Note: A fun bonus with The Big Squeeze juicer is that you can watch the process through the clear shoot, which is something the kids like to watch. Our kids already like to help in the kitchen, but this brings another level of involvement and fun to a healthy food option they can be a part of.
What we liked about this juicer
– yields more juice
– easy to clean
– great value for the price
If you’re in the market for a juicer I highly recommend either of these models, and I feel The Big Squeeze is an exceptional value for what you pay- especially when you take into account how efficient it is in extracting juice. Groceries aren’t cheap and the more juice you can get the better! I’ll include some basic product stats onThe Big Squeeze below, but you can also find both the juicers mentioned in this blog post on Amazon, including product- specific info. One more note: when we bought our originalJuice Fountain Elite on Amazon a few years ago, Will did quite a bit of research and found the reviews very hopeful. It’s definitely worth it to take some time to read them and I hope that this review helps inform your purchase when it comes time to buying a juicer.
What does having a more positive mindset mean to you? A few weeks into the year and I feel like a word that keeps circling around in my head is mindfulness. It was something that I thought about a lot in the second half of last year and I feel like it will continue to be a focus this year, especially when it comes to having a more positive outlook and inner sense of peace and calm.
What is mindfulness?
Mindfulness is the psychological process of bringing your attention to what is happening in the present moment. Not worrying about the past or the future, but being fully present in the now. The idea being that focusing on the present will bring you inner peace and calm rather than worrying about things that can’t be changed in the past, or the ‘what ifs’ of the future. This inner calm and focus takes practice and is developed through practices such as meditation and other actions/ activities, such as breathing exercises.
For me, mindfulness has come to be a daily focus, working towards healthy mental habits. On a good day, it’s a lot simpler, more of an enjoyable habit. On my bad days it’s a constructive, challenging exercise to help manage anxiety and stress. Like honing any habit it takes time and effort, but it’s something I’m making an effort to work on a little bit every day and slowly but surely these efforts are paying off and I am developing new tools to manage my anxiety and counter it in a positive way by redirecting the way I think about things (ie the ‘what ifs’ and the ‘should bes’, etc).
Mindfulness is a word I heard a lot last year, but it wasn’t something I pursued until towards the end of the year. To be honest, I sometimes had a hard time focusing and this is where a lot of my effort comes in. In order to be more positive, more mindful, I needed to turn inwards and focus, not fall into old mental patterns simply because they were my old internal go-tos.
In other words, focus on the present.
Don’t focus on things in the past you can’t change and don’t worry about the future. Easier said than done, but not impossible. By living in the moment, by being present, you can free your mind from things that are weighing you down and infuse more positivity. There are many simple things you can do each day to help create a more positive, calm mindset, and the best part is you don’t need much else outside of yourself to do so.
From chatting with others, I think mindfulness is something a lot of us are thinking about. We’re becoming more self- aware and reflective; we’re looking for ways to bring peace and calm into our lives, and for all the external things we can do, there are just as many internal things we can do as well. Enjoying a happier, calmer, more fulfilling life doesn’t depend on anyone else or our circumstances- though those things can certainly have a big influence- it depends on our outlook and how we travel through each day.
I’m no expert. I don’t have a degree in psychology and I navigate this mindful path anew every day- because what two days are the same, right?- but I can speak from my own experience and share about it here, hoping some of the simple actions and rituals I try to include in each day will be helpful to others trying to focus on the positive, seeking peace, and a more fulfilled, content life not chained by anxiety, worry and stress.
I still have bad days, bad moments, I still stumble and fall. But what I notice is that I can pick myself up a little better, combat anxiety a little easier, and focus on the positive a little faster to pull myself out of a negative thought spiral than I could before. And this is because I’ve made it a personal goal to be more mindful of where my mind is in this present moment, working to keep my mind traveling down a positive path, redirecting it when negative thoughts jump into the mix and try to take the driver’s seat.
So if being more mindful is something you’re also working towards, for whatever reason(s) you’re seeking it out- a sense of calm, better sleep, feeling more content, having a more positive outlook- etc, I hope some of the simple tools that I’ve turned to will also be helpful for you. I try to use methods that can easily be incorporated into my daily routine, but I’m also trying to put aside 5- 10 minutes each day to help focus on a more calm, positive mind space. Nothing over-the-top or fancy, just simple things that add up over time to create positive, mindful habits.
None of these ideas are necessarily groundbreaking, you’re probably familiar with some if not all of them, but the reason I’m sharing them with you is that they have been helpful for me and I have found that over time they’ve become positive triggers for me, working a little quicker, becoming more of a go-to response than that of unease and anxiety. Finding inner calm is unique for everyone, but these ideas will hopefully give you some ideas or have you reconsidering ones you’ve heard of when you hear it from someone who has herself felt overcome and trapped by anxiety and has found ways to combat it through mindful practices.
I would love to hear what you think and what methods you use to create a more positive, mindful mental space for yourself. Have you tried any of these methods? Liked or disliked them? Sharing ideas around this can be so helpful, especially when you realize you’re not alone. So here they are, my 5 favourite mindful habits.
5 Ideas to be More Mindful Every Day
Think: the smell of something baking in the oven, the scent of a loved- ones perfume/cologne, etc- smells can be comforting. Find a scent you enjoy, one that is calming and encourages you to breathe deeply. Essential oils and diffusers are a popular choice, but scented candles, room sprays, and fresh flowers are other options. Take long, slow, deep breaths, calming your mind and body from the inside out
Put aside a few minutes to quiet your mind. Even 5 minutes at the beginning or the end of the day. Think about goals, things you’re grateful for, etc. My mind tends to wander. A lot. So this is a positive, challenging exercise for me and one that I find very helpful. Ideally find a quiet spot to sit or lie down and put on some relaxing music, light a candle, and create a calming space. You can even meditate while going about your day- while making breakfast, sipping your coffee, etc, activities like this are great opportunities to focus on the moment you are in and focus/ quiet your mind without stopping what you’re doing (I find this especially helpful since my anxiety will often creep up during the day when I’ve got things to do and have to find ways to quiet my mind while carrying out my to-do list).
Find Little Rituals
Light a candle, play calming music, water plants, dig in the dirt, or find some other little ritual to help you recenter/ refocus on positive, calming thoughts. Whether you sit and really focus on the activity itself or the action of creating a more calming space helps you subconsciously calm down, seek out visual cues and actions that trigger inner warmth and joy. Really focus on the simple task at hand, noticing little details, redirecting your mind from negative thoughts to become fully present with what is right in front of you. Pay attention to your five senses and try to allow yourself to be fully present in what you’re doing.
Practice an Attitude of Gratitude
It’s a pretty safe bet there will be ups and downs with every day. Some days those highs and lows are more pronounced and others the day seems to coast along nicely. But regardless, a helpful way to bring your mind into a positive space and create a positive mental habit is to think about what you’re grateful for each day. If you prefer to start your day with this practice, great, it’s a solid way to kick off your day. But it’s also something you can do throughout the day when you need a pick-me-up or notice yourself slipping down a negative rabbit hole. I like to think about what I’m grateful for at night before bed, it helps me wind down and sends me off to sleep in a positive mind frame. I have a gratitude journal that I jot bullet- points in, thinking back over the day and pulling out all the positives. Some days I make a few simple, general notes; maybe it wasn’t such a great day, but I find something to remind me of the positives. On others I fill the page, recounting everything from the biggest to the smallest moments that filled my heart that day. A simple little ritual that has had a big impact on my overall mental state and if you haven’t tried this method I hope you do. Even if a day feels hopeless/ lost, something as basic as fresh air, a cup of hot coffee, or hearing a favourite song can be a cue for other things that happened throughout the day that made it a little better. Let the positive flood gates open!
Focus on Breathing
Probably one of the simplest, most self- contained of any mindful practices I’ve come across and found helpful. But in moments of angst and panic this can feel like a much tougher task. Try and take long, slow, cleansing breaths. In through the nose, out through the mouth. Repeat. Feel your lungs and body fill with oxygen, spreading the calm throughout. Sometimes this can help almost instantly and others it takes a longer period, but slowing and concentrating on your breathing can help create an overall feeling of calm.
As I said before, I’m no expert. Just someone looking for methods to help enjoy a more peaceful, content, joy-filled life. Through these mindful practices I am learning how to address my anxiety and stress in a much more constructive way, and breaking it down rather than having it build up and become overwhelming. There are days that are more challenging than others, but the more I work on these mindfulness techniques, the better I feel that I can bounce back.
I hope you find this post helpful. Sometimes simple is better and I am finding that these simple techniques add up to create a big difference. If you’ve tried these methods I’d love to hear if you find them helpful, or if not, what you have found that is.
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