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book review

It All Begins with Food {Cookbook Review}

Food is a universal language we all speak, something that unifies us. It’s something to be enjoyed, and also the fuel we provide our bodies. If you’d followed the blog for a while, you’ll know that our family loves food, albeit with a few bumps in the road- we’re still gluten free, but other restrictions have since been removed from Ari’s diet- and I’ve sought out options as healthy staples in our diets. We enjoy as many home- cooked and healthy, whole- food based meals as we can, but still indulge in comfort food, etc when we get a craving or are short on time (everything in moderation, no?).

Before kids and since, I love a good recipe. There’s something I find soothing and therapeutic about preparing a meal (note: when the kids are cooperating); it’s a simple pleasure I find a lot of joy in. And while I turn to online sources for much of my inspiration when trying out a new meal idea, I still love turning the pages of a cookbook. There’s something about the tactile nature of running my fingers down the pages and marking recipes to try with sticky notes that I love. So when I had the chance to review the new cookbook by Love Child Organics founder Leah Garrad- Cole, I looked forward to the opportunity.


“Welcome to It All Begins With Food, a book dedicated to clean, whole- food recipes for your entire family”.


Leah and I share the same outlook towards food, with a focus on the quality and integrity of ingredients, especially when it comes to feeding our kids. There is a lot to be said about the source of our food today (how was it grown, where did it come from, etc) and while this isn’t always black and white, Leah offers up a valuable resource in her new cookbook for everyone from new parents to passionate home cooks alike. I discovered her line of quality baby food, Love Child Organics, soon after Ari was born and have had the pleasure of being a brand ambassador with the company and watching it grow over the past few years. The introduction of It All Begins With Food was something I was looking forward to, and now am happy to be sharing my thoughts on the book here with readers. This cookbook will grow with your family, and even if your kids are past the baby and toddler years, it is full of information and recipes you will appreciate and enjoy.

This is a beautiful cookbook, filled with photos and tables of information that compliment Leah’s recipes. But it isn’t all eye candy, and second only to the recipes themselves, the information Leah has gathered in this cookbook make it a great reference to have on hand. What does it really mean to be organic? What’s a GMO? What foods should I avoid introducing to my baby? Are just a few of the questions Leah addresses in It All Begins With Food, along with a section I love, make it yourself, make it better, which features suggestions on how to make pantry staples at home to avoid unnecessary ingredients such as sugar, salt and preservatives. 


“There is an overabundance of of information out there, and it can make the task of feeding your family really confusing and overwhelming. We all want our children to eat well, but it’s hard to know where to start, and with our busy lives, it’s really difficult to find the time to make it happen.”


Alongside the recipes, Leah has included information to help guide readers through food topics that we face today, including:

  • organic foods (one of Leah’s favourite topics)
  • The Dirty Dozen & The Clean Fifteen- foods grown with the most pesticide residue and least, respectively
  • GMOs- what are they and how to avoid them
  • alternative names for sugar used in ingredients lists
  • clean kitchen/ pantry shopping list + tools and equipment 
  • meal planning tips + planner
  • getting your kids involved in cooking + food prep
  • information, tips, and serving suggestions for introducing first foods to baby

 

While this cookbook is a wealth of information for starting out your little one on solids (see For Baby, below), Leah has covered healthy suggestions for the whole family from start to finish: breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, smoothies, creating your own pantry staples (I’m looking forward to diving into this chapter more in the coming months), and recipes for entertaining. I tend to avoid recipes that contain ingredients that are hard to find or seem too complicated; most of the time I have the kids with me when shopping and cooking, so I’ve subscribed to the adage simpler is better on several levels when it comes to the food we eat.

And that also applies to the nature of the ingredients themselves: Leah uses common, clean/ healthy, simple- to- find- ingredients in her recipes, with prep and cooking time around an hour total for many of the recipes (many less than that). This is a cookbook with crowd- pleasing recipes, but doesn’t forget about the person creating the meal. You don’t have to have kids to appreciate her method, but it’s definitely a cookbook created by a parent with parents in mind: healthy food that doesn’t take hours to prep and cook. Thank you Leah!


“With an unwavering focus on replacing ingredients that have little nutritional value with ones that are nutritionally dense, It All Begins With Food ensures that every bite counts while making the end result is pleasurable and the ingredients are easy to find.”


Chapters in the book:

purees & mashes

finger foods

smoothies: the vitamin vehicle

superhero breakfasts to keep them going (and going!)

easy lunches

family- friendly dinners

healthier snacks & treats

let’s celebrate

make it yourself make it better


 

For Baby

For parents looking for information, tips, and recipes for feeding their baby, this book is a wealth of knowledge and I wish it had been around when Ari was a baby. As a Mom, Leah speaks from her own experiences, as well as from the wealth of information and knowledge she has amassed since starting an organic food company; I love this combination of experience and knowledge and I feel this approach will appeal to many parents beginning the food journey with their children. Here are just a few of the highlights for me that I appreciated Leah including:

  • Canadian & US official infant feeding recommendations
  • suggestions on when to start introducing solids + signs to look for that your baby may be ready
  • what foods to start with
  • food allergies + reactions (also the difference between a true allergy and an intolerance/ food sensitivity)
  • how much food + how often
  • baby food recipes (purees + mashes), tips + combinations

    

Whether you’re passionate about healthy cooking, want to incorporate more whole- foods recipes into your weekly meal plan, or starting out a little one on solids, It All begins With Food  includes ideas for all members of the family, and will be a welcome addition to any cookbook library. 

To learn more about Love Child Organics, visit them online:

Website | Facebook | Instagram

It All Begins With Food available online at Amazon.ca and Indigo

Disclosure: I received this cookbook in exchange for my honest review. All opinions are my own. This blog post contains affiliate links. 

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May 11, 2017
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Herve Tullet Book Review {+ Giveaway}

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Growing up I loved reading and I now love cracking open the pages of a book with my own kids. Story time is something we try to make time for everyday and it’s fun revisiting favourites from when I was a kid and finding new books to love, like these ones by Herve Tullet. In the next few months I’ll be teaming up with Raincoast Books to share about some great titles to add to your little one’s library, with a few contests for you to have the chance to win some of the books featured. The first books that I’m sharing about are 3 that  make reading fun and interactive, encouraging young readers to not just read or listen to the words, but to participate in what’s written on the pages, Let’s Play, Mix It Up, and Press Here.  If you’re looking for some fun new books to add to your collection, see below to learn a little more about these great titles and how you can enter to win all 3 for your little one.
 
 
I want to start ff by saying that when a package arrives in the mail, Ari gets excited. Really excited. Even if it’s not for her. But in this case it was, and when she saw that there were books inside, her eyes lit up. I couldn’t wait to read these books with her and we have such a blast when we do- there’s laughing and clapping, and bouncing, and excitement as we turn each page. Reading can be a quiet and calm activity, but it can also be a lot of fun and an opportunity for learning and to encourage participation. These books do just that and I hope you’ll check them out (you can also enter to win all 3 at the end of this post!). Here’s a little bit about each book…
 
Press Here- I heard about this book some time ago and remember it standing out among others  at the store. Like the title suggests, you begin by pressing here and following funny instructions to make coloured dots do different things by pressing on them, tilting the book, and clapping, among other things. It’s a fun way to teach kids how to follow instructions, learn about colours, and differentiate between left and right without it feeling too formal or instructive. 
 
Mix It Up- If you can’t guess by the cover and title, this book’s all about colour and what happens when you do different things to them, like adding black or white, or combining two colours to get another. Readers tilt the pages, close the book, and touch different colours to transform them. Like Press Here it’s a fun and natural way for your kids to learn something without it feeling forced.  
 
Let’s Play- By the time we got to this book, we had a pretty good idea of what we’d be in for- fun! This book begins with a yellow dot (is it the same one from Press Here?) talking to it’s young readers: ‘Hey there! I’m getting pretty bored in here. Wanna play?’. And so the story/ adventure begins. Like the other two books, there are fun instructions to follow, but we really didn’t know what to expect as we turned each page, which made it fun for me as well. Like his other books, Tullet gets his young readers involved, and what’s kind of amazing about Let’s Play is that the whole story is based around a yellow dot and a thin black line. I’ll leave it there so I don’t spoil it for you.
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 
 
What I love most about these books is how fun they are- both for kids and adults. Ari has the biggest smile on her face when we read them, and the laughs are contagious. The bright colours make these books eye- catching and appealing to read, with the interactive pages making readers part of the story. Herve Tullet has a unique style of storytelling and his books are a fun way to mix up story time and make it more interactive. These books are light- hearted and funny and silly, with the added bonus of making learning fun (see below for the finger painting fun inspired by Mix It Up). We love them and I think you will too. They’re available at Indigo or see the end of this post for your chance to win all 3!
 
 
 

A big thank you to Raincoast Books for these 3 great books to add to our collection. To see other current and upcoming titles available through Raincoast books, visit their website.
You can also find them on social media: InstagramFacebook | Twitter
#RaincoastBooks

Titles featured in this post available online at Amazon.ca and Indigo

Herve Tullet is an award- winning author and illustrator, who has received international acclaim. His unique artwork guides children through his books, bringing them into the story and encouraging interaction. Press Here is an international best- seller and is available in 25 different languages.

Disclosure: This post contains affiliate links.

There will be 3 chances to win with Raincoast Books, see below for your other chances to win!
Part 2: #PlayTestShare (Contest now closed)
Part 3: The Little Prince (Contest now closed)Open to Canadian residents only. Must be 18+ to enter.
Deadline to enter for the Herve Tullet Books is March 11


CONTESTS NOW CLOSED. Thank you to everyone who entered. 

February posts sponsored by
 
 
February 26, 2016
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Screen Time, Unplugging, and The Joy of Missing Out

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“My own desire to give up the Internet for a time originated from the growing restlessness and distractedness I recognized in my own life.” 

Christina Crook, Author of  The Joy of Missing Out
Screens: They get used as ‘babysitters’, for entertainment, staying connected, to look up information, and countless other reasons. And I’ll admit it, I’m way more plugged in than I’d like to be. My work has me staring at my laptop screen and phone and I’m sheepishly guilty of looking at my phone more times throughout the day than I care to count. Sometimes I’ll pick it up, catch myself and put it down again  just to prove that whatever that screen holds isn’t as important as whatever else I’m focusing on at that time. 

“In our accelerated culture, we complain about having no time, all of the time, and yet we impulsively spend what free moments we have submerged in the never- ending drama of email inboxes (and) social media…”
I find I’m even more conscious about my screen time now that I’m a Mom; when I spend time with Ari, I like to be fully absorbed in whatever it is we’re doing (but I do forgive myself for grabbing my phone to take photos and capture memories), and I’m also painfully aware that my actions set an example for her. I just don’t want her to think a screen- whether it be a TV, a phone, or eventually a tablet/ computer- is the best way to enjoy life. I know, ironic coming from a blogger who hopes for others to read her work on a screen. But I know I’m not the only Mom reflecting on the role screens play in my family’s lives. 
“Our energies, creativity and time- perhaps the best of us- are being committed to screens”.
Having said that, I think there is a time & place for technology & screens, but we’ve become way more plugged in at the expense of really experiencing life. And I’ll admit one more thing: on the days that I unplug and/ or limit my screen time, I’m much calmer, happier, and content; living in the moment is a simple reminder of how much time we’ve come to spend staring at a screen instead of absorbing what’s going on in the world around us.



“By speeding through life with technology, you reduce what any given moment can hold. By slowing down, you expand it.”
Eric Brende, Author of Better Off: Flipping the Switch on Technology

When I got the opportunity to review Christina Crook’s recent book, The Joy of Missing Out, I was intrigued to read her account about what it was like unplugging for 31 days. The book is based on her project Letters from a Luddite in which Crook chronicled her 31- day internet ‘fast’ and examined “the intersection between technology, relationships, and joy”.

“Human relationships are rich, and they’re messy and they’re demanding. And we clean them up with technology.”
Given the choice, I opted for a physical copy of the book over the e- version (I still prefer reading this way) and snuggled in ready for a good read. Says Crook: I stepped offline for 31 days and chronicled the journey by typewriting and mailing letters to a friend every day. No Google mapping, no email, no Facebook or online news.”  In the book she examines how technology has come to play such a significant, if not overwhelming, role in our lives. It is informative, discussing the progression of communication and technology, and our increasing dependance on devices. She also refers to a variety of authors and experts who offer intriguing tidbits to consider and I found myself reflecting on what they had to say and how it applies to my life (note all of the quotes I’ve included in this post from Crook & other sources within the book). 
While I found the book informative, it read more like a textbook I would have read in my Communications course at business school and I found that it wasn’t what I had thought it would be. As someone who is trying to unplug more herself I was interested to hear more about Crook’s own experiences about her internet fast, how she found she was spending her time in the absence of the world wide web, and her observations throughout the experience. I had looked forward to hearing daily recounts and insights as she progressed through the 31 days. This quote from the book demonstrates what I was hoping to find more of: 

“We are always on, never off. Constant access isn’t a blessing anymore. Like most 21st century humans, I am burning the candle at both ends.”

Don’t you feel you can relate to that? I would have loved to see this internal commentary take a more central role in the book, instead, her experience seems to supplement a book about technology and communications rather than the other way around. While this is not necessarily a bad thing, or a reflection of the quality of the book itself, I can’t help but feel that it was quite impersonal. At times I found myself thumbing forward, wondering when she would begin sharing more candidly about her experience only to find more of the same: information about the past, present, and future of communications and technology and how it impacts our world.
Regardless, learning about how others are tackling our constant connectivity and their own experiences with unplugging caused me to reflect and reinforced my own desire to spend less time in front of a screen. If this is something you are reflecting on in your own life, this book certainly makes an interesting read if you’d like to examine the progression of technology and how society has ended up where it is. I think if you go into reading this book with that outlook, you’ll find it enjoyable and informative, but a personal journey book it is not. Either way, if you have been struggling with finding a balance with technology and enjoying life’s simple pleasures, trying to slow down and  disconnect from the constant distraction and time suck that is the internet, email, social media, etc, I hope you will challenge yourself with the task of unplugging more often. 
If I took nothing else away from this book, it is the reminder that we have to live life to experience it. While I’m not sure I can disconnect for a full month (this blog is a passion of mine!) I am going to definitely be taking more time throughout the week- entire days even- to unplug and forget about what exists outside of my bubble within that time. Technology, social media, etc have all found a place in how we live today, but I embrace the idea that not every moment of my life or someone else’s needs to be documented online for the world to see. Crook puts it well when she states: “Our technologies, while aiming to make our lives easier, have, in effect, made them more complicated. And we cary our complications with us”. Sharing photos and connecting with friends and family half a world away is one thing, but we have succumbed to excess. As the saying goes ‘you probably won’t look back on your life and wish you had worked more’ and I think this same logic can be applied to the time we spend with technology. 
The Joy of Missing Out by Christina Crook is available through New Society Publishers. $17.95 USD/ CAD
Christina Crook is a writer, journalist, and communications professional whose work has been featured in such publications as Vancouver Magazine, Today’s Parent, and the Literacy Review of Canada and has worked for a variety of organizations including the CBC and Rogers Digital Media. A graduate of the School of Communication at Simon Fraser University, she currently resides in Toronto.









March posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting





March 20, 2015
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Upcoming Book Review: The Joy of Missing Out

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Could
you go a whole month without using your smartphone and checking your email? I
don’t think I could, but I find the idea an interesting one. I look at a screen
for work and am guilty of checking Instagram, etc way more
often than I probably should. I sometimes catch myself picking up my phone and
telling myself to put it right back down again. Having said that, I still
prefer a book or a magazine to the e- version. There’s something about holding
it physically in my hands that I just don’t get from reading from a screen or
holding a tablet. Plus after I’ve looked at my laptop & phone all day for
work, I don’t find it relaxing at all to look at the same two screens to
unwind. That’s why I wanted to share this book that I’m going to be doing a
review on, since most of us could probably use some unplugged time, even if we
couldn’t swing  an entire month. 
Here’s
a little bit about the book & author:
Canadian
author and TEDx speaker Christina Crook decided to say goodbye to all
technology, leading her in a journey that resulted in her newest book, The Joy
of Missing Out: Finding Balance in a Wired World. JOMO is the product of
Christina’s passion for exploring the intersection of technology,
relationships, and joy. Her book is available for sale now.
This
book chronicles Christina’s journey and offers new insight into the impact of
technology on our day-to-day lives. After
this Vancouver-born author disabled the data on her smartphone, turned off her
email, and said goodbye to the Internet for 31 days, she said, “I found a
quietness of mind that I’d been hungering for, and I found my closest
relationships deepening in a way that I hoped for.”
The
Joy of Missing Out is the embodiment of Christina’s passion for bringing people
back to a reality where people are able to interact without being distracted by
their online personas and technology is used in moderation. Her book is an
encouragement that great happiness and joy can be found when the people and
experiences in front of you are priority.
The digital world is constantly capturing our attention and
preoccupying our time. The Joy of Missing Out reflects on the idea that
relationships would improve remarkably if people were willing to engage with
each other entirely by setting aside their tablets, computers and smart phones.
I
look forward to sharing my thoughts on this book with you and am curious to
know: How long do you think you could unplug for?
Check
out more on The Joy of Missing Out here
  

February posts sponsored by Little Dreamers Consulting 
February 17, 2015
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