Hello Sunshine: Kick Those Winter Blues

Anyone else feeling the winter blues? I always get to this time of year and ask ‘is it Summer yet’? Once we get through New Years I wish we could flip a switch and bring back the warm and sunny weather, skip all the grey and rain (hey, the rain isn’t always a bad thing but we get a lot of it here and it can get to you when you haven’t seen blue sky in a few days). This time of year is hard for a lot of people, so I thought now would be a good time to think up a few ideas to try and keep everybody in high spirits. I’m sharing 5 below and would love to hear how you count down to the brighter days this time of year!

  1. Plan a vacation. Even if you’re not getting on a plane anytime soon it can be fun to day dream a little, look at some bright and sunny destinations and ignore the gloom outside. A little distraction can be a good thing, no? Where would you go? What would you do? What vacay essentials do you need? And on that note…
  2. Pretend it’s Summer and buy that swimsuit! Or 2. Or 3… I did this in January and had a good laugh at the irony that there’s plenty of time before it’s bikini weather but it added a bit of fun to an otherwise pretty boring month (anyone feel like that about January?) and it gave me something to look forward to in the mail. Plus now I have some pretty new suits for when I head to the pool in the meantime. Little things like that can make a difference on a gloomy Winter day. And if not a bathing suit, maybe you’ve had your eye on a pretty outfit or pair of shoes. Maybe now’s the time to go for it. You deserve it. 😉
  3. Go green. This is a simple one that I’ve heard a few others suggest: bring the outdoors in and add some nature to your home. Fresh flowers and plants add colour and can brighten a room. There’s something about pops of green in a home that adds a sense of calm. It’s a way to treat yourself but also lift the spirits in the house. Added bonus if it’s stems or a plant that smell nice- aromatherapy anyone? Add some throughout your home so you have a little pick-me-up as you go from room to room .
  4. Go play outside. Living in BC, if we stayed indoors all the time because of the rain we wouldn’t get outside much over the course of the year. So sometimes it just means we’ve got to layer up despite the wet and cold and get out there for some fresh air. To put a positive spin on grey and wet weather, the sound of rain is a calming one, the smell of a forest after it rains is pretty amazing, and sometimes getting caught in a downpour makes for some laughs and fun memories. Sometimes we just have to embrace it and when you get back inside to the warm and dry, it’s a great time to cozy up with a cup of tea or glass of wine.
  5. Get a (new) hobby. I know you’re probably thinking ‘I don’t have time’. But remember the point here is to help kick the Winter blues. Maybe it’s time to make time. Instead of getting weighed down, why not put a few minutes aside to try that DIY you’ve been creeping on Pinterest? (Check out this one for a fun Summer/ beach inspired one!) Try a new recipe. Dare a friend to try something new with you. Add some fun to the grey. Find something to enjoy by yourself or with someone and make it a priority as much as you can. Hitting that refresh button and having something to look forward to- even if it’s once a week- can shake up the monotony of the months where you tend to stay indoors more.

Floral romper: Tobi

Hat: DIY (see this post)

Swimsuit: Zaful

Sunglasses: My own

Self Care Ideas

self care

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How often do you make time for yourself? Whether you want to curl up with a book or add some fitness into your routine, help make self-care a priority with these ideas! Self-care has been a topic of discussion with many of the people- men and women- that I know, and I feel like it’s coming up more and more in conversations online as well: we’re busy, burnt-out, and tired, and don’t have enough time to enjoy a hot cup of coffee, let alone enjoy a hobby or find time to exercise. We’re getting lost in the shuffle and losing touch with ourselves. We need to make ourselves a priority and find some time for ourselves (even if only for a few minutes!), and that’s what inspired this post.

Whatever form self-care takes, from a favourite activity or hobby to fitness/ health, to trying something new, it’s personal and something that makes you ask yourself ‘what fills my cup’ or ‘what do I need to do for myself’? The answers can be game changers for your mind, body, and soul, but for many it can be a struggle to find/ make the time. I don’t know when self-care became such a hot topic, but I understand it’s different for everyone. This time of year is a great opportunity to reflect on we want and need for ourselves for the year ahead and ultimately think about our priorities. Finding simple ways to form or strengthen healthy personal habits can make a big difference in our happiness and overall well-being.

Before you tell yourself you don’t have time, think of it this way: it can start with something as simple as ‘drink more water’ and move forward from there (there’s nothing wrong with baby steps!). If at first you find it challenging to find a block of time, start with 5 minutes and build from there. Be kind and have patience with yourself, this is something to be enjoyed, not be another item on a list to stress us out! 😉 I used to get anxiety at the thought of making time for one more thing, even if it was good for me, something I enjoyed, but slowly over time that melted away and my outlook towards self-care changed. Goodbye guilt, hello… contentment, calm, happiness… fill in the blank. Running has become my main fitness-related activity, largely due to convenience and simplicity, but it’s been instrumental in a lot of positive mental changes as well; over time it’s become something I look forward to on both a physical and psychological level and one of the best self- care decisions I’ve made. Self-care can also take different forms throughout the year and as our interests change; there are no set rules other than to make time and enjoy! Even if self-care takes the form of something we don’t love– such as exercise- we ultimately will feel better knowing we made the time for it, invested in ourselves.

For this post I wanted to include a variety of ideas to hopefully inspire making self-care a priority, so I’ve included everything from something as simple as a candle to a cozy chair to hopefully get you thinking about what self-care looks like and means to you. I love curling up in lots of blankets and pillows and reading; add a cup of tea or glass of wine and I’m happy. Whether you have an area in your house that you can dedicate, like a little reading nook or fitness space, or you just want to add touches throughout your home that remind you to make time for yourself- like that just breathe print– I hope this post helps you make self-care a priority and part of your routine.

What are your self-care goals for the year?

Disclosure: this post contains affiliate links.

30 Days Without Coffee

Back in November & December I went off coffee for a month. Before you say it, I know what you’re thinking: Why would you do that to yourself?! You’re crazy!  I definitely heard that plenty of times over those four weeks, along with ‘so how’s that going for you?’. And as hard as it was to give up my morning cup of caffeine- or 2 or 3- I knew I had to give it a try. If you’re like me, your morning cup of coffee is like an extension of your arm- it’s a part of you, you can’t live without it. You start the day off with a cup of coffee and end it with a glass of wine, amiright? 😉

But I was noticing something felt off- I was anxious, high- strung, and getting stressed out way too easily (don’t get me wrong, I’m a type- A, so I tend to be like this, and like to stay busy, but I was starting to feel like it was getting the better of me). So I made myself an appointment with our family naturopath (the same lovely, amazing woman who has helped us so much with Ari’s health) and knew there was a good chance I’d be saying adios to coffee for a while. It’s no secret caffeine can cause or worsen anxiety, so I thought it would be pretty high on the list of things to go.

There were a few other things discussed, including diet, but going coffee- free for a one- month trial was the main factor we discussed (and just for the record, my Doctor kindly mentioned that alcohol is no friend if you face anxiety). I just wasn’t willing to face a month without both- there’s only so much sanity- testing you can try at once- especially when you have kids! ;). I was curious to see how it would impact me; coffee is a part of my morning ritual, and aside from that, I genuinely enjoy coffee, especially on those rare days I get to drink it hot. It’s how I’ve started my day for over a decade, so going a month without the stuff was an interesting idea that had me making pots of decaf after Will had his morning cup (luckily it was getting close to Christmas, so I added eggnog to make it taste better).

But really, do we drink coffee because we need to or because we tells ourselves that we can’t face the day without a cup? I know people who quit drinking coffee, and they not only function (hey, some days that feels like an achievement!), but they swear it’s the best thing they’ve ever done. I’m not out to bash coffee here (and spoiler alert, yes I went right back to it after the month was up, but more on that later), but this was definitely an interesting experience and I thought I’d share about it. I know I’m not the only one who faces anxiety, and finding ways to help doesn’t have to be complicated, you just have to be willing to give them a try. If you’re curious, trying a ‘coffee cleanse’ might be something that helps you too, so I made notes throughout the month of how I felt and the differences I began to notice. Even if you don’t nix coffee for a month, I hope this gives you something to think about when it comes to your own health and well being.

30 days without coffee

Day 1- Headache and so LETHARGIC/ no energy. Took a nap and noticed I’m definitely edgy. Surprised how much not having a cup of coffee in the morning affected me, even if it was just a psychological boost to get the day started.

Day 2- Second day with a headache. Energy not great, but feeling better than yesterday. Made myself decaf and realized how much I do genuinely like/ enjoy coffee. Had McDonalds for lunch as my ‘poor me’ reward for voluntarily opting to nix coffee for a month. 28 days to go… YIPPEE.

Day 3- First day without a headache. Energy a little better.

Day 7- A friend brought over an Sbux Peppermint Mocha and not going to lie, I had a few sips (soooo good!). I just couldn’t resist. Then I did the nice thing and gave it to Will, but I think stopping myself at just 3 sips still counts as will power, no?

Day 8- Officially one week since this thing started. Overall feeling good, but still missing coffee. Had a grown- up tantrum this morning getting ready to head out with the kids and straight up said to Will ‘I’m really missing coffee today’. Poor guy- I think I was nicer when I was pregnant. Picked up a large decaf from Timmies and pretended it was the real thing- pretty much tasted like it was, so I was happy. Good ol’ Canadian girl right here, you can’t beat a good cup from Timmy’s, even if it’s sans caffeine.

Day 10- Noticing that I’m not as anxious, don’t feel stressed out/ overwhelmed as easily. Still feeling low- energy and missing the real thing, but definitely noticing a difference.

Day 15- Grateful it’s close to the holidays and I can pour eggnog in my decaf. I know some aren’t too bad but the stuff I have tastes like flavoured water and just not the start to the morning I want, so I’m letting myself have this little thing to make it taste better.

Day 17- Absolutely can’t deny my anxiety has come waaaaay down. Things that used to get to me don’t bother me as much or as quickly. I’m letting things go and being a little more of the easy going person I like to be. The kids make it tough, not going to lie, but I can’t deny the difference I’m noticing.

Day 20- Counting down the days and getting curious to see what it will be like to have coffee again after not drinking it for a while. Decided that I’ll limit myself to one cup a day when this is over and make decaf on days when I notice my anxiety is bad. I’m sure quitting coffee altogether would be best, but I also want to be realistic about this.

Day 23- Thinking about Bailey’s and coffee as we chat about decorating the tree…

Day 25- Soooo close to the end. Overall, my energy is ok; it’s not great but I don’t feel as lethargic as I did the first week (admittedly I know other factors like what I’m eating have to do with this as well). Glad I’ve stuck this thing out, even though I’ve been tempted (thanks to Will for encouraging me to keep going, even when he was the target of my grumpiness so many times!).

Day 27- Broke down and had a few sips of gourmet coffee at an event. OK, so I’m not perfect. I wasn’t go to but couldn’t resist (some of the best coffee I’ve ever had and couldn’t turn it down). And being this close to the end, I’m going to tell myself I deserve it. 😉

Day 30- LAST DAY!!! Looking forward to my first cup of coffee tomorrow. It’s seriously funny how much I’m looking forward to it. I’ll be stopping at one cup, instead of going back for more like I used to, and see how that works out. If I find my anxiety comes back, I’ll probably make the choice to give up coffee. As much as I love it, it’s not worth me feeling edgy, or the harm that stress and anxiety can do to the body. It’ll be interesting, and I’m hoping I’ve got myself in check these past few weeks to follow through with the goal of limiting myself.

After this experience, I can see why caffeine is considered a drug. I absolutely, 100% missed coffee, craved it, and went through withdrawals. It was a weird experience at first. But it also showed me that I really don’t need a cup of coffee (as much as I enjoy it). Noticing the difference in myself over that 30 days was a good reality check on how we can impact ourselves by the diet choices we make- even with something as simple as a morning ritual that we let get excessive. I get it, some days we just need that extra boost, another cup of coffee, or whatever it is to make the day more manageable, and we shouldn’t be hard on ourselves for it. I’ll always be the first to admit that I couldn’t adult without my coffee and wine, and I don’t want to sound preachy. If you’re having a rough morning, absolutely pour another cup. My point is that if you notice it’s starting to do more harm than good, maybe you need to take a step back and think about it, like I had to do.

What I’ve done since… For the most part, I’ve stuck to the 1 cup a day rule. There have been a handful of times since when I’ve let myself have more if I’m feeling happy & calm. If it’s a morning where I’m feeling anxious or off, I’ll avoid coffee altogether and opt for decaf instead. I’ve done that several times and have found that I can calm myself down and face whatever the day throws at me much better without the caffeine jolt buzzing my nerves. When I started the 30 days, I talked to Will about how I hoped to moved forward during and after this little test, and that if I had to, I’d give up coffee altogether. He was and is encouraging and understanding; on days when I’ve told him I opted for decaf he cheers on the choice I made to help make the day better. And as insubstantial as a cup of coffee may seem, it’s just one of many choices we can make in a day to help feel and be our best selves. Coffee is still something I enjoy- it really is a little ritual for me- but I treat it differently than I did before.

3 Tips to Achieve a Healthy Lifestyle

Living a healthy lifestyle is a goal for a lot of people, but not always one we put first. With work, family, and other things taking up our time we often forget to take care of ourselves.
But it doesn’t take as much time or work as we think it does (so quit the excuses!). Here’s some great advice from Chelsea Van Blankers, a certified personal trainer & fitness instructor on how to get healthy (and stay healthy!). 
Get Moving: Exercise

There is no need to spend hours in the gym!
Even 10-15 minute bursts of activity are beneficial.  When short on time concentrate on large
muscle groups and combination moves. This will burn more calories and cut your
workout time in half. 
For example add bicep curls when doing a lunge. (Holding
a set of dumbbells step one foot back and lower into a lunge position, do a
bicep curl before pressing back up. Then step your feet together and repeat on
the opposite side.) 
Another trick is to add in a plyometric move. This will get
your heart rate up, training your aerobic and anaerobic systems at the same
time. In other words you are doing your cardio and strength training in the
same workout! Example do a set of 8-12 lunge and bicep curls then a set of
10-20 jumping jacks or mountain climbers. There is also no need to do 100’s of
crunches to get a flat tummy. Always mindfully engage your core throughout your
entire workout.  Remember spot reduction
is a myth, abs are really made in the kitchen!
150 minutes of moderate to vigorous aerobic activity per week and a minimum of 2 days of strength training will help reduce the risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, stroke, certain cancers, osteoporosis and type 2 diabetes.  The more activity you do the more health benefits are gained.
Food for Thought:

Eat Right
Body composition plays a huge part in your nutritional needs because muscle takes more calories to maintain (even when you
are not exercising) than fat. So grab a set of weights!
Everyone’s needs are different.  Ditch the fad diets: low carb, no carb, low
fat, no fat, replacement meal shakes, cleanses etc. You will never experience
long term results on a short term quick fix
. All macro nutrients are important
(carbohydrates, fats and proteins).  
counting calories and eat nutrient dense foods. The less processed the food the
better it is for you.
Get real about what a portion size looks like and fill
your plate with colour. 
The biggest challenge with our diet is to
listen to our body. Are you really hungry? Or are you bored, emotional or
thirsty?  Most of us are dehydrated and
thirst disguises itself as hunger. By drinking 2 litres of fresh water a day
you will cut cravings and improve your skin and digestion
. My water bottle
never leaves my side.
Be mindful when you are eating. Really
taste your food.
I know it sounds ridiculous but we are always in a rush and
our eating habits have suffered from it. When you stop and enjoy your food and
chew it properly (which will aid in digestion and nutrient absorption) you will
take in fewer calories and feel more satisfied. 
It takes 15 minutes for your stomach to tell your brain that you are
.  A lot of extra calories and be
eaten in those 15 minutes. We all have felt the ‘I’m about to explode’ I ate
too much feeling after a big dinner. Being mindful will help avoid those
unpleasant feelings.
Get Your A@s in Gear:       Get Help
With so much conflicting information out
there about health and fitness it is hard to know where to start.  A Personal Trainer can help you reach your
goals faster by creating a program tailored to your specific needs and goals,
to fit into your schedule.  On top of
teaching you proper technique and form a personal trainer will coach you
through all the bumps in the road that come with making a lifestyle.  And most importantly make it fun and
A huge thank you to Chelsea for her advice for this post!
About Chelsea: Chelsea
Van Blankers is an ACE Certified Personal Trainer & Group Fitness Instructor and 200RYT Yoga Teacher who is passionate about fitness. Living in Delta, BC, she recently returned from a backpacking trip to Peru where she visited a once in a lifetime treck to Machu Pichu. To find out more about Chelsea & her fitness services, visit her website: Chelseavanbfitness.com
Image Source: Being Fit Is Fun
June posts sponsored by Cutie Pie Boutique

Around Town: Modern Family Expo

On Sunday, Feb. 23 I’m going to be perusing the ModernFamily Expo in North Vancouver. I’m really looking forward to my first event of the year, and this one doesn’t look to disappoint! With 75+ exhibitors, plus fitness classes, workshops, a Kid Zone, and a $10,000 prize up for grabs, the organizers have worked hard to offer something for everyone.

By Moms for Moms
The ModernFamily Expo has been organized by local Moms and ladies in business with a focus on eco- friendly and healthy options for families- two things I look for for my own family and those of my readers; plus I hope you know by now how big I am on supporting local Moms and businesses! The offerings run the gamut from prenatal planning to postnatal needs, food & nutrition, health & wellness, active living, and eco- friendly solutions. There’s the added bonus of complimentary food and beverage samples on offer from some of the exhibitors, so you can try some of the products out for yourself on the spot. 
Something for the Kids
There are so many great things for the kids to do and see I’m going to put them in list form for you! You can check all of these activities out in the Expo Par- T Perfect Kid Zone at the event:
 Bouncy castle (!!!)
– Face Painting
4 Cats craft station
Giggles Fun Dough play station (*wheat free for kids with allergies)
Gymboree play area
– Cinderella meet & greet
Whole Foods Market ‘play with your food’ station
Something for Mom & Dad
While the event is going to be a lot of fun, Moms and Dads know that packing up the family can be a lot of work. Again, the organizers have you covered (the benefit of having an event planned by Moms!). There will be the Family Lounge- courtesy of UsedVancouver.com– to relax in when you need to take a break. Complete with a water station, breastfeeding area, stroller parking, and change tables, the lounge will offer a valuable rest area for families so they don’t have to leave and re- enter the event to attend to their little one’s needs. Once you’re re- energized, you can take in Modern Mama speaker series for some great info for families. 
Do Good While Having Fun
In addition, new and expectant Moms will be able to pre- register for activities such as Boxing Babes and Yogapod prenatal classes. Plus Westcoast Families magazine will be hosting a Family Photo Contest for the chance to be featured in an issue. Proceeds from the classes and photo contest will benefit the Whole Planet Foundation, a foundation started by Whole Foods Market with the goal to aid poverty- stricken communities in developing nations. 
If that wasn’t enough opportunity to help those in need, one of my favourite organizations, BabyGoRound (remember our recent feature on them???) will be at the event collecting new and gently used baby items to distribute to local families in need. If you’d like more info about what BabyGoRound collects, check out this page.
Consistent with their eco- friendly focus, the Expo is partnering with green companies and using renewable resources to power and support the event. This includes using The Bicycle Valet(to encourage travel via pedal), Zero Waste Solutions to provide recycling throughout the event, Greener Print sustainable printing solutions, and Bullfrog  Power (the event is powered by 100% BC wind power!).
The event will be from 10am to 3pm next Sunday, Feb. 23 at the Pinnacle Hotel at the Pier in North Vancouver. You can purchase tickets for the ModernFamily Expo in advance online for $8 or $10 cash at the door.  If you want more info on the event or to see the list of exhibitors, check out the ModernFamily Expo website and Facebook page. Hope to see you there!

How would you like to win free entry to the event???? The organizers have given TPB 2 adult tickets- a $20 value!- to give away! To enter, leave a comment below or on our Facebook page about how you’re trying to go green with your family with #ModerFamilyExpo in the comment. The contest deadline is Friday, Feb. 21 at 11:59pm, so get your entries in ASAP!

Logo & images courtesy of Modern Family Expo.