30 Minutes on Sunday So I Can Have Weekday Sanity & Make Sure We’re All Eating to Nourish Ourselves

“I just don’t have time” is always the response I get when I talk about how easy it is to cook nourishing foods at home without relying on prepared, packaged, or processed foods.  And how it IS possible to find nourishing foods that even the pickiest eater will tuck into.

After my post yesterday, in which I relayed my rather strong feelings on how we should be eating, and the consequences we can expect when we repeatedly subject our body (and that of every member of our family) to inflammation, I thought I should maybe try to tackle this “I don’t have time” issue . . .

Here’s the thing.  YOU DO HAVE TIME.  I promise!

I know.  You’re busy.  I get it.

So . . . . how do you make more time?

Start by blocking off half an hour on Sunday.  Preferably in the morning.  Preferably when the whole family is home (this of course depends on the ages of your kids).

Go through your fridge – toss out anything that needs to go.  And figure out what food you need to get you through the week.  It’s at this time that I menu plan for the week – my kids both have lunch programs at their school, and the Husband and I eat salads each day for lunch – so I plan breakfast and dinners for the week.  From there, I make a grocery list.  Depending on what we’re having in a given week, I may schedule in a mid-week grocery shop as well.  But since we’re in the dead of winter, there isn’t much exciting fresh produce in the stores, and I am happy to have frozen meat in the freezer for dinners (especially now that I have an InstantPot, but that’s a story for another day), I can go from Sunday night through Friday night with one grocery shop on Sunday.  It’s at this point that the Husband usually heads out to the grocery store, but if that isn’t in the plan for the day, I have my list ready to go for Monday morning.

Once I have taken care of the food planning side of things, I tackle the calendar for the week.  I make sure everyone knows if there’s something special going on that week – from field trips to appointments to nights the Husband will be working late.

Then I tackle the school bags.  Since my kids are still young, I make sure that both their bags are emptied of garbage and any other detrius that accumulated during the week.  I also make sure that they have everything in their bags that needs to be in there.  As my son is getting older, I have him check his school schedule and help pack any gym clothes, winter clothes, or homework that he needs for the next day.

Next up is the activity bags.  I get the dance, skating, swim and hockey bags ready for the week.

I also make sure that my purse is cleaned out, that my gym bag is ready to go, and that I have everything in order for my week.

I print out the charts for the week for the kids.  (Sure, this may seem a bit tiger-mom-ish – but, most of the things on the charts are things they have to do anyway, like homework and practice piano.  These charts simply transfer the responsibility to them to ensure that they get the work they need to get done, done.  And if we get extra work done . . . well, then that’s just a bonus!  I also sometimes add in incentives for them in case they want to do more work.)

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And then I sit down to plan out my week, what things I want to get done and when I’m going to do them.  I am absolutely LOVING using both my Powersheets and my Simplified Planner – between these two tools, I have been able to spend the last three weeks chipping away at my to-do’s and my goals, all without feeling overwhelmed by the enormity of my to-do list or my long-term goals.

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Ok . . . I know what you’re going to say . . . but . . . YES, you can do all this in THIRTY minutes!  You can take longer if you want . . . but it really can be done in just half an hour!

So, how does this save my sanity exactly?  Well, first off, come tomorrow morning, when we’re jolted back to the reality of the work/school week, I know that at a minimum, the whole family is on the same page with breakfast, and there will be no last minute running around trying to find/pack what we need for the day!  Repeat that for each day of the work week, and you’ll be amazed how much more relaxed you are!!  When the mornings go well, the rest of your day seems to magically go well too . . .

I also know, come Monday morning, exactly how my week is going to work.  I know that I won’t have to make unnecessary (and time-wasting) trips to the grocery store.  I know that there will be no last-minute panics with the kids needing something.  And I know what I can expect to get done each day.  Of course, I also know where I have pockets of time to fit in anything unexpected that might come up during the course of the week.

And how does this mean we’re all nourished properly?  Well, first off, by menu planning, I can see at a glance what our food intake for the week looks like – making sure we’re not eating too much of one thing, or too little of another.  Secondly, I know what to take out of the freezer in the morning so I’m never caught at 5:00 with nothing to feed the family, and I’m never in a situation where I have to resort to eating out / packaged / processed / prepared food.

Sure, we have nights where we don’t get home until 5:30, and the kids are still young enough to need dinner at around 6.  So on those nights, we have quick-to-prepare dinners – things like pasta sauce on quinoa pasta, or a meat that can be quickly grilled on the barbecue.  And on those nights when we have more time at home, we can have dinners that take longer to cook – things like roast chickens.

Taking it one step further, I can also ensure that there are enough “intentional” leftovers that I have tasty things to throw in my lunchtime salads (I am quite certain that there is nothing better than left over roasted sweet potatoes in a salad . . . but that’s just my opinion).

We’re now so used to this routine, that the kids are taking part in the menu planning, and helping to cook the dinners as time allows.  This is adding yet another layer to my sanity as dinner is taking less time to prepare at night, the kids are FAR more willing to eat what they’ve cooked, and we all have more time to do the things that we need/want to get done.

So . .  . I know it’s now Sunday afternoon .  . . but maybe try even just packing your kids’s or your own bags for tomorrow and making sure that you have everything you need for the week.  See how even just that little change can make your weekdays go so much more smoothly . . .and if you can, add in the menu planning!

I promise, not only will you have some sanity back, you’ll also feel better from feeding yourself better!

(And of course . . . the real bonus . . . check out how your kids’ behaviour changes when they start eating more whole foods . . . yet another sanity saving tip!!)

Happy Sunday!

 

 

 

 

 

“We Are Creatures of Consequence”

Earlier this week I had the privilege of spending the day in the labs of the Krembil Discovery Tower at Toronto Western Hospital run by some of our country’s top researchers in the fields of Osteoarthritis and Alzheimers disease.  It was absolutely fascinating to meet with Dr. Kapoor and Dr. Weaver, the scientists in their labs, and to hear about the amazing research that is being carried out by these doctors and their respective teams.

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Fascinated by magnified images of cartilage – both healthy and diseased

As I have reflected back on my day in the labs, what strikes me most is the common thread in both osteoarthritis and Alzheimers disease, and in fact in most disease: inflammation.

I was quite literally shocked when I was shown an image of a knee affected by osteoarthritis.  Not just because of the extent of the deterioration of the cartilage (it’s no wonder people experience so much pain with osteoarthritis), but because of the damage that had also been done to the bone beneath the cartilage; the damage of this disease was not limited to just one joint, but the damage extended throughout the body.

And while these amazing and talented doctors and scientists are working hard to find ways to ease, or reverse the effects of these diseases, the single biggest way to influence the amount of chronic inflammation in our bodies, and therefore our risk of disease, is through what we eat.  Sugar and processed foods, in all their forms, have been directly linked to increased inflammation and in turn disease.  While conversely, whole, organic, “real” foods have been shown to decrease inflammation and ease disease.

I found it highly ironic, that after my day in the labs, the quote below would show up in my Pinterest feed.

“You must live with the full knowledge that your actions will remain.  We are creatures of consequence” – Zadie Smith

Every time we reach for that sugary treat, that soda, or pretty much any processed food, we are choosing inflammation, and ultimately we are choosing disease in some form.

Our daily food choices, for ourselves, our families, our kids, are not without consequences. Our actions will most certainly remain; and will be evidenced in our health and that of our families and our kids.

As we enter the third week of January, when the resolve to follow through on all those New Year’s resolutions to eat better, develop a healthier lifestyle, improve disease starts to wain, please remember that eating good, whole foods isn’t about loosing weight (although that can be a very pleasant side effect), it’s about preserving your health and vitality.  It’s about preventing inflammation and the cascade of effects that it will have on your body that eventually lead to disease.

And when we set a good example with our eating habits for our families and especially for our kids, we will most certainly have a tangible and positive effect on their long-term health prospects too.

 

 

When the Kids Take Over Dinner

Santa brought both kids knife sets this year.  They also each got cookbooks.  And since I had left the last week of their winter break largely unplanned, while I was menu planning at the start of the week, I suggested that the kids be in charge of dinner on Wednesday night. They thought this was the single BEST idea they had ever had and set to work choosing recipes they might make from their cookbooks.  Each armed with a fresh pad of post-it notes and a pencil, started to look through their books, and hour later, they had settled on what they wanted to cook.  The older one was to be the “chef” while the little one was to be the “pastry chef” – as in one would be in charge of the main course, and the other dessert.

Over the course of the first few days of the week, this little adventure turned into a full-on production with our house slowly being turned into a restaurant.  Menus were printed.  And re-printed.  Drawings of how each course is going to be plated were completed and hung on the fridge.  Designs of what the cake that was decided on for dessert should look like were similarly been completed.  And without asking permission, guests, in the form of my parents, were invited to eat at this very special eatery.

There was great excitement when we got to grocery shop for this dinner.  And even greater excitement when I announced that we would be baking the cake after lunch on Tuesday.

As I put the kids to bed the night before the dinner was to take place, I noted that they had even assembled the “fancy” clothes they planned to wear for the occasion.

They awoke the morning of the dinner to a level of excitement that almost rivalled that of Christmas morning.  While I was cleaning up from breakfast I heard them set up a “reservations desk” at the front door (a little Ikea table adorned with toy cash registers and phones) pretending to answer the phone and accept and turn down “reservations” for their restaurant.

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And then the preparations began in earnest.

The table was set, complete with flowers arranged by the little one.  The cake was frosted and decorated.  Everything that could be prepared ahead of time, was prepped.  So we took a break, had a quick visit to the ROM and a “treat” lunch out, and came back in time to finish up getting ready for the dinner.

The kids made excellent hosts, serving drinks, appetizers, dinner, and then dessert, clearing the plates between each course, and in true restaurant style, presented us each with a “bill” at the end of the meal (play money was used to settle our tabs!).  The food was fantastic (they did have some help from the Husband cooking the main dish which was pan-fried fish), and the entire experience, as a mom, was so wonderful to watch.

I hesitated to share this experience on the blog – this little anecdote is almost too much.  But in the end I opted to write about it because I wanted to share a story to show what kids are capable of when they’re given free time to pursue their interests.  Sure, I could have signed them up for camps, put them in activities, where they may or may not have had much fun or learned something.  But by letting them “hang out” at home, they were able to make a little dream they had a reality.  They got to work together.  And they go to produce something that they were both extremely proud of.  As summer camp registration season is almost here – as tempted as I may be to sign the kids up for any number of the multitude of camps that are available to us – this experience will serve as a stark reminder to give the kids lots of free time this summer – time to follow their interests, time to play alone, or with each other, and time to just be.  Maybe you can do the same???

 

Spreading Light With a Little Project for Brain Tumour Patients

Late yesterday afternoon, in a small boardroom within the Neurology department of Toronto Western Hospital, I was privileged to see the culmination of a project that almost three years ago was little more than a glimmer of an idea shared between three like-minded ladies, all touched by harsh reality that is life with a brain tumour.

Let me explain.

We are beyond fortunate to have the amazing healthcare system that we do in Canada.  We have some of the best doctors in the world performing some of the most advanced surgical procedures in the world.  And everyone in the country has equal access to these doctors and the phenomenal work that they do.

We are also fortunate in this country to have some truly wonderful support services, that are also often offered free of charge, for patients and caregivers affected by a host of illnesses and diseases.

But what can be missing in our healthcare system is a way to match patients and their caregivers with the myriad of support services that are available to them.

I found this out first hand as I made my way through my brain tumour journey.  I wasn’t sure who or where to turn to when I had questions.  And so, after meeting a woman who had just travelled the brain tumour journey with her husband also under the care of my neurosurgeon (and who is now a good friend), and along with my mom, and idea was born.

Starting today, all new patients of my neurosurgeon will receive a small bag.  Inside, they will find a pamphlet, co-authored by my friend, my mom, and myself, outlining all the pertinent hospital information new brain tumour patients might need.  In it, you’ll find all the policies and procedures for the doctor’s office, little things like the hours and locations of the blood labs in the hospital, and BIG things, like where to go when you need help – medical or emotional, regardless of where you are in your brain tumour journey.

Also included is a brochure for an absolutely amazing support centre called Wellspring where all cancer patients and their caregivers, including patients with either benign or malignant brain tumours, can go for support.

And lastly we’ve included the Brain Tumour Foundation of Canada’s handbook.  So patients will have, at their fingertips, the most accurate information about brain tumours, of all kids, at their fingertips (eliminating, we hope, the need for endless google searches that may or may not yield accurate information).

I know this doesn’t sound like much, but it is our sincerest hope that this little project will  be a little beacon of light for other patients, that in looking through this information, they may find a spark of inspiration to seek support, and that maybe this might help brighten the path along this journey for new brain tumour patients.

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Saying Hello to 2017

I awoke this morning to the first rays of what promised to be an absolutely gorgeous sunrise.  The sky was awash in the most glorious shades of pinks that were so stunning I had no choice but to throw on some clothes so I could get outside and take a photo of it.

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Not long after, I found myself at the gym, where, from the vantage point on my treadmill, was treated to the most glorious, half hour-long sun rise I have ever witnessed.  There is something so visually amazing about the sun rising through the clouds against a backdrop of clear blue skies on a cold winter morning.

As my workout ended, I was silently thankful for the beautiful start to my day – not just because I was treated to such beauty, but also because the word I have chosen to live with this year is “Light”, and it seemed like a good omen of sorts to start of this year of light, with a brilliant display of nature’s most perfect light show.

Late last summer, I stumbled on the Simplified Planner by Emily Ley.  I fell in love with it as it helped me to organize my week, plan out how I wanted to accomplish my goals for the week, and of course, because it is the prettiest planner I have ever seen.  (For those of you who live in Canada, like me, try ordering yours from Indigo, not from the Emily Ley site – you’ll save a lot on duties that way).  But I digress.  As images for the Simplified Planner started popping up on my social media feeds, a kind of companion product, produced by Lara Casey, called PowerSheets kept popping up too.  I got curious . . . curious enough a few weeks ago, to order my own copy of the 2107 PowerSheets.

Over the past few days, as the kids have been involved in playing with their new Christmas toys and building lego, I’ve been able to sit down and work through the goal setting portion of the PowerSheets book.  I’ve said before that I don’t like setting goals – I have a tendency to chase them down with an intensity that doesn’t do good things for anyone, or, I simply get overwhelmed by the goals I’ve set and abandon them before they’ve been met.

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But working through this book is not about setting goals for the sake of setting goals – it’s about setting “goals with intention” and then providing a framework for working towards those goals, little by little, month by month.  You are also encouraged to choose a word of the year, in order to help guide you with your goals.

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Which brings me back to my word of the year.  I loved the process of the One Little Word workshop and I loved working with the word Joy last year.  It brought me a lot of . . . well . . . joy.  But as this year is a year of self-declare new beginnings, I wanted a word that would serve as a touchstone for how I wanted to feel, to be, to live my life.  I was mulling a few different word choices, but as I worked through my PowerSheets, and reflected on what brought me the most joy over the course of the last year (aside from the Husband and the Kids, of course), it was my sky photos, and the habit of looking for the light.  And thus, my word was chosen.

I want to be light and frolicsome
I want to be improbable
Beautiful
And afraid of nothing,
As though I had wings.
-Mary Oliver

As I was reading quotes today from some of my favourite poets, the quote above by Mary Oliver came up.  And it summarizes exactly how I feel today, on this first day of the new year.

I hope these words inspire you as much as they inspired me today.  And I wish you nothing but the absolute very best as you navigate your way through this new year, with all your hopes, your dreams, your goals, and your aspirations.  May they all come to fruition.

xoxo

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