Holidays in Edmonton

Now that the holiday season is well under way in Edmonton, I thought I’d share some ideas for family fun around the city. There are plenty of activities for little ones and grownups alike! I’ve included family entertainment from far and wide, as well as free activities you can choose closer to home. I like to think there’s a little bit of holiday spirit in each! I know my family and I have been looking forward to some of these all year long!

December 6 to December 29 – Festival of Lights

Prepare yourselves for an extraordinary light show this season with Zoominescence’s Festival of Lights at the Edmonton Valley Zoo! Artistic light installations within the unique setting of the Valley Zoo are sure to bring out the child in everyone who gets a glimpse! You’ll be so pleasantly surprised and spirited by the skating rink, maze, fire dancers, ice, light exhibits and 11 artist installations that you won’t be able to tear your eyes away! Enjoy this family event Fridays, Saturdays, or Sundays from December 6 to 29, from 5 to 9 pm nightly! At only $8.50 for adults and $6 for children, it will be a dazzling deal and an event they’ll be talking about all winter long! My family and I can’t wait for this one! Check out more details here.

Saturday, December 14 – Old Fashioned Hay Rides

Did you miss your chance to see Santa in Old Strathcona? Have no fear! You’ll still be able to meet him and tell him how good you’ve been all year at the Marketplace at Callingwood! And this time, from 11 am to 3 pm on December 14, get your chance to enjoy a free horse-drawn wagon ride for the whole family! The Marketplace at Callingwood is a summer farmer’s market that will be reopening for this one-day special event in honour of Santa, so they ask you bring a non-perishable food donation to be kind to others as well! Check out more details here.

December Weekends – Numerous Holiday Adventures

If you wish to expand the holiday adventure, you should check out more hayrides, cookie decorating, holiday stories, petting zoo, choir carols, holiday crafts, and unique shopping at Heritage Park! It will be open Saturdays & Sundays, November 23 to December 22 from 9:30 am to 4 pm. Ticket prices range from $5.75 to $11, depending on the ages of attendees. I’ve visited Heritage Park with KARA a few times during the summer months and know how beautiful it is, so it’s sure to be even more glorious when glittering with snow! Check it out here.

Month of December – Festive Window Contest

I’ve always dreamed of a fun date night downtown on Christmas Eve like you see in the movies. And now’s my chance! Nearly 30 shops from 95 street to 111 street and 97 avenue to 105 avenue have dressed up their windows with lights, décor, trees, and candles to celebrate the season! I’ll be sure to put this date night idea on my wish list! Find out more here.

December through January – Enchanted Forests

I’ve recently learned there are a few elegantly decorated forests within Edmonton and surrounding communities that families can go see at no cost. A few sponsors have graciously decorated a few spots to highlight the holidays, check them out:

  • Dow Centennial Centre – 8700 84 Street
  • Shell Theatre – 8700 84 Street
  • City Hall – 10005 102 Street
  • Fort Saskatchewan Public Library – 10011 102 Street

I do believe my friends and family will get a kick out of touring them this season! Learn more here.

All Season Long – Tobogganing

Certainly one of the best holiday past-times and my family’s favourite holiday activity; tobogganing! The City of Edmonton has created a list of what I believe are the best and safest tobogganing hills in the Edmonton area. They’ve also done their best to give families tips on how to make tobaggning as safe as possible. Enjoy this activity with your loved ones all winter long, as it’s one of the best ways to spend a cool, sunny day! Find the best hills here.

Continuing through the Winter – Ice Castles

The ultimate winter wonderland, the ice castles of Hawrelak Park, is certainly one of the most astonishing activities on our family holiday list of things to do this season. I know my boys won’t recall the last time we visited these extraordinary sights but I’m sure they will this year! Additionally, if your child (or you) is a fan of the Narnia Chronicles, I believe this will be the inspiration of the castles this year! I hope you and your family get to enjoy them too! Presale tickets are roughly $15 and children 3 and under are free! Check out the details here.

That’s All Folks!

Well, I hope my family’s list of holiday activities has given yours some ideas for the upcoming season! As always, please share your adventures with me and ideas with the KARA family! We would love to find more holiday escapades and enjoy the season together!

Little Haircuts

I’ve always been a whiz at cutting hair. I’ve cut my own hair and both of my sisters’ since before I can remember. But it was always long hair which I’d practiced with! As I became the mom of two kids with short hair preferences, I had to learn some new tricks! I do consider myself pretty proficient at both types of styles now, so I’d like to share some tips with you!

The Gadgets

You really don’t need much in the way of supplies when cutting kids hair. Sure, if you have a very sophisticated child or chic little one, you might spring for fancy hair products or high-quality trimmers, but I find I can get away with very little, which helps with my family budget! When I cut long hair, I usually only need a spray bottle with water, a brush, a comb, clips, and a pair of hair-cutting scissors. For short hair, I really only need the same gadgets but also a trimmer thrown in.

A little on the trimmer – my husband has a massive trimmer that plugs into the wall. It’s heavy and, when turned on, I can barely hold on to it. For the littler men in the house, I purchased (and prefer) a pint sized beard and mustache trimmer. It’s much smaller, and less powerful, making hair cutting a lot easier and safer! Walmart sells these small trimmers for less than $20!

Setup For Success

As with anything to do with munchkins, it’s best to be prepared beforehand. I do this by leading my child up to the process. For older ones used to the practice, this isn’t really necessary, but for those little ones with big curiosities, this really helps make everything run smooth (well, smoother!).

Do this by letting your child help with setup and explain what you’re going to do before you do it. Let them get the towel that will be wrapped around their neck, and the spray bottle that will be used to dampen the hair. Don’t let them handle the scissors or trimmer though!

For little-little ones, a big plate of food in front of them also helps alleviate stress and keep them sitting still (well, stiller!).

When all is prepped and ready, invite your child to sit on a stool (or sideways on a chair) and wrap a towel around their neck to protect their clothing. I use a hairclip to secure the towel so it can be easily removed if needed. If you are completing any haircutting on a carpeted surface, I suggest also laying a towel on the floor. Haircutting is my forte, vacuuming is my nemesis.

Long Hair

I’ve been cutting long hair for well over a decade. I cut my own, plus any family member that feels brave enough to let me have a go. I’ve made mistakes but have learned from them. I also have some unconventional habits that could make any professional hairdresser cringe with shock! But each hairdo I’ve mastered in the last decade is now a work of art and I’m proud of each one! I’m also particularly proud of choosing the right style for the right hair type. For instance, if your child has fine hair, I would suggest the straight across look. The blunt cut contrast with fine hair is a real showstopper. If the hair is thicker, I like the layered look to pull the weight off and give it more bounce. So here we go!

Long Hair – Straight Across

Many parents prefer this elegant and timeless cut for their children, and I do too! It’s very classy and innocent, not to mention – easy to do!

What you will need for this haircut is a lot of water. It actually helps to have the hair wet to completely soaked. You will then part the hair in the middle and brush it until it’s tangle-free. Bring all the hair to the back and ask your child to sit-up straight so that the hair is hanging as freely as possible and not curved over the shoulders. You can then assess the shortest hair and use that as a guide to cut the hair straight across, or, you may want to pick a shorter length than what’s already there. Throughout the cutting process, the hair will move and the duller your scissors are, the more it will move. Fix this by constantly brushing the hair straight and reassessing.

Once the hair looks to be all one length from the back, part the hair in the middle down your child’s head to the neck, and bring equal portions to the front. As hair growing in the front, near your child’s face was cut to the length of the hair growing in the back, it will now appear longer when brought to the front. Fix this by brushing your child’s front hair over the eyes (not the nose!) and make it as free-falling as possible. Cut straight across using the hair from the back (which is the shortest now) as a guide. This guide helps you attain as straight a haircut as possible!

Long Hair – Layered

This cut is simply chic and carefree looking! I have always completed this haircut on myself, and, as a result of no proper training or guide, have come up with my own tricks for attaining natural-looking layered hair. I do hope there are no hairdressers reading this as I’m sure it’s not the recommended way!

What I do, and I’m sure it’s to be hummed and hawed about, is I cut this style while dry. I do not use any water to hold the hair in place. I find it’s harder to see what the style will look like when wet, so I get a carefree look with a carefree method! Good grief?

Part the dry hair in the middle or on the side, and brush it all to the back. I find where the hair is naturally parted works best. Now, you will section the hair and cut the longest layer first, and the shortest layer last. Put the would-be shorter hair up in a clip on top of your child’s head. The bottommost layer should be ready for cutting. I like to start in the middle but it’s just a preference. I do this to get more of a waterfall look, starting with the longest cut first. Take a small section of the hair and cut it in a slightly slanted (angular-to-triangular) shape – I’m certain real hairdressers’ eyes are popping out of their heads as they read this! Continue with each section, making the hair appear naturally layered with uneven cuts throughout. Be sure not to go too deep with any of the cuts as the natural look will be lost. Once a section is complete, take another down and cut in the same fashion until all of the sections are done. Each section of the hair should be cut just slightly shorter than the one underneath. Again, any major differences in length will take away from the natural look. The haircut should be as blended looking as possible.

Lastly, bring the hair to the front and angular-to-triangular cut the front pieces to the desired length. I like to cut them to just past the jawline to give the face a sweetheart shape. Voila!

Short Hair

Now, cutting short hair has been new to me, and I’ve since had to learn two different cuts. As every face shape looks different in the same cut, I had two different cuts to master, because I have two differently shaped kids! I’ve always found the short sides with the long top (crew cut) looked good on long-faced men, while a blended one looked great on round-faced men. I have had 4 years of practice with the crew cut and 2 years with the blended. I am by no means a master, and the barber has always done a better job. However, the more I practice, the better my kids look! Not to mention, I also save money and have these memories to share and cherish with my kids!

Short Hair – Crew Cut

The easier cut of the two, the crew cut is striking and manly. It gives your child the appearance of being older and hip. I’ve found kids particularly like the crew cuts with a deep side part, like my Grizzly Bear, or a razor cut down the side to give them an edge on the precarious playground. Watch out for these cool youngsters!

Contrary to cutting long hair, short hair is best started with the shortest layer. This is where the trimmer comes into play. I like to start off with the most medium length attachment and work my way from one sideburn around the back to the other sideburn, staying as close to the nape of the neck as possible. I do this to avoid diving in, cutting off too much too soon, as once the hair is cut, you can’t turn back time. Not to mention, with short hair, nothing can be hidden. So, if I’m happy with the length and my child is comfortable, I continue to use the trimmer up the sides, switching to the longest attachment nearer to the top. Do not use the trimmer past the portion of the head where sides turn to top. If you imagine a square, the sides of the square should be trimmed, while the surface of the square should be left for the scissors (longest hair). It also helps to wet the hair on the top of the head and brush it to the front, over your child’s face, out of the way.

Once this initial step is complete, I use the shortest attachment of the trimmer to clean up the areas where the hair should be shortest. A barber would likely razor these portions away, like the neck and around the ears. As my kids are small and unpredictable, I stick to the trimmer.

The trimmer can be stored away now. Use the spray bottle to rewet the hair and brush it down onto the forehead. Use the scissors to cut a straight line through the bangs in the middle of the forehead. It does not have to be perfect as this is not where the hair will sit when styled. Then, starting at the back, take sections of the hair with your fingers and, using two or three finger widths from the child’s head to the scissors, cut the hair in rough motions (rough as in carefree, not rough for your child to sit through!). Continue until you reach the front (which should be minimal to cut as it’s already been cut from the forehead guide).

Lastly, I like to style my child’s hair with my personal mommy products, like mouse or styling balm. My Grizzly Bear feels very special when I do this and always takes a running leap to check himself out in the mirror!

Short Hair – Blended Cut

The blended cut is your more traditional cut with a fuller, more voluminous look. It sparks a more natural look, yet it’s eye-catching. The blended cut was the trickier of the two short styles to master, and here’s why: I needed to perfect my use with a comb. My youngest son, Polar Bear, has a round head, and this style looks simply marvelous on him, but it took quite a bit of practice as I barely use a comb on my long hair.

Start out with the trimmer as you would with the crew cut. Make your way around the head and the nape of the neck with the most medium sized attachment. Now, rather than going straight up with the trimmer (as you would with the sides of a square), instead, switch to the comb. If your child’s hair is particularly grown out, use the longest attachment to get rid of some of the weight but try to leave it long enough to pull a comb through it. Take all attachments off of the trimmer and use the comb as the guide. The comb is now a manual attachment for the trimmer, and you are selecting the length based on the area of the head you are trimming. I like to make the hair shorter near my child’s face and longest on top of his head. You are using the comb now as a means to keep the hair long enough to make it appear blended from the top to the base (much more like a circle now than a square). I still use the scissors to do the top of the head where the hair is longest. However, if you are feeling particularly skilled, you can use the comb to do this too, just pull it out to the length you want!

I also clean up some areas with the shortest attachment and style using mommy products! It makes him giggle and feel like a big boy!


The final act is the cleanup. If completed with towels in place, it’s fairly easy to through them into the wash. Otherwise, ask your little ones, with their cool hairdos and big smiles to give you a hand! Although, this may prove more of a mess than it was a minute beforehand. It’s the parenthood way though!

If you have tips and tricks for hairstyles (or feel the need to scold my unprofessional haircutting habits), please feel free to leave a note! I’d love to hear about what worked and what didn’t, or trade secrets of the haircutting business!

Spooky Halloween Crafts

How to have a great All Hallows’ Eve on a budget! This year, I’ve learned my two boys are starting to really get into the spirits’ spirit and asking for ever more creepy decorations around the house! I’ve done the usual paper plate and cotton ball decorations but want to really up my game on decorating the front porch. How can this be done on a budget? And with little time (as I seem to lack this too)!

Those inflatable creatures and light shows on my neighbours’ lawns are simply amazing! But, if I want to afford Christmas this year, I had to get creative with help from my family! And I’d love to share my spooky trash upcycling secrets with you!

The Halloween Pom-poms

This one was a craft I stumbled upon many months ago when I was prepping for my sister’s wedding. In order to decorate my house to be fit for a bride, I found white tissue paper pom-poms made my house look elegant and striking. For Halloween, I made the same pom-poms but using black and orange tissue paper – and it looked ghastly!

Here’s how:

  • Take five pieces of tissue paper, stacked one on top of the other, and fold them over like a fan or accordion.
  • Wrap wire around the centre of the fan, tying it tight (I used floral wire because of the abundance I currently find around the house now but you can also use pipe cleaner).
  • Gently pull the tissue away from the tips and into the centre, in all directions, until it looks like a large tissue ball.
  • Hang it from the trees outside – this is a great part to do with your kids!

The Ghastly Ghosts

As I stopped at the store last weekend, I was shocked that there were no pumpkins left to be carved! The shortage wasn’t going to slow me down though, I thought, so I grabbed a couple of 4 litre jugs of milk instead.

Why? To make a few ghoulie ghosts for my own front steps. Here’s how:

  • Empty the jugs into another refrigerable container and store for breakfast cereal.
  • Wash out the containers and cut a small hole in the bottom of each.
  • Let your kids draw some spooky or silly faces on the milk jugs with black sharpies – don’t forget to colour them in!
  • Plug in a strand of Christmas lights, preferably white, and creep them down your front steps, bunching them up in the spots the ghosts will sit.
  • Put the ghosts on top of the bunched up lights, ensuring the lights are within the holes cut in the bottom.
  • Alternatively, if you’ve got a good ladder and kids that listen remarkably well, you can also hang the lights and use tape to keep the lights within the ghosts so that they are actually flying.

The Sinister Spider

This one might give grandma palpitations – it’s not for the faint hearted – but my kids loved it!

For my sister’s wedding, I strung up a ton of wedding bells in the centre of my room (this was where the bridesmaids were doing hair and makeup morning of). Then I strung streamers from the centre of the ceiling to the walls. To all the ladies, it looked beautiful, but to my four-year old son, it “looks like a spider web.”

Which gave me an idea.

  • Fill one black garbage bag with leaves or anything else soft and filling. Tie it shut.
  • Tape or tie the garbage bag slightly off-centre so that there is a large section, which will be the abdomen, and a small section, which is the head.
  • Take a second black garbage bag and cut it lengthwise into eight pieces so that you have eight long legs.
  • Tape or tie the spider together and then to the front porch banisters or to a tree.
  • Use white streamers to make a web around the spider.
  • You can also add eyes using construction paper – my son found that red was the creepiest.

The Eerie Witch

This is a craft my parents have done a few times in their front yard. It helps if you have a creepy large cauldron full of candy. One year, my brother hid in the cauldron and jumped out when approached. He nearly froze his toes off so I don’t recommend that part.

But do try this eerie, faceless balloon witch! She’s (nearly) priceless! Here’s how:

  • Blow up a green balloon and tie it closed.
  • Get a black garbage bag and slit it on one side so you could wear it like a cape.
  • Put it over the balloon like a hood and tie or tape it to the tied part of the balloon. The green balloon should look like a face with a black hood and a black, flowy cloak.
  • Make a witch’s hat out of construction paper by making a cone out of black construction paper and stapling or taping it together. Take a second piece of black construction paper and cut out a large circle (don’t cut out the inside circle where a normal head would fit because our balloon witch can’t hold on to her hat if the wind picks up). Instead, just tape the cone to the centre of the circle, and the centre of the circle to the witch’s head.
  • Hang the witch up using fishing line or another type of string and tying her to an overhanging tree branch or soffit.
  • Watch her sway unnervingly in the breeze.

The Haunting Howls

Lastly, the most effective and least costly idea – sounds to accompany the sights.

I like to play fun Halloween songs in the house for the kids, namely The Monster Mash, The Purple People Eater, and I Put a Spell on You, among others. It gives the spirit of Halloween an extra kooky theme with dancing and sing-along fun! My siblings and I loved all of these songs growing up and now, so do my kids!

However, if you are looking to really spook some older kids or want an extra unearthly edge over your neighbours’ Halloween displays, nothing compares to werewolf sound effects! Just ensure your neighbours don’t mind the hair-raising vocalizations!

Happy Halloween!

As always, I hope you and your family have a safe and fun holiday! Don’t forget to dress everyone in extra winter gear to stay warm and wear reflective garments to be seen in the dark. If you need reminders or tips on how to stay safe, please check out last year’s Halloween blog here!

Have a FANGTASTIC Halloween!

Beauty Tips for Rushed Moms

As I write this blog on rushed parenthood, I am even now multitasking. Halfway between sentences and thoughts, I am busily trying to eat a meal before it gets cold and helping my child remember the words to his favourite Christmas jingle.

As I’m sure you would agree, the early years of parenthood have sparse moments for a hot shower. Where does one find time to make themselves presentable for company or for work each day? After a few years of the practiced art of making myself smell more like a flower and less like a diaper, I am ready to share a few hot tips, most of which, conveniently enough, fit easily into my bathroom cupboard!

Tip One – Showering Timeline

Shower the night before. For those of us with longer, thicker hair, blow drying is not an option anymore. That super amazing windswept, voluminous hair is still achievable, but not in the time department. Instead, after doing your do to your slept-on hair, use hair spray and run your finger through your hair to give it that tousled look. This works best if you lift your hair in sections, spray each section in a fluid motion, then flip your lid upside down to let it dry. You may want to brush the ends with a soft brush after though, but let your roots remain bouncy with just adjustments from your fingers.

Tip Two – Three Day Hair

If you do find yourself with enough time to shower and blow-dry the day of, use dry shampoo right after the hair is set. I noticed this when my sister used dry shampoo as a hair thickener when practicing for her wedding. Once she had curled the hair, she used the dry shampoo to give it bounce. I did the same and was amazed that my style lasted for days longer than when I use dry shampoo on dirty hair. It basically kept my hair in perfect condition for three days without needing to reapply.

Tip Three – Multi-use Products

I’m not sure how many moms are as resourceful as I am (or as plucky), but I did end up trying to use baby wipes as make-up remover – and it worked! I was cringing, waiting for my eyes to hurt or for my face to break out days later, but it didn’t! If you find yourself budgeting, use baby wipes in lieu of expensive makeup remover pads. They’ll save you time and money!

Another multi-use item I actually found before my mommy experiences is baby powder as a hair product. Because dry shampoo can run in the pricier range at the local store, and since we are all in the baby section at one point or another anyway, you can use baby powder as dry shampoo! Baby powder will work the same way as dry shampoo – it gives you volume and wicks away moisture. It’s also vastly cheaper. The only downside is that you and your child will now smell like you bathed together!

Tip Four – Bathroom Breakfast

This one was scary the first time I tried it but I haven’t turned back! Set up a breakfast table in your bathroom. Your kids can dine while you beautify! I grabbed one of those little plastic table and chair combos off Kijiji and set up a little nook for the kids. They usually watch me while I get pretty and I can keep an eye on who is trying to feed the dog avocado.

This even helps me in the food department because I can usually whip around and finish their leftovers before running out the door, saving food and money as I don’t have to grab take-out on my way to work anymore!

Tip Five – Waterproof Ways

Get waterproof mascara and eyeliner. I used to hate waterproof makeup because it didn’t come off easily. Now, I find the longer it lasts, the more time I have for other things. Plus, my purse is just too full of toys and extra pull-ups to be karting around my makeup bag anymore. Makeup that doesn’t run also helps us moms look like we got the sleep we so badly need, hiding any bags and puffy lids.

Tip Six – Moisturizing Regiment

Use coconut oil before bed. I use this on my kids and myself. It helps keep skin moisturized and hair soft. I usually do a deep cleanse on a weekend night as I have to wash it out of my hair the next day but it keeps the body looking young and smelling great!

Tip Seven – The Timeless Updos

Master an elegant or professional updo. Some days, no matter how nice you are to it, your hair just won’t cooperate. I’ve mastered two different styles to help with this unfortunate, but common scenario. I usually try the low, elegant bun first to give myself a young-beauty appearance. For this, try giving yourself a deep side part, swooping your hair into a ball at the base of your neck, and then pulling slightly on pieces to give it more volume.

If I’ve slept in a funny position and my hair just won’t heed my warnings of threatened scissor action, I then try a professional topknot. This is always easiest when using a hair donut, which can even be found at the dollar store. Put your hair in a high ponytail, then pull the tail through the donut, then swoop and pin the tail into place around it. This style nearly always works, especially if you’ve got a stylish headband to hold back any strays.

Tip Eight – Dental Dedication

Never forgo the dentist. I always have trouble finding the will to make a dental appointment. Luckily, I’ve found a dentist that will do it for me! She took my phone number (rather too willingly), and has proceeded to remind me every couple of months or so of when I’ll need to rebook. I know she has my family’s best interest at heart too because she always accommodates a full family appointment. My sons get their checkups and fluoride applications and I get a regular cleaning. I know it should be more about dental health than a beauty regiment, but I just can’t help grinning when I look in the mirror after a dental trip.

Tip Nine – Posture Makes Perfect

Practice good posture. I work in an office, sitting in one position all day. I have put myself through extensive ergonomic training, which has helped me stay healthy but it’s also helped my appearance as well. Nothing looks better or more professional than someone confident, and with confidence comes posture.

Tip Ten – Embrace Yourself

Probably my biggest money-saving and time-reducing tip is embracing your natural look. It took me years to accomplish this (and I’m still getting the hang of it). I used to always dye my hair and buy makeup that would make me look like I was a natural… well anything but red. Lately, since becoming a Mom, I’ve grown out my red hair. To my surprise (although I’m still not a fan of the colour), I’ve grown to really like the soft texture that accompanies natural hair. Embracing a part of myself that usually takes a thousand bucks a year to cover up really made a difference in my routine and personal nature. Not to mention I enjoy the cost savings!

The Skinny on Beauty Tips

Now that I’ve tried many beautifying tips for Moms on the go, even unconventional ones, I’m glad I was able to share the ones that worked! Beauty tips can be little things that you found saved the day at least once or monumental epiphanies about your own lifestyle; they all help give us the confidence boost while simultaneously being there for our families. So, you do you, and let me know your tips – because I can always use more too!

Magical Music

I’ve always known that I wanted musical children. I always dreamed of learning a few instruments myself. So when the day came that I was bringing my son to his first piano lesson, I was a little crushed when he wasn’t ready for the program.

I contacted the music teacher and asked if she would take on a 4 year old. She was very hesitant to say yes over the phone and instead, suggested an interview. We made an appointment, arrived on time, and proceeded to answer questions about our knowledge and understanding of music. My son was a superstar throughout the interview – he answered all of the questions spectacularly and his personality shone bright as he exuded confidence and understanding. Unfortunately, he didn’t answer one question right; what letter “E” was when it was drawn on the piano key. From that, the pianist let me know that he was going to be an extraordinary musician, but not for a few months yet. She gave me some homework to do with my son and let me know to come back when we were ready.

The Importance of Music

The research shows that music is an extremely beneficial skill to pick up as a child as it helps with childhood development in ways not fully understood and are still being uncovered. A study done by the Brain and Creativity Institute at the University of Southern California indicated that early music instruction accelerates brain development in the areas associated with processing sound, language development, speech perception, and reading skills. The study was five years in length, starting to 2012, and looked at children ages 6 and 7 just learning to play the violin. The neuroscientists used MRI scans to monitor changes within the brain, EEGs to track electrical activity in the brain, and behavioural tests. They compared the violin students to groups of kids playing soccer or not participating in any extracurricular activity. Within two years, the results started to show that the auditory systems, the system responsible for the development of language and reading, was greatly accelerated in the children learning to play the violin in comparison to others. To read more on this study, click here.

If that wasn’t enough, could you imagine the added benefit of dancing to music? Gross motor skills and social skills built during dancing also play into the mix! According to the North Vancouver Recreation Centre, dancing, in combination with music, engages the brain through patterns, helps cultivate communication skills, boosts self-esteem and physical skills, and promotes creativity (see here). So there’s a lot to be said for having a musician in the family!

Adopting Music into Your Home

After all of those benefits, it’s easy to see why music should be in the lives of all budding families. But how do we incorporate it into our routines?

As a new Mom, music and dancing were more instinctual for me than they are now. When I had a cranky baby, I would bounce them along in a little dance while I hummed my favourite tune. I also started singing songs that my parents sang to me. This would be my way of calming my children, but now that they no longer need to be bounced to sleep, I seem to have moved away from the music, and ushered in the age of sports and science.

Music is everywhere though. Theatre, movies, holidays, religion, celebrations, and even in books, music can be found. However, if you are finding it hard to find it, or want more musical activities for your young children, try these out! I’ve also included ideas for those looking to increase musical toys in the home!

Infants and Melodies

Infants can recognize the melody of a song, even if they don’t know the words. They enjoy simple, calm music and especially those sung by close family members. I sang songs about getting dressed, changing a diaper, eating yummy green food, or going to grandma’s house to my children to soothe them. It also helped reiterate positive emotions for good behaviours – particularly eating green food! Avoid loud music and music with harsh rhythm.

Know a little baby that could use some music in their life? Try this beaded raindrop toy. It’s great for gross motor skills and problem-solving too! Find it here.

Toddlers and Tunes

My boys, after learning to moves around a bit more, loved to dance! Their “moves” certainly weren’t graceful or nimble, but they could memorize and repeat motions. They could also try toy instruments like drums and shakers. Find fun songs with a little bounce in them, like “Mary Had a Little Lamb,” “The Ants Go Marching,” or my sons’ ultimate favourite, “Old MacDonald Had a Farm,” and let your child play an instrument or clap along throughout.

My toddler absolutely loves his Fisher Price cassette player! It comes with lots of music on both sides of the cassette and we can even record and playback our own tunes! Click here.

Preschoolers and Notes

My preschoolers is an enthusiastic musician. He can dance, sing, and has acquired a sensible side of confidence. He is eager to learn new songs and pick up new instruments. Although not ready for the professional level quite yet, I can tell he is going to knock ‘em out at those future Christmas recitals. To help stimulate his love of music, I now incorporate dance routines, funny songs, finger plays, and nonsense rhymes into songs he already knows to mix things up. For instance, I will sing a song he loves, but instead of singing the correct words, I will add something funny, like “Old MacDonald had a spider.” He catches on really quick and it keeps his brain moving. We can also now do Patty Cake with the hand movements and add snapping our fingers to cool songs.

I am getting him a giant floor piano mat for Christmas to help him learn the names of the piano keys easier and with a dash of fun. If you feel the impulse to get this for your child, the piano instructor we saw advised us to get one that looks like a piano and has the keys in the correct spots, like this one.

Kindergarteners and Chords

Have a little one in school already? These not so tiny tots are ready for the big leagues with musical education, real instruments, and intricate sing-alongs. Try incorporating songs into everyday teachings and everyday teachings into songs. Like counting, spelling, and recalling sequences of stories. Kids this age may also start expressing their likes and dislikes in musical taste, and may prefer to play or sing certain genres. Keep informed of your child’s progress in music class and practice their homework with them. They love to play for parents!

When my munchkins get to this stage, I hope they will tell me which instrument they want to pick up! I do pray it’s the beautiful and melodic piano but one can only hope!

More on Music

If you’re interested in introducing or increasing the music exposure outside the home, try KARA’s Rhymes That Bind program or, coincidently, the Castledowns Public Library also holds Baby Laptime and Family Story Time that also incorporate music into the mix!

In the words of Beethoven, music can change the world. So get out there!

Kindergarten Hunting

As another school year starts, I’ve come to the exciting realization that my eldest is due to start kindergarten next year! I was able to determine his age appropriateness by referring to the Edmonton Public Schools’ website and check out their Kindergarten Registration page here.

So, this week I thought I’d talk about my experiences so far in finding the right school for my children! First off, there are three (and maybe more) choices: private schools, charter schools, and public schools. Then there are the different kinds of each of those! You can register your children in immersion schools, where they learn different languages; you can look at different extracurricular activities or advanced programs; there are separate schools, where classes are all girls or all boys; and you have the choice of different religions or no religion schools. On top of that, as if it wasn’t confusing enough, you can decide on how much time they spend away from home from boarding schools to homeschooled – the choice is yours – and it’s a big one!

Here is a little breakdown of the three main kinds and those that are most easily available:

Private Schools – There are around 180 private schools in Alberta. Most private schools are not funded by the Ministry of Education and parents are required to pay for their child’s education. The reviews of private schools and education foundations are outstanding. The price per year for a child in a private school can run between $7,000 and $18,000 (during my searches). Find more information here and look up schools here.

Charter Schools – Alberta has 13 charter schools, most of which reside in Edmonton and Calgary. Charter schools sit in the middle of private and public. They are non-profit schools, meaning that they are like public schools, and are tuition-free, and they provide high-quality education. The catch with charter schools is that they are hard to enrol in. They rely mostly on a lottery system where you register and hope they pick your name. Additionally, if one of your children is chosen, it isn’t a guarantee that the other will be. To find more information, click here and look up schools here.

Public Schools – All public schools are funded by the Ministry of Education (taxes). They usually only require an administration fee, transportation fee, and school supplies. When I looked at the difference between daycare costs and these types of schools, my piggy bank did a happy dance! However, depending on where you live, class sizes of public schools can be very large and the facilities may be run-down from overuse and lack of adequate financing. Another downside is that you can’t simply “choose” your school if living in a large community. Chances are, there will be districts (based on addresses) and, depending on your district, your child may have no choices in the public school they attend. You will need proof of where you live (driver’s licence will suffice) to enrol your child. Find your designated school here.

In addition to these resources, I’ve also been relying a lot on school rankings by grades from the Fraser Institute. This is a nice way to check that the school you’ve fallen in love with consistently achieves high rankings in comparison to others. Check it out here.

Decisions about where your child goes to school are sometimes very personal and can be difficult. It’s common and normal for parents to feel anxious about getting this decision right. These decisions depend on where you live, your personal values, your child’s needs, school-specific factors, religion, and more. When you’re choosing an elementary school (like me), it’s also important to consider things like before-school and after-school care, and proximity to the day-home for any younger children still requiring care.

For some parents, the decision isn’t simple. Mine certainly wasn’t!

My husband and I have determined that the public school system will be a feasible, and still wonderful, option. As we have two children, charter schools were not for us, as we wanted them to stick together. Private schools are not feasible for us (unless I’m holding the winning lottery ticket).

But which public school? Going through our current interests and requirements helped us further determine which one was for us. Our youngest will still be attending the dayhome full-time, so proximity and commute are important factors. There’s nothing like the whirlwind that is our current morning schedule, and minimizing any further stress is very important. Both my husband and I attended immersion schools, me in French and he in Aboriginal, so that was a key interest of ours. We also have two very active youngsters that enjoy the outdoors and sports, so after-school extracurriculars were important too. We also needed to fixate on drop-off and pick-up times as we are both working. To accommodate this, you might consider sharing the load with your spouse. For example, many parents take the morning shift while the other spouse goes to work. The other spouse can then leave work early to pick up the kids and handle the afternoon shift. Many companies are becoming more flexible to accommodate two working parents and this option is very economical and stress-relieving.

So, to what we decided! We are very much looking at a French immersion daycare that is accredited as a public school kindergarten. I am uneasy splitting my youngsters up and when I found this co-preschool-kindergarten option, I was very relieved! As both kids will be in the same building, in different classes, the pick-up/drop-off will be easier, plus both will be with youngsters of their own ages and be learning the approved Alberta curriculum. The costs of daycares exceeded our reach in the past, but because this is a publicly funded school, the costs for my kinder-aged child are low. As it is a daycare, and not a public school, districts are not an issue at the moment (although this daycare is right around the corner too!). We believe that, after the months of research, our efforts have paid off with finding this gem!

We hope you and your family have success in finding the right educational fit for your family too! Whether it’s homeschool, public, charter, private or other (boarding schools sound the best during rough mornings!). Please feel free to share your inputs or other resources with the KARA online family!

Happy School Hunting!

The Overscheduled Child

Children have a lot of free-time during their young lives. This free-time is often good for them, increasing their independence and improving imagination and creativity. However, the organic and idyllic times of “just playing outside” sailed away quite a while ago. These days, free-time is often jeopardized by screen-time.

Screens Always Win

Even in school, children have cellphones and are required to do much of their schoolwork using a computer. This means they have this constant distraction, a digital temptation. Many parents wage war against screens, limiting time using parental controls; however, the screen always wins. My four year old child is in a dayhome for 8 hours a day, has a class once a week, and a pet to walk with me every evening and I still have to restrict screen time. Unless there is another activity to take children away from them, the screen-time wins the free-time!

Overscheduling Myths and Theories

In 2008, a report regarding overscheduled children was published by a non-profit group called Child Trends. At the time of publication, many theories regarding overscheduling children leaned towards the notion that overscheduling had negative effects, and children suffered as a result of too many activities. Contrary to this belief, Child Trends showed that children exposed to overscheduled activities had higher self-esteem, were able to maintain balance in their lives naturally, and had lower rates of drug and alcohol use in later years. These same children also spent more time doing schoolwork, playing informal games, and doing household chores than other children, and still watched TV! How?

They spent less time in front of computers and video games. You can view the publication here.

In 2016, a documentary titled “Screenagers” was released. It explored the challenges of parenting in the digital age and exposed the theory regarding overscheduling children. Psychologists and brain scientists revealed how internet addictions, social media, and video games increased stress and anxiety and reduced the ability to maintain a healthy life balance. Screenagers also goes into detail on how to reduce friction within the home regarding screen-time: scheduling of course! Click here.

Of course, as a parent, we are drawn to other articles regarding children that are depressed or anxious as a result of being too busy. While this has not been proven, the alternative to overscheduling is free‑time, where a child has the freedom to explore the world and create their own fun. The reality, though, is that playing outside, making up a game of your own, or daydreaming in a corner isn’t easy when a screen, of one form or another, is in every room of the home, and sometimes in your back pocket.

Who Can Schedule Their Family

Screenagers, which is based around families with teenagers, emphasizes the divide between those families with the time and income to increase their child’s amount of extracurricular activities. However, scheduling a child, even ones as young as mine, with a starter-family income, is very feasible! For instance, we purchase one class at a time through our local recreation centre (classes that usually accommodate the entire family to get our monies worth). Additionally, their Grandpa is big into soccer and practices with the boys once a week on “Blog Night.” We schedule arts and crafts time, and park time on weekends. And I even schedule household chores into my children’s lives; right before bedtime, we start cleaning the house together. This also adds to our bedtime routine and keeps me from losing my mind in a dirty home.

How Many Activities

There is no set rule for the amount of scheduling and which kinds are optimal. Researchers agree that it all depends on the child. Additionally, allowing for some downtime is necessary to accommodate relaxation and family-time. The key is to find the balance between activities and unscheduled downtime. You want to minimize boredom, which is often the cause for excessive screen-time. Watch your children or talk to them for indications of what kind of scheduling is beneficial to them to limit screen-time.

Sever the Screen Connection

Like educators, researchers, and exasperated parents everywhere, you and your family can embrace the benefits of a scheduled lifestyle to reduce screen-time and increase your family’s self-esteem! Not to mention productivity!

By scheduling sports, crafts, social interactions, outdoor activities, and household chores, you’re ensuring your child is busy with creative, mind-stimulating, and stress-reducing activities. The activities you choose are up to you and your child!

The Importance of Sleep

Have you ever wondered why all living things need sleep? You might have pondered this question while yawning, and likely after a night spent bouncing your baby or coaxing your child back to his own bed. As new parents, it’s hard to get an adequate amount of sleep at night, but we have to in order to give our bodies and brains a boost. That’s right! Not a rest, but a boost.

What Happens During Sleep

According to the National Sleep Foundation, sleep is an active period in which we complete information processing, restoration, and strengthening. The exact mechanics of how our bodies and brains do this is unknown and why we are programmed for such long hours of sleep is still a mystery, but some of the vital roles of sleep have been determined through research.

During sleep, we process and store memories. Memories, shockingly, are not directly logged or recorded as our day goes on, they are stored in our tentative, short-term memory for the time being. Once asleep, our brains process the information and transfer it to long-term memory, a catalogue of important information.

Sleep also rejuvenates and restores our bodies. During our lengthy hours of sleep, we grow muscle and repair tissue. I’m sure this comes as no surprise to new parents as our first years with our child shows an excessive amount of growth paired with extraordinary amounts of sleep!

Lastly, researchers have also shown that sleep allows our bodies to create hormones and improve the immune system.  This certainly holds true if you get a cold and need the extra hours of sleep to help your body fight the fight. It also indicates why teenagers often can’t get out of bed before noon…

For more from the National Sleep Foundation – Click here

For other theories currently being researched – Click here

These activities that occur during sleep have amazing benefits for us – fixing our bodies when we are injured or sick, helping our digestive and circulatory systems function through synthesizing the correct hormones, and processing thoughts, ideas, and memories. Littler ones even sleep to grow. Arguably, sleep, although still mysterious, is more beneficial than most other daily activities. So it’s important to get enough!

How Much Sleep is Needed

What a great question! The amount of sleep that’s needed per person all depends on their age. Kids require more sleep than adults because their bodies are continually growing, making more muscle mass and synthesizing more hormones. Adults can get away with less sleep, but nonetheless, sleep is very important for everyone.

The recommended amount of sleep per age group is as follows (click here):

  1. Newborns require 14 to 17 hours a day. I bet that seems like a lot, but when you’re napping all day, it really doesn’t take long to accumulate.
  2. One year olds require approximately 10 hours a night plus 4 hours of nap during the day. The naps can be split up in the morning and afternoon but it’s important they get a total of 14 hours of sleep a day.
  3. Two year olds should get approximately 11 to 12 at night with a 1 to 2 hour nap during the day, totalling 13 hours a day.
  4. Three to five years and they require 10 to 13 hours a day. They may not take a nap, and just sleep the entire night.
  5. Six to thirteen years and you’re looking at 9 to 11 hours a night.
  6. Fourteen to seventeen and 8 to 10 hours are required.
  7. Hit your eighteenth birthday and celebrate with 7 to 9 hours a night for the rest of adulthood!

The Stages of Sleep

As you may have known, there are different stages: Stage 1, Stage 2, Stage 3, and the rapid eye movement (R.E.M) Stage (click here). And your brain runs the show!

Stage 1

In this stage, you’re in the lightest form of sleep. You can be woken easily but your body and brain are drowsy. Many people, such as myself, experience the sensation of falling during this stage, waking themselves up. This stage usually lasts less than 10 minutes.

Stage 2

A deeper sleep, your brain gives direction for your muscles to relax, including your heart, which will beat a little slower. You also breathe a little slower and your body temperature drops a smidge. This stage lasts between 30 and 60 minutes.

Stage 3

Now you’re in a deep sleep known as slow-wave sleep, the most restorative stage of sleep. Your brain signals again and your blood pressure drops a bit. It’s very difficult to be woken from this stage of sleep. Both sleepwalking and sleeptalking occur during this stage. Your body also won’t respond to temperature changes in this stage, meaning your spouse can now steal all the blankets and you won’t notice. This stage lasts 20 to 40 minutes.


The muscles everywhere else in your body are relaxed, but the eye muscles are in action. They move back and forth very quickly beneath your eyelids. This stage is known as the dream stage, where you have very realistic dreams. Your heart may beat faster and your breathing may be irregular to accommodate those lifelike dreams, but your brain paralyses your muscles so you don’t act out what you’re dreaming. You can be woken easier in this stage than in Stages 2 or 3.

These stages of sleep allow your brain to complete the tasks that are needed. Your brain repeats these stages every one to two hours or so until you wake up. For adults, the cycle is repeated three to four times a night. For children, about four or five sleep cycles can occur in a night because they spend more time in R.E.M. sleep than adults. Now you can see why sleep is not exactly resting!

How to Get Your Sleep

Now that we know the importance of sleep, here are a few tips on how to get those much desired ZZZs. These tips are great for both parents and children!

Go to bed at the same time every night. The circadian rhythm, developed by the 24 hour clock that is the rotation of the Earth, is programmed in to all living things. The human clock (our brains) signal drowsiness during the afternoon (napping is normal, even for adults!) and in the evening. For many of us with work schedules or school, napping isn’t feasible, so setting our own programs to the same time every day is the next best thing.

Follow a bedtime routine that is relaxing. Watching TV, playing video games, or staring at a computer is false light and can trick our bodies into thinking it’s the wrong time of day. As well, playing energetic games boosts our blood pressure and hormones into gear, not helping our brain motion towards its sleep signals. Complete a calming, nightly routine, such as having a bath or reading a book to assist your brain in running the program.

Remove or limit caffeine. Coffee, soda, and even iced tea contain caffeine, which is a stimulant affecting your brain’s ability to synthesize the correct hormones for sleep and even normal function.

Speak with your doctor if stress is affecting your sleep. Stress can have negative effects on all daily functions. It can double the negative effects if you are also losing stress-reducing sleep as well.

For more sleeping tips, especially ones for children, click here.

Have a Wonderful Sleep

Although some of the mysteries of sleep still elude us, I hope you won’t lose any sleep over them! Check out the links I’ve included within the text to learn more. As we saw, sleep is deeply important, so I hope you and your family are able to sleep deeply tonight!

Back to School for Tots!

It’s that time of year again – back to school! What an exciting time for those that are returning to school or for those who will be attending for their first time! But for those kids that are still preschool aged, not getting to hop on the yellow bus with their friends, this time of year can be a little disheartening. We experienced this in our household this year. Our two boys attend a dayhome that is full of school-aged children during the summer months. This week, when school was up-and-running again, and my boys were faced with saying goodbye to their new friends, we noticed their faces looked as gloomy as the rainy weather.

To help blow their troubles away, with the added perk of educating them in all-things-school, we sat down together to do some back-to-school crafts! This really helped brighten their moods and learn a thing or two about what their friends were up to while they’re away!

Tissue Box School Bus

Every morning, my kids and I arrive at the dayhome at the same time the older kids are leaving to catch the bus. Sometimes, we even see the bus coming to get them. Longingly, my boys, especially my older four year old, watches the bus and gets excited when it stops to pick up his friends. Last weekend, we decided to make his own school bus with a tissue box, paint, and a picture of him and his brother. Here’s how:

  1. Help your child paint a tissue box to look like a school bus using yellow, black, white, and red paint. The tissue box can be full or empty.
  2. Cut out square-shaped pictures of your child(ren) and yourself. Glue them into the windows of the school bus.
  3. Let your child(ren) play with the school bus and pretend to go to school!

Apple Stamps

Apple and paint crafts are a staple in all kindergarten classrooms; I even remember doing them when I was little! They are very easy to prep, do, and enjoy. My little ones had a blast! Here’s how:

  1. Get a couple of apples and cut them in half from the top to the bottom, allowing the classic heart‑shaped apple look to be your guide. If you are lucky enough to have crab apples growing in your backyard, these are perfectly sized for little hands.
  2. Use any kind of paper to be your canvas. Help your little ones paint the heart-shaped side of the apple and make apple prints on your paper! You can also jazz these up with sparkles or (what my boys preferred) using stamp pads to mix and match colours.

Popsicle Pencil Bookmark

Help your kids develop a love of reading big books with their very own bookmark! I explained to my kids that when I read big books, I use a bookmark to help me remember the last thing I read. This may inspire them to pick up big books and use their own special bookmark to keep their place! Here’s how:

  1. Cut a piece of cardboard as thick as three popsicle sticks wide (wider or thinner also works!), making sure to leave a triangular shape at the top for the top of the pencil.
  2. Help your little ones to glue the popsicle sticks into place on the cardboard and colour them yellow with a marker, pencil crayon, or paint. We also coloured them silver and pick at the bottom to make our pencil have an eraser.
  3. Help your little one colour the top of the pencil, the triangular shape, white and then black on the tip. You’re done!
  4. Help your little one mark his or her page in their book using their new bookmark!

Monster Pencil Cases

This final craft was one that really excited my children and also helped them develop superior fine-motor skills. It was so exciting because they got to use Mommy’s crochet yarn and boog googly eyes! They, with a little help, made their own pencil cases – in monster form! Here’s how:

  1. Using one full sized piece of craft foam paper, fold it 4 ½ inches up from the bottom. Then fold the remaining top down. When folded, the top of the paper should reach approximately halfway down, giving the monster a mouth. The monster should now have the appearance of an envelope.
  2. Mark out 15 dots along the edges of the envelope, not along the folded top, but along the folded bottom and back of the envelope. Do this to both edges.
  3. With a child-safe plastic yarn needle and contrasting coloured yarn, help your child pierce the craft foam on the dots, sewing the sides of the envelope together. This should close the envelope sides and provide a pencil case structure. Tie off the yarn on each side.
  4. Lastly, let your child draw teeth and put googly eyes on his or her monster pencil case! In our house, we even used sticky-backed Velcro to allow the pencil case to open and shut. It was a hit!

Summer is Over – But Back to School is Only Beginning!

Try out these school crafts with your little ones! Enjoy being the first to introduce them to bookmarks, pencil cases, apple art, and school buses! It won’t be long before they are bringing home school projects that they’ll be teaching you!

Dinner Recipes

As a parent, cooking tasty meals that our kids will eat can be difficult. Too often, our lives get busy and we lose ambition in the kitchen. We may even end up ordering pizza or some other form of take‑out to battle the blank faces we get in the grocery store. My husband is here to help! He has a few delicious, quick, and inexpensive meal ideas that might get you into that apron again! But be warned, he’s a huge fan of garlic! So I’ve written each of his favourite go-to recipes with half the amount of garlic he normally uses!

Pan-fried Salmon

Let’s start with the salmon because it’s my favourite! I request it whenever there’s a good sale on. Salmon is an excellent choice for the healthy–minded too! It’s high in vitamins, very high in protein, and contains antioxidants. To get started, get yourself a 250g (approximately half-pound) filet of salmon for a family of four. Pink Salmon is the least expensive option on the list, but other types have distinctly different tastes. Go with your gut (literally) on this one. The best tasting is Sockeye in my opinion. Pair it with rice and asparagus (also pan-friend in butter) and my kids and I go nuts for it! If asparagus is out of season, go with broccoli with melted cheese. Mmmmmm…

Required Ingredients:

250g or ½ lb of salmon, cut into desired portions

125mL/½ cup of butter/margarine

3 cloves minced garlic (double if you’re a fan)

2 tsp basil

Salt and pepper to taste


  1. Empty butter/margarine into large skillet/frying pan.
  2. Turn heat to medium on large burner.
  3. Mince garlic.
  4. Add garlic and basil to pan once butter has melted/begins soft boil.
  5. Place salmon skin-up on skillet.
  6. Wait for salmon to grow pink-white half-way though; flip – ensure butter/margarine fills space under filet.
  7. Continue cooking until salmon is fully cooked.
  8. Season with salt and pepper to taste.

That’s it!

Another note: Many people don’t like the skin on their fish, so if you have a dog, give it to them! They love it and it’s very beneficial to their coat.

Butter Chicken

Next is his butter chicken on rice. This one is actually his go-to, favourite comfort food. He typically buys the Asian Home Gourmet powdered spice, which is always at Save-On-Foods and it’s the best priced by far! Try to stay away from the larger brands like VH sauces. I made this mistake once and it didn’t contain a lick of taste. This recipe is very budget friendly, as chicken can be extremely inexpensive, and one packet of spice will make two meals for a family of four (that’s eight husband-sized servings!).

Required Ingredients:

500g/1lb chicken breast

1 package [sauce]

2 cups rice

1 cup milk/coconut milk.

½ cup butter/margarine

Garlic to taste


  1. Set rice to cook depending on your preference – He normally finds a rice cooker produces best results. I prefer the pot.
  2. Pour milk into medium pot, set burner to medium-low.
  3. Add sauce mix – whisk immediately, and every minute or so thereafter.
  4. Empty butter/margarine into large skillet/frying pan.
  5. Turn heat to medium-high on large burner.
  6. Mince garlic.
  7. Add garlic to pan.
  8. Cut chicken into 1cm cubes – add to skillet/frying pan.
  9. When sauce reaches just slightly under desired consistency, remove from heat. Let final thickening occur as it cools.
  10. When chicken is completely cooked, mix with sauce.
  11. Pour sauce/chicken mixture over rice on plate.

Enjoy! But there are no leftovers for puppies here! The spice doesn’t mix well with them so best to enjoy all of it by yourselves.

Tasty Tortellini

And finally, my husband’s favourite pasta recipe! He typically tries to avoid using premade tomato sauces as they’re loaded with sugar. A healthy oil sauce may be similar calorie-wise, but with less of the negative effects of a high-sugar meal. Like the other recipes, this one only requires a pot and frying pan, along with a chopping board.

Required Ingredients:

1 package tortellini

Mushrooms or veggies (zucchini is great) to your preference

1/3 cup of grated parmesan cheese

1/3 cup of your favourite cooking oil

1 tbsp butter/margarine

5 cloves of garlic

1 tsp basil


  1. Heat oil and butter in large frying pan/skillet.
  2. Boil tortellini in large pot.
  3. Mince garlic.
  4. Add garlic and basil to frying pan/skillet.
  5. Chop mushrooms veggies. Add to frying pan skillet.
  6. When tortellini is cooked, drain.
  7. Add parmesan cheese to frying pan skillet. Whisk until cheese melts into oil/butter mixture.
  8. Add tortellini to frying pan/skillet; stir to coat tortellini in sauce.

Ready to serve!

Full Bellies

I hope you give these a try. With minimal cleanup and only about 20 minutes start to finish, these meals will satisfy both your stomach and your schedule, while allowing you to avoid the fast food trap. Leave me a note if you try any of them or want to share your own recipes!