Archive for March, 2010

Love Your World

It seems this time a year we are move focused on the environment and taking care of the world around us. With Earth Hour behind us and Earth Day approaching, we’ve started reading more books on how we can make a difference. Sometimes it seems that only big people can affect change. DK Canada‘s book Love Your World: How to take care of the plants, the animals and the planet (age 1-5) shows that even the younger set can help.

The book talks about simple and easy ways kids, and all of us really, can make a difference in keeping the earth healthy: grow a little garden, turn off the lights, toss litter in the trash. Photographs of young kids doing their part fill the pages to reinforce that kids can help. Cute little illustrations appear throughout the pages. A snail appears in the little garden. Cardboard cutouts of a family wearing sweaters. A garbage can with a smiley face. My 3-year-old loved finding these little surprises. She also loved seeing the photographs of people just like her in the book.

At the end of the story there’s a Super Green Star Award where you can fill-in your child’s name and sign it (and cutout if you wish). It reaffirms all the ways your child will help make the Earth a better place. There’s also a double-page-spread that outlines things your child promises to do and a star where they can checkout what they plan to do. This book has been a great way to start discussions on taking care of the world around us. My daughter now reminds her siblings when they’ve left the lights on and has even gone out and picked up trash on the street as we walk to school.

The great thing about Love Your World is that content in the book isn’t just about helping the environment, the book itself is environmentally friendly, through the paper, the printer and ink. It’s great to have a book about the environment that reinforces its message in the way it’s printed.

Love Your World

age 1-5

DK Publishing

Carrie Anne Badov, a mother of three wee ones, has a love of children’s literature that extends beyond her mothering years, back to when she would remove pages from books and insert her own stories as a child. She continues to write her own stories in the hopes of seeing one of them published but in the meantime she loves to read and review great children’s books. She’s the Managing Editor and Review Editor at and publishes more children’s book reviews every Wednesday on her blog Another day. Another thought…or two as part of her weekly Write a Review Wednesday post.

A Little Bit of Salmon in Your Life

(Yes I totally sang the title to Lou Bega’s “Mambo No.5…and now you are too)

I’ve taken a recent (and by recent I mean in the past year’ish) liking to enjoying salmon fillets in restaurants.  I didn’t like salmon as a child, but I just remember my parents making “Salmon Balls” (Salmon Cakes with stuffing, spices, etc on the frying pan) and so I didn’t really enjoy an actual filet, where the real taste and nutrients were hiding. (Stay awaaaaaay from my Mom’s Salmon Balls recipe!!!)

If you’re at a restaurant that offers salmon on their children’s menu, this could be your opportunity to introduce another healthier option to your child while Eating on the Go. This may be a hard meal to convince your kids to eat, but hey it’s worth a shot.

When there is an option on the Kids Menu to try salmon, here’s some fun ways to entice your little one!

1)    Pair it with rice.  Rice is much healthier than French Fries as we’ve read in one of my past posts.

2)    Get it baked with lemon and pepper.  It adds a tangy, yet slightly spicy flavor that your kids may enjoy over just plain salmon.

3)    Get your kids to have vegetables with it for the optimal meal.  Kids meals usually come with bite sized, brightly colored vegetables that they don’t mind eating.

4)    Allow them to dip it Ketchup.  For some reason, things always taste better when they are dipped in Ketchup, says some of the cutest kids I know.

5)    Make a game out of the lines in the fillet.  Have your child cut the fillet along the lines.  An average kid’s sized salmon will have about 10 lines in it, making about 10 bites, and an easy countdown for Mom & Dad if your little one really doesn’t like it…but if you try some of the options above, it may be alright!

Calorie wise, your kid’s salmon fillet will only be between 150-200 calories, and an amazing 20 grams of protein!  The fats that come from the salmon are 95% good essential fats, and are not harmful in a healthy diet.  Not too much the Omega-3’s are going to help stimulate your child’s brain activity – fish is brain food!

Happy & healthy eating!


Follow @leslielscott on Twitter and visit her personal blog entitled “The Life of Leslie” for adventures of a 20-something woman aspiring to be something amazing

Celebrate Yoga at School From Your Chair

Many of us may remember as children the challenge it was at times to focus at school, or have watched our children as they sit at a desk and fidget while trying to learn.  Focusing ones attention for long periods of time can be challenging for many and the expectation to sit in a classroom environment with focused attention for extended periods of times can be very demanding for many children.  The practice of yoga enables students to focus for longer periods of times while gaining control over their mind, body and spirit as they channel their energy towards learning.

The addition of yoga classes in schools has been gaining momentum.  Some schools are choosing to offer yoga during physical activity classes, as after school activities, or as mini-breaks throughout the day as a way to recharge and revitalize after spending many hours sitting at a desk.

The benefits of yoga are endless and below are excerpts from the Study of the Yoga Ed Program at the Accelerated School, conducted by Program Evaluation and Research Collaboratives (PERC) by the Charter College of Education in Los Angeles, California.

This research study has been able to confirm the following:

  • Students who had high participation rates in yoga class had fewer discipline issues.
  • Yoga participation assisted in improving student’s physical health.
  • Consistent yoga participation correlated with positive grades and academic participation.
  • Students overall views of themselves increased and negative self perceptions decreased with yoga participation.

Here are some ways you may incorporate yoga in the classroom, or at home as a quick homework break and de-stressor.

  1. Tense & Relax

Sitting in your chair, place both feet on the floor and sit up tall.  Take a deep breath in and squeeze your whole body from the top of your head to the bottom of your feet, including down to your fingertips. Feel your cheeks tighten, your hands and your toes.  Hold your breath as you squeeze for a few seconds.  As you begin to exhale release all the tension as your head, arms, torso, legs and feet turn to jello.  Repeat a few more times.

  1. Seated Twist- Let’s wring out any negative thoughts and energy!

Sit tall in your chair with both feet flat on the ground.  Place your right hand on your left thigh, right hand rests behind you. Look over your left shoulder as you twist from your belly button.  Each inhalation grow a little taller and each exhalation continue to twist as you look over the left shoulder.  Repeat on the other side.  Twisting cleanses our internal organs in a similar manner as to wringing a dish cloth out of its excess water.

  1. Seated Half Moon – Stimulate your nervous system, rejuvenate spinal discs & energize arms, shoulders and torso.

Sit tall in your chair with both feet flat on the ground. Inhale and raise your hands up over head, clasping your hands together.  As you exhale stretch to the left, keeping both sits bones (your bum!) on the chair.  Feel your left ribs and hip move closer together as your right ribs and hip grow apart. Take 3-5 deep breaths. Inhale your arms back to centre. As you exhale stretch to the right, once again keeping both sits bones on the chair. Feel your right ribs and hips move closer together as your left ribs and hip grow apart. Take 3-5 deep breaths. Inhale back to the centre and exhale your arms back down to your side.

Little Lotus yoga currently offers yoga classes for physical activity classes at various schools as well as after school programs. Interested in having a special gym class full of yoga fun? Contact for more details!

Remember to take time out during the school day, invite students to move their body, free their mind and allow their spirit to soar. Celebrate the joys of yoga even while sitting!

Amanda DeGrace

Accelerate your career and be empowered by Amanda DeGrace, respected fitness professional & yoga teacher. Energy, charisma and an amazing passion for life are qualities displayed by Amanda in both her everyday life and her yoga and wellness classes. Amanda is CEO of DeGrace Energetics, and creator of the innovative Little Lotus Yoga program. Amanda currently teaches in the Ottawa area and presents at educational events and trainings across Canada. Be inspired and empowered as Amanda shares her enthusiasm to keep moving, keep fit and keep it fun!

DeGrace Energetics & Little Lotus Yoga programs may be found at

Follow @littlelotusyoga on twitter for up to date information, recommended resources and to continue enjoying yoga with your children.

Join our “Little Lotus Yoga” fan page on Facebook to access pictures of postures, yoga sequences, guided meditations and recommended resources.


Most parents will tell you they became more aware of ingredients in the products they use and in the foods they eat after their children came into their lives. I am no different. My journey started shortly after the birth of my first daughter. At that time, news reports that told of nasty chemicals lurking in the environment, in the products we use on our bodies, even in children’s, toys were almost a daily thing. This set my shift into motion.

Around the same time, a friend introduced me to the cosmetics database ( and I became hooked. Each day I would visit the site to read about the horrific things that we had been using on ourselves and on our little baby. Fast forward to 2008…my second daughter was now here and each weekend my husband and I found ourselves travelling back and forth across the city visiting various stores to buy the safer products (not so easy to find at the time!) for our family. It was getting tiresome, especially with 2 little ones in tow, so I decided that I would open up my own store so parents could get many of these items in one place. This is how Nayla Natural Care came to be.

I am very happy to be part of the Best Tools for Schools blogging family and I hope that you can learn something from me. I spend a large amount of time researching and reading and I am still learning as I go, just like you. My education is not in chemistry, the environment or in biology, (it is actually Journalism, go figure!). I am a mom who cares passionately about her children, their health and their safety the same way you care about yours.

My plan is to blog about all things green and how you can make even the smallest changes in your everyday life so you can begin your journey to becoming more eco-friendly or to enhance your already green lifestyle. Have a question? Ask away! Have a suggestion? I would love to hear it! I look forward to sharing my words and wisdom with you J


Gwen is a mom of 2 and the owner of Nayla Natural Care ( an online store which carries an assortment of organic, natural and eco-friendly items for you and your family. Join the Nayla Natural Care page on Facebook and follow the store on Twitter @naylanatural

Oh for the love of Pop!

If you follow me on Twitter, which you should (@leslielscott) you will know that I have given up drinking pop for Lent this year. I’m not overly religious, but it seemed like a good excuse to try and work my way back to my faith a little bit at a time.

I work in a restaurant, so drinking pop is always available to us, all day long, for free. If you come from a family that always has pop in the house, Pepsi, 7-Up, Coke, Root Beer, then you know how easy it is to order a Diet Pepsi for yourself & Orange Crush for the kids at your favorite restaurant.

I have a friend, whose mother literally gave my friend’s 1 ½ year old Crème Soda (diluted, but still) in a sippy cup when she wanted “juice”. Oy.

As I always say, it’s okay to treat yourself, but have a peek into a normal can of Coke.

A can of Coca-Cola is refreshing and tasty…it is also, 160 calories, and (I hope you’re sitting down for this) 42 grams of sugar. And you wonder why your kids are bouncing 30 minutes after you’ve dined out. Heck I used to drink it for the caffeine boost, because I don’t drink coffee or anything like that.

Step away from the Coke lady!

Step away from the Coke lady!

My favorite part of the can of Coke? The disclaimer that reads: “Not a significant source of saturated fat, trans fat, cholesterol, fibre, vitamin A, vitamin C, calcium or iron.” So in other words, empty calories, and you really could have just given your kids a handful of sugar cubes to suck on!

Giving up pop at home is easy. Simply don’t buy it. Giving up pop at your favorite restaurant or fast food joint is harder. I’ve opted for water with lemon. But your kids won’t be too happy without something flavorful. Most restaurants offer 2% Milk or Chocolate Milk (which really is far better than any kind of pop) and will provide the fibre, calcium, and essential vitamins that are necessary for physical and developmental growth.

Milk wouldn’t have gotten the slogan “Milk, it does a body good!” if it weren’t true. What slogans do the pop companies have? “Always Coca-Cola”…because it will always be empty calories with an insane amount of sugar.

I would like to say that I am 35 days pop-free…if I can do it, working in a restaurant where it’s free, and cold & tasty all the time, you can for yourself and your kids.

Oh and Mom’s, please stop ordering “Diet” drinks. They are terrible for you with the Aspartame and sweeteners. Nothing like creating damage to your stomach and esophagus from all the chemicals!!

Happy & healthy eating!


Follow @leslielscott on Twitter and visit her personal blog entitled “The Life of Leslie” for adventures of a 20-something woman aspiring to be something amazing

Feeding kids: This chef’s kitchen nightmare.

Let’s be clear. It’s not easy trying to feed your kids when you are a mom armed with culinary credentials. In fact, I may argue that it is a huge disadvantage when it comes to the day in and day out task of feeding the under 10 set. I know what you are thinking, she can whip up a number of delicious meals, her kids eats like kings and no other mom can touch her lunch box creations. In fact, no other area in my life causes me the kind of stress, worry and frustration that feeding my children does.

I have the skills, the fabulous kitchen, the best pots and pans and access to top quality ingredients. So why am I whining and why does feeding my children reduce me to steely glares of frustration? Let’s face it; kids can be irrational, unpredictable and ungrateful dinner guests. This does not sit well with a chef. When I was pregnant with my first child, the only thing I wished for besides good health was good eaters. I knew then, that if I had picky eaters I was finished. I dreamt that my kids were going to eat the healthiest food and most eclectic diet. By the time they were toddlers, they had all but shattered that dream. People think I can work miracles with food, sometimes the only miracle in our house is the tiniest nibble on a piece of broccoli or a split second mouth contact with a new food.

I ask myself, is it just me being an exacting picky chef or do most moms feel like this? How do you go from a work environment where clients praise your food daily to the chaos of a kitchen run by the taste buds of a 5 and 7 year old? Why is pasta Bolognese a good meal one day and completely unacceptable the next week. How can I have one child that refuses to eat breakfast and dinner at home but is a model child when it comes to eating his school lunch and snacks? The other eats breakfast and dinner but returns home daily with almost everything I sent him to school with. One son absolutely refuses to eat fruit and will turn down chocolate cake if it has even come into contact with a strawberry. The youngest will lie, thieve and subject me to whining torture to get his sugar fix. The latter is just a small example of the complex food dictatorship that I have to navigate on a daily basis. Thank goodness I am fortunate not to have to worry about dietary intolerances and allergies.

My kids really do send me to the edge and it would be so much easier for them and me to feed them the suspect non-food they crave. They did not choose the most patient mother but they did choose one that thankfully has the stamina to keep trying to get her way. I may not win the short term battle and may rely on an eye roll and a glass of wine to get me through some meals but I hope to win long game. So far I have been able to convince them that Macdonald’s is junk food and for emergencies only and that super heroes on food boxes do not make food healthy. They know we don’t eat sugary cereals, pop, packaged convenience foods and that grocery shopping with mom does not yield treats only unsolicited rants about rows and rows of crap in boxes. They tell me I think and tweet about food too much but bless their little hearts, they have thankfully returned the gift of their corn dog and Twinkie deprived life with a love of sushi, dim sum, seafood, game meats, and cooking. If I can teach then a fraction of what my parents taught me about growing, foraging, processing and cooking your own food I will be happy.

As a chef, my expectations around my children’s eating may be a little exaggerated and I should perhaps shush my inner food snob, but I think teaching our kids about food is a valuable skill that unfortunately, can be easily missed on our day to day parenting checklist. There is an explosion of interest and information available reacquainting us with where our food is from, how to simply prepare it and the health benefits it has over processes foods. Start by taking your kids to a market or just simply explaining to them why their favourite treat may or may not be healthy. Explain to them what happens to their bodies if they eat food with too much sugar, fat and salt. We have an opportunity with every meal to educate and make a difference. Most importantly, repeat, repeat and repeat the lesson, have a glass of wine if you have to, and hopefully one day you will over hear your kids say in public “ Macdonald’s is junk food and that crap is not healthy for you”.

pie 005Asado 010

Tracey is owner of Epicuria and mother of two young boys.  Watch for her lunchtime solutions here at Best Tools for Schools. Follow her on Twitter @brownbagmom

To be a Substitute (Occasional) Teacher

……. a pause in the book review

To be a Substitute (Occasional) Teacher


In hiring professionals to work as in-home tutors, I meet a lot of new teachers, and a lot of new-to-Canada teachers.

While they wait for the chance to prove themselves in permanent teaching positions, many spend their evenings and weekends working as teacher-tutors – happy to be working in their field.  By day, they want the chance to gain experience and make connections by filling in when their fully-employed peers have to be away from the classroom.  They want work as occasional teachers.

But not all can afford to wait for occasional work, to keep their weekday schedules free so they are available to teach on an hour’s notice.  Too many are under-employed at jobs that allow them to feed their families, but restrict their chances of realizing employment in their chosen profession.

In these ways, the experiences of new teachers and new-to-Canada teachers are the same.  But, new-to-Canada teachers may have more difficulty, not only securing that ever-elusive full time teaching job, but also securing occasional teaching work.

The experiences of three new-to-Canada teachers, Sonia, Zahra and Ogus, are given voice in Katina Pollock’s “Marginalization and the Occasional Teacher Workforce in Ontario: The Case of Internationally Educated Teachers (Canadian Journal of Educational Administration and Policy).

Enjoy the read – and please leave a comment.

…..I’ll be back with chapter 4 of Daniel Willingham’s “Why Don’t Students Like School?” in two weeks.

Diane Duff, B. Ed., is a literacy consultant who works with families, schools, and literacy coaches/tutors.  Diane conducts assessments for reading/writing skills and dyslexia; provides workshops for parent groups; leads reading and language curriculum review for private schools, Montessori schools and homeschooling parents; and conducts teacher training in language and literacy development.    Email Diane at  or telephone her at 613-730-7096.  For more information, visit 

On Track Thursday – Car Detailing

With Spring showing signs of it’s approaching, there’s a good chance you can still see the residue of Winter inside your car.

Salt & winter slush can deteriorate the interior of a car quickly, so riding your vehicle of the gunk buildup will help save it’s interior.

Detailing your own car isn’t as hard as it sounds & doing it yourself can save a lot of cash.

Here’s some quick tips

Grab some rubber gloves, garbage bags, vacuum, Q-tips, baby wipes, that debit card that no longer swipes (but still hides in your wallet), & upholstery cleaner.

Rid your car of all the garbage (Fast food bags, old magazines, half melted crayons, half drank water bottles, hence rubber gloves!)

Vacuum the car with the nozzel attachment, make sure to remove car mats, pull seats up (& back) to make sure to reach all the areas. This will remove most of the salt

Take upholstery cleaner to the spots on the interior carpet & seating

Use baby wipes to clean dashboard, door handles etc

Use a dampened Q-tip or the debit card with a baby wipe wrapped around it get all the hard to reach areas (around stereo knobs, in between the seat & the seat belt clip, all those little vent slats etc)

That just saved you between $60-$100 in car detailing expenses! Give yourself a pat on the back, pile the kids in the car & splurge for the automatic car wash. That $10 car wash is worth it, as it doubles as a boredom buster (just make sure to steer clear of wet potholes on the way home)!

Lisa McDonald is mother to one son, works full time and part time, is an organizer of women’s group, & Co-Host of MeFest – so you know time management is TRULY important to her.

You can always find Lisa on Twitter at @those2girls

Potty Animals

Sometimes I think with three kids I should have the whole parenting thing down to a science, but I’ve quickly discovered that each child is different. What works for one child causes chaos for the next. It’s almost like going through the learning process all over again, except maybe I’m not so anxious with each decisions I make (or don’t make).

The latest relearning we’ve been going through in our house has been toilet training. My two oldest were late to learn but quick. A few charts, the occassional reward and the pull-ups were history. My youngest has proven to be a challenge. I have a feeling my youngest will be a challenge in general going forward, but first to conquer the bathroom.

Books about using the bathroom are great for my daughter since she loves books but I don’t like most of them which makes it difficult for me to get into reading them enthusiastically. I must not be the only parent feeling that way because Sterling Publishing has just released the book Potty Animals. What to Know When You’ve Gotta Go (age 4+), written by Hope Vestergaard and illustrated by Valeria Petrone.


This isn’t really a potty training book, but it is a book about going to the bathroom, or rather bathroom etiquette, like washing your hands with soap, not barging into the bathroom without knocking first, remembering to do up your zipper. This makes it idea for both my bathroom trainee as well as her older siblings.

Potty Animals follows a group of characterized animals in preschool. Each page focuses on one animal and the bathroom issue they have: Wilma waits to long, Freddie has a fear of flushing, Helga likes to lollygag. The rhyming text keeps the story fun and light versus becoming to preachy. Kids will be able to relate to some of the scenarios either with themselves or ‘a friend’. My son was quick to point one what characters he was most like. The story allows for an nice transition into talking about bathroom ettiquet in your own home or at school. It helps that kids are already obsessed with the bathroom and what you do in it. I knew the book has reached my son when I overheard him talking to his younger sister, ‘Don’t be a Wilma. Go to the bathroom now. We can play when you get back.’

Although Potty Animals is a book about bathroom etiquette, the fun rhyme and colourful images make this book a fun read; a book my kids ask to read again. And maybe if we read it enough, some of the ideas will stick.

If you visit Sterling Publishing can read some questions and answers with author Hope Vestergaard on potty training, plus you can download a FREE copy of the Potty Animals Bathroom Poster

Potty Animals
written by Hope Vestergaard, illustrated by Valeria Petrone
age 4+
Sterling Publishing

Carrie Anne Badov, a mother of three wee ones, has a love of children’s literature that extends beyond her mothering years, back to when she would remove pages from books and insert her own stories as a child. She continues to write her own stories in the hopes of seeing one of them published but in the meantime she loves to read and review great children’s books. She’s the Managing Editor and Review Editor at and publishes more children’s book reviews every Wednesday on her blog Another Day. Another though…or two as part of her weekly Write a Review Wednesday post.

A Calorie Filled Breakfast

Oh. My. Goodness.

It’s that time of year again, where Tim Horton’s drivethrus have an extra 10 minute wait, and the parking lot is full. You see people all over the city with their red & yellow cups, guzzling down their coffee and hot chocolate faster than it can burn their tongues, so they can squeeze the cup, or use their teeth to, that’s right Roll Up The Rim To Win!

I never win. But I like to try! So, last week, as I was running late for work, and didn’t have time to sit down and have breakfast at home, and we were out of yogurt that I would normally take instead, I stopped at Tim Horton’s and grabbed a large Hot Chocolate (I don’t drink coffee) and a Chocolate Chip Muffin.

Then I got curious.

Holy Calories Batman!

I checked online to see how many calories I had consumed for my breakfast on the go. My muffin? 430 calories, 14 grams of fat, 38 grams of sugar and 460 grams of sodium. Pick up your dropped jaw…add in my large hot chocolate. 480 calories, 12 grams of fat, 72 grams of sugar, and a whopping 720 grams of sodium.

Breakfast for Leslie = 910 calories, 110 grams of sugar, 26 grams of fat & 1180 grams of sodium.

Not only did that put me at HALF of my calorie intake, and more sodium than I should consume in one day, but I didn’t even know how bad of a choice I was making, and that scares me. I like to at least know when I’m making a poor, let alone terrible meal choice.

Ever get your child a small hot chocolate at Tim’s? 220 calories. Perhaps you get them a Fruit Explosion muffin while you’re there, hoping the fruit will be okay? Another jaw-dropping 350 calories and a scary 31 grams of sugar.

As I always say, it is okay to treat your children once & awhile. Heck I treat myself plenty, but for the most part I’m smart about it. I was naïve with Tim Horton’s though. I’ll be watching a little more closely when I take my niece & nephew there in the future!

PS – Those of you who are on Weight Watchers, did you know that a Double Double at Tim Horton’s is 9 Points? If you’re on a 22 point day, kinda takes up most of it…makes you think twice perhaps?….

Happy & healthy eating!


Follow @leslielscott on Twitter and visit her personal blog entitled “The Life of Leslie” for adventures of a 20-something woman aspiring to be something amazing

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