Archive for May, 2010

Book Review: You’re Mean, Lily Jean

No one likes a bully. As parents we hate the stories our kids may share about being mistreated or singled out or just being ignored. Our heart aches. But like it or not, not every child will get along with our child.
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                         Carley knows all about bullying in Scholastic Canada’s You’re Mean, Lily Jean (age 3-8) written by Frieda Wishinsky and illustrated by Kady MacDonald. Carley always played with her big sister Sandy. That is,  until Lily Jean moves in next door. At first the three girls play well together but quickly Carley tires of Lily Jean bossing her around. When Lily Jean calls Carley ‘stupid’, the two sisters have enough and decide to play on their own. Lily Jean realizes her error and how much she enjoys playing with the girls so she promises to play nice from now on; she even let Carley pick the next game.                                                                                                                                                                                                                                      
I love how You’re Mean, Lily Jean paints a true picture of how bullying can occur; it doesn’t have to be physical. A bully can be someone who talks down to another child, calls them names or excludes them just to be mean. I also like that the three girls sort out their problems together, without any adult involvement. There are many times we won’t be there with our children so knowing they can deal with certain situations on their own is a good lesson.

You’re Mean, Lily Jean was a great book to read with my kids. Not only did it lead to discussions about behaviour, how to treat others and dealing with conflict, it was also great as an example of sibling relationships. We always tell our kids that friends will come and go but family is forever. Sandy and Carley supported each other in the story and provide a great example of sibling relationships.                                                                                                                                               
I have to thank Nicole at Scholastic Canada for my review copy.                                                                                                                
You’re Mean, Lily Jean
age 3-8
written Frieda Wishinsky, illustrated by Kady MacDonald.
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.

Traveling the obstacle course known as my life, with kids, work, writing and all.
Another day. Another thought…or two
Managing Editor & Review Editor at

The Clean 15


The Clean 15

In my last blog post, I told you all about the Dirty Dozen – the 12 produce items you should buy organic if possible.

This week, it’s all about the clean 15, the 15 produce items that you don’t necessarily have to buy organic. Here they are:

  1. Onions
  2. Avocado
  3. Sweet Corn (frozen)
  4. Pineapples
  5. Mangoes (sub-tropical & tropical)
  6. Sweet Peas (frozen)
  7. Asparagus
  8. Kiwi (sub-tropical & tropical)
  9. Cabbage
  10. Eggplant
  11. Cantaloupe (domestic)
  12. Watermelon
  13. Grapefruit
  14. Sweet Potatoes
  15. Honeydew Melon

The following are facts about the Clean 15 from the EWG website:

The vegetables least likely to test positive for pesticides are onions, sweet corn, sweet peas, asparagus, cabbage, eggplant and sweet potatoes.

-Asparagus, sweet corn, and onions had no detectable pesticide residues on 90 percent or more of samples.

-More than four-fifths of cabbage samples (82.1 percent) had no detectible pesticides, followed by sweet peas (77.1 percent) and eggplant (75.4 percent).

-Multiple pesticide residues are extremely rare on vegetables low in overall contamination. No samples of onions and corn showed more than one pesticide. Sweet potatoes showed multiple pesticides in 9.3 percent of samples.

-The most contaminated single sample among the low-pesticide vegetables showed 4 different chemicals.

-The fruits least likely to test positive for pesticide residues are avocados, pineapples, mangoes, kiwi, domestic cantaloupe, watermelon, grapefruit and honeydew.

-Fewer than 10 percent of pineapple, mango, and avocado samples showed detectable, and fewer than one percent of samples had more than one pesticide residue.

-Nearly 60 percent of honeydew melons had detectable pesticides but only 14.2 percent of samples contained more than one residue. Grapefruit had residues on 54.5 percent of samples, and 17.5 percent showed multiple pesticide residues.

At my grocery store, the variety of organic produce made available varies from week to week, so for me it is not always possible to get an organic version of what I want. This makes shopping a bit frustrating at times. Fortunately, I have been able to find some services that make things a bit easier such as:

-           Ottawa Organics, a weekly home delivery service that offers organic fruits, vegetables, breads and much more. If you are not in Ottawa, look into whether or not your city offers such a service.

-          Farmer’s markets. Now that the nicer weather is here, the farmer’s markets are beginning to pop up everywhere. A great one that we visit from time to time is The Ottawa Organic Farmer’s Market. A bonus to going here is that they also have vendors who sell yummy organic baked treats!

-          There are also CSA (Community Supported Agriculture) Farms such as this Ottawa area based farm where you pay a set amount at the beginning of the season and you are delivered fresh local produce all summer long on a weekly basis. Do a Google search to see the CSA farms that exist in your area.

For more information on the Clean 15 and the Dirty Dozen, visit the EWG website. To see the entire list of the 49 fruits and vegetables that were tested and where they rank on the list, click here.

Those of you who own an iPhone, The EWG has created a great app so you can have the list readily available while at all times, and for those of you who do not own an iPhone, you can download a PDF of the list and carry it will you to the store. Click here for info on both.


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

Joyful Pregnancy with Prenatal Yoga

Lululemon Athletica on Flickr

Bringing another life into the world is a miracle and a life long connection of love, nurturing and a bond stronger than anything else in this world.  Creating a foundation of a healthy mind, body and spirit will pay forward to your little one as they continue to grow and thrive within your uterus.  Practicing yoga throughout your pregnancy enables the mother to focus on their pregnancy, turning their senses internally and becoming more aware of what is happening within their own body…the miracle of life.  The pregnant mother becomes more aware of how she is feeling mentally, physically, emotionally and spiritually and is able to modify her lifestyle as her body asks her to. 

As another life force is growing inside the pregnant mother she becomes more fatigued, at times feeling absolute exhaustion.  By setting aside time for a daily yoga practice, whether 10 minutes or 60, the mother becomes aware of when she needs to rest, revitalize and regenerate.  There are also specific yoga movements and breathing techniques that can increase the pregnant mothers energy and stamina.  As your loved one grows inside your uterus your centre of balance begins to shift which in turn compromises your postures. Some muscles begin to become over worked and others not worked enough, causing stiffness, soreness and energy blocks.  Yoga will assist you in releasing any muscle soreness, regaining a more powerful posture.  When you create a balance within your body, the circulation is greatly improved and the body is invited to relax.

Developing, or continuing with your current yoga practice, will empower you throughout the birthing process.  Utilizing breath awareness and control, developing awareness within your body will assist with labour coping strategies, creating a still mind while you ride the wave of each contraction and becoming comfortable in finding birthing positions that work for you throughout your birthing experience.

3 Part Breathe

Sit in a comfortable cross legged position. Lengthen your spine, stacking vertebrae ontop of vertebrae.  Lengthen your neck, open your chest, float your shoulders down your back and press the crown of your head towards the sky. Begin to inhale and exhale through your nose in a relaxed manner.  As you inhale, through your nose, invite the breath to travel to your belly as it surrounds your baby, then fill your ribs and intercostal muscles and finally your chest.  With each exhalation, through the nose,  the air in the chest leaves the body first, then the ribs and finally the belly.  Continue with your 3 part breathe inviting relaxation and calmness to surround yourself and your growing baby.


Move into a table top position, with your shoulders in line with your wrists and hips in line with knees. Spread your fingers apart to create a strong base of support.  Inhale through the nose as your belly moves towards the floor and your head and tail bone lift.  Exhale through the nose, rounding through your spine, gazing towards your knees or your growing baby.

Cow Face (Gomukhasana)

Sit with your legs extended out in front of you. Bend your right leg and cross your right leg over your left, stacking your knees one on top of each other. Place your right foot close to your left hip. Bend your left leg (which is on the bottom) and place your left foot towards your right hip.  Lengthen tall through the spine, opening your hips and grounding your sit bones into the earth.

Bound Angle (Baddha Konasana)

Sitting with lengthend spine, open chest, relaxed shoulders, and long neck, bend your knees as they gently fall towards the earth and the soles of your feet come together. Open up the inner thighs and hips, bringing relaxation and calmness to your body as you visualize the birth of your baby.

Wide Angle Seated Forward Bend (Upavistha Konasana)

With your sit bones grounded into the earth and spine and neck lengthened, chest open, open your legs to a comfortable position as you feel a light stretching and opening of the inner thights. You may wish to place your hands behind your body or in front to assist in supporting the spine and maintaining its length.  If this feels comfortable begin to forward fold from the hips, leading with your heart first. Only forward fold as far as you feel comfortable.  Respect your body and the wishes of your baby.

Stay tuned for more in my next post.

Namaste!   Amanda

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.

The Homework Debate – Do you side with mom or dad on this one?

I was going to write about chapter 4 of Willingham’s Why Don’t Students Like School? and was really looking forward to it because it deals with rote learning (a debate in which I often find myself alone on the pro-team).

But rote learning is going to have to wait while I rant a bit about another subject that riles people’s tempers – homework.

Homework of questionable value, to be specific.

I was at the home of a very bright grade 4 student a couple of weeks ago.

In the living room, I saw pieces of bristol board, cut and glued into turrets (yes, as in castle); popsicle stick draw bridge and portcullis (a term I’ve never heard in 52+ year.  And, I might add, I’ve managed to be a fully functioning adult professional anyway.  For those of you who do  fear the shame of not knowing what a portcullis is, please refer to this fun site:

In the kitchen were bits of paper, keepers and discards of various sizes and shapes.  The larger pieces – the keepers with designs which looked like bricks – had been carefully coloured a variety of shades of brown/grey.  The smaller pieces – the discards – were being swept into a dustpan with a dry rag.  The hand on the rag belonged to the frazzled father.

“I don’t know what the point of this is,“ he said, in a tone that mirrored his words.  “It’s taking all three of us to get it done.”    

I asked how much time they’d put into it already. 

12 hours.  

Now, I know the student had been working on this project for quite a while, because I visit twice and week, and I’ve seen it progress over several visits.  Progress and grow into something the dad had begun to resent.

My student became distressed when she heard her dad tell me the assignment was due in four days: “I still have to put it together, and make the moat, and the stables, and the kitchen, and where people sleep,” she moaned. 

“Don’t worry,” the dad said.  “It will be done.  That’s why mom and I are helping you.”

Dad looked at me.  “I’d like to just sweep the whole thing into a box as it is and carry it in to the teacher,” he said. “We’ve got a neighbour whose child has a similar project – also not very impressed.”

I was out to see the student again this week and this time it was the mom who was home.  Shaking her head, she showed me the pictures she had posted on Facebook for friends and family. 

I asked what they’d do with the project when it was time to bring it home. 

“Wrap it up and put it in the basement,” she said, “in case her brother has to do it when he gets to grade 4.”

Did she ever question the pedagogical value, I wondered.  (She’s an assistant at a Montessori school.)

“No.  I figure if we ever go back to the dark ages, she’ll know how to build her own home.”

Well, the mom might have had a sense of humour.  But, I was with the dad on this one.  What was the point, academically speaking? 

I can’t help but think that an entire classroom of students could have researched, planned, designed and constructed a castle in a few social studies periods – with lots of valuable learning about collaboration, time management, negotiation, and peer-teaching to be had.  In addition to learning what a portcullis is.

How would YOU vote on this one?  Would you share the laugh with Mom – or join Dad in his frustration about this kind of assignment?  Weigh in and let us know, won’t you?

Diane Duff, B. Ed., M. A., has been working with students and families for almost twenty years.   Her areas of expertise are literacy development, special education, reading disability/dyslexia, and teacher training.   At Aldridge-Duff, the private education business she founded ten years ago, Diane coordinates a highly experienced team of certified teachers  who provide in-home tutoring and academic support to students (all ages/grades/abilities) in both Ottawa and Toronto.
Contact Diane directly at 


Long Weekend Road Trips: Preparedness

*photo from Flickr

Most people have an` “Emergency Kit” for their vehicle.  You know the one.  It has a first aid kit, a blanket, flashlight, jumper cables etc.  My question for you is, are you fully prepared?  What if your vehicle didn’t break down, but instead your long weekend became even longer because you’re stuck in traffic?  Are you ready for that?  

Here are some JUST IN CASE items you should take along as well:
-Bottles of water
-Granola bars or something that can tide you over until your next stop
-Baby wipes – great for those in car spills
-Paper towels – see above
-A change of clothing – again see above
-Extra batteries or car chargers for music players/cell phones/laptops etc
-Travel pillows & blankets (the comfy kind, not those crinkly emergency blankets)
-Portable entertainment IE DVDs, deck of cards, magnetic travel games, hand held video games
-Sunscreen (daytime travel)
-Booklight (nightime travel)
-Large Ziploc bags – great for garbage                                                                                                                                                                     -A bit of cash (in case your next stop doesn’t take credit or debit)

These items won’t take up too much extra space & might end up saving you a headache.  Now that you’re all packed enjoy the VICTORIA DAY long weekend (& remember to take lots of pictures!)

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

French Fries, Gravy & Curds, OH MY!

Heaven help me, I love poutine.

Well actually I love anything that comes deep fried but that’s a whole other battle.

‘Tis the season for Chipstands, French Fry Trucks, Chip Wagons, you name it.  I drive by at least 5 on the way to my in-laws every weekend, each with their delicious aroma trickling down the road towards my open car windows.

When we were younger, my Dad would take us on the dreaded Sunday afternoon drive, where we always “got lost” as he put it.  (Insert “Daaaad!!!! I want to go HOMMME!!!” while Mom giggled in the front seat)  But the highlight of getting “lost” was ending up somewhere (which was usually 10 minutes from our house) that had a Chip Wagon.

Before I was banned from having dairy (whimper) my choice of food at any Chip Wagon was poutine, even as a child.

I’m sure all your Moms & Dads out there are smart enough to realize that poutine is PROBABLY not the best choice for your kids to have all to themselves.

My Suggestion

There’s always a combo or two.  Usually with a hot dog, hamburger, pogo and french fries.  If you have 2 little ones, ask the vendor to split the hamburger or hot dog (if they’re not able to eat a whole hot dog) in half and split the fries it comes with, and separate them into two containers.  My guess is that they are going to be so excited about having such a fun meal on the go, they won’t bicker too much about sharing. 

If your whole family wants some poutine action, I suggest getting 2 large poutine and sharing, versus getting the “family sized” that have enough poutine for 7 people instead of 2 adults and a couple kidlets.  Just remember to flush out the greasy lunch with some bottles of water, and some outdoor playing before jumping back into the car.

If you’re looking for a great Chip Wagon, I highly suggest the one in Rockland on the corner by Mr. Gas.  DELICIOUS.  And the prices are wallet-friendly.

 Happy & healthy eating!

*photo courtesy of Flickr


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

BBQ Today, School Lunch Tomorrow

BBQ season and casual dining is upon us which means the end of school lunches is just around the corner!  As the count down for summer break starts, BBQ season is the perfect opportunity for easy and tasty school lunches.  Al fresco dining is always inspiring and there are countless school lunch ideas to be created from grilling your favourite proteins and vegetables.

My family’s new favourite BBQ marinade right now is adapted from the recipe for Roast Chicken with Achiote and Lime from Corinna Mozo, from chef and owner of Delux restaurant in Toronto.  I discovered this recipe and new ingredient “Achiote” in an article by Claire Tansey in the May 2010 issue of House and Home.

 Naan Wraps with Achiote Lime Grilled Chicken


 1.5 TB achiote paste **

Juice of 2 limes

¼ cup olive oil

2 TB ground cumin

4 cloves garlic

1 green onion or 1/3 bunch of chives

4 cloves garlic

Combine ingredients in food processor or blender and pulse until combined.  Marinate whole or cut up chicken in a Ziploc bag for minimum 2 hours.  The original recipe recommends marinating for 6 -14 hours.

Roast chicken whole in the oven or BBQ.  If grilling, be mindful that this marinade is more susceptible to burning and sticking so remove excess marinade before cooking.  Baste with butter or cooking juices frequently. Using lower indirect heat on the BBQ will be best.  Cook chicken until an internal temperature of 165F.

 ** Achiote paste is available at Chilly Chilis  Achiote is derived from a small shrub from South America.

Enjoy the chicken for dinner and reserve some for wraps the following day.  Assemble wraps with soft naan bread, mayonnaise, and sliced peppers and/or cucumbers.  For grown up tastes add mesclun, fresh cilantro, raita or even chimichurri.

Other BBQ Quick Fire Solutions for school lunches:

 Grilled Beef

  • Slice thinly for sandwiches or wraps
  • Sliced with asian noodle salad
  • Cold in a pasta salad with parmesan dressing
  • Hot with rice, broccoli and your favourite stir fry sauce

 Grilled Chicken

  • Adding a little mayonnaise to your marinated and BBQ’d chicken makes for great sandwich filling
  • Add celery, peppers, herbs and your favourite dressing to make a chicken salad to eat on its own or put in a wrap
  • Chicken Caesar salad
  • Add to hot pasta with Alfredo sauce or olive oil
  • Add to butter chicken sauce and serve with rice

 Grilled Shrimp

  • Serve on their own will sliced veggies, pita and dip
  • Add to cold pasta with tomatoes and feta
  • Serve cold with a thai style rice or noodle salad

Summertime salads are super for school lunches too.  During your prep keep some aside and pack directly into school lunch containers to save a time. Prep time is a good opportunity to adapt dishes to kids’ tastes.  Think about putting aside items for two days worth of lunches to make a smooth transition into the start of the week.  If evenings are busy with activities, these menu ideas work well for quick tasty dinners on the go.

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 @epicuriadotca

Organized at a Book Launch

Last week I had the pleasure of attending Kathy Buckworth’s book launch for her new novel Shut Up & Eat.  I knew the room would be filled with great energy & tons of camera flashes, but I wanted to make the event special for another reason.  Over the past year or so, I have formed friendships with the wonderful women who were in that room through Twitter & Facebook (including the owners of this site!) & felt that it required a celebration in itself!  Not knowing when I’d get to see all these ladies again I grabbed the opportunity to make the event timeless.  After having the author grace the front of my book with her signature, I grabbed as many of my pals as I could find to sign the back of my book.
Not only does this give me a reminder of the wonderful time I had at the launch, it also lets me know that all of my pals are reading SHUT UP & EAT right along with me.

Here’s some suggestions for other keepsakes of a gathering:
Instant Poloroid pictures that the person can sign onsite
Matte from a picture frame
Blank T-Shirt with a supply of fabric pens for signatures
Sign or poster from an event with autographs
It’s soon time for Family reunions, company picnics & neighbourhood BBQ’s.  I hope these suggestions help to keep your memories memorable.

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

It’s like a Sandwich, but…not?

My man & I have been house hunting, every spare second we have.  Which means, over normal meal times that we would be at home and eating, relaxing.  Instead, we’ve been eating on the go, stressed out, shoveling food in our mouths in 15 minutes over the course of the past few weeks.  This past weekend, we had about 30 minutes for lunch before meeting our realtor so we decided to hit up Extreme Pita.

There was this little girl standing with her Mom behind me (her Mother’s Day outing I’m guessing) and she was studying the menu very intently.  When her Mom asked her which pita on the menu she wanted, her little voice said “The Mexican Fiesta, it looks like a taco”.  So cute.

Decent Alternative!

I was quite happy with our lunch selection (better than the McDonalds we were contemplating!)

My Market Fresh Veggie, 6” pita made me quite happy and would be totally sufficient for your little one, with only 187 calories, 1 gram of fat, and an amazing 7.3 grams of fibre.  Ding, ding ding!  We have a winner!

They also have a kids menu with some fun pitas, including, a Ham & Cheese Pita, a Chicken Pita, and a couple flat bread pita-pizzas all ranging in decent calories, sodium levels and fat…the only one I would shy away from would be their Ham & Cheese Wedge, which has way more sodium than I would like to see on a kid’s menu.

Overall, I was quite happy to be able to blog about Extreme Pita, with their fresh ingredients, nutritional information along the counter, and a variety of options for those watching their waistline, or watching what’s going in their kid’s mouths.  Way to go Extreme Pita, 2 thumbs up for Eating on the Go!

Oh and we bought the house we were debating over at Extreme Pita

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

Toned Arms

A wonderful fellow Best Tools for Schools blogger and friend, Leslie Scott was asking on Twitter ways she can tone her arms without always going to the gym and using free weights.  As I am sure many of us can relate working full time jobs, being full-time parents, partners and moving through life at what seems a break necking speed sometimes can be overwhelming. Through in trying to find time to exercise, incorporate proper nutrition and actually finish a load of laundry without it sitting in the washing machine soaking wet for days may seem daunting.   In celebration of Mothers Day I wanted to dedicate this blog to all the mothers out there, who I am excited to join the ranks of any day now!

I am here to show you ways you can get to die for toned arms, halter top ready, for the summer months. These yoga postures can be done in your living room during tv commercials, while at the park and the kids are running around, after a morning run, or any other time you happen to have a spare moment to breathe ;)

Yoga Journal ( provides great movement descriptions and pictures online. I recommend that you bookmark them for the next time you are looking for a quick stretch or movement to work a specific area of the body. You can use their sequence page to create sequences of movements and then print it off to add to your workout routine!

Below are my top 6 recommended movements to tone your arms as you prepare to put away the sweaters and embrace the summer weather.  Hold each movement for as long as you are comfortable doing so, but don’t be afraid to challenge yourself. Most of the time it is our mind, not our body,  that tells us it has had enough of a certain movement because change and challenge can be hard mentally. Not only do these movements tone the arms, they also have many other benefits such as challenging the core (abdominals and back muscles).

1.  Dolphin Plank

2. Plank Pose

3. Side Plank Pose

4. Four-Limbed Staff Pose

5. Dolphin Pose

6. Upward Plank Pose

Once you become comfortable completing each movement on its owns then play with the movements flowing from one to another. An example of a flowing sequence may be moving from plank to side plank right side, back to plank and then side plank left side, plank, rolling over to upward plank pose, back to plank and four limbed staff pose :)

Remember to take time each day to breathe, and of course to tone your arms up for summer!

Namaste!   Amanda

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.

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Candace also blogs for
the Yummy Mummy Club!