Island Time: What a month away with my children taught me

IMG_1261I just returned from a month away. With my kids. All three of them. 24/7 at arm’s length for 4 whole weeks. We ate every meal together, woke up at an ungodly hour every day together, and spent every second together for 28 days.

Believe it or not, it’s what I wanted. In fact, I was desperate for it. I longed to be free from the schedule: the schoolwork and the activities, the play dates and birthday parties and the overwhelming feeling of always being on the go. I wanted to spend the days with the boys doing nothing. Teaching them that doing nothing is in fact doing something – it’s recharging. Re-setting. And all of us need to know how to do that.

Residing in a busy city and having busy schedules and living with a big, busy family, it’s hard to not get swept up in always “doing”. Checking things off “the list” with compulsion and not really enjoying any of it. I’ve spent lots of time this past year reflecting on how much time we spend “doing” and not “being”. I want to change that.

Most importantly I want to impart to my boys that their self-worth is not tied to how busy they are. And what better way to do that, than to show them how.

We unpacked our bags in Grand Cayman and settled in for a month of island living, where “island time” is a real thing. We spent the days at the beach discovering the sea life, and learning about our world. Snorkelling adventures spanned hours and walks on the sand were slow and unchartered. Mealtime was unhurried and evenings were spent watching old movies, playing cards and lost in our imaginations.

Escaping the perils of boyhood is not possible – even in Paradise. They still fought, and whined, and complained. They still didn’t want to be touched, breathed on, or looked at. The iPads were still taken away and threats were still made, but all to a much lesser degree.

Free from distractions, the boys reconnected with each other and with me. The conversation flowed and while my boys studied mollusks and coral formations, I realized who they are. Their distinct personalities revealed themselves to me in new ways, and my understanding of them and their fears, anxieties, dreams and excitements, became clearer.

The weeks passed in a blur, a painful reminder of how fast the years are slipping by, and tears came with the realization that I can slow down and be more present but I can’t stop time.

Amazing August (and Our Fifth Blogoversary!)

FullSizeRender (1)August is so amazing… we’ve got our summer groove on and are in the thick of the season. There is alternately so much happening or, if you are lucky/intentional, nothing much happening at all, and both of these states are perfectly good.

It’s also a time when many of us find the time to travel, in all of its many forms. This month, we’re writing about some of the ways in which we move around.  Some of us are destined for faraway places, some of us stay near to home, but all of us are moving, all the time.

We’re happy to announce our special guests lined up, including friend Kristi Ashcroft on summering with her kids. We also have – wait for it – original 4 Mothers co-writer Marcelle Cerny back for a post! It’s wonderful to have her writing on our screen again.

We’ll also offer some tips on making those travel plans work: everything from games, shoes, sunscreen and bug spray.  And if you’re looking for great reads for kids, stay tuned, and we’ll tell you what our favourites are in our What We’re Reading Kids feature.

Most of all, we hope that reading here is, in some small way, giving your summer days a bit of a boost. Because that’s kind of why we’re here in the first place. This season marks our fifth summer writing daily to you – that would be FIVE YEARS – when, exactly, did that happen?

Beth-Anne, Nathalie and I are as surprised as you are… when we started this project those many moons ago, we didn’t have much of an agenda.  What we did know, and what we still know, is that we wanted to show up and write here, everyday. The fact that you are showing up too and reading here is exciting and humbling in equal measure. We now have over 11,000 subscribers, a number that makes us feel as grateful for your support as it makes us proud of our growth. We are so grateful for the new horizons this blog brings to us, the reliable way it calls to us to get the words in our head down on the page/screen, and especially for the way it helps us to connect to each other, to you, and to our world beyond. Thank you so much for joining us in this shared space!  We are looking forward to all the future has to bring.

Crispy Fish Tacos from EmmaEats

Our guest for today is fellow Savvy Storyteller Liz from EmmaEats . . . and Katie too! Liz is a busy mom of two, so she knows first hand that time is at a premium. Somehow she manages to create delicious recipes that are big on taste but don’t require tons of prep. Liz and I have something in common; we both have kids with nut allergies. Her collection of recipes is nut-free, allowing me to just follow along without worrying about substitutions. Follow Liz on Food Gawker or Taste Spotting for meal inspiration or her blog, EmmaEats, for good food for busy families.

These Crispy Fish Tacos, adapted from LCBO’s Fried Fish Sandwiches, are perfect for an alfresco summer family dinner.

Crispy Fish Tacos
(serves 4)
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 2 tbsp dried oregano
  • 1 tbsp paprika
  • 2 tsp ground cumin
  • 1 tsp ground coriander
  • 1/4 tsp ground white pepper
  • 1/4 tsp cayenne pepper
  • 4-5 tilapia fillets, cut in half into two strips (~1 lb)
  • salt and black pepper
  • juice of 2 limes
  • 2 large eggs, beaten
  • 2 cups panko breadcrumbs
  • tortillas (optional, to serve)
  • Zesty Avocado Dip (optional, to serve – recipe follows)
  • chopped tomatoes, cucumbers, peppers (to serve)
  • sour cream or Greek yogurt (optional, to serve)
  • Chipotle sauce (optional, to serve)
In a small bowl, stir together the garlic, oregano, paprika, cumin, coriander, white pepper and cayenne. Salt and pepper the tilapia and rub the seasoning mix over all sides of each strip. Drizzle with lime juice and let marinate for 15-30 minutes.
Line a baking sheet with parchment paper and preheat the oven to 400F.
Setup a workstation with egg in one platter and panko breadcrumbs in another.
Dredge each tilapia piece through the egg first and then through the breadcrumbs. Arrange in a single layer on the baking sheet.
When all of the pieces are breaded, bake in the preheated oven for ~20-30 minutes, flipping once halfway through baking. The fish should be flaky and opaque with a crispy and golden exterior.
Serve in warmed tortillas, topped with Zesty Avocado Dip, chopped tomatoes, cucumbers and peppers with a dollop of sour cream or drizzled with chipotle sauce.
**********
Zesty Avocado Dip
(serves 4)
  • 2 avocados
  • juice of 1 lemon
  • 2-3 cloves garlic, minced
  • salt and pepper, to taste
Halve the avocados and roughly mash the flesh with the garlic and lemon juice. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Serve with tortilla chips or over Crispy Fish Tacos.

Rhubarb BBQ Sauce by Dinner With Julie

Our guest for today is Julie Van Rosendaal food writer, stylist and columnist frequently featured in Parents Canada, Calgary Eyeopener on CBC Radio One, a contributor to the online cooking series Good Bite and co-host of It’s Just Food on Viva Network.

Julie is a real foodie and her passion for good food goes beyond simply enjoying it. She shares it. Her blog, Dinner With Julie, is a compilation of recipes that run the gamut from appetizers to dessert, all indexed for easy search and execution. But here’s the thing. Even though she’s an accomplished gastronome, she’s a real mom. She knows that even with our best intentions to meal plan, we end up staring into the fridge trying to make sense of a disjointed collection of potential ingredients . . .some approaching their expiration date. She knows this, because she’s one of us.

For one less worry, bookmark her blog to figure out what’s for dinner or follow her on Instagram for meal inspiration.

Thank you Julie for sharing your recipe for Rhubarb BBQ Sauce. A summer condiment that is the perfect pairing for grilled meats and may even be sourced from your garden. Just remember, only the stalk of a rhubarb plant can be eaten, the leaves are poisonous.
Rhubarb Barbecue Sauce

2-3 large stalks of rhubarb, chopped (about 2 cups)
3/4 cup water
1 onion, finely chopped
2-3 garlic cloves, crushed
1 cup ketchup
1/2 cup pure maple or golden syrup
1/2 cup packed brown sugar
1/4 cup apple cider or rice vinegar
1 Tbsp. Worcestershire sauce
1 Tbsp. grainy mustard

In a small saucepan, bring the rhubarb and water to a simmer and cook for 5-6 minutes, until the rhubarb is very soft. Pour into a bowl and set aside.

In the same saucepan, heat a drizzle of oil over medium-high heat and cook the onion for 3-4 minutes, until soft; add the garlic and cook for another minute or two. Add the remaining ingredients and bring to a simmer; cook for 10-15 minutes, until the mixture thickens. Puree with a hand-held immersion blender or cool and puree in a blender or food processor until smooth. Use as you would any barbecue sauce – on grilled meats, in baked beans or drizzled on burgers.

Makes about 2 cups.

unnamed-1

The Canning Kitchen

unnamedI love it when bloggers experience success especially when it’s a blogger I’ve been following for some time. Seeing them on TV or their books in print, make me excited for them . . .mostly because I know that it probably took years of building a relationship with readers and juggling many plates while trying to deliver the best content. Admittedly, I have a soft spot for fellow Canadian bloggers, in particular Savvy Storytellers.

When I saw that Amy Bronee from Family Feedbag, a go-to for quick and easy family friendly recipes, had published a book, I wanted to share it with you.

The Canning Kitchen: 101 Simple Small Batch Recipes is a must-have companion to the bountiful summer harvest season. I have wanted to try my hand at dill pickles and this book covers the classics but it also inspires with new recipes like for Salted Caramel Pear Butter.

Canning isn’t just for grandma anymore!  Give it a try and enjoy the taste of summer all year long.

To order your copy of The Canning Kitchen click here.

The Harbord Room’s Juicy Burger

unnamedToronto’s The Harbord Room is a favourite spot in the city. We had a special 4Mothers dinner a while back and hardly noticed the celebs on the patio because we were enjoying our food (and conversation) so much. On May 28th National Hamburger Day was celebrated and while we may be late to this party, The Harbord Room’s co-chef Robbie Hojilla shares the recipe for their much-loved burger. People, this is insider scoop!

Prep time: 15 minutes

Cook time: 8 minutes

Makes 8 burgers and 3 cups of aioli

AÏOLI

4 large egg yolks
2 tbsp grainy mustard

2 tbsp lemon juice

2 tbsp sherry vinegar
1 tbsp thyme leaves

1 tbsp kosher salt
6 garlic cloves, chopped
2 cups canola oil
¾ cup olive oil

Combine all aioli ingredients except oils in a food processor and mix until blended. Slowly pour in both oils while machine is running, until emulsified. Add salt and pepper to taste. Set aside.

BURGER

3 lbs ground beef brisket
2 tsp salt and freshly ground black pepper
Vegetable oil
8–16 slices aged cheddar
8 fresh buns or large brioche buns

Transfer meat into a large bowl and season with salt and pepper. Mix with your hands until combined and form into 8 patties.

Preheat bbq to medium. Use a clean, oiled, hot grill and barbecue the patties for 5 to 6 minutes with the lid closed. Flip the burgers, top with cheese and continue cooking for 4 more minutes with the lid closed. If the BBQ isn’t an option, coat a cast iron pan or skillet with a little oil and set over medium-high. Cook 4 patties until browned (about 4 minutes), then flip. Top with cheese. Continue cooking for 4 more minutes (for medium-rare) until browned. Repeat with remaining patties.

To finish, smear aioli on bun, followed by the toasted burger patty, caramelized onions and sliced tomato (or your garnish of preference). Serve with a side of hand-cut fries and your favourite summer beverage.

To experience a fantastic summer meal, head down to The Harbord Room. Can’t make it? Follow The Harbord Room on Instagram for your food porn fix.

How To Create Your Perfect Backyard Oasis by Cindy McKay

I am so happy to introduce Cindy McKay of Cindy McKay Interiors as our guest for today. Cindy is not only a self-professed fabric addict with a sharp eye for affordable design, mom of two super cute kiddos and stylish dresser . . . she’s my friend! Cindy is also an inspiration. A year ago Cindy left a high-pressure, glamorous job to pursue her passion: interior decorating. It took an incredible amount of chutzpah to leave the security her job provided to embark on something new and uncertain.   Judging by the projects she’s shared on Instagram things are working out just fine! She’s also the happiest that I have seen her. Proof that when you do what you love, you’ll never work a day in your life.  Check out Cindy’s projects and her talent for design by visiting her website.

Today Cindy shares with us how to create the perfect backyard oasis to get the most out of the summer days.

_____________________________________________________________________________________________

How to create your perfect backyard oasis!

When I’m designing outdoor spaces, I like to suggest that clients have various zones (regardless of how small) on their property for different types of meals and to take advantage of the best light at specific times of day. I’m a follow the sun kinda gal (in my SPF 30, hat wearing way). Start with a foundation that mixes both hard and soft landscaping. By adding some comfortable patio furniture and layering in various accessories, you can really make your outdoor space feel as well appointed as your indoor space.

Morning coffee

This backyard faces East, it gets a lovely soft morning sun. I’ve set up a small area on the upper patio that is ideal to enjoy a fist morning coffee and perhaps sit and enjoy the newspaper. It’s not a large space, but just enough to comfortably allow the family to sit and chat. I’ve layered in some pillows, all in indoor/outdoor fabric and some blankets to cuddle up with on cooler days. The area rug helps to identify the space and separate it from the more functional areas of this patio where the BBQ sits.

Coffee

Sources:

Patio furniture and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; toss cushion fabric, Fabricland; side table, Lowe’s; lanterns, Target; blue blanket, WestElm; white blanket, IKEA; rug, Write Impressions; turtle, planter, Homesense.

Outdoor lounge areas

There are so many great options of outdoor lounge furniture these days at a variety of price points, they are really available to everyone! And what could be better than to enjoy an afternoon nap on an outdoor couch while hearing the birds chirp and smelling the sweet smells of the garden. These are also great entertaining spaces for any time of day as they are so versatile. Here I used the rug to delineate the space from the rest of the stone patio and added some fun mirrors behind the couch to help distract the eye away from the long run of fence line. I layered in toss pillows in indoor/outdoor fabric along with some great Turkish towels that are ideal as a light blanket on cooler days or can be used as this family does, to dry off after coming out from their hot tub.

Lounge Area

Sources:

Outdoor couch and coffee table, D.O.T. Furniture; mirrors, garden stool, Homesense; rug, Walmart, tray; Lilly Pulitzer for Target; fabric and custom pillow sewing, Tonic Living; pamuk & co. Turkish Towels, Tonic Living. 

Cocktail Hour

Wherever possible, try to find a spot that takes advantage of that last light of the day, when the sun is low and warm and you can enjoy a hard days work with a cool and refreshing beverage. It doesn’t have to be large or elaborate, two chairs and a small cocktail table and you’re set! In this particular property, the front yard faces West and I created a tiny little spot within the front garden, to carve out their much desired ‘cocktail patio’. You hardly even notice it from the road since it’s well integrated into the garden but still allows them to watch their young children play on the driveway.

Cocktails

Sources:

Chairs and chair pads, Homesense; table, West Elm; glasses, thrifted; bowl, Target; all plants, Sheridan Nurseries.

Dining Areas

Don’t be afraid to bring the indoors out when it comes to dining al fresco! Pull out a fun tablecloth and try it on your outdoor table. It’s a fun way to switch up your outdoor décor and adds something different and perhaps unexpected. Don’t forget the lighting! Just as lighting is an important indoor element, it’s equally important when dining outdoors. Nobody wants it to be so dark that they can’t see the beautiful meal you’ve just worked hard to prepare! Add lots of candles in various different vessels, lanterns and for some extra fun add a string or two of patio lights! There is an amazing selection out there and they are a fun way to add light to the underside of your table umbrella or to your fence line!

If a tablecloth feels too formal for the way you like to entertain, there’s a great selection of carefree, wipe able, placemats out there also! Mix them in with some linen napkins and you’ll create an easy and functional but elegant table setting.

Tablecloth

Sources:

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture; plates, Pottery Barn; utensils, William Ashley; napkins, clients own; glasses, thrifted; chargers, Canadian Tire; tablecloth, lanterns, votives, Target.

 

Dining Area

Sources:

Patio table, chairs and pads, D.O.T. Furniture, placemats, napkins, small plates, Homesense; large plates, Pottery Barn; glasses, Crate & Barrel; lanterns, votives, patio string lights, Target; utensils, William Ashley.

 

Cindy’s 5 easy steps to create your perfect backyard oasis:

  1. Create zones based on how you want to use your property. Don’t forget to factor in the sun and the light at various times of day.
  1. Create your foundation using hard landscaping and a good dose of plant material in planters or garden beds, whichever suits.
  1. Source comfortable outdoor furniture that is versatile and suits your needs and budget, keep in mind clear-out sales often start as early as the beginning of July.
  1. Layer in accessories to make it interesting and unique!
  1. Don’t forget the lighting! Adding various lanterns, candles, patio lights all help to create a relaxing and inviting atmosphere.

 

Copy and photography courtesy of: Cindy McKay Interiors

cropped-cmi_logo_rgb_square

Grilled Pineapple With Cinnamon Coconut Sugar

Jo-Anna of A Pretty Life and fellow Savvy Sortyteller is our guest for today. Jo-Anna is a mom of three striving to live a more simple life. Her blog offers easy recipes, simple DIYs and housekeeping tips. Jo-Anna’s regular posts are always polished to perfection with gorgeous photographs and accessible suggestions but it’s her holiday posts that really wow!

For housekeeping pointers, help in the garden and figuring out what to make for the potluck, visit A Pretty Life and for simply beautiful inspiration follow Jo-Anna on Instagram.

Today Jo-Anna shares with us her mouth-watering recipe for Grilled Pineapple with Cinnamon Coconut Sugar. To view the recipe click here.

 GrilledPineapple

Summer Salads with Jane’s Adventure In Dinner

We’re excited to have Jane from Jane’s Adventure In Dinner as our guest today. Jane’s blog is a go-to for everything from appetizers to desserts. She’s passionate about food like no other, but as a busy mom she also understands that recipes need to be both delicious and do-able. Regardless of your cooking level (ahem, I am still a beginner after all of these years) Jane is the best teacher and you’re in capable hands with her step-by-step instruction . . .accompanied by gorgeous photos!

Today Jane shares simple salads that are perfect for the hot days of summer. Be sure to follow Jane’s website for meal inspiration and instruction. You won’t be disappointed.

Jane’s Summer Salad

I start with a nice big plate and drizzle it with 2 tsp. balsamic glaze.

March-3-262-1024x682

I added a layer (about 1 ½ cups) of spring greens.

March-3-264-1024x682

I took a firm pear (I’m a sucker for Anjou) and cut it into 6 wedges. I took out the core and started to lay it on the greens.

March-3-265-1024x682

Add 3 T Roquefort (or your favourite blue cheese) to the centre. Don’t like blue cheese? How about some Boursin or an herby cream cheese?

March-3-267-1024x682

Fold the pear pieces back together, top with toasted walnuts and drizzle with a really good quality olive oil.

March-3-273-1024x682

Drizzle on a bit more glaze . . .

March-3-280-1024x682

And add cracked pepper to taste.

Enjoy!

Classic Salad Update

We seem to just live off the bbq in the summer.

I love to cook but I really like to keep the house cool and I’m not a huge fan of running the air conditioning all the time.

We’ve gotten used to having our little 1950’s bungalow vent itself for the most part and even though it’s lots bigger after the reno (yes, I promise to finally get all the pictures together this summer, I’ve got 1000’s) we designed the build to allow for our original airflow.

Having said that, if the oven is on all the time then nothing can keep the house cool so bbq it is.

I’ve been playing with a number of salad recipes lately that I’ll be sharing with everyone in the next couple of weeks but this is one that we’ve now had at least six times since I was happy with the recipe.

Hope you love it too.

To serve four adults for an appetizer start with four romaine hearts cut in half.

Bring them to room temperature, drizzle with olive oil, 3 crushed garlic cloves and lots of crushed, crunchy black pepper.

Let sit for 30 minutes.

Grill on high on each side JUST until a little charred.  This is about 30 seconds a side.

IMG_5322-300x200

While your one and only is grilling your lettuce (thinking that you are totally mental with your weird cooking ideas), crisp pancetta (I got super thin pieces that you blink at and they are cooked), or cook four really good pieces of bacon and crumble.

Put your yummy lettuce on a platter and top with; bacon/pancetta, slivers of parmesan, chunky croutons…

IMG_5327-300x200

drizzle with lemon juice.

IMG_5329-300x200

Plate one half per person (trust me, folks will be back for the other half) with plenty of pancetta and drizzle with balsamic glaze (you can find this all over the place OR boil balsamic until it is half its volume).

IMG_5341-300x200

 

Follow Jane on Twitter, Pinterest, and Facebook.

 

 

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad by Sylvia of Sylvia’s Simple Life

I am excited to introduce our first guest for the month, Sylvia of Sylvia’s Simple Life. Sylvia’s blog is the loveliest nook of the blogosphere. Her photos are stunning and celebrate the beauty and joy in the simple things that make up life.   My favourite post is one of her more recent, Lilac Mornings. Sylvia thoughtfully reflects on lilacs, fragility, nature, beauty and life without being overly saccharine or maudlin. Instead, I feel like she has granted me permission to enjoy the moment and join her in reflection. Treat yourself and spend some time visiting Sylvia’s blog or follow her on Instagram to see beauty in the everyday.

Today Sylvia shares one of her simple summer recipes.

______________________________________________________

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Summer is here and I cannot think of a better time to enjoy life’s simple pleasures and to eat fresh, honest, simple dishes. Summer abounds with colorful treasures of the field ­– from juicy ripe tomatoes, green beans and sweet peppers through fragrant basil and lavender to fresh berries, apricots and melon. Farmer’s markets are operating at full speed giving to those who do not have their own gardens an opportunity to buy local and eat seasonal, something I have committed myself to long ago. Summer also comes with cooking techniques that are easy, straightforward and quick – who wants, in the heat of the season, to be simmering dishes for hours – and there is no need to; simply let the fresh vibrant products do the work. With this simple, easy and delicious pasta salad I am about to share, you can do just that. Full of gorgeous colors and flavors, this market-inspired recipe, truly my family favorite highlights the season’s best and freshest ingredients. Perfect for a potluck, a casual summer get-together or a weeknight dinner whether as a side dish (you can omit the grilled chicken) or a main meal. Put it in a jar and you have a picnic-perfect pasta salad.

Feel free to improvise, make my family favorite recipe your family recipe and do not forget that “when you have the best and tastiest ingredients, you can cook very simple and the food will be extraordinary because it tastes like what it is”, one of my favorite advices from Alice Water. It’s really just that simple and as easy as, well, the summer itself.

GRILLED CHICKEN & FRESH VEGGIE PASTA SALAD

Ingredients:
—————
1-2 skinless chicken breasts
4 tbsp. white wine
2 tbsp. olive oil
375g tri-colour vegetable rotini, or whole-wheat fusilli

250g (1 box) heirloom cherry tomatoes
1/2 red bell pepper
1/2 yellow bell pepper
2 green onions, chopped into thin slices

200g fresh green peas
Parmesan cheese
fresh basil

Oil and vinegar dressing
——————————-
8 tbsp. olive oil

2 tbsp. white wine vinegar
minced garlic

salt and pepper

Directions:

—————-
Marinate chicken breasts for 10-15 minutes in white wine, olive oil, salt and pepper. Grill each side of the skinless chicken breasts. It only takes a few minutes per side over direct medium-high heat for them to be brown, beautifully moist and evenly cooked. Let them cool.
Cook pasta according to package directions. Drain and set aside to cool. Boil green peas in salted water for 3-5 minutes or until bright green and tender crisp. In the meantime, cut heirloom cherry tomatoes in half. Slice pepper halves into strips about 1/4″ wide. Combine all vegetables in a large salad bowl. Add pasta and the sliced chicken breasts.
To prepare the dressing whisk garlic, olive oil, white wine vinegar, salt and pepper together.
Add the dressing to the salad.
Toss with Parmesan cheese and fresh basil.

ENJOY!

unnamed-1

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken & Fresh Veggie Pasta Salad

Grilled Chicken Breast

Grilled Chicken Breast

unnamed-3

unnamed-4