Tuesday, August 25, 2015

Visiting Canmore and Gluten Free Wild Garden Snack Packs

I remember when vacation was all about me; what I wanted to do, where I wanted to go, what I wanted to eat, me, me, me. Now that I'm a mom, that's such a distant memory, I'm starting to wonder if I imagined the entire thing.
A photo posted by Amber Smith (@mommastuffblog) on
We're currently on  a family vacation in Canmore Alberta and although it is an absolutely stunning place to be, keeping two boys aged 4 and 6 occupied, entertained and quiet is a challenge and a half. Fortunately, we are staying in a small condo, which is by far preferable to a basic hotel room, however when you're used to a three floor home, its not a lot of space.

And then there's the food. When your family requires both gluten-free and peanut-free options, simply grabbing a bite to eat is generally not an option. I emailed a bunch of local restaurants before we arrived and was pleasantly surprised to hear how aware and accommodating they all were. That being said, tonight is our fifth night here and we finally ordered pizza, every other meal we have cooked for ourselves.

When it comes to outings, I put a lot of effort into healthy snacks for the kids but for myself, I'm perpetually just grabbing something from the cupboard on the way out the door and otherwise noshing on the gluten-free portions of the kids' snacks.

I'm super excited about Wild Gardens NEW Gluten Free Hummus Snack Packs; these little packs are convenient, shelf stable and delicious. Each box comes with a pack of hummus (that tears open easily and even I managed to eat without making a mess) and one of three types of crackers. And one of my good friends was ecstatic to hear that two of the three varieties (veggie chips and and quinoa chips) are also soy free.

Wild Garden Gluten Free Snack Packs are tasty little snacks packed with just enough protein to fuel me to my next meal without wanting to nibble on every little snack in my beach bag. They're quick, convenient and gluten free; if that's something you're looking for, I highly recommend you try them out.

Disclosure: I received samples of Wild Garden Gluten Free Snack Packs for the purposes of this review, however all opinions are my own.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

It's May Long Weekend and I'm NOT camping

It's May long weekend; the unofficial start of camping season in British Columbia. Given that our family purchased a truck and trailer in the past couple of months there is a general assumption that tonight, we are sitting around a campfire enjoying our new digs.

In truth, I'm sitting on my beautiful deck, enjoying a fantastic view and a glass of wine.
A photo posted by Amber Smith (@mommastuffblog) on

And I couldn't be happier.

May long weekend inevitably brings with it, extra excessive drinking and rowdiness, horrible traffic and quite frankly far too many people for my liking. Plus we're still waiting on our 'trailer lesson' from our fabulous friends, whom I'm confident will ensure that we don't break anything critical.

We will certainly have mishaps and a steep learning curve as we begin our adventures, but today, this weekend, its not the time.

Do you long weekend camp? Or do you avoid it like the plague?
I'm curious if we're the only ones who'd rather wait for the yahoos to vacate before the adventures begin.

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Sometimes, I'm super nerdy.

I'm a nerd, and I'm totally ok with it. I don't really have a clever definition of what that means, but its always felt like it was the right word, if I had to classify myself (why I need to classify myself, I don't know).

Here's an example, I've been working on a Project at work for over year and its time to write the report. And I'm kind of excited. Tonight, when I was brushing my teeth tonight, I realized I was thinking about the outline I'd written at work a couple days ago.

And I was reminded, that once, writing reports was a fact of life. And, if I think about it, I already have a process. A way that works for me; I take breaks in the process, and it flows organically.

How I write a report:

  • I do research immediately to see what kind of resources are available. Then I spend a couple days thinking about it.
  • I write an outline. Then I spend a couple days thinking about it.
  • I write the sections, independently, one by one. Then I might spend a couple days thinking about them.
  • I write the text to connect the sections.Then I spend a couple days thinking about it.
  • I read, edit and review everything. Then, ideally, I spend a couple days thinking about it.
  • I read, edit and review everything, again.
  • And then, I make it final.
I'm super excited to remember, I GOT THIS.

Seriously, though, that's super nerdy right?

And, I love that about me.

Tuesday, April 7, 2015

Finding My Inspiration to Exercise

As I try to find balance in my life, and for my blog, one of the things I am turning to with more and more regularity is exercise. I’ve discovered that there is nothing quite like the endorphin rush of physically pushing myself to stave off a bad mood. Although running is the clear winner for me in that respect, given we have -20C temperatures and snow for a good portion of the year, there’s also a need to find indoor activities that make me sweat.

Exercise is what helped me make my first true friend in town, we started off running and have ended up with a regular morning workout routine on all three of my days off. We have done PIYO (my favourite), P90X (which I don’t mind) and even tried a few Insanity videos (which I hated), but the routine of it all has really helped me carve out a little bit of guilt-free time that’s just for me. An essential for all parents, but as a working mom, I REALLY appreciate this special time.

My friend and I were doing amazing in the fall, working out three days a week we were both as strong and fit as we’d ever been, and then Christmas came along and suddenly we fell off the bandwagon. I registered my kids in early morning swimming lessons and suddenly we lost one of our regular weekend workouts and for the last few months we have struggled to find our stride and get back on track with our exercise regime.

Because, when you’re on track with your exercise, being on track with your food seems so much more natural and that is a recipe for success.

I know that you don’t need STUFF to have a good workout, but by the same token something so simple as a new gadget or outfit can be so inspiring to keep pushing forward. And so, this month I ordered a new FitbitCharge HR to replace my recalled Force (which I miss a lot) and I also took a chance and ordered a new outfit from Fabletics.

 Seriously, isn’t it just adorable? And including shipping and exchange it going to cost me about $40 cdn. Granted future outfits will be more because I won’t have a first purchase discount, but if they are honestly of the quality that all the blog reviews say they are, then it will still be well worth the cost and much less than the highly coveted Lululemon.

So, how about you, how do you stay inspired to stay fit?
And what is your workout of choice? Variety is the spice of life after all.

Disclosure: this post includes both affiliate and referral links, however all opinions are my own.

Wednesday, March 25, 2015

I Made a Loft Bed!

Last year, I didn't take more than 3 days off of work in a row. Life has been pretty busy and instead of visiting family this Spring break, I just finished a week long staycation with my, almost, 4 year old and it seems, we were both totally in need.

We spent the first half of the week doing Mom things, we had playdates, went swimming and made baking soda volcanoes.

The second half of the week, I made a bed. An incredibly cool loft bed that opened up a huge amount of floor space in the littlest bedroom in the house. I've been oogling the Ana White website for a while and after reading and re-reading the instructions, I felt like I could make the Camp Loft Bed.

I was super fortunate, my friend's husband picked the lumber up and helped me build the bed, but let me do most of the cutting, drilling and assembly. I had so much fun!

Isn't it beautiful?

I'll share another post, with proper pictures and more details on how we made it, but for now, I'm just going to continue to be impressed every time I walk by his room.

Wednesday, March 11, 2015

Why I hate the 'I'm Going to Bed' Meme

Lately, I’ve been seeing this bedtime meme on Facebook and I hate that it reinforces gender stereotypes; the husband simply goes to bed, while the wife cleans and tidies the house and prepares for the next morning before her head ever hits the pillow. Each and every time I look at the list, I have only one thought.

I am the husband.

I am exhausted at 9:30pm and sheepishly crawl off to the warm embrace of my bamboo sheets and cozy pillow most nights of the week.

Do I pick up all the toys first? Nope.
Do I clean and tidy my house first? Nope?
Do I fold a load of laundry first? Nope.
Do I do the dishes and load the dishwasher first? Nope.

I give my husband a kiss, trudge upstairs to wash my face, brush my teeth and put my pajama’s on before I collapse into the bed and fall fast asleep for another night.

Does my husband do ALL THE THINGS I don't before he goes to bed? Yep.

All that being said...

Do I get up with my almost 4 year old at 5am nearly every day? Yep.
Do I work 10 hours a day so that my husband can be home with my boys? Yep.
Do I need to go to bed early to maintain my lifestyle? Yep.

I recognize that in the ideal world this meme wouldn’t even exist, because everything would be perfectly balanced, all the time. And I also understand that this meme is simply a reflection of people’s experience that many people relate to it, but personally, it rubs me the wrong way. 

This meme reinforces my inability to fit into gender stereotypes and worse makes me care, just a little bit, that I don’t fit into traditional household roles.

And in the end, does any of it matter?
Which chores are yours and which chores are your partner's?
Which gender you do (or don’t) identify with in any and all respects?

No, it doesn’t.

What matters is that, however you do things, it works for you and your family.

I may not be a traditional mother in many senses of the word and yet in many others I am and quite frankly, my boys love me just the way I am.

So I am just going to go ahead and continue to hate this meme.

Sunday, January 18, 2015

No More Yelling | I want to be a Peaceful Parent

No matter your situation, parenting is a challenge; an emotional roller coaster wrought with love and laughter and tears. As young adults. before we have children, we swear we will treat our children differently, we know EVERYTHING and we have all the answers.

But as parents, we know the truth; we know NOTHING and have none of the answers. We are also so full of questions, that I personally feel great compassion for my parents' generation who didn't have anywhere near the amount of resources and support that modern parents have. When all else fails, we have the internet, social media and government supported workshops to help us navigate parenthood.

Unfortunately, one of the first lessons we learn as parents is that NO ONE has THE answer, even the doctors. Child-rearing recommendations have changed drastically over the years and as far as I'm concerned, the very best guide, that a parent MUST consult, is their gut.

But what happens when your gut, emotions and exhaustion all get mixed up together?

In my house, that lethal combination results in frustration, anger, tears and yelling. Lots and lots of yelling. The kids yelling at the parents and the parents yelling back. It turns into a vortex of tears, threats, time outs and little people hitting, kicking.

Sometimes, we can avoid the vortex and instead are able to be the peaceful parents that we all want to be, but without conscientious effort, its easy to slide back into bad habits. I'm a huge fan of Aha Parenting and find that the weekly newsletters often seem to be speaking to me as they tackle REAL problems that we face each and every day.

So, I decided to buy Dr. Laura's new Book, Peaceful Parent, Happy Kids, as an audiobook and I've been listening to it while I make lunches each evening. I haven't gotten very far yet, but I'm already reminded that I WANT to be a Peaceful Parent and I can be.

So we're taking the first step, of what I'm sure will be many, to helping our family learn to communicate better.
No More Yelling. 

No more yelling for Mom, Dad or the boys. We've explained to the boys that we don't want to yell or be yelled at anymore. That we are going to do our very best to use our words and we want them to do the same.

And surprisingly, it seems to be working, at least a little bit. We're only a few days in and there have certainly been tears, flailing arms and yelling, but less. And when I remind them that I'm trying not to yell and so I need them to listen to my words instead, the boys have actually listened.

To keep things positive, when we put reminders up for the boys, we try and encourage the behaviours we want rather than giving attention to the negative, in this case, listening ears, gentle hands and inside voices.

Dr. Laura says it takes 3 months to break a yelling habit, but after only a few very conscious days, I'm starting to believe that with some effort we may be able to crush this goal.

What are your tips for being a Peaceful Parent, because believe you me, I need the help just as much as you.