Thursday, October 30, 2014

YouTubed: A Series (Featuring The Simple Cooking Channel)

I decided about three & a half years ago that we should get rid of our TV. This was just before TV switched to digital in Canada & our old CRT analog set would have required upgrading to even see the free channels like CBC. Ditching the boob tube wasn't a sudden thing--we didn't have cable back then anyway. I've actually never had a cable subscription, so TV hasn't been super important to my adult life.

My main reason for getting it out of our lives was Linnaeus. Despite the fact that we only had three or four channels with our rabbit ears, I still kept the thing on for hours a day & found myself staring blankly at somewhat lame cop dramas or three newscasts in one evening. Linnaeus was right there with me & at nearly a year old, he was starting to pay attention to the TV too. I'm sure you've probably read the guidelines on safe TV watching for kids--no screen time for under two years old & then limited to an hour a day for ages two to four. (source: Canadian Sedentary Behaviour Guidelines)

All that said, I'm not totally anti-television & I do follow a few TV series online. I find watching video online--mainly on YouTube--to be somehow easier to limit to small chunks of time. There's no schedule & we can watch what we want whenever, so I don't find we're planning our lives around a show.

I sometimes use YouTube playlists to keep Linnaeus occupied so I can have a shower or get dinner made. When we watch YouTube together, we usually view how-to videos & documentaries. There are a ton of channels that are quite high quality & even educational--I discover new ones all the time. So I thought I'd start profiling the ones I like here on Spokesmama every week or so.

So here's the first of my series, a review of The Simple Cooking Channel.

This one is a favourite of Linnaeus. He actually pretends to do cooking shows & uses some of the same phrases as this Australian vlogger here while he's making something. The Simple Cooking Channel is exactly what it says: vlogger Jason puts together easy dishes--mostly desserts--with very few ingredients. You won't find gourmet organic health food here, it's purely comfort foods & guilt snacks for one when you need to eat some feelings: ice cream, cakes decorated for the holidays, homemade versions of candy bars, desserts with just three or four ingredients, giant gummy bears.

The format of every episode is simple too--just Jason in his home kitchen with photos of his toddler stuck to his fridge in the background & then closeups of the ingredients as he puts it together. His trademark is his goofy effusiveness at the end where he tastes what he's made. Another thing I like about his videos is that they're totally kid-friendly--no 'bad' language--& the recipes are really very easy to do with children.

Check out The Simple Cooking channel on YouTube

Here's one of the recipes I have tried:

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Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Sweet Gift Making Inspiration From Paul Lowe

This fall, Blurb is highlighting makers all over the world. One of those people is Paul Lowe, creator of Sweet Paul magazine.

Sweet Paul magazine features spectacular food photography, scrumptious recipes, and inspired crafts. In Blurb's interview with Paul, he discusses his childhood in Norway and provides a delicious recipe. You'll love Paul's stories of gnomes, trees (and tree-related disasters), food, family, and memories. At the end of the interview, Blurb features great gift books reminiscent of Sweet Paul. Read the interview here.

Ready to start publishing your own book? Save 20% on photo books with code OCT20%, which is great news if you're planning to make a holiday gift. This deal ends October 31st.

Disclaimer: this is a sponsored post & as a Blurb affiliate, I will receive a small commission if you use the above links & purchase a book through the site. Thanks for supporting Spokesmama!

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Monday, October 27, 2014

Get Poked, Save Lives

It's that time again... the season when we all start getting runny noses, coughs, and the influenza virus starts rearing its ugly head. Time to roll up your sleeve and get poked--avoid contracting and spreading the flu by having your annual influenza immunization.

A few facts about the flu: (source)
  • Getting sick with influenza also puts you at risk of other infections, including viral or bacterial pneumonia. 
  • The risk of complications, which can be life-threatening, is greater for seniors 65 years and older, very young children, and people who have lung or heart diseases, certain chronic health conditions, or weakened immune systems. Think about all the people in your family and your circle of friends: how many of them fall into the above categories?
  • Healthy pregnant women in the second half of their pregnancy are at greater risk of being hospitalized following infection with influenza virus.
  • In Canada, over 5000 people were hospitalized with influenza and more than 325 people died from influenza and its complications during last year's flu season alone. (source)

The best ways to reduce the risk of getting influenza or spreading it to others are: (source)
  • washing your hands regularly;
  • promptly disposing of used tissues in the waste basket or garbage;
  • coughing and sneezing into your shirt sleeve rather than your hands (aka "The Vampire Cough);
  • staying home when you are ill; and
  • getting an influenza vaccine.

If that doesn't convince you, watch this.

You can get your shot from:
  • your family doctor; 
  • a walk-in clinic;
  • your pharmacist
  • VCH Public Health clinic
Clinics at pharmacies are listed on ImmunizeBC's map or find the closest VCH Public Health Clinic.

You can get your seasonal flu shot for free if you are:
  • 65 years and older or their caregivers/household contact;
  • Resident of a nursing homes or other chronic care facility;
  • Living with a chronic health condition, including obesity, or their household contact;
  • A child or adolescent (six months to 18 years) with conditions treated for long periods of time with acetylsalicylic acid, or their household contact;
  • A healthy child age six months to five years of age
  • A household contact or caregiver of infants age zero to 59 months;
  • An aboriginal person (on and off reserve);
  • A pregnant women or their household contact;
  • A health care or other care provider in facilities and community settings who is capable of transmitting influenza to those at high risk of influenza complications;
  • A person who provides essential services including first responders and correction officers;
  • A person who works with live poultry;
  • Someone planning to visit loved ones in a health care facility or who will take family members to outpatient appointments.

FYI: If your children are afraid of needles, this year FluMist, a nasal flu spray vaccine, will be available free of charge as an alternative for children and youth aged two to 17 years old.

For more info & updates, follow Vancouver Coastal Health on Facebook, Twitter, and YouTube.

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Sunday, October 26, 2014

Why Halloween Sucks (But I love it anyway)

For this week's Listicles, I couldn't decide if I wanted to talk about the best or the worst of Halloween. So I did both. Five things I hate about the holiday & five things I love about it. Truth be told though, the 'love' side wins for me--I really love Halloween.

Things I hate about Halloween:

Seriously?!? Who designs these costumes?
  1. Sexy girls' costumes. Why, oh why, do four-year-olds need shiny, short-skirted, totally unrealistic dress versions of firefighter or police costumes? If you're 19 & you want to dress like that to go to a nightclub, well, fine. Your choice. But why in the world should we sexualize small children this way? (At least Value Village responded by removing these crappy costumes)
  2. Narrow gender roles. Everywhere I've looked at costumes, there's a girls' rack & a boys' rack. The girls get weirdly sexed up skimpy dress versions of the boys costumes, plus several variations on princess. The boys get superhero & first responder. What happened to ghosts, zombies, pumpkins, black cats, witches & all that scary stuff?
  3. Crappy quality halloween treats. When I was a kid, we still got the occasional candy apple, popcorn ball or other homemade treat from neighbours. Now everyone is so afraid of anything not hermetically sealed, so anything like that would just get thrown away before any child touched it. It's all high fructose corn syrup & numbered food dyes nowadays.
  4. Unfair trade candy. Sadly, much of what North Americans spend millions of dollars buying to hand out (or eat surreptitiously in the weeks  before Halloween) is made using unethical labour practices in developing countries.
  5. Plastic waste. Plastic bags from individually wrapped candy. Plastic packaging from cheap, essentially disposable Halloween costumes. 
L's 1st Halloween. I made him a hooded skeleton sleeper.
Things I love about Halloween:
  1. Dress up. I love planning out, & designing costumes, then pretending to be a character. I love seeing my kids in cute costumes.
  2. Sugarsugarsugar! I have a sweet tooth, & even though a lot of the candy we get is crap, & I know it's terrible for our teeth & health, I still kinda love it. Though this year I think we might try some art projects with the particularly colourful stuff. 
  3. A good scare. I don't believe in ghosts or all that supernatural stuff, but there's something about the feeling of the unknown, the adrenaline rush from hearing exploding fireworks & someone in a scary mask jumping out at you, the connection with the past & the dead that I think is healthy. 
  4. A creative opportunity. Most years I have dressed up in outfits that I made or at least customized myself. I like decorating for Halloween when I have the time to do it & I always carve a pumpkin or three. As the kids get older, that gets to be even more fun to involve them in the jack-o-lantern creation too.
  5. Ritual & tradition. Not everyone gives out candy & not everyone goes trick-or-treating, but most people participate in this tradition, I think. It's one of those things we all have in common in Canada. In a society where there are so many different cultures & traditions, where we speak many different languages in our homes, eat many different comfort foods, but we all went trick-or-treating as kids, right?
How about you? What do you love or hate most about Halloween?

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Saturday, October 25, 2014

Halloween Safety with Toddlers & Preschoolers: Four Tips

I got an email from Health Canada today with a link to this page detailing a fairly exhaustive set of safety tips for Halloween. But reading through, it dawned on me that a lot of it is aimed at families with older children. Our four-year-old & one-year-old are a whole other kettle of fish! So I thought I'd share with you some of the things that we do to keep these two monkeys safe around Halloween.

Skip the candles. Burns from hot wax or fires caused by knocking over candles are a danger, whether you have kids or pets or none of the above. We use either LED 'tea lights' in our jack-o-lanterns, or bike lights. The bike lights are kinda cool, as they create a red glow & can be set to flash too.

Keep the costumes simple. Flowy costumes can catch fire or trip kids. Masks make it hard to see & walk. Now I love making things, especially costumes, so I have to reign in my tendencies to go overboard on the costumes for my kids. Luckily, having two children means I don't have the time to make them intricate outfits. The last few years Linnaeus has worn the practical two-piece costumes like the ones you get from Old Navy. He's been a bat, an elephant, & a fox. All of them left his face free so he could see & walk well. They were warm & toasty for the chilly damp trick-or-treating & watching fireworks. Plus they're durable to hand down to siblings, cousins, & friends or consign, & washable afterward.

Contain the kids. Traffic safety is a big thing on Halloween night. We're going to try something new this year now that we've got two walking children: a castle on wheels! Whaaa? Okay, let me go back a step. We're going to decorate our wagon to look like a castle for our little dragon & bat to ride in for the longer gaps between houses (a lot of people in our area don't give out treats, so there's more walking involved than some neighbourhoods) & crossing the streets. I picked up some glow-in-the-dark tape to add to the cardboard ramparts we'll attach on the outside of the wagon & we may tie on some bike lights as well, just for good measure.

Do the old switcheroo. My four-year-old is able to handle most types of candy that we'll probably encounter this Halloween, but I don't trust my one-year-old not to choke on small, chewy or hard sweets. I bought a bag of plain chocolate that I'll trade for some of the candy she won't be able to eat so she still gets to participate. I will see if my son wants to trade with his little sister too. Truth be told, they're both still young enough that I can get away with 'pruning' their supply of trick-or-treating candy, so I may make some of it disappear myself after they've gone to bed.

Have you got any further suggestions on Halloween safety for little kids? I'd love to see them in the comments below...

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Wednesday, October 22, 2014

#ParentingFAIL Confession

Got woken up multiple times last night due to power failures tripping our smoke detector, etc, so I was kinda tired this afternoon. After I got the baby down for her nap (at least an hour later than normal, argh) I vegged on the couch with some YouTube videos. At some point, I lay down on the couch for *just a minute*.

Woke up about an hour later to hear the baby crying, woken up from her nap. Picked her up & came into the kitchen to see my four-year-old eating cold oatmeal from a container that he'd gotten out of the fridge. With a NINE INCH CHEF KNIFE.

Despite clearly having been using the knife to cut the oatmeal for a while (it was covered end to end in sticky fingerprints), he appears to be unscathed. Gah. At least he picked a healthy snack?

Please tell me I'm not the only one who has had one of these moments...

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