Beating the Dreaded Winter Blahs



This post is sponsored by Bayer®. To make sure Bayer® products are right for you, always read and follow the label.


If you're starting to feel like nothing but cup after cup after cup of strong coffee will help get you through the day this winter, you're not alone. Seasonal effective disorder, winter blues, winter blahs - whatever you choose to call them, they are just that, blah. Despite the days getting longer, the darkness and bone chilling temperatures can really take a toll on your energy, your mood and your health.

Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

You’d think that as Canadians, we would love what winter brings. That by now, we would have made peace with the darkness, the snow, the cold, the layers, the sickness, and all the other joys that come along with the season. But lately, especially with how cold it has been outside, it just seems like there’s no end in sight. 

I will admit, on the rough winter days, the only place I want to be is under my comfy duvet. But, since I still have a full time job and a small child to look after, my hiding out is not always an option. 

Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Whether it be staying under the covers all weekend or embracing the snow head on, everyone has their own way of shaking off the dreadful winter blahs. Here are 10 tried and true methods for helping beat the winter blues.

Take up a new hobby. Keeping your mind active with a new interest seems to ward off symptoms of the winter blahs. It will keep you focused and give you something to look forward to, keeping your mind off what's going on outside the window.

Cross items off your to do list. Don’t want to go outside? No problem. Staying indoors is the perfect opportunity to cross items off your indoor to do list - to clean out your pantry and your closet, do some painting and even rearrange your furniture. 

Turn on the tunes. Listen to upbeat music that makes you happy. Better yet, grab your family and have a dance party to mix in a little exercise! Who cares who is watching, have some fun. 

Brighten up your scenery. Spring may not be blooming outside, but there's no reason why you can't bring the spring to you with a bouquet of fresh flowers. 

Make your environment brighter. Sometimes, simply adding a vase of fresh flowers may not do the trick.  When you body is craving more sunlight, sitting next to an artificial light for a little light therapy may help. Opening blinds and curtains can also help provide an extra dose of sunshine.

Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Keep the cold symptoms at bay. This time of year, colds seem to linger. Maybe its the weather, or maybe daycare is to thank. Regardless of the culprit, there’s nothing worse than walking around with a stuffed or runny nose. 

At my house, we use hydraSense Daily Nasal Care to alleviate nasal cold symptoms. hydraSense Daily Nasal Care is 100% naturally-sourced seawater that is clinically proven to reduce and relieve nasal congestion and nasal cold symptoms.

Stay healthy. Staying healthy is important to staying happy. It is hard to stay energized and be at our best when our body just isn't feeling it. 

It can be a challenge to get the vitamins my body needs on a daily basis, so I fill the gaps with a daily multivitamin such as One-A-Day® Gummies. This vitamin supplement helps to maintain immune function, metabolize carbs, fats and protein, form red blood cells and develop and maintain bones and teeth.

While Morley may be a bit too young, my favourite vitamins when I was a kid were FLINTSTONES® Active Kids Gummies. If it were acceptable to still take them today, I probably would. I look forward to sharing these memories with her in the future.

Tips for Beating the Winter Blues

Recreate a recipe.  If a sunny vacation isn’t on the agenda, or in the budget, rely on memories from the past. Recreate a recipe from a recent vacation, such mojitos from Cuba or carne asada from Mexico, to instantly transport you back to warmer times. 

Get outside. While the temperatures may be a little too chilly for your liking, a blast of cold air against your face may be just what you need to help reenergize you. Or, if you’re feeling a bit adventorous, what about trying that winter sport you’ve always been taking about? Now’s the perfect time.

Embrace it. One of the ways to embrace winter is by getting cozy. Take a lesson from other cultures, those that experience an even longer, even darker and even colder season. 

Hygge (pronounced hue-guh) is the Danish word used to acknowledge a special feeling or moment, whether alone or with friends, at home or out, ordinary or extraordinary as cosy, charming or special. It literally only requires a conscious appreciation, a certain slowness, and the ability to not just be present – but recognize and enjoy the present. Use winter as a time to slow down and enjoy being at home, reflecting, and spending quality time with friends and loved ones.


By making minor changes to your routine, your diet and your overall mindset, you are arming your body with the tools it needs to embrace, rather than resist, winter and enjoy all that this time of year has to offer.


What are some of the things you do to beat the winter blahs? I'd love to hear your tips and tricks!




This post is sponsored by Bayer®. To make sure Bayer® products are right for you, always read and follow the label.

The Best Chicken Dumpling Soup Recipe


Looking for the perfect comfort food in a bowl? Check out this hearty recipe for the best Chicken Dumpling Soup, loaded with chicken, vegetables and tasty dumplings. 

The Best Chicken Dumpling Soup Recipe

I recently discovered cooking chicken in the slow cooker. I don't know why I wasn't cooking it this way before - boy, was I really missing out. And it's so easy! Just add twskin-on, bone-in chicken pieces (usually breast and thigh combos) to the slow cooker, season with a bit of salt and pepper and then cover with approximately 2 cups of water. I then allow it to cook on high for 3-4 hours, or until no longer pink, and voila! Delicious, juicy, tender, fall-off-the-bone chicken. 

Not only does it create tender, delicious chicken, you will also be left with a flavourful broth that can be used in your next recipe, or in this delicious soup recipe.



During the cold months, soups are my go to. I usually pay them with a side salad or a sandwich. This soup, however, is a complete meal in a bowl. Loaded with that tender chicken, hearty vegetables and tasty dumplings, this Chicken Dumpling Soup is sure to win over your family's stomachs this chilly winter.

Chicken Dumpling Soup



Ingredients

Soup:
  • 1 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
  • 1 cup celery, chopped
  • 1 cup carrots, peeled and chopped
  • 1 small onion, diced
  • 3 cups chicken, cooked and chopped
  • 3 cloves garlic, minced
  • 1/2 tsp garlic powder
  • 4 cups low-sodium chicken broth
  • 4 cups water
  • 1/2 cup all purpose flour

Dumplings:
  • 2 cups all purpose flour
  • 1 tbsp baking powder
  • 1/2 tsp baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp salt
  • 1/4 tsp pepper
  • 6 tbsp unsalted butter, melted (3/4 stick)
  • 3/4 cup buttermilk (or 1 tbsp white vinegar and 3/4 cup milk, combined)
  • 2 tbsp fresh parsley, minced

Directions
  1. Add the olive oil to a large stock pot and bring to a medium-high heat. Add celery, carrots, onion and garlic and sauté for 5-7 minutes, until onions are translucent.
  2. Add chicken pieces and garlic powder to the pot. Stir to combine.
  3. Add chicken stock and water to the pot. If you like your soup salty, feel free to use 8 cups of stock, instead of half water, half stock.
  4. Bring mixture to a simmer for 25-30 minutes.
  5. While soup is simmering, make your dumplings. In a medium bowl, whisk together dry ingredients. Stir in the melted butter, buttermilk and parsley until just combined. At this point, should be a nice dough. Set aside.
  6. Ladle 2 cups of the cooking liquid into a large bowl. Whisk in 1/2 cup of flour until smooth. Add flour mixture back into the soup by continuously whisking until combined. Simmer until slightly thickened, occasionally whisking, about 8-10 minutes.
  7. Once soup has thickened, add dumplings. Form balls of dough about the size of half of your thumb. Gently drop dumplings one at a time into simmering soup. Simmer, covered, until dumplings are firm, about 12-15 minutes.
  8. Season with salt and pepper.
  9. Serve immediately, sprinkled with additional minced fresh parsley for garnish (optional).


Home Chef Tip 1: If you do not end up using all of the dumpling dough (I only used about half), store the remainder in the freezer in a freezer-safe container. It will keep for a few weeks.

Home Chef Tip 2: If you do not want to cook the chicken from scratch, you can also use leftover chicken or turkey and premixed stock.

Voila, comfort food at its finest!


If you like this recipe, you may also like this recipe for Fall Harvest Root Vegetable Soup.


What is your favourite soup recipe? Any fall or winter favourites? I'd love to hear!


The Terrible Twos Take Over



“Chalk-let” she says, as she hands me a small piece of leftover Christmas candy that she likely found hidden in the couch cushions. “Morley, it’s 7:30am in the morning, you can’t have chocolate yet. Let’s save it for later” I say, trying to reason with her. I really should know better.

“Pweeeeeeez???" she says, with the cute side head tilt and toothy grin, thinking she's got me hook line and sinker. I savour the moment and her cute face for two whole seconds, knowing full well that when that two letter word she doesn’t want to hear comes out of my mouth, all hell will break loose. "Morley neeeed it!” is her reply, instantly followed by a foot stomp and her taking off down the hallway as she awkwardly tries to unwrap the chocolate and shove it in her mouth before I can get to her. Oh, and I should mention, she’s laughing, no more like cackling, the entire time.

My friends, the terrible twos have started to take over. That sweet sweet girl, who always said please and thank you, has now turned into a sassy, independent, and very opinionated, two year old toddler. And my head is starting to hurt.

Strategies to Deal with the "Terrible Twos"

The toddler years are a time of rapid growth - mentally, physically and emotionally. It’s a time that they’re developing their mobility, their communication skills, their independence and their sense of self. Mine is clearly also learning that she likes chocolate. 

And, because they are still developing, it’s also a time when things won’t always go their way, often resulting in frustration, anger and some seriously epic meltdowns. 

Strategies to Deal with the "Terrible Twos"

While we are just entering this joyful phase, we’ve already learned a few coping mechanisms to help mom, dad and Morley through the rough patches. And while every toddler is different, today I’m sharing the tactics that seem to work for our family… so far.

Beat the boredom. Keep them occupied with fresh, new activities they love. Stickers and play-doh work magic in our household. 

Keep the snacks coming. Yes, the word “hangry” can even apply to a two year old. Stick to a schedule with meals. Plan outings at times when your child won’t be hungry. For longer trips, pack healthy snacks and drinks so your child has something to nibble on, if needed.

Don’t give in. This one is a constant struggle. It always seems easier to just give her what she wants. Like let her eat that piece of chocolate at 7:30am because it’s better than the alternative, the epic meltdown that will make us late for both school and work. But then, I keep reminding myself, it will only be harder next time. 

Respect the nap. (And bed time.) While Morley has her usual nap and bedtimes, we never wanted these to be set in stone. From early on, we wanted her to be flexible in terms of location, noise and time. So far, it’s worked. But when girlfriend is tired, girlfriend is anything but sleepy. Common sense would say the more tired a child, the easier it will be for them to fall asleep. Wrong! The witching hour turns them into just that, little witches.

The Newton Crib Mattress has played a large role in Morley getting a good night's sleep. The mattress is 100% breathable, washable and recyclable, making it unlike anything else on the market. It is firm enough for your little one's growth and development, but also comfortable enough for use into toddler years. Also comfy enough that mama sometimes wants to curl up in there with her. I said sometimes. 

As we have begun to think about potty training, one of the things I like best about this mattress is that the cover fully unzips and can be washed in the washing machine. The patented Wovenaire core is 90% air and 10% food-grade polymer, making it easy to wash in the shower or bathtub.

Strategies to Deal with the "Terrible Twos"

Redirect when necessary. When Morley misbehaves, the educator in me always tries to explain why the behaviour isn’t okay. But, there’s no point seeing as she’s tuned out about 2.3 seconds and has probably already done it again before I can finish. Instead of offering a lengthy explanation, redirecting her either verbally (talking about something else) or physically (moving to another location) to help her focus on something else seems to work well. 

For example, the other night Morley was adamant about being in the kitchen while I was cooking on the stove. I tried to explain to her she couldn’t stand right under me because it was hot, but she didn’t care and it didn’t work. So instead, I gave her a simple task, to help mix the salad and she stayed occupied for at least 15 minutes while I finished.

Strategies to Deal with the "Terrible Twos"

Let her work it out herself. You want to flail around on the floor at the grocery store because you need to walk and eat your cheese string? Be my guest. Despite the side eye from other customers, the only person you’re embarrassing is yourself little missy. I’ll be down at the end of the aisle when you’re ready to get back in the cart.

And if all else fails, remind yourself that it won’t last long. Take a deep breath, push the frustration aside and cherish the memories being made. You got this mama. 


Have you made it through the terrible twos? What are your tips and tricks? I’d love to hear!






Disclosure: We received product and/or compensation in exchange for this review. However, all opinions are 100% that of To & Fro.

Hockey, It's in Our Family's DNA


As one of our national sports, hockey is ingrained in so many Canadian lives, whether you play the game or watch it on TV.

Our family is very much a hockey family. You could say it’s in our DNA. 

Hockey has played many roles in both of our lives, from young children to the adults we are today. It was an extracurricular activity, it was a career, and my personal favourite, it was the common connection between two high schoolers over a decade ago. 

Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup

For me, hockey was an extracurricular activity, playing recreationally when I was in elementary school. For my husband Steve, it was a bit more, giving him the opportunity to live out his childhood dream. In fact, it was just a few years ago that he “retired” from a decade plus long career playing junior and professional hockey. And for the both of us, because of that junior hockey, it was also the start of our relationship. 

Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup

Hockey has taken us many amazing places, introduced us to many amazing people and given us both many amazing opportunities in the process.  It has played a role in shaping us into the people we are today.

As a result, we know first-hand the benefits associated with Canada’s favourite game, both on and off the ice. 

If you were to ask my husband, the benefits of the sport go beyond the physical exercise, and well beyond the rink. The game teaches the importance of leadership, discipline and, possibly most importantly, sportsmanship.

Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup

If you were to ask his favourite part of the game, he would probably tell you it was the competition and the exhilaration of being on the ice and playing the game that he still loves so much. But, outside of the rink? Whether it was reading books to school children, introducing children to the game for the very first time or visiting the local children’s hospital at Christmas, one of his favourite parts of the game was giving back to the local community where he was playing that season. And these good deeds did not go unnoticed. He was considered a “local celebrity”, but also a role model to many children and community members.

Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup

So yes, hockey is very much in our DNA. But, now, it doesn’t just stop at my husband and I.

This winter, we look forward to strapping on Morley's first pair of skates and seeing her in action. We can only hope that she takes as much of an interest in the sport as her parents once did.

Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup

In partnership with Hockey Canada, Chevrolet is encouraging good sportsmanship on and off the ice. 

In its second year, Chevrolet is continuing the Good Deeds Cup to search for Peewee teams in Canada that demonstrate good deeds throughout their community. Aside from spreading good sportsmanship throughout their community, finalists and the ultimate winner will receive the Good Deeds Cup, be featured on Sportsnet and receive $15,000 towards the charity of their choice. 

Visit Chevrolet Hockey to view the Top 10 Finalist videos and vote for your choice for the winner of the Chevrolet Good Deeds Cup! 




*Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Chevrolet and have received compensation for this post. All opinions in the post are my own.

Surviving Winter's Deep Freeze with a Toddler


I'm sitting writing this from the comfort of the dining room table, looking out the window at what is a -11 degree C day.  Seems mild compared to what it has been lately. But, when you add in the windchill and it’s more like -18 degrees C, I’m quickly reminded that we’re probably staying inside today.

Some days, staying inside would be the easiest thing to do. But, some days, whether it is part of our daily routine of going to school or even just needing a few minutes of fresh air, staying inside just isn’t an option. We must face the elements. 


We love getting outside with Morley every chance we get. During the winter months, we tend to go a little stir crazy staying inside, so a walk is something we look forward to. Even if just for a few minutes. However, with how cold it has been lately here in southern Ontario, what to wear and how long we’ll be out is often up in the air. Keeping your little one warm, but comfortable, is the key to an enjoyable winter outside.

Last winter, I shared tips for keeping baby warm during the winter months. Now that Morley is nearing two, and is officially a walking, talking, independent toddler, things have changed some. With a child that is mobile (and loves the snow), Morley's winter gear has changed from keeping her warm, to keeping her both warm AND dry. So, today, I’m sharing some of my best tips and tricks for keeping toddler warm during the winter months.


Mittens

Skip the gloves, and opt for mittens. For both ease of slipping on and keeping baby warm. Mittens are warmer because they keep fingers, and the heat they produce, close together. Chose mittens that have a warm lining and a water-resistant outer shell. If they don’t come with strings attached, consider purchasing clips to fasten to the sleeves of the snowsuit.

Toddler dressing tip: Put on mittens before you put your child’s snowsuit on, that way the cuffs will help keep the mittens in place.

Hat

When it comes to heat loss, a large percentage is lost through the head. A hat is critical to a little one’s winter weather wardrobe. Those with earflaps that tie under the neck work best, and will prevent their little cheeks from being exposed to the wind. And, if your tot will wear a balaclava-style hat, kudos to you! 

Scarves are a big no no for obvious safety reasons, especially at daycare. Neck warmers are a much better option. 

Snow Suit

When it comes to the jacket and snow pants, opt for that has cuffs that fit tightly around ankles and wrists to prevent the cold (or snow) from creeping in. Elastic bands work, but velcro is ideal and lets you adjust.

A jacket with a hood will help keep the snow out, and add an extra layer of warm around their head.

Bibbed snow pants (the ones that go over the shoulders and zip up the front) are ideal for a little one because they will stay up, prevent snow from going down their pants and add an extra layer, keeping their torso warm.

Toddler dressing tip: For independent toddlers, teach them the“over the head coat trick”. If they’re in daycare, chances are they’ve already perfected it. Lay the coat on the floor - zipper open, inside face up, with the hood at their feet. Have them crouch down and put their arms in the arms of the jacke. When they stand up, the inside should be facing their belly and the hood should now be pointed toward the floor. Rotate arms and flip the jacket over their head so it is right side up. Voila, independence!

Boots

Boots should be roomy enough that your child can still wiggle their toes. This is important for good circulation, and keeping their feet, and the rest of their body, warm.


As always, safety first when it comes to taking your child outside during the cold winter weather. Use your best judgement. Watch for signs of hypothermia, such as blue lips, shivering, or an unusually pale appearance to the nose or ears and take them inside to warm up at the first sign of discomfort. It is just as important to pay close attention to signs of overheating - sweating, damp hair, flushed cheeks, and rapid breathing.

Outfitting a kid of any age for winter weather can be a hassle and often a fight, but it shouldn’t prevent you or your little one from experiencing the winter weather. 

At the end of the day, no matter how long it takes us to get ready, or how long we end up staying outside, I never regret those few minutes of fresh air in the winter months. And I don’t think Morley minds it either.

And, if you absolutely must stay inside, check out these cabin fever cures for tiny tots


I love learning tips from other mamas! Here are some of my community's best winter weather tips:

Sonya from House of Kerrs: Layers, and a bin by the door to put hats, mitts and scarves so it's all there when we need to get out.  The whole “coat flip over your head” trick that they teach in daycare works great too!

Erica from Anna Georgianna: I am a summer girl through and through. But I refuse to let the COLD Canadian winter keep us indoors. My tips for keeping your babe/kiddos cozy while having fun in the deep freeze are 1. layers (avoiding cotton), 2. boots and mitts that stay on and keep snow out (Stonz and Mimitens are amazing), 3. baby wearing with a Bridge the Bump coat extension system and 4. once the outdoor fun is over, warming up with hot chocolate, cuddling under a blanket and watching a movie!

Kate from Emmett’s ABCs: My biggest tip is make sure they have warm hand and feet! Spend a little bit more time finding great mitts they’ll keep on, and make sure their boots are nice and roomy. These are the first things that will get cold, and usually the first reason they’ll want to come inside, but it’s usually the last thing we think about!

Monica from Maman on the TrailAs a family that tries to be "rain or shine", we've had our limits tested with this deep freeze. It is so hard to get all bundled up for just 15 minutes of fame, but after a serious bout of cabin fever we dug deep and found the motivation we needed. We layer very deliberately from the skin out so that we can stay comfortable outside. Our layers look like this: merino wool base layer, fleece, then puffy insulation, then waterproof windbreaker. For some, those last two layers will be in the form of a winter coat, but for our little guy, we use a puffy insulation suit and then a rain suit. Add some good boots, hat, mitts and a neck warmer and you're good to go! 

Maya from Mayahood Blog: One tip I would have is to add a key chain to the zipper on the coat to help kids zip up their coats on their own. My kids had a cool Lego one that they loved!


What are your best tips for keeping your little one warm and comfortable during the winter months? I’d love to hear!


Looking Back on 2017


Happy 2018 my friends! I don't know about you, but for my little family, 2017 flew by. I guess having a toddler does that to you. I may be the owner of a few new grey hairs and forehead wrinkles, but for the incredible, memory-filled year we had, they are all totally worth it. 

Family aside, 2017 was also a good year for To & Fro. 

It has been just shy of four years since I turned this little webspace of mine from a family and friends journal into something that I am especially proud of. Something that has given me opportunities I wouldn't otherwise have and something that I can use to help support my family. 

I will admit, blogging is not easy. At many times, I have questioned what I was doing here. But this year, I was able to prove to myself that all of the long hours and hard work that I put into To & Fro, especially those after Morley goes to bed, are absolutely worth it. I have finally got my groove, and there is no slowing me down.

To & Fro's 2017 in Review

I can't wait to see what 2018 has in store, but first, let's reflect on 2017...

Favourite Moments of 2017:


  • Attending MEC's Good Times Outside digital platform launch on the Toronto Islands. 
  • Spending a weekend sans-child indulging in good food, good drinks and good times outside at The Big Feastival, courtesy of MEC.
  • Investing in myself and attended two amazing blog conferences - BConnected and Blogpodium - where I was able to network with other fellow bloggers and build partnerships with brands. 
  • Becoming a Heritage Ambassador for Heritage Education Funds.
  • Attending some incredible events, including a family dinner with Jimmy the Greek and Parasol Co. diaper launch in Canada. 
  • Sharing my experience with products and brands we love, including Philips Avent Natural Bottles,  HelloFresh, Radisson, Niagara Parks, Pampers, Sundown Naturals, Greenlid, PC Organics Baby, Playtex® Diaper Genie and more!
  • Being published yummymummyclub.ca (x2). 
  • Filling my community with many amazing fellow blogging mamas. (Check out my favourite Ontario mom bloggers, here and here.)


Top Posts of 2017:













And before I leave you, check out these 45 ways to reflect and look ahead to do some self-reflection of your own.

What would you like to see on To & Fro in 2018? I'd love to hear! Please leave your suggestions in the comments below.