happy canada day!

Today is the day we celebrate our beautiful country Canada! I feel lucky to live in a land where I have access to affordable health care, people have the right to love and marry whomever they choose, and we cannot be placed in jail for voicing our opinion about any political or ethical topic. Sadly, I am conflicted about my Canadian pride because of the negative impact our current government has had on the Canada I love. In recent years, we have seen the loss of protection of our multitude of lakes and rivers, the push for a pipeline, despite much protest, that has the potential to destroy our natural west coast, and the unfair division of citizens into "first class" and "second class" (whose Canadian citizenship may be stripped from them under the new Bill C-24). In the last nine years, we have fallen a long way from the values I hold dear as a Canadian - the values and priorities that I felt were instrinsic to our Canadianness.

However, I am very proud of Nanaimo, my new city, where we recently changed our "Empire Days (Victoria Day)" celebration to "Heritage Days" to be more inclusive of all the cultures that live in Nanaimo, and where we recently raised the Snuneymuxw First Nation's flag permanently over our City Hall, alongside the British Columbia and Canadian flags, to recognize the people who have lived here since before the land became "Canada". I am proud of our Truth and Reconciliation Committee for bringing to light the truths about Canada's settlement and its effect on the Native people who lived here before, and of all those who call for a national inquiry into Canada's plight of missing and murdered Indigenous women. I am proud of the natural beauty that surrounds us on Vancouver Island, and I stand in awe every day of the mountains and ocean that tightly hug this city I now call home, and of those who continue to fight, day in and day out, to protect this beauty.

We are so fortunate to live in a country where we are free, and for that I celebrate. But this also means that we have a responsibility to fight the injustices that we do see here in our own cities, in our own country. Whether you're able to write letters, write or share articles, stand in solidarity with those fighting for reconciliation, join a protest against the loss of protection of our land, or even just vote in the upcoming election (a simple act that may hopefully have great repercussions), do what you can, and make sure you're actively involved in creating the Canada that we all want to celebrate today: a Canada that treats all its citizens fairly, that respects the land upon which we live, and that is a leader and an inspiration to the rest of the world. 

Happy Canada Day to all.


PUREhappiness meal planning worksheets!

as promised (although a little overdue) i'm publishing my meal planning worksheets as a free download for you today! this is a worksheet that i've developed over many months of meal planning. it works because it's specific to what i need, so i've included my full template, and also a more bare-bones template that you can customize to your own meal planning needs. 

i'm all about highlighting certain veggies each week (especially because at the farmer's market you usually buy a basket or bunch of something, like a basket of potatoes or a bunch of carrots, rather than one single potato or carrot, and i hate being stuck with a bunch of veggies that just sit in my cupboard because i only had one recipe planned that called for a radish) so i will often plan several meals around the same ingredient. for example, last week i knew i was in the mood for sweet potatoes, so i planned my salad to be a new & sweet potato salad, one of my roast veggies to be sweets, and my crockpot meal to be sweet potato and white bean soup. although sweet potatoes aren't the best example because they last forever (they are just my favourite veggie!), this works really well when an ingredient is something that isn't going to last more than a week in your fridge, so if you don't use up the whole basket or bunch, they'll go to waste (and i'm terrible at acknowledging this and freezing the extras before they actually go bad).

i'll give you a little breakdown of the worksheet, so i can explain why i've designed it the way i did:

1) i have an overall "master plan" section on the left. this is the final part that i fill in, and on a normal week this simply states which dinners are planned for which days. sometimes i will also use this as a weekly planner, since i put it up on the fridge, so i will include notes like "paul works late" or "grocery shop today" that are going to affect what/how we eat that day in this section for my reference. if i'm really on the ball, i might even outline breakfasts and lunches in this section (because then i can decide beforehand which morning i'll make a big batch of oats, and which morning or lunchtime i'll make a tofu scramble - both of which last in the fridge for a few days).

2) the "what's in the fridge" section lists everything that i've got (or plan to have) in the fridge that can be combined to make various yummy veg & grain bowls (good for breakfast, lunch, or dinner!) ...this helps to mitigate the complaint "there's nothing to eat in our house!" and because of my "meal prep" section below, i already know what types of foods i need to prep each week in order to feel like i've got what i need to easily throw together meals. this is where i get specific with my meal prep, and plan which greens i'll buy this week (or i'll fill it in after my farmer's market shop), which grains i'll prep, etc.

3) the "meal prep" section is the list of things that i try to prep each week to feel like i've got everything i need to throw quick meals together. this list of general items to prepare doesn't change much each week, and it is mostly items that are used for breakfasts, lunches, and snacks. i like to have veggies, grains, proteins prepped and ready to go because then i can just throw them together into a bowl and voila, instant lunch! super easy to do, even on the whiniest toddler days :) this list gives me the ability to plan when i'm going to prep each item (usually i jot down the initial of the day of the week when i want to have things done by, as i sometimes have to grab an hour here and there over the course of a few days to get all my meal prep done) and then i can cross them off this list once i've got that item prepped.

4) the "dinner brainstorming" section is where i plan abstractly what our dinners will be for the week. this is the part that changes the most week to week, as i enjoy trying out new recipes. however, since we are so busy at home and we are on a tight grocery budget, i decided i needed to cut down on the new recipe trying (because new recipes take time and usually a lot of new ingredients, which sends my grocery bill through the roof). so in the full template, i've got a dinner outline written in: for the summer, we decided to plan three nights per week to barbeque, one crock pot meal (i've got a great vegan crock pot cookbook) for the days that i go to an evening yoga class and don't have any prep time before dinner, a fun night (make-your-own, which is usually tacos or pizza), and a pasta/grain bowl (which utilizes the prepped foods that i've already got in the fridge). i usually leave one night unplanned, because there's always going to be one night where i just don't feel like cooking (or something comes up like a dinner out with friends, or we've got leftovers to use up) and i would rather fly by the seat of my pants for one night than have food in the fridge go to waste because one of my planned meals doesn't get made.

i've provided several versions of the meal planner: there's a full template version, which is the exact one i use (with all the specific meal prep i do, as well as the types of dinners we eat each week) and you just have to fill in the blanks. more likely though, you'll want to use the bare bones version which doesn't have anything pre-filled in for you, so you can customize it to what you want. if you're interested in having a custom version made up for you, send me an email and we can discuss the details!

here are the free PDFs to download:

full version (with days of the week & all the details)
flexible version (without days of the week)
bare bones version (without all my specific planning details)

when you print the worksheet, you can do so either as a full page, or you can print two to a page and cut the page in half (which saves paper, and doesn't take up as much room on your fridge if you choose to post your meal plan). you can also print it half sized on the page but leave the other half blank, and then use that other half to write your grocery list.

so there you go! let me know what you think of the meal plan worksheet, and if you use it! i hope you find it helpful. i certainly feel that when i've taken the time to plan and prep my food for the week, i feel much more intentional and well-fueled, and that carries over into the other areas of my life!


what makes a mama?

last year at this time, i was the proud mama of a little three week old squish. that meant that the usual rules of mother's day (sleep in, take time to myself, maybe even -gasp- get a massage) didn't really apply to me - i was still getting the hang of this mama thing, and i wasn't about to leave my brand new little sidekick behind for any reason.

this year, i thought - oh it's going to be so different!

i've spent the week looking forward to my day: a lovely sleep in, a relaxing morning, maybe getting taken out for a yummy brunch before being whisked away by my two boys to the first farmer's market of the year and then a special mama's day tea at a local herb farm. however, my little man had other plans, and i was awakened every 90 minutes overnight and am now completely touched out, and have been up since 530am because someone thought it was morning (his usual wake up time is 7) and it took me half an hour to get him back to sleep. not quite the relaxing start to the day i had imagined.

i was so frustrated by the time 6am came this morning - exhausted, but too awake to sleep, while my little man snoozed happy and oblivious to my extremely bad mood beside me - that i couldn't even be in the same bed with him anymore. i thought about all my plans for the day, and how i'm going to be so tired now i probably won't enjoy doing them. i felt sad and disappointed, and annoyed that my little one year old couldn't just give me one night of peace, not even on the one day of the year that's supposed to be for me. this is what happens when this mama ever allows herself to have expectations about something... i swear that boy can read my mind, and he thinks, oh no you don't!

so i got up, left my boys behind in bed, settled at the kitchen table with a coffee, and took some deep breaths. after a moment, i found myself calm again and missing that adorable little toddler (although i'll be just as happy if he decides to sleep another hour or two - just because it's mama's day).

some people say that mothers are born the day they find out they're pregnant. some say the day they give birth. i say that both of these are true, but really, that just makes you a parent. 

what makes a mama is the giving.

i am a mama when i find my patience being tested until i think i can't take it anymore and i'm going to cry and scream and throw things through windows and jump out and run away and never come back. but instead, i take deep breaths, i sit still, i count to ten, and then all the love that i have for this little creature comes flooding back, and i give him snuggles despite the completely unreasonable thing he was doing, and tell him i love him.

i was a mama in the hours after my birth, not simply because i had given birth to a tiny human that belonged to me, but because i had been awake for 40 hours, 20 of those giving my whole body over to intense labour, giving up on my peaceful birth plan and submitting to a hospital birth, pitocin, and a giant episiotomy because we were worried about his heart rate and needed him to arrive as soon as possible, and giving my dignity to a roomful of doctors and nurses i'd never seen before as we worked together to bring that tiny human safely into the world. i was so exhausted and worn out i thought i could die - every piece of me was gone, but i kept going, and i talked and sang to him and nursed him and cuddled him because he needed me to.

i am a mama in the nights when a teething, or growth-spurting, or just plain lonely little man cries out for me every hour for cuddles and milk and comfort, and i'm so tired i can't even walk straight, and i can't imagine getting out of bed one more time so i finally bring him into bed and snuggle him next to me, and once he's finally asleep again i'm wide awake and enraptured with his little face and i just lay there and stare at this perfect little human i get to share my life, my body, and my days with.

my love is unconditional and never ending. nothing can destroy it or break it, and it keeps me going in those darkest moments when any normal, self-respecting human being would have thrown in the towel. this motherhood gig is fun and wonderful but it is actually REALLY HARD, and the truth is that in deciding to become a mama, i intrinsically agreed that i would give all of myself without asking for anything in return.

mamahood isn't simply forged through the biological act of growing a person in your body and giving birth to them. any woman (or person) who gives all of themselves in the act of caring for innocents in the best way they can deserves the label of mama. adoptive mamas, foster mamas, mamas who have lost babies before they were able to meet them. papa mamas, teacher mamas, volunteer mamas. if you get what i'm writing about, if you understand what it means to love someone so much that you sometimes lose yourself and have to make an effort to rediscover who you are as an individual in the tiny moments of independence that you get during your days or weeks of giving, you are in this club with me.

this is the reason that mamas get a day. we give up our bodies, our dreams, our lives, our patience, our sanity, our very selves over and over for the little people that we call our own. we do it willingly, with love and happiness and without resentment, but it is hard work - perhaps the hardest work a person can do. we do it in the hopes that these littles will grow up and make this world a little more beautiful, a little more whole. and for that, we deserve a day to be a little selfish.

so next year, i'm going to sleep in. no. matter. what.

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