Sunday, December 21, 2008

What happened to food?

In the wake of tainted milk scandals and consumers waking up to what is in our food and where it comes from, I have recently learned about a new, more hidden secret in the food industry....Modified Milk ingredients. Do you know what that is? Do you even know where that comes from? Modified milk ingredients can be a mixed pot of different parts of milk, artificial milk, melamine and modified fish DNA! A collage of milk and milk like ingredients (things to simulate milk that are cheap to make) are put into dairy foods to make them cheap for the company who makes them offering a high profit profit margin and a good tasting food making the consumer none the wiser. The problem is, some of these "ingredients" are genetically modified and have not been tested for safety for human consumption.

I first heard about this from a reporter for the Tyee on his show called "Deconstructing Dinner" In this special, Jon Steinman, explores companies like Kraft and Unilever (makes everything from Bryer's ice cream to soap to mayo) as he looks at the hundreds of foods that they make and the junk they put into their food. Now we don't buy many packaged foods, but cheese and ice cream are things we buy regularily. So when I heard that my ice cream wasn't really made with cream, I took notice.

Modified milk ingredients are in everything diary and things that require dairy like cookies etc. They take skim milk and put it through a sieve to separate out the proteins from the other components of the milk. The different components of the now separated milk are sold wide. That means that your ice cream could have milk from countries like China and the U.S without you knowing it. Bryer's is one of the famous stories. Remember how they were "all natural" and then they became "double churned"?? Well, what happened is that they are now "naturally flavoured" with modified milk ingredients. They changed their recipie and cream is no longer an ingredient. Many ice creams, including some made by Bryer's are not even allowed to be called ice cream. They must be called "frozen desert". The reason? They no longer use butter fat, they use a various buffet of oils.

So I went to the store to buy some ice cream and cheese and what I found is that President's Choice and Haagen Daaz are the only commercial brands that actually use cream. And as for cheese? Only Organic Cheese is free from Modified Milk Ingredients, almost EVERYTHING else, especially cheddar doesn't even start with milk.

You may think, well I don't buy cheap brands, neither do I. Here are a few offenders:
Island Farms (Ice cream, yogourt)
Armstrong Cheese
Paradise Island cheese (except organic)
Cracker Barrel
there's lots more.....

There is a new system being set up by the Canadian government to regulate the amount of milk in cheese and you can bet Kraft, Saputo and Agropur are none too happy. The government is requiring that most cheeses have at least 80% actual milk, pizza mozzerella only is required to have 69%. What is the rest made of?

What happened to food? The real stuff. The kind when you bought Ice Cream and got Iced Cream? or cheese and got something actually made from milk? When did eating plastic, mystery food become acceptable? Take a look at the labels next time you go shopping, you might be surprised to find what's in your food.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

It's been a while since I last wrote in my blog. It seems like so much has been happening around here. We have been preparing for Christmas and celebrating Advent with our wreath, making paper window stars and home made presents as well as spending some time reflecting on what this time of year is about for us. With so much uncertainty in the world right now, being close to home, loving our family and friends and counting each blessing seems so important.

I just taught a weekend intensive a week and a half ago and it was one of the best weekends I have ever had. This was such an amazing group, with so much willingness to explore their possibilities and willingness to share their concerns. I came away from that weekend feeling so very blessed to be able to do this work.

We are so blessed with so much, sometimes I realize that we forget to stop and actually see how much we have and be grateful for it. The past few weeks have been a time for me to pause for a while and be thankful. This little bunny hopped into our yard the other day, we still can't figure out where it came from. We've never seen it before, and we haven't seen it since. It was one of those days that I was too lazy to cook supper and was daydreaming out the window. Because of my slacking the kids and I had an amazing moment to see this little creature that came by to see us. The excitement and wonderment that my kids experienced was pure magic. It's amazing how our lives can be full of moments like this, if we only stop for a while to daydream and take stock of how blessed we really are.

Thursday, November 13, 2008

how much?

I have a good friend staying with me and yesterday we started talking about toys and how much is too much. I have to admit that my children are really fortunate. They have a lovely home and a playroom all to themselves (although they would rather play in the kitchen with me). They also have a mother who loves wooden toys, not just for their open ended nature, but also for their beauty. So we started talking about how much does a child need and does wood really make for a better play experience than plastic. With all of the toy recalls from China, the idea of natural toys is certainly gaining popularity.

My friend's question was, is a playroom full of wooden toys any different than a playroom full of plastic ones? Are we teaching our children a sense of gratitude when they are given so much abundance? How many trucks does a four year old need even if he loves to play with each one? How many dolls does a little girl need? I have friends that have more than 5 for their girls and they love each one. And if we are trying to embrace the idea of simplicity parenting, wouldn't they love just one doll, just one truck if that is all they knew? Are we so overwhelmed by all of the amazing choices we now have for beautiful, wooden, woolen and handmade toys that we have forgotten the idea of quality over quantity? Now that Christmas is just around the corner, I am beginning to question my willingness to fulfill my son's one and only request for Christmas, "just one more truck, it's the last one, I promise!" Is gratitude only taught when we are given something we didn't ask for? What are we really giving our children at Christmas?

***we won this seesaw at Mayfest, I bought a $2.00 raffle ticket and they love it***

Wednesday, November 5, 2008

a new day

I have never been more inspired by a public figure as I am by Barack Obama. His election brings hope to millions of people worldwide, even to me. His story, his accomplishment, his passion and his integrity inspires me that anything is possible when you believe in it. To see African American women holding signs that said "yes we can" still makes me teary. I feel like today is a new day, a new begining for us all. I feel like today, despite all that is happening in the world, there is hope.

Monday, October 27, 2008

the good mother

What is the good mother? What does she look like? Does she make perfect potato salad? Does she go to the gym reclaiming her "pre-pregnancy" body? Does she know how to dress just right, never looking like a Mom? Does she keep her home beautiful, her children happy, her husband content? Does she speak calmly to her children, never raising her voice? Does she work outside of the home? Does she stay at home? Is she well read, well educated, well trained to do her job? Does she make it look easy? Was she born with the gift of mothering or is she still trying to figure out what that is? Does she let her kids play only with wooden toys, eat only organic food, drive only in a Bio Diesel fueled car? Does she educate her children on their responsibility in this world to save the earth? Does she forbid bananas? Does she breastfeed? Does she only let her children drink out of stainless steal water bottles? Does she go to every parent meeting, ready to volunteer for yet another bake sale? Does she make perfect brownies? Does her dedication to her children manifest itself in the way her children always say "please" and "thank you"? Is she Mary Poppins with a magic carpet bag full of glitter and glue and a teaspoon of sugar to make the medicine go down?

Or....does she get up everyday intending this day to be great, hoping it to be better than the last. Does she put on the clothes that make her feel good, even if they are cozy pants? Does she scarf down breakfast as she is shoving her kids into their muddy buddies, hoping not to be late for school once again? Does she make Highliner fish sticks and fries for dinner so that she didn't have to deal with the baby going through the recycling box sucking on salmon tins just so she could make a balanced meal? Does she yell at her kids, even though she said she would never do it again and apologize to them, and herself, at the end of the day? Does she let the dishes go, the laundry pile up, the floors unswept so she can take her kids outside and spend some time with them? Does she skip out of bake sales, craft fairs and parent meetings so that she can veg out in front of a movie and forget the day? Does she cry? Does she ask for help when she feels like walking out the door to look for the life she thinks she would be more qualified for? Does she feel guilty for not doing enough, saying enough, thinking enough? Does she lose herself in her children only to find that she has in fact become lost?

Maybe she is some, or none or all of these things. Maybe the good mother does her best, whatever that is for her that day. Maybe the good mother is the one who is gentle with herself. I don't know. Today I felt like if I had hired myself to do my job, I would have fired myself 6 months ago. I do my best and still I feel like I come up short most days. I cleaned the house, made lunch, read stories, even took the kids for a hike up a local mountain, by 4:00pm, I was done. Near tears, I called my husband for help lamenting never being given the mother gene, the one that I dream other mothers have that make them love all the things that come with being a mum. He came inside, gave me a hug and rescued me, I love him so much.

The good mother is such a powerful idea in our culture, with so much value, so much worth. We all think it means something different so we can never possibly measure up to someone else's idea. What is the good mother?

Friday, October 24, 2008


When I was little, every year my dad would take me to Goldstream park to see the salmon run. Now that I live on the island again, it's my turn to take my kids. There is something about this place that I love. Maybe it's the huge trees, the sound of the eagles, the way the stream winds it's way through the forest or the nature house that reminds me of the 70's in it's simple way of engaging childrens interests. Or maybe its the way that it seems entirely possible that the gnomies live there, under the twisty roots of an old tree as my son was so convinced of yesterday. And although we didn't see many salmon, I, along with my kids agree, this place is magic.

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

mama's good milk

A dear friend of mine gave birth to a beautiful baby girl in the early summer. Despite weeks of struggling with breastfeeding, she found great support and is now successfully breastfeeding her little one and so proud of it. It's amazing to hear her talk of her experience and how she feels as a mother and the beautiful bond between herself and her daughter.

Seeing my friend nurture her baby and not feeling shy about feeding her in public, reminds me what a privilege it is to be able to breastfeed our babies. It also reminds me of how essential good, up to date, support is in those early weeks and how for many women it can make or break a breastfeeding relationship with their babies.

We say to breastfeed anytime, anywhere. Well this is my good friend (who is an amazing mother) breastfeeding her baby in the Saxon Switzerland in Germany. What an amazing photo!

This is another picture taken of her and her little one last weekend at Elk Lake. I am so proud of my friend, it took a lot of courage and determination for her to breastfeed her baby and now she does it with such ease.

If you need breastfeeding support or would like to find out more about the benefits of breastfeeding check out: or contact me at:

Monday, October 13, 2008


Happy Thanksgiving everyone. It's funny, the older I get the more thankful I become. This year I am so thankful for my beautiful children and amazing husband, our beautiful home that we have now been living in for one year, the three nights of sleep that I have gotten since my husband has been taking care of the baby in the night, my amazing job (it really doesn't feel like work for me), that we always have good food on the table, the list is endless. It's interesting how when we shift our thinking to living in abundance we realise just how much we really have. I hope this was a wonderful holiday for all of you, we all have so much to be thankful for.

Thursday, October 2, 2008

fim event

This Sunday, October 5th at the Duncan Garage Showroom, I am hosting a benefit screening of "What Babies Want." This is an eye opening film looking at the new information that we now have regarding the consciousness of infants. There was a time when we believed that we could slap the baby on its bum at birth, or separate it from its mother in a nursery and that it wasn't aware, it didn't have feelings. Through groundbreaking research, we now know differently. With Noah Wyle's narration of the film, we are brought into a whole new world of who our children are.

All proceeds from the film will go to benefit the "Healthiest Babies Possible" program at the House of Friendship. Wheather you are pregnant or thinking of starting a family or if you already have children, this film opens the space for us to discuss how we wish to honour our children.

After the film we will have door prizes and a panel discussion. I encourage you to be there, it will be a fantastic afternoon.

Thursday, September 18, 2008

where everybody knows your name

Duncan has been called many names, "drunken' Duncan" and "dumpy Duncan" and my favorite "Why would you want to live in Duncan?" And then there are the people that say, "There is nothing good about Duncan." Well, tonight while I was at the Fall Harvest Festival with my family, I realised that those people who don't love this town like I do, are the very ones who are never at these great events.

Tonight, I couldn't handle being a culinary genius for yet another night, so I rallied my family and took us out to the festival. There was a guy playing guitar and singing, a big barbecue (all local food of course complete with homemade blackberry/rhubarb pie with chocolate ice cream for $2.50), farmers from the valley selling their beautiful vegetables, honey and wool, kids running around laughing and families having a great time. Our boy even got to stand on an old farm pickup circa 1939 and peer through the windows.

I also saw lots of familiar faces. Mums and dads from my son's school, my favorite farmers who I talk to every Saturday at the farmer's market, Marv (my favorite wood chair guy who has to be one of the nicest people in this valley), our local midwives with their families and the guitar player who has a knack for making my girl's toes tap. People are so friendly here, and it is such a great feeling to be a part of a community like this. This is a place where people remember your name and each time you see them at an event, on the street, in the grocery store, they treat you like an old friend.

We had a great dinner, bought some beautiful vegetables, saw some friends and realised that for anyone who still thinks this town is just drunken', they need to come out to events like these, this town is amazing and I am so happy to live here.

Monday, September 15, 2008

nature calms

I think I've mentioned before that my son, in his four year old glory is going through a challenging time. It is the age of the will, his not mine. Yesterday we knew it was going to be a hard day, right from when he came into our room and woke up the baby. It was a morning of struggle. Struggle to get him dressed, struggle to get him to eat, struggle for him to listen....struggle. There were time outs, tears, even the slamming of a door, by lunch time, I knew we had to get out.

We left for the beach with buckets in hand. The transformation was amazing, suddenly our son who had been struggling all day was calm, quiet and happy. As he looked for sand dollars, I breathed in the moment of peace that I had so longed for all day. My daughter who had been screaming in the car because she was hungry and we in our divine wisdom who forgot to bring any food for her, sat quietly with me and breastfed. Thank God for breastmilk, food that's always there, even when you forget the rice cakes!

The rest of the day was spent picking blackberries, playing at a playground, watching my boy climb over a fence to run into a farm to say hi to the cows, watching my daughter stand up, on her own for the very first time and an amazing meal at Merridale Cidery (they have pizza night on Sundays. We ate on the deck, the kids were fantastic and I felt a world away).

There is something so calming about the power of nature, the quiet in the sound of the waves, the song of the bird, the satisfying comfort of breastmilk. The power in watching our children mirror the stillness and calm of the natural world around them. What a gift.

Tuesday, September 9, 2008

river day

Now that the boy is in Kindergarten (how this happened I have no idea, wasn't I just taking him to parent and tot?) I decided that the one day in the week that he is not in school should be a quiet home day, or at least a nature day. So after a bike ride to the farm store and some lunch, I packed up both kids and went to the river. This is one of the things that I love best about living here, that my children and I can just truly be in nature and they can explore their world around them and be free to throw a rock if they like.

As I was watching my son play in the river, sending leaf boats down a canal some other children had made and left behind, I had this moment of sincere contentment. It didn't matter that dinner needed to be made or that I had a list as long as my arm of chores that needed doing or work that needed completing. It was such a gift, that on a Monday afternoon, I had no where better to be than at the river with my children.

I can get so caught up in all that needs doing in life that sometimes I need reminding that just doing nothing is as important as doing everything. Now that the boy is in Kindergarten, I am reminded all the more to just be here right now, because before you know it they grow up faster than you want them to. Days like this at the river, with my two children and the ravens overhead are those moments when he is 20 I will look back on and be so glad I ignored the chores and just hung out with my kids.

Sunday, August 24, 2008

the best cd ever!

Ok, I'm officially sick of Raffi. Don't get me wrong, I love the guy, corner grocery store is a staple in our house. However, I listened to it all though my childhood on my Sears record player, then passed it on to my first child, now four and a half, and then to my second. Now after 28 years of devotion, I am ready for a change.

This past week we went to Vancouver and did our usual visit to Kidsbooks. And that's where I found it, the savior to any parents ears who might actually want to enjoy the music their kids keep playing over and over again. Snacktime, the best cd ever to come into the hands of a weary parent. Songs like Pollywog in a Bog and Humungous Tree and Here Come the Geese not only had our son and daughter, yes the baby has rhythm, dancing, it also left us laughing. Thank you Barenaked Ladies!

Monday, August 18, 2008

stay awake

Over the past couple of days we've had some friends come and stay with us with their newborn babies. It is so amazing to hold these little ones, to see my little one crawl up to them, so fascinated by the newness of their lives. Its almost like she knows them from before they all arrived on this earth.

As I was looking at some pictures that my friend had taken of her with her baby, it reminds me that mine was like that too not so long ago. Time goes so quickly, spent on complaining about sleepless nights, spit up stained clothes, the ever elusive shower that you try so hard take before the sun goes down.

I can get so lost in the story, so lost in the dream that I forget to stay awake. Having newborns in the house reminds me that the magic is right now. It is about truly surrendering to this moment and being present because before you know it, your baby looks like Gulliver on his travels as she pulls herself up on the playpen and looks in at an image that not so long ago was once her.

This picture is of my little one only 8 months feels so far away.

Stay awake to this moment right now.

Thursday, August 7, 2008

a flower and a peach

This morning, as I was eating breakfast with my family, my daughter looked over at the windowsill and pointed at the Black eyed susans in the vase. We said, "flower." A minute later she was looking at me smiling and then she said her first word, "flower." We couldn't believe it. A full two syllable word, flower, just like that. It was amazing and perfect because her name is Violet. And then all by herself, she ate an entire peach, just holding it in her hand, skin and all.

It's these moments that make me so grateful that I am home with our children and so grateful that my husband is too. The most precious things can happen at the most ordinary times, like enjoying a bowl of granola on a sunny summer morning with my family, watching our one year old eat a peach and looking at the black eyed susans from our garden that would inspire our baby to say her first word. Magic.

Monday, August 4, 2008

a grown up popsicle stand

This is a historic week in Duncan, we are hosting the North American Indigenous Games. Youth from all over North America including Florida, New York, Saskatchewan and of course British Columbia are here to compete in various sports. We went to the opening ceremonies yesterday and it was amazing. Thousands of people had gathered (including our very own premier) to welcome the 25 teams to the valley. For a small town like Duncan, this is a pretty big deal. It was so amazing to see all of these First Nations youth gathered to compete for the week and share a sense of solidarity and peace, it was really inspiring.

Now, with this many people in town (the estimate was 20,000), my friends and I thought it would be prudent on our part to make sure no one got thirsty in the hot sun. So, as a group of 30 somethings we set up our own popsicle and cold drinks stand (well it was actually a red wagon with a cooler on it). We were all so excited this morning, we had signs, we had the wagon and we had the hot sun. We packed up the coolers with ice, water and popsicles and headed out to the sports venue.

It was great. The sun was out, the people were thirsty and we had a slogan that you couldn't ignore. "Ice cold drinks and popscicles, one for $2 or 3 for $5" The only problem was that we couldn't keep the popsicles from melting, despite the small glacier of ice we had in the cooler. We ended up giving most of them away to some happy kids. The water was a big hit, especially since they had three lovely ladies bringing it to them right to their lawn chairs! So tomorrow, we are coming back more organized and with more selection. Water, pop, ice tea and chips! We're sure to be a hit.

The truth is, yes, we would all like to earn a little money (I am saving up for my very own bike, but I'll blog about that later), but being with such good friends, having a chance to laugh all day and keep the visitors of the Cowichan Valley well hydrated, that's what it's all about. This is a great event for our community, but it's also a great event for us as friends; a group of 30 something girls having a good time on a summer's day.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

A quiet home day

So many of my days are filled with running around, where I'm actually running to, I'm not always sure. It seems that by dinner time most nights I look back on my day and it is a blur of grocery shopping, the ever elusive hunt for good organic farm eggs and picking up after my family. I am often exhausted, the kids are cranky and I feel like I have had a full day, but I don't really have anything to show for it (except a good meal on the table).

So today when I woke up to the rain, a sight I haven't seen for a while, I put on my cozy pants and sipped my coffee with the giddy permission to stay inside and have a quiet home day. As my little one slept, my older one rested in his room listening to a book on tape. And I, in my cozy pants glory, began to work on my very first quilt. Now, I'm no quilting master, but there is something amazing about being able to make something useful for my house. To bring it together piece by piece and see its unique beauty unfold before me. I had such a sense of satisfaction by 11:30 that the shower I took felt well earned.

The rest of the day was filled with reading stories, playing castles, eating lunch together (my other half eats with us too), watching my son play in the rain and mud and yes, a few chores and a healthy meal on the table. I didn't go anywhere today, I didn't buy anything, I just slowed down and was present, patient and willing with my kids. By dinnertime I wasn't exhausted, my kids weren't cranky and I feel like I have accomplished something today. Not only did I start a beautiful quilt, but I gave myself, and my kids the gift of just being present in the moment, having a conversation with my 4 year old over a cup of tea, watching my daughter giggle with joy on the rocking horse and just slowing down enough to have a quiet home day.

Sunday, July 27, 2008


My son is going through a tough time, which means so am I (at least in parenting him). After what felt like weeks without a break, I took the day off yesterday. The kids stayed with dad and I put myself on the greyhound to Victoria. I had a blissful day of wandering through Munroe's without having to give anyone a rice cake, visiting a friend in James Bay and getting a hair cut, one of my favorite things in the world. As my hairdresser was cutting my hair and talking about her discontent with life, I began to see my life's forest for it's trees. It's easy to forget how blessed we are when we are sleep deprived and running the hamster wheel of chores, groceries, laundry, dishes and back again.

As my hairdresser continued talking about how she wished she could settle down with someone, have a home she felt grounded in and a family to call her own, I realized that I have all those things and I am so blessed. I went to my favoirte place for lunch after, Rebar and had an amazing soba noodle salad, ice tea and chocolate cake all while reading a book that I have been trying to get to for weeks. It was bliss.

When it was time to get back on the greyhound, I felt so renewed, so blessed and ready to come home. We lose perspective so easily, we forget that our complaints sometimes are others desires. Sometimes we need to step away to see those trees in that beautiful forest that boarders our river, just down our very own street.


I bought a book for my son and it wasn't until I brought it home and read it to him that I realized it was all about being content with what you had....a great book for kids and adults.

Saturday, July 26, 2008

New Beginings

My daughter had her first birthday a couple of weeks ago. We celebrated a year survived, a year of adventure and a year of new beginnings. With this milestone in her life, I find myself reaching a new one in mine. It seems as though the first year fog has lifted and I am seeing things in a new way. I decided to go back to cloth diapers, be brave and purchase a bike (I live in town which is flat and have no reason most days to drive), to make more time to walk in the woods and to start a blog. So here it is the first post of many to come. I keep having these moments in the day, a moment where I learn something about myself as a woman, a wife, a mother, a mentor, experience something amazing or see the wonder of the world around me and it seems so big I can hardly breathe, and I want to share it, document it, remind myself not to forget it. This past year has been a daily lesson in surrender, releasing attachment to what I may think is ideal and learning to be present in the moment. This next year begins with a new bike, less ice cream and a new doula and mentoring practice here on the island. I remind myself that "What I dream, I will create" The possibilities are endless.