Living Life With Intention

Spending summers with my kids

Spending summers with my kids

Both my parents are PhDs. This set many expectations in my life. - not in the “my parents always really wanted me to follow in their footsteps” kind of way, but in a “when you complete high school you go to University” kind of way. And so I did go to University, despite actively wishing I could get out of traditional learning environments from the earliest days of elementary school.

I have incredibly supportive parents who have never tried to push me to be someone I’m not and yet I held a deep-seated belief that life had ONE path  - and to be successful, I had to take that path.

School – post secondary – good job/career with a solid plan to move up the ladder – house and car – marriage – kids – retire – relax.

That’s the path – the one that most people follow. You can be many things on this path, but there are very few options for detours in order to arrive at “success."

I jumped off and back on the path for years - knowing I wanted something different (jump off); but wanting to be successful (jump on); but hating how I felt (jump off); but wanting to prove I was smart and capable and grown up (jump on); and on it went.

I finally realized that “the path” was not my destiny and I jumped off permanently. I realized that I could create my own path and my own definition of success. Accepting that was the best and most empowering decision of my life.

Jumping off has landed me where I am today, as a business coach supporting small business owners (mostly women, often moms) in figuring out how to create their own paths as well. My own journey in helping others find their paths has clarified something for me – most people do not plan to live their lives intentionally.

Live life with intention

Running a workshop on goal setting for small business owners

Running a workshop on goal setting for small business owners

When was the last time you stopped and thought about your life - what you have, where you’re doing, what you’re trying to achieve, and why you have or desire it all?

What do you hope will be the rewards for all that you’re doing in life? How will you enjoy it?

Many of the people that I talk to don’t have much of a real plan or a real understanding of what they’re working so hard for.

They’re working towards the next big promotion, the nicer car and the bigger house out of habit rather than because they truly want it. I believe more people need to stop, breathe, and take the time to choose.

Don’t get bogged down in shoulds

Choosing sounds easy in theory, but I know that it’s not. There are so many things that impact what we think we should want.

I suggest that you need to really think through what you want in life and why. As you do this you’re going to hear all kinds of voices in your head, coming from a lifetime of messages from family, friends, and society at large:

You SHOULD have a career if you’re going to be a strong independent woman.”

“You SHOULD stay home if you’re a caring and loving mom.”

“You SHOULD have a career that you love that brings in enough money for your kids to take all the activities they want, and be playing competitive level sports and still have time to throw amazing birthday parties and bake cakes that are beautiful enough to be on Cake Boss.”

Wow, those shoulds create a lot of pressure!  And they’re a LOT of work.

If you’re going to work really hard for something, make sure it’s for something YOU want, not something you think society or the people around you expect of you.

What do you want?

If you haven’t taken the time to figure out what it is that you DO want… spend some time thinking about it. If you’re on the right track – AMAZING, keep doing that!

If you realize you aren’t entirely sure what you want or what you’re working so hard for… dig a bit deeper.  If you could have more of only one thing – what would it be?

Painting at the inDetail Art Retreat

Painting at the inDetail Art Retreat

More time?

More creativity?

More rest?

More experiences?

More travel?

More beautiful things?

More pride in what you do?

If you realize you’re working really hard for someone else’s dreams… you need to get back on track. Make your own dreams!

My life by intention is about time more than anything else.

I have time with my kids – I work during my kids’ school hours and am home with them at least 7-8 weeks a year.

I have time for myself – I go away with my friends, I take time for art classes, I say no to being with people all the time.

We have less money than we could. If I had stayed on my career path over the last 10 years we would have had a lot more family income. Ditto if I had chosen to work more hours in my business. Instead, I chose to prioritize things differently.

My dream for my kids is that they can create success on their own terms – that there isn’t just one path in front of them that says “this is the way to a good life” – that there are a multitude of options. Truly, I want that for you, too; to see more people choose their life path and success by intention instead of by accident.

I won’t pretend my journey has been all easy or that my life is now perfect. But I love that I am making choices for ME.

I challenge you to consider all of this for yourself… do you know where you’re heading, and more importantly, why? Are you happy with it?

Create an intention and go for it (and share it with me in the comments!)

This post is part of The Whole Family Happiness Project, in partnership with Social Currents and the Low Carbon Economy Narrative Initiative. The Whole Family Happiness Project poses the question, “What is the connection between our individual purpose, our family happiness, and the happiness of the world around us?”

To learn more or get involved, visit Whole Family Happiness on Facebook. #wholefamilyhappiness

The breakfast sandwich I have been missing my whole life

I recently participated in my first Brownie camp...WOW. What an eye opener! So much planning and hard work goes into those weekends from super dedicated volunteers. I really commend all the leaders with Girl Guides of Canada for their awesomeness.

One part of the planning for camp is the food - having enough food for a giant pack of hungry kids. The morning we left we realized we might be running short on breakfast food (one box of Cheerios was not going to cut it).

Our Brown Owl then grabbed a bag of white bread and instructed us to slather on some applesauce and cinnamon and fry it on the stove.


Please excuse the giant stack of recipe books in the background

Please excuse the giant stack of recipe books in the background

How have I been missing this food all my life? This is THE best camp and cottage food, and also makes the perfect breakfast sandwich for when you're on the run. It tastes pretty much like apple pie, and was a huge hit with the girls.

What you'll need:

- sliced white bread (I'm sure whole wheat would be OK, but white has a certain "squishiness" to it)
- butter
- applesauce
- cinnamon

Butter both slices of bread, just like when you're making grilled cheese. Slather on some applesauce (how thick you want it is your choice!) - we used Farm Boy's unsweetened natural applesauce. This is what my applesauce looks like when I do homemade, so it's my fav. 

Finally sprinkle on the cinnamon and throw the whole sandwich on the grill, fire or stovetop. Cook until golden brown.

They were gobbled up!!!

What's your go-to breakfast after a night in a tent or at the cottage?

Food and beverage marketing to children: Changing the trend

We all want what’s best for our children—especially when it comes to their health and nutrition. So, why is keeping junk food out of the house so difficult? Where are children learning about the food they eat and the beverages they drink? Did you know children are being marketed to on a daily basis?

As parents, avoiding advertising and marketing for children and youth can be surprisingly difficult. Marketing is everywhere: television, video games, online, in movies, endorsed by characters and celebrities, and even on packages and labeling of products.

Marketing to children

What is marketing?

By its very nature, marketing is designed to persuade people into purchasing a product or service. For influential young minds, this persuasion can lead to unhealthy food and beverage choices.

Food and beverage marketing to children

Healthy food and beverage choices start in childhood, and unfortunately children learn a lot about both through marketing.

Every time a child turns on the television they are exposed to a variety of marketing messages. Before the age of five, most children can’t tell the difference between an advertisement and a television show.  Manufacturers and big brands recognize how easily influenced children and youth can be, and invest a lot of money to create marketing messages they feel will influence a child’s dietary decisions.

If a child sees a marketing message for a particular beverage a child will, more than likely, ask their parents if they can have that particular beverage—healthy or not.

Ottawa Public Health is working hard to help parents and their children learn the difference between healthy dietary choices and marketing ploys. Armed with the right knowledge and resources, parents and children will be able to make healthier and more informed dietary choices.

Eating healthy - marketing food and beverages to children

What can parents do to help change the marketing trend?

Parents need to do their research on products and read food labels. Just because something says it is 100% natural does not mean it is made with natural ingredients. Eat fresh foods as much as possible, and when shopping for packaged goods, look for products that have reduced salt or sugar and no trans fats.

Parents can also help educate their children on what marketing means and help their children differentiate between learning something new and trying to be convinced to buy something.

It can be hard to say to no to junk food, but teaching moderation and offering alternative, healthier options is a step in the right direction.

Food and beverage marketing to children

Marketing regulations

With growing obesity rates in children, it has become the mission of public health organizations to create stricter policies and regulations concerning the marketing of food and beverages to children and youth.

In Canada, the Federal government is constantly working to introduce restrictions on the marketing of unhealthy food and beverages to children and youth. These regulations include improving the information found on food labels.

The province of Quebec has already banned commercial advertisements specifically directed at children under the age of 13. Since this change, Quebec is the highest consumer of fruits and vegetables and has the lowest obesity rates for children between the ages of six and eleven.

To find out more information on how marketing influences the dietary choices of children and youth, and what steps are being taken to change these practices, visit Ottawa Public Health online.


Disclaimer: This blog post is sponsored by the City of Ottawa (Ottawa Public Health).

Family-Friendly Activities for Canada Day in Ottawa

Canada Day in Ottawa
photo courtesy of connie paris

photo courtesy of connie paris

When you think of Canada Day in Ottawa, what activities spring to mind? Some families spend the day downtown, some at their cottage or trailer, others camp at a nearby provincial park, and some use the day off to start their summer vacation. Planning Canada Day activities, especially with young children, can be daunting. To help, here is a list of family-friendly activities, events and sites to see, do and visit in Ottawa on Canada Day.

Parliament Hill

When in downtown Ottawa on Canada Day, a visit to Parliament Hill is pretty much mandatory. This year, it will be EXTRA special. Parliament Hill draws thousands of Canadians dressed in red and white. It’s the place where Canada Day festivities officially kick off (usually with the raising of the flag at 9 a.m. and the Changing of the Guard at 9:30 a.m.) and it’s the place to be if you want to listen to dignitaries and ceremonies commemorating Canada Day (this usually takes place from about noon to 1:30 p.m.).

And while the Changing of the Guard is a unique activity for some kids, don’t be afraid to make Parliament Hill a quick photo op and then move on. With the exception of live music, there isn’t a lot of kid-friendly activities on Parliament Hill - but Canada’s Snowbirds are known to fly by around noon on Canada Day. And if live musical entertainment is what you’re looking for, come back in the evening as live bands countdown the fireworks display that typically goes off around 10 p.m.

Major’s Hill Park

Photo courtesy of Jenn Beyak

Photo courtesy of Jenn Beyak

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

Major’s Hill Park is the hubbub of family-friendly Canada Day activities in Ottawa’s downtown core. Visit the park for face painting, live musical and cultural performances, exhibitions, and so much more. At the end of the day, this is a great spot to watch the spectacular display of Canada Day fireworks over the Ottawa River.

Mosaicanada at Jacques-Cartier Park

Jacques-Cartier Park is home to Mosaicanada, a horticultural event for Canada's 150th birthday! Located minutes from Parliament Hill on the Quebec Side (next to the Canadian Museum of History), a trip here will take you on a guided walk through 40 different living arrangements. Opens June 30th at 3pm.

Jazz Festival – Confederation Park

Photo courtesy of jenn beyak

Photo courtesy of jenn beyak

Located right across from City Hall, Confederation Park on Canada Day is home to food trucks, activities and is your ticket to some of the world's most recognized jazz artists, presented by the TD Ottawa Jazz Festival. If your family enjoys good music, Confederation Park is a must-stop on Canada Day and the entire weekend! And all the performances on Canada Day are FREE!!

Mackenzie-King Estate

Mackenzie-King Estate is in the heart of Gatineau Park and makes for great photos any time of year. If your family loves the outdoors, take a walk through the wooded paths or gardens, visit historical ruins from the early 1900s or enjoy a cup of tea at the Mackenzie King Café and Tearoom. Special to Canada Day is music in the gardens, games for kids of all ages and birthday cake in the afternoon!

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lamarre.

Photo courtesy of Olivia Lamarre.

Ottawa Champions Baseball Game

Take your kids to a ball game! The Ottawa Champions have a game at 1:35 p.m. on Canada Day as well as July 2nd. Enjoy ball game food, cheer on the local team and sing with the mascot! Seats prices are economical and it’s fun for the entire family, regardless of age (or whether or not they like baseball).

Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races

If you and your family love to run join Run Ottawa for the Scotiabank Canada Day Road Races at Walter Baker Park as part of the official Kanata Canada Day celebrations. There will be fun and friendly running events, including 5K, 10K, 1.5K Fun Run for kids aged 5 to 11 and a 100 Meter Tow Trot for kids ages 4 and under. A fun and healthy way to start Canada Day!

Visit a Museum!

Most museums in Ottawa have free admission to their general exhibitions all day July 1st and many have special events taking place just for Canada Day! This includes the National Gallery of Canada, the Canadian War Museum, the Canada Space and Aviation museum, as well as the following museums:

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Canadian Museum of History

On July 1st, the Canadian Museum of History will host a variety of indoor and outdoor exhibits, games, and performances for the entire family. There are even inflatable structures (perfect for the little ones!). The Canadian Museum of History is just over the bridge in Gatineau, and there is a free shuttle bus from Major’s Hill Park.

Bytown Museum

Located on the Lower Locks of the Rideau Canal, the Bytown Museum is a great little museum that also has ice cream, freshly squeezed lemonade, souvenirs, and more available in their café and boutique.

Canada Agriculture and Food Museum

In addition to the animal barns and incredible play structure, the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum will have a full day of games, activities and even ice cream making! Pack a lunch and tour the gardens or just let the kids play in the playground. This museum always has something fun going on and Canada Day is no exception.

Canadian Museum of Nature

If you haven’t been to the Canadian Museum of Nature in awhile, Canada Day is the perfect chance to do so for free. Visit dinosaurs, mammals, minerals and sea life; and on June 21st their newest special exhibit, the Canada Good Arctic Gallery opens up!

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Photo courtesy of Lida Wellman.

Celebrate Canada Day in Your Community!

If you are looking to avoid the huge crowds of Canadians in downtown Ottawa, but still want to celebrate Canada Day with others, there are plenty of community events across Ottawa, including:


Sponsored by Mattamy Homes, join your Barrhaven neighbours at Clarke Fields, 93 Houlahan for a midway, food trucks, live music, amazing fireworks and much, much more! For more information:

Blackburn Hamlet

Blackburn Hamlet celebrates Canada Day with activities and fireworks from 7:30 to 10 p.m. at the Blackburn Hamlet Community Hall, 190 Glen Park Dr,  For more information: 


Celebrate Canada Day at the Diefenbunker from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m.! Free admission (first come, first served and tour slots fill up fast!) as well as face painting, refreshments and an obstacle course. For more information:


Canada Day at Petrie Island is BACK, and East end residents are excited! Hosted by the Kiwanis Club of Orleans, the beach opens at 11am, and party-goers can expect games, children's activities, entertainment and so much more! For more information:


Canada Day in Kanata take place at Walter Baker Park in Kanata and includes live entertainment, a large kids zone, a beer garden and more. Crowds of over 30,000 are known to attend this popular west Ottawa Canada Day celebration! Fireworks start around 10 p.m. For more information visit:

photo courtesy of cynthia mar

photo courtesy of cynthia mar


Celebrate Canada Day in Osgoode Village at the Osgoode Community Arena, 5660 Main Street starting at noon on July 1st. Events include a BBQ, kids activities, stage shows and fireworks! For information:

Riverside South

Join the community of Riverside South at Claudette Cain Park as they celebrate Canada Day with family-friendly activities for all ages with a professional fireworks show to finish off the day! Stay tuned to the website for information:


Hosted on the grounds of Sttitsville’s Sacred Heart Highschool, Stittville’s family-friendly Canada Day celebration gets bigger and better every year with activities and fun for the whole family including fireworks! For more information:

The day after

Haven't had enough fun and excitement on July 1st? Check out the "Interprovincial Picnic on the Bridge" on July 2nd, and enjoy lunch with your family on Alexandria Bridge. PLEASE NOTE: THIS ACTIVITY IS SOLD OUT!!!

There's also an exciting (and FREE) open-air concert on the Hill called WE Day Canada that will be a ton of fun for the whole family.

How to get around on Canada Day



Regardless of where or how you decide to celebrate Canada Day in Ottawa, OC Transpo offers free transit all day long and after the fireworks. STO offers free transit after 10 p.m. Check out their website for more information and remember to leave lots of time for travel and to have fun – Canada Day with kids make for some great memories.

How does your family traditionally celebrate Canada Day? Leave a comment and let me know!

Family Photo Display Ideas

As a family photographer I have no shortage of photos to display on the walls of our home.  When we moved to our home three and a half years ago I was amazed at how much wall space I had to fill and yet I’m now struggling to find space to display my favourite photos of our family. I learned the hard way that framed photos aren’t necessarily the best choice for every room after a few ninja and lightsaber battles resulted in broken glass. I absolutely love printing photos on canvas but because I add so many photos to our “favourites” collection every year I need display options that allow me to switch out photos on a regular basis. I’ve also filled the available wall space which means I’m always on the lookout for creative ways to add photos to every room.

Home office

Behind my computer I have a large white magnet board and a plethora of pretty magnets: I hang photos, cards I’ve received, favourite quotes, and special drawings from the kids.  I like being able to change photos with the seasons without having to go through the hassle of finding or hanging frames.

Hanging up family photos with magnets


In 3 out of our 4 bathrooms we have photos printed on canvas.  It’s a great spot for beach or vacation photos and I appreciate how durable the canvas is in the damp environment.  If a canvas gets splashed it’s easy to wipe it down and I’m not worried about them falling off the walls and shattering on the file floors.  

Family photos displayed in bathroom


I quickly learned that kid’s interests change as quickly as Canadian weather and so rather than themed bedrooms, I’ve decorated the boys rooms with their favourite photos of themselves.  I chose colourful frames and canvas to hang on their walls and display on their shelves.

Family Photo Display Ideas

Photo ledges

A photo ledge is a great display option when you want to show off a collection of images without having to frame and hang them.  My husband recently installed a photo ledge above our front hall closet, where I have space for 4-5 images at a time.  I plan to use the space to display my seasonal photos and since I placed the photos in white mats it’s easy for me to switch out the images whenever I want.

Photo ledges for family photos


When we moved into our house I considered storing beautiful bowls and vases above our kitchen cabinets but quickly realized I had no interest in washing and cleaning them on a regular basis to keep them dust free.  I’ve turned the empty space above our cabinets into display for photos and have done the same with high cabinets and dressers in other rooms.  

Family Photos in Kitchen

Sara McConnell is the mom to three boys and an award winning professional photographer specializing in maternity, newborn and family photography. When she's not behind her camera, drinking too much tea, in the pool or at the beach you can find her on FacebookInstagram and on her website.