Take the stress out of food prep with Supperworks

I don't know how meal planning and dinnertime go at your house, but at my house... well, let me just put it this way - it's not my favourite time of day.

Between picky kids, a lack of inspiration for meal planning and hectic weekdays, I resort to cereal or fish sticks and fries far more than I ever would have expected of myself (and like to admit).

I tried the food delivery boxes, and while they were great because it saved me having to come up with the recipes and do the shopping (and I won't lie, throwing out all kinds of food I bought, meant to cook, and instead let go bad), it was still quite a lot of work in terms of prep each day.

I recently got to try Supperworks during a special blogger event and fell a little bit in love, so I thought I'd share a few of my favourite things about the experience.

1) No peeling and chopping

Peeling and chopping isn't hard... but it takes a long time. I loved that as I went up to each station, the only thing I needed to do was take the amount of an ingredient and put it into the containers outlined on the simple instructions.

The green onions were chopped, the garlic was minced, the protein was already portioned out exactly as it needed to be. (Bonus: much less chance of accidentally grating your hand instead of the cheese when a kid walks in shouting a loud question at you when you're not expecting it!)

2) Almost no dishes

The only dishes are the things you need to cook the food and to eat the food. There are no knives and cutting boards, and measuring cups and spoons and mixing bowls. I often feel like a tornado has hit my kitchen after I've spent a few hours cooking and by then I don't feel like CLEANING up the mess I made - I was just so productive in MAKING the food. Supperworks means I don't have to do the dishes after putting together my meals, and I wish I could give the store a big hug  just for that!

3) No thinking required

I think a lot - while I'm working, while I'm trying to make sure our family life stays on track and remember who is supposed to be at what activity when, and what forms I still need to send in to the school, and whether or not I RSVPed to those birthday party invitations.

Having every step of this figured out for me so that I can just walk in and follow simple steps to achieve success - it's just such a nice break for my brain.

4) Portion options

A family sized meal is meant for 4-6 people, and it's quite generous. My kids are pretty good eaters (since last year they all doubled and tripled how much they eat!) so the meal size was great for everyone (with a little bit left over for one extra lunch). If your kids are not big eaters then for a small extra fee you can split all the meals into two, and the stations are set up so you can switch the recipes to instructions for making smaller doubles, and all the tools and containers are readily available for splitting things. These half sized portions now just doubled how many meals you get, and feed a family with no kids or little kids who don't eat very much.

5) You don't even have to assemble it if you don't want to

Supperworks is set up so that you can come in, on your own or with friends, and assemble your meals. I'm planning to gather a group of friends to do this soon in fact, because I think it can be a fun (and so easily justified to those of us who have a hard time taking time for ourselves) night out for friends. But, let's say you don't have the time, or you don't feel like gathering a group of friends and you don't really want to devote the hour or so it would probably take to make the 6-12 meals, you can just pay $25-40 (depending on how many meals you're making) and they'll assemble them for you. And I totally plan to do that if I'm not hanging out with my friends - worth every penny. Or, go in and see what they've pre-prepared and got waiting in the freezer right now.

The food was delicious too - did I mention that? The Flat Irons MELTED in our mouths (my two meat eater kids were ready to battle it out with my husband and I on who got more of it), the coleslaw may be one of my new favourite things ever, and you can mix and match all kinds of extra sides from the freezer at front of the store.

Healthy meals with good variety (including vegetarian options) that are easy for me to prepare was pretty much the most important thing for me to figure out better systems for in our life, because it was dragging me down like nobody's business. I can't wait to stock up our freezer with all kinds of healthy meals that are easy for me to prepare - and I think some of them are even easy enough for my ten year old to prepare too!

Supperworks has a special promotion going on right now called Suppersavers (limited quantities so I wouldn't dally) for a $100 voucher for $50. They are store specific, so pick the best location for you (Kanata, Nepean or Orleans) and grab a voucher - there's no better way to try out Supperworks than with $50 off!

If you have been to Supperworks before, leave a comment below and let us know what you thought, and what your favourite not to be missed meals are!

Thanks again to Supperworks Ottawa for the opportunity to check out how everything works - I'll definitely be back!

* Supperworks provided Kids in the Capital with 2 free meals and the experience of using their service. All thoughts are our own.

 

Giver’s 150 Canada-themed playground at Mooney’s Bay

My daughter has watched playgrounds all over Ontario be built thanks to the Sinking Ship Entertainment show Giver, a program that regularly airs on TVO Kids. The show involves children ages 6 to 12 in the design and building of local neighbourhood playgrounds.

This spring TVO will start airing episodes about building one of the largest playgrounds in Canada located at Mooney’s Bay in Ottawa – and if you look at it from a bird’s eye view, it’s even shaped like Canada.

Can you guess what part of Canada this section of the playground is?

Can you guess what part of Canada this section of the playground is?

My eight year old daughter and her friends recently visited the new Canada-themed playground at Mooney’s Bay and had the time of their lives! When asked what they enjoyed the most about the playground they said it was searching for different facts on Canada (this after discovering a fact on the bottom of a saucer swing), as well as climbing the monkey bars that symbolized an igloo in Canada’s north.

Fact from the "Alberta" section of the playground

Fact from the "Alberta" section of the playground

Among many other things, Canada’s playground at Mooney's Bay features a lighthouse slide, orca shaped monkey bars, a ship that rocks back and forth as you move, a log cabin, a canoe-shaped teeter totter as well as a multitude of play structures, each symbolizing something that kids can identify with for each area of Canada. There are also swings for younger children and older children, as well as an accessible swing seat, and a raised sandbox.

The Giver Canada-themed playground will not disappoint. Not only is it right next to Mooney’s Bay Beach with a big hill perfect for rolling down, but it is also a short walk away from Hog’s Back Falls. It is a great one-stop spot to spend a nice day outside with the family to swim, play and picnic!

Big hill near park - ideal for rolling down.

Big hill near park - ideal for rolling down.

There was some controversy surrounding the building of this park because nearby residents were not consulted prior to construction. But given how busy it was on the early spring day we visited, I think the finished project is being well received by residents. It's a beautiful park with lots to see and do for children of all ages.

Canada themed playground Ottawa

Although the landscaping immediately surrounding the playground is not complete, and the area is lacking benches, there are still plenty of raised areas where parents can sit or they can bring a picnic blanket and find some shade under one of the big trees nearby.

If our schedules had allowed, my daughter and her friends would have loved to help build the Canada-themed playground. But instead they now marvel in its size, its uniqueness and in the fact that is Canada-themed. She and her friends can hardly wait to return to Mooney’s Bay to give the Canada playground merry-go-round another spin and play hide and seek in the “wild, wild west.”

My daughter and her friend's favourite climbing structure at the park

My daughter and her friend's favourite climbing structure at the park

Keep your eyes out on TVO for 13 episodes about the building of Ottawa’s Canada-themed park and watch for the official opening on Canada Day, July 1, 2017!

Have you been to the Giver Canada-themed playground at Mooney’s Bay yet? What did you think? Leave a comment and let us know!

 

5 Earth Day Activities for Kids

April 22nd is Earth Day, a day to celebrate nature, get outside, purposely do something “green,” and it's a great opportunity to teach children how they can do their part to help preserve and protect our planet. And while crafts can be a fun way to learn about Earth Day, getting your children involved (and outside) is even more fun!

earth day activities for kids

Plant a tree

When my daughter was one we started an apple tree from seed. We nurtured it indoors until it was ready to be planted outside and now it’s the same height as her. There is nothing more educational or rewarding then watching a tree sprout and grow from seed or seedling. If you plant a tree, take the time to explain to your children why trees are so important (their ability to absorb carbon dioxide), and let them know it will grow up just as they do. My daughter loves measure herself against our little apple tree.

Build a bat house

I got the idea to build a bat house from the Wild Kratts, but I love it because it gets kids closer to a creature some may find scary. Building a bat house is not hard (here is a link to the bat house mentioned in the Wild Kratts). As with tree planting, building a bat house is a great opportunity to teach kids where bats fit into our ecosystem and why they are important. They eat insects and in many parts of the world they are also plant pollinators.

Collect garbage

Grab some garbage bags, put on some gloves and head to your local parks and trails and start cleaning up! The windy winter always leaves a lot of garbage behind—Earth Day is a great opportunity to get outside and clean up the neighbourhood. While picking up garbage you can explain how garbage can be damaging to wildlife, including how they can get stuck in plastic containers or cut themselves on glass.

Plant a monarch butterfly garden

Monarch butterflies are endangered, so why not plant a monarch butterfly garden and teach kids what plants they are attracted to and why butterflies are important! Plant some milkweed so the monarch butterfly can lay its eggs on it and so their caterpillars have something to eat (did you know they only like milkweed? Luckily, many garden centres now sell this once hard to find plant seed). Like bees, butterflies are pollinators, so their existence is very important to the survival and success of our own food sources.

Have an earth day scavenger hunt

This is a great activity for younger kids. Create a scavenger hunt based on things found in nature, such as pinecones, rocks, flowers, and leaves. A nature-based scavenger hunt is a good way to help younger children learn more about nature as well as get them outside! Another idea is to go to your local library and find a bird watching book, then go for a hike and see how many kinds of birds you can spot and make a list!

There are many ways to get your children involved in learning about, appreciating, and protecting our earth. It can be as easy as religiously recycling, using reusable bags and making a conscious effort to conserve water. By taking the time to teach them now, they will hopefully carry this knowledge with them and share it for generations to come.

How do you celebrate nature and make Earth Day fun and educational for your kids?

Easter at the farm

By Tom Stacey

We got a chance to check out all of the Easter weekend activities at the Agriculture and Food Museum on Good Friday, and the girls had a blast!

The highlight of the visit was (of course) the baby animals. One calf had been born just that morning, and there were also sweet little lambs and piglets.

farm pig.JPG

New this year is a rabbit agility demonstration (of course we always knew those bunnies were agile!!) This is presented by the Renfrew County 4-H Rabbit Club, and located under the covered pavilion outside.

Another favourite activity is the annual Easter Egg hunt, which is located in the horse and cattle barn's lobby. The girls got to take home three eggs each (although let's be honest - these were consumed long before that.)

The kitchen was doing a really cool demonstration on cocoa beans, and how we transform the bean into chocolate. Chocolate cake was served to all the kids!

For a full listing of all the activities, check out the farm's website for more information. Activities run until Monday April 17th.

Tomorrow is looking quite rainy, but the museum has many buildings where you can take cover with the family. And bonus, crowds are usually smaller on rainy days!!

Happy Easter Ottawa!

Choosing a soccer league for your child

I have a seven year-old who wants to do EVERYTHING. Over the past few months she's asked to try karate, soccer, pottery, dance, road hockey and forest school. 

As much as I love her enthusiasm and want her to try it all, I realize this is a) not realistic; and b) not affordable. So we have asked her to focus on one thing she'd really love to try, and she chose soccer.

My daughter did Sportball when she was younger, learning some basic skills and just having fun with the ball. I didn't go further than that because she was never keen to wear proper cleats, shin pads or the team uniform.

Can you spot my kid? :)

Can you spot my kid? :)

But all of a sudden she has grown up, and realizes that proper equipment means she can participate and feel comfortable. For a kid with many clothing sensitivities, it's a huge win to have her willing to wear a uniform.

I started looking at soccer league options, and was immediately confused. What was best? A city program? A soccer league run by volunteers? A soccer league with certified coaches? The option for her to play competitively at some point down the road?

I put the question out in our Facebook Group, and got a LOAD of information. I've put together a few things parents mentioned - you may want to consider some of these when choosing a soccer team or league.

Location and times

This seemed to be the most common thread from parents - choose a league where the location is close to you, and the times of the practices and games are doable for your family. It's going to cause a lot of stress if you are driving all over the city, or missing work to rush home for an early meet.

Long-term development and competition

Many leagues have a development soccer programs for youth. The goal in the younger years is not to push kids to the max - this way, they learn to enjoy the sport. Player positions are not assigned for younger kids, and many leagues don't even play games until a special festival weekend. At this stage, children are working on basic skills, often in groups instead of teams.

One suggestion I received is to ask if the children will be grouped in the same group, or if they're switching each week. Different groupings make it hard for kids to make friends, and can take away from some of the social aspect of the sport.

If at some point your child shows an aptitude for the sport, there are leagues that will funnel into competitive programs.

Volunteer coaches vs. certified coaches

Some leagues are run by parent volunteers, whereas others are run by certified coaches. As you can imagine, the coaching ability will vary widely when it comes to parents - some are naturals, while others require a bit of, um, work. 

I've heard some parents share positive experiences about volunteer-run leagues, whereas others feel that is too much of a gamble (will you get the great coach, or the not-so-great coach?) 

Cost

I've seen anywhere from $100 - $190 for the season. If this cost is prohibitive for your family, there are a number of programs that support low-income families:

- some clubs will lower the fee if parents volunteer

- the club may have scholarship programs, so be sure to check before you register

- Canadian Tire JumpStart program

- KidSport Canada

- Minding our Bodies Youth Grants

Competitive soccer is a whole other ballgame (no pun intended.) Parents are looking at hundreds of dollars in fees for the season. We're not there yet, and not sure we'll ever be, but it's good to know!

Finally, the last piece of advice I received was to get involved - make sure the rules and guidelines are clear. Find out if there are ways to volunteer (even for rotating snack!) This way you can see if coaches are encouraging team play and a supportive atmosphere. Sports at any age need to be FUN!

Is your child in a soccer league? What do you love about it?