By: Melinda Lamarche

Summer is here and it’s time to hit the road!  Whether exploring new places or rediscovering old favourites, family road trips can be loads of fun and a chance to create lifelong memories.

To keep everyone’s spirits up throughout the journey, it’s a good idea to pack some delicious snacks to keep little tummies happy during those long stretches of highway.  Not only do homemade snacks save time and money along the way, they are also your best bet in terms of offering your family a healthy and satisfying nibble.

Below are some tips and tricks to keep you and your family well-fed while on the road, here’s to a happy (and healthy) journey!


  • Choose snacks those that contain a source of carbohydrate for energy and some protein to keep you feeling fuller longer, examples include: yogurt and fruit, cheese and crackers, nuts and dried fruit.
  • Before you hit the road, invest in a small cooler and ice packs. Look for reusable containers like mason jars and don’t forget to stock the napkins, wet wipes and utensils.


  • Yogurt, berry and granola parfait
    • Layer plain yogurt, berries and granola in a mason jar, sprinkle with cinnamon and a squirt of honey before sealing the lid
  • Hummus, veggies and bread sticks
    • Spoon a few tablespoons of your favourite storebought or homemade hummus into the bottom of a mason jar, place cut up vegetables in the hummus and place the lid on top. Serve with whole grain breadsticks or crackers on the side
  • Fruity tortilla roll ups
    • Mix softened cream cheese with a little bit of cinnamon, vanilla extract and maple syrup, spread on a whole grain tortilla. Place a mix of cut up fruit and berries on top of cream cheese, roll up and cut into 1” circles
  • Homemade mini muffins and fruit
    • Make a batch of your families favourite muffins, be sure to use whole wheat flour and keep the amount of sugar low, sneak in some mashed bananas or applesauce to hike up the nutritional value, for some fun stir in some nuts or dried fruit and chocolate chips, bake in a mini muffin tin to get more and keep portions snack sized.
  • Roasted chickpeas and cut up veggies
    • Rinse and drain a can of chickpeas, place on a parchment lined backing sheet. Sprinkle with 1 tbsp of olive oil, roast in a 400degrees for 30minutes, stirring occasionally, then sprinkle with your favourite flavours, try cumin, garlic powder and thyme.

Of course, you can’t go wrong with the tried and true snacks, think cheese and crackers, fruit and nuts and granola bars.

  • When buying crackers look for those that are low in fat, containing less than 5g of fat per serving, low in salt and containing at least 2-4g of fibre per serving. Choose unsalted and dry roasted nuts.
  • Granola bars can be tricky, they are one of those foods with a health halo, meaning they are often marketed as being healthier than they actually are. If buying granola bars, look for those made with whole grains (hint … whole grains should be listed as the first ingredient), low in fat and with less than 8g of sugar.  Making your own granola bars could be a fun way to experiment with your family’s favourite flavours.

So, this summer, pack your coolers and hit the road with some delicious and nutritious snacks to keep you and your crew fuelled for non-stop fun!

Melinda Lamarche has been working as a Registered Dietitian for more than 10 years.  After completing her dietetic internship at the University Health Network in 2005 she went on to complete a Masters degree in Public Health Nutrition at the University of Toronto.  Melinda has experience working with Toronto Public Health and various Family Health Teams in the Toronto area.  Melinda recently completed a Culinary program and is using her new skills to prepare yummy and healthy dishes for her husband, daughter and new baby.


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"Bad Moms"

Tired of the Mommy Wars and the pressure to be perfect? This movie is probably for you!

Written by the duo behind the “Hangover,” “Bad Moms” stars Mila Kunis as an overworked mom of two who is struggling to juggle the many – and often unreasonable – demands of parenthood.

Kunis’ eventually reaches her breaking point at a PTA meeting when the queen of the perky moms, depicted by Christina Applegate, outlines no less than 14 dietary restrictions for the school’s upcoming bake sale.

“I’m so tired of trying to be this perfect mom, I’m done” she says to Applegate’s obvious confusion.

Two other moms played by Kristen Bell and Kathryn Hahn join Kunis in solidarity to ditch the rules of perfect parenting and the rest is history.

See the hilarious trailer below as the “Bad Moms” crew goes wild all over town, including – gasp – showing up at the bake sale with store-bought donut holes. The horror!

There is nothing like seeing your child explore a new toy for the first time, especially ones with sensory or educational value like a play kitchen.  Unfortunately for the less handy among us, the assembly process can be downright daunting and it may feel like your child will outgrow the toy before you’re done building it.

Just for fun, we’ve highlighted the 5 stages of assembling a toy kitchen.  Can you identify?

Shock & Denial

You’ve opened the giant cardboard box and have dumped its contents onto your living room floor. You now find yourself surrounded with 70 unique parts and a 25-page instruction manual complete with illustrations and symbols that resemble hieroglyphics etched into the wall of a pyramid.  Panic and dismay wash over you like a thick fog.

Pain & Guilt

You’ve sliced open your hand using the Allen key and your lower back is experiencing intense spasms and shooting pain.  The thought of quitting has crossed your mind 12 times a minute since you started but you won’t give up because depriving your child of the chance to cook fake food using her fake kitchenware is plain unacceptable.

Anger & Bargaining

Logically you know that fighting with the kitchen won’t get you anywhere, but your frustration is at a boiling point and you can’t take it anymore.  After crumpling the instruction manual in protest, you return to the half-finished kitchen and beg it for mercy in exchange for keeping your cool.

Reflection & Loneliness

It’s been four hours and you’re only half-finished.  The world seems bleak and meaningless and you’re wondering if you’ll ever breathe fresh air again.

Acceptance and Hope

The kitchen is done but there are a handful of miscellaneous parts leftover and you’re pretty sure they aren’t spares.  Still, you take a step back and applaud your perseverance in the face of unspeakable odds. Parenting win!




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I was four the first time I danced in front of an audience. Dressed head-to-toe as a penguin waiter in our studio’s adaptation of Mary Poppins, I did my best attempt of a tap-dancing waddle while carrying an invisible tray around the stage. I remember feeling so proud because I was singled out for a mini-solo during that performance; a sequence in which I danced up to Mary and Bert and offered them both an invisible drink from my platter.

From that point on, I was hooked, in-love with all aspects of dance from choreography to creative movement, costumes to classical music.

I danced for the next 14 years straight, with each subsequent year becoming increasingly more intensive with competitions, recitals and graded exams. My schedule often meant going to the studio immediately after school and missing social gatherings on the weekend to attend class or an out of town festival.

I didn’t realize it at the time, but now, more than 15 years since my amateur dance career ended, I credit it with being one of the most positive influences on my adult life. Here’s why:

Healthy Sense of Competition

I began competing in local and provincial festivals from the time I was eight years old until I stopped dancing at 18. I’ll never forget standing before the adjudicators as they critiqued our numbers and the feeling of anticipation as they doled out gold, silver and bronze on-by-one. Competition is a reality of adult life and whether it’s contending for a spot in university or a new job, it’s valuable to have a healthy perspective on rivalry and the risks and rewards of putting yourself out there.


Competing was not always synonymous with winning, not even close. In retrospect, learning to lose gracefully – particularly in solo competition when I couldn’t slink into the background of my fellow group members – was the most instrumental skill dancing taught me. At this point, we’re all aware of life’s unexpected twists, turns and occasional disappointments and learning to deal with defeat early on was an invaluable lesson in humility and sportsmanship.

Body Confidence

Was I ever going to be a prima ballerina? Definitely not. I was too tall with too-prominent an hourglass figure to ever make it into a professional company; nevermind that I lacked the turnout and enviable arch of a professional dancer.

Did lacking the ideal “body type” ever once stop me from donning a tutu or set of pointe shoes and dancing my heart out? Not event once. On the contrary, I participated in at least three competitions a year for more than a decade, dancing at least five separate numbers in each one.

For her part, my teacher was careful to never make any comments about our weight; even during those pressure-filled days before competition or a ballet exam, her critiques were limited to our classroom work and never, ever about our outward appearance.

In a world that often expects women to conform to a ‘perfect’ set of proportions, being a dancer in a non-dancer’s body instilled a sense of strength and confidence in me that it really doesn’t matter what you look like, it’s the hard work and energy you put into it that really counts.

Time Management

Dancing practically every day after school and on weekends did not exempt me from homework or exams. Juggling academic responsibilities with a busy extracurricular calendar was an early lesson in how to prioritize, organize and be accountable across the board; procrastination was not an option when ballet class ended at 9:30pm.

Respect for Authority

My longtime Ballet teacher was pretty strict when it came down to it. Sure, we’d goof around on the odd occasion, but in general she ran a very tight ship. She expected regular attendance, punctuality, concentration and your utmost effort out of respect for her time. Learning deference from such a young age imparted a valuable life lesson about respecting authority that would surface again in my professional life.

Dependability, Teamwork and Follow-Through

I was at the studio upwards of five-days a week at the peak of my dancing career and during competition and recital season, that frequency swelled with additional practice sessions. I recall many afternoons spent bartering with my mom about wanting to skip out on class in favor of curling up on the couch after a long day at school, but it rarely worked. In hindsight, attending dance lessons day after day (after day, after day) instilled a lifelong sense of discipline in me that just because you don’t feel like showing up, doesn’t mean you don’t.

As a new mom, I hope to one-day enroll my daughter in ballet and watch as she explores the music in her first set of slippers. Nothing would make me prouder than to see her discover her confidence within the four walls of a studio, in the loving arms of dance.

I’m holding onto the penguin costume just in case.


Light up the Floor Feature


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There are times when the wind is howling and the snow is whipping across your face, that it is easy to curse living in a winter climate. Being a new parent, I have often found myself wondering just how much easier it would be if I didn’t have to wrestle my daughter into a snowsuit before leaving the house or strap her into the car-seat with a handful of frozen fingers.

Then there are days like today, when the sun is shining and there’s only a slight nip in the air, that I can reflect on all that I love about living in a city that experiences four distinct seasons, including – yes – winter.

Here are just a few:

  1. Snowy Sports: Whether it’s hitting the slopes or taking in an outdoor game of shinny, there’s something so nostalgic and wonderful about frolicking outside in the winter chill – especially with kids. Can you think of anything more fun than climbing aboard a toboggan and sailing down a hill of packed snow? Nope!
  2. Hot Bevvys: When you’re done enjoying the outdoors, fix yourself a cup of warm cocoa and warm-up from the inside out. A steaming hot beverage just isn’t the same when your fingers and toes aren’t mid-thaw.
  3. Winter Fashion: During the dog-days of summer, my mind inevitably wanders to thoughts of scarves, boots and the deep hues that characterize winter fashion. Sandals, swimsuits and maxi-dresses just can’t compare.
  4. Comforts of Home: Nothing makes me appreciate a Saturday night spent indoors more than a Canadian winter. Give me a pair of warm socks and a movie and I am one happy Canuck.
  5. The Spring Thaw: Is there any more optimistic feeling than the one you have during those early days of spring? It’s magical to watch as sidewalks fill-in and a hibernating city comes back to life, ahhhh!

Winter doesn’t have to be a source of dread all year-round; it can actually be quite beautiful in its own right. I hope you take time to enjoy it because in the time it takes to spell F-R-O-Z-E-N, spring will be here!



The Perfect BLEND

Family Fun: Take it Outside

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Like practically everyone else on the planet, I committed to eating healthier in 2016 as part of my New Year’s resolution. I’ve made this pledge in the past, but this is the first year I have a child whose diet also depends on my dietary choices, so I’m more determined than ever to stick with it.

During the course of my healthy-eating research to find nutritious, delicious and somewhat simple ideas, I stumbled upon a recipe for zucchini noodles or zoodles that looked incredibly tasty and well within my skillset as a novice chef.

The next day, I purchased a spiralizer (a handheld and inexpensive tool for turning vegetables into pasta-like ribbons) and before I knew it, I was making Pasta Bolognese and Pesto linguine using fresh zucchini in place of pre-packaged noodles.

Talk about a time saver! Because you don’t have to boil any pasta, you save yourself the preparation time in addition to the extra dishes. Simply spiralize your zucchini (I used two large zucchinis to feed my family of three) and mix the noodles into your sauce long enough for them to absorb the flavor.

I know what you’re thinking, ‘there’s no way spiralized zucchini noodles taste as good or as filling as a hearty bowl of spaghetti.’ Wrong! It is just as satisfying and because you’re saving so many empty calories on the pasta, you can load up on healthy stuff like meat sauce, cheese and even a slice or two of (whole grain) garlic bread.

Once you get into it, you’ll realize the list of fruits and vegetables you can spiralize is long and the possibilities are endless. Not only is it a healthy and fun way to incorporate vegetables into your family’s diet, it’s an excellent time-saver and leaves more room for everyone to focus on the important things, like…dessert!



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The temperature drops and so does your families enthusiasm to spend all day outside, but it shouldn’t!  Fall and Winter provide some of the best opportunities for having fun outdoors. Invest in warm boots, all weather pants and a flashy hat and get outside together to enjoy some of these fun family adventures.

10 Ideas to Take Your Family Outside

I guarantee there are hidden gems within a 45 minute drive that are just begging to be explored.  Water falls, tucked away lakes, rolling hills and trails leading through gorgeous forests. Get out there and enjoy.  Google hiking trails around you, check out local ski hills that might be open for Fall rides on the chair lifts, have groomed cross country ski trails or follow that path into the forest near your house just to see where it leads.


A great outdoor experience for the whole family, Geocaching is catching on! The sport of using GSP coordinates from your smartphone to find hidden treasures and log books is happening all over the world and right in your own backyard.  A simple download of the Geocaching app and you only need to hit one button that says Find Nearby Geocaches and you are off. It will lead you by compass and distance markers right to the area where you need to start looking in bushes, under logs and hanging from tree branches for the hidden cache. When you find it there will be a log book to sign and maybe a treasure to take, as long as your replace it with a new treasure for someone else.  Check out for more information.

Corn Maze
So many local farms are getting in on the Corn Maze craze! Some are elaborate with 20 km of intricate design that families can explore and answer skill testing questions as they go.  Others are easy fun mazes that kids can run in and out of for hours.  Google corn mazes in your area and support local farmers by checking them out.

Bike Path/Toboggan Rides
If the snow hasn’t fallen yet, get those bikes and helmets out and strap on the training wheels. Most cities now boast bike paths that are even riding terrain for the newest cyclists in your family. Bike riding on new paths lead to new adventures and if you plan your journey right, you may even end up at an ice cream or hot chocolate shop!  If the paths are full of snow grab a long toboggan and pull the kids along. When you tire, as the kids to give you a ride!

Horseback Riding
If you have older kids, why not look for a local horse stable that offers Trail Rides.  Many have staff on hand that will walk along side riders as young as 3 and have horses that are gentle with beginner riders. Many are also open all winter long regardless of snow.

How good is your aim? Think outside the fruit farm and look for Conservation areas or Harvest Festivals nearby that offer archery or log cutting.

Visit a Pioneer Village
Wonder what they do at a Pioneer Village? Go check it out. You might just learn how to make sausages or see demonstrations on candle dipping, historic cooking, apple schnitzing, or grain threshing! Who doesn’t want to learn about apple schnitzing?

Go Fly A Kite
The wind that sets those fall leaves free from the trees is excellent for flying a kite at a nearby park or soccer field. And running with that kite will have the kids flushed and giggling all afternoon.

Leaf Jumping/Snowball Wars
No Family Fun is complete without a giant pile of leaves to jump in and mess up or a good old fashion snow throwing game! Get in on the action. Collect leaves and snow from all the neighbours lawns, shape them into a giant pile and then spend the afternoon rolling around in the leaves or playing in the snow with your kids. I promise they will never forget the fun they had watching you.

So much fun to be had outdoors, don’t be afraid to explore new ideas and events in your own community.  You may be surprised at how many new Family Traditions you can create outside!

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by Rachel Thomas, Guest Contributor

I always loved having my kids home from school. I loved spending time with them and thinking of fun things to do. We live in an area that is pretty much hot and humid almost all year around so in the summer it is just hotter than usual. We have had to come up with some pretty creative ways to stay cool because we do not have a built in swimming pool at our house.

We did purchase an above the ground pool which all the kids had a great time in. Along with the pool we would play in the sprinkler and play games with water balloons. The kids used to like to play a form of baseball with the water balloons, one would pitch and one would bat and both would end up getting wet if they made a hit! That was the fun of it. Or the water balloon toss where you toss it back and forth moving farther and farther apart until someone misses and get soaked or it breaks in their hands. Water guns are another way to play with water and have some fun. The bigger the better and the more they got wet. When it gets hot these are great ways to have a good time. Just make sure you have a lot of towels on hand; with a warm bath afterwards you should have children ready to sleep!

Most kids love to camp and this is another great summer activity depending on where you live of course. In our neck of the woods it is often too hot to camp in the summer so we usually camp in the spring or fall here. If you live in more moderate climates that get cool at night or in the evenings then camping is ideal. Especially if you camp near a lake where you can drop a line and catch a fish or jump in the cool lake for a swim. Hiking, biking, eating out of doors, and seeing all kinds of wildlife up close can be a blast for children. It can be a real treat for kids that are used to the city life but roasting marshmallows over a campfire or making smores is fun for all.

Taking full on vacations can be fun but for those of us who cannot take long vacations day trips can be a great time for the whole family. My mom used to babysit my kids while I worked and would often take the kids on a day trip to places within an hour or two of home every week. They would visit museums, the zoo, water falls, lakes, and do things like fish, rock climb, hike, bird watch, pick wild berries, and on and on. Most of us live within a couple hours of interesting activities and we do not even know it. There are no mountains per se in our area but there are several nice hilly locations. My children loved to go and climb these hills and for younger children it can seem like a mountain climb and they get a big kick out of it! The zoo in our area has a water feature that the kids can run through to stay cool along with a manmade lake with paddle boats and a small train. Browse the internet to find neat things to do within a couple hours of your home and you will be surprised. Kids even like going to farmer’s markets, and often they have ranches or farms open to the public to pet animals, milk a cow, pick your own fruits and vegetables, and maybe even ride a horse. Take advantage of all the interesting places that are nearby, you may be surprised at what you are missing by traveling great distances for vacations when you have all these things to do so close to home!

Another fun activity that we do in our family is to have family bike rides to the park and we would take along a picnic as well. The kids loved riding bikes as a family and ending up at the local park to play and eat. If you do not have a local park then you can find a nice park within driving distance and plan a picnic meal with your family. This is a wonderful way to spend time as a family. Take along a football, baseball equipment, Frisbees, or fishing poles if the park has a lake. There are some really nice parks around the cities and all the state parks (which there are many) allow you to come in for the day for a small fee and use their tables, playground equipment, and have access to the lakes as well. Most of them are covered in trees for plenty of shade and you can take along chairs and blankets so that you can sit and chat or even lie down for a nap. We have often camped or spent the day at one of our state campgrounds and they are all very well maintained and a very safe place for a family gathering. One summer we camped near a lake where you could rent a fishing boat and we taught the kids to paddle the boat (which is no easy feat). They had a great time out in the boat; of course they had on life preservers, and loved fishing from the boat as well. You can sometimes catch much bigger fish boating into the center of the lake than you can from the shore. This is a real treat for kids that are not raised near a body of water. We ended up catching turtles instead of fish sometimes but it adds excitement when something unexpected shows up on the end of the line. It is especially exciting for us as parents!

Going to the neighborhood pool or a water park is another fun way to spend a hot summers day. Depending on the rules of the pool or park you can sometimes take a cooler of drinks and food with you and have a picnic but often they require you to purchase their food and drinks. We found one that we like that lets us bring in our own which is way more economical and everyone can get a drink or eat at their leisure. But usually I have to round my kiddos up and get them to eat and drink because they are having too much fun to take a break. You have to be careful to make sure they are hydrated and protected with extra sun screen from time to time to prevent anyone getting burnt or sick.

We live in an area where there are rivers that they allow you to ride inner tubes on. It mostly a nice gentle ride and we tie our tubes together so that no one gets too far away. From time to time you come upon a little waterfall of sorts that pushes you along faster all depending on the rainfall that we had that year. You want to be sure if you go somewhere like this that the water is high enough because you can bottom out as well and it is not a lot of fun to walk your way down river! The people you rent the tubes from have a place at the end of the river to turn in your tubes and get a ride back to your cars. The children loved doing this and it makes for a nice, cool day. You can rent a tube for your cooler as well and have it floating along besides you!

Some of these things do depend on what part of the country you live in but in every part of this great country of ours there are sights to be seen and things to be experienced if you do a little research. Many times we wait for our vacations and plan big events to have all our fun in a two week period of time but there are so many fun activities that you can find to do close to home. You can find something fun to do every week with your kids if you get creative and do a little research. You will probably be surprised at all the activities you can find where you live!

Author Bio:
Rachel is an ex-babysitting pro as well as a professional writer and blogger. She is a graduate from Iowa State University and currently writes for She welcomes questions/comments which can be sent to @