How to Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a Single (and Love It!)

celebrate valentines day as a single

Valentine’s Day… ugh… as a single this may not be a holiday that you readily look forward to. Yes you can get into the chocolate (especially when it goes on sale the day after Valentine’s) but honestly a day full of romance and love might make you just want to gag.

Honestly though, Valentine’s Day is a day about love – all kinds of love. Yes romantic love seems to be very much in your face – thanks to all the marketing out there – but love comes in many forms. Love for friends, family, kids, pets and you. Yes YOU.

Self love is the most important thing because that is where love begins. When we love and take care of ourselves we are then able to give and receive love from others. This is not a narcissistic or selfish act, it is simply an act of self care and kindness. Loving ourselves first helps us remember where our power is and helps us to set healthy boundaries with others.

So as a single instead of getting bogged down about not being in a relationship, embrace this day of love and use it to celebrate, love and treat yourself. Create the day to make it all about celebrating and loving you!

13 Ways to Celebrate Valentine’s Day as a Single

  1. celebrate valentines day as a singlego for a manicure or pedicure – manicures and pedicures are about more than just the polish. They provide skin care, exfoliation, relaxation, increased blood flow.
  2. go for coffee – head out to your favorite coffee spot and enjoy your favorite coffee. Around Valentine’s Day many coffee spots offer some kind of yummy decadent Valentine themed drink (like Starbucks has molten chocolate). Take your favorite book and enjoy a little me time.
  3. take a warm relaxing bath – I don’t know about you but this is truly a treat for me. I often think about having a nice warm bath but often find life gets in the way and it becomes last on my list. On Valentine’s make it a priority. Add in some epsom salts, a few drops of lavender essential oil and your favorite drink (perhaps a glass of wine or hot chocolate) and sink into it.
  4. go to a movie – you may have some hesitations about going to a movie by yourself, but I actually love it and it has a lot of advantages. How much talking do you do in the movie anyway? I also find it quite freeing when no one will go with me to Bridget Jones Baby and I don’t have to wait for or find anyone to go with me.
  5. celebrate valentines day as a singledo something you love (but don’t normally do) – what is that one thing that you absolutely love doing and don’t often get to? Today is the day to make it happen. So set it up and go for it.
  6. write a list of all your passions – often we get busy with life and forget what we’re really passionate about. Take some time today to write down all the things you’re passionate about. Then stick them on the mirror to remind you!
  7. buy yourself flowers – you don’t always need to wait for someone else to give them to you, (and can get depressing when you do). Go ahead and pick your favorite and bring them home. Sonia Choquette, renowned author and spiritual teacher, often says that buying flowers for yourself is good for the soul. I also find it quite empowering! and love how it brightens up and brings life and beauty into my home.
  8. make (or buy) yourself some chocolate – treat yourself to this yummy treat you can easily make at home and do it on Valentine’s Day – ( if you’re buying them – don’t do it the the day after when it goes on sale! (though you can do that too). If you’re not a chocolate fan make yourself another decadent Valentine’s treat and indulge a little.
  9. hang out with a friend or loved one – whether it be a neighbor, friend, co-worker, etc. invite them for lunch, go grab a coffee or a walk. Spending time together will benefit both of you.
  10. sugar free valentines treatsgive a valentine’s card to a non romantic friend – giving to others can make you feel good and bring a smile to someone else’s day. Give a valentine to a friend, neighbor, co-worker or maybe someone you don’t know, like the elderly lady you see everyday at the bus stop or the barista who makes your coffee.
  11. give yourself a Valentine – this may sound a little silly but actually has great benefits. Write yourself a note/ valentine not only saying Happy Valentine’s Day but list all things that you love and appreciate about yourself. Then put it in the middle of the kitchen table for you to open up first thing. This may sound a little silly but we often forget or don’t recognize the things in ourselves that are really great! This will not only make you feel good but is a great reminder of why you are fantastic.
  12. try something new – you know that thing you’ve always wanted to try but didn’t have the time or kept putting it off. Today’s the day to make it happen! Participate if you can today. If that’s not possible take action and sign up, register or inquire to get the ball rolling.
  13. buy yourself some sexy underwear – whether you are a man or a woman you deserve underwear that makes you feel good about yourself. Make it fun and get some Valentine panties or boxers and wear them on Valentine’s just for you.

When you’re single Valentine’s Day does not have to be a day of depression and drudgery. It is a great opportunity to take some time to celebrate and look after you! Treat and indulge in yourself and remember how great you are. It’ll give you a whole new outlook on the day!

These are only a few ideas that you could incorporate on Vday to celebrate you. What other ideas would you add?

17 Decadent Sugar Free Valentine’s Treats

sugar free valentines treats

Sugar free Valentines treats sound like an anomaly. A dream perhaps that one can indulge and enjoy the decadence of the day and not feel guilty later. Valentine’s Day is another one of those holidays where sweet indulgences abound. Even though it is only one day, it is hard to resist all the sugary treats, especially the chocolate. You may find yourself often saying no thank you when you really just want to bite into that chocolatey something!

Valentine’s Day does not have to be that way! It is possible to indulge with sweet treats (chocolate and otherwise) that are not only sugar free but actually good for you.

When we went sugar free at our house there were two things I was not going to compromise. One was tasty food, if we were eliminating sugar then the food still had to taste delicious! not bland or like cardboard. The second, was that we were still going to celebrate and enjoy the holidays (including the food) – from Christmas to Easter – and no one was going to be denied yummy treats or feel like they always had to say no thank you.

So for each holiday I have either transformed our favorite recipes or sought out new ones – which is fun because I like to experiment, and compiled a list. The problem is, I usually want to make them all but realize that that is just unrealistic. So I pick a few favorites and try a few new ones. (It’s so hard to choose!) Thanks to all the wonderful bloggers out there (and some of my own recipes) I have a fantastic list of sugar free valentine’s treats and indulgences. Easy to make and enjoy guilt free!

Sugar Free Valentine’s Treats

At Valentine’s the popular treats seem to include either chocolate or raspberries, which is not such a bad thing, but I also like a little variety, so there’s a nice mix of sweet treats that would easily fit into the Valentine’s theme. Whether you’re treating your love, your kids, your friends or just for yourself it’ll be hard to choose which one to make first!

sugar free valentines treats

Photo credit: Brenda Bennett Sugar Free Mom

Raspberry Cheesecake Truffles

sugar free valentines treats

Photo credit: Brenda Bennett Sugar Free Mom

White Chocolate Coconut Fudge

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Dream Pie

sugar free valentines treats

Strawberries and Cream Gummies

sugar free valentines treats

Beetroot Red Velvet Cheesecake

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Cherry Tart

sugar free valentines treats

Coconut Panna Cotta

sugar free valentines treats

Almond Joy Bars

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Dipped Strawberries

sugar free valentines treats

Vegan Raspberry Cheesecake Bars

sugar free valentines treats

Strawberry Ice Cream

sugar free valentines treats

Caramel Nut Slice

sugar free valentines treats

Raw Chocolate Raspberry Cheesecake

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Pudding

sugar free valentines treats

Homemade Chocolates

sugar free valentines treats

Red Velvet Cake

sugar free valentines treats

Chocolate Macaroons

Hard to choose isn’t it? Which one are you going to try first?

Thanks to all who contributed to this post! Brenda of Sugar Free Mom, Krissy of Pretty Wee Things, Megan of Detoxinista, Adrienne of Whole New Mom, Jess of Choosing Chia, Sara of I Quit Sugar and Maria of Maria Mind Body Health.

 

How to Make Chocolate Dipped Strawberries (with homemade chocolate)

chocolate dipped strawberriesChocolate dipped strawberries are one of those simple decadent treats that are easy to make and delicious. Often paired with champagne and Valentine’s Day they always give me the feeling of richness and luxury.

Imagine… the red juicy strawberry dipped into firm dark chocolate. As you bite into it, the taste sensation bursts in your mouth with the sweetness of the fruit and the richness of dark chocolate. There is just something about that combination.

chocolate dipped strawberriesEven though chocolate dipped strawberries have this air of luxury and decadence they are actually very easy to make and you can usually make a batch in about 15 minutes. They are also very healthy for you! As strawberries are high in Vitamin C, potassium, folate, fiber and antioxidants, while dark chocolate is high in maganese, iron and copper. And if you make your own chocolate as well, like I do, you can control the amount and type of sugar that goes into it as well! (I always use natural sweeteners, with honey being my top choice).

I often wonder if they’re so good for us why I don’t make them more often? Perhaps it is because they have this air of luxury (in my mind) and I really consider them a treat. (And why don’t we treat ourselves more often? – that is a whole other conversation)

So let’s get to it!

How to Make Chocolate Dipped Strawberries at Home (with homemade dark chocolate)

  1. Line a cookie sheet with parchment paper and set aside.
  2. Rinse and pat dry the strawberries. Two tips here – one is to make sure you have fresh firm strawberries, second is to make sure that your strawberries are very very dry after you have rinsed them. If there is any water or moisture on them then the chocolate won’t stick.
  3. chocolate dipped strawberriesPrepare your homemade dark chocolate. I use this very simple method to make my chocolate. No stove involved just a kettle, boiling water and two bowls. It is important to be very careful when making the chocolate that you do not get any water in it as it will change the mixture and your chocolate wont’t turn out. As I said I love using honey as my sweetener but in this case I would use pure maple syrup or liquid stevia, as sometimes the honey does not mix as well and will separate when it sets.
  4. Dip your strawberry into chocolate. Grab strawberry by the green leafy top and dip into the chocolate. Turn and twist your strawberry to get the coverage you want on all sides. Gently place your dipped strawberry on your parchment paper lined cookie sheet and dip the next strawberry.
  5. Once you have dipped all your strawberries place the cookie sheet into the fridge. This helps your chocolate set faster.
  6. If desired, you can dip your strawberries in the chocolate a second time for a thicker covering, better coverage or just more chocolate! You do need to wait until the first layer is set and firm before dipping the second time.
  7. Set back into the fridge until chocolate is set.
  8. Serve and enjoy!

**if you want to get really fancy you can make a batch of white chocolate and drizzle it over the dark chocolate. You would have to let it set again and wait a little longer but it looks great aesthetically, which is great to impress guests if you’re having a party or event.chocolate dipped strawberries

 

How to Create a Hot Chocolate Bar

hot chocolate barDecadent hot chocolate, topped with yummy whip cream, drizzled with chocolate…. something you usually only see at your local cafe or coffee shop.

But imagine creating this in your own home, or creating some other tasty combination. Chocolate orange, Lavender White, Peanut butter… oh so yum! This is the beauty of a hot chocolate bar – a simple but yummy idea that enables you to create these wonderful, delicious combinations to enhance your hot chocolate experience.

The basis of a hot chocolate bar is that you make a plain hot chocolate and then have a number of different toppings and combinations to choose from to add to your hot chocolate that make it… oh, just a little more. Good hot chocolate can certainly be enjoyed plain and definitely warms you all the way down to your toes, but these additions make it a little more lavish, make it a little more fun.

hot chocolate barIt is also super easy to set up. It does not take a lot of time or effort, the most effort you’ll have to make is to decide what yummy toppings you are going to use! I did this twice over the holidays, once for a ladies only night at my place and second as a fun treat for my kids and nieces while away over Christmas. Everyone loved it! It was super fun. We all had half cups at a time experimenting with different tastes and flavors. I had created a list of suggested combinations but of course you could pick and choose whatever you liked. Plus just looking at the spread set out was not only nice to look at but made you want to try them all!

We had chocolate pieces, peanut butter, orange zest, hazelnut sticks, homemade marshmallows (mint and cinnamon), cinnamon sticks, coconut and some essentials oils like peppermint and lavender. We even had a little ‘adult’ version – a splash of Frangelico, if desired for those over 18.

How to Set Up Your Own Hot Chocolate Bar

Start out with your own base hot chocolate – you can either do this by the cup therefore creating and meeting people’s dietary needs, like dairy free, sugar free or use the just add water powder mix. Or you can make a big batch of your favorite hot chocolate in the slow cooker. I have done it both ways and both have their advantages.

Pick your toppings – there are so many to choose from!

  • chocolate chunks
  • orange zest
  • peppermint stickshot chocolate bar
  • 1-2 drops of peppermint extract or essential oil (if using essential oil you’ll need to use very little but depends on your brand. Also make sure the oil is ok for taking internally
  • coconut cream (for the dairy free) or whip cream
  • peanut butter – word to the wise if using this topping advise your guests that less is more with this one as too much pb makes it sink to the bottom and essentially gets wasted
  • shredded coconut
  • marshmallows
  • cinnamon sticks
  • hazelnut sticks
  • dash of cinnamon
  • cardamom
  • cayenne
  • lucuma
  • mesquite
  • or….

Add desired toppings and enjoy! Use suggested combinations or mix and match to make your own.

A hot chocolate bar literally takes about 5 minutes to set up. When I hosted the ladies it was the easiest and shortest prep I ever had to do for a party. And I loved how visually appealing it looked before everyone dug in.

hot chocolate barThis is also something you can set up in your home on the counter somewhere and leave for a bit for people to enjoy. Of course you’d have to put some of the items into the fridge when not in use but for the most part many of them can stay out.

The thing I love about the hot chocolate bar is it can easily be sugar free dairy free and be very yummy and enjoyable. When my kids participated out of all the choices I set out there were only 1 or 2 that they had to avoid. The rest was far game. So it was easy for them to try different things, experiment and enjoy the full experience.

I also love the versatility of it. You can create one for parties, after tobogganning, weddings, birthdays, after skating – and because of the variety of toppings there’s something for everyone!

If you love hot chocolate then you’ll be super excited for the upcoming YYC Hot Chocolate Fest which I am proud to be a part of this year! Watch for more details to come!

10 Yummy Sugar Free Christmas Recipes

sugar free christmas recipes

Christmas is that time of year when delicious treats and baking abound. Everywhere you go, there is something else to indulge in, something else that tempts you. You try to resist, but …

The good news is there’s no need to deny yourself. You can enjoy delicious sweet treats guilt free this Christmas by creating one (or more) of these yummy sugar free Christmas recipes. Super easy to make and all naturally sweetened they are actually healthy and good for you – so you can feel good about what you are eating and indulge guilt free.

sugar free Christmas recipes

Coconut Balls – Healthy Christmas Truffles

sugar free Christmas recipes

Peanutty Blondie Bars

sugar free Christmas recipes

Chocolate Quinoa Cupcakes

sugar free Christmas recipes

Chocolate Peanut Butter Cereal Squares

sugar free Christmas recipes

Gingerbread Cookies – A Traditional Cookie

sugar free Christmas recipes

Classic Sweet Butter Tarts

sugar free Christmas recipes

Best Paleo Buckeyes

sugar free Christmas recipes

Easy Homemade Paleo Mint Dark Chocolate

sugar free Christmas recipes

Festive Gingerbread Protein Bites

sugar free Christmas recipes

Hermit Cookies – A Soft Delectable Christmas Cookie

Do you have a favorite sugar free Christmas recipes? Share in the comments below.

10-yummy-sugar-free-christmas-recipes-pinterest

Gingerbread Smoothie – A Christmas Smoothie to Indulge In

 

gingerbread smoothieI love gingerbread and thoroughly enjoy all the different possibilities during the Christmas season. Last year I discovered this yummy gingerbread smoothie!

Last Christmas I had the unique opportunity and pleasure to spend it with my parents all by myself. No kids, no siblings, just me and Mom and Dad. It was a real treat to just spend time with them and not have to compete with everyone else. Because no offense I love and enjoy the company of all those other people but the visit becomes different.

gingerbread muffinsDuring this relaxing and enjoyable time with them I decided to get creative and experiment with a few festive smoothies. Many of the favorite holiday flavors like orange cranberry, peppermint, gingerbread. Why not? I had the time and it was the holidays after all.

This is when I discovered this yummy gingerbread smoothie! I had already explored gingerbread waffles and gingerbread muffins and knew that a smoothie would be a wonderful addition to my compilation.

So as I do, I hopped on the net and researched some gingerbread smoothie recipes. I found a few that I liked and in the end ended up combining ideas and creating my own.

Gingerbread Smoothie

1 cup non-dairy milk (almond, coconut, etc.)

1-2 tbsp. barley malt

1/2 tsp. cinnamon

1/4 tsp. fresh gingergingerbread smoothie

1 tsp. vanilla

1 banana

1 tbsp. chia seeds

sprinkle of nutmeg

Place all ingredients except the barley malt into the blender. Blend until smooth. Now add the barley malt a little bit at a time. If you like the flavor add closer to 2 tbsp.; if you want it more sublte then just add 1. Blend well, pour into glass and enjoy.

Note: Make the smoothie and allow it to sit for about 30 minutes. This allows the flavors to infuse and gives you a much stronger flavor than if consumed right away.

Serves 1

The smoothie was a hit! My parents and I enjoyed it quite a bit and I love the fact that you have chia seeds in there. They have many health benefits such as high in nutrients such as fiber, protein, antioxidants and low in calories!

I did not drink mine quickly as I was multi tasking at the time doing a bunch of different things and this is how I discovered that if you let it sit the flavors become stronger. Because honestly at first sip I thought it was a bit weak in the gingerbread flavor area.

orange cranberry smoothie

Of course after the time at my parents I came home and made it for the kids. Also a hit with them as well – though their favorite was the Orange Cranberry Smoothie I had created.

Glorified Turkey – Quick Easy Turkey Leftovers

turkey leftoversOne of the many things I love about Thanksgiving is all the turkey leftovers! There are so many yummy recipes out there to use up my turkey. In fact, I usually buy a turkey that’s a little bit larger than we need just to make sure we have some leftover.

First of all I love just having leftover turkey, gravy and mashed potatoes for meals during the week. I also love turkey sandwiches, especially hot turkey sandwiches (smothered in gravy – yum!) Then there’s all the fabulous turkey recipes I have to use up the rest.

Our absolute favorite turkey leftover recipe is definitely Turkey Crepes, which we usually make a on Christmas Day in lieu of the big dinner. We decided to do this years ago when we experienced a super simple Christmas and re-examined what we really wanted at Christmas – what was the most important. Making a simple yet yummy meal frees me up in the kitchen and allows me to play and enjoy on Christmas Day. But I digress, we also love Glorified Turkey which is a quick easy turkey leftover recipe that’s ready in 30 minutes. Just add rice or mashed potatoes and your favorite veg and you have a fast healthy meal.

Glorified Turkey

Glorified Turkey is a creamy hearty meal that uses mushroom soup, onion and cheese and creates a delectable meal. I have created a dairy free version, which is super yummy, but you can easily substitute dairy in if you wish.

turkey leftovers2 c. cubed turkey

1/4 c. flour

1/4 c. Earth Balance Vegan Spread

2/3 c. almond milk (or non dairy milk of choice)

1 – 10 oz. can *mushroom soup

1 c. Daiya shredded cheddar

3/4 tsp. salt

1/8 tsp. pepper

1/2 grated onion

1 can or sliced fresh mushrooms

sprinkle of paprika

Coat turkey pieces with flour. Put coated turkey into medium sized casserole dish with melted Earth Balance and heat in 325 F oven while preparing the rest.turkey leftoves

In a medium bowl mix together almond milk, soup, cheese, salt and pepper.

Grate onion and slice mushrooms. Add onion and mushrooms to heated turkey and stir well. Pour liquid mixture over turkey and sprinkle with paprika.

Bake at 325 F for 30 minutes. Serve with rice or mashed potatoes and your favorite vegetable for a perfect meal.

Serves 4

*I usually make my own mushroom soup, which is dairy free and fabulous btw – 3 kinds of mushrooms, creamy and thick. I also love that the recipe has lima beans in it. But you certainly don’t have to. Canned soup works just as well depending on your own dietary needs.

The kids love this dish! In fact we had it the other night and Luke expressed how he “Loved this dish!” and asked for some more. He even hoped there was leftovers and was asking if he could have that for supper the next day.

You can also get a little creative with this dish by using a variety of cheeses – mix of dairy free mozza, cheddar and even gouda. If you enjoy mushrooms you can increase the amount to suit your desire. The thing I love about this recipe is that it is a totally different taste from the regular turkey dinner and leftovers and how quick it is to make!

Halloween Dinner Ideas – Monster Brains

halloween dinner ideasEach year for Halloween I love to dive into the food and all the creative ideas there are. There are so many fabulous ideas on how to create spooky, fun and healthy meals and snacks that I often have a hard time picking just one.

We usually have an entire day of Halloween meals and snacks, starting with pumpkin pancakes in the morning in fun Halloween shapes, then boo-nanas for snacks and something creative for supper. In the past I have made dinners such as monster face pizzas and hot dog mummies.

Last year I happened to be at my girlfriends house just before Halloween and she had this cooking show on tv that was highlighting some spooky Halloween dinner ideas. Of course they had lots of fun things going on but the one that stood out for me was the idea for Monster Brains. It is a super easy creative idea to make spaghetti and meatballs and give it a Halloween twist. I loved it! and decided right then that I was going to make it for Halloween dinner.

I was super excited as it was not only going to be fun but quick and easy to make. I am all about getting creative but sometimes I need creative to be fast!

Monster Brains

halloween dinner ideasred, yellow, orange peppers (number of peppers depends on how many people you’re serving as it is 1 per person)

cooked spaghetti

cooked meatballs

tomato sauce

Cut off the top of your pepper like you would when carving a pumpkin – around the top in a circle so you can take the lid off. Clean out the seeds.

Cut a face on the front of your pepper. Design it any way you like. You can go with fancy but that takes more time! I went with simple triangle eyes, nose and slit mouth.

Bake meatballs in oven (I make my own and premade these the day before and just reheated them). Cook spaghetti according to package directions. Rinse spaghetti with hot water in a colander. Fill each pepper with spaghetti and meatballs. Top with tomato sauce and place ‘lid’ of pepper on top. Have some of the spaghetti spilling out the sides for effect. Voila! one spooky monster brain supper!

halloween dinner ideas

My kids of course absolutely loved these and are already asking me if they can have that again for Halloween dinner this year. We may… or I may get creative and do something else!halloween dinner ideas

Break Free – Free March Break Activities for Kids in Calgary

free march break activitiesI always look forward to the March Break with my kids. It is a time of no alarms, no deadlines, and no rushing to be anywhere. It is a nice break from the regular routine, providing some opportunity for time around home as well as doing some fun activities.

For me, the March Break should be just that, a break. Not a week of jam packed activities that are supposed to be ‘fun’ that leave everyone more tired than when we began. I like to balance out the week and do a couple of unique activities we wouldn’t normally do with the rest of the week, more going with the flow and doing what we feel like.

Living in Calgary, there is no shortage of activities and places to go for kids. We have the zoo, the science center and a multitude of museums, which are all fantastic places to go, but I was on the hunt for places and activities that we could do for free. Because I also believe that March Break should not also leave you broke at the end of it.

I had to hunt a little bit, doing a little research and piece some things together but I finally compiled a list of 10 free march break activities in Calgary. And I have to say some of them are quite unique (and I did not know existed).

10 Free March Break Activities in Calgary

Chapters/ Indigo

Chapters and Indigo stores are offering free spring break activities for kids ages 3-12 years old. From March 21-25 each day has a different theme to explore such as Lego and Superheros. Call your local Chapters/ Indigo store early to reserve your spot as space is limited.

Inglewood Bird Sanctuary

free march break activitiesThe Inglewood Bird Sanctuary and Nature Center is 36 hectares of nature trails and home to 270 species of birds. It is a beautiful place to take the kids, explore the trails, spot birds of all kinds, and visit the nature center; complete with interpretive exhibits and information about local wildlife. Open Tues-Fri from 10 am – 4 pm.

Devonian Gardens

The Devonian Gardens is a large indoor park and botanical garden located in the downtown core of Calgary. This 1 hectare area contains 550 species of tropical palm trees along meandering walkways, children’s playground, water fountains, ponds teeming with fish and a “living wall.” Enjoy a leisurely stroll through the gardens, or sit on one of the many benches while watching the children play at the park.

Geocaching

Geocaching is a unique way to explore the city. Grab your phone and download the app at geocaching.com and go on your own treasure hunt. Using GPS, find other people’s caches hidden around the city. Bring a pocket of trinkets as when you find the cache you are to leave a token behind. Great places to try geocaching are 12 Mile Coulee, Noseworthy Park, and Fish Creek Park to name a few, but you may find some much closer to your home as well.free march break activities

Disc Golf

Disc golf, also known as frisbee golf, is a flying disc game where the aim is to get the frisbee into the wire basket in as few throws as possible. An outdoor activity, disc golf courses are available in several City of Calgary Parks (click here for list of parks).

Calgary Parks

There are lots of beautiful parks here in our city, such as Bowness, South Glenmore, Edworthy and Prairie Winds. All offer their unique history and flora to enjoy. Pack a picnic, go exploring or just stop at one of the many playgrounds.

ROAR Playpark

free march break activitiesLocated on the lower level of South Center mall, next to SportChek, is the ROAR Playpark. This free, unsupervised play space was created in partnership with the Calgary Zoo and has a zoo theme with lots of interactive components. There is a crawl-through tunnel, slide and climb-on creatures, iPad game stations, beautiful wall murals, and interactive educational sliding panels. This is a great spot to take the kids for imaginative play and a well deserved break for you, while you watch them unwind.

Chinese Cultural Center

Learn about the history of the Chinese community in Calgary as well as tour the Chinese Artifacts Museum. Entrance to the cultural center is free but for the museum and special events there is a small fee.

Calgary Public Library

The Calgary Public Library is always a great place to go with the kids. Not only do they have a plethora of books that kids can spend hours with, they also offer various programs, activities as well as free play areas. The Fish Creek Library boasts a giant chess game, as well as an interactive play area for kids on the upper level.

+15 Art Circuit

The +15 Art Circuit, presented by the City of Calgary Public Art Program, introduces you to 14 interesting pieces from the Civic Art Collection. Easily accessible through the +15 system, this free, self-guided tour is primarily indoors with just a few quick trips outside. You can download the free pdf guide to complete the circuit including map and descriptions of the pieces. This Art Circuit is one of the activities I was most excited to discover and can’t wait to do the tour. How unique!

I was very pleased with the number of free march break activities in Calgary. With a nice mix of indoor and outdoor, arts and active to choose from there certainly is something that everyone can enjoy. I can’t wait to explore a couple of these this week! (though I would love to do them all, it’s a break remember?) Which ones are you going to check out?

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

IMG_6830I woke up Christmas morning this year feeling very excited! I felt like a kid all over again, the magic and anticipation of Santa and Christmas morning were very present. I didn’t sleep much, and by 5 am I was literally ready to get up and open presents. I seriously considered going and getting my parents up ‘for old times sake’ like when we were kids and getting up at 3 being told to go back to bed, then 4 then 5 and finally my parents would give up about 6.

I had the pleasure of sharing Christmas this year with both my parents and only me. No kids, no siblings, no in laws, just us, which is a rare and special occasion. It is not often that such an opportunity occurs and I felt that this in itself was a gift. Christmas Eve we watched a movie and my Mum and I sat up late talking and sipping gingerbread martinis. At midnight we toasted and wished each other Merry Christmas. We peeked outside, and experienced a calm beautiful evening. The snow gently falling and a peacefulness in the air, truly a unique energy that was not present earlier that day (or on Christmas morning when I popped outside either). It really was like in the movies, that magical energy, and presence there.

IMG_4491One of the things I love to do over the holidays is experiment with different festive recipes and on Christmas Eve I had already been thinking about trying a Cranberry smoothie of some kind Christmas morning. I googled a number of recipes and found some good ones, though undecided which one to try.

When I woke in the morning (or should I say finally got up around 8) I bounced out of the spare room wishing a Merry Christmas! Mum was at the sink, Dad dressing in red and I was moving towards the tree. Quickly with coffees or waters in hand we began a lovely ritual of opening gifts and sharing. After gifts Mum went to the kitchen to make brunch – a fabulous Impossible Quiche with Daiya smoked gouda, spinach and mushrooms and I proceeded to make the smoothies. I had decided to take the elements of some of the recipes I found that I liked and combine them, adding some of my own ingredients and creating my own. The result was fantastic! A smooth creamy, flavorful smoothie that we all socked back quickly, expressing how much we enjoyed it. I loved the added greens myself, which darkens the pink looking smoothie slightly but gets those greens in there without even tasting it! The added benefit is that cranberries themselves are considered a super food and are high in vitamin C, E, fiber as well as providing benefits such as improved immune system, antioxidant and decreased blood pressure.

When I arrived home after Christmas I made it again for the kids and they all loved it! Matthew who hasn’t been drinking many smoothies these days, tasted it said ‘Oh that’s good’ and drank the rest quickly. Chloe asks me every day since she tried it for one and has expressed that it’s her new favorite. Even my ex husband tried it the other day and said it was good (this is a big thing btw, as he is not really a smoothie guy and particular about tastes). I was quite pleased with the results and I think I drove my parents a little crazy that first day I made it when I kept saying throughout the day how good it was and how impressed with myself for creating it. Well it was good!

So if you’ve got a festive theme going over the holidays or simply want to try out a great new smoothie recipe, give this one a go! If you find it a little tart for your tastes just add more stevia when making it. Then come back here and comment telling me how you like it!

Orange Cranberry Smoothie

2 bananasIMG_6831

1 c. frozen cranberries

1 c. un sweetened almond-cashew yogurt

1 tsp. vanilla

1 c. orange juice

1/2 of 1 g packet of stevia

handful of spinach* (optional)

Put all ingredients in blender. Blend until smooth. Garnish with slice of orange and a few cranberries if desired. Pour into 8 oz glasses and serve.

*if you would like a bright pink smoothie do not add spinach as it will darken it. I love tossing in that bit of green as it is a great way to get those greens in a quick and easy way. And you don’t even notice it’s there!

Serves 3 (makes 3 – 8 oz servings)