Saturday, October 1, 2011

Successful Brown Bag Challenge

They say it takes 21 days to break or develop a habit. I believe I have finally made a habit of making a good healthy lunch. The challenge is officially over and I did it!!!!

Through the Brown Bag Challenge I got in the habit of making sure I made healthy suppers and ensuring there were enough left overs for healthy lunches the following day. My routine became making a supper of a third protein, a third vegetables and a third carbohydrates. (I really make an effort to have brown rice, or organic products or often substitute a salad) Many people may argue this is not a perfect meal but in comparison to the thrown together meals of the past it a huge step forward.

I knew I really had made the transition to a healthy habit this past Thursday evening. I had worked all day and then I immediately headed to my latest new job at the hockey rink (I am such a Canadian stereotype). Hubby Terry and I arrived home at about 10:30 p.m. I asked Terry if he was hungry and if he wanted supper. I was really hoping he would say no thanks but of course he said “YES!”

In the past I would have told Terry to go ahead and make his own supper from his limited menu of grilled cheese, frozen pizza or eggs on toast. Realizing this was not going to make a healthy lunch for the next day I headed to the balcony to turn on the barbeque. I made grilled pork chops and from the fridge threw together a salad and mixed veggies. Because of my newly adopted system of pre-cutting, pre-packaging all sorts of ingredients it was a breeze to put it all together. I have learned to create my own version of healthy “fast food.”

Hopefully I will continue the habit of healthy suppers and of course the subsequent healthier brown bag lunches. During the past month I received lots of positive feedback on my blog. While no longer committed to posting my Brown Bag story perhaps I will make occasional updates to let everyone know of my progress. If anyone out there in blog land wants to be my cyber conscious, please let me know!!

Saturday, September 24, 2011

Caught NOT Brown Bagging It

I got caught!

I have been faithful to my pledge in bringing a brown bag lunch to school each day, but this Friday I got caught breaking my pledge! As I walked into the staff room with two pieces of pizza in my hand, my colleague Mike said “AHA! You didn’t bring that from home! Where is your brown bag?”

I was initially taken aback since I wasn’t aware Mike read my blog and actually knew about my participation in the Brown Bag Challenge. Because of guilt I began to head back to my office to get my lunch bag I had packed the night before. But then I stopped and realized it was my duty as the principal to eat the pizza a parent volunteer had thrust in my hand. You see the pizza at our school has a very long and important story.

The first day of school marked the implementation of a new policy in all schools across Ontario. The Ministry has mandated specific nutritional requirements for all food items schools provide or sell. It took literally a year of parent consultation, negotiations with Super Mario our pizza maker and student surveys to create a pizza which met the requirements of the new policy. Our pizza now has the right blend of whole wheat crust, low fat cheese and a plain topping which was the result of the student survey which indicated they did not want any of the legit options of vegetables or pineapple toppings.

With all of the duties of a school principal it is hard to believe selecting the right pizza would be so time-consuming. However, on Friday, when I tasted the pizza instead of the carefully prepared brown bag lunch, I knew we had done the right thing. Not only were we offering students a healthy choice for lunch but it tasted great!

The only disappointment was when I found out one of our students smuggled in contraband pepperoni! We still have inroads to make but I know we are heading in the right direction in making healthy food choices.

Pizza days are every Friday so on Monday I'm back brown bagging it!

Sunday, September 11, 2011

9-11 Forever Changed

It has been 10 years.

Like millions of others I remember exactly where I was when I heard the news. I was in a Junior Kindergarten classroom the entire morning. Like the children in my charge, I was totally oblivious to the events which would change the world, oblivious until about 11:30 a.m. when the first parent arrived to pick up their child. I remember exactly the look on her face when she asked me if I had heard the news. She looked like she had exciting news to tell but not sure how to tell it. I laughed and so said “no, what’s up? Are you pregnant?” She didn’t laugh.

She went on to tell me planes were missing all over the US and some were crashing into buildings. She told me things I could not understand. I thought she must have the story all confused. As she left with her young daughter she said “the world as we know it has changed forever.” I was left speechless standing in a room of four years totally confused. I was not clear exactly what she was talking about but I was sure she was over reacting. What she was saying was just not possible. I was wrong.

A half hour later when all of the children had been picked up and hugged a little tighter by their parents I was finally able to go to the staff room where CNN had been playing all morning. At the time I was upset no one on staff had taken the time to come to my isolated kindergarten room to tell me this news prior to lunch time. Ten years later, I realize it was just as well. I had a few hours longer than the rest of the world to live in my bubble where innocent people are protected and safe from the fear of terrorists.

While I admire the spirit of the Americans who have valiantly carried on with their lives I do wonder if Bin Laden has actually won. He may have been taken out by Navy Seals, al qaeda may be in disarray, but his goal to destroy the United States economy and ultimately their way of life may be closer to reality. Along with the economic concerns facing the United States, it is becoming Un-United. With the growth of “The Tea Party”, the aim of politicians to win, over the need for the country to win, might ultimately be a greater blow to the country than any crazy terrorist could ever accomplish.

While the horror of 9-11 is something I never wish to witness again, can we ever get back those days following the attack when Americans, regardless of race, faith or political stripe, held and supported each other, strong in the belief they are the lucky ones to live in a free country?

Where were you before the world we as we knew it changed forever?

Friday, September 9, 2011

Multi Tasking Brown Bagger

I did it! Not only did I make it through the first week back at school but I was able to pack a healthy lunch EVERY day! Go me!

The reason was simple…….multi-tasking during dinner preparation.

In the past, before bedtime I would procrastinate about making a lunch and figure I would just throw a lunch together in the morning. I do my best math in the morning while still sleeping. After the alarm rings, I lie there quietly calculating in my head how much longer I can sleep in if I don’t eat breakfast. How many more minutes of snooze time if I slip out to Tim Horton’s at lunch time instead of packing a lunch?

This year, thanks to the Brown Bag Challenge, my new plan is to make breakfast and lunch at the same time I am making supper! Duh! It is such a simple idea. While I make chicken breasts on the BBQ, I throw on a few extra to make a chicken/spinach salad. While the chicken is cooking I throw together the ingredients for my new favourite oatmeal breakfast so all I have to do in the morning is zap it in the microwave. While everything is cooking for supper it takes little more effort to throw together everything I need for breakfast and lunch as well. It also a great satisfaction after supper clean up to know I am finished in the kitchen until the next night.

Now this new process means I no longer read the paper, finish the cross-word puzzle, surf the net or write my blog while supper is cooking. While those things now have to wait until after supper to get done, my cooking has actually improved. Since my new cooking tactic, I no longer rely on the smoke detector to let me know when supper is ready. As a multi-tasking cook I am actually fully attentive to food preparation instead of distracted by other things, oblivious to the burning pork chops.

In the morning I still have those extra precious moments of sleep but I rest even better knowing my breakfast and lunch are already packed in the fridge, ready to go in my brown bag.

Any other ideas for great suppers that can be reinvented into great lunches???

Monday, September 5, 2011

The Most Important Meal of the Day

Breakfast is the most important meal of the day. In order to avoid eating all of my lunch before lunch time and starving the rest of the day I have decided to add breakfast to my Brown Bag Challenge. Last week after a long day of prepping at school I almost made a pit stop for a bagel on the way home. I white knuckled it and hung on until supper time.

So tomorrow being the official first day of school and in my mind, New Year’s Day I am going to start packing breakfast as well. Most people actually eat breakfast when they wake up at home. I however can’t seem to eat that early and I am too stressed in the morning to waste precious time eating. Once I get to school and get everything and everyone in their place, I will take a ten minute break and eat breakfast. (hopefully this will occur before lunch time)

My breakfast is a combination of all of the advice I have heard from Dr. Oz and from what I have read on the internet (it must be true) I am putting together an oatmeal concoction with the following ingredients:

  • Oatmeal(of course) – the real stuff, plain oat flakes – it has fiber's cancer-fighting properties
  • Soy Milk – better than cow’s milk because it is higher in protein (will stay fuller longer) and is made from beans -so even more fibre
  • Frozen Fruit (even though this is the best season to get fresh Niagara fruit, I am aiming for convenience here) –counts towards my daily five servings of fruits and vegetables
  • Walnut - omega 3 fatty acids and antioxidants (and fibre) - and walnuts taste good!
  • Cinnamon - One study found that smelling cinnamon boosts cognitive function and memory and it is also a great source of……wait for it…………fibre!
Any other nutritious ideas for a breakfast I can throw in one container to put in my Brown Bag?

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Ready for the First Day of School

In the midst of preparing for the beginning of school as well as starting up my new challenge as a contributor to “In the O Radio Show”, I am still trying to make sure I succeed in my Food Network Brown Bag Challenge. I must ensure I take to work each day a home prepared healthy lunch. I am also to blog about it to share good ideas as well as challenges I overcome. In spite of the busyness of my life I am thrilled I am all set for the first week of school. I am all set to continue my Brown Bag Challenge anyways.

I have healthy lunches planned for the whole week. I have a container of baby spinach to be the base of a salad for each day. I also have small containers filled with items to throw together a salad as quickly as possible. I’ve prepared:

  • Shredded chicken
  • Olives
  • Chopped onions
  • Chopped tomatoes
  • Feta cheese
  • Shredded carrots
  • Walnuts
  • Sliced mushrooms

These items may not be new to my fridge but the fact they are pre-chopped, pre- cut, pre-shredded, pre-pared is new. Instead of procrastinating in the evening and then giving up in the morning, I am actually planned and ready to quickly put items together to create a healthy salad for lunch.

I am also planning to cook a little extra supper each night to package up and to make a lunch for the next day. Tonight I made lots of extra quinoa and chicken breasts. Paired with a salad, these left-overs will make a huge lunch, loaded with nutrition but light on calories to carry me through the day.

OK…..I have my office all set, timetables are in place, teachers are all ready, class lists have been long planned…..and now I even have lunches for the week all set……….why I am still nervous about the first day of school?

Saturday, September 3, 2011

Just When You Think You're Out........They Pull You Back In

I have spent a lot of time in hockey arenas this past year. For a certified “Hockey Mom” this is not an unusual thing but to be honest I thought I was over hanging out in arenas. You just can’t take the hockey out of a Canadian girl.

Greg started playing hockey at the age of 3 or 4 and Kaitlin joined in a few years later when the powers that be finally realized girls are quite capable of playing hockey too. So to summarize 20 years of hockey motherhood, I have experienced 5:30 a.m. practices, double, some times triple booked calendars and of course the laden down van with stinky, smelly hockey equipment.

So the last few years have been pretty much arena free. I got rid of the van and now drive a sedan which only holds one set of equipment. No more team mom for me. But hockey can’t leave me for good. I became a fan of the local Junior A Niagara Ice Dogs. Instead of actually going to the arena I am able to watch the games on the local cable station. Between my day (and often night) job as a principal, my free-lance writing jobs and trying keep Terry and Journey the dog happy, I have become a multi-tasker and I watch the games on TV while doing a million other things in the house.

2011 brought me back to the arena in big ways.

It started with a fabulous Christmas present from my father, tickets to the World Junior Hockey Tournament. The World Juniors is a showcase of the best hockey talent in the world. A preview of the next NHL stars. As Buffalo is just down the road from our place we were able to spend our Christmas vacation at the HSBC arena. I can never remember what those initial represent but it’s where the Sabres play. It was exciting times as not only the hockey was great, but the fans were spectacular. Canadians arrived en mass causing back ups on the Peace Bridge as they were arriving and back ups at the beer gardens once they got there. Good times as we met up with lots of friends, family, neighbours and made new friends. The Canada-Us game was awesome. (can you guess who won???)

As the junior season headed into the play-offs, hockey in our household revved up again. The Niagara Ice Dogs were doing well but the Owen Sound Attack were doing fantastic. The Attack team is from my home town and my Dad is the business manager and past minority owner of the team. The Attack made it to the Memorial Cup which is the Canadian championship of junior hockey. It has been said the Memorial Cup is the most difficult trophy to win in all of sports. As Owen Sound migrated to Mississauga to cheer on the Attack, it quickly became apparent the Hershey Centre Arena had been renamed the Owen Sound Bay Shore South Arena. It was like a high school reunion. People I literally hadn’t seen since high school graduation were there. Not only were the games great but once again the fans made it memorial.(is that a pun….Memorial Cup….memorial times???? Sorry)

Summer progressed relatively hockey free until some how through the Twitter universe I hooked up with a new job possibility. I am now a contributor to “In the O Radio Show”. The O stands for OHL hockey (Ontario Hockey League- the big step for junior hockey players before making it pro) The radio show is not actually on the radio yet but rather on the internet but it is an up and coming business run by a guy who is passionate about what he does and I am confident it is going to be big. (Check it out at The compensation is little, but the learning and networking I will get is priceless…….not to mention a media pass for the games! Who ever thought those days as a hockey mom at the cold arena in the wee hours of the morning would turn into this? Just when I thought my days of stinky hockey equipment were over I’m back in as I interview players post game in sweat drenched gear.

I will keep everyone posted how my new job as a sports contributor goes. Any ideas for interview questions to young wannabe pro hockey players??