Tuesday, 16 July 2019

Oven To Table by Jan Scott - Cookbook Review


I am not enormously talented when it comes to the kitchen. One of the things I find most difficult about cooking is getting all of the different parts of your meal to be finished and still warm at the same time. However, I can follow a recipe pretty well. Last year, I started scouring Pinterest for sheet pan dinner ideas, and it quickly became a "go to" dinner solution.

When Penguin Random House Canada asked me to check out their cookbook, Oven to Table, by Jan Scott, I was excited to add new recipes to my rotation. It includes over 100 one-pot/one-pan recipe ideas.

I assumed Oven to Table would be full of main courses and dinner ideas, but this cookbook is so much more than that. There are plenty of breakfast/brunch ideas, dessert ideas, and even a few drink ideas as well! My family loved the Ham and Cheese Croissant Casserole, as well as the Spicy Corn Bacon Frittata, and our most recent breakfast recipe was the Golden Apricot Granola pictured above.

My son isn't a big fish eater, but other recipes Rob and I tried and enjoyed are:
Brown Sugar and Chili-Rubbed Salmon Sheet Pan Dinner
Muffin Pan Tuna Melts

Next, I can't wait to make the Grilled Apple and Brie Sandwiches.

Not all of the recipes are super quick "30 mins or less" type recipes, though some definitely are, but every single recipe I've tried so far has been delicious and healthy.

There is a picture for nearly every recipe in Oven to Table, which is a must for any cookbook I own and actually use. I also enjoy this cookbook because I find flipping through it to be faster than getting lost down a Pinterest rabbit hole. It's out now, so look for it at your local bookstore!

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book for review purposes courtesy of Penguin Random House Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Tuesday, 9 July 2019

Romantic Armchair Travel to London With Jacquelyn Middleton



If a trip to England isn't in your plans this year, add these two books to your summer TBR instead. London Belongs to Me and London, Can You Wait are the first two books by Canadian author, Jacquelyn Middleton.

Both of these books chronicle the relationship of Alex Sinclair and Mark Keegan. When London Belongs to Me begins, Alex has just moved to London to jump into the world of theatre as a playwright. While she works at finding her feet within the drama of cutthroat show business, she reconnects with old friends and eventually meets Mark. A lengthly will-they-won't-they follows; however, it's easy to cheer for Mark and Alex 💗, and Middleton's vivid description of London will make you feel like you are truly there, even if, in reality, you're simply curled up on your sofa with a warm cup of tea.




London, Can You Wait? takes place about a year later. Mark has become an "in demand" actor for hit television shows and movies. Consequently, he and Alex are apart more often then they are together, and this takes its toll on them both. They love each other, but while they also battle through anxiety and grief, is it possible that love simply isn't enough? At once romantic and heartwarming, Middleton's romances always show that the path to our happily ever afters is never straightfoward, but it is worth fighting for.

While London Belongs to Me doesn't end on a cliffhanger, I highly recommend reading both books together as a duology. Not only does Jacquelyn Middleton's writing improve quite a bit with her second book, but reading both novels will give you the fulsome story of Mark and Alex and introduce you to characters that will appear in Middleton's later works.

My favourite Jacquelyn Middleton book is still Until the Last Star Fades (in which Alex and Mark make a little cameo); yet, these two books are delightful contemporary romances that anglophiles will adore. I'm more of a francophile myself, but since my dad was born in Newcastle upon Tyne, and I have felt a small kinship with England throughout my life, and it always feels special to go back and visit whether it's in person or in literature.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of London, Can You Wait from Jacquelyn Middleton to review. Thank you, Jacquelyn! All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Monday, 8 July 2019

A Peek Inside Mary Poppins, the Illustrated Edition



Sebastian and I enjoy having a 'read together' book on the go, and his favourites are illustrated chapter books. We devoured the first three illustrated Harry Potter books and while we wait (not so patiently) for the fourth to be published this fall, I thought Mary Poppins would be a good one to try next. His class went to see a play production of Mary Poppins during the school year and has seen the film, so he was open to reading this story in book form.

This particular edition includes the complete, revised text by P. L. Travers. The illustrations by Júlia Sardà are charming, and this may be one of my favourite book covers for a children's book I've ever seen. (That teacup in the top corner? Swoon!)




We're about two thirds of the way through, and we have noticed that this is a case where the book and the movie are quite different! Definitely watch the movie before or after you read this so you and your little one can talk about the similarities and differences.

The illustrated edition of Mary Poppins makes a gorgeous addition to a classic children's library. We've already gifted a copy as a birthday gift to one of Seb's friends :)

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this book from Raincoast Books for review purposes. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Wednesday, 3 July 2019

Under Pressure by Dr. Lisa Damour - Book Review



I have been a middle school teacher for nearly 15 years, and I can confidently say that some of the most significant shifts in education have aligned with the awareness of mental health challenges taxing our teens and how to support them. Under Pressure by Dr. Lisa Damour is a refreshing look at stress and anxiety, and explores how we as parents and educators can help our girls during their tumultuous teenage years. I was fortunate enough to see Dr. Damour speak a few months ago on her book tour. I took pages of notes during her presentation with ideas of how I can best support my students, and I couldn't wait to read her book for more. While Dr. Damour focuses her work on girls, I found so much in her speech, and in her book, helpful for both boys and girls.

Dr. Damour begins her book by sharing the framework through which we should look at stress and anxiety. Stress and anxiety have a bad reputation, and it's important to remember that stress and anxiety are often healthy for us. She says, "Stress is what happens when we operate at the edge of our capacities, and when we operate in this arena, we stretch ourselves and grow." Anxiety is closely connected. She describes anxiety as, "the gift that keeps us safe." (She also acknowledges that chronic or traumatic stress and anxiety are real, though different than everyday/healthy stress and anxiety.)

Secondly, we have good kids. Our teens (boys and girls) are the best generation on record. They drink less, smoke less, have less sexual partners, and are doing the most interesting things. This is a hopeful book. Technology has changed the landscape of youth, but it has not made it worse as we may be quick to believe.

With all of that in mind, Dr. Damour explores five areas where girls experience stress and anxiety: at home, with their friendships with other girls, with boys, at school, and as part of the culture society builds for women.

In each chapter, she shares specific examples of girls she has worked with and her advice for coaching them through stressful periods of their lives. Rather than taking a negative view on stress and anxiety, she offers specific language to help girls manage tricky situations in a thoughtful way, so they do not get overwhelmed or scared by their emotions. For example, when a student says she's feeling really nervous about a test, you can reply, "Good! I'm glad you're worried. That's the ideal reaction, because right now you know you're not ready. As soon as you start studying, your nerves will calm down."

Under Pressure is a helpful book for parents, educators, counsellors or anyone else who finds themselves in coaching situations with teens. Through my teacher lens, it gave me much to draw on the next time I need to help one of my students who is feeling stressed or anxious. Through my parenting lens (even as a boy mom), I found much of the book transferrable to how my son may encounter stress and anxiety, and it made me think about how I want to talk to him about his relationships with girls as he grows.

Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of Under Pressure from Penguin Random House Canada for review purposes, and my school covered the cost of my ticket to see Dr. Damour speak. All thoughts and opinions are still entirely my own.

Tuesday, 2 July 2019

Wreck A Journal With Your Little One This Summer

I love the idea of journaling, but blank pages scare me. I think scrapbooking looks like fun, but also, an enormous amount of work. Ages ago, pre-children, I bought a copy of Wreck This Journal by Keri Smith.



I think I did a few pages in it, but it eventually got stuck on my bookshelf beside all of my other unused notebooks.

Enter Sebastian.

This kid loves any and all things ridiculous, so Wreck This Journal is totally his jam. Here are a few examples of the pages inside:

Tie a string to the journal. Go for a walk, drag it.



Infuse this page with a smell of your choosing.
(He chose chocolate, so he's rubbing a piece of chocolate on the page!)



Close your eyes. Connect the dots from memory.



Draw with glue.



Wreck This Journal is an excellent book to have at home and for your little ones. I guarantee they will love it!

xo
Jenn

Monday, 24 June 2019

Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle - Book Review


Dear Wife by Kimberly Belle has three narrators: Beth, Jeffery, and Marcus. Beth is on the run from a violent husband. Jeffery's wife is missing, and he is the prime suspect. Marcus is the lead detective searching for Jeffery's wife.

The first half of this novel is strong. I was completely engaged, and the three narrators kept me turning the pages. Lots of little twists kept me trying to figure out Beth's true place in everything. Unfortunately, I predicted the main twist about halfway through the novel, so the ending left me feeling slightly underwhelmed. That being said, I would absolutely still try another book from this author. It has been awhile since I've read a domestic thriller, and I'm already wondering about which crime novel I'll pick up next.

Dear Wife is a quick, distracting summer read to throw in your beach bag or if you're heading on vacation. It's available tomorrow from your favourite bookseller.

xo
Jenn

Disclaimer - I received a complementary copy of this novel courtesy of Harper Collins Canada. All thoughts and opinions are entirely my own.

Saturday, 22 June 2019

The Day I Finally Asked for Help With My Post-Partum Depression

I walked into our family doctor's office with my husband and our 5 month old son. The late afternoon sun was warm for September, and not at all reflective of the darkness I was feeling inside. We entered and sat in the waiting room with other patients. Rob had taken yet another afternoon off work to come with me to this appointment. One too many panicked phone calls to my husband in the middle of the day tearfully begging him to come home from work and here we were.

We had been in this waiting room a number of times over the last few months. Our family doctor sees all three of us, and we'd been to see her recently for all of our son's regular baby checkups. This time was different. This time we were here for me. Sebastian wasn't going to be bouncing on my lap as a distraction. The nurse called my name, and I followed her into one of the exam rooms. As I walked into the room alone, I felt heavy and defeated. I was finally going to have to admit out loud the challenges and sadness I'd been feeling post-partum.



My limited understanding of post-partum depression was that it meant that you wanted to hurt your baby. I certainly didn't feel that way, so it was very challenging for me to believe that I could have post-partum depression. I was exhausted and drained and often upset, but I was posting happy mommy and baby moments on social media every day. Snuggles, cute onesies, trips to the park, I really did feel joy in those moments. I never wanted to hurt our son or wish him away. We had tried and yearned for this baby for years. I loved him and was afraid that a post-partum diagnosis would symbolize that I didn't really love or want my son. I wanted to feel happy and full of warmth but, I felt weighted down with sadness and guilt. I later learned just how many levels there are within PPD.

As I waited for my doctor to come in, I tried to figure out how exactly I would say the words out loud I'd been avoiding for months. How do you describe these feelings to someone? I felt like I was at confession, and I was ashamed that I couldn't handle the challenge of motherhood. In the end, I just couldn't bring myself to actually say the words "post-partum depression".

My doctor came in, sat down beside me and asked me how she could help. I told her, "I've been feeling really sad. More sad than I think I'm supposed to be." She nodded kindly. I could tell that, thankfully, she understood my code. "Both Rob and my mom really think I should talk to someone," I added.

I was so relieved that she didn't ask me more questions. The acknowledgement alone felt like enough for one day. My doctor logged into her computer and looked up potential psychiatrists for referral. We live in a large city, so it would be easy to get access to psychiatrists that specialized in PPD and even PPD groups if I was interested. (At the time of this appointment I was absolutely not interested in a PPD group. I was embarrassed enough admitting my problems to my doctor, whom I actually know and like.)

My mom and husband had been not so subtly hinting at me for awhile that I should check in with my doctor. I hated that they were right. I felt so guilty that I couldn't handle being a mom. I was supposed to do one thing. Take care of our son. And I was failing.

Before I left my doctor's office, she reassured me that things would be ok and that I would hear very soon from a local hospital with my psychiatrist referral appointment. She made sure I understood I could come back and see her anytime and to let her know if I didn't hear from the hospital within the next few days.

That particular appointment was only a few minutes long, but it was a turning point for me. The truth was finally out in the open, though I didn't leave my doctor's office feeling magically better that day.

I was still scared, and I was still sad. All of those feelings of failure, darkness, and defeat were still coursing through my body, and I was not optimistic that those feelings could change. They were simply too heavy. I was scared about talking about being sad, and I was convinced that my friends and family would judge me for not being strong enough to handle those first few sleepless months. I was afraid I had already failed.

Yet somewhere deep within my heart I knew asking for help was important. Healing could now begin, and there was a tiny truth that I was beginning to learn. Experiencing post-partum depression didn't mean I didn't love my baby and, I was asking for help because I loved my baby.

xo
Jenn

This post was originally published on The Mighty in 2016.

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