Thursday, March 31, 2011

Lessons Learned

Tomorrow is the 6 month anniversary of Kimberley's Kitchen. 6 months is a short time but for me it has been filled with milestones and lessons learned. My guide book is Martha Stewart's "The Martha Rules". Her straight-forward, practical advice to pursuing a passion is really a handbook for launching a succesful business. I refer to her rules daily as a compass for my decision making.

I have already learned so much about pursuing my passion. My first lesson was all about integrity. I learned that I don't want to compromise my product, my brand, my reputation, my time for anyone.

My second lesson has been about time. Running a business while being a full time mother to 2 under 3 and wife to 1 over 30 ;) requires great time management skills. I am a planner so I think I do a pretty good job of getting all the jobs done. Some days I am just happy that the kids are clean, fed, dressed, and having fun. Some days the laundry piles up because I have a lot of marshmallows to make. But there have been times when opportunities have arisen and I have had to ask myself if the time commitment is right for me. My husband put it well one day when I was contemplating taking on another project. He said, "put your time into what you want to be famous for. If this isn't about what you want to be famous for then don't do it." He was absolutely right. So now, that is the question I ask myself- is this what I want to be famous for?

The third lesson, and the most powerful so far, has been about having an open heart. I am an ideas person. I have a lot of ideas. It is often overwhelming and I can easily get caught up in trying to do too much. I used to feel very protective about my ideas and I was reluctant to share them. Since using social media and blogging I have learned to be more free with my ideas.

Having an open heart was tested last week when a Facebook follower started making marshmallows and posting her creations. My first reaction was to be protective of my ideas. But then she graciously credited me for inspiring her. We started to chat and now I have a new friend- a talented baker and marshmallow maker half-way across the world. I was reminded that creativity is something to be shared. And the passion I have for what I do comes from my heart.

I know that there are so many more lessons to be learned on this journey. But for now, I am happy to say that this adventure has surpassed my expectations so far. Thanks for letting me share it with you.


Thursday, March 24, 2011

Shopping Carts

The other night, while grocery shopping after the kids were in bed, I saw what was the perfect example of "what is wrong" with our relationship with food in North America. What I saw was so alarming and yet so everyday that it struck me; the problem is actually quite straight-forward. And the solutions are simpler than we have imagined.

While lining up to pay, there were two women (a mom and adult daughter with children at home by what I could tell) in front of me with a cart full of groceries. And as I watched the items get unloaded onto the belt, I realized that every single thing was processed food. Not one piece of fresh food. The closest thing was a loaf of white processed bread. No dairy, egss, meat, vegetables, fruit. Not even a frozen or canned version of something resembling one of these items. And the saddest part was they were obviously shopping for children too- some gummy "fruit" snacks, drink boxes of "juice", "cereal", etc. It was actually heart-breaking. Their groceries came to over $250.

Then there was me. I didn't have much in my basket- shoes for my kids, organic yoghurt, and cheese.

The lady behind me had another cart full of food. Eggs, bread, vegetables, fruit, canned beans, household products, meat, cottage cheese, and pasta. In other words, mostly whole, real food. She didn't have anything that was an overly processed, packaged food.

The issues with the food industry, how they came about, and how we are eating now is very complex. It involves politics (mostly), socio-economic issues, health policies, well, you name it. But what struck me about the shopping carts in line was that it comes down to a few simple things: education (what is in food, how its made, what it does to you) and practical skills (how to shop for quality food, how to prepare and cook it). There is no shortage of good information out there on all these topics. So why aren't some people getting this information?

I think (and I will briefly touch on this but could seriously write a book on it) there are a few reasons. Firstly, I think there is a trend (and of course there are examples otherwise) that women with families now had mothers who worked in and out of the home, embracing shopping and cooking that was easier and faster and simply more convenient. Nothing inherantly wrong with needing to do that. As well, women with families now are working more than ever. Often two jobs outside the home or a full-time job and home business, oh and raise a family and care for a home and feed people. I think the workload for women, with all the modern conveniences we now have, has increased exponentially. (again, I am sure some brilliant researcher and author has captured this idea somehwere, I am just thinking out loud).

So we have women who may not have had a mom cooking at a stove teaching them the fundamentals of presoacking beans, to eating fast food as they motor through university and college degrees, work more hours than ever, and are caring for children in a pretty complex environment, sustaining marriages, commiting to their communities, starting small businesses, walking the dog, doing it al because DAMMIT we can do it all! Its exhasuting just writing about it. No wonder we didn't have time to learn to grocery shop and cook healthy food. Especially when we can drive up to Walmart and buy everything we need while getting the tires changed.

We all know what is happening to the state of human health in North America. Even if you only believe the mainstream health world, you know things are bad. Heart disease is killing a lot of women. And if you believe in alternative medicine, which is becoming more mainstream, there are so many things to be cautious of (the link of pesticides, etc to hormone based cancers, for example- ie. the idea that conventional food causes cancer). I think it is safe to say that most of us know that how and what we are eating is making us sick. (and not just what you put on your fork, but the production of food and its impact on the environment)

Back to the shopping carts at the grocery store. I believe that with every food purchase we make, we vote. I truly believe that the food we consume is the most powerful vote in the world right now. It has more impact on your health, the environment, and society than the car you drive and the gas you buy. It has more influence than marking an X on a ballot. You vote with every bite. You are saying, Yes, I support socially responsible, environmentally sustainable, local business, farmers, food producers with ethics and heart and a love for food. You are saying, NO, I won't consume food that is 100% harmful to my childrens' health and will cause years of miserable disease.

It really starts with making choices. We have more food choices than ever. If you want to choose food that is better for you, your family, the environment, and the world, learn about all the good food that is available to you. Ask questions. Start simple- change one thing (when I started eating organic I started with milk, and have added from there). There are hundreds of good books and websites on quality food. ( , - watch this movie! - just to name a few) If you don't know where to start, think of what your priorities are: your health, the environment, social change- and then make a few changes from there. Whatever you do, don't bite off more than you can chew.

So, what's in your shopping cart?

ps. if you think its too expensive to eat healthy vs. fast food and convenience food I have a few ideas on that in my next blog post.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Reluctant Pack Leader

I am planning a birthday party for my daughters this May. Georgia will be 3 and Olivia will be 1. And while thinking about this milestone I was struck by a few thoughts about motherhood and this journey so far. 

I have probably said this before but I wasn't expecting to love being a mother so much. I knew that I wanted a family, but I hadn't put much thought into motherhood. To be honest, I haven't felt that I have really been on top of it so far. I have taken the approach that I am learning, that I will make mistakes, and that I need to give myself a break because I am doing my best. But am I really doing my best? This is the question that has been bouncing around inside of me for a few months. And I finally figured it out.

Actually, I haven't been doing my best. And by that I mean I have forgotten to bring a whole skill set that I posess to the job of motherhood. All the skills that I have as a manager, leader, and human resources professional somehow got left behind with the suits and heals. I haven't been applying all the techniques and philosophies I have about leading and inspiring people to my parenting. I denied that I was the Family Manager and somehow expected my husband to be a co-leader in a way that just doesn't work for us. Instead of doing what I know I was trying to develop a whole new set of skills to do the job of mom. And I didn't need to work so hard at trying to figure it out- I have known all along.

With few exceptions (okay, so an injured child most definitely gets a different response than an injured employee- I don't think hugging and saying it will be okay would have gone over well in the office!) my leadership and organizational skills are exactly what I need to feel successful as a mother. As a manager, I am a calm communicator, I listen, I am passionate about nurturing others, and I think I am fair and understanding. All the qualities that I want to possess as a mother. 

Take, for example, the qualities of a good leader. After years of coaching others on leadership I realized I wasn't listening to my own advice. Good leadership starts with listening, funny enough. Great leaders inspire and nurture others, connect to bring out the best in their people, and recognize and reward the contribution that others make. 

This lightbulb moment didn't happen as I gazed at the stars or looked into my daughter's eyes. It happened while watching "The Dog Whisperer". Yes, guilty of being a devoted fan of Caesar Millan and watching the marathon of episodes on the National Geographic Channel. When we had a dog, it was very useful, but now that we have kids it is extremely insightful. (I am quite certain that almost every quote he posts on Facebook could be applied to children)

"Calm and Assertive Pack Leader"- this is what Caesar teaches. And when I heard this the other night, it just hit me. That's what I want to be. Wait a minute. I already know how to do that. In our family dynamic, I am the pack leader. But I have been reluctant to take on my role. I was so apprehensive that I actually prevented myself from being the best mother that I can be. I haven't thought about it too much but I think the reason I did this was my fear of not being fun. I was very wrong in thinking that. As the calm and assertive pack leader I can make the fun and have more time to have fun with my kids.

So there you have it. A show that teaches people to understand their dogs taught me to bring my leadership qualities to motherhood. I remind myself daily to be a calm and assertive pack leader and it is something that really resonates with me. It is important to me, especially having girls, that I role model strength and confidence. And for the first time, I can safely say that I am confident as a mother.

Friday, March 4, 2011

Feeding Children (part two)

It has been a while since I've blogged about life as a Confectionista. I have been too busy making candy! But I have been meaning to follow-up my last post with more about feeding children.

So if I can pick up where we left off then I think we are ready to start solids. Now, what I am learning with my second baby is that every child is very different when it comes to readiness for solid food. Our first was ready early, but our second is still a little reluctant and is mainly breastfeeding. However, situation surely has a lot to do with it. With Georgia, I went back to work when she was five months. With Olivia, I am home full-time with her.

But our food philosophy has not changed. Whole, organic, homemade food. And here is the thing, it is actually easy and inexpensive. If you don't know why we choose organic please read previous post. Breastfeeding is the cheapest form of food. And then add in a very small quantity of organic fruits, vegetables, and eventually dairy and meat if you like it. Now, I know that organic isn't always available to everyone everywhere. But making fresh food is cheaper than processed baby food, more nutritious, and takes very little time.

We started with pureed fruits and vegetables and eventually worked up to blends, dairy, eggs, and then more solid solids.

A few simple steps to homemade baby food:
I usually boil some extra vegetables of what I am cooking for us. And once a week I will prep and boil some fruit and extra vegetables. Once cooked, I puree in the food processor (sometimes adding a bit of water to achieve a smooth consistency) and then scoop into ice cube trays. Freeze and then bag in resealable plastic bags or containers. Defrost food cubes on demand. Once baby is ready for blends just pull a few different cubes out and mix together.

Once ready for other solids, we have had success with smashed hard boiled egg yolk, plain yoghurt (or add some pureed fruit), pureed organic beef and chicken (cooked, seasoned and blended with a veg puree), and cubes of cheese and tofu.

So here's the thing. I firmly believe that kids eat what their parents eat. Kids eat what you feed them. If you start them out on processed foods with a lot of salt, sugar, and HFCS, their little bodies will be addicted to those things. You may not even realize that you are doing this. Cereal, cookies, crackers- these are all highly processed foods when purchased in a package (making your own is a much better alternative). It is hard to avoid and I believe that in moderation, these foods aren't harmful. But in order to get enough vitamins, fiber, protein and all the important components of food into our kids, the processed food needs to be a very small quantity to make room for the whole stuff.

At any age, you can make changes to your child's diet to improve their nutrition and make an impact on their overall mental, emotional, and physical health. If you want to make changes to how your child (and family) eats, there are so many great resources out there. But start with one rule- don't eat something you wouldn't feed your kid. And if you do, consume it with the moderation you would use for your child. Kids eat what their parents eat. Plain and simple.