Tuesday 7 October 2014

Country Air is Good for Autism

I realize that the title to this post makes for a strong statement but let me explain what I mean by that.

It has been just over two years since my family made the leap from city to country living. When we first moved every person we encountered asked us why we had moved to the island and our typical answer was "to get out of the rat race". That was true but we never really got into too many details as to why.

The real reason was for our son. Our middle child was diagnosed with Asperger's when he was 7. Our life prior to moving was not an easy one. I was on a one year leave of absence at the time of our move so that I could focus on my son's needs. I used to get a call at least once a week from the school to let me know of little situations that had occurred. At the time I felt that we were in a downward spiral. Life was hectic and chaotic. I had a work schedule that did not mesh with my husband's schedule, and my son along with my other children were suffering. In general, life was just simply too busy and stressed.  Whereas I could cope, my son could not.

When we told our friends and family that we were moving to the country they were shocked and most thought it was a mistake to take our son away from the services available to us for autism. It was a legitimate concern but we felt that life would actually be better for him.

Two years later the verdict is in. Life in the country for a growing autistic boy is better.  My son is flourishing. Last week for example, he ran for student council and won. Sure it was by default because he was the only boy to run in grade 7. The point is that he got up willingly in front of his class and gave a speech. (His platform was to improve the toilet paper quality in the school and add cheese to the snack bin program). He became involved. I don't believe he would have ever done this in the past.


My son is beginning to feel accepted and that he belongs. A painful experience that I will share which occurred at my children's old school was hearing a parent call my son a freak within my earshot. My son heard it too, but luckily  he didn't quite understand the comment was directed toward him. I am thankful for that. I however understood that father clearly. I will never forget that hurt.

Not everyone understands or even tries to tolerate people who are different. I feel living in a smaller community my son has been able to flourish in a way he never could in a large city. People know him here. It is not that people excuse his behavior but they are aware of his challenges and offer guidance and help to him when needed. The saying "it takes a village to raise a child" is true. I feel support in my community that I never did before and my son feels that support too. It is somewhat of a relief to go shopping and not hear comments from rude people about my son's behavior. Instead people say hi and talk to him.

In the city we had to look for opportunities to practice social skills. Living where we do now, we just need to open the local paper to see what community event is taking place. Just going to the market provides a cornucopia of social skill opportunities. Country people actually stop to talk to each other. I find that rather refreshing.

We have also found a fantastic therapist who brings such a positive attitude that my son responds to her.  We are also members of Autism Ontario www.autismontario.com.  The local branch is in Sudbury. There are services available most places. It just took asking questions to find solutions.

It can not be argued that the pace of life is different too. That is not to say that we are not busy. I did somewhat think that my family would slow down with our move to the country. We are still very busy but it is just different. We spend more time with our kids than we ever did before. How can that not be a bonus for us all. As I sit writing this, the kids are outside with their dad playing basketball.

The problem with the city for one with ASD is the constant intake of stimulus. That constant "noise" is not found in the country. The excitement today was my husband calling to say there was a cow loose in town. People on the spectrum have trouble with too much stimulus so removing that from our sons life has helped him to focus on growing in other areas.

I know moving to the country is not an option for most ASD families, but I am thankful that it is something that we did for our son. So yes country air is good for autism. My son is my proof.

Sunday 3 November 2013

For the Love of Good Food
I wouldn't exactly consider myself a foodie. I just love good food and a variety of it as well. I get bored of eating the same thing over and over. I love to try new things. Since moving to the country where there isn't a Thai, Japanese or Indian restaurant around the corner like I had in the city I find that I am experimenting in the kitchen  a little more. One of the perks to country living I guess.
I picked up a local community fundraiser cook book recently. I have had good and bad luck with these type of cookbooks. Recipes  in these books are sometimes poorly written and not tested. I also find these books have a variety of recipes in them. I think you can tell what a community is like by what they eat. I was pleasantly surprised to find such recipes as Pad Thai, beef shawarma, and tourtiere. Not bad for a small community cook book. Among these recipes I found one for buttered chicken which I have been craving for awhile. It is just not the same to open up the sauce you find in a jar.
So here is a variation on the recipe that I found.
Buttered Chicken
2-3 Tbsp. butter
1 1/2 chopped onion
2 tsp galic miced
1 Tbsp grated ginger
3/4 tsp each ground coriander and turmeric
1/2 tsp each ground cinnamon and cumin
1 large can diced tomato drained
1 1/2 c reduced chicken broth
1 Tbsp brown sugar
1/4 tsp salt and black pepper
Cooked chicken (I used a whole chicken)
1/3 c sour cream
cooked basmati rice
Melt the butter in a large skillet over medium heat. Add the onions, cook until translucent then add garlic. Stir often. Add the ginger and the ground spices. Cook for 1 minute more. Add drained tomatoes, broth, sugar, salt, and pepper. reduce heat to low. Cover and simmer for 10 minutes. Stir occasionally. Stir in cut up chicken. Cook until the chicken is heated through. Remove from heat and add in the sour cream. Serve over hot rice.

The original recipes had said to puree the sauce but I prefer my butter chicken to be thick with the pieces of tomato visible in my sauce. 

The end result was very tasty, and bursting with flavour. The kids were very happy which means this recipe is a winner with my family. I guess I am going to have to make this again. really not much of a sacrifice for the love of good food.

Monday 1 July 2013

Adding Some Spice to Life

I have realized something about myself, and that is that I am a bit crazy. If I am not busy enough with having three kids, (one on the Autism spectrum), working for my husband, another part time job for the Chamber of Commerce and having my rental property business, not to mention a hyper German Shepard puppy in training, I have decided to add more to my plate. I am now an Epicure Consultant.

Last month I had not one but two booths at the Manitoulin Trade Fair and right across from me was a lady who was selling Epicure Selections.( Epicure is a Canadian Herb and Spice company if you weren't sure what it is). After speaking with her for awhile I found myself being signed up to be a consultant and to have my first tasting party in a month. Why do I do this to myself? As I mentioned in another post I need to be  busy and be around people. I saw this as an opportunity for myself to fulfill both those needs as well as make a profit. This should help with those long boring winters that I was whining about  in another post.

I know this may sound like I am trying to sell my new business but the reason I wanted to become an Epicure Consultant is because I am really impressed with the products. Part of my new life in the country is to overhaul the way I feed my family. In the city it was always too convenient to stop at a restaurant or get take out on my way home from work. I really didn't want to do this but my life was so hectic that I didn't always feel like I had the energy or the time to cook a wholesome healthy meal for my family every night. This is a change easier said than done. Tastes are hard to change.

After I started researching Epicures products I did the comparisons and realized that I still really wasn't making the best food choices for my family. I would make homemade meals but use certain ingredients that had additives, dyes, or crazy amounts of sodium. With having a child on the Autism spectrum, I have noticed that my son's body responded in a negative way if he consumed certain foods. I want to make better choices for him especially, along with the rest of us. I find it isn't always easy to know what exactly is in the food we eat. Food labels in Canada are so misleading. I wish our laws were stricter on what is and is not allowed in our food. I could rant on this, but I will spare you the ugly details.

I have gone ahead and started to clean out my cupboards. I do admit it is hard to throw food away, so I am telling myself that if I don't think this food is good enough for my family it isn't good enough for someone else's' family either. That way I feel less guilty about tossing it out in the trash. This cleaning out of food isn't just  for making room for Epicure's products. Everything that I can't read or understand on the label is having the same fate. If I can't pronounce a word I figure it isn't good for me so out it goes.

So after comparing a few products to Epicure I was sold. The fact that they are also gluten free, fair trade, and a Canadian woman lead company were bonuses to me. I want to feed my family real food and nothing else. So yes it sounds like I may be selling the product but it is really just part of my city to country plan of living the wholesome good life, and as for adding to my already crazy life I figure I am just adding some spice.

Sunday 21 April 2013

Cold Relief, Searching for the Best Hot Toddy Recipe

Dr. Pat's Hot Toddy Cold Remedy. Photo by Kristine at Food.com
Hot Toddy

I have never actually made myself  a hot tottie, but after listening to a close friend of mine swear it helps, I thought I would try one. At this point I will try anything to find relief from this nasty cold.
The recipe I will try follows;


  1. Place the whiskey in a large microwave safe mug.
  2. Add the honey.
  3. Pour the hot water into the mug over the spoon you used for the honey to get off the last little drops.
  4.  Add the lemon juice and stir well.
  5. Place the mug in the microwave for 1 minute or until it is piping hot, but not boiling.
  6. Add the lemon slice and serve.
I would love to hear of any other tried and true cold remedy recipes as I could use all the help I can get.
Bottoms Up!

Thursday 11 April 2013

Tea Time

 Now that I find myself with some time on my hands I can actually bake. Well sort of. This is a no bake recipe. A favourite recipe that used to be found at every church and school bake sale. Enjoy!

 Chocolate Oatmeal No Bake Cookies

1/2 cup Butter
2 cups Sugar
1/2 cup Milk
4 Tbsp Cocoa
1/2 cup Peanut Butter
3 1/2 cups Quick Cooking Oats
2 tsp. Vanilla

Add the first 4 ingredients in a saucepan. Bring to a rolling boil, and boil for 1 minute. Stir in the next 3 ingredients and drop by the spoonful unto wax paper. Let cool to set.

Wednesday 10 April 2013

My First Winter, Is it Over Yet?

Although it is technically spring I am waiting like everyone else for it to actually arrive.

My first winter was not exactly fantastic. I keep being reassured by other city transplants that it does get better. I sure hope this is true because I wasn't so sure if I was going to make it.

I would describe myself as a positive person. I have a glass half full world view. I am not willing to let myself get down, but I have to say this winter was a big challenge for me. I think collectively "northerners" are maybe lying to themselves?  They can't possibly really enjoy winter.... can they? I think it is a defense mechanism. They are in denial because being north for the winter actually sucks. Yup I said it, winter in northern Ontario bites the big one.

Before anyone gets their knickers in a knot for me saying that, just think about it. Is it really enjoyable to be electrically shocked several times a day because the inside air of your home is so dry? Shock therapy used to be used for mental patients. Just saying. I had to buy a humidifier just so I could touch my kids again. I would also say it wasn't particularly enjoyable to be so cold that you get back spasms or TMJ from shivering. And as far as ice goes, it has its time and place like in a drink, but covering every driving and walking surface is not okay.  My knees are not happy with me from falling so many times this winter season. The list goes on and on. Bottom line winter is okay for a couple weeks, say around Christmas to be festive, but after that it could end as far as I'm concerned.

The other issue for me is how quiet it is. Yes I knew the island population dropped after the ferry season, but for a girl who used to get paid to talk, the fact that it is so dead quiet nearly killed me. I love people. I find people interesting. That is one of the reasons I have a degree in anthropology. I am not ashamed to admit though, that I had a few pity parties where I ate chocolate, and drank hot chocolate, then ate some more chocolate because I had a hard time dealing with the absence of people around me.

The other problem is the lack of activities. The only activities seemed to involve hockey and I am so not a hockey mom. Where my son used to play there was a bar/restaurant overlooking the arenas. I would sit with my nose in a book and glass of wine in my hand. My husband would yell at me to look up at critical points in the game, but really I couldn't care less about who won or loss. 

I know many Haw-eaters do not enjoy how busy the island gets for the tourist season, but I am actually looking forward to it. You can take the girl out of the city, but not the city out of the girl. I love being busy and having commotion around me, Being a "cit-idiot" is not insulting to me and yes I have heard people use the term in a negative way. I gladly accept that term because to me it means that I am adaptable. I came here by choice and am going to embrace that challenge. I think there has to be a happy medium between both worlds, and I am determined to find it. In the meantime I wait with bated breath for the first robin to announce the arrival of spring and the end of my winter exile.

Monday 26 November 2012

Christmas Thoughts

The ground is covered in Manitoulin's first snowfall and the kids are outside making a snow fort, snow angels, and a very small snowman. With the white stuff covering everything my thoughts have turned to Christmas. It is now just one month away.

I started to make a mental list of all the things that I have to get done. Gifts to buy, recipes to get ingredients for,  baking, wrapping, writing Chritmas cards, and so on. Then I stopped myself and started thinking of what is really important to me.  I don't want to get sucked into the rush of the season. With living on Manitoulin that should be an easier task seeing there are no malls to feel the "joy of the season in".

Yes I love food, gift giving, carols, and everything else associated with Christmas, but what I love most is just having the time to spend with my family. When I was little my family was much larger. Everyone would always gather at my grandparents house on Gibson Avenue. The house was full of the smell of turkey, the noise of family, (Ukrainians seem to all talk at once) and the joy of the season. Whatever family squabbles were going on were forgotten for the holiday.

This time of my life at my grandparents house has long been gone and I have started my own traditions with my own family. Christmas is now always at my parents home. We will make the trip down to Burlington. The sights, and sounds are the same to when I was a child, but some loved ones are no longer with us.

I was thinking how quickly things can change. My grandparents lived a long and full life before their time had come. They were lucky to have that. We were lucky to have them so long. My parents are in their seventies and still seem young to me, but they both are having serious health concerns. My brother who is not much older than me has also had a major health scare. They have all been diagnosed at different times with cancer. My brother is a survivor, my mom just finished her radiation treatment for breast cancer, and now my dad has been diagnosed with cancer. My mom's prognosis is good while my dad's is not. I don't really want to think of the time when they are not here.

I am so thankful to have my family all together. As a child I never thought that things would change. I always assumed that Christmas would be the same every year. That was until my tenth Christmas. My grandpa had died then of cancer. My grandpa was my favourite person in the  world. So I learnt about loss early, and how quickly things can change. Family is precious. People will come and go throughout your life, but family will always be most important.

For this Christmas I am going to remember this, and hold them all dear. I am still going to enjoy the baking, gift giving, food, and everything else. With three children how can I not, but  I am also going to keep what is most important a focus as well. Christmas is such a joyful time of year. We have all lost loved ones, but I for one am going to keep those I still have close and cherish this holiday season together.