The best cooler hacks for a picnic at the beach

Ad. This post is sponsored by Coleman Canada and Canadian Tire.

We’re logging quite a few beach days this summer, as our three children are the ideal age for this outing.

Now that everyone knows how to swim, the beach is actually relaxing, and that is a welcome change after a decade of rescuing kids from the surf. After applying sunscreen to three little people, my main job is feeding them all and that takes some organization – and the right gear.

This summer I’m partnering with Coleman Canada and Canadian Tire to encourage families to get outside. So far I’ve shared backyard cookout tips, steps for a clean camp kitchen, and now I’m dishing my best hacks for packing a cooler. On blistering hot July days, it takes some strategic planing to keep everything cold.

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Kids who Cook: an update from our kitchen

The whole idea of “spring break” is rather laughable when it’s too cold to go outside and winter storms batter the house from all angles.

Still, the children had five days off of school last week, so we had the “break” – just without any of the spring. Regrettably, all three of the kids were suffering from coughs and colds, so we laid low, watched movies, built pillow forts and ate a lot of homemade soup.

We also cooked up plenty of fun in the kitchen, with each child taking a turn to prepare various meals and snacks for the family. It was really lovely to have ample time to cook – and teach – instead of the frequent rush that is our daily life with 3 kids and 2 jobs.

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Maple Cinnamon Apple Chips

Today I’m packing up the family for two nights in a secluded cabin in the Eastern Townships of Quebec. Friends of ours have a cottage in the woods, and we’re slipping away to join them over the weekend.

The maple and oak trees have started to don their fall foliage, and the weather is much cooler. This is our favourite time of the year to hike and immerse ourselves in the forest.

We won’t quite be camping, but I’ll be doing some cooking over an open fire, and am adapting our meals for a simple, outdoor setting. I want to relax on this little getaway, which means plenty of food prep in advance. Today’s maple-sweetened, cinnamon-spiced apple chips are part of that plan.

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Raising Healthy Eaters: notes and observations

“If my life were a movie, mealtime in our home would be the gory part…” I wrote over eight years ago in an emotional post my hobby blog, Under the High Chair.

I had a toddler and a baby, and was devastated to report that the disaster we called ‘family dinner’ was a real let-down. “Things will get better” I was told by many people, and of course they did eventually. But at the time, when everything I made ended up on the floor and I struggled to eat everything one-handed, I wondered nightly “What is the point?”

The truth is, the family table is a wonderfully intimate yet ever so imperfect gathering place.

During the good times, it’s the best spot on earth – and when things get ugly, we have to will ourselves to stay in our seats and endure. If you’re enduring, I’m here to tell you what other parents told me – things will get better, in their own time and in their own way. In the meantime here are a few things to remember about feeding kids that helped me over the past decade.

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The School Lunch Blindside

There are a few things that happen after a car accident that they don’t tell you about. Such as how the muscles in your ten fingers will ache and simple tasks – like wrapping your daughter’s ponytail with an elastic or shampooing your hair – become all awkward and send spasms up your wrists to your elbows.

But everything aches. It’s just that sore fingers are a new sensation after thirty seven years.

Before Sunday, I never knew what would happen nearly every time you close your eyes in the days following a car crash. I’ve discovered that as soon as they’re shut, your mind hits “Play” on a little memory it has called “The Moment of Impact”. The replay is startling every single time: from the sickening, heart-dropping slam of metal on metal to the thud of your head on the side window.

What people do tell you is that you will be sore, maybe even for weeks, and that you should rest as much as possible. Oh perfect. Not a problem. Just as soon as I get these three kids a hot breakfast, out the door for their first day of school, meet the teachers and lug a wailing and writhing Clara out of the school yard because she wants to go to ‘cool too.

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