Top 12 Children's Books - Ava's Picks

The more that you read, the more things you will know. The more you learn, the more places you’ll go.
— Dr. Seuss

Given our love of books in this household, I wanted to share a few of our favorites. I will admit that it was a challenge to narrow it down to just 12. We also just received 2 more books yesterday, and they too are filled with beautiful illustrations and incredible messages that engage, teach and inspire. As you can see in the photo above, we had books spread across our couch and Ava was buried in them. Thinking I may have to put together another list as they are all too good not to share.

The most brilliant thing about this list is that they are great books that both kids and parents will love. At least that has been our case which has made reading even more fun. My husband will always say, “You bought more books?”, and then once we read them he will always say, “Wow, what an awesome message! Good purchase!”. I am never surprised to hear his words and it always leaves a smile on my face, and Ava’s!

Now here’s the list (in no particular order and a few silly shots from our photo-shoot!). These are appropriate for ages 2 and up and available online. We hope you enjoy these as much as we do. Happy Reading!

Beautiful Girl - Presents this simple but important message: That to be born female is a very special thing and it carries with it magical gifts and powers that must be recognized and nurtured. Learn More.

The Big Book of Hugs: A Barkley The Bear Story - A memorable journey of what's most important in life: Kindness, hugs, and a little bit of work. Learn More.

Today I Feel Silly: And Other Moods that Make My Day - Helps kids explore, identify, and, even have fun with their ever-changing moods. Learn More.

Rosie Revere, Engineer - Rosie may seem quiet during the day, but at night she's a brilliant inventor of gizmos and gadgets with dreams of becoming a great engineer. She learns that she can only truly fail if she quits. Learn More.

In My Heart: A Book of Feelings - Explores a full range of emotions, describing how they feel physically, inside. With a language that is lyrical but also direct, toddlers will be empowered and able to practice articulating and identifying their own emotions. Learn More.

The Most Magnificent Thing - A charming and very funny picture book about an unnamed girl and her very best friend, who happens to be a dog. It offers a perfect example of the rewards of perseverance and creativity. Learn More.

Last Stop On Market Street - A weekly and familiar routine shared between a grandmother and grandson and the beauty of everyday life. Learn More.

Ladybug Girl and the Dress-Up Dilemma - A story about being true to yourself. Learn More.

I Don’t Want To Be a Frog - About a willful young frog with a serious identity crisis and his heard-it-all-before father! Learn More.

People - A celebration of diverse world cultures. Learn More.

Press Here - An interactive book that's fun and magical. Learn More.

Super Duper Safety School: Safety Rules for Kids and Grown-Ups - Teaching children about personal safety in a fun and effective way without instilling fear. Highly recommended by pediatricians, teachers and parents as a valuable resource in educating children. Learn More.

Children’s Illustrated Atlas - An engaging info-graphic design and easy to understand layout and text. This atlas will get the most reluctant explorer learning about the world outside of their own experience. Learn More.

Children are made readers on the laps of their parents.
— Emilie Buchwald

Salt Therapy

Salt Therapy supports the immune, nervous, and lymphatic systems and has proven to benefit sufferers of allergies, asthma, colds, and even skin issues.

Do you find your thoughts drifting to that last beach vacation, or that one you've been planning for some time now? A place where you are in your most relaxed state. You may be laying on the Australian silica sands of the Whitsunday islands or, for me, on a 43-foot catamaran sailing the British Virgin Islands (the British Virgin Islands are awesome by the way!). Wherever that place is for you, that wondrous salty sea air sure is intoxicating – it's responsible for the added boost of energy and leaves you with a carefree glow. Bliss filled, isn’t it?!

The great news is that we don't need to travel far to reap the benefits of that salty air, thanks to Salt Therapy. Imagine breathing better, feeling more energized, and carrying that glow with you on a regular basis. Yes, please! Salt Therapy rooms are becoming more popular, and more of a ritual, for those seeking natural healing alternatives for certain health conditions. We can all benefit from the healing powers of Salt Therapy, kids too, which supports the immune, nervous, and lymphatic systems and has proven to benefit sufferers of allergies, asthma, colds, and even skin issues.

Salt Therapy rooms today are designed to reproduce the therapeutic salt caves and mines that were discovered in Eastern Europe back in the 1800’s. This therapy is far from new! True Salt Therapy is also known as Halotherapy. Halo is the Greek word for Salt. Halo-generators have the powerful ability to mimic that same deep underground environment - walls and ceilings beautifully coated with salt and a few inches deep on the floor - it’s an environment that is dry and full of the purest pharmaceutical grade of Salt. This empty processed form of salt is a natural disinfectant, antimicrobial, and antibacterial. It's the negatively charged ions in the salt that have been proven to better our health and mood which explains why we feel so invigorated from that salty sea air. Fascinating!

If you are searching for a holistic alternative for the ailments listed above, then Salt Therapy may be your answer. I suggest you start by searching for salt or halo therapy clinics in your city and book your first session today. For Vancouver residents, Breathe Salt Wellness is the place. The owner, Tara Martinez, will happily answer any of your questions and take the best care of you as you embark on your journey to wellness. Just tell her ava + mum sent you!

Almond Smoothie

Crazy about your heart? Then go nuts!

Did you know that the almond nut is technically a seed of the fruit of the almond tree? A tree that bears fragrant pink and white flowers just like it's cousins, the peach, cherry, and apricot trees and grows in dry and warm climates. Almonds are packed with amazing benefits for our bodies. Full of healthy fats and fiber that can aid in weight loss, help control blood sugar levels as well as lower common diabetic risks, they are rich in oxidants that support a healthy heart, reduce inflammation, and maintain healthy skin thanks to Vitamin E. Sign me up!

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Given all of these benefits, we recommend trying our favorite almond smoothie. Only 5 wholesome ingredients are needed, and a blender of course. So simple and so yummy! Make it just for yourself, or share it with an awesome little person like I am with in the photo above. Yep, that's Ava. But be aware, if you do share it with an awesome little person, you may not be able to get your straw in more than a few times - it's really that good!

3 cups of Whole Organic Milk (or a milk of your choice - homemade cashew milk works well!)
1/2 cup of Dry Roasted Almonds
2-3 Organic Medjool Dates
1 tsp Organic Vanilla Extract
1/2 tsp of cinnamon
Ice (optional)

Add all ingredients to blender and blend on high until smooth. If you are adding ice, you probably just need a handful for a nice cold almond smoothie treat.


Almond Chocolate Chip Cookies

Almonds... lower blood sugar levels, reduce blood pressure, and lower cholesterol levels.


Have you ever found a cookie recipe and thought "wow, those look amazing" and then you make them only to find out that, well, they are not so amazing? Well, I have and, to be blunt, it's a total bummer. After many batches and many different ingredients, I have finally found a fantastic combination that has left my family wanting to eat the whole batch in one sitting! I would say chocolate cookie success :)

I have made two batches of these so far and knew the recipe needed to be shared. If you like chocolate, almonds, and oats, then this nutritious cookie is for you. These are perfect if you are on the go, or even as a treat in your child's lunch box! Plus they can be 100% vegan and gluten-free - bonus! 

Makes 12-13 cookies

Dry Ingredients
1/2 Cup Organic Rolled Oats
1/4 Cup Organic Oat Flour *
1/4 Cup Arrowroot Flour/ Corn Starch
1/4 Cup Finely Ground Roasted Unsalted Almonds
1/2 Tsp Baking Soda
1/2 Tsp Pink Himalayan Sea Salt
1/2 Cup 60% Cacao Bittersweet Baking Chips (I used Ghiradelli - you can use non-dairy also!)

*Oat Flour - I just blend oats at high speed to make the flour.

Wet Ingredients
1/2 Cup Natural Smooth Almond Butter
1/4 Cup Honey or Pure Maple Syrup
3 Tbsp Organic Virgin Coconut Oil softened (not hot)
1/2 Tsp Pure Vanilla Extract

Preheat oven to 350F.
In a large bowl combine wet ingredients and until completely smooth. You can add the dry ingredients to this mixture but I personally like to combine them in another bowl and mix the dry ingredients before adding to the wet ingredients. Your call. Be sure to add the dry ingredients a little at time as it will be easier to combine. Once all ingredients are thoroughly combined, you will have a dough that is slightly wet/ oily which is perfectly normal.

Grab a large baking sheet (21 x 15") and line with parchment paper. You can either use a tablespoon or ice cream scooper to scoop mounds of dough onto the baking sheet (about 2 tablespoons per cookie). I didn't find these cookies to spread too much so I rolled the mounds into balls and then pressed them down on the top and shaped them slightly.

Bake for 10 minutes. Let cook directly on baking sheet for 5 to 10 minutes. The cookies will be delicate until cooled but I recommend trying one that is still warm with chocolate oozing out. Goes well with a cup of tea!



Leek and Spinach Lasanga

Dark leafy greens like spinach provide protein, iron, vitamins and minerals.

I remember growing up and having amazing meat lasagnas as a child. Once I became a vegetarian at 16, those lasagnas quickly became a distant memory. Over the years, I may have made vegetable lasagnas a handful of times but it was only until recently, making this leek and spinach one, that my love for lasagna resurfaced. It has also become a great way to get some more leafy greens into Ava's diet - a sure way to get her to the table! Keep in mind that this is a freeze-friendly meal so you can make it ahead of time, or even make mini ones, so you can take it out when you need something quick and easy.

Olive Oil
3 Large Leeks, thinly sliced
1 Medium Red Onion, thinly sliced
A Bunch of Spinach (300g approx.), washed and chopped
Ricotta Cheese, 16oz – 454g
Tomato Sauce, 1 litre (Ideally I would love to make it fresh but lately I have been using the Sonoma Gourmet Plum Tomato Marinara or the vegetable one – Both organic and no water or sugar added), 25oz – 709g jar, I use about 1 and a half of another (approx..)
1 Packet of Organic Brown Rice Pasta Lasagna Sheets, or whatever your preference is
Fresh Mozzarella, 8oz – 226g (it comes in a log form so you will need to slice to place evenly on top)
Fresh Parmesan (I use Stella Asiago), grated
Freshly Ground Sea Salt and Pepper to taste

Preheat oven to 420F
Heat large saucepan or pot and add a splash of olive oil. Add leeks and red onions and let sweat slowly until soft and translucent. Add chopped spinach and allow it to wilt down. Turn off heat and set aside to cool slightly and then drain any excess liquid. Add ricotta into the mixture (leek, onion, and spinach) and season with fresh ground sea salt and pepper to taste.
Cook lasagna sheets as instructed on box. I cook them for about 9-10mintues approximately.

Now it’s time to put the lasagna together! Get an oven safe dish (mine is 12 x 8.5”) and pour a quarter of the tomato sauce in. Add a layer of pasta sheets (about three go across in mine), add half of the ricotta mixture, add another quarter of the tomato sauce, add another layer of pasta sheets, then the remainder of the ricotta mixture, top with another quarter of the tomato sauce, add another layer of pasta sheets and top that with the remaining tomato sauce (I always find that I need more tomato sauce so I always use more than 1 jar). Finally, top with grated parmesan and fresh mozzarella. It’s now ready to go in the oven :)

Bake for 45minutes or until golden brown and crispy on top. It should also be sizzling! Enjoy with a green leaf salad.