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Welcome to marianamcdougall.com, where parents of young children can find out how to break free of ordinary lives to live extraordinary ones.  The place to turn your dreams into goals, and achieve them – because a dream is only “just a dream” until you make it into a goal.  After that, it’s only a matter of time and planning before it becomes a reality.

Join me and my young family as we reach the best health of our lives, embrace our dreams, break free from a life of conformity, and hopefully inspire you to do the same.

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Family Bike Touring – 5 Families Who Cycled Way Further Than We Did



We had such an amazing time during our family bike touring adventure, we’re already dreaming about the next one. Travelling by bike is both a wonderful way to appreciate the beauty around us and to learn some wonderful life lessons. Whereas we’re in love with life on two wheels, however brief, not everyone shares our enthusiasm – though most people were very positive about our choice of self-propelled travel.

We encountered all kinds of reactions about our bike trip, but the common thread was amazement that we’d cycle that far with three children aged 6, 4, and 2. In our experience, family bike touring is a mode of travel unparalleled by any other, and we saw things on our bike tour that we would never have experienced if we were driving down the 401. Plus, as I keep telling people, it’s a lot easier to travel with young children by bicycle than by any other means. Instead of trying to entertain antsy kids while stuck in traffic, you get to get off the bikes and play tag, visit a playground, or simply lie down on the grass when the kids need to burn off some energy or are tired of being on the bikes.

Although some people were pretty impressed with our little adventure, as far as family bike touring goes, we put in very few kilometers (it was still lots, considering we had zero experience). There are families out there who have done incredible bike tours, and they inspire us to get back on our bikes and see more of the world. We don’t have any solid plans for another bike tour yet, but it’s definitely on the back of our minds to go on another tour next spring. We’re being inspired by several families who choose self-propelled travel. Here are five of these families.

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Awesome out-of-the-box families who inspire us

If you follow he blog, you know that my family and I went on a big adventure this summer. We cycled from Kingston, ON (where we currently live) to London, ON – a 557 Km cycling trip along beautiful Lake Ontario and highway 2. For some, our decision to hit the road on bicycles with three very young kids may look like a mid-life crisis, but really, it’s more like a mid-life awakening. Wait, actually, it’s not a mid-life anything, since I intend on living to 100, and thus, I’m nowhere near mid-life just yet. But I digress.

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Life life o your terms

I have an amazing life and I know it.  Even in my most dire financial times, I never wanted for food, shelter, or water.  I am blessed beyond belief.  Every time I feel like complaining, I remind myself of these three things: food, shelter, and clean water.  And not just any food, shelter, and water, either.  I can afford to eat healthily and to indulge in treats.  I live in a wonderful home with 3 flush toilets (yes, that is definitely a highlight), a comfortable bed, and even a bathtub.  I also have functioning modern appliances that mean I don’t have to slave over a wash basin to do the piles of laundry that 5 people undeniably create.  I have clean water that comes out of any tap inside my house – I can actually drink water from anywhere in my house without filtering it first (even if it does taste like chlorine sometimes, which is why we use a filter in the kitchen – oh yes, I can afford a filter!  Another blessing).

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Parrot Campsites and Lakefront Houses

After arriving at Presqui’lle Provincial Park on May 31st, we started setting up our tents and getting ready for the night. The kids played and had a grand time while Dan and I were getting the tents ready.

Katia set up a whole campsite for her parrot (the one toy she was allowed to bring on the trip), with a campfire pit and everything. It was ultra creative (and ultra adorable).

We still had a little bit of daytime left, so we checked out the beach, which was quite rocky, and the kids had fun throwing rocks in the water.

There were two couples camping in small campers nearby, and they were really friendly. We enjoyed nice conversations with them, and you could see they were enjoying watching the kids as well.

cycle touring kids presqu'ile

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family bicycle adventure

Treehouse bathrooms and riding on cows (Consecon-Presquille)

It’s been a while since I’ve written about our bicycling adventure. My original intention had been to write blog posts while we were on the road, but no data plan and sheer exhaustion at the end of the day prevented me from doing so. Then, the intention had been to write at least one post a week after getting home, so I could recount our adventures while they were still fresh in my mind. But then, life happened, my writing business got really busy, I remembered that a new homeschooling year is just around the corner… and updating the blog sort of fell off by the wayside.

But we had such an amazing time during this bicycling adventure, I really want to share the details with you. While I had kept a journal, I somehow managed to lose it (what’s new?), so I’ll be relying on the pictures to remember the events. So if something seems out of place in the timeline, bear with me 🙂

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Raw Kale salad for a vegetarian meal plan

Raw Kale Salad

Kale is the poster vegetable for healthy eating these days, and no wonder – a mere 100 grams provides nearly 200% of your daily recommended intake of Vitamin A, 100% of your daily intake of Vitamin C, 15% calcium, 8% iron, 15% Vitamin B-6, and 11% magnesium. Oh, it happens to be delicious, too, if you prepare it right. What’s not to like?

Here’s a great kale salad recipe that has become a staple in our household. Pretty much any time we want salad, this comes out. My kids even eat it!

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Peanut Butter Pancakes

High Protein, High Iron Peanut Butter Pancakes

Everybody asks you where you get your protein if you’re a vegetarian. It’s a really silly question, since protein is in everything, and if you eat a varied enough diet, even without meat, you’ll be just fine. It’s also a silly question because what most vegetarians might be lacking, if they’re lacking anything, is iron – not protein.

I was a vegetarian for 4 years, without any issue. But during my last two pregnancies, I was anemic. Since my last pregnancy, it’s been very difficult to raise my iron. To try to avoid supplements, I’m trying to raise the iron in my blood by tweaking my diet. For now, I still have to take iron tablets, but the hope is that if I’m good with planning what I eat, I’ll be able to go off them eventually.

This breakfast is one of the ways you can wake up to an iron boost (and it’s a high protein breakfast, too!)

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Slow Cooker Vegan Pasta Primavera

Slow Cooker Pasta Primavera

Pasta Primavera (Vegan)

Adapted from The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker by Michelle A. Rivera

This delicious dish is full of vegetables and whole wheat deliciousness. If you add cauliflower to the mix, you get an extra boost of iron (the vitamin C in the cauliflower allows your body to absorb the non-heme iron in the whole wheat pasta.

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Slow Cooker Vegan Spanish Rice

Slow Cooker Spanish Rice (Vegan)

Slow Cooker Spanish Rice

adapted from The Simple Little Vegan Slow Cooker by Michelle A. Rivera

This deliciously colourful dish pairs well with black beans to shut up anybody who asks, “where do vegans get their protein?”)

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Meal Plan #1

Meal Plan #1

Meal Planning is one of the best things you can do to stay healthy and eat nutritiously. It does take a bit of time, but you do it once, and then it will save you hours each week.

Lucky you, though, you don’t even have to come up with your own meal plans. Follow these ones instead (adapting as needed, or course)!

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