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.

Sign up for the mailing list to get some awesome freebies, tips for a healthy lifestyle, and to stay up-to-date on our adventures. We’ll also let you know when there are new posts on the blog, and as an e-mail subscriber, you’ll get lots of freebies not available to other visitors.

Questions? Don’t be a stranger; give me a shout at mcdougallmariana@gmail.com.

Niche for Success? Nah.

Since I was 15, I’ve always had all kinds of stuff on the go – all at the same time. I worked full time hours while going to high school full time (and still managed to participate in two extra-curriculars per year, while writing poetry, too. I worked two jobs all through my university years, had a blast swing dancing with friends every week, and still managed to graduate on the Dean’s Honours List with a dual degree. After university, I worked three jobs while continuing my swing dancing outings and still managing to hang out with my husband. Then I had kids. Now I homeschool, parent (and waste time with my kids), play sports for fun and hang out with friends, and I have a writing business on the side (which is doing pretty well, considering how little time I spend on it). Whenever I slow down, it’s usually because someone tells me to do so. And I’m never happy when I listen to that advice.

I’m always happiest while having lots going on at the same time. This type of lifestyle doesn’t stress me out; I thrive on it. I do my best scheduling and committing when I’m busiest. I wouldn’t call myself a workaholic – I do enjoy reading for fun, having a bath and just chillin’. But having a lot on the go gives me energy. It seems the less I do, the more tired I get, and the busier I get, the more I want to do.

After living life happily like this for many, many years, I started listening a little too well to people who judged me for my way of being – people who didn’t understand how I could possibly keep going this way. I hunkered down and tried to pick “one thing.” And you know what? I’ve discovered that I’m miserable when I stick to just one thing.

I love being a stay-at-home, homeschooling mom. But when I do that to the exclusion of all my other interests, I get depressed (and I don’t use that term lightly). I love bodyweight training, but if I do just that and quit swimming, my heart’s not happy. I love cooking, but if I stop working on my blog so I can stick with creating every meal from scratch, I’m miserable.

For a long time I looked down on myself for “never finishing anything” or not being able to “stick with something.” I had worked 10 different jobs by the time I was 28, and while I had always thought those experiences gave me amazing perspective and breadth of knowledge, I started questioning myself when my resume no longer fit on a page. I started judging myself based on other people’s expectations. I tried to stick to just one thing (or maybe two). And it just wasn’t working out. But then I found Barbara Sher. And Nick Darlington. And Emilie Wapnick.

These people showed me that there’s nothing wrong with me. I learned about whole legions of people who are as multi-talented and have just as many interests (if not more) than I do. And I stopped listening to the naysayers. I bought a copy of “Refuse to Choose,” and I am devouring it while revelling in my use of my very own “Scanner Daybook.” I am learning to give all my ideas the credit and love they deserve – even if they don’t go anywhere. I no longer stop myself from going on another tangent. This is who I am – a creative, multi-talented, energetic soul. I need to follow my interests and help people while doing so (helping, teaching, and coaching – that’s my common theme).

This blog is a reflection of that (as well as of the fact that I think niching is overrated). On this blog, I write about my interests (and there are many). As a Registered Kinesiologist (inactive), as a writer, and as a homeschooling parent in an out-of-the-box family, I write mostly about these topics (gasp! i have three completely unrelated niches! Oh my, I’ll never amount to anything. Ha! – Is the sarcasm getting through?) But as a citizen of the world, and as a renassaince soul, multipotentialite, scanner, lifelong learner, or whatever name you want to give to someone who thrives on learning everything there is to know about many different topics… as that person, I’ll write about anything. So when I feel like writing about something that doesn’t quite fit into the headings already exiting on my blog, I stick it in the Odds and Ends section. And I make my mark as someone who’ll always march to her own drum, no matter what others may think of my “scattered mind.” Because what those naysayers don’t understand is that in the 5 minutes it took them to criticize me for my “scatteredness,” I’ve already accomplish five other things on my “things that interest me” list.

If you’re a multipotentialite/scanner/lifelong learner, I do hope you’ll enjoy this blog. I also hope you’ll send me a quick note at mcdougallmariana@gmail.com to let me know what you’d like to read about. Chances are, I’d love to write it.

And if you’re a writer who has a hard time niching, join me in a mastermind group for versatile writers. Answer this quick survey to be considered for this group, where we help each other to create writing businesses that honour our personalities.

‘Till next time,  keep living life on your terms.


The 5 Blogs You Need to Follow if You’re Starting a Writing Career

In February of 2016, I started writing for fun, and I soon discovered my fun could turn into profit. In a matter of months, working very few hours each week, I made enough to finally visit my family in Brazil (it’d been 5 years since I had last seen them). In my road to a writing career, I joined and left many mailing lists, and followed and unfollowed many blogs. Here’s the ones that made the cut – and why.

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How I made enough from my writing to finally visit my family

I have lived an international life. I grew up in Brazil, then spent my high school years in a suburb of Chicago. After that, I immigrated to Canada with my dad, stepmom, and siblings. I was fortunate enough to have my mom also move to Canada some years later. My sister moved back to Illinois after a period of time. All in all, though, I have almost my whole immediate family in the same province where I live, and I get to see most of them several times per year. Because of that, some people tend to minimize what I’ve left behind.

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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 on 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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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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