Guest Post: Patsy Spanos on Zoning in on Happiness

Sitting on the beaches of Greece with my family this summer, I rarely had to make a conscious effort to reach calm, diaphragmatic breathing – the kind of breathing you reach at the end of a yoga class. Yes, yes, an easy task to achieve when you are smelling the calamari on the grill, feeling the white warm sand pressing against the heels of your feet and watching the Agean sea glitter under the sun.

Looking for your pulse is usually the goal when you are in this setting…Oh wait! Here we go, I just found my heart beat– easy to do when you see your eight year old boy tackling one of your five year old twin boys and screaming out at the top of his lungs….”I’m going to fart on your face!”

Tune them out, tune them out. Now, where was I? Oh yes… drinking sweet nectar amongst the Greek gods, feeling the state of complete Utopia. George Clooney comes out of nowhere and asks, “Do you want me to put some sun screen on your back?” I know! I know! What does Clooney have to do with Greece? But this is my day dream in my day dream it’s Clooney smothering the coconut oil on my shoulder blades…Okay!

In the faint distance I hear my husband’s voice overshadow Clooney’s…”Honey!, Honey! Where is my beach towel? I can’t find my beach towel anywhere? Did you pack it?”

Travelling with four boys this summer (my husband included) had its hairy moments, but overall I have come back home to Stouffville, Ontario calmer, and most importantly, healthier than ever. Being in Greece all summer, I dove into the Mediterranean diet and life stlye.


When I say life style, I mean the carefree attitude the Mediterraneans live by. There is a Greek Island called Ikaria.  This island is a “Blue Zone” spot: a part of the world where people live the longest. Time is relative on this Greek island. People show up to events and occasions whenever they feel like it. Living in this manner means you never increase your heart -harming stress hormones. You know those hormones all too well…The ones that take over your body and send you into a frantic state because you and your child are running ten minutes late for a play date.

Now I’m not by no means suggesting you commit social suicide and take off your watch and show up late to every meeting and get fired, but I am implying that as mothers we should all be a little more kind to ourselves if we are running a bit late.

Following a Mediterranean diet for two months has made me feel like an Olympian athlete ready for the games. Getting my three boys ready for school in the mornings is pretty much equal playing ground. By Mediterranean diet, I don’t mean eating on the Danforth and treating yourself to a big plate of souvlaki with Greek salad and tzatziki…No! No! Meat is a once  a week treat…you must focus on whole grains, fish, beans, veggies, olive oil, and plenty of healthy greens.

Greeks consume daily these wild greens that grow in fields and sides of the road. They are incredibly tasty and are full of nutrients and have more antioxidants than green tea or wine. The more popular healthy green is “Vlita” (otherwise known as amaranth), and it can be found in specialized fruit and vegetable markets here in Canada. Vlita is simple to make. Thoroughly clean them, boil until they are soft, pour some olive oil and lemon juice over them, sprinkle some salt and opa! Ready to serve.

Eating and living healthy is the best daily spa a mother can give to herself.

Whether you live in the city of Toronto, a small town in Ontario or the Greek island of Ikaria, living healthy and making smart choices when eating is the key ingredient to living a long and happy life.

Start by making a simple fish dish for the family.

Baked Salmon with Lemon and Thyme

4 servings


2 tablespoons of extra virgin olive oil
6 ounces of boneless salmon fillets
two tablespoons of chopped fresh thyme
two cloves of garlic, crushed
juice of two lemons
salt and pepper
4 lemon wedges

Preheat oven to 350F. Place aluminum foil on baking sheet and brush it over with a tablespoon of oil. Place salmon fillets skin down. In a small bowl put a tablespoon of oil, garlic, lemon juice, and two tablespoons of thyme and mix. Spread the mixture equally over the salmon fillets. Sprinkle some salt and pepper. Marinade for 10 minutes. Then bake salmon for 15 to 18 minutes, or until the fish looks visibly cooked and flakes easily with a fork. Place the lemon wedges on top of the fillets and they’re ready to serve.


Easy-peasy Cheaty recipes

I will just admit it – I am a horrible cook.  I hate grocery shopping, planning meals, prepping meals, cooking meals and really, if truth be told, I don’t really like eating meals all that much either.

I am not a foodie.  I am married to a foodie and I have foodie children, but I am fairly certain that I could live off ten foods.  Actually, five.

Because I have children, that obviously need to be fed, I learned, not to cook but to be creative.  If you have some easy cooking tips – please share.  My children will thank you.

Cheating in the Kitchen with Chicken

Monday for dinner

  1. Go to the grocery store and buy 2 already roasted chickens
  2. Serve one of the chickens for dinner with boiled corn on the cob (children to shuck), something green (like frozen peas) and broiled buns with butter (and garlic if you like).

Tuesday for lunch

  1. Using the left over chicken, make a wrap with your favorite veggies.  Kids like rolling up their wraps with cheese.
  2. An alternative is layering the chicken, with veggies and cheese (and some mayo) on a Panini and grilling the sandwich.  So yummy!

Wednesday for dinner

Still have leftover chicken?  Make chicken salad and either serve as a sandwich with a cucumber salad or in a bowl with a side of veggies.  Here is my recipe for a delicious and easy (and quick) dinner:

Chicken Salad

Leftover chicken chopped into small pieces

Minced red or sweet onion

Chopped pickles

Mayo (or yogurt for a healthier option)

Juice from half a lime

Freshly cracked pepper

  1. Mix all the ingredients in a bowl.  As much of each ingredient as you like.
  2. Serve in a bowl, on toast or warm buns

Cucumber Salad

  1. Mix one English cucumber thinly cut (width wise) and half a thinly sliced red onion in a mixing bowl
  2. Cover with two parts olive oil and one part red wine vinegar
  3. Sprinkle with sugar, oregano, and salt
  4. Add cracked pepper

 Absolute Silence Pasta

Sometimes I just need quiet.  My ears are essentially bleeding from the noise and the chaos of the day.  This is my fall back when the kids are crying that they are starving, the baby is pulling at my legs and I just want to collapse on the floor and join them.


3/4 Package of small rotini pasta (or whichever you desire)

¼ cup of butter

Enough parmesan cheese to cover the pasta


  1. Cook the pasta according to the instructions.  During this time, when hunger is at its height, the boys devour any veggies that I put in front of them.
  2. Drain the pasta and pour into an oval corning wear dish.
  3. Generously sprinkle parmesan cheese over the pasta.  Leave it to the side.
  4. Place the ¼ cup of butter (or more if you are in a Paula Deen mood) and crank the heat to high.  Let the butter simmer, boil and burn.
  5. Remove the butter from the heat when it is brown and bubbling.
  6. Pour the hot butter over the pasta and cheese
  7. Mix together and serve
  8. Enjoy the silence that comes over the table


You could add shrimp or frozen peas to the mix, but if your kids are like my middle one, they might not like “fings” in their food.

If you are making this for adults or a gourmand kiddo, I would suggest drizzling truffle oil over the pasta.  To. Die. For.