The Writers' Exchange

Help Vancouver’s Writers’ Exchange!

Friends! The Writers’ Exchange gets Vancouver’s inner-city kids excited about reading and writing through crazy, fun, and imaginative creative-writing projects and support from volunteer mentors:



The Indiegogo Campaign

This month, they’re raising funds to help cover the costs of renovating a new space. Although they’ve been in the same space for years, their rent has recently doubled and forced them to move upstairs–which they’re happy about, because it means not moving locations for the sake of their students.

However, it DOES mean renovating that upstairs space. June first marked the first day of their Indiegogo campaign to help raise their goal of $20,000, and they’re already at almost $14,000 as I’m writing this! But here’s the thing: the full budget of their move and re-design is $53,500, so any extra funds that they can raise would be AMAZING.

About the Writers’ Exchange

Over 500 kids a year attend the Writers’ Exchange programs at their home on East Hastings in Vancouver and in schools across East Vancouver and in the Strathcona area. Most of the kids have been referred to the programs offered by the Writers’ Exchange by their teachers, because they either need extra literacy support (less than half of the kids at Vancouver’s inner-city schools are meeting provincial literacy expectations), or just need a safe place to go after school and/or during the summer.

Or both!

Even though most of the kids they work with say they don’t like reading and writing before they attend the Writers’ Exchange programs, in 2016, 99% of kids said they liked doing the fun literacy activities at the Writers’ Exchange! Also, every single parent polled said their child benefited from attending this amazing organization’s programs.

The Writers’ Exchange runs free, fun literacy programs after school and during the summer, and inner-city teachers also invite the program’s teachers into their classrooms to create publications with their classes. And then they actually have book launch parties for these kids when their publications are bound and ready to go! (The program receives very generous help with this part of the process from a local publishing company.)

This is a legit program that is VERY much needed for everyone in the community–and they need support. Watch their Indiegogo campaign video here, then please, please donate! xo



The Writers’ Exchange Society is a registered Canadian charity, number 795045095 RR0001.

Recipes: Sneaky Smoothies

Morning, ya’ll! I don’t know about you, but I am a mother to two picky boys (and one not-so-picky girl), so I absolutely love to slip them foods they’d never consider eating on their own.

Mostly, I do this by making a lot of smoothies.

Nutrients that I feel my children don’t get enough of include plant-based protein, omega-3 fatty acids, and fibre. I also feel that they often don’t consume a wide enough variety of antioxidants. I mean, let’s be honest: when I ask them to eat the rainbow, they want Skittles.


Here are my top ten foods to slip in smoothies, which make up the majority of nutrients I feel they would otherwise lack in their diets:


You can’t overdo these, but because beets are naturally sweet and produce a very pink smoothie, my kids are usually none the wiser. They’re high in fibre, antioxidants, and if you leave the peel on, they may be a good source of various vitamins and minerals.


Again, don’t overdo it–and if you combine with blueberries, the result can look black and sludgy. Your best bet is to throw a small handful in with banana and pineapple to create a light green smoothie.


Same as spinach.

Granny Smith Apples

My kids generally find these apples pretty tart, which is why they prefer red ones. But in a smoothie, with the peel on? No problem! They’re a great source of fibre, with minimal naturally-occurring sugar.


Just one half of an avocado in a smoothie can produce the same smooth consistency as Greek yogurt. Unlike Greek yogurt, these suckers are plant-based, and fantastic for skin, hair, and nails. They’re high in great fat, and provide calories to little ones who need them.

Hemp Hearts

These are tasteless in a smoothie, but provide high amounts of plant-based protein. They’re a way better choice than commercial protein powder. Which brings up to:


If you’re going to include protein powder in your child’s smoothies, use Vega. It’s hemp based, and is the best quality out there in terms of nutrition and clean ingredients.


Sound weird? It’s not! Oats are completely undetectable in smoothies, but provide fabulous plant-based protein. Oats are known for lowering blood sugar levels, and will make your child’s smoothie more filling.


This flax-based product is produced in Mission, BC, and is a total fibre powerhouse. The 5 ingredients are super quality, and it’s gluten-free. Adding 1/4 cup of NutraCleanse to your child’s smoothie every day can help their digestive health, as well as prevent future digestive issues.

Bee Pollen

If your wee one suffers from seasonal allergies, bee pollen could be a lifesaver. It doesn’t taste very good, which is why I sneak it into one smoothies. You only need about 1/2 tsp. every day to really keep hay fever at bay. It’s SUPER worth it.

And that’s it, folks! Good luck with your sneaky smoothies! Your kiddos will never know. xo




Wish You Drank More Water? Try This.

Mint in glass jar on wooden background

Well, we’re smack in the middle of summer, and my kids have already officially overdosed on store-bought freezies and fudge-pops that seem to come out of nowhere. They’ve had an amazing time–trips to the family cabin, the beach, a Vancouver Whitecaps game, multiple lakes, berry picking, random road trips, backyard soccer games, a family reunion, birthday parties, and countless playdates with the neighbourhood children.

I feel fortunate that their summer experiences have been so fun, but I’m done with the crappy food that seems to accompany each and every outing. Seriously–when I see the day that concession stands sell fruit salad and veggie pops are made available at a certain ice-cream-loving Grandpa’s house (you know who you are!)–I’ll sing Hallelujah.

lemonade in jar with ice and mint

So as of this week, it’s been Project Clean Eating in the Browne home, and that means healthy foods and drinks. (If someone offers my kids another soda, I might lose it!)

Here’s what we’ve come up with as a healthy alternative to juice and “all natural” sodas (the words “natural” and “soda” in the same sentence just feels wrong):


A jar full of cold drink with lemon and raspberries over a woode

This is fun for everyone to help make, it uses up very ripe fruit, it’s colourful, it’s cheap, and it’s delicious! (And it’s working for my kids, thank goodness.)

You can throw anything in water.

Their current faves are mint, lemon, orange, berries, and watermelon. Mine are cucumber, lime, and basil, because it makes me feel like I’m living in a spa. Add some ice, and away you go. Try and aim for 6-8 of these suckers a day, and you’ll totally be hydrated and happy. (And don’t forget how great water is for improved digestive health—something we can ALL work on!)

Cucumber Water

If you need to fizz it up a bit, try half water and half club soda. (There’s no sugar in that.) Or, instead of regular water, you can try coconut water. It’ll give your drink a very tropical taste.

Also, the drinks are very cute in jars. For some flavoured water recipes, check out Jamie Oliver’s faves HERE.

Leave me a message and let me know what you think, or if you have any other healthy bevy ideas, please feel free to post!

As usual, I can use all the help I can get. And don’t forget to enter to win a free copy of the Clean Plates Cookbook HERE!

Healthy and Hydrated for the Summer: what to feed your kids

Blueberries, summer, child - Lovely girl with fresh blueberries

Kids are weird. You can present food to them one way and they’ll balk, then stick a toothpick in it and call it something else and they love it. What the hell?! But knowing this can open doors to a whole new way of serving your picky eaters good food—and that’s what interests me.

Case in point? Watermelon. Give my oldest a slice of watermelon and there’s no way he’d eat it. But melon-ball the hell out of it and serve it in a dish? He’d totally go for it. This is the same kid who gags at the thought of eating a slice of cheddar cheese, but needs cream cheese on his bagels. He’s a 14-year-old conundrum.

Here are some ways to transform healthy foods so that your kids don’t get bored, and you don’t run out of inspiration. The goal is to keep them eating healthfully AND stay hydrated all summer long. Ready?

fruit popsicles

Make Popsicles. Blend any fruit, fresh or frozen, with water, coconut water, coconut milk, or organic yogurt (if your kid isn’t vegan) and make your own popsicles. My kids go for this all summer long, and I throw weird stuff in there. Kale, avocado, chia seeds, ground flax, and maca are a few of the extra goodies that I can hide in my frozen treats. Also, kids think green popsicles are cool, so try spinach, mint, basil…whatever floats your boat. Say goodbye to store-bought freezies—they’re gross and the wrappers end up everywhere but in the garbage. Make your own!

Put a toothpick in it. Seriously. They think it’s fancy. I can slice up apples, dip them in almond butter, and stick a toothpick in them, and my kids think they’re AMAZING. This might be restricted to my kids only, but try it and see what happens! It’s worth it.

strawberry flowers

Flavoured water. I am definitely NOT talking about purchasing vitamin water or Gatorade or anything else that’s artificially flavoured and coloured and contains heaps of added sugar. I’m talking about throwing cucumber slices, or mint leaves, or cranberries, or anything else you can think of in a pitcher of cold, filtered water. Kids love it! Who am I kidding—I love it. But they do too. So forget the juice and gross sports drinks—have your kiddies help you cut up fruit or whatever and flavour their water naturally.

Freeze fruit. That’s right—just freeze it. My kids eat blueberries WAY more if they’re frozen, and on a hot day, they hit the spot. Berries are great, and so are melons, peaches, and nectarines. Frozen fruit is healthy and can cool your little ones down. And it’s easy. So I’m in. ‘Cause I’m lazy.

Mini-veggie cups with hummus. Take a small jar, place a couple of tablespoons of hummus in the bottom, then stick carrot and celery sticks and long cucumber wedges into the cup so that they become little portable salads. Kids think they look cool, and they’re delicious!

Make fruit kabobs. Get some bamboo skewers, and slide on whatever cut-up pieces of fruit (or veggies!) that you have on hand. Again, this one’s like the toothpick theory: they might think that fruit salad sucks, but fruit on a stick? Hell, yeah! If you want to impress them even more, drizzle some dark chocolate over the fruit.

When in doubt, make a smoothie. Throw in water, fruit, veggies, oats, dates, honey, or anything else that might make it into your kids’ open mouths. They’re nutritious, hydrating, and just like the popsicles: you can hide stuff in there. Seriously. They’ll never know.

rhubarb smoothie

If you have any more suggestions, please share!