While the livin' is easy in summertime, fall brings with it all kinds of challenges for families. In our home, back to school means back to homework, school lunches, permission forms, piano lessons, basketball practices and dance classes. In other words, we are no different than other families.
Parents are faced with the task of organizing not just ourselves and our homes, but all of the homework and activities of our children too. Sometimes it's a daunting task. Here's how it's going to work this year in our house (I hope!).
In part one of my eco-friendly back-to-school series, I showed you the stylish, child- and earth-friendly backpacks and lunch bags that my children will be taking to school next week. Today, I have some more cool, eco-friendly options to share with you.
I am excited about these products because they all come from innovative companies that truly care for our earth. They offer amazing school supplies and waste-free lunch products. If you love great stationery and lunch containers like I do, you must explore these extraordinary options. Read on to win some goodies of your own too!
Happy Wednesday friends! I am starting off What I Ate Wednesday with a peek at the August Snackbox. When I received my very first Snackbox, I thought it would be perfect for taking to a cottage or on a camping trip. Everything fits so neatly into a compact box for one thing. And we all need lots of snacks while camping or cottaging, right?
So I tested out my theory with the August Snackbox. We were heading to the cottage (aka my parents' house) last weekend, so I simply popped the whole box in the car. I get my love of (okay obsession with) food from my mom, so I knew she would enjoy looking at the snacks too. You can read more about how Snackbox works here.
While staying with my parents this weekend, my little girl and I went to the last day of the local library's summer book sale. You could fill a bag with books for only $2. I didn't find many books I wanted, but I did fill a bag with movies on VHS. I thought my son would enjoy watching films from the Star Wars and Indiana Jones series.
We don't generally watch movies on VHS at home, but I like the nostalgia of watching them at the cottage. Unfortunately, when we returned to the cottage with my bag of VHS movies, my husband informed me that neither one of my parents' VCRs was working. Now I have a bag of VHS tapes to add to my collection at home.
I've said it before - summer meals should be light and easy. Too often we get into a dinnertime rut around here. When we can't think what else to make, we inevitably go for pasta and tomato sauce. A classic standby, but it doesn't exactly scream summer. In fact, my son recently told me he can't stand pasta anymore. Let's not get crazy now kid - you're half Italian! There's always room for pasta.
For a more exciting summer meal that the kids always love, though, we go Mexican. I have often written about how much my kids enjoy Taco Tuesdays. The beauty of Taco Tuesdays is that you can put all sorts of foods out on the table and the whole family can dig in and take whatever they please.
I have been tied to this here computer a lot lately, and therefore not cooking or baking as much as I would like. Maybe I should say not baking as much as I would like. I don't really want to cook. I did manage to make vegan banana muffins for breakfast one day.
Here are some other meals I have enjoyed this past week.
Although it has been many (many!) years since I was in school, I still get that back-to-school feeling each fall. Let's be honest, most of the excitement I felt about going back to school related to the outfit I would wear on the first day. Each year my parents generously allowed my sister and me to refresh our wardrobes in late summer and again at Easter time.
So, of course, it only makes sense that I repeat the tradition with my kids. Back-to-school wardrobe additions are exciting for my daughter, just as they were for me. My son, while he is happy to get new threads, would be happier if he could keep his old clothes and NOT go back to school!
I am still resisting any further thrift store shopping at the moment. In order to feel that I'm getting my fix, I have been shifting items around in my house to make new vignettes, like the one I showed you last week.
Today's vignette is, like last week's, a combination of sentimental items, newish items and thrifty things. The mixed media artwork ("I Need You") that sits on top of our bedroom dresser was a wedding gift from artsy friends. The tall candle holder and the small pottery vase are thrifted finds. The hurricane lamp was a gift from friends. My husband made the clay mask one time while sitting on the beach.
A couple of days ago, I told you just how much I love office supplies. I have the same fascination with paper products. Greeting cards, invitations, journals, party decor - it's all good. With the profusion of paper straws and washi tape on the web lately, I know I'm not alone. With my daughter's birthday coming up in October, I have been coveting the party decor at Minted. Minted is perhaps best known for its line of fresh, modern family photo Christmas cards. But they also have a whole range of products created by a global community of independent graphic designers.
Remember that feeling of going back to school wearing a new outfit and carrying a backpack full of fresh, new school supplies? Of course you do. There's nothing quite like it.
That's why I like to recreate that feeling each fall by stocking up on new office supplies. Maybe it's a female thing, but I've had several of my friends tell me how much they love office supplies such as pens, Post-it notes and paper.
When my children started going off to school several years ago, I was shocked to discover that typical children's products, such as backpacks and lunch bags, were often made of harmful plastics and chemicals.
I began to search for labels that read "lead safe" and "PVC-free." Back then, these labels weren't easy to find in your average store. Thankfully, society is becoming more aware of the dangers of toxins for children and the range of suitable back-to-school options is much greater than it used to be.
That doesn't mean the problem is gone away. Far from it. Just take a look at the Center for Health, Environment & Justice's (CHEJ) report on the hazards of vinyl. PVC is the most toxic plastic for children's health and the environment. A recent CHEJ report found toxic chemicals (linked to asthma and birth defects) widespread in children's vinyl back-to-school supplies. In fact, 75 per cent of the supplies tested had elevated levels of toxic phthalates - enough to make them illegal if they were toys.
When I quit my full-time job to work from home, I almost immediately moved all of my dress pants to a box on the top shelf of my closet. I was tired of getting dressed up for work every day. At heart, I'm a jeans and a t-shirt kind of girl.
I have since discovered that wearing jeans almost every day can cause you to grow tired of your jeans - particularly jeans that don't fit properly. I have several pairs (too many to count), but most of them are too low, thus pushing the tummy bulge up to prominence. Others are too big in the butt, causing the dreaded droop.
We are still in the process of decorating our spare bedroom. We finally painted it a lovely subtle shade of purple as I've long been wanting to do. I would like to add a new end table and a dresser, but it's not a priority for us at the moment. We rarely have overnight guests so the room isn't often used.
So, for now, the room still holds my husband's childhood dresser. I have topped it with one of my grandmother's beautiful doilies, as well as two finds from the annual (very cheap) basket sale that I so love to go to. The little wooden guy with the three drawers is a past basket sale find. The purple vase is a find from this year's sale.
Sometimes you just want a bit of chocolate. And quick.
That's when you make these simple, no bake Triple C Bars. C is for cereal (two kinds actually). C is for (dried) cranberries. And C is for...chocolate, of course. There's also some peanut butter, because chocolate and peanut butter is one of my all-time favourite combinations.
These bars are also great if you have cereal to use up. I bought three boxes of brown rice crisps for some reason. They are all expiring in late August. We (mostly I) will be eating several variations of these bars in the days to come. While watching Breaking Bad. Who else loves that (slightly nauseating) show?
These puppies are super sweet. Rarely a problem for me, but I'm told some people don't like sweets. Crazy people. Whip these up right now. Eat one. Then eat another one. And so on. They are surprisingly addictive.
There are certain weeks you look back at with fondness, and this was one of them for me. Yes, it was my birthday on Monday and I got a few much-appreciated presents, but that's really not the reason.
When I stop and think about the common themes in those special weeks, I always come up with time spent with family and friends, time spent exploring and, of course, good food. I have covered all our visits and travels in my other posts this week, but here's a quick Friday summary using our cell phone photos.
My husband took this photo, above, while visiting my parents at the cottage. I just love it. I think it speaks of the joy of childhood, summertime and the beach.
The most successful children's shows are often a bit on the strange side. Just look at the phenomenon that is SpongeBob Squarepants. And who can forget Teletubbies (although some of us wish we could)?
My kids' latest TV obsession is the weirdly wonderful Adventure Time on the Cartoon Network. The animated series explores the adventures of a boy named Finn and his best friend and adoptive brother, Jake, a dog who can magically change shape and size. The two buddies live in the post-apocalyptic Land of Ooo, where they have a number of rather unusual friends, like Princess Bubblegum.
Last week, we took our son to his very first concert - Edgefest Toronto. My niece turned 15 this week, so we took her along to celebrate her birthday. It was her first outdoor show. In over 20 years of going to outdoor shows (like Lollapalooza), I don't recall getting stuck in the rain.
The weather forecast called for a bit of rain at 10 p.m. I knew it was a bad sign when it started sprinkling on our way to the show at about 1:30 p.m.
Having a summer (August 5th) birthday means I have celebrated my birthday in many different places throughout the world. The most notable was in Venice, Italy in 1999, when I ate my birthday dinner overlooking a picturesque canal.
This birthday found me much closer to home, spending the weekend with family at different locations. Here is a What I Ate Wednesday look at my birthday long weekend eats. We put together a barbecue dinner at my parents' place, above, using veggies, vegan sausage, corn, potatoes and a broccoli slaw.
Our long weekend started on Thursday, so we managed to fit in quite a bit of fun. In addition to our day trip to Port Dover that I showed you this morning, we spent a few days at my parents' place on Lake Erie. We also enjoyed some time at my sister-in-law's lovely home in the country.
My son did not want to leave their home yesterday. We had to fight to get him to leave the porch. He has soccer practice this week and a tournament this weekend, so staying wasn't an option. He wanted to stay with his three boy cousins (who aren't pictured here because they were at a baseball game).
While we were visiting my parents at the cottage this weekend, we took a day trip to the town of Port Dover. We used to go there regularly when I was a kid, but I had forgotten how much fun it is. Located on the shores of Lake Erie, it's a beach town right here in Ontario (a province not generally known for its beaches).
Of course, the key attraction in Port Dover is the public beach, but there are also lots of fun shops (where you can shop in your bathing suit) and roadside french fry and ice cream stands. My dad doesn't get out much anymore, but the kids managed to persuade him to come along, especially since it was almost my birthday. Mom and Dad took us out to a restaurant to celebrate.
Because I am including an obnoxious amount of photos here, I'm not going to say a whole lot. I'll let Port Dover speak for itself.
Okay, how can it possibly be August already? And why do the summers fly by when winter seems to drag on forever?
We are doing our best to make the most of summer. Here are some cell phone pics from the past week to prove it. On Wednesday, my husband and I took our son and our niece to Edgefest in Toronto. Here's my niece, above.
Thank goodness for cheap plastic rain parkas. They took my umbrella away at the gate. Then it rained for about four hours out of the eight. We were pretty soaked and miserable by the time The Lumineers took the stage at the end. I have to say they are amazing, though, even when you are freezing! I have photos to share soon.
This post is part of YummyMummyClub.ca's support of Plan Canada’s Because I am a Girl initiative. I received compensation as a thank you for my participation. This post reflects my personal opinion about the information provided by the sponsors. Go to www.becauseiamagirl.ca for information on how you too can make a difference.
As the mother of a boy and a girl, I want both of my children to have equal rights and privileges. Fortunately, both of my children have ample access to healthy food, clean water, healthcare and education. The same cannot be said for millions of other kids in the world who suffer from hunger, poor nutrition, diseases (like measles and malaria) and little or no access to education.
This is why, several years ago, our family chose to sponsor a young girl in Africa through Plan Canada. We requested a girl that was close in age to my kids so the children could grow along with her and feel closely bonded. The children and I enjoy looking at the photos we receive and asking Mouzou questions about her village and her family through correspondence. As a family, we discuss the rights and privileges that children enjoy here in Canada and how other children are not so lucky.