Thursday, May 30

Shopping: Burberry Wallet and EcoKids Sandwich Containers

Okay, sure, one might argue that the two purchases I am discussing today are clearly unrelated. If I were not just finishing EQAO with my brain a little bit fried, I might even try to argue back and somehow make the two connect (save money reusing containers, have more money to put in wallet? Or better yet, to afford wallet? I know, I can do better).

And yes, talking about both of these items in the same post will probably mess up the Search Engine Optimization in one way or another, but again, I pride myself on efficiency and I really wanted to share both of my finds with you, even at the cost of losing out on blog traffic.

First up (the most fun) is my new Burberry wallet. It seems like I purchase a new wallet every year, as I buy cheap ones and they tend to fall apart. My criteria for a wallet are pretty specific, as it must be able to hold tons of cards, and have an ample change compartment (I'm in Canada, and with coins for one and two dollars, I carry a lot of change). So I've been scoping ebay, looking to pick up a designer model that I can use for years to come.

I found a great Burberry design (brand new, with tags and authenticity card, in box), and spent a lot of time researching how to tell fake Burberry items from real ones (just as I did when I bought my Coach bag and Louis Vuitton bag). Satisfied that it was the real deal, I placed a bid.

Just to give you an idea of how impatient I am, I almost did "Buy Now" (and paid $50 more than the starting bid) because I wanted to have it right away. I forced myself to wait, and got it for the opening price. (Hey, if I can do all of my Summer Style -- 13 items -- for $100, I can splurge on one big thing!, right?)

Here is my belated Mother's Day gift (which luckily looks legit in real life, and is ample enough to hold all my cards and coins):

On to my completely unrelated and much less exciting (though still important) purchase:

Recently, Caroline from Eco Baby Boom did a guest post with Simple Earth-Friendly Shopping Tips and mentioned reusable sandwich containers. I've seen a few, but wasn't really enthused about the fabric-style ones. I want to be able to put everything in the dishwasher. Other plastic styles I've come across were too thin to hold sandwiches on buns, which my girls love to take in their lunches.

This past weekend while wandering around the kids' section of Chapters (okay, I don't exactly "wander" in stores), I spotted these EcoKids Sandwich Keepers (for a reasonable $5.95):

They say they're dishwasher safe on the top rack, though it might damage the images. I think a quick rinse in the sink each evening should suffice. The girls have already used them, and are quite pleased, so we'll see how well they hold up. Stay tuned!

So...which of my purchases did you prefer?

Monday, May 27

Family Fun at Centreville Amusement Park

I've always wanted to take the girls to Centreville Amusement Park, and the beautiful long weekend gave us perfect opportunity.

I dragged out the surprise for a couple of days, giving clues for good behaviour (I know, I'm a great mom).

Clue # 1: It's in Toronto but we're not sleeping over.
Clue # 2: We have to take a boat to get there.
Clue # 3: There are animals but it's not a zoo.
Clue # 4: There are lots of rides (this one got the biggest reaction).

and finally, the big reveal:

It's Centreville!

On Sunday morning we got ready and drove into the big city (with our usual stop at Tim's on the 115!) Tip: if you're going to Centreville, find a public parking lot as close to the ferry docks as you can to save time (and to save any walking the kids need to do for the amusement park!)

The ferry has regular departures (see schedule), and both ways we just walked right on and set sail. The girls really enjoyed being out on the water and seeing the city from a different vantage point.

After a short seven minute ride, we arrived at Centre Island, which isn't just home to Centreville Amusement Park, but also large grassy parks and sandy beaches (one is listed as "Clothing Optional", so of course I had to spend some time there. Just kidding.)

Here we are, a short walk over the island to Centreville. (The girls are such good sports about posing for blog photo ops.)

In order to get the full experience to share with you here, we were provided with all day ride bracelets, which really are the best bang for your buck (for the kids, and any adults who want to do the rides as well. Admission to the park is free, so there's no cost for anyone not wanting to take advantage of rides.)

One of the first destinations was the train, which we liked as a nice overview of the park at the beginning of the day: "We have to go on that ride!", "There's a farm!" ,"Look, popsicles!"

Frannie, ever her mother's daughter, consults the child-friendly park map while on the train:

While I didn't expect Far Enough Farm to be the highlight of the park for our little country girls, a mini-farm on an island is pretty cool: pigs, horses, silkie chickens, goats, peacocks and more!
Here they are, checking out the goats:

The most exciting part of Centreville for my girls, by far, was the rides. The best thing for us as parents is that they could go on almost everything by themselves!

The Boats:

The gorgeous 1907 Antique Carousel:

Other popular rides are the Ferris Wheel, Antique Cars, Bumble Bees and Log Flume (nice to get a little splash of water on a hot day!)

It's also a bonus that bringing a cooler/picnic basket is definitely allowed and encouraged (as opposed to many 'no outside food or drink' family destinations), although there are tons of options for purchasing food. We got a ten slice pepperoni pizza (from Pizza Pizza) at lunchtime for $22 which fed all four of us with some left over. There's also a Carousel Café, Shopsy's, and lots of places to pick up snacks and treats.

Centreville is definitely a great place to take a young family. Maggie (who's almost five) could do every ride that she wanted to, and we didn't even hit them all. Seven year old Frannie enjoyed the rides as well, but I could see her growing out of them within a year or two. I'd say the ideal ages for the park are from toddler to seven or eight years old.

Older kids looking for adventure should definitely hit the Scrambler. I went on with the girls, and it's inside a building which is darkened for the ride with loud music and flashing lights. Maggie clung desperately to the grab bar and Frannie told me repeatedly that she was going to be sick...a sure sign of a wild ride!

Before finishing this post, I wanted to give the girls' the last word (almost, I can't quite give that up) and ask for their highlights of the day:

Frannie's favourite: "The farm {I stand corrected}, and the swan ride."

Maggie's favourite: "Beasley Bear ride, the Scrambler even though it made my tummy a bit nervous, the train ride and the swans."

All good things must come to an end, and here you see my tired girls on the ferry ride back to the mainland (Maggie was asleep in the van before we were out of the city):

The highlight of the day for me was slowing down to spend some time with the family, and giving this experience to the girls (not just the amusement park itself, but going in to the city, taking the ferry to the island, etc.) It was great to be active out in the fresh air, and to forget everything I always feel like I need to be doing at home.

As out-of-towners, it's not something we'd do frequently since driving downtown is an adventure in itself before even getting to the ferry, but parents who live in or will be visiting the GTA this summer really need to check out this gem of a family outing.

This post was generously sponsored by Centreville, but the opinions and images are my own. For more information, visit

Thursday, May 23

The Real Deal About Shining: Guest Post from Vasavi Kumar

Today I welcome Vasavi Kumar, a certified life coach with dual master's degrees in social work and special education, as my special guest blogger. (She's also co-author of the bestselling book Succeeding in Spite of Everything.)

I love Vasavi's topic about shining, because it connects to one of my favourite Gospel passages, which incidentally I just heard at a funeral this week:

"You are the light of the world. A city set on a mountain cannot be hidden. Nor do they light a lamp and then put it under a bushel basket; it is set on a lampstand, where it gives light to all in the house. Just so, your light must shine before others, that they may see your good deeds and glorify your heavenly father." Matthew 5: 13 - 16.

Here are Vasavi's thoughts. I hope her words encourage you to get your light out from under that bushel and shine today.


The Real Deal About Shining: Don't Let Haters Keep You From Being Your Best

Listen. There are haters everywhere. And by haters, I’m referring to people who get jealous of your success, do not want to see you rise, and who are intimidated by your greatness.

The truth is, your greatness is a constant reminder of what they are not doing in their lives. You can either shrink and crawl into your dark hole when you are amidst jealous folks, or you can stand in your power and keep shining on.

It can be scary at first to shine 100 percent despite what people are saying or thinking about you (which by the way you have absolutely no control over). But I promise you this: you standing strong in all of your awesomeness will create a space for others to do the same in THEIR lives.

Three things to remember:
1. Not everyone will like you or be happy for you. This took a long time for me to understand. As someone that just wants love and affection (as we all do), I never quite understood why some people didn’t dig me, or want to be my friend. I now get it. And I also know that it’s neither my job nor my soul purpose to get everyone to love me. All I can do is BE the love — wherever I go and with whomever I meet.

2. Don’t brag about your success. There is a huge difference between acknowledging your accomplishments and being humble versus rattling off a list of all your accomplishments every time someone asks you, “Hey how are you doing?” Be proud of the work that you have put in. Be proud of honoring and cherishing your gifts to make a difference in the world. And, remember that you are still awesome in spite of it.

3. Keep on keepin’ on. No matter who or what crosses your path, positive or negative, your only job is to keep it moving. Remember you have a purpose here on this planet. And, if you're going to let haters, evil eyes, jealousy, and all the baggage that comes along with people feeling inferior or insecure stop you, then you need to reconnect with why you are here, who you know yourself to be, and keep it moving.

You are loved. You always have been. Cherish the people who support, love, and honor you. And never forget just how amazing you are.


About the Author: Licensed master social worker Vasavi Kumar coaches people to "get past their past" to take charge of their future. A certified life coach, she holds dual master's degrees in social work and special education. Vasavi is co-author of the best-selling book Succeeding in Spite of Everything and appears regularly on Kansas City Live as the "Keepin' It Real Guru" answering viewers' life questions. Learn more at

Monday, May 20

"Stuck On You" For Summer: 2 x $50 Gift Cards - US and CAN

Stuck On You wants to help get your family ready for camp (or anywhere the kids may be venturing this summer!) With their extensive line of labels, tags and personalized items, Stuck On You can help to make sure that your kids can easily find all of their belongings, and that you don't have to go searching, or worse yet, replacing!

Their range of labels includes clothing (iron on and stick on), shoe, pencil, book and even address labels, in various colours and styles ranging from basic to classic to designer. Tags (for bags or luggage) are also a great idea if your children will be travelling this summer. (Travel tip: I got each of my girls their own little rolling suitcase, which they are responsible for packing, rolling around, and unpacking, which has worked out really well.)

Stuck On You even offers personalized beach towels, calendars and cushions!

While this is the time of year for thinking about summer, I've been using Stuck On You products for my daughters ever since they started school to label their clothing, shoes and especially for their lunch items (thermos, Tupperware). As a teacher, I know from experience that even older kids don't always recognize what they brought with them, and it can be annoying (not to mention costly) to keep replacing things. They've also both used the personalized backpacks, and I'll be telling you more about that as back to school approaches (believe me, I don't want to think about that yet, when holidays haven't even arrived) but I wanted to give you other ideas for how you could spend the gift card that you just might win.

Gift card, you ask? Well, yes...Stuck On You is providing TWO lucky This Mom Loves readers (US or CAN) with $50 gift cards to spend on any products you like from their website. All you have to do to enter is like Stuck On You on Facebook with extra entries for being a This Mom Loves follower/supporter. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you want to leave a blog post comment for 5 bonus points, you might want to visit:

Look What I Found: My Acting Career Edition
Determined Kid In The Kitchen: Special Guest Post
Summer Style Under $100 - My Walmart Frugal Heroes Shopping Challenge
Multitasking...For Dummies? My New Treadmill Desk

Friday, May 17

Summer Entertaining From Target Canada - $50 Gift Card Giveaway!

As the weather heats up (at least let's hope the mercury continues to move in the right direction) it's time to take entertaining outside. We were lucky enough to do a huge backyard reno last year (pool, deck, hot tub) and I intend to take advantage of it. I plan on stocking up on books, magazines and sunscreen for starters, and whatever else I need to host family and friends outdoors.

Target is ready to supply everything Canadians need for their summer entertaining, and they're offering these tips to help you get started:


Canadians love to entertain outdoors and take advantage of beautiful summer-like weather. Target has everything from Bublé to bistro sets to make entertaining a breeze this season:

  • Plastic makes perfect – with kids running around in bare feet, plastic dishes and stemware make entertaining outside stress free. Target’s Threshold collection carries colourful dishes and serving trays to create a beautiful outdoor tabletop.

(Note from This Mom: After a wide search for dinnerware to go with the red colour scheme on my deck, I picked up a very stylish looking - if I do say so myself - set of outdoor dishes from Target. Photo below.)

  • Accessorize – gardens and greenery provide a beautiful backdrop for any occasion. Add to the outdoors with seasonal accessories including bright patio rugs, umbrellas and pillows.

  • Ambiance – set the mood with outdoor lanterns and low background music (but remember, sound travels!)

  • Food - check the grocery aisle for quick and easy appetizers to pop in the oven as guests arrive. Archer Farms’ Spanakopita and Lobster and Cheese bites are crowd pleasers – just make sure you have enough on hand for seconds!

(Loyal readers will be amused, but hardly surprised, to learn that when Target generously offered to send me some ingredients to whip up their favourite recipes, I politely declined. I believe that my guests would prefer that I not cook for them.)

So, have you made your list? Hey, wouldn't it be nice if you had a gift card from Target to get you started? Do you see where I'm going with this?   Yes. Target is providing one lucky This Mom Loves winner with a $50 gift card to get stocked up for summer. All you have to do to enter is fill out the Rafflecopter form below. You can just leave your name to enter, but there are lots of options for bonus entries, too.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

If you'd like to leave a blog comment for 5 extra points, you may want to take a look at:

Look What I Found: My Acting Career Edition
Determined Kid In The Kitchen: Special Guest Post
Multitasking...For Dummies? My New Treadmill Desk
This Mom's Recommended Reading
Jessica Mulroney: The Momterview

Good luck, and happy entertaining!

Thursday, May 16

Look What I Found: My Acting Career Edition

(This is the continuation of a series where I sort through old stuff, and you - lucky, lucky you! - get to see what I have found. I do such good work here, don't I?)

As a child, my answer to the "What do you want to be when you grow up question?" was "Actress, writer and teacher" no particular order.

Clearly, I was leaning towards "actress" when I posed for this fake magazine cover at Canada's Wonderland one summer. I can't really explain the business-woman-slash-scarecrow look...though maybe a screenwriter wants to jump all over that idea? Futuristic stuff is so overdone; really we need to go to back to the farm for good material.

When I was younger, I participated in a lot of Drama camps, and when a local professional theatre was looking for a couple of child actors to share a role (Gloria in "Wait Until Dark", in case you're dying to know exactly what the part was), one of my Drama teachers called my parents to suggest I try out.

I don't remember many of the audition details, but I do recall that we did a lot of improv, which to this day I would swear I am terrible at, though being almost ten and a strong reader with a great memory probably helped tip the scales. Give me a script and I can do whatever you want, but I certainly can't imagine shining while making things up on the spot. (Though it's possible that I overestimate my self-consciousness, forgetting that it has increased over time, and my current level does not necessarily reflect where I was 25 years ago.)

Whatever it was, I got the part (along with fellow child "actor" Leslie Wood), and it was an amazing summer. We also costarred with several professional actors, including Gabrielle Rose, whom you may recognize from her work in television and film. (When I made my Confirmation the next year, I actually chose "Gabrielle" as my Confirmation name.)

 Going through my souvenirs brought back a lot of memories:

Call sheet

Script (with blocking notes) and program

(Yep, that's me, Katie Leahy. If you zoom in, you can see that they referred to me as "an avid athlete". Come back when you're done laughing at that PR spin.)

Leslie and I were even interviewed for the local news, and of course I pulled out that video and watched it (before handing it over to my kind Uncle Dave to transfer it from VHS to DVD). I lost touch with Leslie soon after that (she now lives out West) but coincidentally enough ran into her just this past Christmas'd never guess...a local theatre production!

Fast forward to Grade 11, when I landed the coveted part of Marie Fontbonne, sister to Sister Jeanne Fontbonne (that double 'sister' is intentional; they were both nuns), founder of the Sisters Of St. Joseph. Since the director was also writing the script, and still revising as rehearsals began,  I actually do recall some successful improv there. I vividly remember spontaneously blessing myself during one scene (I think we had been imprisoned in France for refusing to sign the Oath of Civil Constitution of the Clergy...and come to think of it, that's a really underutilized theme in Hollywood as well), and the director commented "Nice. Very nice. Leave that in." See what power we have as teachers when I can remember that moment like it was yesterday?

I had both of the posters framed for posterity, though they have never been on display. However, I have been looking for something new for the living room...I certainly hope my daughters don't throw them out someday with no concern for their sentimental value. I would so totally never do that to them.

While I more or less managed to find a remedy for the acting bug (still no cure for teaching or writing), there's still a part of me that would love to be on screen, in some capacity, and I did actually go out on a limb (waaaay out on a limb) and make an attempt recently (remember, the yellow dress?)...which is a story I still plan to share with you in the future. 

Monday, May 13

Determined Kid In The Kitchen: Guest Post

Today I'm welcoming Nancy from Life Takes Over as a special guest blogger here at This Mom Loves. I think you'll enjoy her tale of her daughter baking almost independently, and it's a good reminder to me that I need to let my girls get messy and have fun in the kitchen, even if it's not the most efficient way to get things done!

You can find Nancy's bio at the end of the post.


As a partial work-at-home mom, I have to find age-appropriate activities to keep my daughter busy while I get my work done. We’re home together every morning before she skips off to Senior Kindergarten and I head into the office, so our time together isn’t very long. And some days I can manage to focus a little more attention on her than other days (depending on my deadlines).

Something I have recently discovered about my daughter is she loves to bake. And, with her major independence streak and I-can-do-it-myself attitude, it’s tough to stand in her way.

So what’s a busy working mom to do?

Well, baking usually doesn’t involve much chopping, so she can’t hurt herself with a sharp knife. The ingredients won’t harm her in any way (until after they come out of the oven). The work involved isn’t too hard. So really, when you think about it, except for the actual baking in a hot oven part, a determined child could manage—with a slight bit of adult guidance—to bake up a storm (I mean it. A storm. You should see my kitchen when my daughter is done.)

Now, the adult guidance in my house comes in the form of laid out and pre-measured ingredients. My daughter is, after all, only five and her reading skills are still being developed. (I hope to extricate myself from the process of pre-measuring ingredients by this time next year.)

To keep my daughter occupied for the morning in question, this is what I did:

1. Chose a muffin recipe she would like to eat and one that seemed easy enough for her to manage on her own

2. Shredded the carrots ahead of time and measured them out

3. Pre-measured all the ingredients and laid them out

4. Provided bowls and spoons and brief instructions on the dumping and mixing of ingredients

Then I left her alone in the kitchen to dump and mix and concoct her afternoon snack: Whole Wheat Carrot Muffins.

I tiptoed away to get some work done and peeked into the kitchen from time to time. She was busily working away as if these muffins were her greatest creation.

I’ve allowed her to bake on her own a few times now and the trick I have found to make this all work (keep her occupied and still have a edible tasty result) is to pick a simple recipe that doesn’t require ingredients to be added in any particular order or that skips the step of sifting together the dry ingredients (something I hate doing anyway). This recipe, however, called for mixing the dry ingredients separately and my daughter tackled that in true baker’s style.

I found the recipe on ( ) and it really was tasty. And healthy, too. It called for whole wheat flour and it has carrots in it. I’m a happy mom if I can get my kids to eat veggies. And if a carrot muffin is the only way I can do it, so be it.

The only thing she asked me for help with (because I insisted, not because she actually wanted my help) was putting the muffins in the pre-heated oven. (OK, I helped scoop the batter into the pans; but not all of it. She was pretty insistent that she do it until her arms got tired.) The trick to getting the batter in the muffin cups without it ending up all over the pans is to use a small measuring cup and do it a bit at a time.

The muffins turned out light, fluffy even, and absolutely scrumptious. They didn’t last long enough to take a picture. We will definitely make them again; or rather, I will have my daughter make them again. The result being three-fold: Delicious muffins, some free time for mom to get her work done, and the all-important result, a child with a proud sense of accomplishment!

And if you’d like to try the recipe, here it is:

Carrot Muffins

By Mairead Kelly on March 07, 2004

• Prep Time: 20 mins

• Total Time: 40 mins

• Serves: 12, Yield: 12 muffins


• 1 egg

• 3/4 cup orange juice

• 1/2 cup melted margarine

• 1/2 cup sugar

• 1 cup white flour

• 1 cup whole wheat flour

• 1 teaspoon baking powder

• 1/2 teaspoon baking soda

• 1/2 teaspoon salt

• 1 teaspoon cinnamon ( more or less to taste)

• 2 cups shredded carrots


1. Beat egg lightly in large bowl.

2. Add orange juice, margarine, and sugar, beat well.

3. Sift together dry ingredients.

4. Stir into egg mixture, mix only till moistened.

5. Gently fold in shredded carrots (I shred the carrots in my food processor).

6. Spoon into well greased muffin pans about 2/3 full.

7. Bake for 15-20 minutes at 400 degrees.

So baking has been done. And if I know my daughter, now that she has mastered this, it won’t be long before she tires of it. Got any suggestions for how I can keep my busy, determined 5-year-old occupied each morning?


About Nancy:

I talk too much. Truth be told, I’m happier when my mouth is shut and my pen is flowing cursively across the page. (Or my fingers are tapping out my thoughts on a keyboard.) And so, this is my return to writing. I’m a daughter, sister, wife, mother, writer, editor, blogger, tweeter, chauffeur, organizer, planner, dreamer, friend, and sometimes, I’m me.

And “me” is a busy mom running ragged and trying to keep up, who blogs about trying to be the mom and person she wants to be even on the days when the world forces her to admit that she can only be who she is.

What will you find on my blog? A little bit of everything. I swear I suffer from attention deficit disorder. I can’t focus on writing about just one thing, so you’ll find a little bit of everything here.

I love writing about food because it’s all about the journey for me. (I used to hate cooking and baking or anything else to do with the kitchen for that matter. Now, I’m the chef in the family!) I also write about my kids and motherhood. There again, it’s all about the journey. I enjoy supporting and writing about things that I believe in, so sometimes you might find a review or an article about something that has appealed to me in some way.

Oh, and the reason my blog is called Life Takes Over…I met my husband long before we were an item and then we met again and became an item years later. I had been through some adult, responsibility-bearing experiences and kept trying to convince him that life takes over, whether we want it to or not. He was (and still is) a free spirit and believed that it didn’t have to be that way. When I started writing again, he suggested Life Takes Over as a name for my blog.

I hope you join me on my journey as Life Takes Over.

Friday, May 10

Second Pregnancies: Need Sources and Input For Article

Hello dear readers,

I'm working on an article about second pregnancies for a national magazine (I'm trying to act cool about it but really I'm super excited!) and I'm hoping you can help me with two things:

1. If you've had two pregnancies, how was the second different from the first, physically? Was it better or worse? What symptoms changed the second time around? You can leave a comment below or e-mail me at katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca

2. If you've had two pregnancies, have lots to say about the question above and LIVE OUTSIDE ONTARIO, I'd love to interview you for the article. Again, you can give me contact info in the comments, or email me at katewinn77 at yahoo dot ca

Thanks so much for your help!

Thursday, May 9

Walmart's New (and FREE!) Live Better Magazine

You know how I love my magazines, and last month Walmart launched a brand-new (and free) publication. Walmart Live Better, a multi-platform lifestyle magazine, is now available at Walmart Supercentres across Canada, and online through mobile devices and an iPad app. I haven't picked up a hard copy yet, but I've spent lots of time checking it out online (I'll share my favourite stories below).

The publication offers content from top Canadian editors and contributors, including Editor-in-Chief Sandra Martin, formerly of Today’s Parent. Readers will be able to enjoy the latest in food, home, beauty and fashion trends and tips.

At 1 million copies per issue, Walmart Live Better will immediately become Canada’s largest circulation magazine (published six times per year), and of course all products featured in the magazine are available at Walmart Canada Supercentres.

“Canadians want to be inspired by new ideas and stay on budget. With Walmart Live Better they don’t have to make a choice. Our team of experts provide great ideas on how to make dollars go farther with style,” said Martin.

A few of my favourite pieces from the Walmart Live Better debut (under the website categories of Recipes, Living, Wellness, Beauty, Fashion and Kids):

Plan The Perfect Indoor Birthday Party (tons of practical tips, which of course could be used with any of my themed birthday parties)

Get Organized In Six Simple Steps Organizing is one of my favourite things to do, and I got some new ideas from this piece, as well as a bit of inspiration: "Quit reading about it and just do it."

Couch To 5K: An 8 Week Fitness Guide (while I'm not currently following this, I like knowing it's there should I ever decide to do a 5K. Over the summer I'll gear up to practice Cross Country with my students, but 2K is usually my limit!)

Oh, and for those of you who actually like to cook - or do it willingly anyway - there are more than 30 recipes as well. These I skipped over, but they may be the highlight for some of you!

Pick up a copy at your nearest Walmart, or check it out online as

Monday, May 6

Simple Earth-Friendly Shopping Tips: Guest Post

Lord knows that while I see the importance of making environmentally-friendly decisions, often convenience wins out for me.

Enter Caroline from Eco Baby Boom, who answered my call for guest bloggers, and is sharing here all sorts of quick and easy changes we (okay, I) can make to do our part to preserve our world for our children and grandchildren.

Take it away, Caroline!


We all have very busy lives, and sometimes even though we may feel strongly about certain things, we have to take shortcuts and decide what is most important and what really needs to (and will) get done.

Fortunately, making earth friendly decisions often does not require much more time or effort. Sometimes the results even simplify our lives.

Here are a few earth friendly tips. Relax and enjoy them as they are all about SHOPPING!

1. Buy Organic. It's better for your health and the planet. Organic growers do not use any pesticides/insecticides and cannot knowingly use GMO's (genetically modified organisms) in their products. This lessens their impact on our planet while keeping your health safe.

2. Choose glass, over plastic. Glass has a much smaller carbon footprint than plastic. Glass can also be recycled an infinite number of times and there is no danger of chemicals leaching into your food or drink, even when heated. Stainless Steel bottles and containers are also a better option than plastic. It has a much bigger carbon footprint than plastic, however, because it is extremely durable, it is still a better choice to generally fast wearing plastics. A solid ss thermos can be a good option for a warm lunch if you want a kid-proof container. Stanley makes a very sturdy one that keeps food nice and warm. Warm the thermos with boiling water before adding the pre-warmed food.

3. Choose reusable containers or bags. Nowadays there are a great selection of earth friendly containers and pouches to use when packing lunches. I love Gogo bags and smitten pouches. They can be thrown into your laundry when needed. I find they also encourage healthy snacking as you can easily fit the soft pouches in your pocket/handbag. Enjoy sandwichs, nuts, raisins and more on the go! Bonus, they also come in a variety of stylish patterns.

4. Buy local, whenever possible. This one is a no-brainer. Again, this often has a positive impact on your health as well, since many fresh fruits & vegetables are sprayed with chemicals to slow down their aging process and often sprayed again upon arrival to ripen if needed. Often these foods were picked weeks if not months earlier and travelled here by container ship, causing the food to lose many of its nutrients.

5. Avoid non-recyclable material packaging. Buy your foods in bulk to avoid the plastic bags, styrofoam, plastic and other materials that create unnecessary waste. Bring your own cloth / paper bag. You can put your items on the scale then bag them. You may even save a little since you will not be paying for the packaging's weight.

6. Give credit, where credit is due or request change. If you are happy with a change for the better (or the worse), let the business know. Companies will often make better choices if they think the consumers care. I always buy mushrooms in bulk and will never take the pre-cut pre-washed shortcut because they are only ever available in styrofoam packaging. Recently, I spotted some mushrooms packaged in a recyclable code identified plastic container. I still choose the bulk ones but took a minute to email the supplier and let them know that I cared about their choice to package their product in a better way.

7. Buy Once. It is always worth taking the time to research a potential purchase before making your final decision. This can avoid having to buy several products before finding the right one for you. Amazon has ratings and reviews for items on their website. Look for a high rating, preferably with many reviews rather than just a few. Many other websites offer similar product reviews and you don't need to purchase through them to view the ratings.

Remember, every little bit counts and it all adds up to a better world.

Caroline from Eco Baby Boom

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Saturday, May 4

Walmart's Frugal Heroes Challenge: Summer Style Under $100

When I was asked to be part of the Walmart Frugal Heroes Challenge, I couldn't resist! Bloggers were provided with $100 challenges to choose from, or given the option to come up with our own. Some of the suggestions:

  • Feed your family of four for 4 days on $100
  • Dress two children for summer on $100
  • Get a head-to-toe summer outfit for either mom or dad for $100
  • Decorate your outdoor living space for $100
  • Redecorate a bedroom or family room for $100
  • Host a child’s birthday party with 5 guests for $100

As tempting as the other options were (especially as I saw other bloggers' posts/tweets going out), my kids have tons of summer clothes, we just finished picking up outdoor accessories and girls' rooms aren't due to be redone for a bit. So I decided to shop for myself, and committed to the "Head To Toe Outfit" challenge.

I hit my nearest Walmart, fortunately alone, but on a timeline due to plans later in the evening, so I had to focus! As I began to browse, I decided to tweak my challenge slightly. Instead of going with one head-to-toe outfit, I would try to pick up all of the "Summer Style" items I had on my list, keeping under the $100 cap. Here's how I did:

Maxi Skirt

Bright Printed Tank

Colourful Dress (I love this one, and green is a different colour for me!)




Pink Nail Polish
(Sally Hansen Complete Salon Manicure is my fave. I have tons of their shades for pedis,
though I'm a total gel nails convert when it comes to my fingers).

I had a few other non-challenge-related items in my cart (you know, vitamins, pot holders, random stuff), so once my challenge selections were rung through I asked the cashier for a total....and it was just over $91. So I figured, "What's summer fun without some beverages?" and threw in the plastic wine glasses I had picked up for poolside safety. (Also because we had friends over a few weeks ago in the hot tub and one was enjoying wine served in a red solo cup. Which believe me, is even less safe.) For the purposes of full disclosure, the fourth "glass" put the total just over $100 (but it's not like I'm capable of buying an odd number!)

I had planned on modeling my purchases, but while I am quite content with my post-two-baby-body (despite all of the self-esteem messages out there, I'm still not sure it's truly socially acceptable to say that) I'm quite sure that my students and their parents don't need to see me in a bikini. Except the ones that come over to swim at my house, but they don't take pictures and share them with thousands of people. That I know of.

So what do you think? Everything I need for Summer Style, and all under $100! Thanks for the opportunity, Walmart!

Were you part of the Walmart Frugal Heroes Challenge? I'd love for you to leave a comment below with your challenge and a link to your post. I can't wait to check out how everyone else fared!

Thursday, May 2

Multitasking...For Dummies? My New Treadmill Desk

The picture says it all, really, but my Dad custom-built this amazing treadmill desk for his crazy multitasking daughter. Doesn't everyone want to write articles and report cards while they exercise?

Next step...finding a way to bling it up a bit so it's not so plain looking. Thoughts?