Thursday, 31 July 2014

How I get Dinner on the Table After Being at Work all Day

I philosophically avoid Target in July. I refuse to see back to school supplies for sale that early. It makes me feel even more uneasy than seeing the Christmas decorations for sale during the summer at Costco. But I can’t fight it forever. It’s almost time to think about back to school and gearing up after the summer. For me, that means I won’t have all day to think about/plan/prepare meals.

If anyone were to ask me, I’d say that the hardest part about going back to work after having a baby, is getting dinner on the table every night. When my little one has been at daycare all day, by late afternoon he wants mommy-time. And I want to see him too. So that means 5-6pm is bananas in my house. There are some days that I just stand in my kitchen at 5:30pm, look around, and think, “How on Earth did my mother do this for 20 years?” Dinner on the table. Every. Single. Night. I have 2 post-secondary degrees. Why is this so hard? Then, I pour myself a glass of wine and try not to serve Kraft Dinner, again.


What I don't look like when I'm making dinner.

Here are the tricks I use to get meals served by 6pm after working all day. 

1. Plan it out – I plan my meals of what we will eat a week at a time. I learned this one from my own wise mama. At some point on the weekend, I’ll sit down and plan out the meals for the following week. Then I check and see what ingredients I need to pick up, and that’s how I make my grocery list. 

2. Make dinner after dinner (or at least the chopping) – I first learned about this from the Rookie Moms. After dinner, Rob will put Seb to bed, and I’ll get back to the kitchen and make dinner for the next night. The key to this trick is making sure you do it before you sit down and turn on Netflix for the night. Chopping veggies before dinner with am 18-month old old jumping at my legs was something I didn’t do more than a few times. 

3. WeeliciousI started using this website when Seb was a baby. I’ve made many of the recipes, and it’s my “go to” website for new ideas and quick, healthy meals. I’ll look at it a bit on the weekend and make sure that I pick up any ingredients when I go grocery shopping. I have her book as well, and it has been well-used in our home. I also love this article by The Happiest Home called What I Make for Dinner When I don’t Feel Like Making Dinner. 

4. SupperworksSupperworks has been a life-saver since Seb was born. This is how it works, you go online and look at their monthly menu and select the meals you want to make. Then you pick a time and date to go and prepare your meals at their location. When you get to Supperworks for your session, all of the washing, chopping and clean up is done for you! I can make 12 meals in under 2 hours that all go home to my freezer until I’m ready to cook them. 

5. A crockpot – Similar to #2, at least once a week in the winter I will get all of the ingredients ready the night before, and do the crockpot thing in the morning before we’re all heading out the door. 

6. The iPad – Love it or hate it, the iPad helps me get dinner ready. I fought this one for months, but after one too many meltdowns (both toddler and me), 5:30-6pm is iPad time in our house so I can make dinner. Seb is too young to watch tv, plus our tv isn’t on the same floor as the kitchen, so iPad it is. He loves watching this channel of videos and has a few apps he loves to play. This one is his current favourite.

However, you can bring a toddler to dinner, but you can't make him eat. How to make children eat seems like an age-old question. If Seb doesn’t want to eat what I’ve made, no amount of spoon airplane is going to change his mind. I’ve learned that it’s important to make him feel comfortable and like he’s in control. Then we are much less likely to have a battle at dinner. This is what (sometimes) works for us: 

ChoiceThis is a big one. If Seb feels like he’s in control, things are much more likely to run smoothly. I give him two options and let him pick one. The easy one is to let him choose his plate and cup. Sometimes he’ll choose his meal (fishsticks or grilled cheese?), or, on particularly fussy nights, even where he wants to eat (dining room table or craft table?) and that can help.

A special placemat – I really don’t have any idea how Seb eats at daycare because the sky would open and start raining unicorns before Seb ate a meal at home without his placemat. We have one with letters and animals on it, but Shutterfly has some really great options. I like the idea of adding your own pictures to it. Seb loves playing “finding games” with his placemat. We ask him where a letter or animal is, and he has to find it. You could do that easily with the A is for Alphabet Placemat or the Food Finds Placemat. 



Fun plates – We also have many different kid-friendly plates. Since Seb is obsessed with letters and loves looking at pictures of people he knows, Shutterfly also has cute personalized plates that fit the bill. I think he’d like Farm Fun Plate or the Gallery of Five Plate. I personally like the Healthy Plate, but maybe that’s the mama in me. 



And if all else fails, I always have a frozen pizza in the freezer. 
Do you have any tricks that help you get dinner on the table every night? I'd love to hear them. Sometimes I feel I can use any help I can get in this area!

xo
Jenn

Monday, 28 July 2014

Current Shoe Fetish - Tieks

I'm pretty tall. At 6 feet tall and with a husband who's about an inch shorter than me, you won't find sky high heels in my closet. I also have a job (apart from being a mom) that has me on my feet all day, walking up and down stairs, and moving around often. Killer heels, or heels of any kind really, have never been my thing.

I was recently chatting with my cousin who was cleaning out her closet, and she told me she has heels she's never worn but might need "one day" along with heels she never wears except to weddings. I told her I felt the same. I have a couple of pairs of heels that I might wear for 2 or 3 hours a year! We agreed that we can't throw out these shoes because of those 2 or 3 hours we need them. When I'm getting ready to go to work or go out, I'll get all dressed, stare at the shoes in my closet, and grab any pair of flats that I feel kind of go with what I'm wearing.

Enter Tieks. Tieks are a leather ballet flat that are also foldable so they can fit right into your bag if needed. They come in a ridiculous amount of colours and are very comfortable.  What I really love love love about this shoe is that I can wear them with pretty much anything. I can wear them with jeans on weekends when I'm running after the toddler, with pants or skirts for work, or even with a dress to a wedding. You just need a quick peek of the hashtag #tieks on Instagram to see how people are styling their Tieks for any occasion.


(I kind of love the mama in the top right corner who's rocking her Cobalt Tieks at home. Colourful toys for kids and colourful shoes for mama.)

They're great for travelling...


...and I've also said before that I think this oufit would be super fun with a pair in Unmellow Yellow.



Tieks start at $175, so they are an investment. But think of it this way, I have a pair in Slate Grey Croc and wear them to work at least twice a week. That's less than $2/wear in one year. I'm careful not to leave them by the front door, so they won't get unnecessarily banged around, and I know they'll last me a long time. It's a significantly better cost per wear analysis than the $90 pair of heels I have in my closet that I put on once a year and don't feel comfortable wearing.





I'm always playing around with my wishlist on their website. If I'm using the cost per wear rule though, I would love to have a pair in Matte Black because they also would get worn to work on a very regular basis. Plus, my current pair of black flats are being held together with shoe goo. It's my birthday in a few weeks so... hint, hint Rob??



So there you have it, just one more reason to believe that some of the best things in life come in little blue boxes :)

xo
J



Thursday, 24 July 2014

Les petits plaisirs - Mama's Got Mail

Mama's Got Mail is a subscription service designed for moms to encourage them to take a little time for themselves within the business of raising a family.

"You take care of them. Let us take care of you...No sippy cups, guy movies, or cleaning products. Only items that support their personal growth, down time, and re-connecting with their 
awesome selves."

Depending on the length of your subscription (1, 3 or 6 months) the price range is between $40 and $50 per month plus shipping. Shipping to Canada is $18. Although the price is higher than I would normally spend on this kind of thing, I really love the concept and wanted to check it out, so I ordered a one-month subscription for July.


At first I was a bit surprised when I opened the box. Only one item? Where's all my stuff? But then I looked at the bracelet closely and quickly fell in love. This is the exact style of bracelet I've been wearing lately. It's called the Tanner Wrapped Cuff from Gorjana & Griffin. It will look great layered with some of the other bracelets I already own (like this one, or soon...this one).

Image from Gorjana & Griffin website
Great pick Mama's Got Mail! Every Mama's Got Mail box also comes with a self check-in. It offers points of reflection and personal challenges connected to the items (or item) in the box. This month's self check-in was about being and feeling lady-like. It described being lady-like as not being dainty and wearing florals, but having character and strength which is always a great message to hear.

The bracelet retails online for $60, but I can't exactly put a value on the self check-in. Overall, I think the box has better value than I expected. Unfortunately, the shipping cost to Canada will prohibit me from continuing, but it was fun to try for one month. I will be bringing my bracelet on my upcoming trip to NYC because it's a perfect summer accessory for the hot weather.

xo
J

Tuesday, 22 July 2014

Our Trip Out West According to my iPhone

We just got back from a trip to Red Deer, Alberta for a family reunion. My aunt and uncle were celebrating their 50th wedding anniversary. We spent 4 days on a farm celebrating special anniversaries and birthdays. I also got to see a friend I hadn't seen in a few years with her family. This trip was also Seb's first airplane ride. Despite someone taking Seb's luggage upon arrival thinking it was theirs, I'm calling this trip a success (while silently wishing I could have seen the look on their face when they opened up a suitcase full of diapers, a stuffed orange frog, and size 3 t-shirts). Anyways, here's what my iPhone has to say about our trip.







xo
Jenn

Wednesday, 16 July 2014

Local Love: Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends Book Review



I can't tell you how much I've been looking forward to reviewing this book ever since I picked up last month.
 
Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends is written by Nathalie Prézeau, a Toronto mom who initially wrote and published the book Toronto Fun Places for Families. Now she's published not one, but two books of girlfriend-tested guided walks in the city.

Toronto Urban Strolls 1 & 2 both invite you to enjoy life's small pleasures. Lovely walks, decadent treats, whimsical urban sights, coffee breaks and, above all, the joy of catching up with your friends.

The book is organized into 28 themed strolls with walking maps and parking/TTC information. What also impresses me is that every page has glossy, colourful pictures of things to see or places to visit on your walk. The walks average about an hour in length and include recommended places to stop either for sight-seeing, shopping, or eating.

I'm not a native Torontonian, so I particularly love the idea of being guided through the areas of the city I haven't learned about yet.

Last week my friend E and I went on the Islington Village Murals Stroll. This is pretty far from my 'hood in the city, so I was excited to check out a brand-new area. The weather was perfect, and after our walk we had a delicious lunch at Village Trattoria. Here are a few pictures of the beautiful murals we saw in the area.

Briarly - Gone but not forgotten, John Kuna, 2007
Honouring Islington's Volunteer Fire Brigade, John Kuna, 2007

The Pub with No Beer, John Kuna, 2009 (Notice that the prohibition mural is on the Fox and the Fiddle)




I'm already planning to do another stroll soon on our next date night. We like to go for dinner downtown, so I think afterwards we could do one of these walks and stop in at one of the highlighted places for dessert and a nightcap.

Paired with Toronto Fun Places, Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends would be a cute baby shower gift, or paired with a gift certificate to one of the guide's recommended restaurants, I think it would also make a unique bridal shower gift.

I've already gifted this book once, and while I was shopping with one of my other girlfriends she bought a copy for herself as well. It's one of those books I can't believe I hadn't heard of before this summer. I can't recommend it highly enough. So pick a stroll, grab a friend and/or a latte, and get outside!

xo
Jenn

--
Giveaway time!! (Now Closed)

Nathalie has generously offered 2 book prize packs for 2 lucky readers! One person will win a copy of both Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends 1 + Toronto Fun Places. The second winner will win a copy of both Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends 2 + Toronto Fun Places.  

This contest is open to Canadian residents only and closes at 7pm on Thursday, July 24th, 2014.


a Rafflecopter giveaway

Monday, 14 July 2014

Turn your Favourite Baby Clothes into Art

I couldn't believe how fast Seb grew out of some of his baby clothes. Early on, I was guilty of making him wear them just a little too long because they were so cute. Until my mother said to me one day, "Think about how you feel when you're wearing clothes that fit too small." Ugh. Ok. So I had to come up with something else to do with the cutest onesies because I wasn't ready to pack them away. Then I read about stretching them over a piece of canvas, and I thought that was probably a craft I could manage. If you want to see how they turned out, you can jump to the bottom, otherwise, here are the steps for turning your own baby/toddler shirts into pieces of art:

1. Pick a shirt or onesie that you want to save and hang (but don't mind cutting up).
(Here are some of my favourite baby shirts).


2. Get a canvas square from an art store.
I was using pretty wee onesies, so my squares were only 6x6.

3. Centre the square inside the shirt, and stretch the shirt around the area you want to display.


4. Use a staple gun to staple the shirt on the back edge of the canvas square.



5. Cut away the excess material.

6. Glue down the remaining material with white craft glue and let dry.

7. Voilà!
Hang them with pride! You can put them up in your little one's room, or we have ours above Seb's play area in the basement.


(similar ABCD onesie) (B is for Binary onesie)

xo
Jenn

Thursday, 10 July 2014

My Carry-On Essentials

I always dream that when I fly it will look like this....


In reality, I'm often chilly on airplanes and wondering if I can use any potential time changes to help justify ordering wine early. Here's what I pack in my carry-on to help me feel more prepared.




My new favourite lip gloss!

This lip balm always reminds me of when I started dating my husband. I still love using it now and then :)

I've started to use these when I travel, and they make finding things so much easier. I'll use one for the key documents, one for all the liquids that need to be together anyways, and one for snacks.



(not mine but, swoon!)

(also not mine, but again..love!)

Reading Material
I'm currently re-reading A Prayer for Owen Meany by John Irving. One of my all-time favourites. You can check out what other books I've read lately here for more ideas.
I'll also pick up a copy of Popular Science for Rob as well.

For jotting down new blog post ideas or anything else I need to remember!


Along with the above, I always pack Advil, Kleenex, gum, and my iPhone/charger/headphones.
What about you? Any secret items you always pack for a flight?

Related -  What I'm putting in my toddler's carry-on.

xo
Jenn

PS - Contrary to what it looks like, I'm not a Stella & Dot stylist. But my cousin is! Check out her site here.

Tuesday, 8 July 2014

Best of Etsy - Baby and Toddler Shirts

Lately, my son has been obsessed with shirts that have letters on them. He talks about the "wedders" on our shirts constantly. "Daddy has wedders. Sebastian has wedders. Mommy no wedders." And then he wants to match the letters on your shirt to the letters in his alphabet book. It's pretty darn adorable actually.

About 85% of Seb's clothes are actually hand-me-downs from our neighbour (Thanks Amy!).  So, since I've been able to outfit our little man with many great preloved clothes,  I enjoy picking out a couple of extra pieces that I may have otherwise continued to drool over on Pinterest.

There is no shortage of adorable baby clothes out there. Especially if you're browsing on Etsy. I've rounded up a dozen of my favourites here.


TOP ROW:
ABCD Rock and Roll onesie, Céline Paris onesie, Little Miracle onesie

SECOND ROW:
Definition of Blessing onesie, Lettuce Turnip The Beet t-shirt (also comes in onesie and adult sizes), Sweet Shakespeare quote onesie

THIRD ROW:
The Gosling toddler t-shirt, One Wild and Precious Life t-shirt (sold out), Go Ahead, Swoon baby t-shirt 

LAST ROW:
The Fox t-shirt, B is for Binary t-shirt (also comes in onesie), Dinosaur Spike Hoodie

I ordered the Go Ahead, Swoon shirt for Seb. It has "wedders" so I hope he likes it. And I think the Dinosaur Spike hoodie is a great item to keep in mind for the fall. Which is your favourite?

xo
Jenn

Wednesday, 2 July 2014

What to Pack in a Toddler's Carry-on

It's vacation season, and I want to make sure the two-year-old is très occupied on the airplane. Here's what his carry-on will look like.




Toy Story Backpack -  a recent gift from Gran to pack all of his stuff. 

Crayons and a little notepad for drawing and colouring and stickers.

I Spy Little Book - Seb has one of these at home and loves it. I bought a new one for this trip. We'll also bring a few other books. 

Snacks - One of my friends said she brings a "ridiculous amount of snacks", so that's what we'll aim for. We went with granola bars, goldfish crackers, muffins, hummus and crackers, boiled eggs, apple sauce, and Teddy Grahams. Note - things that were consumed individually take longer to eat (goldfish crackers) as opposed to something that is gone in 1 minutes (granola bar).

Melissa and Doug Reusable Sticker Pad  - another birthday gift from Gran. Seb loves stickers right now, so I'm hoping this will be a fun activity for the plane.

Hoodie  - I am always cold on the plane. So I'll bring him a hoodie too.

Plush Woody and Buzz toys - his favourites!

Elmo headphones and iPad - Love it or hate it, I've loaded up the ipad with his favourite youtube videos using the app Video Downloader Lite Super - VDownload

What do you think? Am I missing anything? It's likely this duo will also be making the trip as well. Seb still loves them.

xo
Jenn

Update!

To get Seb ready for his first flight, we bought the Richard Scarry's A Day at the Airport, which was a little advanced for him. He was just 2 and was totally into the book I found at the library called Flight 1-2-3 by Maria van Lieshout. My friend Sara swears by the book Airport by Byron Barton. 

After gathering the suggestions from the comments sections, here are other items readers felt were great for a toddler carry-on:
I know for sure S would love or already loves each and every one of these things.

- Washi tape in a road pattern and Hot Wheels
- Water Wow Colouring Books
- Window gel clings
- Extra clothes, diapers, wipes etc...
- An extra t-shirt for you (just in case)
- Baby Gravol and Tylenol
- Stickers and paper
- Play Doh
- A sippy cup

I'd love to tell you that Seb played with all of these wonderful and thoughtful activies quietly and patiently, but if I'm being honest, 90% of the time on the airplane he looked like this:

#whateverittakes


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