Monday, 29 December 2014

9 Tips to Save Money and Curb Impulse Shopping

I just got my credit card bill. Le seigh. You know that saying "shopping is my cardio"? Can online shopping be cardio? Well, that's my weakness. But I'm resolving to save a little more, so that means spending less. Here are the tips I'm going to try and follow to help grow our savings and pay for an upcoming trip.

1. Unsubscribe from retailer emails and unlike their FB and Instagram pages. Bye bye J. Crew. Au revoir Anthro. No more will I allow you to assault my Facebook news feed with free advertising because once upon a time I clicked 'like'. And my inbox? It already feels lighter. I picked my favourite (Chapters Indigo), and that one got to stay. But otherwise outta sight, outta mind.

2. Tell a friend about the item. This trick I do often with my friends or on the blog. Sometimes I find something that I think is so great, but I probably don't really need it, so I feel better when I tell others about it.

3. Don't buy for "sometime." I often find gifts and think, "Oh this would be a great baby shower gift, or this would be a great gift for so and so." But the problem is, I just end up buying more things and don't always gift them when I thought I would. My new mantra is this - If it's not something I need right now, or I don't know exactly when and for whom I need a gift, I won't buy it.

4. Use up what you have.  Stationery, food, cosmetics. These are all things that I have multiples of at home. I resolve to use up the things I have at home before I buy anymore. Seriously, there is almost half a cow in my freezer.

5. Brown bag it. I'm usually pretty good about bringing my own lunch, mostly because at work I really don't often have time to run out and grab something. But, I can be better at making Rob's lunch for him, so that he buys it less often. At least that's what I tell myself. Rob tells me that whenever I make him lunch, he eats it at 9:30am and then still gets "second lunch". Ugh. So maybe this one doesn't really work.....

6. Use the library. Buying a Kobo has got to be one of the best investments I've ever made. Ebooks are usually only slightly less expensive when buying a hard copy, but I can download books from the Toronto Public Library right onto my Kobo for free. Free books. On my Kobo. Plus the waitlists for ebooks are often shorter at the library. I also don't have to go pickup or return my books because they just disappear off my Kobo when my lending period is over.

7. 3 Questions to Ask Yourself Before Making a Purchase.  Check out this article. The idea is to ask yourself, how will you feel about this purchase in 10 minutes? in 10 months? in 10 years? Focus on short and long-term profit/loss. I've been trying to use this one more and more lately. In 10 months I'll likely be annoyed that I spent X number of dollars on another sweater, but I'll probably be ok with splurging for a glass of wine when I'm out for dinner and a movie with a friend.

 8. Sell your stuff. I'm a purger. I'm constantly going through our house and getting rid of stuff we never use. Sometimes I just give things away, mostly stuff like books and such, to friends. Other times I'll send a big pile of stuff off for donation. But if something is still in great shape, I find local buy and sell groups on Facebook and sell items there. I belong to a couple, and it's a super easy way to make a few extra dollars if you've got extra stuff around the house.

9.  Scope out where kids can eat for free.  When you're out for dinner with your family, try finding a restaurant where kids eat free, usually with the purchase of an adult entree. Here's a list of 9 family-friendly restaurants where kids eat free.

So those are my money-saving tips. Do you have any to add? I'm sure we'd all love to read them too!

Friday, 26 December 2014

10 Most Popular Posts of 2014

I hope everyone had a great week! I've been planning lots of fun things for the blog for 2015 and while I do that, I've rounded up the 10 most popular posts from this year. Thank you so much for continuing to read my little blog. Whether you're a quiet follower or someone who enjoys sharing in the comments, I sincerely appreciate all of your love and support.

Here we go!


10. Toronto Urban Strolls for Girlfriends

9. Planning a First Birthday Party

8. Books I've been reading lately

7. Instagram vs. Real Life

6. Why I Pulled My Son Out of Montessori

5. Non-Cheesy Anniversary Gift Ideas for the First Five Years

4. Where to Buy Maternity Clothes Online (Canadian Edition)

3. The Master List of What to Buy for Baby

2. Chemo Angels

1. Breastfeeding, Bottle-feeding, and Balance

Sunday, 21 December 2014

The Days Are Long, But The Years Are Short

It's been one of those weeks where I feel like 90% of my time with Sebastian has been spent arguing with him about sleeping, eating, the iPad, or the potty. Not how I wanted to start the holidays. Like I read here, I can't tell if it's killing me or making me stronger.

Then, as I was cleaning out my emails, I came across this post called Thank You for Your Childhood. Written by the good people over at Growing Child, the main idea in the post is how we can be grateful for our children's childhoods. How are our lives enriched? What ridiculously fun things do we get to do all over again? Even Taylor Swift is onside with the lyric, "Wasn't it beautiful when you believed in everything?" So, given that I'm feeling a bit frustrated with the recent onset of the terrible twos, I thought it would be a good time to make my own list of why I'm grateful to Sebastian for his childhood. It's not exhaustive or anything, but it's what's on my mind right now....

* For the moments in the quiet (past, present and future) where you are asleep on me. I love this.
* For your belly laughs and smiles.
* For being able to reread all of my favourite childhood books
* And being able play again with my favourite childhood toys.
* For being the reason to make sure we all eat a little bit healthier.
* For how excited you get when you finish something you've been working on.
* For how hard you love your favourite books or games or people. (But not the iPad. I'd really rather you didn't love the iPad so much.)
* For being able to visit fun children's places again like the zoo, farms, the aquarium, the Santa Train, etc etc etc and the bonus of seeing it all through your eyes.
* For being the inspiration behind learning about blogging.
* For your unsolicited but delicious hugs and kisses.


Thursday, 18 December 2014

Pennie Post Stationery Subscription Review

A few months ago, I won a subscription to Pennie Post. My friends and family know I love beautiful stationery (exhibit A, exhibit B, exhibit C), so I was so super excited to win this prize. Basically you sign up and then will receive a minimum of 3 beautiful cards and envelopes each month in the mail.

"Everyone loves receiving cards in the mail. Thank you notes, birthday cards or even notes just to say, "hello". Even in an age with emails and text messages, nothing can replace a physical, handwritten card. Nobody enjoys the last minute scramble at the drugstore to find the perfect, personalized card for your friends or loved ones. Pennie Post subscribers will receive three new stationery items each month so all that's left is your thoughtful message. "

Cost/month: $11 for US orders, $13.50 for International orders (includes shipping)

Below are some photos of the really beautiful and creative cards I received. I have already started using them with friends. The collections each month are thoughtfully put together and come with a small page describing how they are connected as a theme.

September Pennie Post Collection

October Pennie Post Collection

November Pennie Post Collection

December Pennie Post Collection
So, if you need a last-minute gift idea, Pennie Post would make a really fun present. I think the value is quite reasonable for luxury, handmade cards on quality paper. It's really fun to receive the cards and see what goodies arrived in the mail, and then it's even more fun to actually use them!


All photos courtesy of Pennie Post on Facebook. I did take a few of my own pictures but, if you remember last month, my phone was recently stolen....

Monday, 15 December 2014

Best Toys for 1-2 Year Olds

A little while ago I posted about perfect books for 1-2 year olds, so next up are toys! If you're shopping for a toddler, here are the toys that got played with the most in our house (well...apart from the iPad that is) over the past year and a half or so.

1.  Shape Sorter 2. & 3. Plush Buzz and Woody
4.  Window Gel Clings  5. Play kitchen  6. My Own Leaptop (read about how we play with the Leaptop here)
 7.  Melissa & Doug Chunky Puzzles (OMG puzzles. These puzzles. S was/still is obsessed!) 
8.  Foam puzzles tiles (Make a big box, make little boxes, make a box and put things in it and shake it around, lay them all out in a line on the floor and walk on them, count the numbers, repeat a thousand times).

The I Spy Blanket

I first talked about just how cool this blanket is here, but I really feel it's worth mentioning again. Fun toddler blankets are always cute, but this one really is a toy and a blanket in one. He's enjoyed it ever since he could recognize any of the animals or characters. Even more now because he LOVES any book or game that involves "finding" something you tell him.

Similar I Spy Blanket

Block sets are also a ton of fun. Stay tuned for a post in the new year highlighting some the coolest block sets out there.


Best Toys for Babies
Best Books for Babies

Monday, 8 December 2014

Stocking Stuffers for Babies and Toddlers (Guest Post)

Welcome to the blog my friend Sara! She's a former blogger herself, and was delighted to put together a guest post for us this week. Enjoy!!

There are plenty of amazing stocking stuffer blog posts out there­. Believe me; I've scoured them. This post is different because I'm going to let you know what I actually bought here in Canada for my son Felix who will be 3 1/2 years old, and my daughter Madeleine who will be just shy of 6 months. I've tried to include prices as much as possible. Most of the items are gender neutral (in my opinion) or you could easily swap out a different theme/character in the same item.

In our family, stocking stuffers are from Mom and Dad, not Santa, ­and I include the cost of the stocking stuffers in our overall Christmas gift “budget”. At this point I don't have a set dollar amount of how much we'll spend on the kids­, but I like to keep track. With our newest addition to the family, I decided we needed new sotckings. I brought home 4 different (but “matching”) stockings and let Felix pick out who gets which one­. He picked the snowman for himself, the reindeer for Madeleine, Santa for Dave (my husbnad), and I got the owl (Dave and I actually both wanted this one and we also both thought Felix would pick this one for himself). I'll also add that my husband and I do not exchange gifts with each other so we save some $$$ that way.

For Felix (3 1/2 year old boy)

1. Make your own power balls kit -  I purchased at Target $3.00. Basically make your own bouncy balls. ­Felix is obssessed with bouncy balls and has been really into crafting lately so this should be a big hit!

2. Mr. Potato Head as Optimus Prime Mixable, Mashable Heroes - from Target.

3. I Spy Little Christmas - I purchased this at Winners for $5.99. (Jenn's note - OMG Sara... I Spy Little books are THE BEST!)

4. Road washi tape from Willow Washi -  $2.80 This is a Canadian site that I regularly purchase washi tape from. The road tape has been a huge hit with Felix for over a year and a half. I almsot always have a roll in the diaper bag­or my purse­ along with a toy car or two!

5. Jingle bell rattle­ - From Target for $1.

6. Crayola Toothbrush - ­Superstore Felix loves the light up timer on his current toothbrush but it's almost time for a new one!

7. Toy Story Band­aids - From Target

8. Froggy shower pouf – From Target. Felix saw some smaller shower poufs at a store the other day and decided that since they were smaller than the one I have, they MUST be for kids! I hope he likes this character one.

9. Sesame Street Fizzy Tub Colours - From Target­. We've never tried anything like this before but I know Felix will love it­I just hope they clean up easily! (Jenn's note - They sure do! We've had them before, and more are coming in Seb's stocking as well.)

10. Snowman Gel Clings – Target $1 WE LOVE GEL CLINGS!!! Whenever they appear in the target “one spot” I grab a whole bunch. I think I actually bought 10 sets this time around: snowflakes, lights, santa, pengiuns, and this snowman. We'll play with the others throughout Decemer, but this one will be in his stocking.

11. Play­Doh Makeables - ­ Winners $3.99. I almost fell over when I saw these. Felix has been VERY into play doh lately ­we have a bunch of different sets­, one of which is a kitchen with recipe cards. He LOVES following the “constructions” (he means instructions) to make “supper”, so I think he'll love that these sets also have picture instructions (I mean constructions!) to make a few different sea creatures (which he is obsessed with­, thank you Octonauts). The set includes all the colours you need too which is always a bonus!


For Madeleine (6 month girl)

1. Flower wall decals – Target on sale for $3.50, regular around $20? I purchased some awesome wall decals for Felix's bedroom last year from Wall Dressed Up on Etsy, and I've been trying to decide how to decorate Madeleine's room. I'm not ready to pay that much for her room yet so when I saw these at Target ­ON SALE­, I grabbed them!

2. Bright Starts Teething Rings

3. I Love You (soft book) – Winners $8.00 based on the board book I Love You Through and Through. We have the board book in French and thought this was a cute version for Madeleine

4. Turtle Wheelie Pal - $4.00 We have a bunch of other animal wheelie pals from Felix's first Christmas and Madeleine loves them, so ... added to the collection.

5. Jingle bell rattle - ­ Target $1 While Madeleine is a bit too small to handle this one alone (I'm pretty sure the bells will come off easily), it'll be good to have two of these in the future!

6. Oral ­B stages toothbrush – Superstore $4.00ish There will always be a new toothbrush in our stockings!!

7. Hair clips – Target $3.00. I am not a fan of headbands on babies (sorry!), but I do think that hair clips and barrettes are super cute! This set is actually for 3yrs+ and since Madeleine doesn't have much hair anyways, we'll hold onto these for the future!

8. Munchkin silicone spoons – Superstore. This is the same set that Felix used, and she already loves chewing on the empty spoon.

9. Nuby Sippy Cup (rated 4 months+) - ­ Superstore. While Madeleine has refused to take a bottle, she has been desperately trying to grab our cups and food. She'll be 6 months just after Christmas, so we'll be starting solids then and offering some water too. Actually maybe I'll try pumping and putting milk in there there and see if she'll take it that way!

10. Hyland's teething tablets – We LOVED these with Felix.­ We found that when his teething was at it's worst, he wouldn't let us give him Tylenol or Advil, UNLESS we gave him these tablets first­ and sometimes that's all he needed. We buy ours at Save­On Grocery store. ­I can't remember how much they were.

11. Suck/teething pads for our baby carrier – These are actually from when Felix was a baby. We barely used the carrier, ­but I use it all the time with Madeleine,  and she's almost big enough to get her mouth on the straps so these will come in handy. I bought them from a shop on Etsy (I LOVE ETSY!) but I can't remember who. There are quite a few Canadian shops that sell them for roughly $15.00 plus shipping.

I had some other great ideas, but unfortunately while saving the original copy of this post I managed to delete them. While this is unfortunate for the purposes of this blog post, and incredibly frustrating because it took waaaaaay too long to write in the first place (two kids who are not having great sleeps these days), I DID HAVE GREAT IDEAS THAT I DON'T REMEMBER. Sigh.

I hope this gave you some ideas­. I really enjoyed putting this together (well the first time at least!)­. I'm also happy to have "stocking stuffers" crossed off my Christmas to­ do list!

Thanks so much, Sara! I love these ideas!! So so so helpful!

Thursday, 4 December 2014

Men's Gift Guide #1

Rob rarely asks for anything when gift giving occasions are upon us. Conversations can often go something like this:

Me: Hey sweetie, what would you like for Christmas (Father's Day, birthday, etc etc etc)?

Rob: Nothing. I don't need anything.

Me: Ugh. (rolls eyes)

I rack my brain forever and then go buy something I think he'll love.

Rob: Actually, can you get me this (insert some random electrical circut thing I've never heard of)?

So if your husband or significant other doesn't happen to be wishing for an FPGA or a 3D Printer, here are a few other ideas that have worked with Rob in the past.

Kobo or Kindle - I'm a Kobo girl myself, but I prefer the Kobo only because I can get books from our library on the Kobo. Rob enjoys his Kindle. He really wasn't much of a reader when we first started dating, but he really reads so much more with his Kindle. If you want to pre-load a good book to go with it, Rob recommends Chris Hadfield's An Astronaut's Guide to Life on Earth.

Maker Dad: Lunch Box Guitars, Antigravity Jars, and 22 Other Incredibly Cool Father-Daughter DIY Projects by Mark Frauenfelder - I nearly bought this book for Rob for Christmas before I saw that it is for father-daughter projects. Maker-ism (is that a word?) is big in our house, or at least it's big with my husband and we both hope Seb loves it too. I haven't yet gotten my hands on a copy of this book, but it looks freaking awesome. I really would like to see if the projects could be gender-neutral.

Popular Mechanics Subscription - This has been my mom's go to gift for Rob for the past few years. She's actually gotten him a subscription to the cleverly-named Nuts and Volts, but Popular Mechanics also comes highly recommended by many of the men I know.

DNA Canvas Portraits by DNA 11- By far and away the coolest art piece in our house. I gifted Rob this as my wedding gift to him, and now our DNA hangs in our living room.

Eco Friendly Shaving Kit by Orange Fuzz - Rob LOVES this shaving kit. It's full of all-natural products and comes in an upcycled wood cigar box. I've also gifted it to my brother-in-law and his partner. My brother-in-law told me his partner downed both kits quickly. Trust me, the Guinness Cedarwood Beer Soap smells amazing.

Train Play Mat T-shirt - So I actually haven't gifted this to Rob yet, but this shirt makes me laugh...and question my parenting....and want one so so bad.


Monday, 1 December 2014

Homemade and Personalized Gift Ideas #1 (plus places to just buy them online for the not so crafty like me)

Seb has some pretty crafty grandparents. My dad is a magician when you give him a piece of wood. My mom is very skilled at sewing and quilting. Rob's mom crochets, and, before he passed away, Rob's dad was also quite a skilled craftsman.

I thought I would show off some of the wonderful goodies we've been gifted from them. And just in case you don't quite have the time to make these items yourself, I've found links on Etsy of places you can buy them.

Jewellery box

This is a jewelery box my dad made for me ages ago. I love its simplicity. The top tray slides to either side and is easily removed. Also, it's becoming more and more evident that I clearly have a Stella & Dot problem ;) lol

Check out this similar Solid Black Walnut Jewelry Box on Etsy.

Button Christmas Ornament

Inspired by a very similar ornament my mom and I saw in a copy of a magazine awhile back, my mom crafted this ornament by gluing buttons onto white felt. I love that she added a little J button just for me :)

I couldn't find anything quite the same on Etsy, but here are a few that have a similar vibe.
Similar 1 - Tree ornament with vintage button mix
Similar 2 - Christmas hearts

Personalized Name 

This was actually a wedding gift from my late grandmother. My parents loved it so much, I gifted them their own copy a few years ago. Here's where you can get your own personalized wall decor via Etsy. My mom had the crafty idea (no pun intended) to get the first letter of her name and of my dad's name from these zinc letters at Anthro (similar) and hang them above their last name photo on the wall. They look so good together.

Wine Cork Trivet

My dad made this wine cork trivet a few years ago as well. It is used often in our home, and I love pulling it out and showing it off when we have guests. It's so unique! Also, the blue denim trivets underneath were made from my very own jeans by my mom.

Here's a similar cork trivet - Walnut Wine Cork Trivet

Baby Quilts

My mom made Sebastian a number of quilts since he's been born. The rocking horse quilt is a hanging quilt because it has a few buttons and extra material pieces on it. The Noah's ark quilt is his everyday quilt. He sleeps with that one every night.

Similar Noah's Ark Quilt set
Personalized Rocking Horse Quilt

I Spy Quilt

This quilt I actually bought from one of my sorority sisters when I was pregnant with Seb. She was selling them at a sorority event, and I immediately ordered one. It was so great to order it from someone I knew because she personalized many of the squares just for us (a cat for lily, computers to represent Rob and his work, a Canadian flag, etc). This blanket gets lots of use in our house. In addition to sleeping with it, Seb really enjoys searching for the squares when we name them. I would  encourage anyone with a baby or toddler, or anyone who needs a gift idea for a baby or toddler to consider an I Spy Quilt. It's one of his favourite toys.

Similar I Spy Quilt
Similar (DIY)