Backpack Program: Time to Give Back(pack)

20170814_172508

The Backpack Program at our church is a great way for us to wrap up the end of the summer and get ready for school.  This year, I discovered that my friend participates in the program because it reminds her of a niece she lost a few years ago.  In honour of her niece, she donates a backpack for a child that would’ve been in the same grade.  We usually did the grades that Big H and Middle A were in, but this year, we followed our friend.  It seemed a bit more meaningful as we went to select all the items needed for the backpack and the backpack itself.  I had a face in mind.  There was a special little girl out there that we were doing this for.

This program ties in really well to the girls’ newest assignment, a gratitude journal.  They both wanted a BUJO (see my Bullet Journal post in the spring), but other than a Doodle Challenge and a couple of lists, they didn’t have much in it.  I thought the summer was a great time for them to reflect on their day (it is much longer now as bedtimes have pretty much gone out the door) and to think about how lucky they are.  The assignment was simple.  Think about one to two things they are grateful for without it being the generic “I am thankful for food because not everyone in the world has food.”  I wanted them to give a reason they are grateful.  Explanations are everything.

They have had a few entries and so far so good.  They are thankful for friendships because they can talk to their buddies and run around together.  They recognize the value in their godparents and godbrothers.  Today they were thankful for basketball and having parents coach them.  I hope they keep this up when school starts.  I think it’s important for kids to have an “attitude of gratitude” especially mine.  Although they don’t go home with something most times they go to the mall (I know some parents who promise their kids a treat each time), they do receive generous birthday and Christmas presents and have my in-laws who are very generous grandparents (despite many reminders to wait for special occasions).  Teaching  them to give back starts at a young age so it may be something you’d like to start with your child.

If you are interested in involving your children in the St. Patrick’s Backpack Program in Markham or perhaps a similar program in your community, now is the time.  If you are on Facebook, please contact me and I will gladly forward you some information. Backpacks are due soon so if you are interested, please contact me by Thursday, August 18.

 

Funky Monkey Photography: Spring is in Session

We were honoured to be asked by Funky Monkey to be models for their spring session.   As you know, we LOVED all the shots of our girls and our family during their Christmas promotion.  With many new backgrounds (I am so in love with the arrow background) and colours to choose from, it was hard to decide.  Luckily, James is a pro and he had it all in check.

Now besides all the amazing lighting and props that are always there, I first have to mention this.  Our two eldest daughters are generally shy girls (we left Baby C out of this session because I wanted James to have girls who could take fast direction).  It takes them a while to warm up to people and I’m including close friends and family.  Only seeing James for the second time, he had them in giggles and totally at ease.  Maybe it was the ease of the shoot or the fact they remembered his famous line, “Bingo bongo!”  It could’ve been the fact that he opened the session with a cool swing and they realized, “Hey, this is gonna be awesome!”  Whatever it was, I was in awe that he could make those two so comfortable.  They were into the photos, brought their great smiles, and tried whatever poses he suggested.  It was a fun time for all.

Like the Christmas shoot, the studio is always updating their stock and this time it was another enormous selection of backdrops and floor drops.  They had brick backgrounds, flowers, fields, patterns, you name it and it was there (he has a cool storage nook for his backdrops under the stairs too – excellent use of space.).  My favourite was the weathered wood floor drop and the matching background.  The cool thing about floor drops I learned was that they can be made of many materials and this one felt like felt.  They also come in vinyl, linen, canvas, and plastic.  The combinations are endless and really sets the tone and look of the photos.

The shoot took slightly over an hour, but time flew by with the enormous amount of choices we had.  If your little one is ready for some commemorative pictures (the only problem will be selecting your favourites) or you are finally ready for a set of family photos, think of Funky Monkey and the whole experience!  If you want a fun photographer and organized partner who helps with bookings and answers all questions fast, give them a shout.  Trust me, you will have a great time!

Contact them now by calling or texting: 416.997.0814.

 

 

 

Unionville Festival

       This past weekend, we popped by the Unionville Festival on Main Street to get our fill of parades and treats for the start of the summer.  It was amazing weather on Saturday so we spent some time soaking up the rays.  We arrived about half an hour before the parade began.  Usually, the hot spots are taken up already, but I think people were just milling around.  We managed to grab our favourite curb across from Starbucks.   We were excited to see how Baby C would like it.

      The parade lasted about an hour and we saw many local businesses such as dance studios, local clubs, and politicians with floats and participants handing out candy and treats.  The kids enjoyed it except for the gun blasts at the start.  They were quite loud and right in front of us.  We saw the huge horses up close, a school bus (Baby C LOVES them), and a fire engine.  To celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday this year, volunteers handed out flags.  There was free face painting and Freezies for the kids.  We saw lots of dogs and babies all out enjoying the great weather.  Our friend and coach of Big H’s basketball team had a booth to promote his basketball camp.  We ran into a couple of friends who also attend this annual event.  Local merchants sold soap, jewellery, dresses, fresh bread, and toys.  There was a big selection of food including corn, stinky tofu, and burgers.  There was a big Pikachu walking around and some clowns taking pictures with kids.

          We left around noon as Baby C was starting to get tired and we had been up pretty early that day.  Big H stayed with her friends at the basketball tent, popping over to other tents to make slime.  We enjoyed some fresh mango slush on the way back to our car.  It certainly reminded us that summer is just around the corner.  Can’t wait for more 25C days!

Meal Planning 101

20170528_124137.jpg

With so many things on the go, the last thing I want to stress over is food.  I’ve always meal-planned, but lately, the process has been fine tuned and everything seems to go quite smoothly.  My process starts on a Wednesday when my favourite flyer app, Flipp, comes out with next week’s flyers for our closest grocery store.  I plan the menu for the week, sometimes based on sales and other times just using the flyer for inspiration. After menu planning comes the store visit on a Saturday morning.  If you go early enough, no one is there and it’s a pleasant walk through produce and meat.  Sometimes, I’m even lucky enough to wrangle an older daughter to come with me for the trip.  Most times, I go at it alone and I find it relaxing.  The funny thing is, no matter how many things I have to get or whoever comes with me, it’s usually an hour trip. Going alone is easier though because then I’m not entertaining Baby C or convincing my girls that zucchini really is as delicious as its cousin, the cucumber.

Sundays are meal prep days.  Although it doesn’t take a full day, it does take a busy three to four hours depending on how much chopping is involved.  A typical menu for the week may consist of using my Instant Pot at least once, some stir fry, and perhaps, something going in the oven.  I also try to plan healthy breakfasts to go for four of us (Baby C eats at daycare) and also snacks and lunches.

When I was on maternity leave, every night we had a different meal.  Oh, how spoiled they were!  LOL.  Now, I will often double Sunday’s meal and Tuesday’s meals.  Even though Hip Teacher Dada and I finish early at work, we don’t leave right away.  From coaching to planning and marking to the gym, we don’t usually get home until around 5:30 p.m.  Having something ready to heat up is much easier than doing an hour of cooking every night.

This is our menu for the week:

Girls’ Breakfast: fruit and yogurt parfait (granola sprinkled in the morning)

Parents’ Breakfast: chia seed pudding with fruit (granola sprinkled in the morning)

Girls’ Lunch: cheese, pita, veggie sticks and chicken drumsticks

Parents’ Lunch: salad with berries, chicken, and egg

Dinner: shepherd’s pie and broccoli, honey garlic drumsticks with rice and mixed veg (roasted mushroom, onion, peppers, and carrots), omelette with toast and asparagus

Snacks: fruit cups with apple, pear, strawberries, and cherries, veggie sticks with dip, and carrot muffins

As you see, the menu is simple and healthy.  On the weekends, we usually eat out, grab take-out, or have events with family and friends.  I’ll do a more substantial breakfast on weekends like crepes or waffles.   I will try to avoid making Sunday plans because I know being home sets up the rest of the week for success.  I try to mix up my protein so that no one gets bored of the menu and in the summer, we will barbecue.  Last week, we had shrimp wraps, chicken alfredo, and homemade chicken fingers.  Making up dinner menus is fun and often, Facebook feeds and cooking shows serve as inspiration.  Sometimes I just ask the girls what they want and we’ll just go with that.  Chatting about food with friends is also a regular thing so sometimes I get cravings so my menu is already done.

What about you?  Do you meal plan and prep on Sunday?  Any special tips to share?

 

 

 

 

SUPERHERO POWERS: Which would you choose?

superhero cartoon

I LOVE superhero movies.  The next few years are gonna be a blast for Hip Teacher Dada and I because every other date movie will be superhero focused.  We just watched Guardians of the Galaxy 2 and soon, it’ll be Wonder Woman (June 2).  It got me thinking.  Why the sudden interest in the genre?  Why the multitude of t.v. shows, comics, and remakes?  When did superheroes become cool again or did they never become uncool?  I’m not complaining.  It’s a dream come true!

For me, I’ve always loved superheroes and grew up watching Superman with my dad.  Although my dad is no longer with me, I always remember the Christopher Reeve movie marathons on t.v. with him.  I remember watching Batman and thinking how dark a character he was, but always thought he could kick Superman’s ass.  I was engrossed in X-Men and even bought a large coffee table book and shared it with some (only certain students with a fondness of heroes knew about it) who were really into them.

I also thought it was so cool to have superpowers.  Which one would I want? There are so many out there: invisibility, speed, super strength, and harnassing the power of nature.  My friends even compared me to Wolverine for having such quick healing powers after my three C-sections.  LOL.  In the end, I decided that I’d love to be invisible.  Why?  Well, why not?  (Fine, it would be cool to spy on people.)

What about you?  Which power would you want?

Bullet Journal: I LOVE IT!

If you’re a teacher, chances are you love to organize and you love making lists.  Every September, I look forward to purchasing a brand new agenda for the school year.  I colour coordinate school events, personal appointments, kids’ activities and our family social calendar.  Until Christmas, my agenda has perfectly round bullets, neat check marks, and perfect stickers. By Christmas break, it’s no longer worthy of themed stickers and cute doodles.  It’s a mess.

One day, a friend mentioned bullet journaling to me and I couldn’t stop looking at all the results on Pinterest.  This entire phenomena is devoted to lists, creative designs, and jotting down memories.  I can write down future events and happenings.  I can decide my own layouts all the whole using cool new tools like washi tape and stencils.  What!  Where has BUJO been all my life?  It’s also a great place to write down things my kids do (I have a few pages devoted to each kid), wish lists, and future to-dos (a lot of it is for work for next September or for the house).

I came across this new hobby just around the time I turned 40.  Not sure if this is a midlife thing or just another new hobby, but anytime I get into something  (e.g. stamp collecting, Cricut, Instant Pot, etc.), I’m all in.  I mean, I go HARD!  I want all the tools, research all the tips, and Google all the sites – usually in a week.  LOL.

So after purchasing my bullet journal from Indigo on my birthday, within the week, I also had the fine liners, pencil crayons, stickers, and metallic markers.  I also went on the hunt for cute washi tape, correction tape, and the perfect ruler and pencil case.  I began to lay out my monthlies and weeklies, all the while keeping in mind what my friend said.  “Don’t worry if you make mistakes!  I did for the first few weeks and it’s okay.”  Clearly, she knows how Type A I am!  This BUJO not only gives me a chance to design my own layouts and pick my colour scheme for the pages (much like a scrapbook), I also have an exercise in retraining my mind and keeping my mental health in check.  It’s almost like gratitude journal, Smash Book, and agenda all rolled into one.  What fun!

Last week, we were in Niagara Falls so naturally, we hit up Target in the dollar section (my fave).  Amazing finds including mini-stamps (the Starbucks coffee cup got me), washi tape, and planner stickers.  For $3, you can’t go wrong!

Since I started, a couple of my friends are now interested in it and started to gather their materials for their own bujo.  I can’t wait to see their layouts and what other ideas they came up with.  I mostly modify inspiration I see on Pinterest to suit my needs.  Each month, I’ve switched out my weekly layouts to keep it fresh.  I’m going to have this current bujo until the end of 2017 and then get a new one for January (it’s hard – my mind has a Sept to June calendar because of work, but I also work on Jan to Dec time).  My middle child really wants one for her birthday so maybe she will get a Birthday Bujo.  It’s already in my planner.  😛

Toronto Symphony Orchestra: THE HOCKEY SWEATER

Everyone knows the classic story by Canadian author, Roch Carrier, about his experience growing up as a big hockey fan.  All the boys in the neighbourhood wear a Montreal Canadiens’ jersey with number 9, Maurice “Rocket” Richard, on the back.  However, Roch is accidentally sent a Maple Leafs’ jersey instead when his mother orders it from Hudson Bay.  He is afraid to wear it because of what all the neighbourhood kids will think.  He can’t be a Toronto fan!

Before the presentation of this beloved tale, the TSO presented a collection of songs inspired by travelling all across Canada.  From a wolf’s song to a regatta tune focused on the trombone, the melange of short pieces was not only fun to listen to, but educational.  Before each piece was played, the host of the event, Abigail Richardson-Shulte, explained the background of the piece and taught a mini-history lesson.  As a teacher, I LOVED it.  It also helped to see which instruments to pay particular attention to.

Our favourite piece was the farmland song, “Chicken Reel.”  It really got the audience clapping and the kiddies moving.  The musicians spinning their double basses at the side was great too.   Not only did this song get the audience into it, there were several more pieces that allowed for audience participation.  We closed our eyes and imagined The Northern Lights.  The audience did a wave.  It was really fun!

After travelling across our great nation through song (we are celebrating our 150th, after all),  it was time for the main event.  The TSO along with the author himself performed the famous book through narration, drama, and sounds.  Different instruments portrayed special effects such as the naggy mom (woodwind), church (organ), and Rocket Richard (brass).  It was great to see the story unfold right before our eyes.

Once again, the TSO did a great job of educating the young and old alike through a spectacular musical performance.  I loved the classic tale performed live.  My kids enjoyed the short pieces throughout the performance.  They were just long enough to keep their attention.

Have you been to a TSO performance yet?  Check out what’s coming up: https://www.tso.ca/

EDITOR’S PICK: Toronto Symphony Orchestra Disney’s Ratatouille

    We attended the Toronto Symphony Orchestra’s performance of Disney’s Ratatouille about a month ago. We arrived about thirty minutes early and had a chance to explore the beautiful venue.  My older girls have never been to Roy Thomson Hall before.  They loved the large circular layout and the high ceilings.  They were excited to see the snack venues as well as the baby grand piano in the foyer.  We enjoyed a beautiful sunny walk as we parked at the Eaton Centre so we were doubly excited for the performance because the sun just brightens up our moods!

      The doors opened late and a few of the kids outside were getting a little antsy.  Luckily, popcorn and snacks were abundant and subdued most of them.  It was adorable seeing some young attendees all dolled up for the big show.  The buzz was in the air and I overheard a couple of the kids oohing and aahing over the seats as we entered.  It was adorable to witness!

    The orchestra was introduced as well as the guest conductor, Sarah Hicks. This was her Toronto debut as she has worked all over the world from the U.S. to Japan.  As prominent as RTH is, once inside, everything seemed even more grand and yet intimate.  We had seats near the back and yet our view was still amazing.  (I had a scheduled interview with Sarah, but due to time zones and her busy schedule, we were only able to touch base via text.  Once she has a chance to answer my interview via email, I will write another post.)

     Once the movie began, it was enchanting.  I almost didn’t realize the frequency of sound in a movie like Ratatouille until I noticed and anticipated when the musicians picked up their instruments.  I braced for the bravado of the music, the strings of the violins, and the staccato of the notes.  We LOVED every moment of it and soon it was intermission.  I spent quite a bit of time watching the musicians too because it was just amazing to see their passion come through their instruments.  Without them, the silence of the movie certainly wouldn’t have moved me as much as it did.  The music touches all emotions (yes, I cried) and stirs up memories.  It was a great flick for foodies and aspiring cooks alike (my girls love food and cooking and constantly obsess over the latest food competition shows).  Seeing it come alive, however, is a whole new experience!

    Ratatouille is the story about a little rat named Remy who is a connoisseur of French cuisine.  It’s not enough for him to be satisfied (much like his brothers are) with a piece of stale bread and moldy cheese.  He will create scrumptious dishes based on the remnants he finds from various trash bins around Paris.  Lucky for Remy, his circumstances and his new friend, Alfredo Linguini, land them both in the finest restaurant in the city.  With a mean head chef and a female mentor in Colette, these Remy and Alfredo find their way through many food adventures including trying to win over the city’s most feared food critic.

  Disney movies have always been magical to me, but this live performance at Roy Thomson Hall was beyond compare!  It certainly was an experience for my family and I encourage you to check it out next time a Disney movie is shown this way.  After the movie, we headed back uptown to host get together, but if we did not have plans, we would certainly have sought out the nearest bistro.  It was a beautiful sunny day and what better way to enjoy it than with some ratatouille.

EDITOR’S PICK: FUNKY MONKEY PHOTOGRAPHY

a93u6712

*This post was ready to go soon after the November shoot, but I wanted to wait for the photographer to get his website up and ready before promoting how awesome he is.  The husband and wife team have spring props coming in the next couple of weeks so book an Easter session while you can!

It’s been a few years since our last family photo shoot (we weren’t a family of five then) so when the opportunity popped up on Facebook, I knew it had to be.   Being in Markham and just ten minutes away, I knew that was just another sign that it was time.  It was the best hunch ever!

We arranged an evening appointment last fall and headed out to meet with the photographer and his wife.  Jenn and I had been in Facebook contact from the start and she is AMAZING at responding to questions and concerns quickly. For myself, instant replies are important and Jenn is all over her messages so that was already a step in the right direction.  She also warned us about their two big dogs and was happy to put them in the backyard when I said that my little girls wouldn’t be too thrilled.  They like dogs, but not ones bigger than themselves.  Jenn was happy to accommodate.

James was still setting up when we arrived so we headed downstairs first.  They had just come back from a cottage photoshoot (yes, they will travel).  There were so many amazing props! As Christmas is our favourite holiday, Hip Teacher Dada and I couldn’t help but oooh and ahh over their collection.  Since acquiring pieces from various Winners (some as far as Hamilton) and garage sales, James was excited to show off his stash during the shoot.  I’m sure we didn’t even get through half their holiday props, but it was Baby C’s bedtime.

James was very easy going and gave us directions for poses. Mostly, he spent his time coaxing Baby C into giving him some smiles to work with. It’s hard for her to just smile (she doesn’t even do it for us when she’s not in the mood and this was just an hour before bedtime) especially since she was in new environment and with a complete stranger.  Big H and Middle A are quite comfortable in front of the camera so that part was easy.  James was patient and broke out all the knick-knacks for C including the sled and fluffy snowballs.

A93U6571

His backdrops are amazing. We only used two, but there are about ten holiday backdrops including forest, holiday lights, snow, wooden door, etc.  James has tons of props including a sleigh, mailboxes, giant ornaments, and fake snowballs.  His instructions were easy to follow and the kids complied quickly.  They also have new backdrops for Valentine’s Day and Easter if that should interest you.

We were thrilled at the results.  Frankly, we were surprised that Baby C looked at the camera and even gave some smiles.  We weren’t sure how she was doing as the evening went on.  I highly recommend a photoshoot with James for you and your family.  Jenn is a dream to work with and the turn around time took just a week.  The edited pictures are amazing (please let me know what you think) and I am eager to use them all over our home.

To be honest, kids grow up way too fast these days.  If you are able to get family portraits for Christmas (or any occasion), do it. It’s memories that will last forever and you can’t beat the experience.  I’m so happy these pictures turned out the way they did.  It’ll be Christmas all year long in our household.

Check out http://www.funkymonkeyphotography.ca or contact them on Facebook.  SMILE!

EATS REVIEW: Good Catch Boil House

       Had the opportunity to try Good Catch Boil House during their soft opening in early February.  One word: mmm.  Is that a word or more a concept?  Either way, it was delicious and I can’t wait to head back for more.  We decided to forego the Louisiana-style hot boil just because it we weren’t in the mood, but opted for everything fried and salty instead.  Ha ha.  Can you tell it was a dinner with teachers and report card season was FINALLY over?  We needed a little pick me up and this was certainly it.

       We had our eyes set on the lobster nachos, but the waitress said the chef hadn’t perfected the “cheese melt” on it yet so he didn’t want to serve it to us.  Perhaps our puppy dog eyes (and drool) convinced her to ask him again.  Out it came and was it ever yummy (warning, must share with a group of 5 or you’ll never finish it)!   Lots of fresh toppings, chunks of lobster, and ooey gooey cheese.  A friend found it a bit dry, but I used an insane amount of salsa so I was good.

20170208_180509

            We also ordered the oyster sliders to share and they were probably my favourite dish along with their Cajun fries.  The buns had the right touch of sweetness and the oysters from the Pacific were perfectly tender with the right amount of bite.  More fried goodness came in the form of the soft shell crab and torpedo shrimp.  Everything was just awesome and the service was top notch.

            The restaurant actually was inspired by Louisiana yet also calls itself a sports bar.  It is very bright, with high ceilings and feels spacious.  They had a variety of tables and high bar seating areas.  Our booth felt a bit tight due to our huge winter coats so perhaps that is the only physical improvement I can think of.  (I found the Popeye statue at the front a bit odd too, to be honest.)

              Feeling for seafood and sports?  Give it a try at 179 Enterprise Blvd Unit M-109, Markham, ON.