Shopkins Party!

IMG_6934.jpgTo be honest, I had never heard of shopkins until recently (I have a 4 year old boy, ask me anything about superheroes and ninja turtles – I’ve got all the answers). Now that I’m a veteran in the world of shopkins I think it’s safe to say if I was a little girl today I would be all over this craze. At first I didn’t quite get it, now that I’ve thrown a shopkins birthday, I most certainly understand the obsession with these little, adorable toys.

If you’re throwing a shopkins birthday, here are three helpful tips.

  1. All you need is pink and purple decorations, then visit Party City or your local dollar store to add some shopkins bling.
  2. Making necklaces/bracelets are the perfect craft, use big wooden beads if you’re hosting a party for wee little hands as they’re easier to manipulate.img_6945img_7578
  3. If you want to throw in a baking activity and don’t want the mess, you could buy chocolate chip cookies, get some candy googly eyes and make kooky cookie! We made ours out of fondant (also an option). img_7571img_7573img_6932img_7574

Happy Birthday to Us!!

img_6911We are officially a big kid now. We survived our baby stage, terrible twos, threenagers & F’n Fours and have made it all the way to 5! A very big thank you to all those that came out and celebrated our big day with us and a very big thank you to all of you who have come through our doors over the past 5 years.img_6921img_7512img_6908img_6905img_6918


5 Tips to Pack a Litterless Lunch

Written by: Emma Rohmann from Green at Homelitterless-lunch.jpg

How to Pack a Waste-Free Lunch

By now, hopefully you’re in the groove of packing lunches for the kiddos. Did you head into the first week of school with dread about what to pack, how to pack it, and whether they would actually eat it? It can be tempting to stick with pre-packaged, single-serving size items, thinking that it saves you time and thinking. But all this waste won’t get recycled, and doesn’t send a very positive message to the kids about the importance of reducing waste. To help you move away from the plastic sandwich bags and single-serve packaged items, here are a few ways to pack a waste-free lunch with ease.

  1. Don’t use Pinterest.

I might be biased because I don’t use Pinterest for anything, but specifically for packed lunches I think it’s enough to make anybody want to throw in the towel before even getting started. Unless you really get kicks from making your kids’ lunch a serious work of art, don’t search for visual inspiration. Save your energy and focus on packing healthy food instead.

  1. Use a Bento Box.

I used to use individual containers, but when I wanted to switch from plastic I invested in a couple metal bento boxes. One of the benefits is that you just have one dish to wash instead of 4 separate ones which saves time and/or dishwasher space. We use LunchBots, but I’ve also heard great things about PlanetBox, which has some fully sealed options.

  1. Have small leak-proof containers.

For kids who like yogurt, hummus, apple sauce, soups, etc., have some leak-proof containers on-hand. It really doesn’t take long to pour from a larger container, and you’re saving a tonne of waste. If you have those little Baby Bullet containers (and don’t mind using plastic), they work great for hummus and dips. You can also find small insulated containers for soups and stews.

  1. Pack cutlery and a cloth napkin.

Put cutlery and cloth right in their lunch bag so they don’t have to ask the lunch supervisor for disposable ones. I send my baby cutlery with my kindergartener – the handles are easy to put a name on, and it’s no be deal if they don’t come home. Get them their own napkins as well, either cute printed cloth, or even cloth baby wipes, and remind them to use them instead of paper towel. Just make sure to wash or rinse it at the end of the day!

  1. Pack leftovers.

Save time by reusing what you’re having for dinner. You can either pack straight leftovers, or cut up some extra fruit and veg as you’re prepping to go into lunch. You can also pre-cut many veggies and some fruits (like melon) at the start of each week. This will help you save time while packing a healthier lunch and avoiding those single-serve packages.

Packing lunches doesn’t have to be stressful. Be prepared with the right set up, and you’ll get into a groove in no time. Don’t make it more complicated than you want it to be so you don’t slide into old habits – I’ve been known to successfully pack a lunch in less than 5 minutes and if you have a dishwasher, the additional dishes aren’t even noticeable. Happy lunch packing!


Black and White Party

img_7456I’m finding it very hard to believe that my big brother is 40 years old. I mean that seems so old, I still think of him as this kid with scraped knees and braces, chasing me around but he’s a grown up, a real grown man. So we celebrated his birthday in style this year, it was a pretty big year for him and so a big party was the only way to go. We did a black and white theme, which is so easy for guests because who doesn’t own a piece of clothing that isn’t either black or white. Everyone looked so great and the sweet table was pretty easy to create as I only had to incorporate two colours (or shades if you want to be technical). Here are some pics from this weekend festivities. img_7464img_7452


The Truth About Travelling with Kids

img_7206Here are the details: we took our 4 year old son (Ollie) and our 15 month old daughter (Jaime) to Europe for two weeks. We flew from Toronto to Paris to Stockholm, stayed for a week and then flew from Stockholm to Paris, to Bordeaux. Yes, there are hundreds of posts out there about “the truth” about traveling with kids, so I’ll do my best to not be repetitive and really just lay out the facts. If you want the cole’s notes, read right below, if you want the long version, keep reading.

  1. Don’t expect anything.
  2. Give up on following any kind of routine.
  3. Even the crappy moments have silver lining.img_7153

Don’t Expect Anything

Prior to leaving I had all these silly expectations about how I would keep my children on Canadian time, we could go out for late dinners, not be on the bedtime clock, blah, blah. You just can’t have any expectations about what it will be like, not one. There were moments when I thought what are we doing? Traveling around Europe with small children could actually be used as a form of torture. They could really start doing that. Putting people on an 8 hour plane ride with a bunch of toddlers, people would start talking fast. Trying to get my hyper-active 4 year old to stop kicking the seat in front of him is like trying to jam a square peg into a round hole.

img_7295Having any expectations that you’ll tour around castles and see historic sites is just silly. I tried to take Ollie to an old castle in France, first of all it was a guided tour, second of all it was in French and third (most importantly) you were not meant to touch anything. Truth was, I had no idea about any of this until we were on the tour, we lasted 10 minutes of a 3 hour tour, not bad, not bad at all. Oliver just wanted to touch everything and despite my numerous requests to go to the bathroom before we went into the castle he decided 10 minutes in that he needed to pee desperately and that was the end of that.


Give up on following any routine

Yes – that’s right, nap times and routines and schedules just throw all that stuff out the window cause there’s no point in trying. Some days we had naps at 6pm and we went to bed at midnight, all of us. Some days we slept late and more than once we were wandering the streets in Strangas (a small town in Sweden) at 3am with everyone in tow. Here’s something I’ve learned about travelling with kids, stop judging other parents. Sometimes, I see kids out and about in Toronto at late hours and think about the parenting skills being used, who lets their kids go to bed that late, what are they thinking? Seriously, what am I thinking? You just never know what’s really happening.

img_7244Even the crappy moments have silver lining.

We got lost in France, very, very lost. We were on very little sleep, had a flight at 6am (from Stockholm to Paris), which meant we were up at 4am. Then another flight from Paris to Bordeaux and then we were meant to drive from Bordeaux to the rental house which was in a small town about 2 hours outside of Bordeaux. Instead though, we drove in the complete opposite direction, as a point of reference (for Canadians) it would be like if you were trying to get to London, Ontario and you ended up in Kingston instead. This was a true moment of #wtf – whose idea was it to come to Europe with kids. We’re somewhere in the middle of France, hungry, tired and longing for sleep. There were two ways we could have looked at this crappy moment, we could have started to blame one another for getting us lost (there was about 5 minutes of this) or we could look at it like an adventure and make the most of it. Always look for the silver lining. We hung out in this small town, had dinner, walked around and then got back in the car and drove for 3 hours. Our children were remarkably well behaved.

Trick of the trade – “who can be the quietest the longest” is the greatest game on earth. I will cry when both my kids learn the truth behind this wonderful game of silence.


There were also moments, when I loved my family, my children and my husband ferociously. When I was over the moon with happiness, where I truly was in the moment I was in and not worrying about other moments that have passed or ones that were to come. I wasn’t worrying about laundry, cooking, dishes, vacuuming or any other boring household chore that enter my mind when I’m trying to play superheroes and I’m simultaneously too busy trying to actually be one. I could just play with my kids, be in their little worlds and enjoy the wonderment of childhood.

Would I do this trip again? In a heartbeat. It would be helpful if I could win the lottery before the next one though, I would bring a full staff with me.


Small and big choices

we are our choices

Bed time routine is starting and your child needs a bath, they’re oozing dirt out of their little fingernails and you can smell the summer dust all over them. You’re having a super, hard time getting them to get into the bath. You’ve tried your whole arsenal of tricks and nothing is working, so now what? We like to call this, “the small and big choices”. Getting into the bath is a small choice, choosing to sleep at grandma’s house (big choice), picking pj’s (small choice), picking skating over swimming for Fall (big choice). Each choice, big or small has a result. Learning about “choices and results” is a very important step some of us sometimes leap past. 

The other night Ollie wanted to sleep at his grandmother’s house (she had given the ok, the ball was left in our court). We passed the choice onto the O-man, and told him that’s an example of a big choice he got to make.

Essentially the little choices we make easily, without whining, complaining, crying, swearing (oh yes, the O-man has mastered the F word – we’ll save that for another post) – little choices lead us to making big choices, all by our very selves! 

A lot of toddler/preschooler temper tantrums result from them feeling like they have no control over their own lives because so many decisions are made for them. Offering your child choices, big or small, whenever possible helps them to feel like they have more control. Letting them pick their own outfits in the morning, making choices for breakfast (within reason), picking the order of morning chores, etc – lets them feel like they have control of their life. If they’re part of making both, small and big decisions they begin to understand the concept of consequences. Life is about a series of choice and results and if we could all learn that from an earlier age we may have fewer regrets in our lives.

How to Host a TMNT birthday party!

IMG_7099So my little man turned 4 (well actually not till the 19th but that’s just a small technicality). He’s currently quite confused about how old he really is, either way he wanted a Teenage Mutant Ninja Party this year and thus I had to get a little bit more acquainted with the four green guys. I was pretty aware of the basics but didn’t know about some of the details, which Oliver informed me about it as we went along. sweet tableThe most ironic thing is that he hasn’t even watched the show, he just knows them from observations.  The first craft we did to get the ball rolling was his turtle shell.IMG_7026.JPG

Check out our instagram post for details on how to make it. Ollie wore the shell the entire day that we made it, went “ninja-ing” around all day, and then on the actual day of his party, he had zero interested in wearing his shell, go figure.

IMG_7089 (1)Next we planned an obstacle course and a scavenger hunt (both TMNT related). For the obstacle course we hung skipping ropes from the ceiling and then tied streamers between them, the kids had to go over and under the streamers without touching them. Then they crawled through two tunnels, walked a tight rope and then jumped over some pylons. Some of the kids were really into it, others not so much. The scavenger hunt only seemed to interest a couple of kids, which reminded me that keeping things simple is sometimes the best way to go. Visit our IG page for the details about the scavenger hunt.

IMG_7111As for the decorations, well my good friend the dollar store came in super handy. I purchased everything there, including the contents of the loot bags. For the loot bags, I cut construction paper for the headbands and then glued on googly eyes and drew mouths. IMG_7082The cups were super easy, bought green ones, then tied on streamers and glued eyes onto them. I thought for sure the kids would fight over who got which colour but they didn’t even seem to care. The balloons were also another quick and easy craft, all you need is green balloons, streamers and permanent marker. IMG_7101IMG_7032 (1)Lesson learned from this party – stick to the basics, don’t go over-planning, sometimes just opening the presents and playing with your new toys with your buddies is the best way to celebrate your 4th birthday!

Own your sh*t

water gun

You make a parenting booboo, now what? You know you screwed up, but how do you fix it?

Here’s a perfect example of this: 5 weeks after my daughter was born, I ventured out to run some errands with both kids in tow and ended up in the dollar store. My son who was almost 3 at the time wanted every plastic, colourful thing he could get his hands on and after a million no’s he asked me for a police set, I was half asleep and didn’t even look at the package and what it contained. The next thing is, we’re walking down the street and my son is holding a black gun shooting it at strangers. Ok, so I screwed up. Now what?

I had said he could get the package. If that wasn’t bad enough, we then also bought him some water guns. We weren’t letting him watch violent television shows so, why not let him be a little kid, let him play cowboys and indians, cops and robbers or whatever other good guy versus bad guy game he wants. BIG MISTAKE. In the end we had to take the guns away (obviously).

I think what made this transition easier for him is that we owned our error. We told him we had made a mistake, we had done something wrong and it was our fault. We repeated several times that “mommy and daddy made a mistake”. The lesson for him, or so we hope he learned: mistakes can happen, people make them, take responsibility for your actions, be honest about your behaviour.

Seriously we never get anywhere in relationships until we’re able to take responsibility for our behaviours, own your sh*t – remember you’re human and that means you’re going to make mistakes, be forgiving of others and especially yourself.

The Ins and Outs of Family Finances

family ins and outs

By Julia Davidson

Julia is a CPA, CA with a background in corporate finance, accounting and financial restructuring. She is also the co-founder of Murray & Bee, a parent to parent marketplace for used baby and kid gear, which was created because she and her partner wanted to buy high quality baby product at lower prices and encourage sustainable lifestyles. As guest blogger, Julia has agreed to answer your budget related questions. Please email her at

The Ins and Outs of Family Finances

When my son hit the three month mark and the adrenaline I was operating under wore off, we started to have some resemblance of a routine and I had a small amount of time to myself again. This was the first time I had a chance to reflect on life as a mom and the changes that had occurred. As much as I loved it, I started to look back somewhat longingly towards my time as a DINK. It was something I never appreciated at the time but as a Double Income No Kid family, my husband and I traveled, ate out whenever we wanted and didn’t think twice about buying each other birthday and Christmas gifts. We truly were DINKs in every sense of the word. Having a baby changed that, not only because it reduced our ability to be spontaneous, but because babies are expensive and for us when I stopped working to be with our son, our household income was cut in half.

During those first three months of maternity leave, I still was buying $5 fancy teas and my diapers at full drug store prices, but as I reflected at this moment, it became clear to me that while my spontaneous travel days may be over, if I ever wanted to travel again or be able to afford certain experiences for my children, we were going to have to make adjustments. Getting our family finances in order helped ease some of the new baby anxiety and allowed us to sit back and enjoy the ride of being new parents.

Below, I share my approach to a simple family budget and some suggestions to help you feel like you are living on a larger budget than you are.

All you need to do to make your budget is take the INs less the OUTs.

The INs – What do you bring in monthly?

  • Salary: If you are back at work, determine what your monthly income is. If you also receive a discretionary bonus, my suggestion would be to not include the bonus in your budget as it is hard to predict and shouldn’t be relied to live upon.
  • Top-Up & Benefits: If you haven’t yet left work, do your research to know the specifics of what your employer offers for parental leave top-up payments and benefits. Consider the frequency and timing of any top-ups or benefits so you can plan accordingly for your leave.
  • Employment Insurance: If you haven’t yet left work, determine if you qualify for EI under maternity/paternity leave and how much you expect to receive and at what frequency. Keep in mind there are specific rules for when and how you apply, so look at the rules in advance. EI Eligibility Criteria
  • Tax Credits: Effective July 1, 2016, the federal government replaced the universal child care benefit with the Canada child benefit. If you already receive the UCCB, there is no need to apply for the CCB but if you do not receive it, you need to apply. The following link will let you apply, read more about how this will affect your family and has a calculator to let you estimate what you might receive based on your household income.  Canada Child Benefit
  • Other INs: if your household brings in any other cash on a regular basis, list it here (ie: the salary of a non-benefit taking spouse, family financial support, income from a rental property, a side business etc…)

Add this all up (after tax of course) and you have the INs.

The OUTs – What are your expenses?

List all your monthly expenses – then categorize them as follows:

  • Household: List out all fixed household costs including: mortgage or rent, property tax, average annual maintenance and car payments
  • Savings: putting money into savings in the first few years of having children can be challenging because typically your household income goes down and your expenses go up. Try to do this. Even small dollars allocated to savings every month will compound overtime and help you in the future.   Savings includes contributions to your RRSP, TFSA and RESP for your child, as well as a regular savings account at your bank. If you don’t have any of the above set up, speak to your bank about doing so.
  • Other fixed costs: List any other recurring expenses you have, such as: child care, gym/sports, team memberships, cleaning or other maintenance services, bank fees, credit card fees, insurance 
  • Semi variable Costs: Some costs are not the exact same every month so put an estimate for these into your budget. These types of expenses include cell phone, cable, Netflix, music service, internet, utilities, car gas, medical/healthcare, groceries and public transport. If you don’t know how to start with an estimate, look at your historical bills and calculate an average.
  • Highly variable Costs: These are typically the expenses that provide the most fun in life, but they are also the ones you will need to cut back on first if you need to reduce expenses and you need to watch to make sure they don’t get out of hand. These expenses include: entertainment, gifts, clothing, dining out and the most dangerous of all – daily cash spending.
  • Exceptional Expenses Initially this should also be allocated towards savings, but these savings are for specific things that you will need/want in the medium term such as, furnishing a nursery or buying a new dishwasher.

 Add this all up after tax and you have the OUTs.

The Net:

On a monthly basis, subtract the OUTs from the INs and you now know what you have left over for a budget. If you do this and you get a negative number…. start cutting back the expenses where you can. For example, plan to eat out at restaurants less….don’t worry you won’t have time to dine out much with a new baby.

 Having a budget will give you comfort that you can live within your means, which means you can focus on your baby and family.  You can still indulge in baby gear while living within your means. It just takes a little effort and some planning ahead. Here are some tips and resources to living fancy within your budget. 

  • Tip #1 – Buy stuff used: many baby items used in the first year are only useful for a short period of time. Buying used can be a great alternative to retail and you can get high quality, well taken care of gear for a fraction of the retail price. Resource: Check out Murray & Bee for a great selection of used baby and kid gear. It’s the smart way to spoil your kids!
  • Tip #2 – Borrow from friends: If you have a circle of friends who have babies around the same time as you – you can share the items, lending them to each other as the need arises.
  • Tip #3 – Be careful buying in bulk: we know deals can be had if you buy this way but kids change diaper sizes, clothing sizes and interests very quickly so you better off to buy what you need for short periods of time. This will save you storage space too.
  • Tip #4 – Prioritize what you buy: Life isn’t a Pinterest Board – you don’t necessarily have to have the perfectly decorated baby nursery and every new developmental toy. The “baby” industry is like every other one, and companies would have you believe that you will be a better parent if you purchase their products. Don’t get sucked in! You can be a fantastic parent on any budget.
  • Tip #5 – Find inexpensive activities for your babies and kids: there are many options in T.O., including the following:

Don’t forget, your kids will be happy with a cardboard box, some old measuring spoons and the freedom to roam and explore in any child proofed area – so plan your baby finances ahead so you know the ins and outs of where to spend your dough.    

Sleepover Party!

Recently we hosted a very cute “sleepover party” – which was just the theme – the kids certainly did not sleep over! We had an ice cream bar, popcorn bar, pizza making station and pillow case decorating! We also got to watch a movie on our projector, while enjoying our popcorn. The kids loved it and it’s definitely an easy party to recreate in your own home. IMG_6514The popcorn bar was super simple to make. I purchased the red and white bags from the dollar store. The white container with the popcorn and smaller candy bins were purchased from Ikea. The little shakers and the chalkboard labels another great find from the dollar store. Finally, the popcorn sign was a purchase from Michaels, it was on sale and then I used chalkboard paint and voila! IMG_6518No party is complete without a pink lemonade stand. I purchased the glass container from William Sonoma but I’ve also seen them in a smaller version available at Kitchen Stuff PlusIMG_6541The pizza bar took a little bit of prepping as I had to make the dough during the day so that it was ready in time for the party. I used the recipe from – it’s pretty easy as far as homemade pizza crusts go. IMG_6545The pillowcase decorating was a huge hit, the kids could have spent much more time on this but we had so much to do! I bought plain white pillowcases from Ikea and they used fabric paints and markers. IMG_6523I found an ice cream party template from Pottery Barn and sort of recreated the look they had. I wrapped the boxes in wrapping paper and added gold fringe to them. I made the ice cream cones out of sparkly scrapbook paper and then used tissue paper for the scoops of ice cream. IMG_6533