Nathalie’s Parenting Hack: Google Calendar

It’s not a hack at all, actually, but it’s my most useful tool: Google calendar.

Our online family calendar is the alpha and the omega of all our planning.  It’s the first thing I look at in the morning and the last thing at night.  It’s the first thing I consult when making plans, and it’s the most-used app on my phone.  I’d be totally lost without it.

61lvzl2H+2L__SX258_BO1,204,203,200_I used to love my Filofax and my Sandra Boynton Family Calendar.  I loved the ritual of writing in all of the lessons at the beginning of each term, and seeing the months spread out before me.  I will not lie: the stickers in the Sandra Boynton calendar were a definite highlight.  The Kate Spade refills for the Filofax made my heart go pitter-pat, and I loved handwriting all of the birthdays of friends and family each January, when I replaced my Filofax pages.  The way the pages would gradually warp and soften as the year progressed was so satisfying.  All of that tactile and visual joy.

BUT, once the boys started hockey, not only did it become a challenge to actually fit all of the information in the little boxes, it became impossible to stay on top of it all, to effectively communicate it all, to make sure that something did not get missed.

So, while it gives me a lot less tactile and visual pleasure, my google calendar gives me enormous peace of mind and security.

The Almighty Schedule is its own entity, and we all feed it information constantly.  Between three boys, we have five hockey teams (two play House League and Select).  We subscribe to all five teams’ online calendars so that the information gets uploaded automatically.  Games, practices, meetings and tournaments all appear (in different colours for each team, no less, and with links to the maps to the arenas–double plus bonus).  Eldest’s school events and school sports teams also each have on-line calendars to which I subscribe, so those also appear automatically.  Lessons, after-school activities, swimming, playdates, doctors and dentists–they all go on as soon as I book them.  All of the Things are collected on that calendar, and if they aren’t on the calendar, they don’t get done.

Those of us with computers subscribe to the main family calendar, so everyone has access to all of the information all of the time.  This, by far, is the biggest advantage of an on-line, shared calendar.  I do not have to be the person responsible for reminding everyone else where to be and when.

It’s not very pretty, and it does not come with 500 nifty stickers or Sandra Boynton’s wonderful humour, but it gets the job done better than my beloved pen and paper.





Back-To-School Shopping Guide

School is back in session but if you’re like me, you resisted buying anything while officially still on summer break. I loathe to start back-to-school shopping too soon, and often find waiting until after school has started to be a better time to make well-thought out and needed purchases. Whether your little one is starting pre-school for the first time or heading off to university, we’ve got a list of need-to-haves and nice-to-haves.

Preschoolers and Kindies


Jump Kids World Pre School Animal Lunch Bag ($7). Lunch containers sold separately. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


Lunch boxes just got sweeter with these School Mini Cookies by The Teeny Tiny Bakery (50/box, $70).  Available at

Grade School


Tera Gear “Doddle” Backpack ($20), variety of colours. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


PC Stainless Steel Containers ($7-$9). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


Everyday Essentials Twist and Clip Insulated Lunch Bag ($6), variety of colours. Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


Heroes & Villains Notebooks ($10), available online only at


This Mini Lazy Susan will keep all the desk accessories in one place ($29).  Available at Pottery Barn Kids,


Magnetic Bookmarks ($6-$15) from Craft’ed,

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Affordable and stylish fashions from The Children’s Place.

High School


TOMS StandUp backpack ($60), variety of colours, and with every one purchased, TOMS will help stop bullying, one youth at a time. Available at and


Solid Task Lighting are ideal for brightening up any homework space ($52).  Available at Pottery Barn Kids,


Getting organized and staying organized can be a challenge but the Espresso Daily System ($49) does the trick.  Available at Pottery Barn Kids,


Dry Erase Whiteboard Magnets ($11) from The Tulle Box,


Storiebrooke Dipped Twig Pencils ($17.19) from Storiebrooke,


Everyday Essentials 20 Shelf Hanging Shoe Organizer ($14). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


Everyday Essentials 5-Piece Bath Accessory Set ($10). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


Life at Home 7-Piece Bed in a Bag ($54). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


The SodaStream POWER turns ordinary water into sparkling ($179).  Available at

For Mom


PC Cupcake Display Try Set with Pop Out Display Tower ($20). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


PC Enameled Cast Iron Pot ($60). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.


PC Textured Togo Mug ($10). Available at Real Canadian Superstore®.

Having a baby? Going to a baby shower? We’ve got the latest in baby gear!


It’s safe to say that the three mothers are past the stage of babies, diapers and midnight feedings but we know that not all of our readers are. We’ve relied on our own experiences and we’ve tapped some 4th mothers … Continue reading

It’s in the Bag!

Here are some things that are going along with us on our travels this summer.  Things to keep us happy, safe, and sane!

You guys, I get so many compliments on these shoes.  I love them.  They are not only fun and funky, they are really comfortable and practical.  I have walked all over the city in them, and the support and comfort cannot be beaten.  They are also light, making it a no-brainer to throw them in the suitcase.  I was sent this orange pair, but now I am tempted to buy them in every colour of the rainbow.  Check them out for yourself at Uneek by Keen.



I find it tricky to pack for kids when we are travelling: how to combine comfort, fun and respectability?!  I found an answer at The Children’s Place, where I stocked up on some new threads for summer.  Your money goes a long way at The Children’s Place, and with clothes so reasonably priced, it’s easy to find the kids something new and special for a trip.  I bought Youngest this Skylanders shirt, which he wore non-stop in the last weeks of school.  The shirts I bought have held up well through many washes, and he got so many compliments, I even picked up extras as gifts for his friends.



Keeping kids occupied on flights and drives is one of the hardest parts of travel, and this deck of cards has been doing the trick.  Personalogy is a situation card game that encourages discussion and imaginative thinking.  It comes in two editions: one for adults and one for the whole family.  I got a sample pack of the family edition, and I used it on a subway ride with seven ten-year-old boys heading to a movie.  They loved it, and it kept them busy while we got from A-B.  If anything, they were so eager that they rushed to get through the questions, eager to get to the next question rather than answer the “why” part of the question fully.  Next time, we’ll have to reinforce the why component.


Staying sun safe has never been so important, but what do you do if you are super-sensitive to sunscreens?  I have had the hardest time finding a sun screen for Middlest, who reacts with a rash to every single one.  I think I have finally found an answer for my kid’s unhappy reactions to sunscreen with Aveeno’s Sensitive Skin line.  We’ve tried it several times, and so far, so good!  Peace of mind, finally, under the hot sun.



And speaking of hot, I am seriously in love with Consonant’s brand new dealkalizing deodorant.  I was given a free trial with the purchase of their skincare products.  As a lifetime user of anti-perspirant, I was really, really skeptical about switching to deodorant, but I tell you, this stuff works.  I’m amazed at its odor-busting abilities, and I really haven’t felt like I’ve given up on anything with the switch.  Seriously–magic in a stick.



Throw it all into a bag from Tom’s, and you will be doing good while looking good.  Tom’s has an extensive charitable aspect to the business, and you can give the gift of maternal health and safe births with every bag purchased.


Fun for the Whole Family: Interactive Theatre with 6th Man Collective’s Monday Nights

Monday Nights is an interactive theatre experience that is one part choose-your-own-adventure, one part private detective role play, one part choreography, one part gym class and many parts fun.


The first thing that you need to know about Monday Nights is that it’s not just on Monday nights.  The play is a production by 6th Man Collective at The Theatre Centre, 1115 Queen Street West.  It runs nightly (excluding Tuesday) until Sunday, July 26th.  Click here to find tickets.

Members of the audience begin the night by going into the theatre and rifling through the players’ gym bags.  The bags contain clues about the personalities of the four players, and you choose your team for the evening based on what resonates with you among the things you find.  You then sit in the section that corresponds to the team you choose, and put on headphones that hang on the back of each chair.  The play begins with the audience observing choreographed basketball drills and skills while listening to information about their player from the three other players.  Then the four actors lead their teams in games and challenges, and the teams compete for points.  You do not have to participate at all, if you don’t want to, or you can participate by helping to keep score or by competing in a variety of basketball drills.  (Tip: if you are a good player, wait until the end to volunteer, as the skill level required for each drill gradually increases.) The actor who leads the team with the lowest number of points has to do the costume laundry that night!



My kids (boys, 10 and 7) had a blast.  They both play basketball, so I knew that the premise would interest them, but I wasn’t prepared for how much they loved being involved.  Even my more reserved child put his hand up to be a “volunteammate” several times.  They chose different sections to sit in, which was easy to facilitate because the theatre is small enough that I could see the child I was not sitting with easily.  I sat with Youngest, who wanted to volunteer for every single possible opportunity to hold the ball.  (Your team gets an extra point for getting new volunteers for each drill, so when he got to go up a second time, it cost the team a point!  Luckily he’s really good at sinking baskets and made up for it with points scored!)  Youngest got lots of cheers and support from our section, and he basked in the applause and high fives.  I was certainly not the loudest one cheering him on.

This play has been a highlight of our summer entertainment so far, and I can recommend it highly for a night out with kids.  For an added dimension of fun, go with a group and sit in separate sections and compete against each other.  It was a novel experience, and I had a smile on my face the whole night.  I had fun observing my kids’ enjoyment, and cheering my kids on when they went up to play, but I also really enjoyed taking in all the aspects of character development, props, script and choreography.

I love that the city has such a great range of arts experiences to take in during the Pan Am Games.  Monday Nights fits right in with the offerings at Panamania, and it harnesses all of that cheering, sports fan energy.


PC Home for the Summer

A favourite go-to for affordable home accents is PC Home.  The line of products is conveniently located at Superstores (usually alongside another fave, Joe Fresh) and this bodes well for my propensity to bury the cost of such goodies among my regular grocery shop.  Somehow it doesn’t count as a home splurge if I buy it at the grocery store.

PC Home is known for their quality products and beautiful design.  And it’s no wonder when you meet their incredibly talented design team – all of whom are living busy lives juggling family and work, so they are always tweaking products to add value to our lives not just make them pretty.


Set of 6 Melamine Mixing Bowls – $25   For food prep and display (available in warm colour set also)


Bamboo Fiber Dinnerware – Starting at $4   Landfill friendly, gorgeous patterns, heaviness to them, will last for several seasons if well-cared for (variety of patterns and colours available)


I’m crazy for this floral collection of traditional outdoor dinnerware, pop of colour, tie-in with  complimentary pillows and placemats.  If it’s too much for you, the print is also available in paper napkins adding a nice punch of playful design to a more conservative table setting.


This Embossed set of dinnerware and serving ware is my favourite.  I have this large bowl and it’s the go-to for potluck salads.  It won’t break and if I leave it behind, at $9, it’s not worth the hassle of trying to arrange a time to pick it up.  (Also available non-embossed in orange, teal and clear.)


Luxurious oversized beach towels, ideal for picnicking or pool-side.  Several colours and patterns to choose from only $16.


Everyday Essentials Water Bottle with Freezer Stick – $5  Genius!


Keep the light burning brightly with these lanterns ($17-$24).  If real candles make you nervous, try the LED battery-operated ones for the same look but without the responsibility.


PC Metal Rectangular Pitcher – $12 – I love the clean white look with the rope detailing.  This pitcher could easily do double duty as a decorative vessel to hold those summer blooms.


If you spend many hours over the summer on the sidelines of soccer fields and baseball diamonds, you need to get this Tera Gear Papa Lux Chair ($49).  It’s the most comfortable folding chair you’ll ever sit in!


PC Home has BBQs too!  Everything from this Tera Gear 72K BTU Pro 5 plus 1 burner, all stainless steel grill for $499 to this portable option, ideal for campers and picnickers for $199!


I was really impressed with this Tera Gear French Bistro Set for $179.  It’s the perfect size for a small balcony or creating a cozy al fresco dining area in your backyard.  The detail on the chairs is a testament to the high standards the PC Home team continue to achieve.

It’s almost hard to believe but in a few months, we will be posting some of our favourite PC Home items for fall and back–to-school.  We were at the media preview and I am almost (almost) looking forward to September.

Please note we receive no compensation from PC Home.

OK Friday Barn Fair: Top 6 Reasons to Visit!

OK Friday Barn Fair_Betty's(4)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
We all revel in a good farmer’s market, and OK Friday Barn Fair, launched by Burl’s Creek Event Grounds, has just taken things up a notch (or four). This weekly arts and market space, located in Oro-Medonte and conveniently en route to cottage country, showcases a wide range of goods from local farmers and vendors, selected Toronto imports, and live musical performances.  I recently had a chance to visit OK Friday Barn Fair and loved it, and am here to report to you my top six reasons for visiting.

1. There’s an amazing and thoughtful array of local goods.  You’ll find wonderful local produce, cheese, meats, maple syrup, honey, as well as jewelry and other crafted goodness at OK Friday Barn Fair. When you meet the farmers and craftspeople doing the growing and the making, you’ll also know that they’ve been selected with care and in collaboration with The Karma Project, a non-profit cooperative dedicated to promoting sustainable and accessible local food.

2. Cottage-goers never had it so good. So it’s Friday and you’re desperate to leave the city and you didn’t quite find the time to buy what you need to make your weekend the culinary delight you were hoping for.  Never fear! You now have delicious local options that are moons away from the jaded produce from Foodland in Barrie or the IGA in Wherever. Stretch your legs, score some great food, and support local farmers and businesses while you’re at it.

OK Friday Barn Fair_fresh produce(2)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures

OK Friday Barn Fair_baked goods_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
OK Friday Barn Fair_Nocturna Jewellery(3)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
OK Friday Barn Fair_Maddington Farms_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling PicturesOr, if cooking after the commute feels too much, grab dinner from the eateries at OK Friday. Rodney’s Oyster House offers up its famous oysters, mussels, and lobster rolls. Fans of Toronto’s restaurant trinity Fat Pasha, Rose and Sons, and Big Crow will be pleased to know that Anthony Rose also presents a range of his wares for sale.  Enjoy tastings of award-winning VQA Norman Hardie wines, and take a bottle home with you.  And for those of us lucky enough to be guests for a weekend away, it goes without saying that OK Friday Barn Fair is a treasure trove of lovely gifts for host or hostess.

OK Friday Barn Fair_Rodney's Oysters(3)_Image by Daniel WilliamsDowling Pictures
3.  The locals never had it so good.  One of the magical things about OK Friday Barn Fair and Burl’s Creek Event Grounds generally is the boost its giving to its community of Oro-Medonte. The market and grounds provide business development, cultural programming, and visibility to a beautiful region of Ontario. Restoration work on a 1930’s landmark barn with soaring 40 foot ceilings has been undertaken with assistance from the Mennonite community, and will serve as a destination event space, including weddings. During my visit to OK Friday Barn Fair, we enjoyed not just performances by Reuben and the Dark, but also by a local school who treated us to singing and their ukeleles, which were received through a musical grant. The presence of the local community of Oro-Medonte is infused throughout the market and the grounds.

OK Friday Barn Fair_banr(5)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
OK Friday Barn Fair_Reuben and the Dark(5)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures
4.  Drop by or spend the day.  If you only have time for a quick stop, the amazing vendors will help you make the most of every minute.  But if you have the luxury of a day to spend, it’s worth the trip to go. Time moves easily as you check out the grounds, browse the stalls, or just take in the glorious natural setting.  The eating is great (of course), and the music is an ever-changing series of local Canadian talent – this week is Dan Mangan. You can even heighten your peace of mind with an outdoor mid-day yoga practice at 3pm with Shanti Vira Yoga Studio and Green River Yoga Company.

5.  The music festivals!  OK Friday Barn Fair runs every Friday from 2 to 8 pm except for July 24, when Burl’s Creek hosts WayHome Music and Arts Festival (Neil Young headlines days of jam-packed talent) and August 7, when the huge Boots and Hearts Music Festival comes to town.  With over 700 acres of pristine land, Burl’s Creek is Canada’s largest outdoor event venue, with space for 60,000 people and 45,000 campers.

6.  It’s a labour of love. During my visit to OK Friday Barn Fair, I had the unexpected pleasure of sitting next to Burl’s Creek owner Stan Dunford during lunch (by Anthony Rose!). His goal was unwavering and simple from its inception: to create a world class facility. When asked what motivated Stan to take on this project, he points to his nephew, a fellow lover of music and the person who helped inspire the expansive vision behind Burl’s Creek. Stan talked about how the heart of an endeavour like this was never clearer to him than when a music festival was cancelled, but 40,000 people showed up anyway. They weren’t there for the music (there was none), he explained, but the chance to be together.  The core of Burl’s Creek is not just food and fun, but family and friendship.  It’s a good place to be.

OK Friday Barn Fair_Northwinds planters(3)_Image by Daniel Williams-Dowling Pictures

The OK Friday Barn Fair operates every Friday from 2 p.m. to 8 p.m. until October 9, excluding July 24 and August 7 when Burl’s Creek has planned festival events.

Photo credits: Daniel Williams/Dowling Pictures

Family History into Art and Business: Jack & Marjorie Bags

il_170x135_825013083_hwzaI met Meghan, of Jack & Marjorie, at the One of A Kind Show in December.  I fell head over heels in love with her line of bags that are made from military surplus materials such as wool blankets, tents, rifle straps and duffle bags.  Looking at the bags made me think of a well-cropped photograph: each piece seemed to have captured perfectly the precise corner of blanket or length of waxed canvas that was used for the piece.

When I asked her about the history of her company, Meghan shared that it was named for her grandparents.  Her grandfather had been a soldier, so the military surplus materials was in honour of him.  She remembered the range of her grandmother’s handbags, so the femininity of the line honours her.  The perfect marriage of feminine and masculine, form and function.

I think what I most liked was seeing military surplus materials given a second life as not only an accessory but the end result of art and craft.  A beautiful beating of swords into ploughshares.  Check out her Etsy store here.





It’s Shower Season! Top Baby Gifts You Need To Give.

Last week I wrote about my nephew’s impending arrival. Thank you to everyone who gave their two cents on which print to buy for his nursery. I am close to deciding, so if you haven’t had the chance to weigh-in, click here. The print I decide on will be posted to our Instagram page in about 10 days.

Having a baby in the springtime seems poetic. Birth and renewal of life are everywhere in nature and evident among us humans too, as mothers and young children reclaim the parks and sidewalks. I had my middle son on April 1, and fully appreciated the warmer weather and the longer days.

In anticipation of the newest addition to our family, I am co-hosting a baby shower for my sister-in-law. In just a few short years the number of products for baby has exploded exponentially! I know that there are many gimmicky products promising mothers everything from easy diaper changes to silent nights and as a seasoned mom, I tend to roll my eyes at many of them. There are products that all moms claim they couldn’t have survived the baby years without. For me, it was the bouncy chair. I wish that I had the foresight to put one on every floor of the house. I always thought that I would carry my babies in slings and carriers but alas, my dream was shattered when not one of them liked being carried in such a way. Go figure, they had distinct likes and dislikes from the very beginning!

Moms, what would you add to the “must-have” list for baby’s arrival?  Leave a comment.

I have rounded up a few of my favourite baby gifts from the tried and tested to the shiny and new.

When I buy a baby gift, I often stick to the registry for the basics: things everyone needs and everyone has a strong opinion about. Glass bottles vs. plastic? Sippy cups? Pacifiers? Better stick to what mom-to-be wants. No new mama wants to be returning anything in the days after baby is born.

I also like to splurge on fun things that parents aren’t necessarily going to buy for themselves. This “bear skin” rug from Pottery Barn Kids is a perfect example of a play mat that can be plopped down anywhere in the house for little one’s tummy time, and it’s just really cute, right?


I was shocked by the amount of laundry baby produced when I was a new mom. In particular, it was the mountainous number of receiving blankets covered in throw-up and spilled milk. I like these Aden & Anais classic swaddle blankets that are 100% natural cotton muslin.


Sophie the Giraffe. Need I say more? Worth every cent of her $30.00.


Hooded towels are undeniably cute, but I prefer classic monogrammed towels that can be used for many years. These towels from Pottery Barn Kids, were gifted to me at my baby shower more than 8 years ago, and they are still in rotation.


Speaking of gifts that grow, Skip Hop makes diaper bags that are stylish, functional and will be used long after baby is out of diapers.   The Duet 2-in-1 Diaper Tote and the Out & About are perfect examples of bags that work for storing diapers, quick changes and extra bottles, but their sleek design and sophisticated colours will transition nicely to a carry-on, an overnight bag or a gym tote. In celebration of baby shower season and Skip Hop’s new must-have diaper bags, from April 6-13, buy any Skip Hop item from Indigo and get a Skip Hop accessory at 25% off.



It seems impossible that baby, who is so tiny, will soon be eating foods at the table. Also by Skip Hop is a collection of colourful melamine plates, utensils and food storage containers.

Books. Books. Books. I love giving books. Recently as a baptismal gift, I bought 20 of my favourite childhood books. Inside each book I wrote a note. For example, I bought Alexander and The Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day and inside the book I wrote, My Dearest Katherine: Because we all have terrible, horrible, no good, very bad days. Just remember that you are so very loved!

I also bought Fancy Nancy and wrote: My Dearest Katherine: Because sometimes being fancy is fun!

It’s my favourite gift that I have ever given and I hope to give it again very soon.

There are also gifts to be treasured. Among my most precious are handmade blankets and clothing. I wish that I had the skill to craft something for my nephew because it’s these gifts that I am most moved by. Somethings can’t be bought; if you have the skill, use it!

Be sure to follow us on Instagram for snaps from the baby shower. You’re not going to want to miss it!

For Your Calendar: The Baby Time Show Prenatal to Preschool comes to Mississauga’s International Centre, Hall 5 from April 24-26. For more information, including ticket prices, visit their website.