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

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

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

Grade School

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

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

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

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Heroes & Villains Notebooks ($10), available online only at http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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

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Magnetic Bookmarks ($6-$15) from Craft’ed, http://www.craftedvan.com

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Affordable and stylish fashions from The Children’s Place.

High School

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

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Solid Task Lighting are ideal for brightening up any homework space ($52).  Available at Pottery Barn Kids, http://www.potterybarnkids.com

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

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Dry Erase Whiteboard Magnets ($11) from The Tulle Box, http://www.thetullebox.etsy.com

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Storiebrooke Dipped Twig Pencils ($17.19) from Storiebrooke, http://www.storiebrook.etsy.com

University

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

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

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

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

For Mom

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

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

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

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Father’s Day Gift Guide

Father’s Day is coming up on June 21 and unlike other sites that run their gift guides a week before, we wanted to give you ample time to suss out the perfect gifts for the dads in your life. Here are some of our favourites:

From Beth-Anne

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This is a luxury item that dads are unlikely to splurge on for themselves but if they are a music lover nothing compares. Whether they are used for intense workouts at the gym, running outdoors or walking to and from the office, these Bluetooth-enabled earphones are unbeatable. Powerbeats™ 2 Wireless earphones are available at Indigo, $219.95.

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I saw Dan Buettner featured on a popular news magazine show. He was visiting the Greek island of Ikaria, interviewing inhabitants and experts alike on the secrets to a long, healthy life. While the wisdom may not be surprising, it’s worth giving Dad the blueprints to longevity! The Blue Zones: 9 Lessons For Living Longer from the people who’ve lived the longest and The Blue Zones Solution: Eating And Living Like The World’s Healthiest People by Dan Buettner available at Indigo $12.24 and $21.05.

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I like giving t-shirts. Among my favourites are the ironic ones from places like Drake General Store or the city-scapes I found at the One of a Kind Show. We featured this shirt for the hockey-lover as part of Giving Guide in December and it was a favourite of our readers too. What do you think about this one from ebollo on Etsy? Not sure it would get much wear, but the message is indisputable!

I love the idea of giving experiences. For Mother’s Day, we went for a fancy-schmancy French dinner (no sweaties allowed!) and the boys truly impressed me with their manners (there may have been some threats uttered before we left the house) and the memory will stay with me much longer than anything material ever could. If the dad in your life is completely stressed out, get him a pass to a Restorative yoga class. The pace is gentle, slow and more relaxing than any massage, plus it’s good for him! The Culture Pearl has her finger on the pulse of what’s happening in the city.  Recently she wrote about her experience in a skydiving simulator but if that’s not his thing, a luxury car rental for the day may be!

From Nathalie:

You could have knocked me over with a feather when my brother told me about his date night spent painting a picture.  I had never heard of social painting, but I would have bet money he’d be the last person to do something like that.  He did, and he loved it.  Social painting is a guided lesson in painting in a group setting with cocktails and music and fun.  So, whether the dad in your life is artistic or not, look into a painting party.  Art Tonite has weekly sessions in various locations around Toronto.

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My boys paint ties for their dad every year.  It takes a special kind of man to wear these proudly, and my husband is one of them!  He gets lots of compliments.

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Real Canadian Superstores has some great gear for dads, like a portable bbq, perfect for camping or tailgate parties.  It folds up for easy transportation and storage.

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I love the idea of these solar powered Mason jar lanterns for the Green Dad, available from Home Depot.  They look great in the daylight, too, as they are silvered and glitter in the sunlight.

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From  Carol

A unique and sure-winner for the beer-loving man, give him the gift of home brew!  Brew North is Toronto’s newest and best home brewing supply shop, carrying all the equipment, ingredients, and kits needed to make a really good beer whether you’re a novice or experienced brewer.

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And for more culinary delights, how about a taking a class on cheese tasting?  Enter night school for cheese fans at the Leslieville Cheese Market.  Fun, delicious, and perfect for a special night out.

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Mother’s Day Gift Guide

Mother’s Day is coming up.  It’s Sunday, May 10, and we’ve complied a go-to gift guide for mom whether she’s a glamorous grandma or green thumb, a book lover or a foodie . . . or maybe she’s everything all rolled in to one! Do you see something that catches your eye? Forward along to Dad or the kids . . .or better yet, wait for no one and treat yourself!

From Beth-Anne:

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Mist & Fix from Make Up For Ever is now part of my morning beauty routine. It’s a professional grade alcohol-free setting spray with the texture of water that improves your makeup’s staying power. It’s easy to use – hold it about 40 cm from your face and mist continuously for a few seconds and allow to dry. It smells glorious and leaves my face looking fresh and dewy. (starting at $14)

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This handmade pewter pendant is plated in silver and its message, Live Love Teach by Foxy Originals is the perfect way to describe and thank mom. ($20)

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Alex and Ani create and design eco-conscious jewelery. Their latest collection, Persephone is available at select Hudson’s Bay stores and features bracelets and charms with special meaning. My favourite is Guardian of Answers because aren’t moms the keeper of them?

from Nathalie:

I’m going to depart from my usual “Please don’t buy mothers anything with which to cook or clean” rule and say that I’d love to receive these sets of ombre bowls from President’s Choice and Real Canadian Superstore.  They have them in cool blues and hot reds and oranges, and the colours are just so juicy!

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Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

Ombre mixing bowls from PC $25

And, now that patio season is finally, finally here, you could gift a mother with this awesome retro cooler chest for the back yard or the beach.

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149

Cooler chest from Tera Gear $149 at Real Canadian Superstore

One of my favourite things to do in the yard with the kids is to roast marshmallows on the fire.  Somehow, spending an evening that way feels like the most luxurious kind of family time.   No hockey, homework or housework to attend to, just sharing the fire.  We saw this great Hampton Bay fire pit at The Home Depot spring preview.  ($79.98)

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I am asking for a gift of experience this Mother’s Day.  I want us all to go to the McMichael Gallery and look at art and hike the trails around the gallery.  I’d also recommend trips to the Art Gallery of Ontario to see the Emily Carr and Jean-Michel Basquiat exhibits, and to the Royal Ontario Museum.  If you think you will visit a museum multiple times, a membership is a wonderful gift.  (For our family of five, a membership costs what we’d pay for just two visits.)  We have family memberships at both museums, and, honestly, it’s some of the best money I’ve ever spent.  I get so much use and value out of our memberships.  It feels like true luxury to be able to just pop into the museum for a quick visit, and to see the exhibits multiple times makes me feel like royalty.  I have taken the kids to see the Basquiat twice already.  The first time we sketched, and the second time we used the play dough that all kids can get in a loot bag from the front desk when they go in.  I got to really attend to the art, and the kids kept busy with their interpretations.  Time spent together is the gift I love best.

Youngest's sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Youngest’s sketch of a Basquiat self-portrait.

Middlest's interpretation in play dough.

Middlest’s interpretation in play dough.

 

From Carol

Almost four months ago, noticing I was depleted and in need of a recharge, my husband offered to hold the fort at home while I visit with favourite cousins in California this week.  In what goes down as good old fashioned mistake-making, I did not take him up on this.  At the time, I almost felt too tired to plan for this, and now I’m sitting here in Toronto feeling rather foolish.

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Most of the moms of young kids I know would really relish some free time.  Sometimes with their spouses, or their friends, or alone.  The best gift ever would be sorting out which of these the mom in questions needs most, and try to make it happen.  I bought a Buytopia getaway to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Ontario with this in mind, and Groupon-type offers make short jaunts like this more affordable.
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But the truth is brunch at favourite local haunt (mine is Lady Marmalade on Queen Street East) would be perfectly splendid too.

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May is also the season of growing… if you know a mother who likes to garden, the handmade offerings at Spade and Feather are simple, well made, and gorgeous.  A favourite are the Wild Bee and Insect Houses which translate the essential work of pollination into functional beauty for any garden.  I love them.

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Maximizing space is always on the minds of urban gardeners in particular, and these Felt Wall Planter Envelopes from Spade and Feather are a great option.  They’re eco-friendly (made from Eco-Felt, 100% recycled plastic), easy to hang, and make vertical gardening accessible to everyone.