Thursday, May 31, 2012

Pantie Parade

Today is my birthday and one of my favourite days of the year.   I am like a kid at Christmas because of a tradition that began nearly 10 years ago, we call it the "pantie parade".  It combines three of my favourite things; great friends, snail mail, and fun undies.



More than 10 years ago I lived with an amazing group of women in Mexico.  For a year we worked, traveled and spent endless hours together figuring out life and love.  Ultimately for that year we became each other's family. Unfortunately we are now spread out across Canada and the USA but these ladies are still my go-to girls for honest advice, encouragement, and of course a great laugh.

Torreon, Mexico - 1998


A year after leaving Mexico one of the girls came up with an idea to keep us connected and it was then that "pantie parade" was launched. Every year each of us sends the others a pair of panties on their birthdays.  That means that every year each of us receives about 10 new pairs of panties in the mail.  So exciting!

Ontario, Canada - 2009


For the last two weeks I have had packages arriving in the mail every couple of days.  I have set them all aside to open together today on my actual birthday.  My kids think it is hilarious and my husband of course wants me to model them all. 



We have continued the tradition for 10 years.  A few girls have opted out for a year here or there if they felt that there was just too much going on for them to keep up (new babies, family health issues, etc.).  We send them undies on their birthday anyway.  It just seems that they'd be all the more appreciated that year.  We changed it to socks once but that just wasn't as much fun.  Panties are so much prettier and who doesn't need to freshen up their skivvy drawer each year!



Get together a group of friends (you don't even need to live far apart) and give it a try! 

Monday, May 28, 2012

April Showers bring May {Cake & Cookie} Flowers

To celebrate my daughter's birthday we decided to throw a baking party at home. Being that her birthday is in the midst of our cold Canadian winter, we went for a summer flower theme to warm things up.

Baking Party Invite

Baking is probably a bit of an exaggeration. Who am I kidding, with 10 little girls aged 4 and 5 this party needed the help of the two grandmas (thank you, thank you) and I wasn't comfortable having them work with a hot oven. A lot of our "baking" was really measuring, mixing and decorating but the girls loved it nonetheless.

First things first, if you're going to have a baking party you need aprons. I was able to source these adorable aprons on e-bay. I had one made up with each girls' name on it and of course it was then the main part of their loot-bag. Altogether including shipping I think I paid about $80 for 12 personalized aprons, not bad!



When the girls sat down we had already laid sugar cookie flower lolipops at their places. Each girl's place was already set with a tube of icing and bowls of candies, sprinkles, gumballs, etc. for decorating.


Once the decorating of the cookies was done it was time to paint some flowerpots. I bought some terracotta pots and filled them with floral foam. Each girl decorated her pot with paint, ribbons, and glitter. Later when the cookies had dried, we stuck the lollipop sticks in the floral foam and sent each girl home with a flower cookie garden. (Sorry, I forgot to take a photo of that)

Well, knowing it wasn't enough fun just to decorate cookies, we made up a batch of Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Butterscotch cookies. This allowed the girls to get their hands dirty and really feel like they were baking. While those baked, each girl made a cookie jar batch to take home for later. I had pre-printed the instructions which we attached to the jars. (See recipe at end of blog)


Image: Bakerella

No party would be complete without cake. I made a simple white cake and vanilla icing and decorated it using a photo I'd pulled out of a magazine (I think it was Today's Parent but I can't find it now). Sour green licorice formed the stems, spearimint gummies for leaves and a variety of colourful lollipops for the flowers (one for each guest). Simple yet effective!

Flower Garden Cake - Creative Mama on a Dime

The Lootbags mainly took care of themselves. They were made up of the personalized apron, their flowerpot cookie gardens, their cookie mix mason jar and I threw in a cookie cutter and child's rolling pin to inspire future baking.

It was a really fun afternoon. With a little preparation and help from the grandmas it went off without a hitch.  

Oatmeal Chocolate Chip Butterscotch Mason Jar Cookie Mix:


Layer the following in your mason jar in the order listed using a sieve to help you. Pack down firmly after each addition.

  • 1/2 c. white sugar
  • 1/4 c. butterscotch chips
  • 1/4 c. chocolate chips
  • 1/c c. rice krispies
  • 1 1/2 c. flour
  • 3/4 tsp. baking soda
  • 1/4 tsp. baking powder
  • 1/2 c. oats
  • 1/2 c. brown sugar
  • 1/4 c. butterscotch chips
  • 1/4 c. chocolate chips

Directions:

  1. Preheat oven to 350F
  2. In a large bowl cream 1/2 c. margarine or butter until light and fluffy
  3. Mix in 1 egg and 2 tbsp. water.
  4. Add entire contents of the jar and stir until well blended.
  5. Drop by rounded spoonfuls onto an ungreased cookie sheet. Press lightly.
  6. Bake for 10-12 minutes.
  7. Remove from baking sheets and cool on wire racks.

Enjoy!

Monday, May 21, 2012

Take Me Out To The Ballgame! - But Mind Your P's and Q's

The days are getting warmer, the grass is getting greener and the nights are getting longer. These are sure signs that it is THAT time of year again - the beginning of summer sports season.

There is nothing I enjoy more than heading out to the field with my family to watch one of our kids play ball. The fresh air, chats with neighbours, smiles on the kids faces and healthy glow all make for a perfect evening. However, that bliss can quickly be shattered when a parent takes the competition too far.


I came across this photo and loved the message. I thought it was a good reminder as the baseball, soccer and other summer sports seasons start up.

Image Source: Unknown

Let's keep the sportsmanship in our sports and teach our kids valuable lessons about compassion, teamwork, and respect this summer season. Let us not belittle or bully but instead build pride, confidence and skills. LET'S PLAY BALL

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Unique Teacher Gift Ideas

I know it seems early to be thinking about Teacher Gifts but trust me, these things always sneak up on you, June just disappears and before you know it, it is midnight and you're at a coffee shop buying a gift card.

The reality is that during the schoolyear, our kids spend more waking hours with their teachers than they do with us. Teachers not only educate our kids, they inspire, discipline and even wipe the odd runny nose. How do we thank them for their commitment to our children and our collective future? Here are a few creative ideas to get you out of the gift card/chocolate/mug buying rut.


Fun Classroom Rubber Stamps:


I love these rubber stamps from Fishcakes. They're are such a cute and unique gift AND they're useful. At only $4 each, they don't break the bank but you know you're giving the teacher something they will use.


Image & Products: Fishcakes

 Personalized Tote Bag:


Another great gift that you know they will use is a bag. Last year my kids and I made these personalized bags for their teachers. With some sharpies to draw the lined paper, a picture drawn by each kid and some embroidery floss, I think we created something pretty unique and memorable. The full instructions can be found here.


Image & Idea:Creative Mama on a Dime

This personalized bag from Midwestern Girl is also adorable and would be really easy to make. A little fabric paint, a canvas bag, a stencil and a steady hand are all you need.



Image & Idea: Midwestern Girl


 Personalized Notecards/Thank You Cards:


Another useful gift, personalized notecards. Teachers can use them to send home communications to parents or as thank you cards when they receive gifts. With so many places making it easy and economical to buy amazingly beautiful notecards, you can't go wrong.


Notecard created at: Vistaprint

 Chalkboard Flower Pot:


I think this next idea from Giggles Galore will be the winner in my household this year. My kids are old enough to do the painting themselves. I love the simplicity of the message yet it is so impactful and rings true! I'll be picking up some chalkboard paint and flower pots this weekend.



Image & Idea: Giggles Galore

 The Gift Card - Done up right:


...And for those of you who still end up at the coffee shop late at night, grab an extra coffee sleeve and use this free printable from Skip To My Lou to spruce up your gift. Heck, when is coffee a bad idea???



Image & Idea: Skip to My Lou

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

DINO-mite

My son was really into dinosaurs this summer so of course his birthday party needed to be over the top dinosaurs from start to finish. That being said, I am not the type of girl who likes to spend a lot of money on parties for kids. I think that with a little creativity, a few trips to the dollar store, some art supplies and time (which we’ve all got a lot of in the summer) we can put together a pretty spectacular event.


The theme was set from the invitations. I used a template from Smilebox.com to create an e-vite for his friends. There was no doubt in the guests’minds what they were going to encounter when they arrived.


Dino-mite Invitation



Next the kids and I spent a week or so prepping the games and decor for the party. Dinosaur cut-outs found 12 for $1 at the local dollar store were coloured in bright hues and tacked to the fence and swingset. Using the same technique for the rainbow party piñata we created a prehistoric piñata filled with dinosaur eggs (gobstoppers), plastic dinos, dino tattoos, and dino bookmarks. A plain piece of Bristol board was transformed into ‘Pin the Bone in the Dino’s Mouth’ and the most fun for my son was the big mess we made as we created paper-mache dino eggs for an obstacle course.




A sign drawn on our wipe-board welcomed guests. As each boy arrived he was given a dinosaur hat to wear for the obstacle course. Truth be told, the heat was too great and the hats were short lived but they went home in the loot-bags. I even managed to squeeze in a craft by having the boys colour coffee filters and presented them with their own dinosaur art when they had dried (love my Silhouette). The kids had a great time playing the games with the biggest hit being a game of Dino-Soccer inspired by the book by the same name. My husband and his friend were the meat-eaters and the boys were the plant eaters. It was a battle to the end.




The only thing that got them to stop playing was the call for food and cake. The cake was simple, cupcakes topped with a toy dinosaur. Not one to waste anything, I used the cut-outs from the Silhouette craft to decorate the cake stand. I added a set of eyes to each dino and voila, a herd was born. As you can see from my sons’s face, to him the party was indeed DINO-mite!

Thursday, May 10, 2012

Olympic Pride - Let's Spread it!

As Canadians we can all remember the sense of pride we felt when we hosted the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. Watching as Canadians across the country came together to honor, cheer, and support our athletes gave me chills and made me proud to be a Canadian!

This summer the Olympics will be held in London, England. Our athletes have been training for years, putting other parts of their lives on hold and sacrificing so that they can represent our country to their best ability. Let's show them our support as they get closer to the opportunity to realize their dreams.

I love this idea from Cheerios. Specially marked boxes have been designed so that when you cut out the word "Cheer" it creates a perfect postcard for you to write a motivational message to one of our athletes and pop it in the mail. So clever!


How relentless are Canadian Olympic Team athletes in their training leading up to London? Enjoy this video to put you in the Olympic mood. 


Music: “T.R.O.U.B.L.E.” by We are Wolves of Montreal c/o Fat Possum Records // Third Side Music.

Need more emotion than that???  


Proctor & Gamble pledged to donate $1 every time someone shared the video with a mom. I am happy to announce that they were able to reach their goal and raise $50,000 to bring sports to kids in need. This video is like a big thank you card to Canadian moms for doing the best job in the world. 

Do you want to learn more about our athletes and the upcoming games? Visit the Canadian Olympic Team website





Monday, May 7, 2012

A solution to my Nag, Nag, Nag!?!

Like every mom (please tell me I’m not alone in this) I find myself repeating the same things over and over again until the point of frustration (theirs and mine). They turn off their ears and instantly I become the teacher in Charlie Brown with the muffled voice off in the distance who no one is listening to.



Repeating the same things over and over is exhausting. It isn’t even that I’m repeating the same thing on the same day, probably more frustrating is that even after talking about what is expected of them on Monday, it happens again on Tuesday and Wednesday and...




It amazes me how quickly our moods can change from good to bad in the blink of an eye. I knew I needed to change something and fast. When I stopped to really think about it I realised that my family has 3 hot times. They are; first thing in the morning when we’re rushing to get out the door, just after school when they need to decompress or around dinner time when hunger and fatigue collide for us all.

That is when I came up with the "Reminder Chart". It is simple. I put it up every week and it address the little things that I think they should know to do without being asked (or at least asked twice). The kids mark off the items as they do them each day and I don't have to ask. At the end of the week a full chart means they get their allowance (and I keep my sanity). That seems to be great motivation for them. Kids like to know what to expect, it gives them confidence and security. The 'Reminder Chart' is a great visual representation of expectations which they can easily understand and follow.




You may have noticed my 'three strikes' section at the bottom. This is the space where I can put a strike when behaviours we've talked about being unacceptable rear their ugly heads (i.e. speaking in a rude voice). Three strikes overrides allowance or something they covet (i.e. a favourite t.v. show) which seems to be an even bigger motivator. Again, the visual representation seems to be very impactful.

While I'm not claiming that I have solved the nagging issue completely, it has drastically cut it back and the kids are taking more responsibility. In my books, that is a SUCCESS!

PS - another cartoon that made me smile...bet you can relate.

Image Source: nickmom.com

Wednesday, May 2, 2012

Mother's Day - Gifts That Go Beyond!

Mother's Day has somehow become tied to gift giving. While I too love receiving gifts, the reality is that aside from a leisurely lie in with a favourite magazine and someone else taking care of the menu/meals for the day, I really have all I want and need. 

This year consider suggesting to your family that instead of a gift for you, they give a gift to another mother that would truly make a difference in their lives. Here are some suggestions.


For the Animal Lover:

Image: Toronto Zoo

The Toronto Zoo (and zoos across the country) have an "Adopt A Pet" program. From as little as just $25 your family can adopt an animal in your name, helping the zoo to take good care of the animals, protect endangered species, and pursue on-going conservation efforts. This year they even have a special Mother's Day Baby Polar Bear program.

For the Philanthropist:

 


KIVA is a non-profit organization with a mission to alleviate worldwide poverty through microfinancing. It provides a help-up not a hand-out. Basically, you make a loan (which will be repaid) and Kiva will distribute 100% of that money to people throughout the world who don't have access to traditional banking systems. Kiva provides safe, affordable access to capital to those in need and helps people create better lives for themselves and their families. Your loan is pooled with other people's loans so $25 goes a long way. It really allows you to act globally.

Last Mother's Day I gave actually gave this gift to myself. You can read more about my experience here but let me just say, helping a mother in another country to help feed, clothe and shelter her family was a very rewarding gift. My $25 loan was completely repaid and I reinvested it again in another mother. My strategy for picking...I search for someone with the same name as me, simple as that.

For the Book Lover:

 


"Can you imagine a childhood without books?

No Wizard of Oz. No Harry Potter. No Cat in the Hat. No maps of faraway places, or stories about the people who live there.

A book can inspire a child to discover the world—and themselves. Nothing is a better indicator of future success than early literacy."

Help spread a love for reading to all children across Canada. By donating to !ndigo's Love of Reading Foundation you will help fund reading programs, fill libraries, and inspire kids across Canada to find their passion for reading.

For the Traveller:

 

 

I can't think of a better gift to give a mother than the security that her child is going to recieve the nutrition, medicine, sanitation and schooling that they need and deserve. UNICEF is one of the world’s best recognized charities and a leading advocate for children, helping to build a world where the rights of every child are realized. There are many ways that UNICEF can use your money but a Survival Gift such as a Baby Health Pack, a Vaccination Pack or a Mobile Health Unit will take the burden off a mother who might otherwise be unable to provide these essentials for her own children.

For the Nature Lover:

 


Evergreen is a national charity that makes cities more livable. Their mission is to bring communities and nature together for the benefit of both. By deepening the connection between people and nature, and empowering Canadians to take a hands-on approach to their urban environments, Evergreen is improving the health of our cities—now and for the future. A donation to Evergreen will help plant trees in cities, fund a Healthy Choices workshop for a teen, send a child to camp, plant a garden in a city, etc. The list goes on and on.  


Nature Canada's mission is to protect and conserve wildlife and habitats in Canada by engaging people and advocating on behalf of nature. They focus on effecting change on issues of national significance, including bird conservation, wilderness protection, endangered species and connecting people to nature. A donation to Nature Canada helps to protect the animals, plants and the many special places that make up our beautiful country's ecosystem.

For the Athlete:

 


Kidsport is a Canadian not-for-profit organization that believes that no kid should be left on the sidelines and all should be given the opportunity to experience the positive benefits of organized sports. They provide financial assistance for registration fees and equipment to kids aged 18 and under in order to remove financial barriers that prevent them from playing organized sport.

As parents we want our children to be able to experience everything they are interested in. By making a donation to Kidsport you can help another mother ensure her kid isn't sidelined due to their financial situation.

For the Foodie:

 


We've all heard that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. It fuels or body and brain for the day ahead and gives us the leg-up we need to tackle what the day throws at us. Imagine not being able to provide that necessity for your child. It was startling to me to learn that in Canada, one in 10 Canadian children (637,000) live in poverty and are at risk of starting their day on an empty stomach. The Breakfast Clubs of Canada are a not-for-profit organization that are doing their part to ensure that kids are fed a good breakfast to ensure they are ready to learn. By providing services and funding to school breakfast programs, the Breakfast Clubs of Canada were able to provide more than 16 million breakfasts to children attending schools in disadvantaged areas during the 2010-2011 school year.



Our food banks are always looking for donations to help alleviate hunger in our communities. Food Banks Canada is the national charitable organization representing and supporting the food bank community across Canada. A donation to Food Banks Canada will assist in supporting some of the 900,000 Canadians that are assisted by food banks each month. 

A financial donation is always appreciated however you could also make a food donation which would allow you and your family to discuss, shop and deliver the good yourselves. If you choose to go this route, these are the food and household items most urgently needed by food banks.

  • Pasta (canned or dry) and pasta sauces
  • Canned and frozen meats and fish
  • Meat alternatives (peanut butter, soy, assorted packaged nuts)
  • Canned goods (beans, soups, and stews)
  • Dairy (fresh, canned, and powdered milk)
  • Canned vegetables and fruit
  • Whole grain cereals
  • Infant foods and baby formula
  • Bathroom tissue and diapers
  • Personal hygiene products
I wish you all a Happy Mother's Day and hope you get to spend some quality time with your loved ones!

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