My love for shopping in the U.S. is well documented here on my blog. It extends past scoring an amazing deal on boots or finding the infamous "Blardigan" and it extends into the grocery store. Grocery shopping in the U.S. consistently blows my mind with impressive selection and good prices. Trader Joe's is my favourite grocery store in the States. As I have said before, shopping at Trader Joe's is a cultural experience. It's kind of like a cross between Whole Foods and a no frills grocery store. There is nothing like it here in Ontario.



Now that there's a Trader Joe's in Buffalo, it's a lot easier for Canadians to experience shopping there. From my house, we can be at Trader Joe's in under 90 minutes. I haven't been since the Spring and would like to plan another trip this Fall before the cold and blustery weather arrives. Gotta stock up the freezer for Winter!

Since everyone knows I'm a TJ fan, I often get emails and texts from family and friends asking me what to buy which made me think I should write a helpful cheat sheet for Canadians on what to buy at Trader Joe's. My first instinct is to advise you to buy everything but that's not very practical now is it? There's truth to it though, there are so many amazing things that I would recommend that you try whatever seems appealing to you.

To make sure you don't miss any of the greats, here's my list of what to buy at Trader Joe's.

Snacks and Treats
- Speculous cookie butter
- pound plus chocolate bars (my fave is milk chocolate with almonds)
- chocolate peanut butter pretzels
- white cheddar or sour cream and onion corn puffs
- sharp cheddar pub cheese
- organic mini cheese sandwich crackers
- salsa verde



Frozen
- frozen almond croissants (often sold out they're so good)
- panko breaded tilapia filets
- wild mushroom and black truffle flatbread
- turkey corn dogs
- chile relleno, mini chicken tacos and pretty much all other Mexican frozen meals
(truthfully, I've tried a variety of their frozen meals and pizzas 
and so far everything has been great)

Breakfast
- strawberry yogurt O's cereal (my girls' fave)
- honey nut O's
- coffee cups (for Keurig)

Miscellaneous
- coconut oil cooking spray (this is a staple in my kitchen)
- 21 seasoning salute
- coconut body butter




What I don't buy at Trader Joe's includes:

- produce 
(it may surprise you to know TJ's is not known for having the greatest produce)

- yogurt 
(TJ's has good yogurt but I insist on buying Chobani when I'm in the States)

- alcohol 
(if I'm cross-border shopping I don't buy TJ's alcohol but I do buy it when I'm in Florida)

- flowers 
(good quality and selection but it doesn't make sense to buy on a cross-border shopping trip or while on vacation in Florida)




If you are a Trader Joe's fan, leave a comment to let me know what your favourite TJ item is. If you're new to Trader Joe's, feel free to leave a comment with any questions. Edited to add: The closest Trader Joe's to the border is the Amhurst location in Buffalo. It's located at 1565 Niagara Falls Boulevard. We cross the border at the Rainbow Bridge and it's not too far over the border from there. It's in the same plaza as Target, Babies R Us, The Christmas Tree Shop, Lowe's and Chipotle.



Have a great weekend.

Halloween Treat Bags

Monday, 22 September 2014

I was doing some photo resizing and clean-up on my blog when I inadvertently deleted the post on Halloween treat bags from last year. With Halloween fast approaching again, I figured I might as well repost it rather than let it disappear completely from the blogosphere. For this year, I'm not sure whether I will be making treat bags or not. I have no idea what the protocol is for the classroom when it comes to Halloween and whether or not candy is even allowed.

Here again is my post on Halloween Treat Bags originally posted in October 2013.


*****

It's a favourite activity of mine to put together treat bags to give to my girls' little friends on Halloween in order to make trick-or-treating extra special.



Since my girls are loving stamps these days, I picked up a Halloween-themed stamp pack from Michael's and enlisted their help in making the bags. I had them use the stampers on orange lunch bags which I later closed by punching holes and using ribbon tied in a bow. I made tags with plain cardstock and a circle punch. It was so easy!

I filled the bags with all kinds of yummy and fun Halloween treats. To get into the scary spirit this Halloween, I included Scary Bars in the treat bags. Aren't they so spooky and perfect for Halloween!? They were the perfect finishing touch to our Halloween treat bags. I can't wait to hand these out on Halloween!

Scary Bars | Supplies

Assembling

Ready for trick-or-treating

There's just two weeks until Halloween. What are you doing to get in the Halloween spirit? Do you do anything special for your trick-or-treaters?



Check out these adorable cookies that a friend of mine made for my girls. They're monsters!!!! OMG these were a huge hit at our house. I'm definitely making these for Halloween. She found the recipe on Pinterest. Of course, right? These cookies are actually made with cake mix and they are as yummy as they are adorable.




Click here for the full recipe.

Lunchbox Pizza Rolls

Sunday, 21 September 2014

A good portion of recent conversations with my friends involve discussing school lunches. What are the kids eating? What are we sending? Who has hot lunches and pizza day at school? There's much to discuss.

So far, my girls have been eating what I send them for lunch. That said, I am being very simple in what I send them and it's only been two weeks. They won't eat sandwiches or anything fancy and resembling a proper meal. They aren't allowed any nut or sesame products. They don't have a long time to eat. This means that most of their lunches are very simple bento box style lunches. For snack, I send some kind of homemade snack which is packed with fruits and/or veggies. I like this oatmeal cookie recipe (made without the nuts) because it includes pureed zucchini. For lunch, they get some kind of bread/pita/wrap/cracker with cheese, veggies, fruits, raisins and sometimes a fruit and veggie pouch. The other day I sent a pizza bun made from a local Italian bakery. While it was yummy, it wasn't as nutritious as I would like.

Then I came across this wonderful recipe for veggie packed pizza rolls. Kids love pizza and they also love anything that comes in the form of a muffin, so I was intrigued. I really loved the idea of sneaking in the veggies. However, I immediately knew there would be NO way I was going to make pizza dough. Um, no.

Instead, I purchased grocery store pizza dough and followed the rest of the recipe. I added sautéed veggies (I used onion, tomato, green pepper, carrot and spinach) to Unico pizza sauce and blended it in the Vitamix. Then I rolled out the dough, layered cheese (we only had cheddar in the fridge) and the veggie pizza sauce. Then I rolled it up, sliced it and placed the pieces in a muffin tin. This made 9 pizza rolls plus tons of leftover sauce. The rolls are seriously delicious and very portable for lunches.

Pizza Rolls

From Pinterest (where else?)

If you have any interesting lunchbox ideas for picky kindergarteners, I would love to hear them.

Have a great week!

UPDATED TO ADD:

I made a second batch of these with pizza dough made by a local bakery (the first time was Pillsbury pizza dough) and the leftover sauce, and they turned out even BETTER!


Apples + Engineers

Saturday, 20 September 2014

First came the peaches and now the apples! This time around we picked 14 pounds of apples earlier today. I have an apple crisp in the oven as I'm typing and the smell is driving me crazy. I plan to make applesauce tomorrow and then cruise Pinterest for ideas on what to do with the rest of the apples.

Cutest apple pickers I know


This is what 14 pounds of apples looks like
I friggin' love Fall and all of the Fall related activities, and we have only just begun!

This week, the girls also received Goldie Blox as a gift. You may remember me posting about this toy before - click here. I'm happy to report that this toy is as wonderful as I would have hoped. It comes with a story that helps to guide the girls in how to build the spinning machine plus it has a bunch of other suggestions for things to build. They both love it. Alexa in particular spent hours tinkering with it and making things from her own imagination. We have always said that she would make a great engineer just like her dad since she has gravitated to building toys and fine motor activities. The funny thing is she hates when we say anything about her being an engineer. Obviously, she doesn't really know what an engineer is. Her only really exposure to engineers is from the book Rosie Revere Engineer (great book for little girls). For some reason, she doesn't want to be an engineer like Rosie. And the more people say things about engineering or her building skills the more she protests. She spent a 20 minute car ride crying about it the other night. Seriously crying because she doesn't want to be an engineer. It was too funny. Mia is loving this toy too and incidentally, she has no problems with us calling her an engineer ;)

NOT engineers


Paparazzi

Thursday, 18 September 2014

I'm pretty much obsessed with photos of my kids. That's obvious, right? Moms are the new paparazzi. The question is what to DO with all of the photos. This question was posed to me by a friend this morning. She and I are in "photo" mode because we just took family photos on a farm as part of our annual professional mini-sessions. On what to do with all of the photos, I don't know the answer. I try to upload and organize the photos the best I can on iPhoto but I'm completely overwhelmed when it comes to proper back-up standards... Not to mention keeping track of the photos taken on my phone and my hubby's phone in addition to the "big" camera and professional images. There are a lot of photos.

Then there's displaying the photos. Every time we take professional photos, I swear the photos are my absolute favourite and no photos will ever be better. And then the next time around, I fall in love again and they become my favourite. It's the same thing every time. Our latest Fall photos really are my favourite LOL. The location and weather were amazing, our outfits really came together and everyone was happy. I quickly started printing off photos from this shoot to replace our gallery wall of beach photos (click here for a refresher). Those beach photos are so special because we took them near my in-law's place in Florida. Despite the love for the beach photos, however, the new farm photos were just begging to be displayed. I didn't have to change anything about the gallery wall other than the photos themselves. Those frames (all from Target) happened to coordinate with the farm photos as well as they did with the beach ones.

Admittedly, the formerly-beach-now-farm-gallery-wall isn't our only gallery wall. There's also the ballet gallery wall in the girls' room and the baby photo wall in the playroom plus a few other scattered photos around the house. We are approaching the point where almost every wall is a gallery wall in our home LOL. It's just so hard to resist displaying photos of my loves.





AND THEN there are my photo books. I wrote a post a million years ago about loving My Publisher photo books and that's still the case today. My system is to create and print two photo books a year (January-June and July-December) plus special books for trips like Disney and also the professional photos. On my to-do list is to create a proper baby book for each of my daughters with milestones and other memories in addition to the photos. It will be a big job. I've been putting it off until they started school, and so I should get cracking on that soon.

The thing is I don't think anyone has ever looked back and complained about taking too many photos of their kids, right? I certainly never will.

2014 Family Photos

Sunday, 14 September 2014

I just got the images from our 2014 family photos and I'm loving them. This year, we took photos on a farm. I went for a vintage inspired theme for our look (click here for more about how to style family photos and here from tips from our favourite photographer). Everything came together so nicely in the photos, and I'm already thinking of redoing gallery walls in our house and making 2014 holiday cards LOL.












Inspiration

Thursday, 11 September 2014

Today, I'm sharing two inspiring posts from blogs which I regularly read. They're both popular blogs so you may have already these posts, but in case you haven't then I think they are worth a read.

The first is from Enjoying the Small Things -- you can read the post by clicking here. I have been reading Kelle Hampton's blog for as long as I can remember. Kelle has been criticized for over-glamourizing her life, and only showing the good parts. I like that about her, that she looks for the beauty in everything. In this reflective post, she shares what it's like to juggle the demands of her three young children and how sometimes even she needs to pass off the parenting duties and escape her kids.  In the end though, it's the hard parts of parenting -- the parts not normally featured in blogs, Facebook or Instagram -- which are the ones that make it worth it. She says "Loving, even when it's hard, is the payoff in parenting". She's completely right about that.

The second post is from Momastery -- you can read the post by clicking here. Let me say, I'm not a huge fan of this blog and don't find Glennon Doyle relatable. Like, at all. Sometimes though her posts (like this one) are spot on. She talks about the feelings she has as she watches her kids walk in to school. Now it's only been a few days of school drop-off for me but I could completely relate to her description of the crush of emotions felt as you let your precious baby walk away into the doors of another world.

I can't wait to pick-up my girls from school and hug them extra tightly today!

#tbt Look at those faces! 

Have a great weekend!

Transition

Wednesday, 10 September 2014

The transition to full day kindergarten is going well. The girls are happy, more tired than ever and eating really well. The week has already had some funny and perplexing moments like lost water bottles, broken lunch boxes and one almost missed school pick-up because of a trip to the mall to replace the aforementioned broken lunch boxes. They have already brought home a ton of artwork and have learned the chicken dance.

Walking to school with our neighbour and bestie

To mark the first day of school, I asked the girls a series of questions.


Mia

How old are you?
Three

What is your favourite color?
Pink

What is your favourite food?
Peaches

What is your favourite TV show?
Doc McStuffins

What is your favourite movie?
Star Wars 

What is your favourite holiday?
Halloween

What is your favourite thing to do with Mom?
Reading

What is your favourite thing to do with Dad?
Reading

What is your favourite thing to do with your sister?
Playing

What was your favourite part of summer?
Going to Collingwood

What are you most excited about for kindergarten?
Playing a lot

What do you want to be when you grow up?
A big girl like mommy and a princess

What is your favorite toy/stuffed animal?
Mimi

What is your favorite thing to wear?
Ballet clothes 

Who are you going to marry when you grow up?
Orin

What are you going to name your kids when you grow up?
Samantha 



Alexa

How old are you?
Three

What is your favourite color?
Purple

What is your favourite food?
Hamburgers

What is your favourite TV show?
Special Agent Oso

What is your favourite movie?
Tangled

What is your favourite holiday?
Christmas

What is your favourite thing to do with Mom?
Colouring

What is your favourite thing to do with Dad?
Snuggling

What is your favourite thing to do with your sister?
Hugging

What was your favourite part of summer?
Swimming

What are you most excited about for kindergarten?
Painting

What do you want to be when you grow up?
(Refused to answer)

What is your favourite toy/stuffed animal?
Aurora

What is your favourite thing to wear?
Dresses

Who are you going to marry when you grow up?
Nobody

What are you going to name your kids when you grow up?
Alexa
What I didn't realize when I spent all that time wondering (worrying) about this milestone is that it would be a good thing. Mia and Alexa really are at a stage where they need to spread their wings and fly. They are so eager to learn and to experience more than what I alone can provide for them. Being home with them the past few years really and truly was my privilege. I'm sad this stage is over and at the same time I'm ready for the next stage. 

On the first day I walked my girls to school and dropped them off with their teacher for a few hours, they went happily running into school without so much as a goodbye hug for me. There was no big scene. Not a single tear. They just let go of my hands and kept on going. Heartbreaking, yes. But also validating. The fact my girls could be happy and confident as they embarked on something so new and scary for them meant that we have been doing all that we were supposed to for the past (nearly) four years. They were ready for the next thing. While I will still worry about them every minute while they're at school, I will also be so very proud.

What's next for me? Well, I have no idea. I'm just gonna spend some figuring that out and opening myself to whatever comes next for me.... Plus, school let's out at 2pm leaving a lot of time for mommy duties. 


Quote from Winnie the Pooh
Image via Pinterest


Quote from Wherever You Are My Love Will Find You
Image via Pinterest


- posted from my iPhone