Thursday, August 31, 2023

Monthly Musings


1. Where do you typically shop for Back to School? Any tips?
This year I was not impressed with any of the kids clothing at the usual places I shop so I ended up at Old Navy.  For any school supplies we need, I go to Staples. We get our backpacks from Herschel and our lunch boxes from Fluf.

2. How do you organize for Back to School?
Back to school is one thing I'm not overly concerned with.  We don't ever need to buy too much since our school doesn't provide a huge list of supplies.  I make sure the backpacks and everything are good for another year, and then once school is in session, I make sure my calendar is up to date for school events.

3. Do you meal prep? Any fall recipes to share?
I don't really meal prep, especially not currently as we are living in the basement and we only have a small fridge. 
A fall meal I love to make is French onion soup

4. Any Back to School traditions?
We all walk to school on the first day, it's so fun to see the activity around the school and greet other parents. We usually have Crunchy Beef and Macaroni for supper. This year E has a baseball game that night so we may not be able to eat this meal until later, it will depend on timing. 

5. How long does it take you to get into a new fall routine?
Day 2.  Day 1 is off a bit because of the walking, but once Day 2 starts, the routine starts. 

6. Best lunchbox packing tip?
I offer a rotation of only a few things  - jam sandwiches, small pitas, pasta (hot or cold), and cheese bagels. I would love to make better sandwiches (more protein, less carbs) but this is what my kids will eat on a regular basis, so I keep it simple. 

7. Best tip for getting out the door in the morning?
No iPads or TV in the morning.  It always seems like a fight to wrench the device away from the kids when we are leaving the house, so we need strict rules for the school year.

8. Slow cooker? Instant pot? Both? Neither?
I have a slow cooker but I don't use it that much.

9. School bus? Carpool? Walk to school?
E (grade 7) walks to school, and Q (grade 2) gets a drive.  He goes to the before and after school program so it's not like we are just driving him and not his brother.  For two years we carpooled with our neighbours but they just moved away so no more carpool with them.  

10. Start school before or after Labour Day?
School goes in the day after Labour Day.

Linking up with Holly and Patty.

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

What's Up Wednesday

What we're eating this week...
No meal plan this week, Dave and I are here without the kids, so it's a combination of fend for yourself and going out. Last night we tried pizza from a new spot in the Junction, Burattino Brick Oven Pizza, it was very good.

What I'm reminiscing about...
On Friday, Dave and I picked up an Iced Capp from Tim Horton's while we were out.  The taste of that drink took me right back to high school when they first came out (and when we got a Tim's in my hometown). Isn't it funny how a taste or smell can take you back in time!?  Then later we were playing Tetris and listening to 90s music at The Greater Good and it was a lot of flashbacks!

What I'm loving...
"Loving" may be an overstatement, but I am not minding living in the basement.  We have done a good job of keeping ourselves organized.  We aren't making any elaborate meals, we aren't able to do any baking, and there are several spots where things could be more organized, but I think we are doing just fine down here.

What we've been up to...
Picking out things for our house renovation.  We don't have a designer so it is just Dave and me (mostly Dave) figuring out what we need as we need it.  We have some idea of what we want to do and sort of the style we are looking for, and Wayfair is Dave's new best friend.  There are many decisions to make but it's short term pain for long term gain. 

What I'm dreading...
I'm getting my teeth whitened this morning and I am not looking forward to it.  I hate all things that have to do with the dentist and pain so I'll be happy when this is done. 

What I'm working on...
Getting the last few things for back to school. I had a very hard time trying to find a couple of new t-shirts for the boys to wear on their first day.  I hated everything at Zara, Abercrombie, the Gap, H and M, Uniqlo, SportChek, and other places I popped into. I wanted something simple with less words and graphics on it, and it seemed like they were just going to have to wear something they already had at home.  Then I walked into Old Navy and found what I was looking for, and the price of $8 to $12 per shirt was a bonus! 

What I'm excited about...
I have two trips booked for the next couple of months - first we are all going to Disney and Universal and then I'm going to Miami with my friends.  We have flights, hotel, park tickets, and dining reservations booked for Disney.  And I have my flights and hotel for Miami.  I've been watching Hurricane Idalia on its way into Florida this week and I'm wondering what October and November will be like for weather.

What I'm watching/reading...
We are watching Succession (season 4), Dopesick, and Blue Jays baseball.  

I posted about my August books on Monday.  I finished my reading list for 2023 so now I can just read whatever I want.  I've got a couple of library books on my shelf to dive into.

What I'm listening to...
A bit of Jay Z lately and I'm still sticking with Chris Stapleton.

What I'm wearing...
Definitely needing a sweater in the morning on my walk to the subway now.  I bought some clothes at Mango this week.  A long sleeved dress and two pairs of pants.  I'm sure I will be able to wear them soon. 

What I'm doing this weekend...
Picking up the kids from Dave's parents'. And I want to go to the zoo on the holiday Monday.

What I'm looking forward to next month...
The first day of school, Ukrainian Fest, Q's birthday, wrapping up the baseball and soccer seasons.

What else is new...
I am finished with my Invisalign after having it for just under a full year.  I may do a separate post about it at some point, but it certainly is nice to be done. 

Linking up with Shay.


Tuesday, August 29, 2023

Weekend Recap

 The penultimate weekend of the summer.  On Friday we took the boys to Boulderz in the Junction for some rock climbing.  We had gone to their Etobicoke location for E's birthday last year, and we had a gift card to use.  This location was smaller but not very busy and it was exactly the type of activity we needed.  Q and E have no fear, Dave and me, not so much!  

Go Dad!

After that we headed over The Greater Good bar. We have been here a few times before and it's a great place to hang out.  They do craft beers on tap, New York style pizza, and free arcade games upstairs (although cash needed for Skee-ball and Pinball). Kids have to leave by 9:00 so we stayed until that time and then went home.

Dave golfed on Saturday morning and I did stuff around the house.  Around noon Dave's parents arrived for lunch, and then they packed up the boys to take them to their house for the week. 
After they left, Dave and I went tile shopping.  This can be a difficult task but we did well, narrowing down what we needed and being efficient with our time. We got our quote and some samples and were on our merry way within an hour or so.  

Since we were right by Yorkdale Mall, we popped in there.  I wanted to find some shirts from Athleta that would be good for our Disney trip (stylish but good for warm temperatures) and find something for the boys' first day of school outfits.  I was successful on the first one but not the second.

We had a drink at Joey and watched the Blue Jays, got some supper and then went home.  Our neighbours had invited us over for a drink that night so we hung out with them until about 10:00.

On Sunday our only plan was to golf.  It was a beautiful day and my first round of 18 holes all summer, although I have golfed about 15 times, I have only done 9 holes the other times.

After the round and a late lunch, we went home for naps, F1, and three episodes of Succession. 

Monday, August 28, 2023

August Books

I have two books to talk about this month - one that will be probably my top book of the year, and one that I couldn't even finish. 

I'll start with the good one, Demon Copperhead by Barbara Kingsolver.

Barbara Kingsolver wrote one of my favourite books of all time The Poisonwood Bible so when I saw she had a new book out, I was excited to read it.  I didn't know much about it other than it was inspired by Dickens' David Copperfield.  I didn't ever read that book and I'm glad I hadn't because the characters in this novel are closely matched up to Dickens' characters and if I knew who everyone was ahead of time the ending would have been spoiled for me.  It is very clever of the author to do this, and I may take a spin through David Copperfield so I can better appreciate what she did with Demon.

The overarching theme of both books is institutional poverty.  In the modern Demon Copperfield, the main character is born into poverty, spends time in foster care, and is met with many challenges and hardships.  Despite that he has true and meaningful relationships with many friends and family members, and you keep rooting for him despite some of his poor choices. 

After I finished the book I read some reviews and two phases I read captured my feelings  - I was left feeling "bereft" after finishing the book, and it "broke my heart open".  I think this book, like The Poisonwood Bible, will stick with me for awhile and since I had to buy my own copy (I couldn't renew my library copy) I will probably read it again.  I've been telling everyone I know to read it.

Since there are aspects of the opioid crisis featured in the book, with some very poignant comments about it, I am now watching Dopesick and will follow that up with Painkiller. 

The other book I tried reading this month was The Beguiling by Zsuzsi Gartner.

This one was the last one on my reading list for 2023 and I was excited to start it.  It was on the Giller Prize shortlist, which is usually a good sign, but I may be rethinking these Giller Prize contenders as a few of them have fallen flat for me. 

The Beguiling started out well - the main character's cousin, with whom she is very close, has suffered a strange attack and has had his hands amputated.  He is telling her what has happened up to the point of his memory being gone.  I thought that maybe she would spend the book figuring out what happened to him and tracking down his attackers.  She did not.  Instead she suddenly finds herself being the listener of random peoples' confessions.  People she meets just start telling her their deepest, darkest confessions. The book then ends up being a bunch of their stories, with only small interludes of the main character's life.  Now, the first few stories were interesting, but about halfway through the book, I was having a hard time understanding who was who, and then I realized we're probably never going to find out what happened to her cousin, so I started flipping through the confessions to the interlude parts.  At the end she even had plants and animals communicating with her to tell their confessions - I know, what in the world?! She lost me and I did not care to just put the book down leaving most of it unread.  

I did a bit of Googling about the book and found out the author is a prolific short story writer and this was her first novel.  This all makes sense now, because she was basically writing short stories and trying to link them together in this novel. I don't think it worked.

Friday, August 25, 2023

Friday Favourites

For this week of Friday Favourites, I'm going to tell you about the food tour that I organized for our office summer event.  I love a food tour, I've done one in New York and San Francisco. I also love being a tourist in my own city and learning some history.  

My office is just down the street from the St. Lawrence Market, so we all walked down.  There were 8 people from my office that were able to attend and that was a perfect number. 

We had a great tour guide, very engaging, and we all learned a lot. 

We started with a pastry.

We had a little taste of this maple syrup, aged in a whiskey barrel.  It comes from Prince Edward County, but they also sell it at The Cocktail Emporium in Union Station so I may have to try it, it was amazing!

Our first stop inside the market itself was the famous Carousel Bakery for a peameal bacon sandwich.  Peameal bacon is Canadian bacon, and it just gets fried up and put on a Portuguese bun.  So delicious, although I like it better with an egg and cheese. 

I love Ontario produce.

We were treated to an oyster and some smoked salmon next.

The gravlax (closest in the photo) was the best! It melted in my mouth, and I will be picking that up for a special occasion in the future.

Kozlik's mustard is well known in our house already.  I won a bottle of it in a little trivia game, and then I bought two more bottles.  

We tried three different types of cheese and prosciutto.  

We finished up with some pierogies and Portuguese tarts.  I wasn't super full at the end of the tour, but it was definitely all very tasty and we got substantial portions of each thing we got.

I would definitely recommend doing this tour if you're in Toronto, even if you already live here.  I know they do tours of other neighbourhoods, but certainly the St. Lawrence Market is a classic choice.

On Wednesday I posted about getting ready for school - haircuts have been procured. Check out the results:
Q's haircut is aggressive, I'm hoping it grows in slightly before school starts, but he was pleased!

Linking up with Andrea and Erika.

Wednesday, August 23, 2023

Ready for Back to School

We may be some of the last people in the continent to head back to school, and I am happy for that.  We always go back the week after Labour Day.  The weather in Southern Ontario really does change at the beginning of September so we always feel ready for summer to end and school to start.  A round of what we are doing to get ready for school:

Backpacks and Lunch Bags - we are using the same ones that we had last year.  We like Herschel for backpacks, and Fluf for lunchbags.  I will give them a good wash next week and they will be ready to go.  E still has the HydroFlask we got him last year.  Q's broke fairly early the year so he just uses whatever we have for other bottle lying around for now. We have AirTags in both kids' backpacks.  It helps to know where E is on his way to and from school (as he does not have a phone), and to keep tabs on Q, although we usually know where he is at all times.  EDIT: Taking Q to camp this morning and he tells me his backpack has a hole and the zipper is broken, so I guess we are in the market for a new backpack after all!

School Supplies - Our school does not give out full lists of school supplies before class starts but I know that we will have to pick up a few things once they get there.  Q will want some fun markers, and I think E will need some folders. We have many things here already but we always seem to be low on pencils, erasers, pencil sharpeners, and tape, so we will go to Staples and find a few extra things for home too. 

Clothes and Sneakers - Both kids have newish sneakers they got this summer, so those will work for now.  I thought E may be interested in getting some fun sneakers, like Jordans or Air Max's, and I was willing to buy him a pair, but he hasn't been that keen on it, so *shrug* I won't spend the money.  Maybe once he gets to school to see what his friends have, he will change his mind.  I usually pick up a few new shirts for them to wear on the first day, but again, no one seems to care that much, so if I don't make it to the mall in the next week, I won't stress out too much.

Haircuts - E got a haircut yesterday, so we need to get Q in there ASAP!!

Extra-Curriculars - Both boys will be doing tutoring and swimming.  E is going to take guitar lessons instead of piano for the fall term (since our house is not accessible during our house reno) and Q is going to do some off-season baseball training.  I think that there will be some school teams that E can try out for this year, and both boys can participate in the cross-country race in early October.

Logistics - For the past couple of years we have shared carpooling duties with our neighbour as the little kids went to the YMCA before and after school.  E would then walk with their older kid.  But they are moving away and there aren't any other families that have the same routine as us (at least not that I can tell, I'll still be sniffing out some options).  So we will be driving up to the school twice per day, and E will be heading up to walk by himself. I'm hoping that he can find some other friends along the way to walk with as the year gets going.  On the first day we always walk together, it's one of my favourite days of the year.

(last year)

Expectations - One of our house rules is no video games or TV before school, so that rule will be coming back. And I'm instituting a new rule of no screens between getting home from school and suppertime.  I think there are other things they could be doing instead of grabbing their iPad as soon as they walk nine the door, and I'm tired of yelling people to come to the table when it is time to eat.  E was saying, "What are we supposed to do then?!" and I responded with "reading, helping with supper, riding your bike, tidy up the house, play cards" so I think I'll make a paper list and then when I hear this again, I can pull out the list.  I would also like E to start making his lunch now that he'll be in Grade 7.  He can also leave the school grounds for lunch so he may want to do that once a week or so.