Friday, February 5, 2016

Love or hate it - you can't avoid "the big V"

Let's talk Valentine's Day - "the big V".

My husband detests what he calls the "Hallmark Holidays" - the ones on the calendar who's soul primary purpose is to sell holiday-themed merch.  I would argue that EVERY holiday is driven and propelled by consumerism first with sentimentality trailing in a far second.  Rather than be a fuddy-duddy about it, you might as well just embrace it, in your own way and join in on the fun.  Valentine's Day means something different depending on your stage of life.

As a kid, Valentine's Day meant waking up to a fun plush toy and some treats awaiting my brother and I at the breakfast table.  It also meant, distributing those cheesy little perforated cards to all classmates.  Even that one kid, Jean-Pierre*, who purportedly ate a dead bird's eye at recess got to relish in the joy of feeling accepted by peers.

As a teen, Valentine's Day turned from sweet to sour.  The Student Council distributed via public presentation,  "carnation-o-grams" that had been purchased by admirers.  One by one, the long-stemmed blooms were handed out to those who were genetically blessed, ultra-sporty, popular or floozies.  We all crowded around the makeshift stage, hoping, wishing, praying for public acknowledgement of our existence.  After all of the flowers were handed out you could easily glance around the cafeteria tallying up the smiles and the frowns - a visual segregation of the cool kids and the rejects.  It was torture.  I fell somewhere in between.  I did receive one carnation-o-gram in grade 11...from a kid who kept a toe-nail clipping collection in his locker - I've loathed carnations ever since.

Now as a parent, I'm kind of somewhere in the middle of loving and hating Valentine's Day.  There's no chance I will be receiving a gift from Mr. Fuddy-duddy, and that's cool - saves me a trip to the mall too!  But, my three boys do still have to contribute to the whole V-day machine at school, so it's a damned if you do, damned if you don't situation.  I'm always keen to focus on the love stuff - write the boys a little love note , make a special breakfast (because you know from my other blog posts, they're normally making their own!), get the conversation going on loving one another and the importance of kindness...  I lean more towards the "acts of kindness" camp than the "here's a pricey token of my love and appreciation"  But regardless of which way you lean, there are oodles of options for every person, every kind of love and every budget - from zero dollars to money-is-no-object (side-note, I'd be very interested in meeting a money-is-no-object type!...for research purposes!!!)

I will feature a whole gamut of goodies on CTV's Canada AM on Wednesday, February 10th!  Tune in!
* Names have been changed to protect me from harm!

www.whistlewood.ca
Custom Chartuterie Board (from $140)
Made in Canada


www.riveroakstudio.com
Custom Family Legacy Pillow (from $40)
Made in Canada

Monday, January 25, 2016

Putting the "Mean" in Meaningful: A Mean Mom's guide to bliss

Parenting has its rewards.  That first coo, first smile, when they first say "mama", that crude crayon drawing of a stick figure Mom and a stick figure kid without torsos holding hands, their first goal, watching them become well-mannered young adults, being a good friend, the list goes on and on.

Being called "mean" is also pretty high up on my list of rewards.  Seriously - it is! When I say "no" to my three boys, often times it's because there's a hard lesson to be learned, usually one about delayed gratification, earning rather than expecting something, needs versus wants, responsibility, etc...  If I had a nickel for every time I said "no" in response to "can you buy me...", I'd be rich enough to buy them whatever they wanted - except I wouldn't.  Hence the "Mean-Mom" moniker.

I'm cool with being mean.  Some Moms crack under the guilt of feeling like their kids are angry or disappointed with them - I am not that Mom.  I feel good looking at the long-term forecast - where dealing with "no" is not only a part of life, but a healthy part of building resilience and independence as an adult.

Recently, a bunch of Mom friends got together over wine(s) and we discussed the many things we do for our kids that they don't seem to appreciate.  Let me tell you, a Moms to-do list is never-ending.  From dawn until dusk and well into the night, Moms are on the go, many of them working their hardest to keep junior happy by doing everything they can for him/her.  So many Moms complain of exhaustion - "I am sooooo tired.  I have nothing left to give".  Worst of all, satisfying all the requests and demands and expectations our kids place on us is almost impossible and ultimately detrimental to their self-reliance, self-confidence and independence. As one of my fave parenting experts, Alyson Schafer says, "never do for children what they can do for themselves".

As of September, I made a decision to stop doing for my boys what they were perfectly capable of doing for themselves.  Just what are an 8-year old, 10-year old and 12-year old capable of?  It turns out, a lot more than you think!

Have you ever tuned into NatGeo TV?  Do it.  Find a show with your kids that profiles a village in the middle of a developing nation and take notice of the kids.  Often, 8-year old kids are trotting about caring for baby siblings, cooking meals, harvesting food; 12-year old kids are managing small agricultural businesses and walking miles in search drinkable water.  And meanwhile in the West, we're frantically spreading Wowbutter on whole-grain bread with the crusts cut off for a kid who's clothes we picked out, packing their schoolbags and micromanaging their every waking second - all while they sit on their lazy duffs thumbs-a-blazing on their devices. What the funk are we doing?  No wonder our kids can't manage their time, or possessions,  or food intake or make plans or set goals - we do it all for them!  Then we get together over wine and complain about how irresponsible and useless they are at managing their little lives.

So as of the first day of school back in September, here is what I no longer do for my kids Mon-Fri:

- I do not make their breakfasts
- I do not make their school lunches
- I do not bring them their lunches when they forget them at home
- I do not do their homework
- I do not make them dress appropriately for outside (hence shorts in November)
- I do not tell them how to dress
- I do not clean up their messes in the house (they do)
- I do not brush their teeth
- I do not see them off to the bus in the mornings
- I do not make them special meals if they complain about dinner
- I do not get them a Timbit just because I'm getting myself a coffee at the drive-through
- I do not buy them gifts outside of birthdays and Christmas
- I do not give them money for no reason
- I do not care if they look like Lloyd from Dumb and Dumber (their hair, their problem)
- I do not run out to buy last-minute project supplies (should have planned better)
- I do not make excuses for them if a project is turned in late

Here's what I still do:

- I encourage them to be responsible and respect the rules of our house.
- I support them in dealing with the consequences of their actions.
- I love them unconditionally.
- I make dinners and lunches on weekends.
- I enjoy reading the entire newspaper each morning with my coffee and new-found free-time.
- I inform them of the top stories making news while they're making breakfast!
- I enjoy getting to the gym before they're on the bus.
- I enjoy watching them figure shit out for themselves.
- I enjoy going to the movies with my husband, knowing the eldest is capable of managing the other   two while we're out.
- I enjoy watching them make their own scrambled eggs and toast, or smoothies.
- I love watching them do for themselves what I know they're capable of doing - like laundry!

It's not always easy and initially there was a lot of whining, stomping off and hollering, "you're the meanest Mom ever!"  But it's now the new normal around here and it's working really well.  They called it mean, I call it meaningful!

I had the flu around Christmas and while face down shivering in bed, my 8-year old tapped on my shoulder and delivered me a freshly brewed honey-ginseng tea, a fresh fruit smoothie and a plate of sliced cucumbers - with a get-well card.  Nobody else was home - he managed it all on his own.  That right there was the best parenting reward of all!
My youngest making place-settings for the holiday table - because he can!

Are you a "Mean" Mom too?  Share your experience with me on Twitter @KasieSavage or on Facebook "Kasie Savage"

Monday, December 14, 2015

Unique Canadian Stocking Stuffers: for all budgets


Christmas is less than 2 weeks away - yikes.  If you're doing a mental tally of your gift giving and it has as much "wow" factor as fish-faced selfie, you need to consider stepping it up (big-time) in the stocking-stuffing department.  After all, for many, it's the opening of the stockings that brings the most excitement anyway!

You know I love supporting Canadian businesses and you know that I love great, unique finds that are not mass-market items.  Here I have curated a group of great stocking stuffer ideas that will wow and surprise even the most grizzled of family grinches.  In fact, I think most of these items would make great stand-alone gifts too!!!

BEST STOCKING STUFFERS 
(TO MAKE UP FOR LACK-LUSTRE GIFTS UNDER THE TREE)

Click here to watch my segment on CTV's Canada AM!

Canadian Companies

Hillberg & Berk: From Regina, this handmade semi-precious jewellery company is owned and operated by women.  Fast becoming one of Canada's best-known designers, their collection is well-priced, high-quality and full of impact and sparkle.  Add a bracelet, earrings or pretty necklace to someone's stocking!!  Visit www.HillbergandBerk.com to shop or find a retailer.


Virgin Hill Coffee Roasters: Located in Knowlton, Quebec (Eastern Townships), Virgin Hill Coffee Roasters is a family-owned business supplying smooth, rich, incredible 100% Arabica coffee to gourmet shops, cafes, restaurants and businesses across Canada and the globe.  Instead of a huge multi-national that mass produces, if you love coffee, you've got to try their fresh, aromatic and unique small-batch blends (Knowlton Blend is my fave).  Prices are very reasonable (under $6 per 1/2 pound) and available in whole bean, freshly ground and K-cups too!!!  Toss some java in a coffee-lovers stocking this Xmas!  www.VirginHillCoffee.com


Squish Candies: Montreal-based Squish Candies knows that you don't have to be kid to love candy.  Their gourmet, artfully crafted, high-quality, all-natural gummies feature classic flavours and delicious grown-up ones such as, Mulled Wine, Strawberry Rhubarb and Cranberry Elderberry, as part of "Santa's Picks" collection.  Beautifully packaged and ready for gift-giving, these trendy treats are available at select retailers and online. Starting at $6, check them out at www.squishcandies.com


Mother Earth Essentials: Founded by Carrie Langevin who comes from a long line of Cree Medicine women, this Aboriginal skin-care, body-care, candle and tea line is loaded with traditional natural ingredients based on recipes from ancestors.  From the finest essential oils to berries, medicinal and ceremonial plants.  A perfect stocking stuffer for anyone who deserves to be pampered.  www.motherearthessentials.ca

Over The Rainbow: A denim and apparel destination since 1975 in Toronto's swank Yorkville neighbourhood, Over The Rainbow offers some pretty cool winter accessories from the Tuck Shop Trading Co. that any hip, on-trend guy would love.  Check out their lumberjack plaid toques emblazoned with "YYZ" or "TRUE NORTH" lettering ($40.00).  Visit www.rainbowjeans.com


Other ideas...

Under Armour: One of the hottest brands in athletic apparel and equipment, Under Armour offers something for the whole family with lots of great smaller accessories that fit perfectly in a stocking.  From the Ozsee Sackpack (for trips to the gym), the Boy's 4-in-1 Graphic Beanie, Fleece Band for girls, even boxer shorts, your local Under Armour store carries a huge array of products for any activity and sport loving man, woman or child!

EQ3: If you want to surprise a home cook or foodie with something really special, EQ3 has a gorgeous copper-finish measuring cup set for $49.99.  Really, a gift in its own right, wrap it up and put it in a stocking...especially great if the recipient is hosting Xmas dinner!!  High-end, high-quality and high-impact!  www.EQ3.com

Essence Cosmetics: Affordable, fun and high-quality - three words Essence Cosmetics uses to describe itself.  Makeup is always a fun stocking stuffer and a visit to Shoppers Drug Mart or Pharmaprix is all it takes to load up on a great red lipstick or other beauty must-have.  My faves are their "How to make smokey eyes" kit and " How to make brows wow" kit.


Charlotte Tillbury: As a UK-based makeup artist working with some of the most iconic faces across the globe, Charlotte Tillbury is the must-have, must-wear name in beauty today!!  This is supported by my own pal and makeup artist Joy Tilberg who's eyes bulged out of her head when I mentioned Charlotte's name!  www.CharlotteTilbury.com for a retailer near you.

The Face Shop: Located in most major malls, The Face Shop is a made-in-Korea beauty shop that's part of the Fruits and Passion family.  They have some incredible kits that make perfect stocking stuffers.  Check out their Hand Care Set - complete with Hand Mask, Hand and Cuticle Duo and Nail Serum.  With the amount of dishes I do, this is truly a beauty essential!!!

Canadian One-stop Shops...

Dollarama:  This is your go-to one-stop shop for all the fun stuff kids and adults adore in stockings.  From craft supplies to stationary supplies to hair and beauty supplies, around-the-house goodies and essentials, Dollarama has it all and is conveniently located in most towns across Canada!  With items priced between $1-3, this is major bang for the buck!!

Indigo/Chapters: If I could spend 2-hours anywhere, it would be here.  Really and truly, this great Canadian retailer has so much more than books.  I would love to personally thank their buying team for continually amazing me with exclusive high-quality accessories for the home that I cannot find anywhere else.  They also have dedicated stocking-stuffers for the whole family throughout.  Shopping online is a great way to find deals too!  www.Indigo.ca

Winners/Homesense/Marshalls: As I type this, I am preparing for one of my thrice-weekly visits to Winners or HomeSense.  It is physically impossible to enter a location and leave empty-handed.  Just check my credit-card statement for proof.  Designer-finds, discount prices and loads of smaller items that would add a lot of impact and excitement to any Xmas stocking.  You can even buy stockings while you're there!!!  So fun.  www.winners.ca

Catch my segment on great stocking stuffers and a complete lineup of items from above, Tuesday, December 15th at 8:40am on CTV's Canada AM!Click here to watch!

Thursday, November 19, 2015

Christmas calendars ANYONE can make (and enjoy!)


Just as soon as our clocks fall back, I like to spring forward and soak up every single merry second of the holiday season.  It's just so much easier than starring bleakly at a cold, damp, darkened, leafless streetscape at 5pm dreaming of April.

In our family, once the Halloween candy is still freshly wedged into tiny molars, the kids are already addressing envelopes to the North Pole and dotting the "i"s on their wish-list of Apple products.  As parents, we know that December means answering the thrice daily question, "how many more days until Christmas????"  A Christmas calendar makes the countdown (or count-up) fun and making your own reusable calendar can be a really nice way to kick off a new tradition as well as usher in the festive season. 

With budgets in mind (you won't need a credit card for these purchases!), I've come up with two easy (I promise), fast (I promise) Christmas calendars using supplies that cost less than $30 total- one is focused on receiving and the other on giving.  In our house, we'll use both this year.

Receiving: The Jute bag/Loot bag Christmas calendar (wall calendar)
This wall-hung calendar has a very earthy, organic feel and allows you to stash all sorts of fun little treats, gifts, gift-cards and notes in all 24 pockets.





Supplies needed:
24 small jute bags from Dollarama (2 for $1) or Craft store (likely more $)
3 x 3' branches (I used birch logs from the cottage, but you can use any 1/2" - 1" log/branch
Roll of twine (Dollarama $1)
24 Chalkboard stickers (Dollarma, $1/pack of 10)
Chalkboard marker (Craft store)

How to:
Place a chalkboard sticker on each bag and number them 1 to 24.
Weave a 4' length of twine through the handle on each of bag 8 bags and secure ends to first branch/log.
Repeat steps with next 8 bags and hang second branch/log from first log.
Repeat steps with final 8 bags and hang third branch/log from second log.
Tie a small twine loop in centre of first log (for hanging).
Decorate or embellish with Xmas balls, bells or bows to suit your taste/decor.

Giving: The Little Box of Christmas Kindness (table-top calendar)
This table top centrepiece does double duty as a reminder of what the holiday season is really all about: giving!  Numbered envelopes reveal a daily to-do that focuses on family, friends, fun and sharing.  You fill in the cards to suit your life so it is totally personalized and completely re-useable for years to come!





Supplies needed:
1 festive box from Dollarama
24 x blank cards and envelopes
Pen or metallic marker
Household Xmas decorations to suit your tastes.

How to:
Number envelopes 1 to 24 (I used a stamp and ink pad to decorate mine)
Fill in cards with fun ideas like, "Shovel a neighbours driveway", "Make your brother's bed", "Bake cookies for a friend", "Buy someone a coffee", etc...
Fill box with cards and envelopes and place on a decorative tray.
Arrange and style to suit your tastes.

If you're still a sucker for store-bought, ready-made, treat-filled calendars, tune into my Advent Calendar segment on CTV's Canada AM, Friday November 20th @ 8:40am for more great ideas!
Click here for BIY (Buy-It-Yourself) and DYI ideas!!!

Tuesday, November 3, 2015

Arena readiness 101: A parents guide to surviving minor hockey (and other chilly sports)


315 long, cold, endless, bum-numbing hours.  

From September to March, each year, it's the same routine, every day of the week and most weekends: load up the gear, get in the car, drive, drive some more, keep driving, arrive at arena early, sit, wait, watch, freeze, cheer, freeze some more, load up gear, get in car, drive, drive and drive some more.  Then repeat.

Yes, this is life in Canada as a rep hockey parent, and I am not alone.  If you add up the parents of kids in house league hockey, rep hockey, figure skating, speed skating, skating lessons, curling and other ice sports, hundreds of thousands of Canadian parents are doing much of the same - essentially freezing their baguettes off for what can amount to (in my case) 315 hours, 13 entire days of one's life spent in an arena (not including playoffs and tryouts and summer camps).  And it is awesome!!!

If you're spending approximately 11.25 passive hours per week in a vast, steel, fluorescent-lit meat-locker desperately searching for cell phone coverage, scarfing a Jamaican patty purchased from a heated concession carousel, let me help you.  This is an intervention.  I'm here to not only tell you that there is a way to survive this dreary parenting fate,  there's a way to thrive in an arena setting!!!

Here are some tips and tricks that every parent (or spectator, carpooler, angry-tag-along-sibling, relative and friend) needs to know in order to make the best of what I like to call, Canada's 5th season.
It's that time again...

GET PREPARED:
You've been there - 20 minutes from home, at the arena, racing frantically and rooting around a smelly equipment bag with junior in the locker room searching for ______(fill in the blank) and you know darn well in the pit of your stomach that said-missing-item is sitting on the floor in your front hall. That's why savvy parents always keep an S.O.S. bag in the car, for those "uh oh" moments.  Canadian Tire sells all sorts of neat items that will save the day on more than one occasion (if not yours, then another parent/child's!).  Keep a bag stocked with a hand-held skate sharpener, extra skate laces, hockey tape (which can MacGyver you in and out of many situations!), a repair kit for helmets, extra hockey socks and neck guard (these items are almost always missing from someone's bag).

GET WARM:
My grandmother used to warn that sitting on a cold bench would give you haemorrhoids.  And while there's no scientific research to support that claim, I can assure you that "numb-bum" is a very real, very uncomfortable condition affecting all spectators sitting on metal bleachers in ice-cold arenas.  But there is a cure.  Have a grab-n-go arena bag in your car at all times that you can count on for comfort.  Stock it with a large fleece blanket (preferably in team colours!), a large insulated mug (you will be consuming a ton of hot liquids - I bring my own box of peppermint teabags), toe-warmers, hand-warmers (Zippo Hand Warmer is amazing or you can have those throw-aways), fluffy mitts, and a warm scarf to kill the chill from the refrigeration unit that inevitably ends up blasting directly onto the back of your neck.  You can even buy seat-warmers - a soft microwaveable cushion to keep your tookus toasty.

Forget fashion.  Arenas are no place for trends and coiffed tresses.  Get yourself to Sportchek and snag some ultra warm boots (Sorel, North Face), some knit pants for her (Under Armour), a fleece hoodie and gloves for him (Nike Tech Fleece Hero Hoodie $210.00, Under Armour ColdGear gloves, $29.99) and hunker down against the cold. Some arenas have button-activated, gas-powered overhead heating units for "spectator comfort".  However, I think that they are engineered to function the same way as crosswalk buttons (i.e., they don't function, but it sure is fun hammering the button endlessly while trying to quell your inner rage).

GET CONNECTED:
So now that you've got 13 days of your life to kill in an arena, might as well make it productive, right?  Wrong - most arenas are so chock-full of metal bits, beams and roofing that even the smartest of smartphones will fail to carry any signal whatsoever.  Plus, many phones with a metal casing will often just run dry of battery power trying to maintain warmth.  What's a social-networking butterfly to do?  First off, find a hot-spot - likely the lobby, parking lot or huddled in your car.  Resign yourself to the fact that you may have to (gulp) disconnect from technology for the next 1-2 hours. If that thought terrifies you more than a slimy mouth-guard covered in black-fuzz, make your way to the rec centre's reception area and inquire about free Wi-Fi, or parent-lounges (yes, these do exist in some ultra-modern, wonderfully rare arenas!! Like unicorns, I want to believe in them but I've never actually seen one for myself).

GET ACTIVE:
If sitting on your duff endlessly just isn't your cup of peppermint tea, then why not make the most of your hours at the arena and get fit?  I recently purchased a Nike Fitbit, laced up my sneakers and walked laps of the arena while my son did his team practice.  Not only did I log 10,000 coveted steps, but I also got a bit of sweat going too.  Some arenas also have full gyms connected to them (as part of a community centre).  See if they offer a daily or hourly guest pass, or ask other parents on your team if they'd like to join you for a 30-minute walk outside.  How much better would you feel knowing that you and your kid are getting exercise?  Sometimes I get a full cardio and weight-training workout just hauling my son's 70 pound goalie bag around a parking lot aimlessly when I've forgotten where I parked the car!  You should try it!

Parents of kids who play arena sports, we're in this together!  I would love to know what your survival tips are so please share them with me on Twitter @KasieSavage

Catch my segment on CTV's Canada AM: Wednesday, November 4th at 8:40am!
Click here to watch!


Thursday, October 29, 2015

Happy Halloween and a Merry Haunting: A once humble evening is now a multi-billion dollar indutry


            As far as my three boys are concerned, there are only 2 days in a calendar year that matter: Christmas and Halloween.  And they’re not alone - according to consumer stats, Halloween ranks second in retail spending.  That’s HUGE!!!  From Halloween recipes, to drinks, to décor, to costumes, wedding-themes (huh?), licensed merchandise, how-to-videos, pyrotechnics, outdoor lighting, inflatables and more, Halloween is no longer a one-night trick-and-treat.

Used to be, when I was a kid, Mom took an old worse-for-wear bed-sheet (likely one that you permanently soiled during that nasty stomach flu), cut out jagged eye holes and a mouth, tossed it over your head casually and announced, “you’re a ghost – that’s your costume”.  One pumpkin on the porch was standard décor and kids excitedly tossed their pillows loose from their cartoon-themed pillowcases with the intention of filling them until the seams burst with good ol’ fashioned stick-to-your-silver-fillings candy. 

            My how the times have changed.  It’s estimated that in the U.S. alone, 22 million dollars will be spent on dog costumes…not costumes that make you look like a dog, costumes for your dog!!  I can hear the helpless whimper of pooches across Canada getting pried into ill-fitting Star Wars suits. 

 
               Instead of letting all of this Halloween consumerism turn me into an evil witch, this year, I’m committing.  I’m getting on-board this orange-painted bandwagon and riding it like a deranged diabetic rancher on an all-you-can-eat sugary cattle call (Costume Alert: Deranged Rancher! You’re welcome!).

 I recently went to Michael’s craft store (a mecca for all things awesome and wonderful and inspiring) and filled my cart with all sorts of fun D.I.Y projects as well as some pre-made décor items.  I made a Halloween door wreath, spider web votive candle holders, tattooed pumpkins, spray-painted other gourds white and added golden glitter, stocked up on all sorts of entertaining accessories for the huge party I am having Saturday night (oh yeah, you read it right – party at my place!) 
 

 

             Then I stopped in at Canadian Tire and bought a variety of outdoor projectors to convert this lame-o suburban abode into a spooky haunted manse of mayhem.  I have goose bumps just writing this.  That’s how pumped I am about finally taking Halloween to the next level.

 
            Let’s talk safety – without safety, Halloween could become a real-life nightmare.  In most of Canada it’s now dark outside come 6/6:30pm.  Add to that, reduced visibility with falling leaves, a bit of rain, dark costumed goblins and you’ve got a potentially dangerous mix of kids darting about the streets and nervous drivers hoping to avoid them.

 
Tips for parents/kids:

 Light those kids up: From reflective tape strips to glow bands for wrists or necks, kids need to be seen.  The local dollar store usually sells both so a buck or two per kid is all you need to spend in order to make them stand out.

 Costumes: My son’s mummy morph-suit looks so creepy and cool.  What’s not cool is that he can barely see out of it.  Pretty sure a face-plant on the neighbours driveway is not how he hopes to kick-off the candy collection.  Make sure that the kids can see – even if it means not wearing a mask, or slipping it off between doorbells. I have seen first-hand too many kids crying on the sidewalk with skinned hands and knees. There’s no place for real blood on Halloween.

 Candy: As a kid, we always had to empty our haul onto the counter for parental inspection before we could even consider licking a lollipop.  Same rules still apply.  Immediately toss perishables (sorry sweet old lady who gives out apples), candies with damaged or compromised wrapping and anything else that gives you a not-so-confident feeling.

 Allergies: It’s very likely that there’s a neighbourhood child who has a severe nut allergy and for whom Halloween is not so fun because Mom and Dad have to toss or give away most/all of their candy.  There’s a fantastic teal pumpkin campaign out this year, encouraging you to place a teal pumpkin on your step, notifying kids with allergies that you offer nut-free treats at your door (much of the candy sold for Halloween purposes has the nut-free symbol on it – check the box/wrapper). Teal paint is available at any dollar store or craft store if you’d like to participate.

 Drivers: The easiest tip is to avoid driving, if possible, during peak trick-or-treat hours (7-8:30).  If you are out and about, common sense dictates that you should be extra vigilant and patient behind the wheel…remember how much you loved Halloween as a kid?

 Shutting it down: If you’re like me, then reams of costume-less 16-year olds rapping at the door at 9:45 demanding candy in a chorus of awkward pubescent voices is not high on your list of “fun”.  Generally, lights extinguished on pumpkins and external house lights turned off, means “no candy here”.  If late-night junk-seeking revellers ring the bell, a polite “sorry, we’re all out” is much better than a rude door slam…especially if you do not wish to awaken to an egg-smeared house.

 Catch the segment on CTV’s Canada AM for craft ideas, how-to’s and lots more fun, Friday, October 30th at 8:40am.

 Follow me @KasieSavage

Thursday, July 30, 2015

How to plan to perfect (fuss-free) picnic

We Canadians spend so much time indoors hiding from the miserable cold, that once the sun shows itself, we hit the patios, terraces, backyard decks and cottage docks with a vengeance. A bevie in hand and munchies in reach, there's nothing quite like an alfresco dining experience to rejuvenate the soul and boost any mood.  So why then do so few of us picnic?  If your definition of a picnic is eating a 12"cold-cut combo on a park bench, let me redefine the meaning for you:

A picnic is a pre-planned, eating and/or drinking experience, typically between two or more people, in a casual outdoor setting surrounded by an inspiring natural environment (think trees, not traffic), whereby food and drink are toted to said location in a packed carry-all supplying linens, edibles, beverage, possibly tunes (via portable speaker or you and your acoustic guitar) with the intent to relax and soak in conversation and scenery.



Now if the idea of picnicking sounds like it's going to mean a heck-of-a-lot of planning and hoopla, let me assure you, it only requires a maximum of 1-hour of planning/prepping if you follow my tips:

1: Think outside the basket
No need to buy a designated picnic basket - save time and money but grabbing any hard-bottomed tote or decorative basket from home - like the one you have for those display-only birch logs by the fire.  Hard bottoms (think flat tray not Olympic hurdler) keep items stacked, neat and secure from toppling over.

2. Pick your spot
Make sure that first and foremost, you are legally allowed to picnic in your desired location.  Mrs. Hubbard's immaculate English garden with the pond and swans may appeal to you, but be respectful of private vs. public areas.  Choose a nice flat area (if you plan on using a picnic blanket), free of ant hills (trust me...it happens) and with a desirable view of whatever you find desirable - for some it's a meandering creek nestled in a conservation area with birds singing their little birdie songs.  For others, it's a smokestack next to the cement plant (not recommended, but to each their own).

3. Boomerang it
Not the actual game, but the concept: make sure that your supplies, containers, cutlery, etc... are all re-usable and going right back home with you afterward.  It's better for the environment to leave nothing behind and will save you from having to buy plastic utensils or disposable napkins.

4. Make it, don't break it
Always use, whenever possible, non-breakable containers.  Avoid glass and porcelain/stoneware - not only is it heavier to lug around, but your fine Olde English Rose china from Aunt Edna won't be of any use, or appreciated by others, if it's shattered into a zillion pieces along a hiking trail.  There are many great, high-quality acrylic dinnerware options available at HomeSense or Williams-Sonoma that you can reuse, put in the dishwasher and store for years to come.  Even Aunt Edna would have a hard time telling the difference (bifocals or not!).

5. Add the pizazz
A picnic is all about connecting and conversation.  By adding a few easy personal touches, not only will you impress (yourself and others!), but it will help set the tone for your picnic - one that says, "I went the extra mile without walking an extra mile" (speaking of which, try not to venture too far off the beaten path or too far from your car - if you need to use your GPS to get in or out of your picnic spot, you've gone too far!).

Steal these ideas:
  • Use hollowed out baguette slices as napkin rings! (Then eat them! Bonus!)
  • Pre-fill mason jars with lemonade and add a handful of frozen berries to keep it cool.
  • Grab that faux-fur throw you're not using in summer and lay it out as  picnic blanket - soft, luxe and plush!
  • Use tea-towels as serviettes.
  • Pre-skewer fruit or veggie kabobs for easy munching.
  • Bring a small portable Bluetooth speaker and find a streaming picnic play-list (Songza has a ton of picnic-themed playlists for any music-lover!).
6. Keep it chilled
Ice cubes are not a reliable long-term method for keeping foods cold, so do pack some freezer packs if you're planning on enjoying some perishable or heat-intolerant foods.  No freezer packs?  No biggie - but avoid meats, mayo-based salads or egg sandwiches and opt for mixed greens with vinaigrette or crackers and brie instead!  Freezing an acrylic container of punch or a plastic bottle of lemon water can act as a freezer pack and keep drinks chilled too!  Double-duty!

Have fun on your next picnic and watch the segment on CTV's Canada AM for more great ideas!  Would love to hear your picnic stories: what's your fave picnic spot?

Canada AM: Perfect Picnic