Thursday, August 31, 2023

Monthly Musings: Back to School -- Shopping, Prepping, and Meal Planning

As always on the last Thursday of the month I'm linking up with Holly at Pink Lady and Patty at Good, Better, Best for one of my favourite posts of the month, Monthly Musings. This is one of the kindest group of women on the internet and I feel like everyone who links up is so encouraging.

1) Where do you typically shop for back to school? Any tips?

Well, this year we shopped "back to school" for Rachel in New York City! But that's rather unusual :) Usually, we just find one nice "back to school" outfit (or shirt) at a place like Old Navy or Joe Fresh. Sam has made a few halfhearted attempts to find a new shirt but we haven't put a serious effort into it and I don't know if he really wants something new or not.

I guess my main tip would be not to stress about it. Especially as the kids have gotten older, it really doesn't matter all that much. (It probably didn't matter all that much when they were younger either -- hahaha!)

2) How do you organize for back to school?

I don't know that I really organize all that much anymore. We don't have school supplies to buy and we reuse the kids' lunch bags and back packs year after year. I try to make sure they have a couple of pairs of shoes which fit but, other than that, there's not much to do.

I do try to stay on top of all the emails coming in this time of year though. I try to respond to the emails (register kids for things as necessary, pay for school products, sign permission forms, etc) right as they come in rather than putting it all off until later.

3) Do you meal prep? Any fall recipes to share?

I do meal plan. I don't necessarily meal prep ahead of time but I try to menu plan a month in advance. I've fallen out of that habit this summer but I need to get back into it because, while it's a lot of work at one time, it makes the rest of the month smooth sailing.

 Once we get our CSA fall veggies, I like making the stuffed squash recipe you can find here.

4) Any back to school traditions?

I always do a "first day of" sign for every year and we take a picture on the morning of the first day. I love that the kids made me a "first day" sign when I started working for the school board almost four years ago :)

 I also start baking more muffins as we head to "back to school." They're so easy to grab for a quick breakfast or as a snack after school or to pack for lunch.


5) How long does it take you to get into a new fall routine?

Ummmm... I don't know. Ask me in a month -- hahaha! Fall is always a little crazy for routine around here because, not only is the school year starting up, but so is the Jewish year and a few of the major Jewish holidays (Rosh Hashanah, Yom Kippur) happen in September and/or October. So that always adds to the mix as well.

And this year I don't know how Sam and Rachel being at different stages of school (high school for Sam and middle school for Rachel) will impact our routine as well. Sam didn't get involved in much in middle school (thanks to Covid and his personality) but I don't think Rachel will be as uninvolved, so we'll see what sparks their interest at school.

6) Best lunchbox packing tip?

My best tip would be to let the kids do it but, since Dave is the main parent responsible for the kids getting out the door in the morning, he helps them more than I would. I try to get the kids motivated to pack some of their lunches the night before but that has varied success depending on our evening activities.

7) Best tips for getting out the door in the morning?

Have your spouse be responsible for this part! HAHAHAHAHAHAHAHA!!!

Seriously, one of the best things about working outside the house is that I'm the first one out the door so, other than trying to ensure the kids are somewhat awake before I leave, I don't do anything with their morning routine! And I pretty much love it that way :)

8) Slow cooker? Instant pot? Both? Neither?

Neither. We eat mostly vegetarian and I have just never figured out recipes which work for either of these appliances. We eat a lot of one dish, oven baked, dinners in fall and winter and that works well for our family's diet.

9) School bus? Carpool? Walk to school?

The kids could walk to our elementary school in ten minutes and Sam can walk to high school in fifteen minutes. There is a bus available to the middle school as it's about a 35 minute walk. Sam would walk home from middle school about once a week with friends and I hope Rachel might as well. And I love that I can walk to the school where I work in twenty minutes as well. We live so centrally and I love it!

10) Start school before or after Labour Day?

Well except for the fall of 2020, when the back to school startup was messed up by Covid, this is the latest start I can remember in a long time. Normally, our first day back is the Tuesday after Labour Day but our board decided to make that a PD (Professional Development) Day this year, so the kids don't start back until the Wednesday after Labour Day. That feels so late to me.

I have to say by this point in the summer, I'm ready for "back to school." Especially this year, as both kids are transitioning to new schools, the waiting is just bringing a little anxiety at this point (mostly for the kids) so let's just get it over with and get into it. We're ready for this new year and excited about the adventures ahead!

Wednesday, August 30, 2023

What's Up Wednesday: August 2023

August, oh August, why do you do this to us??? I headed back to work after my summer break last week and then, two days into my work week, Dave and Rachel came down with Covid (our second go around with it), so that sent the entire rest of the month off the rails. I came down with Covid this past weekend and Sam, either by a) having a strong immune system or b) being a teenager who spends all his time in his room, has managed to avoid it. So that's been our life lately.

As always on the last Wednesday of the month, I'm linking up with Shay at Mix and Match Mama and Sheaffer at Sheaffer Told Me Too for their What's Up Wednesday post.

image from here
What we're eating this week... For the past few days, I've been surviving on lemonade and green grapes. Nothing else appeals. Between Dave and I taking turns being sick, we've also been eating a lot of take out because when just one of us is managing all the other things, plus work, who has time to cook?!? Thankfully, the kids have also stepped up and cooked. Sam made omelettes one night and Rachel made homemade pizza and chocolate chip cookies. This weekend we'll get on a better cooking and grocery shopping schedule but for these past few weeks we've been in survival mode.
When I'm not sick, I've been eating a lot of my favourite kale salad, loosely inspired by this recipe here.
What I'm reminiscing about... I'm reminiscing about when we didn't have Covid! Hahaha!
No, really, I've been reminiscing about how different this summer was from previous summers. Some of our summer staples just didn't happen this summer and I don't know if this summer in particular was a one off or if we've moved into a new stage of summer. I'm going to write a blog post about this (eventually) but parts of this summer just felt very unusual. Here are a few things we didn't do much of:
Unfortunately, we didn't spend much time at the pool.
No pool treats and no tennis lessons.
We've hardly gone for ice cream.
We didn't visit many food trucks.
We've rarely gone to the library.

These were previously staples of our summers and I guess I'm just not sure if we're done with these activities or if we just didn't get to them this summer.
What I'm loving... A few years ago, I had a flower share through our CSA but that farmer hasn't been around for awhile. These past few weeks our CSA has had a new flower farmer who has been sharing her gorgeous bouquets. I'm loving getting one (or, let's be honest, two!) of her bouquets every week.

What we've been up to... August was a weird mix of things because I was on summer break for two-thirds of the month, but then I've been back at work (and sick) for a third of the month too.

August started with Sam being at camp and Rachel and I being on our mother-daughter trip to New York City. You can read about my and Rachel's trip here and here if you want to know more.


Then we had some family fun at home visiting a sunflower farm and enjoying a unique light installation...


...and Dave and I enjoyed a fun date night learning to cook Italian cuisine.

Rachel headed off to her week of camp and Sam and I headed out on a baseball tour of Missouri, where we also got to spend some time with my aunt. I'm hoping to blog about my and Sam's trip next week so stay tuned.

And before she got Covid, Rachel was attending a cooking camp and loving learning more kitchen skills.

What I'm dreading... A big spider has taken up residence in the day lilies by my clothesline and I dread every time I need to hang laundry by it. I think it's a yellow garden spider, and not poisonous, but it still freaks me out. It's rather large. Yuck.

What I'm working on... I'm trying to wrap my head around our fall schedule. Rachel has over seven hours of regular dance classes but her additional performance opportunities will add an extra four hours a week to her schedule. She is also doing religious school at the synagogue this year after taking a break from it last year. Sam has a couple of weekly sports plus a weekly night at church.
And this doesn't include anything they might be interested in doing through school. With Rachel going into middle school, and Sam going into high school, there will be new opportunities for them there that I want them to be able take advantage of, if they choose. It's going to be a full Fall and while I'm excited about it, it's also a little overwhelming.

What I'm excited about... Honestly, I'm excited about getting back into a routine. While I love the lazy, unstructured days of summer with more free time, I'm looking forward to having a weekly family rhythm again, even if it might be a little crazy!
What I'm watching/reading... I've been watching the Blue Jays, once in awhile. They're fighting for a post-season spot and I really hope they can make it into the Wild Card. I have a feeling September baseball is going to be stressful this year :(
I've been reading through Karen Kingsbury's Baxter series, among other things. I'm almost finished with the Baxters and so I have to figure out what to read next while I wait for some holds to come in.
What I'm listening to... Through one of the blog linkups I participate in, someone mentioned the "Summer Hits of the 80s" playlist on Spotify. I've been listening to that as I do dishes and bake. It's the perfect "getting stuff done" playlist. I highly recommend it, especially if, like me, you were a teenager in the 80s!

What I'm wearing... Pajamas! That's all I've worn for five days. I'm looking forward to getting dressed in actual clothes today. Unfortunately, our "high" today is only 18C/64F so I might have to pull out pants. Boo. Thankfully this is just a blip and it's supposed to warm up again (highs of 30C/84F) by this weekend which is much more normal for this time of year.

What I'm doing this weekend... We'll be trying to get back on top of things after over a week of sickness and lack of parental energy. I'm hoping to bake more muffins as my "back to school" muffin baking was derailed by Covid and work. I'm going for a walk with my best friend before she temporarily moves to the US for a few months (something else I'm dreading -- ahh). And, after reminiscing about how this summer was different than other years, the kids now want to go get ice cream!
What I'm looking forward to next month... I'm looking forward to the Lumen festival! I love this festival of light and technology in our uptown and I'm so excited about it!

What I bought on Amazon... Nothing. I haven't been buying anything lately.
I hope you're all having a good end to your month and that September treats you well. September is going to be insane around here so I'm just buckling in for a crazy ride and hoping to hang on :)

Monday, August 21, 2023

Halfway Through August And What I'd Read

As of this morning, my summer break is over and I am back to work. Boo. I have to remember that I really do like my job (middle school secretary) and I am fortunate to have a seven week summer break. And that we need to find some way to pay for all the fun we had this summer -- HAHAHA!!! However, I will be back at the school by myself as even the principal is still off this week. Next week my principal and the other secretary should be back and, by next Wednesday, the rest of the staff returns. It's just hard to be the only one around for a week.

Okay, my complaining is done (for today - haha!) and I'm going to share what I read the first half of August. This is the last of my summer reading so I was able to read quite a few books.

You may remember that I read the second two books in this trilogy in early July so I wanted to remind myself how it all began. This series really is similar to other series Roberts has written but I enjoy re-reading them anyways :)

This was a Decades Reading Challenge book set in Colorado in the 1940s. I really enjoyed reading a little bit more about Colorado and, while this book is an emotional read (racism against First Nations' people, giving up a child), it is a beautiful, powerful, book. I highly recommend it.

This was my book club book this month and I enjoyed it. I learned about how "diet culture" is tied to racism, which I hadn't known about. I thought it was very interesting. However, even though my head understands how an "ideal weight" is an invisible goal to reach for, my heart just isn't able to accept my weight. One of the main themes King goes back to again and again is that "a body is a body and it doesn't matter what it weighs -- it's just a body." However, I will still struggle with my weight, even if I understand a bit more about how some of my mindset is influenced. Does any of this make any sense?!?!?!

I really like Jenny Colgan's books but I don't think this was one of her winners. Maybe it was the space I was in when I read it, but I just didn't engage with the story like I usually do. Unfortunately, I was left feeling disappointed, which is a surprise for me when I read a Colgan book.

While this was a difficult book to read, as it deals with the sterilization of poor, Black girls in the 1970s, it was a very important book to read. The story was similar to Necessary Lies but with a different group of people. I would highly recommend this book, as it is excellent, even though the story was a hard one. I am thankful I discovered this book through the Decades Reading Challenge.

While I really enjoy Karen Kingsbury's Baxter series, this book shouldn't have been written. Yes, I said it. This is a prequel based on a TV show and I felt it was completely unnecessary. I didn't like how it showed Kari on her wedding day to Tim (I don't think she would have been that conflicted about her marriage) and I didn't think it added anything to the Baxter family story. I also didn't think it was Kingsbury's best writing.

This is a book I'd had on my TBR for awhile and I'm so glad I finally read it. Davis' autobiography is very raw and powerful and you should read this book. Now I want to watch "How To Get Away With Murder" which she starred in.


After I'd read through the "Redemption" series, I wanted to continue with the Baxter's series. This one focuses on a different set of circumstances and while, sometimes, the story moves a little slower than I'd like, they're still good reads.

I'm pretty sure I'd read this book before but I wanted to read The League Of Extraordinary Women series again. I enjoy these stories of women fighting for women's rights in the 1800s, but also with some romance.

So that's what I read in the first half of August. Now that I'm back at work, my reading will likely slow down a little bit. What are your favourite books to re-read? I didn't realize until I wrote this post that a bunch of these books were ones I'd read before.

Friday, August 18, 2023

10 On The 10th: August 2023

My "10 on the 10th" for August features a really fun date that Dave and I had. We had been looking for a way to celebrate our anniversary (which was back in June) and hadn't really been able to agree on anything fun to do. However, one night we were at Sam's soccer game, batting around different ideas, and Dave suggested, "How about a craft night?" and then I countered with, "How about a cooking class?" and, after a quick Google search, we found an Italian cooking class for the next night at a fun kitchen store a twenty minute walk from us. So we signed up.

Ready to learn something new...
We started with making pasta from scratch. Now, we've done this with my parents but my dad always makes the pasta dough and the kids always use the pasta maker so I don't really feel like I get to experience a lot of it.
 We also got to make a salad and now I will never give away the fennel from our CSA again. This salad with fennel, radicchio, French radishes, endives, and avocado was so good. Yum!!! We also learned about making homemade dressing.
This was the plate of ingredients for our pasta sauce. My only complaint about the entire experience was that we were put into groups of four. Last time Dave and I did a cooking class (we were gifted one for our wedding), it was just the two of us working together. We didn't know the other two people in our group of four so that was sometimes a little awkward.

While there was a pasta machine there to get the dough to the desired thinness, I appreciated learning how to do it by hand. I will have to roll it by hand at home so I wanted to learn how. Rolling by hand was so much faster that I actually had time to roll two batches while everyone else was waiting their turns at a pasta machine. Dave and one other person also learned to roll theirs by hand.

We made a lemon-asparagus cream sauce and it was so good!
The final product was served with a poached egg on top. The worst part was the class started at 6pm and we didn't eat until about 8:45. I was so hungry by the time we actually got to eat!
I would have loved to learn how to make dessert but we ran out of time. This was poached pears in wine with walnuts, chocolate, and honey goat cheese. It was also very good!

This was a super fun date night and Dave and I are already trying to figure out which classes we can take next. They have a "bread and butter class" which sounds delicious as well as a "winter cocktails" offering which I'm highly tempted to sign up for.

Now, does anyone want to come for dinner? Homemade pasta and the tastiest salad ever are on the menu!

Thursday, August 17, 2023

These Are A Few Of My Favourite New York City Things

Today I'm recapping the second day which Rachel and I spent in New York City earlier this month. We started out by getting Starbucks and walking The High Line. This is pretty much the only thing I wanted to do on this trip, which Rachel hadn't mentioned, and she was okay with walking it this day.

The High Line has amazing art installations...

...beautiful plants and views...
...and incredible architecture. It is one of my favourite spots in New York City and I love visiting it.
While walking to our next event we found this cool mural and took some photos.
And Rachel convinced me to buy her a Crumbl Cookie.
Then we headed off to Candytopia. It is a fun candy, interactive, art installation thing. I hadn't heard of it but Holly, who blogs at Pink Lady, had been in New York the previous weekend and posted about it on Instagram. I checked it out, discovered that it was very close to our hotel, and knew that Rachel would love it. And she did!
There was candy available to eat as you enjoyed the various features.

I loved the recreations of famous artwork. These are all made out of candy.
Rachel loved the marshmallow pool!

We left Candytopia, grabbed a quick lunch to eat at our hotel, and then headed to Broadway because...

...we had tickets to see "Wicked" in the afternoon! We both loved the show and I cried at the end. It was sooooo good and I'm so glad we saw it!
After "Wicked" we had a three minute walk to the Capezio Dance flagship store. Rachel really wanted to get something special for dance here. She got a special black dance leotard and a cute water bottle that proclaims, "H TuTu O." Hahaha! Since they were running a special on dance tights, we also picked up a few pairs for her.
Then we decided to skip the more involved meal we'd had planned for that evening, as Rachel was feeling fairly tired, and we grabbed McDonald's instead. Ever since I went to see Les Mis on Broadway in 1993, I grab fries at the McDonald's in Times Square when I cry my eyes out at a musical. We continued the tradition this trip too :)
And we found a fun Broadway shop on Times Square where we purchased some items. I bought my very first pop socket for my phone here and I have been loving it! I can't believe I didn't have one before but I'm happy to remember a special place every time I use it.
After this, we walked back to our hotel, packed up, and had a quiet evening. We took the train back early the next morning and arrived home shortly after 8:30 that night.
This was a quick, but really fun, trip to New York City with Rachel and I'm so glad we did it. I had told the kids these trips were not going to be annual occurrences but we had such a good time that Rachel is already asking for another trip next year. Honestly, I'm going to have a hard time saying "no" to her because I had so much fun too!