Party Planning on a Budget

In honour of Baby P's 1st Birthday I decided to put together a little guide with a few tips on planning a birthday party for your little one on a budget. We have a ton of family in Saskatoon so we decided to have a party in #YXE and #YEG just so all of the friends and family could make it out. That being the case I wanted to make sure I didn't blow the budget on either bash so we could still have a ton of fun at both locations and not have to break the bank to do it!

THE FOOD

When you're figuring out what to feed everyone, the dollar amount can add up quickly especially if you decide to purchase assembled food trays or catering. I decided to buy all of the bulk goods and make meat and cheese trays myself. I simply rolled up deli meats, bought pre sliced hard cheese and arranged them in a nice grouping around a couple of dollar store platters. I easily saved $30 or more per tray by making them myself and they were just as tasty as the catered trays would have been for our build-your-own sandwich bar. 

THE THEME 

I tried to pick something seasonal so it wouldn't be too hard to find a couple of decorations, so I went with the flamingo theme. Napkins, table clothes, cupcakes, cutlery and plates were all purchased in the hot pink flamingo colour and then I just accented our set up with a few fun flamingo decorations. I usually rely on Dollarama for this sort of thing but they didn't have too many flamingo items so I ended up getting most of my stuff from Party City. Every item was really reasonably priced and they had such an amazing selection!

THE VENUE

Booking and paying for a venue can put your birthday budget through the roof so instead we leaned on our cousin Shanna. Her condo has a club house equipped with an indoor pool, hot tub and rec room with tables, chairs even a pool table. It was the perfect place to have everyone for Paisley's flamingo pool party and the best part? It was completely free!

THE CAKE

I did think about making a cake myself, but because we were travelling and not at home for this party, I wanted to take the baking burden off my shoulders and decided to order instead. Bakeries often charge a pretty penny for custom birthday cakes and I didn't just want a plain sheet cake, so I decided to order cupcakes from Sobeys. I love ordering from them, you can get vanilla or chocolate with any icing colour you like and they are only $1 per cupcake. We got half a dozen pink and half a dozen white. I pulled out my cupcake stand that I already had stashed away in the cupboard, grabbed a glittery #1 candle from party city and viola! An adorable dessert display for under $15. 

All in all - we spent around $100 total for Paisley's party and it was so much fun. Great memories and we didn't have to shell out a ton of cash to do it. 

Preparing your Planter

Begonias are a go to plant if you are placing a pot in a shadier location. 

Begonias are a go to plant if you are placing a pot in a shadier location. 

The sun is slowly winning the war against the morning frost, which means planting season must be right around the corner. As the leaves return to the trees, temperatures begin to warm up and the grass starts to green it’s time to dust off those gardening gloves and prep for the summer season. Container gardening has risen in popularity over recent years. Easy-to-care-for planters make a great addition to any yard, patio or balcony says Co-Owner of Kuhlmann’s Greenhouse Anita McDonald. “

You can start to plant as early as the beginning of May, if you have the ability to pull the plants indoors when the weather isn’t favourable. If you don’t have the option however it recommended you wait until at least the middle of the month. “Our weather is very unreliable and you never really know for sure,” says McDonald. “We don’t really encourage doing a lot of planting outdoors until mid May.”

To prepare last years planters for this season start by dumping out the pots. McDonald says you should sift through the soil and dig out all the old root systems. When it comes to mixing your soil she recommends going with the half and half method, combining 50% of your soil from last year with 50% new potting soil. “Our potting soils these days are soilless, there’s no black dirt in there. It’s mostly made up of peat moss, vermiculite and perlite,” says McDonald. “So it’s very reusable.”

Geraniums come in a variety of colours and are a great medium height container plant for your sunny yard. 

Geraniums come in a variety of colours and are a great medium height container plant for your sunny yard. 

When it comes to selecting your plants, you have to consider where you’ll be placing the pot. “For the shade definitely begonias are the most popular plant,” says McDonald. “ There’s lots of new proven winner plants that are more foliage plants that like the shade like sweet potato vines, silver nettle vines and just the different types of Ivy.” There are also many popular varieties that work well for sunny areas. “A lot of people like to use a stand by of the geranium, which come in all colours,” says McDonald. “In every container you want something tall, something medium height and then you want the trailers. Bacopa is a very popular plant it comes in blue pink and white. Tailing nemesia in yellow and cranberry is just beautiful.” Trailing petunias are also at the top of McDonald’s list. She says the plant requires very little dead heading and it puts out great performance.

When it comes to selecting your containers, whether it’s ceramic, plastic or a hanging moss-lined basket, it’s important to pick something that has good drainage. “Your container should always have holes in the bottom for drainage,” says McDonald. “Containers without holes, if they are out exposed to the rain and we get 2-3 days of rain, they can get very waterlogged and your soil can go sour and your plants will suffer.”

Overall containers are a great option if you’re looking for something a little more low maintenance. “Flowerbeds of course, there are weeds that grow and that’s an ongoing battle,” says McDonald. “It’s a little easier to plant things above ground.”

Container gardening offers a very versatile and low-maintenance option for gardening enthusiasts.

Container gardening offers a very versatile and low-maintenance option for gardening enthusiasts.

Generations of Art

Shima Robinson (left) and her mother Elsa Robinson (Right) take centre stage for a collaboration at the SkirtsAfire herArts Festival

Shima Robinson (left) and her mother Elsa Robinson (Right) take centre stage for a collaboration at the SkirtsAfire herArts Festival

As the lights dim, visual artist Elsa Robinson sets up her easel and canvas, clicking paint brush handles together and twisting open jars of paint. Her daughter, spoken word artist Shima Robinson stands confidently in front of the crowd, notes in hand, preparing herself for the performance ahead. A large partially finished painting acts as a backdrop to the creativity about to unfold in front of the audience gathered at the Nina Haggerty Art Gallery, the venue providing an intimate setting with standing room only. The collaboration was a first for this mother daughter pair. “Shima presented three poems at the show. I read through the poems with her prior to the show and selected the words and or phrases that struck a chord with me,” says Robinson. “Those are what I used to create the painting.” As Shima performed her spoken word pieces, Elsa Robinson worked on her painting, brushing on symbols and colours that directly connected to words or themes her daughter was exploring in her poems. “We presented themes of strong family and mother daughter relationships, the sacredness of colour and the beauty of trust,” says Shima Robinson. “She used words that honoured me publicly and that was humbling and very special for the both of us. We shared a very personal relationship in public and that was a good feeling,” says Elsa Robinson.

Elsa Robinson was born and raised on the Caribbean island of Jamaica. After taking a few art classes in high school and post secondary, she moved to Edmonton in 1984, the same year she welcomed her daughter Shima into the world. Robinson went on to earn her Bachelor of Education Degree at the University of Alberta in 1990. After nearly a decade of teaching, Robinson’s artistic curiosity caught up to her when she completed her first painting in 1999. Continuing to work and support her family, Robinson built up her collection of paintings eventually selling prints and t-shirts of her work at local markets. In 2008 she was nominated by a friend, for the City of Edmonton Cultural Diversity in the Arts Award. Robinson would go on to win the award, which came with enough financial support to allow her to focus more fully on her art. Wanting to gain a formal art education, she decided to go back to school earning a Bachelor of Arts Degree in Art and Design from the U of A in 2013. With such a long list of accomplishments, it’s not hard to imagine how Robinson’s daughter must look up to her. Shima Robinson beams as she describes how her mother has contributed to her own journey as an artist. “She definitely blazes the trail, and not just as an artist, but as a woman, a professional woman, a strong woman, a black woman,” says Robinson. “She models so many qualities that are necessary for getting through and being exceptional.” On the other side Elsa Robinson is just as eager to express pride for her daughters accomplishments. “It’s a beautiful thing,” says Robinson. “She’s using her poetry to heal and my intent with my art is to heal so we connect on that level.”

A packed house at the Nina Haggerty Art Gallery watch as mother-daughter duo Elsa and Shima Robinson perform a collaborative piece.

A packed house at the Nina Haggerty Art Gallery watch as mother-daughter duo Elsa and Shima Robinson perform a collaborative piece.

Shima Robinson first became interested in spoken word poetry as a Bachelor of Arts student at the U of A. She met a collective of artists focused on producing music, meaningful writing and engaging spoken word performances. From there she began to explore the poetry world, eventually hosting open mic nights at venues around Edmonton including the Naked Cyber Café on Jasper Avenue, the Naked Café on 104th Avenue and The Carrot Community Arts Coffeehouse on Alberta Avenue. Like her mother, Robinson has a passion for bringing art to the people and currently teaches an ongoing poetry workshop for youth at Boyle Street Community Services Coop. “My goal is to be able to guide people, to act as a counsel of some kind to young people who feel like they have something to say that isn’t being said and where to go from there,” says Robinson. 

Both Elsa and Shima Robinson say that coming together to perform was an extremely rewarding experience. “It was very powerful for me to work with my daughter and for us to share through our respective artistic voices which are both very strong,” says Elsa Robinson. “Over all I felt pleased and honoured to present a work of art with my mother,” says Shima. Both look forward to collaborating in the future. Their presentation was featured as part of the 2016 SkirtsAfire herArts Festival. The festival takes place in the heart of Alberta Avenue and features the work of women in theatre, music, dance, visual art, comedy and spoken word. 

Elsa Robinson (right) and daughter Shima Robinson (left) proudly stand beside a finished painting that came out of their collaborative performance.

Elsa Robinson (right) and daughter Shima Robinson (left) proudly stand beside a finished painting that came out of their collaborative performance.

Realities of Having a Baby with Massive Amounts of Hair

  1. Other moms chuckle while you hold your five month old under the hair dryer after swimming.
  2. The first words out of anyone’s mouth when they gaze upon your baby are “Oh my god look at the hair.”  I have literally heard this phrase hundreds of times.
  3. A baby mullet is an actual reality in your world.
  4. From afar people just think your baby is wearing a really fuzzy hat.
  5. Seniors will insist on running their fingers through her hair whether you give them permission or not.
  6. Daily baths are a necessity otherwise a serious case of bed head will strike on day two.
  7. Your child has enough hair to put into pigtails but hates having them in her hair, and often ends up pulling the elastics out, of course putting them in their mouth. 
  8. Spit up will often gum up the luscious locks.
  9. Your baby’s gorgeous mane will cause copious amounts of head sweat.
  10. Your baby will of course be adored above all others for having so much hair!

Poinsettia 101

Photo Courtesy: Erika Hannem

Photo Courtesy: Erika Hannem

We check in with Gardening Expert Jim Hole from the Enjoy Centre for a few tips on keeping your gorgeous plant from biting the dust.

 

Picking out the Perfect Poinsettia

Select a plant that has nice bright green foliage. The coloured part of the poinsettia is called the bracts. Make sure the bracts of the plant are vibrant as well. It’s important to pick out a poinsettia that appears nice and stocky, with a good root system. Also, don’t forget to test out the soil making sure it’s moist.

 

Leaving the Store

Make sure you are purchasing your poinsettia from a reputable grower that properly wraps your plant for the transport home. When temperatures dip below zero the plant needs more insulation than just a thin layer of plastic to survive the journey.

 

Placing the Poinsettia

During the day it’s important to place your plant in a bright sunny spot. At night feel free to move it around the house wherever you’d like to add a bit of extra holiday colour. You will know if your plant is not getting enough sunlight if it starts to drop leaves.

“A lot of people will keep them in a dark spot in the house and then the green leaves fall off,” says Jim Hole  “It’s telling you that they’re in too dark a spot.”

 

How Often to Water

To test whether or not your plant needs watering, Jim recommends sticking your index finger into the soil up to your knuckle. If the soil is moist to that depth you are good, if not hit it with some water. It’s also important to empty out any water in the catch trays.

“Poinsettia’s like moisture but they hate standing water,” says Jim Hole “That will kill them off.”

 

To Fertilize or not to Fertilize

There’s no need to fertilize if you are just keeping the plant through the holiday season. If, however, you do want to keep the plant for next year then you can start fertilizing in the New Year.

 

The Enjoy Centre has a beautiful selection of poinsettias to choose from this time of year. Make sure you stop by and check them out, they are located at 101 Riel Drive in St. Albert.

Photo Courtesy: Erika Hannem

Photo Courtesy: Erika Hannem

Xmas in North YEG

I think the north end sometimes gets a bad rap, often overlooked as the vibrant, diverse, family friendly hub that it is. I am not ashamed to say that I was born and raised in north Edmonton and I could not be more proud. Part of that upbringing including a deeply entrenched love of all things Christmas, so as Baby Paisley and I were putting out some decorations I decided to put together a list of a few holiday events happening in and around our beautiful borough.

 

Deep Freeze: A Byzantine Winter Festival

January 9 & 10, 2016

Where: 118 Avenue from 90-94 street

If snow sculptures, frozen maple syrup and deep freezer races are your thing you have to check out the Deep Freeze Byzantine winter festival along Alberta Avenue. It’s a little bit past the official holiday season by still definitely worth checking out. It’s a family friendly event that celebrates all things winter.

 

Christmas Carol Market

November 20-22 & December 11-13

Where: The Root Seller 16735 Zaychuck Rd.

Two more weekends left for this crafty market. The Root Seller is opening it’s greenhouse to host an array of vendors. From sweet treats to one-of-a-kind handmade gifts this market truly has it all.

 

Castle Downs YMCA Craft Fair

December 5, 9:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.

Where: Castle Downs YMCA 11510 -153 Avenue

Might need to arrive early to snag your parking spot for this one! On December 5 families will come together for the 16th annual Castle Downs YMCA Christmas Craft Fair. The all day event includes music, breakfast with Santa and of course a whole host of craft vendors.

 

Cory's Christmas Market

On until December 20th - Thurs. 10-9 Fri-Sat 10-5

Where: 10914 105 Avenue

Now I wouldn’t say this market is really in the heart of north Edmonton, but it is just north of Downtown and it’s definitely worth the 15 minute drive to get there. When you walk in the door the beautiful twinkling light and whimsical Christmas garden design over takes you. The space is run by local designer Cory Christopher and is great for unique gifts and holiday design inspiration.

 

Big, The Musical

November 26 – December 6

Where: Arden Theatre, 5 St. Anne Street – St. Albert

This is a St. Albert Children’s Theatre presentation of a play adapted from The 1988 Hollywood hit Big. I always enjoy a trip to the theatre, especially during the holidays. I can’t wait until Paisley is old enough to know what the heck is going on, on stage.

 

A Prairie Christmas

December 12-13

Where: 56311 Lily Lake Road, Bon Accord

This last mention is definitely day trip worthy. Best known for it’s colourful pumpkin festival, Prairie Gardens opens it’s gates one again to celebrate the holidays with hay rides, gingerbread cookie decorating, a lively bonfire and much more. Prairie Gardens is located 25 km north of Edmonton in Bon Accord.

 

I know there will be many more north end holiday events popping up throughout the season but these are just a few I believe are definitely worth braving the Alberta weather for!

 

 

Rocky Mountain Soap Company reopens in WEM

The room was buzzing with the soft scent of vanilla mint, an excited crowd of VIPs and that electric energy that comes from live TV. Rocky Mountain Soap Company officially reopened the doors to its West Edmonton Mall location this week with quite the facelift.

Owner Karina Birch has always ensured the company’s products live up to a high environmental standard, but now their retail location will embody that same commitment to a small carbon footprint.

The walls are lined with reclaimed pine sourced from Golden BC and a non-toxic plaster product that actually helps clean the air. The eclectic seats dotted around the store are actually cut from telephone poles salvaged in Canmore. It’s a soothing and serene space that packs a big punch when it comes to global responsibility. It’s part of Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s ‘Cleaner Bodies, Cleaner World’ commitment.

Seeing Canadian entrepreneurs that are so committed to sustainability truly warms my heart. It means that there are others out there just like me who want a better tomorrow for the next generation. Supporting companies like Rocky Mountain Soap means that maybe my daughter will get to enjoy swimming in the same lakes that I did growing up. It will mean she will be able to enjoy our beautiful Canadian landscape with her children some day.

We all have an impact on keeping our planet healthy, even if that means buying a product that’s better for our bodies from a company that better for our environment. Make sure you stop by the Rocky Mountain Soap Company’s West Edmonton Mall location, they are located on the second floor above the stage outside of Hudson’s Bay. 

Super Simple Roasted Veggies

This veggie dish is an easy way to add a yummy helping of veggies to your dinner. I've brought it to many potlucks and people go crazy for it, always wanting the recipe. It is so simple I wanted to share it with all of you! 

Prep time: 15 minutes 

Cooking Time: 45 minutes

Yield: 4-6 servings

Ingredients

- 1 medium yam

- 1 green bell pepper

- 15 white button mushrooms

- 2 Cloves minced garlic

- 2 tbsp olive oil

- seasoning salt

- Clubhouse original seasoning

Directions

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Preheat oven to 425 F. Peel and cube yam and place into 9x13 inch baking pan. Give the bell pepper and mushrooms a rustic chop and add to the cubed yam.  

Add two cloves of minced garlic. Coat mixture with olive oil and toss.  

Next add in a generous sprinkling of the seasoning salt and Clubhouse original seasoning.  

Bake at 425 F for approximately 45 minutes stirring a couple of times in between.  

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Tip: When it comes to cooking I always try to shortcut prep steps if I can, so instead of peeling and mincing my own garlic I always keep a jar of minced garlic handy to save time.  

YEG Sourced Costumes for Kids

Okay people, we are now officially less than a week away from Halloween, and I’m sure I’m not the only mom out there who’s under the wire to find a costume for their little one.

Before we get into a few recommendations, I just want to give a shout out to all of the amazing moms who made their kid’s costumes this year. For me it’s an accomplishment when I get to take a shower so going above and beyond and hand making a costume is no minor task. I truly do applaud you.

I am not even minimally skilled with a sewing machine so I’ve decided to turn to buying a premade costume, but of course there’s still a little room for creativity when it comes to where you decide to shop this Halloween. I wanted to avoid the big box stores this year, so here’s my guide for finding a last minute kids costume in Edmonton without defaulting to Walmart. 

First we made a trip to the gently used baby thrift store Once Upon a Child on St. Albert Trail. I always turn to them when I am in need of an item that I don’t want to pay a ton of money for. We found a whole whack of adorable costumes for babies and toddlers. These super cute giraffe and firefighter costumes were a few of my favourite and all of the prices are significantly discounted from retail so I knew I’d be saving a bundle. 

Next I took to Kijiji, another one of my favourite second hand sources. There are so many posts out there for children’s Halloween costumes, I’ve bought a ton of baby accessories and household items from ads on the site and I’ve always had a great experience. There are literally pages and pages of ads from parents looking to get rid of their gently used costumes for $5-$10, so do a little bit of browsing and see if anything peaks your interest.

Finally, I’ve got to give a shout to out to a local crafter. Yvonne Epp from The Eclectic Dandelion typically sells her adorable Peacock and Owl Kids Costumes on Etsy, but because she’s local you can email her to purchase one of her handmade creations. I am a big owl fan and when Paisley is big enough to dawn her cute costumes you better believe I will be scooping one up. You can contact Yvonne at eclectic.dandelion@gmail.com

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In the end we decided to go with the Giraffe costume we found at Once Upon a Child. My best friend is a huge giraffe lover so I just couldn’t resist. One of the best parts – I only paid $6.50! I’m telling you, shop second hand and you will never go back.

Wishing all of YEG a happy and safe Halloween!

 

 

 

Getting out with Baby

Outside the Strathcona Farmers Market

Outside the Strathcona Farmers Market

Feed. Change. Nap. Clean. Repeat. Babies definitely settle into their everyday routine pretty quickly, but it's also important to remember to make a purposeful break from the monotony and get out of the house. Baby will appreciate the stimulation of a new environment and it's healthy for mom to get out for some fresh air too. Here are a few options to consider when looking for a bit of a break from the daily baby grind.

Visit the Farmers Market
In larger cities there are often several different markets throughout the week. So get out take in the season's gorgeous harvest season fair, eclectic buskers and discover some of the vendors that are making handmade products in your community.

A Day at the Movies
Cineplex has their Stars and Strollers program that offers Wednesday afternoon screenings complete with change tables, lower volumes for baby, discounted admission for mom and even stroller parking! There's a new movie every week so make sure you check out this week's flick playing in your area.

Get Fit with your Little One
Jump on the Internet and check out some fitness classes close by that offer fun for baby and mom. Many fitness centres now offer yoga, Aquafit and even dance classes that are baby friendly and mom approved.

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Whatever the activity just make sure you make a conscious effort to get out, and stay happy. 

Save vs. Splurge: What to Spend on Baby Essentials

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New moms are bombarded by advertising, convincing them that spending top dollar for brand name baby items is the only way to go when preparing for that new bundle of joy. It’s true that some items are worth the splurge but which items can you avoid dishing out the dollars for?

Baby Monitor: Splurge

We spent just under $200 on our video baby monitor and it was well worth the money spent. At first we bought a less expensive model but after using it for a few weeks we just weren’t impressed. So we exchanged it for our new one and never looked back. By spending a little extra we were able to get a model that had a swivel camera you could control from the handheld monitor, super convenient if you want to avoid constantly adjusting the camera. 

High Chair: Save!

Stand-alone highchairs can go for hundreds of dollars, boasting multiple seating positions, adjustable height and premium comfort for baby. The truth is I found these stand-alone models to be super bulky, and difficult to travel with. Travel highchairs that strap onto an existing dining chair are great for day-to-day use and they are a much less expensive option. This is also a great item to try and source out used to save even more money!

Crib: Save!

Here’s another one I decided to save a little bit of money on and I really found that it paid off. I purchased our crib on sale brand new for just over $100 and I feel like it has served us just as well as a $500 crib would have. Our little girl loves her crib and we love the less bulky design, adding a bit more space to her smaller nursery.

 

Stroller: Splurge

We spent a little bit more than I had intended when we went stroller shopping, but this is a splurge item I’m glad we spent the money on. We are huge fans of the outdoors and the treaded tires on our stroller definitely came in handy while trudging through the woods on our day trips to the lake this summer.

If you’re on a budget and need to stock up on a few staples before baby is born second hand baby stores are a great place to go to source out gently used items. The truth is babies out grow items at such a fast rate many moms barely have a chance to put their items to good use before their kids move onto the next contraption, so sourcing used items can definitely be a great way to go.

Online buy and sell sites like Kijiji, or local Facebook groups are also another place you can score a great deal on some quality items.