Reduce, Reuse, Consign

Spring Consignment Sale Simcoe

Through consignment, you can pass on your high quality baby items to new families and trade up. Reduce your impact and let someone else reuse your cloth diapers and baby carriers.

Next week, March 21st and 22nd, is our 5th Annual Repeat Sale – an Eco Consignment Sale for conscientious parents – in the Parenting By Nature storefront at 5 Ontario Street, Orillia.

Families who shop at care about reducing environmental impact by choosing high-quality baby products that last as long as they will need them—and longer. When your cloth diapers, baby carriers, and nursing items are still in great shape after you no longer need them, you can benefit from your investment by selling to another family who can use them.

  • If you are selling, you can size up cloth diapers, try a new kind of baby carrier, or turn nursing items into gifts. Sell your gently used items to other families in the Simcoe area.
  • If you are buying, this is an opportunity to get the highest quality baby gear with a lower up-front cost.

For details, go to

Family Calendar and Schedule

Simple family schedule

As life with children gets more complicated, when each family member has their own schedule, it helps keep everyone organized with a family calendar.

Choose a simple solution. Don’t opt for the fanciest software. Don’t opt for a day planner unless you really do need to plan whole days. Look at your needs before you try to meet your needs.

What do I track in my calendar?

  • Work, when the schedule changes daily or weekly
  • School, especially holidays or family events
  • Activities, like dance, sports, and lessons
  • Travel, both family and work (such as annual conferences)
  • Vacation
  • Appointments
  • Dates, like birthdays and holidays

What is the simplest format for me?

  • If you just need to remember 3-4 appointments and activities a week, how about a basic paper calendar in the kitchen?
  • If you are tracking chores more than appointments, how about a magnetic calendar in the kitchen?
  • If you travel more than you stay home, how about a basic phone calendar?
  • If you want access on more than one device, how about Google calendars?
  • If more than one person needs access, how about a shared Google calendar?

What works for me?

One system isn’t going to work for all of us. Customize your system to your needs.

Before you make changes, ask what is working for you now and what isn’t working for you now. Can you tweak your current calendar to make it work better? If you are ready for a big change, such as going from all paper to an app, look for an app that is familiar enough that your tracking doesn’t become all about the system.

Who uses the calendar?

If you have babies, you are the sole calendar keeper. That’s easy. As you and your children each add more activities, especially when those activities aren’t all together anymore, you need to track each person’s activities separately. On a paper calendar or with sticky notes, you can use different colors for each person. If you have a lot of people with different activities, you might need swim lanes (separate columns or rows) to show each person’s schedule.

I used to try to get my family to pay attention to a paper calendar, then an online calendar, but they just don’t. They are just chill people who aren’t so concerned about dates and appointments. Me, not so much. I am very concerned about dates, so I am left to be the calendar keeper. That’s fine.

Just understanding who cares about the calendar makes it easier to customize your solution.

Make it BIG!

If you want a physical calendar, and you don’t need it mobile, you could create a big, beautiful Martha Stewart chalkboard calendar. I can see that a big calendar could be a nice solution for a homeschooling family that tends to be home more than away. Though I aspire to such beauty, I tend to go for a quicker, temporary solution.

During our busiest times of the year, November and December, I get out sticky notes and create a calendar on a long wall in our busiest hallway. I do this because the calendar so big and bright that everyone notices it several times a day. I want to everyone to pay attention to dates, so we don’t double book as we schedule gigs, parties, and regular activities. I know from experience that I have to be in everyone’s face to get them to remember dates.

Keep it SMALL

Don’t make tracking activities and events ABOUT the calendar. Let the tool serve you. If you are the only person using the calendar, do whatever works best for you.

About six months ago, I pulled the family calendar and chore lists into the project management system I use for work. I just made family another project, and I gave each person a login (though they don’t login at all). It makes me feel better to give them access. Now, I see doctor’s appointments, family events, and tasks on my master calendar. No more keeping multiple calendars. No more pretending that anyone else is paying attention.

At our weekly family meeting, we talk about what is coming up. My husband writes out chores and events in his notes for family meetings, but I don’t think anyone else looks at his notes, so we’re all left to remember commitments and events on our own. During family meetings, I keep my project app open, and I add events and actions as we go. Since no one else is actually keeping a calendar, they ask me, “What were we doing this week again?” I’m the calendar-keeper. When I’m working at my computer, I keep a tab open with my calendar and task list, including family projects. I created what works for me.

  • Start with your need and keep your simple solution focused on that need.
  • Set a time each week to review upcoming events and appointments. This practices helps even young children to break out of their eternal now to anticipate change.
  • Write it down now! Record events, appointments, and other commitments as soon as you make them. Keep the calendar accurate.

Keep your family organized and on time.

Image © Jcjgphotography | - Moms To-Do List Photo

Board Books + Classic Literature = BabyLit

Alice in Wonderland for babies

It’s never too early to introduce your baby to great literature. If that great lit comes in the form of tough board books for babies, even better. carries the BabyLit series of board books because they entertain us as adults as well as entertaining our babies.

We read to babies because they learn language as we speak, because we want to create the habit of reading in our children. Before babies even come close to understanding stories, we read them stories. Once they start to recognize numbers, colors, animals, and objects around them, we read books about the familiar.

Trouble comes when a favorite book, a book that absolutely must be read nightly, bores us to tears. We might lose it or distract at bedtime. Clever children will find their favorite books, though. You can escape the repeat performance.

Before you find yourself reading a book about a self-sacrificing tree or an inevitably caged monkey for the hundredth time, start with books that will amuse you. I like the BabyLit books because they make me laugh. Reading these books gives parent and child a multi-layered experience.

You will find the structures of the books familiar: counting books, object books, color books, and weather books.

Anna Karenina for babies

Anna Karenina, for example, has one item of cloth per page then encourages the reader to find another. It’s an easy hidden object book, or, as the book itself claims, “a fashion primer.”

“Can you also find the heart?”

Price & Prejudice for babies

Pride & Prejudice is a counting book with “1 English village, 2 rich gentlemen, 3 houses, 4 marriage proposals,” and so on. Jane Eyre and Dracula are also counting books. Alice in Wonderland is a color primer, Wuthering Heights is a weather primer, and The Jungle Book is an animal primer.

Jabberwocky for babies

Jabberwocky will be fun for any child who loves to play with language.

“Twas Brillig, and the slithy toves. . . .”

All of the books have bold, simple artwork that will hold a toddler’s interest.

Moby Dick for babies

BabyLit is a fun series. Though it is made for toddlers, you will find yourself calling friends and family members to read these books to adults. The books are published by a friend of mine, who sent me the whole series. I’ve read every one aloud to my husband and to friends. The juxtaposition of baby and lit delights them. They laugh. It’s a secret between adults, when the children just have fun listening and pointing.

Come by the store in Orillia and choose a few of your favorites for a baby—or for an adult.

Wuthering Heights for babies

Menu Planning and Shopping

Mother and baby grocery shopping

Do you ever arrive home with hungry kids and no idea what you are going to feed them? Or, you have a great idea for a quick meal, but you end up missing ingredients you could have bought on your way home. This is how we end up eating boxed dinners and other foods we want to avoid.

If you have been building your Home HQ with your family binder, you have the ideal place to organize meals and shopping lists so you won’t get caught without a quick, nutritious meal to make.

Having a system for menu planning and shopping will also help you avoid wasting food that you don’t quite have a plan for. According to the UN Environment Programme, “[i]n the USA, 30-40% of the food supply is wasted, equaling more than 20 pounds [~9kg] of food per person per month.” Before you start thinking that’s just the U.S., Canadian researchers estimate that the average Canadian household wastes 15-23kg of food per month. Not all of the waste happens at home. Food leaves the system at every point in the chain. That’s wasted capacity in the food system and wasted money for us all as prices cover food that doesn’t even make it to us. For us as families, though, the food wasted at home costs us about $1,500 per year. Every day we are wasting about $4 of food.

We can stop wasting food and wasting money with better planning.

A Menu & Shopping System

Start by asking whether you will be better off jumping into a whole, new system or gradually adopting new methods into your current system. We’re all different, so choose your own path.

If you want a complete system, start with Plan to Eat. This software is a small, family business. You’ll love their eating philosophy and their business philosophy. You might blink at the price ($4/mo or $39/yr), but that cost will be worth it if you need a whole recipe-to-menu-to-list system.

If you want a system that involves paper or that you can customize, start by looking at what you are using now. What is working and what isn’t working? Change one thing at a time.

One of my favorite places to look for home organization ideas is Pinterest. So many parents are sharing their home organization systems as downloadable printouts that you will be able to find just the right structure, just the right design, and just the right size for your family. Start with “menu planning” and you will find yourself on a half-day adventure with a lot of new pins.

Menu Planning

My family has been using a post-it meal planner for the past year, Menu Planner from Homemade by Carmona, and I love it. My husband, the primary meal planner and shopper in our family, sat down and gave me a full review of this system. He loves it, too.

There are two parts to our menu system: WHEN is on a printed grid in our family binder and WHAT (the foods) is written on Post-it Page Markers, which are rectangular rather than square.

My husband likes that he can see at a glance one page with the family’s list of favorite foods. Once he pulls sticky notes from the master list to place them on the calendar, he can also find gaps in order to balance the overall eating. We color coded the sticky notes. For example, blue for Thai and red for Mexican. I added another layer by making dark blue “long prep time Thai” and light blue “quick Thai.” We can look at the weekly menu quickly and say, “Oh, no! No Thai this week. We’d better add Thai” or “Let’s switch out long-prep Thai for quick Thai on the night we get home late.” (Thai is an important food group in our household.)


  • Easy to plan for one week, several weeks, or any period of time, as long as you have enough week sheets printed.
  • Easy to get input from other people, since they can write ideas on sticky notes and add them.
  • Two-page view means you can plan for two weeks and see if you are cooking the same meal too often.
  • Reusable. No printed pages to throw away at the end of the week.
  • Easy to add multiple dishes for one meal.


  • Post-its lose their stick after they are used week after week.

I like the Menu Planner because it simplifies the process so much that you just think about it ahead of time and don’t have to OVERthink or REthink a common process.

What this method doesn’t do is connect to our shopping list. If you want a simple grid that gives you space to write needed ingredients for your shopping list, this downloadable shopping list template from The Joy Cottage is nice looking.

Shopping Lists

To determine the best kind of shopping list for you, ask what you are optimizing for:

  • highest priority items, if you have limited cash and might have to leave low-priority items off them list
  • most efficient walk through the store, if you have limited time.

We optimize for the walk through the store. Change your list order or shape to fit the store you go to. Otherwise, you might end up walking back and forth. I even found (Pinterest again!) a multi-store shopping list template you can download from Ask Anna Moseley.

The shopping list that my husband uses is lifted directly from his Franklin-Covey Planner with nine zones, which he uses for nine categories of shopping: produce, meat, dairy, bottles & cans, frozen, dry goods, cleaning, bakery, and miscellaneous. He’s written out his list on a 3×3 grid for at least a decade.

Multiple stores can be difficult when you are working with one list. My husband crosses out as he goes then circles what he doesn’t have yet before he arrives at the next store. If you are shopping at a big-box store, like Costco, that is probably a once-a-month trip with a separate list. If it makes sense to include a second store on your list, you can add a code or color to mark stores.

If you have a random element in your shopping, such as an unpredictable CSA delivery or a trip to a grocery liquidation store when you don’t know what will be available until you get there, you will need to adjust your shopping list. If you watch the television show “Chopped” (3 random ingredients must be used in a meal), you can get inspiration to think outside of your usual categories of food. If you adopt the mindset of improvisation, you might find new and wonderful favorites.

Even Better, Let’s Combine

As I was planning this post, I asked my husband how we could improve our own system. We imagined a drag-and-drop app starting with a menu that looks like post-it notes (because we really do like what we already use). Once an item is dragging onto the menu for the week, a shopping list is populated. When the week’s list is complete, we check the pantry and the fridge and mark anything off that we already have. Then, we shop.

That might seem like a lot to ask, but we just found an app that does enough that we’re about to add it to our system: Our Groceries.

We read about Out of Milk as well, but we saw most comparison reviews between them came down on the side of Our Groceries. I love two things about this app to start: syncing across devices, so more than one person can shop at the same time, and recipes you can create so one tap populates the shopping list with all of the needed ingredients. Plus, if you have an Android and your spouse has an iPhone, you’re still safe with this app. My plan is to use the web interface to create “on your way home” shopping lists for my husband. If you are more likely to want to sync with your pantry, you might want to start with Out of Milk.

After a month with Our Groceries, I might just give in and try the 30-day trial of Plan to Eat. If I do, I’ll give you a review.

Image © Joshhhab | - Mother With Girl Shopping In Supermarket Photo

7 Foods to Keep Your Kids Warm This Winter

Winter stew

Craving comfort foods this winter? There is an explanation for that. When the temperature outside drops, your body has to work harder to keep warm, burning more calories to create that energy. Simple, hearty foods like stews have many of the elements your body needs right now: protein, fats, and spices. Don’t avoid those foods you crave, just keep it healthy and you and your children will stay toasty warm.

You don’t want just to be hot for minutes; you need foods that keep the kids feeling cozy and warm for hours. Choose foods that burn slowly rather than simpler carbohydrates like crackers and sweets. Potatoes, bread, pasta, and rice are all great foods, but they will metabolize more quickly—and you will feel hungry sooner. Winter is the time to eat true slow foods.

Winter Foods Kids Will Love

Nuts. If you need to tide kids over with a snack, give them nuts. The protein and fat content make them an ideal winter snack food. Cook with nuts and seeds as well.

Spices. Whether you tend toward cinnamon, chilies, or ginger and garlic, spices are particularly good for you during the winter. Ginger helps you digest the fatty foods your body craves in the winter, and antibacterial and antiviral effects of foods like garlic help you fight off infections.

Curry. My favorite winter food is curry. I have a long list of my favorite Indian and Thai curries with lots of chilies and ginger. These make an ideal winter lunch. I feel warm and full all afternoon with no temptation to snack before dinner. My children favor peanut-based curries that aren’t quite as spicy.

Stew. Do you have any holiday leftovers, like a ham bone or a desiccated turkey carcass you put into the freezer to think about later? Your holiday leftovers can make a great base for stew, but you can also make a hearty stew without any meat at all. Add a variety of root vegetables, and caramelize those onions to give it a nice flavor. Or, make nut-based sauces for African stews. Or, make rich tomato sauce for gumbo. Any flavor-way can be used to make a rich stew. This is the perfect place to experiment.

Pie. Pot pies are one of my favorite post-holiday dishes. My mother always made great turkey stew in her flakiest pie crust. For children, you might consider making the crust more of a feature. A Cornish pasty is a pie with the crust folded over in a half-moon shape. You can eat it with your hands without too much mess and it keeps the family full all afternoon. That is why the Cornish miners took these little pies with them to work. Any stew you can dream up will (probably) also make a great pie.

Beans. My kids often just have spiced black beans for lunch. This is my daughter’s absolute favorite comfort food—a food that she almost missed when she first saw it. She told me, the first time I served her black beans, that she didn’t like it. She knew immediately, but we have a rule that one has to have at least one taste before one can form an opinion about liking a food. It turned out that she actually loved it, and she’s been eating beans happily in many forms since.

Chili. Chili is another kind of stew. Either chili or stew can include almost anything you have on hand or anything your children favor. It’s easy to make vegetarian chili or meat chili. A slow cooker, a bag of beans, and a (glass!) jar of tomatoes, and you are almost there. It’s easy to make simple chili, and you can involve children in choosing the flavors.

Keep those toes and bellies warm. Eat up!

Image © Maxim Shebeko |