Archive for April, 2010

Overwhelmed with Ikea

Although I love that I can accomplish so much, my housekeeping skills often end up at the bottom of my To-Do List.  Organizing your child’s sports schedules, your meetings, your errands list & your social life is one thing, organizing you desk is another!

In an effort to keep my workspace On Track I escaped to Ikea last week for some inspiration.

No I wasn’t looking for a closet configuration or the latest & greatest in book shelves.  I needed something to keep my papers in order.

I found the perfect mini filing cabinet.  Only as wide as a piece of printer paper & not very tall.  Perfect I thought, won’t be big & bulky & I won’t require a power drill & a step ladder to put it together.

Next I cane across a tiered wire basket system that I thought would be great for my bedroom for smaller summery items like tank-tops, shorts, summer pjs etc.  I looked & that was an even easier set to put together. So that was my big impulse buy.

I bought both & brought them home.  Because of a fully scheduled week, I decided one evening I would put the easier basket system together.  There’s one thing Ikea doesn’t tell you.  You should have an assembly buddy.  There I was trying to hold 2 sides of the rack up so I could hammer in the middle shelves.  Not pretty, but my stubborn mindset would not let me give in.  I grabbed 2 laundry hampers, leaned the sides of the soon to be assembled rack against each one & voila!  You know how they saying goes “if I had an extra pair of hands…” Well I felt like I just created them for myself.  Mission accomplished.

Score one for the little guy!

Now let’s see how the 2nd assembly goes this week.

Lisa McDonald is mother to one son, works full time and part time, is an organizer of women’s group, & Co-Host of MeFest – so you know time management is TRULY important to her.

You can always find Lisa on Twitter at @those2girls

Reach For the Stars

The end of the school year is approaching which means moving forward, new grade, new friends, new teacher. It also means saying good-bye. My eight-year-old has been very fortunate to have had a great teacher her grade 2 year but her teacher was only a maternity leave substitute and leaves not only my daughter’s class but her school this Friday.

What gift can you give to a teacher, to anyone who has made an impact on your life; a gift of thanks and gratitude that won’t wilt away or be eaten. Then we discovered Sterling Publishing’s book Reach for the Stars and Other Advice for Life’s Journey, written and illustrated by Serge Bloch.

‘You’ve got your whole life ahead of you.’
Serge Bloch takes you on a journey through the challenges and joys we all make in life. With each challenge we face like ‘fighting an up hill battle’ or feeling ‘in over your head’ Serge manages to inspire us to Reach for the Stars. The uplifting phrases are ones you are probably familiar with but combined with the wonderful illustrations of a boy mixed with photographic elements, Reach for the Stars becomes a tale of taking chances and striving to reach your goals, no matter how big or small.

Reach for the Stars is a great gift to give someone to acknowledge an accomplishment they have met or maybe to encourage someone who is having doubt that they’ll succeed. I think Reach for the Stars is a great gift for my daughter’s teacher. Both my daughter and her teacher are moving on to the next stage in their individual journeys and this book, given from one to the other, acknowledges that and encourages them to go further.

If you’re at a loss for a memorable gift for someone on a journey in your life, Reach for the Stars might just be that book.

Reach for the Stars and Other Advice for Life’s Journey
Written and illustrated by Serge Bloch
Age 4+
Sterling Publishing

Carrie Anne Badov, a mother of three wee ones, has a love of children’s literature that extends beyond her mothering years, back to when she would remove pages from books and insert her own stories as a child. She continues to write her own stories in the hopes of seeing one of them published but in the meantime she loves to read and review great children’s books. She’s the Managing Editor and Review Editor at and publishes more children’s book reviews every Wednesday on her blog Another day. Another thought…or two as part of her weekly Write a Review Wednesday post.

Smoke Free Meal

So I used to smoke.  And there was nothing better than having dinner in the summer, out on a patio, followed by a cigarette or two.  I quit smoking about 5.5 years ago, and it was one of the best decisions I’ve ever made.

Never did I think about the little ones sitting on the patio with their parents enjoying their meals.

Sometimes, eating healthy is more than food.

I work for Boston Pizza Orleans, as their Community Relations Coordinator.  Last year, my Franchisees came to myself and the other Managers, and asked our opinion on our patio.  They were wondering what we thought about going smoke free.  Of course we had mixed reviews in which a big portion of our business in the summer comes from the patio.

I was all for the smoke free.

“If you can’t smoke in cars (even with the windows rolled down) with children under the age of 16 years old, why smoke on a patio that is partially covered with beams and enclosed with glass walls?”   (My argument)

Last year, Boston Pizza Orleans went smoke free on our patio, from open-close, 7 days a week.

Like I said, sometimes, eating healthy while dining out, isn’t all about food.  Why should you have to worry about second hand smoke while trying to have a family outing on the patio?  Your kids can now eat their Bugs & Cheese, or their Salmon Fillet with a side of Rice, and some delicious Milk without breathing in over 100 chemicals from the people sitting next to your table.

Sometimes, restaurants really take into consideration their demographic, and make “Eating On the Go” a little easier J

Since I have the power – everyone who leaves a comment on my blog today, with their email address, will receive a coupon for $5 off their next meal @BPOrleans.

Happy & healthy eating!


Follow @leslielscott on Twitter and visit her personal blog entitled “The Life of Leslie” for adventures of a 20-something woman aspiring to be something amazing

Yoga & Food Inc.

I am fresh out of a screening of Food Inc. hosted by one of the brains behind Best Tools For Schools (, Candace Derickx.  The documentary seemed to become a trending topic on Twitter one evening and many individuals invited their passion to shine through with opinions, sharing knowledge and wisdom.  Since many of us had yet to see Food Inc it was kind of Candace to open her home to us to view the movie. I think my lovely husband was slightly hesitant  with me watching this documentary after the impact that Fast Food Nation ( had on our eating habits. He knew I would be coming home with other diet related changes we would need to change.

Watching this amazing documentary my thoughts continued to come back to the yoga principle ahimsa ( Ahimsa translates to non-harming. Non-harming to not only ourselves and those around us (mentally, physically, spiritually, emotionally), but to the environment, animals and property.  Ahimsa is the first yama (translates to personal restraint) in the 8 limbs of yoga. When you hear yoga you may think of movement, exercise or meditation. However, yoga movement (asana) is only 1 component of the 8 parts of yoga.  Food Inc reminded me that I have been taking such an important principle for granted and I was shocked back to reality.  How I had begun to lose my focus when it came to the food we were preparing for our family?

As a country girl, born and raised, I saw where a lot of our food was coming from. The chicken I ate came from my own backyard. I saw the chicks grow to chickens; they would run around freely and were feed properly. Our turkey came from our neighbour. Our eggs came from up the road and we were invited to get our own in the morning, still warm to the touch.  Our beef was bought in bulk from a local farmer whose cows we would see regularly roaming the fields and were well taken care of. Maple syrup was always local, freshly made and for a few years was made in our own backyard.  During the summer and fall neighbours would bring us fresh vegetables from their gardens and I loved picking berries (probably eating more than we actually picked as kids!) at the local berry farm’s where we had seen the berries grow in abundance.

I am afraid to say that I took all our fresh food for granted. As a child, growing up in the country, it was part of my life. Sure we went to the grocery store for various items weekly, but the local farms were in abundance in our family food supply as well.  I care too much about my families’ health, the environment, the animals of the world, and our planet earth to take any of this for granted anymore.  I am pledging to come back to my yogic roots and continue to think about how I can apply ahimsa on a daily basis.  What have you been doing to ensure your family is eating wholesome, nutritious, local food that is not part of a vicious chain of chemicals, processed foods and maltreated animals? What are you willing to change as a family to help protect our planet Earth?  Together, one person at a time, we can change how the food we eat is developed and processed. We can demand that the food we eat come from properly treated animals and plants. It’s time we step up to large corporations who are changing our food chain without informing the public of what we are actually eating. I challenge you from my heart to yours to continue to educate yourself on this topic and be active!

Buffalo and Hilroy

Buffalo and Hilroy are two of the great brands offered at Best Tools for Schools. In addition to having great school supply products, did you know both Buffalo and Hilroy also offer excellent greener choices?


Buffalo manufactures a line called Buffalo Natur. The Buffalo Natur line is made with mostly recycled and natural materials. Buffalo’s goal with this line is to bring greener products into our schools and offices and to increase awareness of the need for more environmentally friendly options. The Buffalo Natur line also offers bamboo products (did you know that bamboo is the fastest growing plant on earth? This makes it a super sustainable material to work with!) The Buffalo Natur line also uses soy-based inks on the products and on their packaging, which is gentler to the Earth. For more info about this amazing green line, please visit their site.

Note that Buffalo Natur is not a standard part of the Best Tools for Schools kits, but if your school would like to offer a completely green kit, it can most definitely be done. Just contact us for the details!


Not only does Hilroy offer some awesome eco-friendly products, they are also running an amazing program called Spread the Word in School. The program aim is to teach students to be gentler to the earth by educating them on environmental issues. In 2009, 500 schools, 180,000 students participated in the program. Pretty impressive! The 2010 program starts soon, so keep your eye on their site to see how your school can get involved.

In addition to running the Spread the Word in School program, Hilroy is currently working towards making all of their products PVC free. Stay tuned for this announcement very soon!

For more information on Hilroy’s eco-friendly products and the Spread the Word in School program, please see their fun, interactive and informative Spread the Word in School website.

Gwen is a mom of 2 and the owner of Nayla Natural Care ( an online store which carries an assortment of organic, natural and eco-friendly items for you and your family. Join the Nayla Natural Care page on Facebook and follow the store on Twitter @naylanatural

Breakfast Anyone?

I tend to write a lot about lunches and dinners out at your favorite restaurants, but not enough on the most important meal of the day – breakfast.  I wrote awhile back about Tim Horton’s Hot Chocolate & Fruit Explosion Muffin, and the crazy amount of sugar, fat, and calories.  This weekend, I will be hitting up the delicious Chez Cora’s in Montreal with friends, and I know exactly what I want.  A Gargantuan Breakfast…you know the one with the sausage, ham, bacon, 2 eggs, homefries, fruit, beans, cretons, toast slathered with butter.  That’s what I WANT, not what I will have.  When I was a little country bumpkin, I used to shock my Mom by making 3 or 4 eggs with toast on weekends.  No wonder I’m a little chubby now ;)

Chez Cora’s has it ALL

Your little one will LOVE breakfast out at Cora’s.  It’s family friendly.  It’s got everything you can imagine for breakfast.  The fruit comes in amazing art-like designs.  There are pancakes galore.  AND, it’s all FRESH.

The perfect breakfast for your kids?

-       Buckwheat Crepe (Stick to your ribs filling, with grains, YUM)

-       Eggs (Hello, protein!)

-       Fruit (Seriously delicious fruit)

-       Bacon, ham or sausage (only one, again for the protein, and the meat factor)

-       Glass of milk (or chocolate milk)

Voila!  Breakfast at Cora’s hits all the necessary food groups, along with freshness, and quality food.  And of course, a fun family outing J

Happy & healthy eating!


Follow @leslielscott on Twitter and visit her personal blog entitled “The Life of Leslie” for adventures of a 20-something woman aspiring to be something amazing

Majesta’s Tree Planting Promise

Whenever possible, Candace and Laurie like to source products that are better for the environment and safer for our children. Take the recent addition of MAJESTA tissues to the lineup. Last year, a different tissue brand was offered, but this year after learning all about MAJESTA’s amazing green philosophy, the old tissues were quickly replaced.

MAJESTA’s Tree Planting Promise is: “We plant three trees for every one we use to produce MAJESTA products.” This means that three trees will be planted in the spring and summer for every one used to produce MAJESTA products the previous year. How great is that?

So aside from the Tree Planting Promise, what are the other reasons that make MAJESTA such an impressive green company?

  1. MAJESTA products are made from virgin-wood fibers of trees from J.D. Irving, Limited’s forests (J.D. Irving Limited is MAJESTA’s manufacturer; a Canadian Company with over 50 years of award winning responsible forest management).
  2. In the past 50 years, J.D. Irving has planted over 770 million trees and since 2001 and the Sustainable Forestry Initiative Inc. (“SFI”) has certified J.D. Irving, Limited’s forests.
  3. Specialists at J.D. Irving, Limited manage MAJESTA forests. As part of their efforts to reforest the woodlands it harvests, J.D. Irving, Limited’s specialists have planted over 800 million trees – a national record.
  4. From their commitment to meeting the sourcing requirements of the SFI program, to their sponsorships of Tree Canada’s Trees by the Shore and Focus on Forests programs – they are committed to being Canada’s Treesponsible™ choice.
  5. MAJESTA has partnered with Tree Canada, Focus on Forests and Sustainable Forestry Limited.

MAJESTA has also provided a FAQ section on their website that answers any questions you may have regarding their tree planting promise. To see the FAQ, please click here.

Reader’s Question: Adapting Reading Materials for Students who have Learning Disabilities

….. a pause in the book review

I was happy to receive an email from a reader of this blog – and doubly so because the question touched on one of the subjects dearest to my heart: students with learning disabilities.

“Hi Diane. I teach grade 10 history and English in a school that isn’t exactly overflowing with resources. Lots of my students have trouble reading at grade level and a couple have attention deficit and don’t focus well so I worry about whether they can really get the information from the textbook that I want them to. Do you have any suggestions? Thanks. Leslie S.”

Hi, Leslie. Given your comment about resources, I’m going to assume you don’t have access to special education personnel or a teacher’s aide. That means there’s a lot of pressure on you to help students with a variety of learning needs wade through the same learning materials.

There are ways to modify textbooks, such as highlighting important sections, reading them onto tape that students can listen to (especially effective if the sections are also previewed and summarized on tape), or finding high-interest, low vocabulary alternatives. These are all effective, but not always practical. Highlighting textbooks doesn’t help those who cannot read, but may help focus the attention of those who get lost in details and can’t differentiate the important from the insignificant. Taping the texts (and providing summaries) is time consuming in the extreme, and high-interest, low vocabulary alternatives, when available, don’t always cover all the same content as your textbook.

My first suggestion would be not to rely exclusively on a single publisher’s text. Use a variety of materials, from novels on tape and DVDs to help teach narrative structure, to poetry, newspaper articles (archives), letters, textbooks, poetry, websites to provide students access to history.

But, when the textbook is where you need the students to focus, try these suggestions:

1. Teach students how textbooks work by helping them understand that each chapter of a single text will be laid out much the same way, and that much can be learned from

a. Introduction/preview

b. Headings/subheadings

c. Summary

d. End of chapter questions

In fact, I always ask students to read the chapter summary first. Then I want them to read the questions and discuss, as a group, which ones they think they know something about, and which ones are completely foreign. In this way they are activating their background knowledge – and, with any luck, developing an interest in the topic.

2. Preview each section for your students. Look over the headings and subheadings. Talk about what will likely be discussed. Then give them a short summary of the section before assigning the actual reading. Provide a few questions to be answered from each section and subsection to keep them on track.

3. Pre-teach important vocabulary and concepts and provide written notes after these mini-lessons.

4. Provide your students with advance organizers such as an outline of vital information or a graphic which shows them super-ordinate and subordinate information. You can even write page numbers on your outline or graphic to help students find the details they need in the text.

5. Ask students to generate a list of questions after they attend your vocabulary/concepts mini lessons and review your advance organizer.

One of my favourite books in teacher’s college and in my early years of teaching was Content Area Reading (Third Edition) by Vacca and Vacca. The authors divided the book into three sections: Establishing a Context for Instruction, Reading, Writing, and Study Strategies, and Translating Knowledge into Practice.

The teacher-friendly text has maintained its popularity and usefulness and is now in its 8th edition, with revised chapter on “Struggling Readers and Writers,” and new chapters “Linguistic and Cultural Diversity” and “Learning with Electronic Texts.”

If you’re not signed up for a summer course when school breaks in June, Leslie, maybe some reading about how to help students read texts could be a part of your summer professional development plan.

Content Area Reading: Literacy and Learning Across the Curriculum (8th Edition)

Thanks for the question, Leslie. Hope this helped.

See you in a couple of weeks, folks.

DianeDiane Duff, B. Ed., is a literacy consultant who works with families, schools, and literacy coaches/tutors.  Diane conducts assessments for reading/writing skills and dyslexia; provides workshops for parent groups; leads reading and language curriculum review for private schools, Montessori schools and homeschooling parents; and conducts teacher training in language and literacy development.    Email Diane at  or telephone her at 613-730-7096.  For more information, visit

Organization Tips

Spring Cleaning is just the tip of the iceburg to getting yourself Organized & On Track. See what I learned about the challenging career of being a Professional Organizer from Heather Burke of Smart Spaces & get some great tips along the way!————————————–

Q. How long have you been a Professional Organizer & is it a difficult career to take on?

A. I have been a Professional Organizer for over fifteen years. I was not born with the “neat gene” so I do have a greater empathy for my clients. I specialize in working with clients with Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder, those with Chronic Disorganization, clients who hoard and those clients for whom traditional organizing methods do not work. I have extensive training through the Professional Organizers in Canada ; National Association of Professional Organizers and the National Study Group on Chronic Disorganization ; in addition to learning from my hundreds of clients.

Q. What made you decide that this career is right for you?

A. Being a Professional Organizing is my third career, I have a passion for helping people to achieve their goals. I have been a forensic accountant, which is puzzle solving; an Interior Designer which helps with the use of space and now a Trained Professional Organizer that uses the above skills in addition to life experiences.

Q. Is there a difference between organizing & decluttering?

A. I find being organized is about finding your natural rhythms and flows, having a home for everything and having a space that functions for you and your family. Decluttering can mean just clearing off surfaces and disposing of what is unnecessary to your daily living. .Decluttering is a part of the organizing process.

Q. How does your work come into play with the downsizing effect that’s been seen so much lately?

A. My husband and I have been through the downsizing process so that helps when working with clients going through the same process. There is also the fact that times are changing and children no longer want to inherit or use parents and grandparents furniture so we help find worthy homes for the unneeded items.

Q. Does a show like Hoarders bring more clients to you looking for help before they end up in a dire situation?

A. Shows like A&E’s Hoarder and TLC’s Hoarding: Buried Alive has brought attention to the condition. I have received many calls from clients and family members of clients who hoard. I am one of the few Professional Organizers in Canada trained in collaborative therapy (with mental health professionals) to work work with hoarders.

Q. What happens to the items that you deem unworthy of staying in the household?

A. I don’t deem anything unworthy. The client has to choose what stays and what goes, we just provide guidance. I believe that nothing should be added to the land fill. Most items are donated various places around the city and to the client’s charity of choice. I do have a huge list. Some items are consigned and some are passed on to family members.

Q. How do your clients feel after you have worked with them to re-organize their homes?

A. Primarily they tell me that they are relieved to have a space (home or office) that works for them. Some say they feel empowered to take on new challenges.

Q. What kind of feedback do you receive?

A. Some clients have called me a miracle worker. I am upfront about telling all clients that it not an overnight process, it took them a while to get disorganized and the process to get organized is just that, a process to find out what works for that individual client.

Q. What hints & tips can you give the readers when it comes to keeping the clutter under control?

A. Tips and Tricks

In addition to hiring a professional, the following are some basic tips and tricks that all Canadians can employ to improve their organization skills to make 2010 a more productive year.

1. Set daily priorities. Make sure the most important tasks are at the top of your list! If you don’t determine what is most important, you may spend the day being reactive instead of proactive and find that you haven’t completed any important tasks by day’s end.

2. Know how you like to work. For instance, take advantage of your “power hours”; if you are an early riser, schedule the most important tasks for your most productive time of day. If you work best with a clean desk, spend a few minutes getting your desk cleared before you start work—you’ll get more accomplished.

3. Put it in your schedule. “Ink it, don’t just think it”, Determine which rooms or areas you want to organize, and schedule one per week until the list is complete. Start with something easy like a linen closet, decide how much time you can devote to the project, and put it in your calendar – or you will never get around to it.

4. Prepare for tax time. January is an excellent month to go through your file cabinet and prepare for you taxes. Review your files, tossing anything that is outdated or obsolete like instruction manuals for items you no longer own. While you’re doing this, consolidate your tax records and receipts so that you are not in a panic on April 30.

5. Consolidate tasks for efficiency. Return calls or respond to emails at one time, pay all your bills, even group your errands together by geographic location. You’ll get more done in less time when you don’t have to switch from one activity to another.

6. Everyone should pitch in. Make sure that all members of the household know where items are kept, whether it is sporting equipment, photographs, or even incoming mail and newspapers. Create a simple map of such zones if you like, and make sure that storage areas are kid-friendly so that even the younger members of the household will be able to help return items to the proper home.

7. Edit your wardrobe. Does everything fit, look good, and make you feel good when you wear it? If not, should it really be taking up valuable closet space? Remember, we wear 20 percent of our clothes 80 percent of the time!


Heather Burke

Trained Professional Organizer

Chronic Disorganization Specialist.

Definitions & Additional Information

The Defining Features of Chronic Disorganization (Judith Kohlberg)

· Chronic, severe disorganization that has persisted over a long period of time, often the majority of one’s adult life, and is prone to continuing into the future.

· Disorganization that undermines one’s quality of life on a daily basis.

· A history of failed self-help efforts.

Common Characteristics of Chronically Disorganized Individuals (Judith Kohlberg)

· Accumulations of large quantities of possessions or papers beyond apparent usefulness or pleasure

· A high degree of difficulty or discomfort letting go of things

· A wide range of interests, unfinished projects, and incomplete tasks

· Reliance on visual cues like paper piles or stacks of things as reminders to take action

· A tendency to be easily distracted or to lose concentration

· A tendency to lose track of time

Definition,  Compulsive Hoarding and Acquiring (Frost, R.O., Steketee, G, 2007)

· Acquisition of and failure to discard possessions that appear to be useless or of limited value.

· Living spaces sufficiently cluttered so as to preclude activities for which those spaces were originally designed.

· Significant distress of impairment in functioning caused by the hoarding that adversely affects their quality of life.

Hiring a Professional Organizer is similar to hiring any service consultant. Be sure to do your research first to find the best consultant to fit your needs.

· Ask around for referrals from others who are using organizing services.

· Search our website for the organizers serving your local area.

· Seek an organizer who belongs to a national association and is thereby bound by a specific code of ethics.

· Initiate contact via e-mail or phone to obtain more information.

· Set a date for an initial consultation and needs assessment. Note that charges for initial consultation and assessment vary.

· Ask about testimonials or references from other clients.

· Together with the organizer, determine the scope and duration of the project.

· Establish time frames for each stage of the plan of action.

Enjoy freedom from disorganization – getting expert help is the first step.

Zombies, Aliens, Fairies and More

The nicer weather seems to have arrived which means the kids will be outside and into more trouble. Sounds like the perfect time to do a little refresher on things to watch out for. You may already be familiar with the Worst-Case-Scenario Survival Handbooks but it’s not just adults that need help getting out of a jam. For example:

* You always knew your child was gifted, find out how they can enhance their ESP powers.

* Your son is studying the solar system and wants to do some hands-on research. Make sure they know how to survive landing on Mars or how to avoid being sucked into a Black Hole.

* The neighbourhood just isn’t what it use to be. Ensure your daughter knows how to outwit a zombie on her walk home from the mall

Before you would have had to wing it with your advice to your kids, but with The Worst-Case-Scenario Survival Handbook: Weird Junior Edition by Chronicle Books and Raincoast Books has all the advice you need in a handy pocket book. The book includes fun illustrations and help in a variety of topics from aliens to time travel are broken down into easy to follow steps.

My kids loved the humour in this book, though I think my three-year-old is going to try and some of the steps on befriending a fairy. Even I enjoyed reading the book. My seven-year-old has read it from front to back and still reads it. She now enjoys quote ‘helpful’ advice to her friends. The Worst-Case-Scenario Survival Handbook: Weird Junior Edition is written in the same cheeky tone as the other Worst-Case-Scenario books but with a younger audience in mind. Sending someone away for camp? These books might be a fun read.

In the junior series there’s The Worst-Case-Scenario: Junior Edition and The Worst-Case-Scenario: Middle School.

The Worst-Case-Scenario Survival Handbook: Weird Junior Edition

written by David Borgenicht and Justin Heimberg, illustrated by Chick Gonzales

Chronicle Books (distributed by Raincoast Books)

Carrie Anne Badov, a mother of three wee ones, has a love of children’s literature that extends beyond her mothering years, back to when she would remove pages from books and insert her own stories as a child. She continues to write her own stories in the hopes of seeing one of them published but in the meantime she loves to read and review great children’s books. She’s the Managing Editor and Review Editor at and publishes more children’s book reviews every Wednesday on her blog Another day. Another thought…or two as part of her weekly Write a Review Wednesday post.

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