Archive for June, 2010

Book Review: The Farm

When you live in the city and buy your groceries from the local store it’s easy to forget where your food comes from. It can seem like a foreign concept when trying to explain to your kids. Visits to the local farmer’s market help and the bookstore is full of books on the subject. One such book we’ve been reading is The Farm (age 4-9), written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper.

The book starts by introducing the reader to the farm: the family, like the farmhands, out houses, animals and equipment, then follows them through the farming cycle. From April when the soil is prepared for the start of a new season all the way to November when the farm winds down for winter. Flipping through the water coloured pages you discover the various animals on the farm, what role the kids play, the different stages of work and rest on the farm and more.

My kids know the basics about farms growing crops and raising cattle. The Farm paints a more every day type picture. My kids enjoyed reading that the farmer’s kids do farm chores before and after school, that they sell corner by the roadside, or they just play with the animals and fish in the creek. The Farm adds a personality and face to the farm, where other books just deal with the general farm duties.

The Farm is a great book for reminding us all where the food we eat comes from and the type of life farmers have. I have to thank Nikole at Scholastic Canada for sending me my review copy.

The Farm

written and illustrated by Elisha Cooper

Age 4-9


Carrie Anne Badov is an aspiring Children’s book writer, mom to 3 little ones and Managing Editor at In addition to her reviews here, checkout her personal blog for more children’s book recommendations.

Starbucks, you lose


Starbucks Coffee by rudolf_schuba.

Image credit: Flickr

Like most late-20-something’s I have an iPod Touch.  (okay, most have an iPhone, but I’m working my way up slowly…)

I recently was on a downloading application frenzy, and came across the Starbucks app.  As a lover of a lactose or soy hot chocolate, with a little treat once a week or so, I was interested to check out the nutritional value of my food.

Serious, serious calories.

I know that I talk about sharing treats, huge entrees, and treating your kiddos once in awhile, but this really surprised me.

Here are a few of Starbucks treats, and their nutritional content for you to have a glance over.  I encourage you to pick your jaw up off the floor after you’ve read this!

Blueberry Oat Bar

390 Calories – 15 grams of fat

Ginger Molasses Cookie

440 Calories – 17grams of fat

Pomegranate Bran Muffin

350 Calories – 17 grams of fat & 49 grams of carbs (wowza)

Soy Hot Chocolate (Grande)

330 Calories (insert my tears here) 14 grams of fat

Tazo Chai Tea Latte (Grande)

240 Calories – 4 grams of fat (not bad!)

Luckily for you Starbucks simple coffee drinkers, your regular coffees before any additions or cream/milk are only around 5-10 calories, with no more than 1 gram of fat.

However, their Kid’s sized Hot Chocolate is 210 Calories with 10 grams of fat.

All things in moderation, right?  If you’re going to take your kids to Starbucks, just remember that smaller portion sizes are best for little ones…and yourself too!

Starbucks Oatmeal I was quite content with – only 120 calories, with 2 grams of fat.  I’ve eaten this plenty of times, and it’s quite delicious.  I bring my own fruit or nuts to add in, but you can get them at Starbucks and they’re not that bad – lots of protein and essential fats from the nuts!

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

Pie in the Sky

Oh my, I love pie.  In fact, as I write this post I am snacking on a slice of strawberry rhubarb pie.  I don’t count myself as a nostalgic person but pie evokes a real connection to my family and childhood.  As I was making the pie I am currently enjoying, I recalled the baby pies my mom used to make us from the pastry scraps.  She would roll them up, fill them with jam or brown sugar and cinnamon and then let us fold them over and crimp the edges.  These little confections were just for the kids and we were allowed to eat them as soon as they cooled.  This thought and a recollection to some cute little pie popsicles we made in the store last year inspired this blog post.  I don’t recall exactly, but I believe the original inspiration for the pie popsicles came from the wonderful blog of Bakerella.

The popsicles are so simple to make either using your own pastry or store bought if making pastry gives you nightmares.  Fill them with your favourite jam or filling and pop them in the oven for 15-18 minutes.  Popsicle sticks can be purchased at Bulk Barn or Michaels.


If you have pastry recipe you love then by all means use it.  If you need one, I recommend Martha Stewart’s pastry recipe.  I have been using this recipe for 20 years and it never fails me.  It is buttery, flaky and can be made in the food processor.

To make the popsicles, simply roll out the pastry and cut rounds using 2.5 inch cutter.  Take half of the rounds and place a popsicle stick in the center, with the top of the stick half way between the center and top edge of the round. Top with 1 teaspoon of jam or your favourite filling.  Brush remaining halves with an egg wash and place over top of the jam covered rounds and popsicle stick.  With a fork, crimp the edges ensuring it is well crimped at the bottom edge.  Brush tops with egg wash and sprinkle with coarse sugar.  Bake in a 375 degree oven for 15-18 minutes or until golden. 

You can purchase small bags to place on top of the popsicles that can be tied with ribbon for a cute gift effect.  To have them stand up, place in a container filled with sugar.

Tracey is owner of Epicuria and mother of two young boys.  Watch for her lunchtime solutions here at Best Tools for Schools. Follow her on Twitter @epicuriadotca

Donate a Kit, help a child in need

We understand how stressful back to school shopping can be.  Not only are there school supply lists to shop for (which is why we started Best Tools for Schools), but new clothes, new shoes and backpacks to buy.  All of this makes for a stressful, and expensive time of year.

Unfortunately, too many children in our school systems simply can’t afford to purchase all of these items. 

We want to help.

That’s why we created our Supplies for Smaller Scholars Program.  Individuals and businesses can donate kits to kids in need simply by purchasing one or more on our website.

Kits are delivered to schools (in towns BTFS services) for September and school principals determine which children at their school are most in need.

We’ve been donating kits since the beginning of Best Tools for Schools.  Our philosophy is that in order for our children to succeed, other children need to as well.

Best Tools for Schools wants to give all children the best start with the best supplies.

Interested in donating a kit?  Here are the simple step-by-step instructions (or proceed online and follow the prompts):

  1. Visit our website at
  2. In the ‘Enter your 5 digit code’ box type one of the following:
    1. 00001 for a Junior Kit
    2. 00002 for a Senior Kit
    3. Click ‘Find’
    4. Click ‘Buy the Kit’
    5. Enter the following:
      1. For ‘First Name’: Donation
      2. For ‘Last Name’: Kit
      3. Select ‘Buy the Kit’
      4. At the check out, you can purchase more donated kits, or simply click ‘proceed to checkout’.  You will then be taken to Paypal for payment.

For businesses who would like to donate more than 10 kits please contact us at 1-866-980-1133.

We can’t thank you enough for helping us make the school day a little bit easier for many students.

End of another School Year

Nikon D80 Apple by Abhijit Tembhekar.

Image credit: Flickr

A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.  ~Henry Adams

Although I no longer have kids in school, I am ever grateful to those who worked hard and made a difference in my daughters’ lives. 

Most teachers work hard – going over and above the demands of a regular job – planning and marking into the evening, and on weekends; attending professional development workshops and retraining in the summer; reading constantly to hone their craft throughout the year.

Join me, parents, in wishing your child’s teachers a great summer and a well deserved rest.  Join me in acknowledging their hard work and, as Henry Adams said, their influence – often unknown until their young students become adults.

Diane Duff, B. Ed., has been working with students and families for twenty years.   Her areas of expertise are special education, literacy development, reading disability/dyslexia, writing disability/dysgraphia, and teacher training.   She works with families, Montessori and other private schools, and homeschooling parents in both Ottawa and Toronto.  Contact Diane directly at  Visit

The Supply Shelf: Elmer’s Glue – Join the Club!


Before the summer officially begins for all of you well-deserving teachers, check out the Elmer’s Glue website and sign up for their Teacher’s Club.                     

It’s a great way to stay informed throughout the year on contests, project ideas and new Elmer’s products.  The Elmer’s website has a special section for teachers with ideas on projects for the classroom and fun resources.        

Best Tools for Schools only uses Elmer’s white school glue because of its quality.  It’s non-toxic and washable making it perfect for our classroom kits.    

To sign up for the Elmer’s Teacher’s Club, click here.                      

For more information about products in our kits, visit our FAQ page


welcome to our latest blog entitled ‘The Supply Shelf’.  This blog will feature our suppliers, project and craft ideas and useful resources for parents and teachers.  It will highlight our partnerships and products found in our kits.  We are very proud of the items and quality we select for our kits and look forward to sharing more with you in this blog.

The Daytrip Bag

Water Play Rotary Park by *Muhammad*.

Image credit: Flickr

I have one and you should too.  How many times have your friends said at the last minute ‘hey, want to head to the splashpark with the kids?  I’m going in an hour.’
So for the next 1/2 hour you are scrambling for swimsuits, towels and snacks and then you end up there all frazzelled and notice you didn’t bring the sunscreen?
That is why you should have a daytrip bag.  Actually you need 2, but once they are set up, they are always GOOD TO GO!
You will set up both bags this same.  You’ll need 2 good sized duffel bags (or backpacks). In each put:

-Swimsuits for the whole family
-Towels for everyone
-Bug Spray
-Bottles of Water
-Snacks (ie granola bars or fruit snack packs)
-$20 cash (ice cream man that swings by won’t take debit)
-Hand sanitizer
-extra set of clothes for each person (spills, mishaps etc)
-Large Ziploc bags (great for wet swimsuits, garbage, leftover snacks)
-tarp or felt backed table cloth (for picnic table or can be used as a picnic blanket)
                                                                                                                                                                                                                                             The reason you packed two bags is so that one goes with you and the other stays home.  When you get home from the daytrip you have another one ready to go while you’re still washing all the swimsuits, towels & clothing from the first daytrip.  Just keep switching bags and you’ll always be ready in an instant (well, after you’ve finished hunting down the camera and your car keys).

Summer Eating on the Go

Get ready for it.

 Here it comes.

 “Mooooommmmmm, I don’t wannnnnnna eat thaaaaaaaaat!!!!”

 Your normal school schedule just got turned upside and spun around like you’re on the tilt-a-whirl at the fair.


No more lunches to pack.  No hot lunches at the school.  No cafeteria food.  And you’re constantly on the go, for the entire summer.

 Just Be Smart!

You know you’re going to be eating on the go (a lot) so when you’re out at restaurants with your kids, choose something that is nutritious, delicious and friendly on the wallet! 

There’s an appeal to fast food because of the convenience and the price factor.  Oddly enough, during the 2009 recession, the fast food industry saw an outstanding increase, that was unexpected.  People weren’t dining out less with their children, they were just opting for McDonalds, Burger King, A&W, etc. 

Your child’s nutrition is the most important factor.  Here are some family-friendly restaurants in Ottawa, with good eats for the kiddies:

  •  Boston Pizza Orleans (had to make a bit of a plug) Kids Meals $6.25!
  • East Side Mario’s – Kids eat free Monday-Wednesday
  • The Works – gourmet burgers for the fancy or not so fancy children
  • Two Monkeys Coffee (never been, but hear it is wonderful!)
  • Zak’s Diner – downtown, great food!

Just remember, portion size, lots of veggies and rice instead of fries.  Make sure that they have some sort of protein on their plate that will give them the energy to keep going for the day.  Or, if not, Mom/Dad will need a break and a nap ;)

 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

School’s Out!

The end of the school year is here and with the anticipation building for the summer holidays to begin, coupled with the summer heat, we all know that students can become a little over excited these last few days.

I remember as a student the last few school days being about having fun, making our last memories together as a class, excitement of being in a higher grade the following year and cleaning out our desks and classrooms of all our hard work.

Looking for a creative outlet these last few school days? Want to get your students up and moving? Have a little fun while still taking time to stretch your body!  Why not try this yoga game….

1. Have all the students line up one behind the other. If you have a large group you may wish to split into 2 or 3 lines. If you want to use mats line them up one after another to mimic a runway.

2. Put on some fun music. I am a huge fan of using bhangara music for this game but use whatever you can find that is lively and fun!

3. Chose a yoga move (ie: downward dog) to do all the way down the runway. Send the students one after another ensuring adequate space between each. When the student gets to the end of the runway they walk back and prepare for the next move! The can encourage each other as they do their yoga move down the runway, cheer, clap & have fun!

Movement ideas: downward dog, log roll, crab walk, hop like a frog, dinosaur (right hand holds right ankle, left hand to left ankle), bear (similar to downward dog but right foot and hand move forward at same time, then left hand and foot).

Remember to have fun, be creative and let the students develop their own moves, and smile because….. schools out for summer!!!

DeGrace Energetics & Little Lotus

Book Review: The Summer Camp Survival Guide

Summer’s almost here and with it comes summer vacation and summer camp. This year my oldest heads off to sleep-away camp for the first time. She’ll be gone for a whole week, on her own, without me! Like any parent, I want my daughter’s first experience at camp to be the best, the creation of a happy memory, the start of a summer tradition. I think Sterling Publishing’s The Summer Camp Survival Guide (age 7-12) written by Chris Pallatto and Ron DeFazio, illustrated by Ethan Long, will make it so.     

This coil-bound book is set-up like a handy reference guide with the tabs dividing the book into areas like pre-camp preparations and classic camp games and songs. There’s even a section that contains pop-out postcards so kids have no excuse for keeping in touch.    

My daughter has been absorbing the content in the book, especially the songs, games an stories. It may be her first year at camp, but she doesn’t necessarily want the other camp kids to know that. She feels great knowing some songs sing or games she can play, maybe even teach another camp newbie.    

The great thing about The Summer Camp Survival Guide is it doesn’t just end once camp is over. There’s a section to get autographs from cabin mates, draw a picture of your cabin and bunk, even record addresses for new forged friendships.

Right now my daughter is planning to only bring two books with her to camp this summer and The Summer Camp Survival Guide is one of them.         

So if you have a kid heading to camp, The Summer Camp Survival Guide might be just the companion they need to pave a smooth road.                                                                                                                                                                                                         

The Summer Camp Survival Guide
written by Chris Pallatto and Ron DeFazio, illustrated by Ethan Long
age 7-12
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.

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Candace also blogs for
the Yummy Mummy Club!