Archive for July, 2010

Plastic Alternatives and Safe Plastic Alternatives: In the home and Back to School

Plastic is everywhere, and realistically, it would be a hard task to avoid it all together. However, as I said in my last post, you can avoid a lot of it; you just have to do your research when it comes to safe alternatives. I have put together a few products that I personally use in my home as well as a few others I have seen around that look interesting and that I may need to purchase in the next while!

Around the home

Food Storage – I came across this great Anchor Hocking glass container set a few years ago and I now have quite the collection! The containers are glass and they come with BPA/Phthalate/PVC free lids. I use them to store leftovers, to store baked goods, you name it. They are very versatile and can be used for much more than food. I have been using them for about 2 years now and have had no issues. They are dishwasher safe, and they refrigerate and freeze perfectly and the lids are recyclable.

I bought my set at Canadian Tire. Pay attention to those flyers; they put these sets on sale quite often!

Cutting Boards – This is a simple one. I bet most of you still have plastic boards in your kitchen. I did, up until not too long ago. When it comes to a wooden board, the thought of germs and bacteria getting into knicks and indents made over time may be a bit intimidating. However, if you take care of your board properly, clean it right and use separate boards for different foods (such as 1 for produce and another for meats) you will be good to go.

Mixing Bowls – I ditched my plastic mixing bowls a long time ago and started using these stainless steel bowls. Why didn’t I make the switch sooner? I love these bowls and I will never go back. These bowls in particular have rubber bases that prevent the bowl from moving around while you mix.

Back to School

School lunches are a big concern when it comes to disposable plastics and eco-friendliness. Let’s face it, lunches have the potential to create so much unnecessary waste, but it doesn’t have to be this way! Here are a few products that are healthier for you and for the planet.

LunchBots –We use these as a family and find that each one of them is amazing. They are constructed from 18/8 stainless steel (the same stainless steel that your cutlery is made from). They are dishwasher safe, extremely durable, will last for a VERY long time. They are perfect for little fingers and come in 4 different sizes and styles, one perfect for each member of the family. They can be used for snacks, lunches and if you feel extra creative and have lots of time on your hands, you can try this!

Reusable Snack Bags – Plastic baggies…yikes! Each year hundreds of thousands of plastic baggies make their way to the landfills. What is the point in using them once and then throwing them out? Why not buy something that can be used and washed over and over again? There are quite a few reusable and washable snack bags out there, but these happen to be my favourite. They are zippered which is what I love. They are plastic/ BPA/Phthalate/PVC free and have so many uses beyond snacks and lunches.

Lunch Boxes – There are quite a few great lunch boxes on the market, the trendy ones tend to be bento style and my top picks are Laptop Lunches, Goodbyn and Yubo. These lunchboxes are all wonderful eco-friendly options. They are all made from plastic but rest assured, they are made from safe plastics and they do not contain BPA/Phthalate/PVC. They are also all recyclable.

Stainless Steel Water bottles – There are TONS of different water bottles out there and their makers all claim that theirs is the best one. As a storeowner, when it came time to pick from the masses, the one that came out on top was thinksport. What I love about this bottle is that it keeps liquids hot or cold…for hours! There are two sizes, one geared towards adults (750ml), and the other for kids (350ml). If thinksport is not your thing, just be sure to stay away from plastic bottles and to make sure that you are buying a high quality non-leeching bottle. Do the homework; it will be worth it in the end.

Now you may look at the prices of some of these products and think “wow, that is expensive!”. However, think of the big picture. Think of the amount of money you would be spending to purchase their plastic equivalents repeatedly…plastic baggies, plastic containers, 1 use plastic water bottles…the useable lives of these products are not long and they stick around in landfills for a countless amount of years after you discard them. The products mentioned above will last you many years and in the end save you money, which is a good thing! The investment is worth it.

Of course, there will be times when you simply cannot avoid buying a plastic product. When you do buy a plastic product, be sure that it is constructed from a safe plastic and that when you are through with it that you recycle it.

Image Sources: Canadian Tire, Ikea, Nayla Natural Care, Laptop Lunches, Goodbyn & Yubo websites

Organized dining

In my household there is myself and my 11 yr old son. Looking at his age you can guess that I have a big eater living here.  I’m at a point where my son eats more than I do.  When we go for fast food the price ends up being around $18 for the 2 of us.

When we’re not in such a RUSH and want to go out to eat I wait for a KIDS EAT FREE DAY.  In my neighbourhood that’s Mondays at East Side Marios.  Although he has to order off the kids menu, he gets to eat all the bread he wants because I get a main dish with unlimited salad and bread (still can’t convince him he’d like the salad too). He gets a small Chocolate Milk with it, but I also get a big glass of ice water for him (and he usually finishes off my Ice Tea as well). After all of that, he gets a mini dessert to finish off the meal and he leaves feeling full. Our bill comes to $21 which is only $3 more than the fast food and  I usually have leftovers for the next day!

Sure, you have to figure in the tip cost, but there’s a good chance you enjoyed the dishes served on a warm plate instead of a piece of deli wrap.  Want my other East Side Marios tip?  Ask for 2 loaves of bread when you order so you don’t have to wait for them to come back to get another helping of it.

Not sure when & where KIDS EAT FREE DAY is in your area?  Just Google ‘Kids Eat Free’ and the name of your city & I’m sure you’ll find the results you’re looking for.

Book Review: Emma’s Friendwich

My youngest starts school for the first time this fall. Unlike my other two, she’s been at home with me most of the time, no daycare or preschool, so adjusting to a room full of new little people will be exciting and maybe a little intimidating. The folks from Charlesbridge Publishing sent me over a book that might help. Emma’s Friendwich (age 2-5), by Stuart J Murphy is part of the I See, I Learn series designed to teach young kids important skills for school readiness and daily life.

Emma’s Friendwich deals with the social skill of making friends, a skill that all kids need, especially when entering school. The story follows Emma, a new girl in town who wants to play with her neighbour Freda, a girl who seems to be the same age as Emma. Emma goes through some simple steps to try and strike up a friendship with Freda. She smiles to get Freda’s attention, asks if she can play too, helps Freda build, and shares her toys. Each double page spread focuses on one of these tasks, like smiling for example. As young children are big visual learners, the story also includes insert pictures or diagrams illustrating the point. At the end of the story, when Emma and Freda are friends, there’s a visual chart that shows the cycle taken to get that friendship: smile, ask, help, share, friend.

The back of Emma’s Friendwich, as in all the I See, I Learn books, there’s a page with questions to help you engage your child to talk more about the topic covered in the book as well as some ideas to reinforce what was read.

There are currently three other books in the series: Freda Plans a Picnic (focusing on sequencing), Good Job Ajay! (focusing on confidence) and Percy Plays it Safe (focusing on playground safety).

I have to thank Donna at Charlesbridge for my review copy.

Emma’s Friendwich

I See, I Learn series

(age 2-5)

Charlesbridge Publishing

Carrie Anne is a contributing book reviewer on Best Tools for School’s blog and No Time for Flash Cards as well as Managing Editor of You can catch up with her and her three kids on her blog Another Day Another Thought… Or Two.

Everything in moderation

Burp.  ‘Scuse me.
Oh boy.  Did I ever stuff my face this weekend.
I swear whatever was in front of my face, I ate.
Bad Leslie.
I just had one of those weekends where what I wanted to eat junk food, so I gave in.  Every craving.
I had French Fries with gravy and a pogo.
I had A&W.
We went out for dinner for a 40th Wedding Anniversary…at least I had Chicken skewers and rice with veggies…but still.
Then a big dessert (okay, 2 desserts)

Bad Leslie indeed.
I try and practice what I preach when it comes to eating healthy on the go, but it was a slip of the self-control.  And it happens.  As much as you want to eat healthy and teach your kids to eat healthy, it doesn’t always happen.   Don’t beat yourself up over it, just make sure you all do a family walk or play outside for an extra 30 minutes.  Me?  I danced with 5 kids non-stop to Top 40 music at the anniversary party and realized why I was so thin in college – dancing is so much fun and really a fabulous work out…especially when you’re in 3 inch stilettos.  Hello toned calves!
Just practice more self control than I did.  Everything in moderation right?

Happy and 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

No School Lunches, but now what?

School has been out for a month now and many parents rejoice in not having to make a lunch for the kids to take to school.  Sometimes the lunch bags come home barely touched, other times a last minute rush means parents are left clueless as to what to make for the day (or they have no money for the lunch program!).

Now that it’s summer, does the lunch stress change? Or does it just shift? It still means meal planning.  If you are out at the park, play dates, on vacation at the cottage or sending your kids to camp – lunch preparation may take on a whole new level of panic.

To help with your meal planning this week, we’ll be posting recipes on Facebook and Twitter from our Lunchtime Solutions chef Tracey Black that she has previously shared with us. They are easy, delicious and family friendly.

We’d love to hear from you too! What are your favourite summer lunches?  Do you find the lunch rush easier in the summer or is it the same?  Have a recipe that other parents may find useful? Please share in the comments below.

Posted by Rebecca, Community Engagement Manager for Best Tools for Schools

Is it Safe? Plastics To Stay Away From


It’s a simple fact that we can’t avoid plastic in our everyday lives, but we can try to keep the harmful ones out of our homes as much as possible. Last week I told you what those codes on plastic containers mean. This week I will focus in on the plastics that are not so safe for us.

Generally speaking, plastics with the codes 1, 2, 4 and 5 are safe, those with 3, 6 and some 7 are not.

So what makes 3, 6 and 7 unsafe? I will list the reasons for each code individually:

#3 – This type of plastic is made from PVC (Polyvinyl Chloride). Number 3 plastics may release toxic breakdown products (including phthalates) into our foods and drinks.

The PVC manufacturing process releases dioxins into the environment, a potent carcinogen that accumulates in animals and humans. It may also contain phthalates and chemicals used to soften plastics. Some phthalates are hormone disruptors, which have been linked to possible reproductive problems and birth defects.

What may be a #3 plastic in your home – Transparent plastic bottles, clear food packaging, bibs, mattress covers, squeeze bottles, cling wrap, some peanut butter jars, and a few other food and detergent containers

#6 – Named polystyrene plastic, this type is made into Styrofoam and hard plastic products. The problem with #6 is that they contain styrene, which is a known neurotoxin and is toxic when broken down or heated.

What may be a #6 plastic in your home – opaque plastic spoons and forks, take-out food containers, Styrofoam, Styrofoam cups, Styrofoam meat/bakery trays, disposable plastic plates, Styrofoam egg cartons, packing materials

#7 – This type of plastic has been labeled “other”. All plastics that do not fit into the other categories get lumped into this one. One of the plastics in this group is polycarbonate which is the material linked to Bisphenol-A (BPA), a known hormone disruptor which has gotten much press for its toxicity in the past few years.  BPA from these plastics can leach into your foods and drinks which is something you most definitely want to avoid.

BUT, not all #7s are bad! In the past few years many new corn, rice and tapioca based plastics have made their way to the market and these are safe. So unless your #7 is one of these safer types, steer clear.

What may be a #7 plastic in your home – baby bottles, 5-gallon water bottles, some personal/sports water bottles, metal food can linings

Note- Some plastics do not carry their corresponding symbol. So how do you know if your plastic is safe or not? For cheaper plastics that are not labeled such as food storage containers, my advice would be to recycle them. Better safe than sorry. For expensive water bottles, contact the manufacturer or the retailer where you bought it. Be a smart consumer, do the research and know exactly what you are purchasing.

To download Healthy Child, Healthy World’s Pocket Guide all about Safe Plastics, visit this link.

Sources: Healthy Child, Healthy World, The Daily Green 

Relax and Drive – Music for the car

Image credit: db*photography on Flickr

Have a long car ride ahead of you and looking to create a new playlist that everyone will enjoy, while keeping your cool?  How about some positive and uplifting music that will have you and the kids grooving and smiling through the daytime and calming the nerves when it’s naptime?  Here are some of my favourite tunes for the car….

Be The Change- MC Yogi

Feeling Good Today- Snatam Kaur

I Got Love For You- Michael Franti

Happiness Runs- Shakta Kaur Khalsa

Shine On- Wade Morissette  (yes, this is Alanis’s twin brother! His music is AWESOME!)

Elephant Power- MC Yogi

I am Happy- Snatam Kaur

Love Is My Religion- Ziggy Marley

Lovebug- Jonas Brothers

Little Bit of Feel Good- Jamie Lidell

We Are One- Wade Morissette

Sweet Pea- Amos Lee

Brave & Bold- Shakta Kaur Khalsa

Long Time Sun- Snatam Kaur

Ong Namo- Snatam Kaur


DeGrace Energetics & Little Lotus Yoga programs may be found at  & 

Follow @littlelotusyoga on twitter for up to date information, recommended resources and to continue enjoying yoga with your children.

Join our “Little Lotus Yoga” fan page on Facebook to access pictures of postures, yoga sequences, guided meditations and recommended resources.

Click! Take a Pic!

30 Minute Parking by doortoriver.

Image credit: Flickr

This is a short and sweet (and of course handy) tip for you. It’s about finding your way home! In other words never say “Hey, where did I park?” again. 
Shopping malls, parking garages, amusement parks etc. have so many parking spots and at the end of your stay you don’t want to have to search high and low for your vehicle.  The easiest way to find your vehicle is your camera (digital or cell phone).  

When you hop out the car just take a picture of the parking spot number.  If they aren’t numbered, take a shot of landmarks around it (ie. light post #2, or 3rd level on the parking garage).  When you get back to your mode of transportation, just delete the pic.  Sometimes it’s the little things!

Book Review: Ivy and Bean and the Ghost that had to Go


When I was younger I loved reading books like the Babysitters Club and Sweet Valley High, chapter series books with girl leads. I devoured these books over the summer holidays. Now that my daughter is older and enjoys reading more I’m always on the lookout for new books that might appeal to her. But she’s still young at age 8 so even if she can read the content in older books, the subject matter may not be something she needs to read.

We discovered Ivy and Bean, a series from Chronicle Books written by Annie Barrows and illustrated by Sophie Blackall (age 6-10). Ivy, a very quiet, proper girl, and Bean, a loud, adventurous girl, seem like to very unlikely friends but they’re more alike than they care to admit. The two eight-year-old girls live across the street from each other and attend grade two together.

In Ivy and Bean and the Ghost That Had to Go, Ivy thinks she sees a ghost, one who haunts the girls’ bathroom at school. Bean, being Ivy’s friend, starts to see the gray mist outside the bathroom door too. Pretty soon the two girls have the whole lower grades afraid to use the bathroom for fear of meeting this ghost. When Ivy and Bean get in trouble for their ghost stories, the two girls decide the only thing they can do is exercise the ghost and send it back to its grave.

My daughter loves Ivy and Bean. I think between the two characters most girls who read the Ivy and Bean books will be able to find similar traits in themselves and therefore relate to the characters more. I love that Ivy and Bean are just two girls having innocent fun, which with my own daughter in grade two, isn’t a bad thing to relate to.

There are currently 6 books in the Ivy and Bean series: Ivy and Bean, Ivy and Bean Break the Fossil Record, Ivy and Bean Take Care of the Babysitter, Ivy and Bean Bound to be Bad and Ivy and Bean Doomed to Dance. And a new book, Ivy and Bean What’s the Big Idea, is due out this fall.

I have to thank Crystal from Raincoast Books for my review copy.

Ivy and Bean and the Ghost that had to Go

written by Annie Barrow, illustrated by Sophie Blackall

published by Chronicle Books / Raincoast Books

age 6-10

Carrie Anne is a contributing book reviewer on Best Tools for School’s blog and No Time for Flash Cards as well as Managing Editor of You can catch up with her and her three kids on her blog Another Day Another Thought… Or Two.

Drive Thrus vs Dining In


McDonald's VIP Drive-Thru Pass by pr1001.

Image credit: Flickr

Have you ever been driving in your car, with the kids in tow, one screaming, one crying, and one is whining for something to eat, and you’d rather chew off your own arm than take them into a restaurant.

I’ll pause while you’re reminiscing………………………..done?  Painful wasn’t it?

It’s tempting to go through the drive-thru when you’re having a rough time with your kids on a day out and about.  But if you’re going to hit up the drive-thru, take with you some key points when ordering.

Tips for a “Healthier” Drive-Thru

1)      Just say no to pop.  You’ll save yourself and the kids about 150 empty calories, and a mouthful of cavities from the sugar.  Opt for milk, juice or water instead.

2)      Choose grilled chicken over battered.  Crispy just means fried, and fried just means cooked in oil, and that equals fat.

3)      Switch up the salad dressing.  Try getting a balsamic or vinaigrette instead of creamy dressing which pack calories and cream.

4)      NEVER supersize it.  Do your kids need a Biggie Fry or a Supersized drink?

5)      Avoid cheese – it’s processed, and one slice is about 50 calories.

6)      Avoid mayonnaise.  It’s just 40 extra calories and about 5g of fat in 1tbsp

7)      Order off the kids menu for ALL of you.  A little hamburger with ketchup, a kids’ fry and a small drink is plenty for each of you.

8)      Add extra veggies to your order – having a hamburger?  Add extra pickles, lettuce and tomato for a more satisfying meal.

9)      Skip the dessert.  (Painful I know…) but do each of the kids NEED a McFlurry or an Apple Pie?

10)  Don’t be afraid to ask.  If you want something different than what’s on the burger or the sandwich, ask.  The worst they can say is no.

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

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