We canceled our CSA service

I was sad to do this.  I was more sad as I was picking through moldy beets at the grocery store, trying to find something edible.  The produce we’ve been getting from Bryson Farms has been outstanding.  It tastes fantastic, it’s colourful, it looks fantastic, it lasts a long time, etc.

Canceling the service is part of our ‘simplification plan’.  The challenge with a basket of produce that gets delivered, is that it arrives mid-week and then I have to plan my meals around what’s in the box.   This is more time consuming that going through my recipe binder and picking out the first  6 meals that look interesting to me.

Always an evolution here at the house.  It will only take a couple of weeks of moldy, wilted produce for me to go back to the CSA.

Coupons & Other Bargains

I love a bargain.  I love to use coupons.  I don’t use them very often, but nevertheless, when I can get $3 off a package of diapers or laundry detergent, I’m pretty happy.  My biggest challenge with coupons is the same one I have with bringing my own bags: getting them out of the car and into the store.

My usual source for coupons is as mix of Canadian Freebie blog, Save.ca and random stuff that comes in the mail.  The trouble, with these sources, is that they are not often coupons for brands I usually buy.  They are coupons for big name consumer packaged goods.  Hence, I was so happy to learn about ‘The Healthy Shopper’.  These guys have coupons for all sorts of green, eco friendly, or just plain stuff I like.

I’ll still have trouble remembering to bring them into the store.  Perhaps I should store them in the re-useable bags.

Fortissimo on Parliament Hill

This has got to be one of the most fun ways to introduce young kids to classical music. There are outfits, drums, marching and best of all from my little guy’s perspective: cannons.  This weekend (August 6-9), up at Parliament Hill you can checkout the honour guard (regular changing of the guard folks), along with 150 musicians, gunners and soldiers.  The pipers start 6:30, and the main event starts at 7pm. 

To get an idea of what to expect, here’s some YouTube Video from the 2007 and 2008 proceedings

For those of you who have later bed times than I do, you can stay to watch the sound and light show.

Love the Library

I’m a library geek and I’m not ashamed to admit it. The library is a great diversion for my kids, we can wander over and get some excercize along the way and once we’re there there is a lot to keep everyone entertained. I never browse the adult section, but simply order my books ahead of time. I get an e-mail letting me know they have arrived, and my kids know that the last thing we do before check out is look for ‘mommy’s books’.

Our local library finally has the kids backpack program. It’s been available at the big branches for a long time, but now you can walk into almost any Ottawa library branch and pick up a backpack full of kids books. The books have been selected by librarians to be age appropriate. When I’m short on time, this means I can pop into the library and pickup a bag of books to bring home as a quick, happy and super cheap package for the boys.

As the librarians have vetted the books, this program also prevents me from bringing home any of the doozies that have accidently graced our shelves of late. These include:

  • The boy whose dad has died and whose mom gets a new boyfriend. The new boyfriend likes sailing and moves in with the mom and boy. When I flipped through the pictures it looked like a happy story about a family that liked to go sailing. I missed the details that the man was the new boyfriend.
  • The story about the little pig that spent lots of time playing and learning about the ‘old days’ from grandma. Again, didn’t pay close enough attention to the end of the story, where the grandma gets sick, can’t move and eventually dies while the little pig holds her.

These are only some of the winners that have escaped my editorial eye as I pile books into the stroller that my older one picks out.

All that to say, drop into your local library and see what book bags they might have for you.

Update on the Ottawa CSA front

As you may recall, we’ve been ordering groceries from Ottawa Organics for the past month or so.  Here are some thoughts:

Pro:

  • Arrives without fail every Wednesday
  • I can leave them a check in my cooler for the amount ordered
  • No one has stolen our groceries (big concern of my husband!)
  • The fruit has been very, very tasty.

Cons:

  • I’ve been ordering some extras off their web site (bread, milk, broccoli) to add to my ‘veggie box’.  When I order the extras, I’m given a total amount to pay and leave the check for that amount. Trouble is, they don’t always have the extras.  This means I overpay and have to take it off the next week’s check
  • The quality has been mixed: we’ve had bruised, punctured plums; moldy raspberries and worm riddled turnips.  Truth be told, when I brought this to there attention, we were given a discount off our next box.

Bytown Mom Conclusion: I’m doing this to save myself time and effort: when the milk doesn’t show up I have to head out to the grocery store on a weeknight; when the turnips have worms, I need to adjust dinner plans 15 minutes before it’s expected on the table.  Tomorrow’s our last delivery from Ottawa Organics.  We’re moving on to Bryson Farms for next week.

Family Triathlons

I’ve written about the Kids of Steel triathlon program before, but this recent article caught my attention, as I can just picture my little guy encouraging his brother in the same way the kid profiled in the article does:  come on, hurry up, let’s go.

There are plenty of local kids triathlon groups out there, including:  Ottawa Kids Tri and Toronto & GTA: Tri Kids Triathlon Series.

Heck there’s even a whole community of people that chat and discuss their family’s triathlon exploits at the aptly named: Triathlon Family.

How to choose a nanny agency

I know, I know, I’m supposed to be telling you about what I’ve been reading this week, and I have been reading a lot on the bus, but it’s mostly been “The Economist”.  Now that I have a few free minutes, I’m back to looking for a nanny agency and have found a couple of useful guides:

The Canadian Caregiver’s Association – a not for profit group that is trying to implement some industry standards has a guide.  So far the best guide I’ve found is from an agency itself.  I know it’s suspect to get the information “from the horse’s mouth”, but this site was full of great tips and tricks:  http://www.execunannies.com/hr_approach.html   If you click on the link, you’ll find the focus is more about hiring the nanny than the agency.  And that’s exactly why I think the list is so great.  I’m looking for an agency that can help me find a great nanny for my family, and this agency has suggestions on how to do that.

Navigating Nanny Agencies

As we started to look into hiring an live-in nanny, we’ve entered this whole murky world of nanny agencies.  While I’m sure there are many good agencies out there, I have yet to find one with which I’m comfortable.  The first ones I’ve found are the “No Fee” services?  No fees?  That doesn’t make any sense.  Who’s paying the bill?  It turns out the nanny.  She’s being charged $3-5k + usury interest rates.  I don’t want any part of that.

Further to my investigation I had trouble sourcing information about reviews for these agencies, or tips on how to tell if an agency is legitimate.  Some are independent agencies, some have 2-3 different company names, but are all really the same company underneath.

Nanny Agencies – my investigation

I’m going to start chronicling my research, in the hopes that others won’t have to do the same work.  If you know where this research is already done, please, please save me time on the web and point me in the right direction.

Giving CSAs a chance

To say things have been busy since returning to work, would be an understatement.  #1 tip from BytownMom about returning to work:  have your childcare arrangements locked in stone!  Since letting our nanny go, we’ve been going between our bouncing between babysitters and family and no one, especially our three year old, knows which way is up.

Accordingly, we’re looking for a couple of ways to simplify things around here.  The first one is not: stop driving across town to get our fruits and veggies.  They are going to be delivered to a cooler on our doorstep on Wednesdays.  As I’m not quite sure what’s in this week’s box, I’m going to menu plan once I see what I’ve got.

From the CSA options I discovered earlier this season, I’ve decided to start with Ottawa Organics, as you can add lots of fruit to your order, on top of the veggies.  Stay-tuned for menu planning to pick back up on Friday.

The perfect hostess gift

It’s local.  It’s unique. It’s only $10.

Staying current on up and coming musicians and being a working mom don’t always go hand in hand, but it’s just been made easier by my friend Jackie.  She’s produced CD covering unsigned, up and coming Canadian talent.  You can pick-up the CD at the downtown Chapters here in Ottawa.  Not based in Ottawa? Contact her through her myspace page and you’ll no doubt be able to work something out.

You can read the background behind the project in today’s Citizen.  If you’re looking to be extra hip, you can attend the CD launch party Thursday, June 25 at the Parliament Pub’s outdoor patio @ 9pm.

The CD’s targeted at the tourist market, but I love that it’s got local artists and even though I’m based in Ottawa it’s going to be my default hostess gift for the rest of the season.