* Reading for Kids *

My kids are pretty voracious readers. My son can pick up a book and be lost in it for hours.  My daughter is just finishing Grade 1 and is also reading some easy chapter books on her own.

Our kids did a lot of reading over the summer break, but that’s not the case for all children.  So, if you need a few books to ease your child back into reading before school starts, this might be the post for you.

I thought I’d share some of the books my son has loved over the past years.  Harry Potter and Percy Jackson are solid favourites and already pretty well known.  Here’s a few you might not have heard of:

Zac Power

This series by H.I. Larry is about a 12 year old boy and his older brother who are secret agents for a government agency.  The chapters are fairly short and easy to read.  Best for kids 8-10.

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Captain Awesome by Stan Kirby

My son received this for a birthday gift when he was 6 and it’s a fun series of books.  The Captain is 8 year old Eugene McGillicudy and he has adventures throughout his neighbourhood with a crazy cast of characters.  Easy to read and probably best for kids in Kindergarten to Grade 3.

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National Geographic Kids

Our family loves these books and pretty much all the National Geogrpahic books.  These are the books that we take to restaurants, leave in the car and bring along to appointments.  Lots of fun facts, great pictures and easy to read.  Also look for Myth Busters, Sticker Activity Books and more from this great organization.

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Ratburger by David Walliams

About 6 months ago, my son (aged 9) received Grandpa’s Great Escape by the same author and since then, he pretty much powered through all the books by David Walliams.  The writing is funny, the characters are unique and quirky and best of all, the kids laugh out loud when reading his books.

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The Circus Ship by Chris Van Dusen

This one was introduced to us by friends about 3 years ago and we still love it!  The illustrations alone are worth it.  The story rhymes and teaches us about friendship in the most fun way.

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Geronimo Stilton by Geronmio Stilton

If you haven’t read this series yet, I highly recommend it.  We started when my son was 5 or 6.  They are chapter books, but they have a lot of colourful illustrations and the type is done creatively in different colours and types.  Geronimo takes us around the world on adventures with his sister and cousin.   My son still loves these books and now my daughter (aged 7) has started reading them, too.

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House of Robots by James Patterson

You may know James Patterson from the crime novels, but he also writes books for kids.  This series is about a boy entering Grade 5 who lives with a house full of robots.  We just picked this one up and haven’t read it yet, but the reviews are great and it looks like a fun read.

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MasterMinds by Gordon Korman

Gordon Korman has written over 80 books!  This series is about a group of kids who think they live in the most boring town in the world.  Until….a friend disappears and the kids have to investigate what is really happening in their town.  Best for middle school age kids.  If they like this series, there are lots of others by Korman to choose from.

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Spy School and Spy Camp by Stuart Gibbs

These books are about Ben a middle school student who ends up in a school for spies.  Super fun series and my son can’t wait to read Evil Spy School next.

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These are just a few of the books on our shelf.   What did you kids read this summer?  Please let me know in the comments!

linking up with:  Sincerely, PaulaGood Random FunA Little Bit of EverythingMom Home GuideShelbee on the EdgeCurly Crafty MomBy BMG

5 things I always buy at Ikea

I haven’t been to Ikea in about six months and yet, within the past three weeks, I have shopped there three times.  Go figure.

Just like at Costco, there are a few staples that I usually buy at Ikea.  They are always in good supply and the price is always right!

Clockwise from top right:

  1. Toilet brush cleaner/holder – it’s only $1 and it gets the job done.  Enough said.
  2. Kitchen dish scrub brush – again it’s about $1, comes in 3 colours and lasts a pretty long time.
  3. Ribba frames – these vary in size and price, and come with a mat.  These frames are frequently used for gallery walls in many of the magazines I read.
  4. Roll of paper – found in the children’s section.  It’s about $5 and we use it for colouring, drawing, making signs, table runners, etc.
  5. Fantastisk napkins – they are fantastic.  Cost is about $3 and I usually buy the standard white, but they often have seasonal colours and a few patterned ones throughout the year.

Obviously, my shopping cart is filled with more than these five items anytime I go to my favourite Swedish home store.  Am I missing anything?  What do you buy when you go to Ikea?

linking up with: Design Dining & DiapersThe Fab JourneySincerely, PaulaA Little Bit of EverythingShelbee on the EdgeCurly Crafty MomClaire JustineI Should Be Mopping the FloorGood Random FunBy BMG

My top 5 clothes for travelling

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Last month, we returned from a three week trip to Europe, which included stops in England, France and Germany.   We knew ahead of time that the weather was going to be mixed; cooler temperatures and rain in England, but sun and heat in Germany and France. So, as you can imagine packing was complicated as I wanted to make sure I had the right clothes for the right weather and the right cities.  Oh, and I didn’t want to look like a tourist.

Throughout our trip, I realized I was wearing 5 items very regularly.  I was surprised that these items were working for all the cities, countries and weather we were experiencing.

What are they you ask?  Check out my list below – I’ve linked the exact or similar items for reference.

#1 – This denim shirt was great for layering over tanks, t-shirts and dresses.  It wasn’t cold where we were, but often there was a breeze or chill in the air and this denim shirt kept me comfortable.  A linen shirt would have also worked, but this is what I bought as I thought it would transition well into Fall.

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Denim Shirt

 

#2 – I had never taken a scarf when I had travelled in the past, but Pinterest and friends of mine assured me I needed to have one.  So, I packed one along and I am so glad I did!  It added a little interest to my basic wardrobe and was used as a pillow by one of my kids on the flight.  My scarf was in shades of grey and blue and it went with 90% of my wardrobe.  After this trip, I will always pack a scarf on my future travels.

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Plaid Scarf

 

#3 – I wanted a comfortable yet stylish running shoe (sneaker) to wear for our long days of sightseeing, but I didn’t want to wear an obvious sporty shoe.  Converse were an option, but I found the Superga shoe fit better and had slightly more support for my feet.  At the end of the day, my feet felt great in these shoes.  I bought white, but grey was my second choice (surprise, surprise).  This is an Italian brand of shoe and I saw many women wearing these all over Europe.

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Superga shoe

 

#4 – I wanted to have some pants that would be comfortable for travelling, walking and just hanging out and I knew these joggers would be perfect.  I have them in this greige colour and black.  They are 100% cotton, so they breathe and don’t feel too hot when the temperatures heat up. They were easy to style and wear with a tank or t-shirt and made me look less like an obvious tourist.

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Jogger Style Pants

 

#5 – Lastly, a white t-shirt.  I don’t go anywhere without one or even two of these.  This shirt has a more relaxed style and looked great with both my pants and skirts. This is basically my “don’t leave  home without one” shirt.

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Basic White T-shirt

 

What do you think of these choices?   Is there something from your closet that you always pack?  Let me know in the comments below and happy travels!

linking up with: Happiness at Mid-lifeCurly Crafty MomElegance and MommyhoodThe Fab JourneyHigh Latitude StyleSincerely, PaulaFashion Should Be FunJaymie AshcraftJo-Lynne ShaneFriday FavouritesNancy’s Fashion StyleShelbee on the EdgeFine WhateverBeauty101 by LisaMore Pieces of MeSincerely, Jenna Marie,Elegantly FashionableNot Dressed As LambStyle NudgeElegantly Dressed and StylishByBmgGaray TreasuresTwo Peas in a BlogA Good Hue,The Mummy ChroniclesThe Pleated PoppyShopping My ClosetThe Blended BlogJersey Girl Texan HeartSydney Fashion HunterGet Your Pretty OnPosh Classy Mom

Shoes for Days

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This picture represents the shoes my family took on our recent trip to Europe.   Four people, 3 weeks, 17 pairs of shoes.  That averages out to roughly four pairs each, but in actual fact I ended up with 6 pairs in my suitcase.  This was no beach vacation, so I knew we needed comfortable shoes.  Our plans included walking – lot of walking!!

Here’s the breakdown of who took what:

Daughter:

  • Flip flops
  • Native slip ons
  • Sketcher slip ons
  • Under Armour runners

She only wore the Natives once, so I probably could have left this pair at home.  Same with  the Under Armour runners as she preferred her Sketcher slips ons most days.  I wish I had bought a pair of Birkenstock sandals for her as the selection and price in Germany was way better than here at home.  #missedopportunity

 

 Son:


  • Flip flops
  • Vans black slip ons
  • Under Armour runners

My son wore exactly what he brought exactly when I thought he would.  He didn’t complain about sore feet, so I deem his shoe packing a success.

 

Husband:

 


  • 2 x pairs of Adidas
  • Flips flops
  • Running shoes  (for running/hiking)

Husband rotated through his shoes each day as we did a lot of walking.  He didn’t end up wearing his flip flops at all, but since they didn’t take up much room it was still worth bring them along.  #justincase

(note:  couldn’t find the other Adidas to put in the picture as he was wearing them)

 

Me:


  • flip flops
  • tan coloured sandals
  • Black Nike runners
  • White Superga runners
  • Black espadrilles

I am pretty happy with the shoes I packed and I wore them all.  I wish I had swapped out my white laces on the Nikes to black so that they would have looked more like a fashion runner than a workout runner. That said, with a white tee and black jogger pants they were just fine.

The Superga were a new purchase before we left and I was surprised how comfortable they were.  Of course I bought white and they got dirty, but I was ok with that.   I also bought a pair of black espadrilles before we left and I’m glad I did!  Very comfortable for walking around and went just fine with my jeans, jogger pants and both my dresses. My Mat & Nat sandals were also quite comfortable and easy to wear with all my outfits.

And while in Germany, I purchased these:

The Birkenstocks were purchased because I have a lot of friends who rave about them and since I was in the land of Birkenstocks…I had to have a pair.  They have been on trend for a few years now and while I used to shun them, I’m now happy to have a pair.  If you haven’t tried them, you should.  You might be surprised.

I would use this shoe packing guide again for any other long trips that involve a lot of walking.  What do you think?  Did I forget to include anything?  Let me know in the comments what shoes you take on your trips.

linking up with: Jaymie AshcraftFashion Should Be FunHappiness at Mid-lifeJo-Lynne ShaneNancy’s Fashion StyleNancy’s Fashion StylePocketful of Polka DotsPosh Classy MomPosh Classy MomMore Pieces of MeSincerely Jennna MarieStyle NudgeReasons to Dress,The Pleated PoppyShopping My ClosetThe Blended BlogGet Your Pretty OnJersey Girl Texan HeartClassy Yet Trendy

 

$10 at Target

Well, I guess I should clarify this.  I spent 10 euros at Monoprix.   What’s Monoprix you ask?  Well, I had been told that Monoprix was the French version of Target.  It’s a French department store that is all over the country.  It looks like this:

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I recently returned from a trip to Europe and while I was there, I was more than excited to check out this chain.  But I have to say I was a little dismayed by the two stores I went into.  The store I visited in Paris was small, had a food market on the lower level and women’s clothes and accessories on the main floor.  The clothing section had some good deals, but it was a mess and I really didn’t see anything worth trying on.  #disappointed

The second store was much larger, but I had only a few minutes to get what I needed.  And what was that, you ask?

This:

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We had forgotten our nail tools at home, so I needed to get an extra set.  These two items totalled €10.  I’m not sure about you, but it seemed like a lot to me.

So, although I didn’t get to really experience the French Target, I got the feeling it did not have the deals and selection that the real Target has.  Did I mention I’m still sad that Target left Canada?

linking up with: Garay TreasuresA Pocketful of Polka DotsSincerely Paula

What I saw – Fashion in Paris

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Our family recently returned from a vacation in Europe and the last few days were spent in Paris.  I was in Paris about 21 years ago with my sister (who shares this blog) with me.   It was 1995, September and the weather was quite cool.  Here’s what we wore:

 

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You may want to know why we were wearing XXL sweatshirts?  Umm…we have no clue!!  We both laugh and shudder to believe we actually dressed like this in Paris!

Fast forward to this year and I think I have improved my travelling wardrobe.  I’ll do another post about what I packed, but I’m pretty sure I didn’t stand out as an obvious tourist.  But I also didn’t look like a Parisian.  These women have an effortless style about them that is hard to describe, but I’ll try.  Chic, classic, simple, confident, basic, put together.   Just a few words that come to mind.

Before I tell you my favourite Parisian looks, I’ll tell you what I didn’t see:

  • really distressed denim
  • boyfriend jeans
  • off the shoulders tops (only worn by tourists)
  • too many patterns

I’m not saying these items are not being worn in Paris, but I just didn’t see them.

What did I see?

  • tailored pants/jeans – cigarette style in dark denim or black
  • cropped and flared pants – in linen
  • white tops – blouses and tees
  • simple dresses in solid colours
  • scarves
  • classic and simple purse or bag
  • ballet flats (yes, they really do wear them)
  • stylish sunglasses
  • dark blazer or fitted cardigan
  • solid colours or colour blocking

 

During our travels around the city, there were two Parisian women that stood out to me.

The first  wore a white tee, dark jeans, black and tan ballet flats and a dark blazer and carried a simple cross body purse.

The second had on a sleeveless dress, more of a tank style with a full skirt.  It was in a bright coral colour, and accessorized with a necklace and carried a classic tote style purse. The sandals were flat but with that slightly thicker sole that seems to be on trend right now.

Both women looked fantastic and although I couldn’t see myself wearing the bright coral dress, I could see myself recreating the look being with a more subtle colour.  I wasn’t able to take a picture of either of these ladies, but I found a few images on Pinterest that will show you how they looked:

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Shannon from Gamine & Stripes

 

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There are lots and lots of images and ideas on Pinterest (of course) if you need more inspiration.  I thought this this article summed it all up quite nicely.  I’m going to try and add a little more Paris to my wardrobe and since it’s actually quite simple, I should be able to find everything in my closet 🙂

 

linking up with: More Pieces of MeSincerely Jenna MarieElegantly FashionableHigh Latitude StyleGaray TreasuresStyle NudgeTwo Peas in a BlogFine Whatever BlogA Good HueWalking In Memphis in High HeelsThe Mummy ChroniclesPosh Classy MomThe Pleated PoppyThe Blended BlogGet Your Pretty OnSydney Fashion HunterClassy Yet TrendyElegance and MommyhoodThe Fab JourneyHappiness at Mid-life,Curly Crafty MomFashion Should Be Fun,Jo-Lynne ShaneNancy’s Fashion StylePosh Classy MomShelbee on the EdgeMs. Toody Goo Shoes

 

Pinned & Tried – Fashion

When I saw this outfit from Posh Classy Mom, I just knew I could recreate the look  for me:

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I already had the grey jeans and a chambray top.  I didn’t have the grey pumps, so I changed it slightly:

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Ok, so I’m slightly more wrinkled than the inspiration photo.  I swear that my shirt does not look that wrinkled while I am wearing it!  #ohsure

These black platform wedges are the only (repeat only) heels I have.  #needtogoshopping

I’ve had this top for about a month now and never considered wearing it with my grey jeans – not sure why?   But since pinning this image, I have worn it a couple of times with my grey converse and I have to say, it’s a successful pinned & tried.

linking up with: Jo-Lynne ShaneJaymie AshcraftNancy’s Fashion StyleFashion Should Be FunMore Pieces of MeSincerely Jenna MarieElegantly FashionableFine Whatever

If the sandal fits…

My need for shoes has not stopped. Yes, I’m going on a trip and I’ll need some sandals, but it’s also the season of sandals.

So, I’ve been out shopping and this is what I’ve found:

I was excited to try this pair on.  They have a thicker sole and are made of leather, but they were totally uncomfortable. The heel area is slightly moulded and my foot didn’t fit the mould.  #sosad

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My local Marshall’s had Kate Spade for under $100.  Sure, they have a little bling, but they are KATE SPADE!!  I didn’t buy them, but a few other women had them in their carts.

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Also at Marshall’s was this pair. Fringe is totally on trend right now.  Not sure how I feel about this sandal, but I’m guessing it was pretty popular at Coachella.  #justsaying

 

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If you have plenty of time to put this shoe on, then the gladiator sandal is the one for you.  Strap it and wrap it.  This particular brand was unfamiliar to me, but it had a soft flexible sole and would probably be fairly comfortable for strolling around.  #cutebutnotforme

 

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Now, I have to ask, but who would buy a Valentino at Marshall’s?  Second question, who would pay $800 for a sandal at Marshall’s?  I get that it’s the place for designers at a better price, but if I had $800 for shoes, I wouldn’t be buying sandals at Marshall’s.  Would you?

 

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This is the pair I bought at DSW back in February.  They are pretty comfortable and that colour goes with everything.

 

My newest purchase is this pair of Matt and Nat sandals.  They are flexible, the sole has a slight cushion and since they are ec0-friendly and vegan, they are pretty easy to wear.  I haven’t ventured too far in them, so not sure if they are comfortable enough to make it on my trip.  #butyouneverknow

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Have you found any summer sandals yet?  I’m always looking, so feel free to share any finds with me.

linking up with: Jaymie AshcroftFashion Should Be FunElegance and MommyoodHappiness at Mid-lifeHigh Latitude StyleJo-Lynne ShanePosh Classy MomA Pocketful of PolkaDotsBeauty 101 by LisaNancy’s Fashion StyleMore Pieces of MeSincerely Jenna MarieStyle Nudge – Shoe & TellReasons to DressGaray TreasuresThe Pleated PoppyShopping My ClosetThe Blended BlogJersey Girl Texan HeartCurly Crafty Mom

10+ things every vacation property needs

This is a pretty much a repost from last year.

With the May long weekend just behind us, cottages have been opened up and families are starting to make their summer plans.  Over the long weekend, we spent a couple nights at a cottage in a beach town not far from home.

While the cottage was cute and the location was fantastic, there were three main things that could have been improved upon:

  1.  All the beds were creaky and squeaky with saggy mattresses.   The double was actually a super single and there was only room for one.  It squeaked every time I rolled over.  The twin was a cool looking old fashioned metal bed, but it also had metal springs.  They squeaked every time my son rolled over.  The queen pullout sofa was from the early 80s, the mattress was super thin and sagged in the middle (think: Seinfeld episode).
  2. The windows had no coverings.  Or very little.  The front of the cottage faced East and we were treated with the morning sun at 5am.  I didn’t want to be awake at 5am.  We found some thumbtacks and hung up some sheets, but it wasn’t ideal.
  3. Lastly, the bed linens.  They were old, tired and musty.  If storing linens, make sure they are in a dry location and add some cedar balls or chips to keep them fresh and moth free.

Sleep is such an important part of every day life and it can make or break a vacation – especially with little ones.

So, with that said…

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Do you have a vacation home?  Do you rent it out?  Or maybe you like to have your holiday in a rented cabin or cottage.  We used to own a vacation cottage on a nearby island and since selling it, we frequently rent a cottage/cabin/townhouse when we travel.  Although hotels are great for the pool, room service and air conditioning, the space that you usually get with a cabin usually can’t be beat!

From our experience renting out our own place and from staying at someone else’s, we found some key areas that should always be well taken care of.

Great bathroom towels – it may be cost efficient to take your old towels to the cottage but not everyone wants to exfoliate when they towel off.  Winners, Homesense, and Ikea all have a great selection of towels at reasonable prices.

Soft sheets – the same thing I said for towels goes for sheets.  Rough and tough sheets don’t make for sweet dreams.

Beds – please don’t put the old futon from the basement and the crappy mattress that has been around since you can’t remember when into your cottage or cabin.  Guests will continue to come back if they have had a great sleep and lumpy squeaky mattresses are not what dreams are made of.

Curtains – think about which direction your windows face.  If a bedroom faces the East, then consider putting blinds and curtains in this room so that the rising sun doesn’t wake up your guests at 5am.

Toiletries – just like a hotel, it is nice if there are little bottles of shampoo and soap for your guests to use.  Consider a bowl in the bathroom filled with samples or just large sized shampoo and liquid soap in the shower.  Sometimes, it is the little things that guests will remember.

Coffee/Tea – for coffee drinkers, like my husband and I, we appreciate a good coffee machine and some coffee/sugar/cream in case we don’t have time to pick up supplies before we arrive.  It doesn’t have to be the best or a big supply, but a starter pack is always a good idea.

Fans and Flashlights/Nightlight – these are not must haves, but they sure are nice to have.  The cabin we just stayed in could have used a fan in the bedroom to cool it down as it was the hottest room in the place.  A flashlight/nightlight is always helpful to find your way around in the night should you need a quick trip to the bathroom or to help the kids.

First Aid – a small basket with bandaids, wraps, tweezers and polysporin is so helpful as many families don’t travel with first aid supplies.

Clear instructions and helpful notes – let your guests know the rules of your cottage and/or the complex where they will be staying.  Do they need to clean before leaving?  Where is the electrical panel?  Where does the garbage and recycling go?  Dog friendly?   The more info, the better the experience for both them and you.

Cleaning – if you would like your guests to clean, then please make it easy for them to do so.  Easy to find brooms, cloths and a vacuum will help them to clean any spills and messes and leave the property in good condition.

Tourist info – we love when owners leave maps and brochures of the area suggesting things to do.  If there are some hiking trails, a great park or a restaurant they must eat at, let your guests know – they will appreciate it.

I watched  Sarah’s rental cottage recently and was amazed by the location and how she transformed the outdated property. Your cottage should be a reflection of you and your family, so just make it a place that you like to visit and where guests would like to stay.

Whether you are an cottage owner or renter  this summer, I hope this list helps you have a great holiday experience.   Let me know in the comments if there are any things that make your stay in a vacation property  even better.

linking up with: The Pin JunkieDesign Dining and DiapersCurly Crafty Mom