I Want to Hear From You - 2016 Reader Survey


To & Fro 2016 Reader Survey

New year, new things on the horizon for To & Fro, and I would love to hear from YOU! 

This past year was a great one for To & Fro, but your feedback is what is important for its continued success. So, its time for To & Fro's 2nd annual Reader Survey! The survey below should take only 5 minutes of your time, and all responses will remain anonymous. 


**SURVEY IS NOW CLOSED. THANK YOU!**


Thank you for taking the time to complete this survey for To & Fro. I really do listen to and appreciate your feedback, and will be using every bit of info gained from this survey to help To & Fro grow this coming year. My goal is to turn To & Fro into a place where I continue to share my love of family and the outdoors, and for 2017 to be the best year yet!

Stay tuned for the results in late January.

[Survey will close at 11:59pm on January 6.] 


45 Ways to Reflect & Look Ahead to the Future

This time of the year is all about self reflection - looking back on the past 365 days, and getting excited for what's to come in the year ahead. A yearly review is a great exercise to help you do just that. It's a great way to slow down and reminisce about the good, and the bad, to appreciate the little things and to plan and get excited for what lies ahead.

How do you reflect? Plan to make your 2017 a successful one by using these 45 questions to help you reflect on the past and focus on the year ahead.

45 ways to reflect and look ahead

45 Ways to Reflect & Look Ahead


Looking back...
  1. Describe your 2016 in 5 words.
  2. What were your 3 happiest moments?
  3. What one event, big or small, are you going to tell your future grandchildren about?
  4. List 3 new things that you discovered about yourself.
  5. What new things did you try?
  6. What new opportunities were you given?
  7. What was the most important lesson your learned?
  8. What advice would you share about what you learned this year?
  9. What achievements are your most proud of?
  10. What was the best news you received?
  11. What are you most thankful for?
  12. Who are you most thankful for?
  13. What challenges did you overcome, and how?
  14. What healthy habits did you put in place?
  15. How did you take risks and push yourself out of your comfort zone?
  16. How did your relationships with your friends and family evolve?
  17. Who, or what, had the most positive impact on your life?
  18. How did you handle negative energy and tough times?
  19. What was your most comment mental state this year?
  20. What personal qualities, or habits, did you develop?
  21. How did you enjoy the little things?
  22. If asked, how would others describe you?
  23. If given the chance, what experience would you do all over again?
  24. What advice would you give your early-2016 self if you could?
  25. If you could go back in time, what would you have done differently?

Looking forward...
  1. What are you most excited for this year?
  2. How will this year be different than the last?
  3. What is your theme song for 2017, and why?
  4. What/where do you want to see, discover and/or explore?
  5. How will you continue to push yourself?
  6. What new things will you try?
  7. What item is on the top of your bucket list for 2017?
  8. Who do you want to spend more time with?
  9. What do you want to achieve career-wise?
  10. List 3 new skills you would like to learn or improve on. 
  11. What type of energy do you want to give off this year?
  12. List 3 things you would like to learn.
  13. How do you want people to describe you?
  14. What habits do you want to change or get rid of?
  15. List 3 personal qualities you would like to develop or strengthen.
  16. What is one thing you want to completely rid your life of this year?
  17. How do you want to remember the year when you look back on it 10/20/50 years from now?
  18. What is your #1 goal for 2017? 
  19. How do you plan on achieving your #1 goal?
  20. If you could chose one word to live by in 2017, what would it be?


How do you reflect on the year past, and get excited for the year ahead?


 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg

50 Essential Outdoor Winter Activities

Make the most of this winter season! Check out these 50 essential outdoor winter activities that your whole family will enjoy.

50 Essential Outdoor Winter Activities

Happy first day of winter! 

I love living in a place that experience 
I will admit, I am pretty happy to see a thick layer of white stuff on the ground this week. The first day of winter just isn't the same without a little snow. And Christmas just isn't Christmas if it's green. So, here's to hoping it hangs around for the weekend.

Don't let winter be an excuse to stay inside all day. Just because the temperatures are cooler and the sun may be hiding, doesn't mean you should go into full hibernation mode. Whether there is snow on the ground or not, whether you are young or old, make sure to take advantage and get outside this winter with these 50 essential outdoor winter activities.

50 Essential Outdoor Winter Activities



  1. Go on a winter hike.
  2. Look for animal tracks in the snow.
  3. Go downhill skiing.
  4. Go on a winter photo safari.
  5. Make a snow sculpture.
  6. Go snowshoeing.
  7. Go ice fishing.
  8. Collect evergreen boughs, pine cones, etc. 
  9. Make a winter wreath or table piece.
  10. Look for birds' nests.
  11. Enjoy the holiday lights displays.
  12. Go sledding.
  13. Build a snow man.
  14. Have a snowball fight.
  15. Go skating.
  16. Relax in a hot tub and watch the snow fall.
  17. Play a game of pond hockey with friends.
  18. Feed the birds.
  19. Warm up around a winter campfire.
  20. Go snowboarding.
  21. Set up a winter scavenger hunt.
  22. Do a good deed and shovel your neighbours' driveway.
  23. See the Northern Lights.
  24. Visit a winter farmer's market.
  25. Sign up for a polar plunge.
  26. Go cross country skiing.
  27. Take a winter camping trip.
  28. Make snow angels. 
  29. Go snow tubing.
  30. Enjoy the stars at night.
  31. Go snowmobiling.
  32. Take your dog for a walk.
  33. Build a snow fort.
  34. Go dog sledding.
  35. Make snow paint.
  36. Grab a pair of binoculars and go birding. 
  37. Check out a local snow or ice sculpture festival.
  38. Go ice wine tasting.
  39. Join an outdoor curling league.
  40. Plan an outdoor picnic.
  41. Go for a run.
  42. Attend a local winter festival.
  43. Create an outdoor weather station and monitor snowfall.
  44. Check out a maple syrup festival.
  45. Explore a new area, such as a local park.
  46. Create a backyard ice sculpture.
  47. Create your own hot cocoa recipe and drink it outside.
  48. Bring your flashlight and go for a walk at night.
  49. Visit a local zoo and see how the animals enjoy winter.
  50. Enjoy the snow fall.

What is your favourite outdoor winter activity?

50 Essential Outdoor Winter Activities

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg

Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition

Nine months have come and gone in the blink of an eye. It's hard to believe that little miss Morley has officially been out for as long as she was in. We're three quarters of the way through her first year, and aside from looking through photos, its hard to remember those first few days. Time is going by too fast baby girl, please slow down.

The past month alone we have seen some of the biggest changes and developments in baby girl - everything from becoming quite the talker, pulling herself up in the crib and legit baby crawling to feeding herself and climbing stairs like a pro. She's strong, she's mobile, she's chatty and she knows exactly what she wants. 

For this month's lessons, I was going to share the many faces of Morley that we've had to learn over the past nine months. Then I realized, this was mostly pictures of her hilarious pooping face, which no one else would find funny except for mom and dad.

Instead, with Morley's first Christmas fast approaching, I thought that I would share photos of her many festive winter adventures this past month. 

Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition

We kicked off the month of Christmas fun by visiting the Toronto Christmas Market in the historic Distillery District. Despite a bit of rain, the market was a hit with the adults and a good place to take a nap for Morley.

We spent some time at Grandma and Poppa's on Lake Huron. Morley and Titus' relationship continues to grow stronger and stronger each time they're together. It's a pretty give and take relationship - Morley gets to touch Titus' feet (which he doesn't do for just anyone) and Titus gets to "play with" Morley's stuffies. Titus gets some of Morley's egg and Morley gets to yell at him. Give and take. Currently, he is still faster than her, but I worry for him.

Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition

We're all about family traditions, and for Morley's first Christmas we started the family tradition game started off strong. We visited a local Christmas tree farm to help pick out the perfect tree and made sure she was sporting her own homemade ugly Christmas sweater.

Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition

Back in Toronto, we escaped the cold with a visit to Santa and to some of our favourite family-friendly indoor attractions in Toronto, such as Ripley's Aquarium of Canada, the Ontario Science Centre and Royal Ontario Museum (ROM). The Chihuly glass exhibition at the ROM was absolutely breathtaking, and a must see if it comes to your area.

Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition

And last, but definitely not least, we filled our tiny apartment with Christmas cheer. This included making Morley a personalized plate for Santa's cookies and her own baby-friendly Christmas tree

Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition
Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition

I'd say it was a pretty successful month.

How do you prepare for the holidays? What are your family traditions?

Have a safe and happy holiday, from my little family to yours!

Lessons From My 9 Month Old: Holiday Edition

Don't forget to follow To & Fro on Insta (@toandfro21) for more updates on our adventures with little miss Morley.

 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg

Cookies for Santa Plate Tutorial

Where has the time gone? We are in the single digits until Christmas. That's 9 days folks. And I haven't even finished my shopping. Whoops.

What I have done in my state of Christmas shopping procrastination is make the cutest DIY plate for Santa's cookies. This is such an easy and inexpensive DIY, and a great tradition to start with the little one on her first Christmas. Mom of the year, right here. 

Cookies for Santa Plate DIY

Like many families I'm sure, it was always tradition in our house growing up to leave out milk and cookies for Santa on Christmas Eve. As we got older, I'm pretty sure the milk switched to beer, but that's besides the point, and also many many years ago when we were unaware of the implications of drinking and flying a sleigh.

Seeing as this is Morley's first Christmas, we need to start the cookies for Santa game off strong. Which means she can't leave out cookies on any old plate. No, it needs to be on a plate specifically for Santa, so he knows they're just for him and how much we appreciation him.  I've also been informed that Santa likes homemade treats, which means that I will definitely be over-achieving this Christmas. Glad someone told me early though, can't disappoint the big man.

Cookies for Santa Plate DIY

In the past I've shared a similar tutorial for the wine and coffee/tea lovers in your life, but today's tutorial is for a certain jolly man in a red suit. If you're looking to add some flair to your Christmas Eve tradition, check out this easy and inexpensive (think $2) tutorial for a homemade cookie plate for Santa.

Santa's Cookies Plate Tutorial


Materials

  • Small white ceramic plate
  • Oil-based permanent markers
  • Stencil (optional)
  • Cotton ball
  • Nail polish remover

Cookies for Santa Plate DIY

Directions

Start by thoroughly washing your plate with dish soap and water. It’s important to remove all traces of dirt or oily residue and any stickers. I purchased this white plate the my local Walmart for about $2, but you can also find something similar at your local Dollar Store. Make sure the plate is completely dry before you start decorating.

Choose your design. If you don't trust yourself to freehand the personalization, use a stencil. I chose to use the black, gold and silver permanent markers I had lying around the house, but they can also be purchased at your local office supply or craft store. 

The sky's the limit with holiday-inspired designs - I chose a black string of silver Christmas lights, with the words "Santa's Cookies" in gold in the middle of the lights. 

Cookies for Santa Plate DIY

I also added the date to the bottom of the plate since this will be a keepsake for my daughter as she gets older. 

Don't worry if you make a mistake, you can easily remove it with a cotton swab dipped in a bit of nail polish remover.

When you're happy with your design, allow to dry completely before the next step.


Cookies for Santa Plate DIY

The final step is to bake the plate in the oven to cure. Set the plate in a cold oven. Do not allow the oven to preheat - you want the oven and plate to heat gradually so it does not crack. Turn the oven to 350 degrees and allow to "bake" for 30 minutes. Once the time is up, turn the oven off BUT do not remove the plate. Open the oven just a crack and allow to cool completely before removing, about an hour.

If you're a bit of a perfectionist like me and your design looks streaky (like above), you may want to retrace the design and bake once more.



Cookies for Santa Plate DIY
Cookies for Santa Plate DIY

The plate is now dishwasher safe (top rack), however, I recommend washing gently by hand, with a non-abrasive sponge, just to be safe. Keep in mind, this tutorial can be replicated on any type of glass or ceramic serving ware, like these mugs and wine glasses. You can also design a mug for Santa's milk!

The homemade treats on the above plate are this recipe for Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars. Not your traditional cookie, but one of Santa's weaknesses. Or so I've been told.



Do you set out milk and cookies for Santa? What kind of cookies do you leave? I'd love to hear!


Salty & Sweet Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars

This shop has been compensated by Collective Bias, Inc. and its advertiser. All opinions are mine alone. #HolidayRITZ #CollectiveBias

Holiday party, work potluck or a Friday night with friends, desserts are my go-to. And this holiday season, this Chocolate Butter Toffee Bar Recipe is on the top of my holiday treat list!

Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe

They say opposites attract, right? Well, when it comes to our favourite junk food, my husband and I couldn't be more opposite. I've always had a "salty tooth". My husband, on the other hand, is very much a "sweet tooth". While I steer towards the saltiest chips on the shelf, my husband is all chocolate all day.

You would think that our opposite cravings would be a blessing in disguise. That it would work in our favour, to keep the junk food out of the house. Wrong. Turns out, there are quite a few treats that are also opposite, both salty and sweet. Like chocolate peanut butter or chocolate toffee, just to name a few.

When it comes to what treats to make around the holidays, our opinions may be divided, but, one treat we can agree on are these deliciously addictive Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars.

Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe

This recipe for Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars is so easy to make because it only has 4 ingredients - butter, brown sugar, chocolate chips and RITZ Crackers. Yes, you read that right, RITZ Crackers. The salty buttery goodness of RITZ Crackers completes this holiday treat, and satisfies the cravings on both ends of the spectrum. Not to mention, they are a pretty fool-proof recipe, for even those non-bakers out there.

If you're looking for a treat for an upcoming holiday party, work potluck or Friday night with friends, make sure to add these Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars to the list.

Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars



Ingredients
  • 1 box RITZ Crackers Originals
  • 1 cup butter
  • 1 cup brown sugar
  • 2 cups milk chocolate chips
  • 1/2 cup white chocolate chips (optional)
  • food colouring, red/green (optional)
  • 1 tsp canola oil (optional)
RITZ Crackers Ibotta Offer
Click here for a great deal on RITZ Crackers!
Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe
Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe

Directions

Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line a 9x13 pan with parchment paper. Lining the pan will help with cleanup. Arrange the RITZ Crackers in a single layer at the bottom of the pan.

Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe

In a small saucepan over medium heat, melt the butter. Once butter has melted, whisk in brown sugar until smooth. Bring the mixture to a light boil, stirring constantly until the mixture is smooth and bubbly, about 2 minutes. 

Pour the butter brown sugar mixture evenly over the layer of crackers. You can use a spatula to even it out. Bake in the oven for 5 minutes.

Once out of the oven, sprinkle the chocolate evenly on top. Return to the oven just long enough for the chocolate to melt.

Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe

Remove from the oven and spread out the chocolate evenly with a spatula. Place the pan in the fridge or freezer until the chocolate is near firm.

If you want to add a festive touch to the treat, you can add a drizzle of coloured chocolate. While the milk chocolate is hardening in the fridge or freezer, add white chocolate chips to a microwave safe bowl. Add 1 tsp canola oil to the bowl and microwave, 30 seconds at a time stirring in between, until completely melted. Once melted, add food colouring colour of choice.

Remove pan from the fridge or freezer and drizzle the coloured chocolate on top of layer of milk chocolate. Repeat for additional colours. Place the pan back in the fridge or freezer until the chocolate is completely firm.

Once firm, remove the parchment paper from the pan and cut or break the butter toffee bars into pieces.

Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe

All of the ingredients for this delicious recipe were purchased at my local Walmart. RITZ Crackers can be found in the Cracker & Cookie aisle, or like my local Walmart, on a standalone display between the Food and Health & Wellness departments.

Chocolate Butter Toffee Bars Recipe

For more holiday recipes using RITZ Crackers, check this out.


What are your favourite holiday treats? I'd love to hear!


A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm

Growing up, one of our favourite family traditions to kick off the holiday season was to spend a day at a local Christmas tree farm picking out the perfect tree. We ALWAYS had a real Christmas tree. Even the mere mention of a fake tree in our house was a huge no no. It just didn't happen. 

Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm

Fast forward many years, I can't tell you the last time we visited the Christmas tree farm as a family. But what I can tell you, is that it is still the same Christmas tree farm that we remember growing up. Our visit last weekend brought back many good childhood memories, and introduced a third generation to our real Christmas tree family tradition.

A little snow on the ground would have been preferred, (yes, I said the word) but we really couldn't have asked for better weather for our tree farm adventure. Check it out for yourself...

Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm

While Morley loved checking out (also known as touching) each and every one of the trees we passed, we actually didn't end up getting our own tree this year. I know, how dare we. To be honest, I don't think we could physically fit one in our teeny tiny apartment. But, we did have fun helping Grandma, Poppa, Funcle Taylor and Auntie Meighan pick out theirs. The day also made us even more excited for Christmas 2017 (fingers crossed) in our new house, when we too will be able to find that perfect tree.

After finding the perfect trees, we assumed Morley would like to go for a horse and wagon ride. What kid would not like to ride behind a pair of giant horses? Well, we couldn't have been more wrong. Instead, she decided to be "that kid" on the wagon while everyone else sang Christmas carols. Ok, there wasn't any singing, but the point is everyone had a better time than cranky-saurus rex. 
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm

After the horse and wagon ride debacle, it was clearly time for lunch. The farm has several mini campfires scattered throughout the forested area, so we got to sit around our own personal family campfire to warm up and have lunch. We had our go-to hot dogs over the fire, but it was pretty impressive to see what other campfires were cooking up. You could tell there were some serious pros that have been doing this for years. We will need to step up our game for next year.

Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm

After a long day of fun old-fashioned family Christmas activities, the experience ended a little something like the photo below. Comfy and cozy, around the fire, with a bottle in her hand. If only I could fit in that wagon with her.

Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm

And although we didn't end up bringing home a tree of our own, we did bring home were some great memories, and some pretty cute photos of my little family.

Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm
Holiday Family Traditions - A Visit to the Christmas Tree Farm

We frequently are asked about the wagon Morley is riding in in the above photos. I've made a lot of unnecessary purchases at Costco over the years, but this was not one of them. We have gotten so much use out of this foldable wagon, from doing laundry to transporting things to and from the car at our apartment. Morley is also a big fan (if you can't tell by how comfy she is) and loves going for rides.  Sadly, I haven't seen it at Costco since we bought it in early June, but found a similar one here.

If you live in southwestern Ontario and are still in search of that perfect (and real) Christmas tree, I recommend checking out Sloan's Village. Located in Bothwell, ON, Sloan's is truly a Christmas wonderland for all ages. Prepare for a full day of activities - after you are done cutting down your tree, warm up with lunch around your own family fire pit, try your hand at decorating the perfect sugar cookie, get lost in the tree maze, go for a horse and wagon ride, and more!

Where we went:
Sloan's Christmas Tree Village & U-Cut
29876 Zone Rd. 7 Bothwell ON
Hours: November 19th to December 23rd, 2016 / Weekends 9:00-4:45pm / Weekdays 10:00-5:00pm
Admission: Age 3+ $14 / Senior $10 / 2 & Under Free
Check their website for more information. 



More festive family traditions: Apple Orchard  //  Pumpkin Patch  //  Ugly Christmas Sweaters



What holiday traditions do you have with your family? Real or fake Christmas tree? I'd love to hear!


--------------------

**GIVEAWAY REMINDER**


Visiting Toronto this winter? Escape the cold with a visit to my family's favourite indoor destination, Ripley's Aquarium of Canada! Enter for your chance to WIN one of two Family Passes to check out the Aquarium for yourself! ENTER HERE.


Ripley's Aquarium of Canada Family Pass Giveaway



 photo TampF sig_zpsi50j9kbk.jpg