October 31, 2017

Favourite Ontario Mom Bloggers (Part I)

1. a group of people living in the same place or having a particular characteristic in common.
2. a feeling of fellowship with others, as a result of sharing common attitudes, interests, and goals.

Last month, I had the amazing opportunity to attend Blogpodium, a one day blog conference held downtown Toronto at the beautiful Vantage Venues. 

While the theme of the day was "The Business of YOU" and sessions focused on video creation, working with brands, handling finances and more (all extremely jam packed with solid knowledge), if I've learned anything in my 3+ years of blogging, it is that in order to be successful in this industry, you must step outside of you. In order to be successful, its all about the community you surround yourself with.

And I have such a great community. 

Best Ontario Mom Blogs
Photo courtesy of Gooseberry Studios.

Today, I am so excited to introduce you to my tribe - a group of amazingly supportive women that I have had the pleasure of developing a relationship with, whether in person or solely online, and working closely with over the past few months and years.  

And while this feature may be called "Favourite Ontario Mom Bloggers", calling them mommy bloggers in no way does it justice. Yes, they may share parenting advice and their experiences in motherhood, but they also venture into travel, fashion, food and beauty. They juggle full time jobs, small businesses, running a successful blog and motherhood all with grace. They truly are the pros, and women I have truly enjoyed getting to know. And now, hopefully you will too.

Amber, Bird of Balance

Amber from Bird of Balance

Describe yourself in 3 words. Family, Nature, Balance 

What is your blog about? My name is Amber Winnik, I am a wife and mother to Piper June. My blog was created as a place to share my love of writing and building connections. You will find my path towards natural health and wellness as well as my honest discoveries as a new mother. In all aspects of life, I strive to cultivate Balance through a mindful existence. I share my experience as a mother, helpful product reviews and companies that I am passionate about for our family. As we grow as a family, I share my inspiration through photography and words in order to create meaningful relationships with the world around me. 

How/when did you start blogging? Bird of Balance was created in 2016 during a time of health struggles and imbalance. Wellness was not a priority, and I raced through my days mindlessly with a strong focus on high paced living. My relationship with diet and exercise was unhealthy and my work-life balance was off. I felt depleted and lost. So I started to journal, and to write out my thoughts in attempt to channel my confusion. This simple practice created a powerful change in my life. It inspired me to advocate for my mental and physical health further, and as my passion for well being grew I started to document my journey. My blogs title "Bird of Balance", connects my love of nature and wildlife, with my ultimate goal - Balance.

What is your favourite thing about blogging? The therapeutic power of writing, as well as the incredible support and connections I have received and made. 

When it comes to blogging, what are 3 things you can't live without? My camera to capture images. My journal to scribble down my thoughts and inspiration. My computer to work on my page. 

What is your favourite place to get outside and explore in Ontario, and why? Oh this is tough!! If I could explore the north of Ontario (the area of Muskoka) where our family cottage is, I would say that is my favourite! However in terms of consistency and proximity, I would say the Bruce Trail. We are avid trail explorers and you will notice that most of my photography is taken outdoors. The Bruce trail runs across our province and offers such a dynamic and inspiring landscape!

Find Bird of Balance here:  Blog  //  Instagram  //  Facebook

Sonya, House of Kerrs

Sonya from House of Kerrs

Describe yourself in 3 words. Compassionate.  Dreamer.  Stubborn.

What is your blog about? House of Kerrs creates content around simplifying family life, modern parenting, family travel, family fashion and motherhood.

How/when did you start blogging? Just over a year ago - August 2016.

What is your favourite thing about blogging? I love the continuous learning aspect and, as a busy mom of 4, having it as a creative outlet and something just for me to pour into.  

When it comes to blogging, what are 3 things you can't live without?
1) A quick & simple photo editing app, like Snapseed & VSCO (mobile) and Pic Monkey (desktop/mobile)
2) Scheduling programs - to keep content rolling while off-line during work hours, like Buffer for Twitter, Tailwind for Pinterest and Facebook scheduler
3) My newest gadget - a blue tooth remote control for my smart phone (no more Instagram husband!)

What is your favourite place to get outside and explore in Ontario, and why?  One of our family faves is Collingwood, ON.  We love Blue Mountain Village and all the amazing activities for families with kids of all ages year-round, the trails for hiking/biking around the town in Spring/Summer months, and the option to go to Wasaga - the world's longest freshwater beach with gorgeous sunsets.

Find House of Kerrs here: Blog  //  Instagram  //  Facebook

Kate, Emmett's ABCs

Kate from Emmett’s ABCs

Describe yourself in 3 words. Mama. Fun-lover. Tea-drinker.

What is your blog about? Emmett's ABCs is a Canadian lifestyle blog that aims to help take the guesswork out of decisions for you and your family - whether that's products you'll need, general tips and tricks on life with littles, or just a break to laugh at life along the way! 

How/when did you start blogging? After we had Emmett (about a year and a half ago) we realized we had information to share and something to say - so we jumped on in to this online community and haven't looked back! 

What is your favourite thing about blogging? I love the authentic connections I'm lucky enough to make online and in person as a result of sharing our lives. It's the biggest and most unexpected blessing! 

When it comes to blogging, what are 3 things you can't live without? My phone, my DSLR and my family! The blog would be pretty dang boring without them!!! 

What is your favourite place to get outside and explore in Ontario, and why? We love exploring the lakes in the Kawarthas - I grew up there and never tire of the scenery. Our new fave is the Evergreen Brickworks in Toronto - the urban trails are amazing, and the ravines are an escape right in the city! 

Find Emmett’s ABCs here:  Blog  //  Instagram  //  Twitter

Vanessa, Josephine a Creative Life

Vanessa from Josephine, A Creative Life

Describe yourself in 3 words. Creative, outgoing, caring. 

What is your blog about? Josephine is a lifestyle blog that explores simple & creative living.  The inspiration for this blog developed out of the creativity that comes from becoming a new parent, Josephine March of Louisa May Alcott’s famous novel, Little Women, a favourite literary heroine and my own desire to write. My blog is about loving the little things in life and focuses on moments in motherhood, family, slow living, simple sweet recipes and home life. I also feature Creative Career Moms and Small Shops monthly. 

How/when did you start blogging? I started blogging the week before my oldest was born. I always wrote in some form; either freelance for magazines, other blogs or just in my own journal and I decided I wanted to compile all of my writing and share stories with others on a regular basis. 

What is your favourite thing about blogging? One of my favourite things about blogging is the community it creates and the people I’ve connected with, there is such a beauty in the stories we get to share with one another. Blogging has also helped make my motherhood journey a little easier as it’s given me access to an entire online village!

When it comes to blogging, what are 3 things you can't live without?
Me time to get the words on paper, so moments of calm amidst the chaos that is motherhood and also including face-to-face interactions with people along the way. 

What is your favourite place to get outside and explore in Ontario, and why? I am a city girl at heart, I kind of come alive when I am in Toronto, which also happens to be my “home-town”.  I love the stories that people bring with them in the coffee shops, the streets that are always awake and the amazing interactions you can have on any given day. While I truly love the city, I  also enjoy breaks from the energy in the city and love spending time in the Kawarthas, relaxing and unwinding as well. 

Find Josephine, A Creative Life here:  Blog  //  Instagram  //  Facebook

Francesca, the Hungry Homemaker

Francesca from The Hungry Homemaker

Describe yourself in 3 words. Sarcastic, creative, hungry

What is your blog about? My blog is about the everyday easy and delicious food my family loves. With some stories from our everyday lives.

How/when did you start blogging? I stared my blog almost 4 years ago, and started taking it seriously just over a two years ago.

What is your favourite thing about blogging? My favourite thing about blogging is being able to connect with so many different people. I have made so many new friends through my blog that I would never have known otherwise. The sense of community I've found is amazing!

When it comes to blogging, what are 3 things you can't live without?My camera, music and something yummy to taste.

What is your favourite place to get outside and explore in Ontario, and why? My favourite place to get out and explore would be our local pumpkin farm and apple orchard. They're both so beautiful and hold so many family memories for us. 

Find The Hungry Homemaker here:  Blog  //  Instagram  //  Facebook

Erica, Anna Georgianna blog

Erica from Anna Georgianna

Describe yourself in 3 words. Loyal, Caring, Obsessive-Cleaner

What is your blog about? On my blog you will find products and companies that I love and feel passionate about. As well as recipes, our travels, and some stories from our life.

How/when did you start blogging? A little over 2 years ago when I was struggling with infertility I started my blog so that I would have something else to focus on other than not getting pregnant month after month. I never thought two years later I would still be doing it and love it so much! 

What is your favourite thing about blogging? Working with awesome brands and the community of bloggers, strong passionate (mostly) women, many of whom have become great friends with! 

When it comes to blogging, what are 3 things you can't live without?My phone, my laptop, my blogger friends

What is your favourite place to get outside and explore in Ontario, and why? Georgian Bay. My husband's grew up going to his family cottage there and has passed on his love for that spot to me. Watching the kids play on the beach and swim is my favourite. 

Find Anna Georgianna here:  Blog  //  Instagram  //  Twitter

Stay tuned for Part II on Thursday!

Who makes up your tribe? I'd love to hear about them!


October 26, 2017

Off to the Mountains: Best of Alaska

The mountains are calling, and we must go. Tomorrow we are saying adios to the concrete jungle of Toronto for 10 whole days in the mountains. Alaska, here we come!

To & Fro's Best of Alaska

Some may call us crazy. One, for visiting Alaska at a time when temperatures are hovering around freezing with the threat of snow and daylight hours are only seen during working hours. And two, for doing it all with a 19 month old who doesn't sit still. But we say, bring it on. After living there for three winters, we know the unpredictable weather we're in for. And doing it with our daughter makes it all that much more exciting (and, ahem, unpredictable). 

So, while we are exploring the land that we love and reconnecting with friends that we haven't seen in a while, I leave you with To & Fro's "Best of Alaska" posts, or what I've affectionately renamed as my "Alaska Pusher Series". Because if these posts don't convince you to plan a trip to the Land of the Midnight Sun, I don't know what will. 

Learn about our connection to Alaska here and here, and ultimately why and how we said goodbye here

To & Fro's Best of Alaska

Planning a Trip:
Alaska Travel Planning Resources
Where to start when planning a trip to Alaska. A list of websites to learn the what, how, where and when of visiting the Land of the Midnight Sun.

How to Pack for Alaska
Don't know how or what to pack? Confused by the weather? Start here.

To & Fro's Best of Alaska

Things to See:
Wildlife Viewing in Alaska
Alaska is home to a diverse amount of wildlife. This post shares the animals you may see and where you may see them.

Denali's Big 5
Denali National Park and Preserve is a must see on every Alaskan adventurer's bucket list. Check out just a few of the amazing animals you may spot during your visit.

Must See Phenomena in Alaska
From the animals to the landscapes, Alaska is a continuous buffet for the eyes. These are a few of the phenomena you may have the chance to view during your trip.

To & Fro's Best of Alaska

Places to See:
Rafting Down the Kenai River, Alaska
A girls' rafting trip down the Kenai River, one of Alaska's famous fishing rivers.

Prince William Sound
A weekend adventure deep sea fishing on Prince William Sounds.

26 Glaciers
A wildlife cruise through Prince William Sound to view 26 glaciers.

Down By Kachemak Bay
A failed attempt at a fishing trip out on Kachemak Bay.

To & Fro's Best of Alaska posts

Don't forget to follow our trip on Instagram (@toandfro21).

Have you been to Alaska? I'd love to hear your favourite places to visit, or if it's on your bucket list! 


October 24, 2017

Traveling with a Toddler: Busy Bags

Remember that time last year when we booked flights to Alaska, but didn't end up going? 

Long story short, flights got changed on the airlines’ end. So, instead of a "quick" travel day, we were being rerouted out of the way through Texas and back up. Ya, tell me how that makes sense. 

Anyways, with a three month old in tow, we said a big fat "No thanks!" to that one and instead went to Edmonton to visit my sister and attend a friend’s wedding. Everything happens for a reason.

Traveling with a Toddler: Busy Bags

Well, we're at it again. Flights are booked and we're heading back to Alaska, THIS WEEK! If you follow me on Insta, then you've probably seen my countdown.  Clearly, I'm a tad bit excited. 

While I am really excited for our first visit back to Alaska since 2014 (and the first with Morley), one thing I am not looking forward to? The flight itself. Or should I say, flights… plural. It’s going to be a loooonnnngggg travel day my friends. 

Things were a bit different at three months when Morley took her first flight to Edmonton, and then again at 10 months to Cuba. The flights were much shorter and she had yet to find her legs, or her opinion on things.

Traveling with a Toddler: Busy Bags

So, how do you keep a busy bee toddler occupied (and happy) on a trip from Toronto to Anchorage, and one with three legs? Naturally, I reached out to experienced girlfriends, and Pinterest, for the answer.

The solution? A "busy bag".

Busy bags are a great way to keep toddlers quietly occupied. Or, in the case of Morley, most likely just occupied. Whether on a long road trip or long flight, busy bags are engaging activities that your child can do independently. 

Now, my husband would tell you that I way over did it, and there's a good chance that I probably did. But, I would much rather be over prepared than the opposite. And let's be honest here, at the end of the day, there's a good chance these activities and snacks will also keep mom and dad’s minds off the long travel day and lack of sleep as well. 

Check out how we created a busy bag for Morley below.

Traveling with a Toddler: Busy Bags

What’s in My Toddler’s Busy Bag?

Colouring book
Coloured foam pieces
Window clings
Bracelets and hair clips
Cuddle+kind stuffy

A great place to shop for supplies is at your local dollar store. They have a ton of options, at an affordable price. I only packed items that were small and could be sorted, stacked or otherwise moved from place to place. The beauty of cheap, small toys is if they happen to get lost between seats or on the floor, it really doesn't matter. 

Don’t forget about the snacks. Snacks are just as important as the toys. We used a small zippered lunch cooler to hold everything - goldfish crackers, cheese and crackers, fruit snacks, apple sauce pouches and chocolate chip bear paws. I did not want to use a transparent bag, because she would be able to see inside of it, and would eat her way through the bag. (I mean that in the nicest way possible.)

You can choose any bag to put the entire busy bay in. I opted to put everything in Morley’s school backpack from MEC simply for recognition, because she knows it is “Moley’s bag”. With how she is, the bag itself will also become a toy - unzipping and zipping it back up. 

Traveling with a Toddler: Busy Bags

Additional Tips for Creating a Busy Bag for Your Toddler

Plan ahead. Pick up items as you shop in advance of the trip.

Know your limits. Check airplane guidelines prior to creating your bag. Remember that there are rules on size and liquids. Avoid heavy and bulky items, such as books.

Be creative. When visiting the dollar store, think outside the box. Visit the kitchen and even health and beauty aisles.

Cater to their favourite things. Base the selection on what works for your child and their interests. Morley loves colours and loves to sort, so I included things like foam shapes and coloured popsicle sticks. She also loves to colour, so a colouring book and crayons were mandatory. If they have a favourite stuffy or blankie, make sure to include those items as well for added comfort.

But, mix in some new. Window clings and playdoh are something she's never experience before. Yes, the playdoh may make a mess, but I don't care. It will do its job and keep her occupied.

Buy doubles and split things up. Remember there is a return trip. Chances are, you could pick up some items while on your trip to include in your return busy bag, but if something works on the way there, why change a good thing? Bring refills in your carry-on luggage to restock for the way home. If you buy large packages of something, split them up. 

Keep it top secret! Don't let your child see the contents beforehand. Keeping everything fresh will create added excitement. You can also wrap items to add even more intrigue, and waste more time with them having to unwrap. I opted not to wrap the items, simply because I did not want the extra paper waste.

Safety first. Some of the items I included are considered choking hazards, or for children 3+. Make sure to supervise your toddler at all times.

Traveling with a Toddler: Busy Bags

And if all else fails, let's pray the iPad can hold its battery life...

Wish us luck! Stay tuned to social for how we made out, and for a review of Morley's thoughts on the busy bag when we return.

Have you ever taking a long flight with a toddler? I’d love to hear your tips and tricks!

Note: This post contains affiliate links at no additional cost to you. Thank you for your continued support of To & Fro. 

October 13, 2017

50 Essential Fall Activities

Happy (finally) fall! In our next of the woods, the weather is finally starting to feel like the season it says on the calendar. 

While I am sad to see summer go, I am not at all sad to say goodbye to that humidity. I swear, as I get older, I get less and less a fan of the heat. Bring on sweater weather.

Take advantage of changing colours, cool crisp air, festive harvest and all of other fall goodness with these 50 essential fall activities, including some of my family's favourites.

Fall Bucket List: 50 Essential Fall Activities

50 Essential Fall Activities

  1. Go apple picking.  
  2. Make an apple crisp.
  3. Visit the pumpkin patch.
  4. Carve a pumpkin.
  5. Go Trick or Treating.
  6. Drink hot apple cider.
  7. Take a road trip to see the changing leaves.
  8. Visit the animals at the local zoo.
  9. Make your favourite fall soup recipe.
  10. Give thanks.
  11. Go for a fall hike.
  12. Go to a farmer's market.
  13. Drink a pumpkin spice latte.
  14. Eat pumpkin pie.
  15. Bake a pie.
  16. Eat a turkey feast.
  17. Press fall leaves.
  18. Watch Halloween movies.
  19. Add to your fall wardrobe.
  20. Watch a fall sunset.
  21. Sit under the harvest moon.
  22. Go for a hayride.
  23. Pack away your summer clothes.
  24. Eat corn on the cob.
  25. Visit a fall fair.
  26. Spend time with family.
  27. Go fall camping. 
  28. Make a pinecone bird feeder.
  29. Visit a local u-pick farm.
  30. Try a new fall vegetable.
  31. Make your own Halloween costume.
  32. Celebrate Oktoberfest with beer and sausage.
  33. Throw a Halloween party.
  34. Tour a local winery.
  35. Breathe in the cool, crisp air.
  36. Collect pinecones.
  37. Create a festive fall table centrepiece.
  38. Build a bonfire.
  39. Have a picnic in the park.
  40. Wear flannel.
  41. Go to a haunted house.
  42. Play in the leaves.
  43. Photograph the changing colours.
  44. Plan your winter vacation.
  45. Get lost in a corn maze.
  46. Roast pumpkin seeds.
  47. Learn to knit your own chunky scarf.
  48. Dust off your boots.
  49. Cook with vegetables in season.
  50. Go on a ghost walk.

Fall Bucket List: 50 Essential Fall Activities

Related articles >> Winter, Spring & Summer Essential Activities

What activities are on your fall bucket list? I'd love to hear!

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