Living Locally Fair(ly)

The Living Local Fair is a must do event for locavores, foodies and craft lovers in and around Ottawa.

It was my first time attending this fast growing fair and it did not disappoint.

I headed out to St. Thomas Aquinas high school in Russell, Ont., yesterday with my 3.5 year old for some mother-daughter time.

She loves going to fairs and markets with me because she sometimes gets her face painted and always ends up with a tasty treat (or two).

I love it because it’s a wholesome approach to shopping that is unparalleled by any other shopping experience.

By taking my girls to community events like these, they will learn the value in meeting the growers and vendors whose very hands produce and provide top quality goods and edibles. They will see how people use their resources, skills and talent to develop thriving businesses. They will cherish the community in which they live. They will know where their food comes from.

Plus, it’s a really great social event and the cheese is always so amazing.

So off we went to the Fair in Russell, a quaint rural(ish) municipality, only 30 minutes from the capital.

It drew a large crowd of people from all over the region and there is something spectacular about a large group of like-minded people gathering to support local artisans, food producers, farmers, businesses and organizations.

There are so many vendors and exhibitors that the the lower level classrooms are transformed into vendor rooms. The gym, cafeteria and hallways were filled with wonderful products and people.

From locally produced cheeses, meats and honey, to organic seeds and teas, and a theatre group painting youngster’s faces, there was something for everyone. Including this little one.


It’s always nice to see familiar people from farmers markets around the city and to meet some some new faces.

Including this guy.

How I love this guy.

He is an eco exhibit created to bring awareness to the waste we produce. 

And what a great lesson he teaches and a perfect place to be displayed.

Pods are not recyclable, compostable, reusable or biodegradeable.

In fact, Keurig’s Green Mountain fiscal report for 2015 states that it sold more than 10.5 billion pods that year alone.

Ann, the very kind volunteer who greeted us on upon our arrival, and who later directed us towards the face painting booth, was the teacher behind this eco project.

She also brought a greenhouse and garden to the school. 

I am a firm believer that schools (and parents and caregivers, too) should teach students the importance of gardening and growing food and here is Ann, doing it.

I hope that my own children have teachers like Ann. I wish I would have had teachers like her.

A lot of people truly care about eco matters and it’s refreshing to see them educating the young and the not so young.

I’m sure she and her pod monster inspired a few people at the Fair to rethink the waste they produce. She undoubtedly inspires her students and colleagues everyday. 

The Living Locally Fair was a great experience on so many fronts and I picked up some delicious treats along the way.

I just wish it happened more than just once a year! 

My loot. Some are old favs, including the amazing blue cheese from the Fromagerie Montebello, peperettes from Trillium Meadows and duck eggs (a rareity this time of year). And some new products to try, including sausages from Korean sausages from L & J Foods, nuts from Owl’s Nest and organic seeds from Greta’s Organic Seeds.

Better Easter Junk…er, gifts

With Easter upon us, I can’t help but reflect on the amount of junk that will fill garbage and recycling bins this weekend.

It seems that the commercial portion of Easter has an excessive amount of plastic, useless toys and really gross treats. (I won’t even comment on the big freaky rabbit.)

I scratch my head at the palm sized bunnies that squeak when you touch their feet or the little ducklings that sit in an egg and peep.

Sure they keep dollar stores open but do they serve any other purpose?

Since spring is finally here, why not consider getting the kids some outdoor activities like sidewalk chalk, skipping ropes or balls instead of candy and chocolate.

Better yet, get them some seeds and gardening gloves. Show them how magical spring really is and how quickly seedlings grow. By the time the plastic ducks and bunnies are in the landfill, the kids will still be watching their little miracles grow!

Happy Easter,

Jill

Adventures in pre-loved toys

I have to admit, the enchantment of walking into a well stocked toy store sends me to a warm, happy place filled with memories of my childhood. I love seeing the stacks of puzzles and games, the ornate displays of trains and dolls, the beautiful stars and ribbons that hang from the ceiling and the stuffed animals that fill every square inch.

I loved receiving toys as a child and I now love giving them just as much.

But I’m much more aware now that I have a significant impact on the environment and I’m weary of the influence that consumerism has upon our lives.

I don’t buy products that come in a fortress of packaging – it drives me mad because it needlessly increases the cost of products and wastes precious resources.

But is it possible to avoid plastic packaging and excessive consumerism when toy shopping for children?

The answer is yes. (And I’m saving bundle doing it too.)

The trick is in pre-loved toys.

Toys2

The shopping experience might not be as whimsical as what some toy stores can offer but it can be a lot more fun and rewarding.

And since the packaging has long since been disposed of, it’s the dream of every thrifty-eco-savvy family!

I am a big fan of consignment stores because it’s a win/win for everyone involved. The buyer saves money and both the seller and the consignment store make money.

Our local consignment store is owned by a lovely woman who has two young kids. She employs local people, helps local families and promotes local events. The money I spend there stay in the community and that’s important to me.

As an added bonus, there’s a corner for kids so I bring my toddler along with me and she can read, hang out and play.

Some of the deals are impressive, especially when there’s a seasonal sale.

I paid $12 for more than 200 pieces of big blocks. Since it’s easy to spend a small fortune on building a good collection of blocks, I’m still quite pleased with this deal. I would have spent $100 buying these new. I even got a princess costume for a dollar. A dollar!

Another of my favourite places for pre-loved toys are garage sales  – especially in neighbourhoods with a lot of families.

Families on a street in our old neighbourhood held a multiple family garage sale every summer and it was a lot of fun. Kids were running cookie, juice, lemonade and hot dog stands while their parents sold their toys. Brilliant. I scored a lot of amazing stuff for really cheap and we made a fun morning out of it.

An added bonus was picking up a lot of books for just a couple dollars and an elaborate wood bead maze for $3.

We all know that building a good book collection is another expensive undertaking. We’re a bilingual family and I have a hard time finding used books in French so I usually have to buy them at full price. Luckily used English children’s books are a dime a dozen at garage sales.

And since my toddler has a knack for destroying them, I really dislike spending a lot of money on books. To bring them back to life, I spent $10 on book tape and repair torn pages or broken board books with some handy book tape I picked up. (Now she thinks I can fix anything.)

Ride-on toys are hard to come across in the pre-loved toy realm. They are the most elusive item I’ve yet to come across. It would seem that the super early birds snatch them up. Luckily, I happen to know one of these super early birds.

My daughter’s old daycare provider is a volunteer member of a group that puts together a not-for-profit used children’s toy, clothing and equipment sale with all proceeds going back into the community. Since she gets first dibs on the sale item as a volunteer, she shops the night before the sale open to the public.

She found us a coupe in perfect condition for $15. They retail for more than that retails for more than $70.

More importantly than saving cash, I’m happy knowing that my money went back in the community and not in the hands of the already super wealthy retail stores.

There are so many amazing deals to be had outside the traditional toys shops. The thrill is not in walking into an elaborate toy store, but rather it’s in putting money back into my community, keeping packaging out of landfills and showing my children that their decisions make a difference.