Love to shop local and share finds with others. Also covering industry news and trends.
Author: Christina Wallaert
I have always enjoyed finding unique things to buy that no one else has. Most of those types of things tend to come from smaller companies or brands so in the past I would write about all these great things on my blog Not a Shopaholic. This blog picks up from where I left off on that one as well expands on it to discuss trends and my comments and thoughts on industry news.
I can't wait to share all this info with you. I hope it is as much fun to read as it is to write. Thanks for joining me.
When we brought Chico Jones home early last year everyone was excited to come meet him. My best girlfriend, who was made honorary Godmother to CJ, and her family were some of the first friends to come by to welcome CJ home. Her twin boys have known for a long time we were going to get a dog and after years of hearing us talk about it, they were excited to come meet him.
Being the kind sweet person she is, CJ’s Godmother went to an independently owned pet store in Aurora, ON where she lives to get some help in picking out the perfect welcome gifts for Chico Jones. It was the first time we were introduced to Crumps’ naturals, a wonderful Canadian and locally owned and operated pet food brand. I am forever grateful my friend and the wonderful person at the store who recommended she bring us these treats and make us a fan of this amazing brand.
Included in Chico Jones’ “Welcome Home” gift was a package of Crumps’ Mini Trainers Freeze Dried Beef Liver. I loved that they were already precut into tiny pieces so we could reward Chico Jones many times without overloading him on treats. He loved them from the first time he tried them and they have become a staple in our house ever since. They are perfect rewards for training and good behaviour. His love for these led me to try some other products from Crumps and everything has been a winner. Chico Jones is a huge fan of the Sweet Potato Fries, Sweet Potato Chews, Mini Trainers Semi Moist Beef and Semi Moist Chicken and most recently the Beef Tendersticks. Its gotten to the point where if Chico Jones sees me going for the bag of whichever Crumps treats we have on the go, he runs to his dog bed and assumes his “I’m a good boy” stance for which he is promptly rewarded.
Since CJ is my first pet ever, I was not familiar with any dog food/treat brand. When I looked up Crumps and saw that they only use natural ingredients that contain a single ingredient I was hooked. As a puppy, we were careful what we fed CJ so he didn’t get an upset stomach. Now that he is considered an adult (only in size not always in behaviour), it is just as important he gets quality food and treats. A brand like this was in line with what we wanted him to consume and I felt good knowing we were giving him food that was healthy and didn’t have anything weird in it. I also love the brand was started thirteen years ago by a couple in their garage in Caledon, ON, not far from where I grew up, and has since grown into the vast array of products it now has.
Most pet stores carry a wide variety from Crumps but if there is something you have trouble finding, you can buy it directly from the Crumps website. I did this mid covid days so I didn’t have to drive to multiple stores to get what I wanted. Delivery was very quick and we are still working our way through that supply. Shipping is free on orders over $40. They share a discount code on their Instragram account, @crumpsnaturals, so you should give that a follow. I also love seeing their posts of pets loving their Crumps treats. Chico Jones is not alone in his love for quality treats. We love being part of the #Crumpscrew.
When working from home (before I lost my job) and social distancing looked like it was going to be a long term reality, one of the things I decided to do was embark on a quest to find the best Chocolate Chip cookie recipe.
I had a recipe I had been using for years and wasn’t very happy with it. With my last job giving me a lot of access to books and recipes because of that, I decided to start going through them and trying different cookie recipes to see if I could do better than what I had. The other reason I decided on embark on this quest was for comfort and stress relief. Cookies make everything better was my thinking and what is more comforting than a chocolate chip cookie?
Its been a few months into my quest now and I have amassed quite a few different chocolate chip cookie recipes. Some came from my recipe books, some from baking aficionado friends and others from people on social media who left comments about their favourite. Its to the point now where I have had to start a list to keep track of recommended recipes I have yet to try. That is why I thought I would a blog post about it. Quite a few people are interested in which recipes I am trying and what my findings are. I am going to document all of it here for you. Plus at the end I’ll list all the recipes on my “To Try” list and update this post as I make them.
To start I made my original recipe I’ve been using for years. I wrote it out by hand, presumably from a website and have been using it at least 10 years. I’ve had it for so long I don’t even remember where I got it from. I thought it was from Simply Recipes but I can’t find it there. I will type it out at the end of this post so its visible for comparison sake. I’ve always struggled with this recipe. I think there is too much flour and have tried reducing it. If you make the recipe as is, the cookies don’t flatten enough for my liking and end up tasting kind of dry. Changing the amount of flour to less resulted in the cookies being flat as pancakes which also isn’t ideal. So a new search began.
The first new recipe I tried was from the book “Magnolia Table” by Joanna Gaines. The recipe was surprisingly simple with ingredients most regular bakers would always have on hand. I liked the specific instructions regarding how long to mix ingredients in your stand mixer and at what speed. I followed everything as instructed and the cookies turned out well. This recipe uses only brown sugar, no granulated sugar, which was a first for me. Underestimating how much sugar was required to what I had left, I was a bit short so I may make these again to see if it makes a difference. Despite that, the cookies still turned out great. Already this was an improvement over the recipe I had been using.
Next I tried the recipe on the package of Chipits chocolate chips. This one was my least favourite. I made it twice, one day after the next. I was so unhappy with how the first batch turned out, I made it again the next day with some modifications. I increased the amount of flour, decreased the baking temperature and time. With those changes the cookies did turn out much better but I wouldn’t make this again.
The third recipe I tried was the Original Nestle Toll House Chocolate Chip Cookie. This was a suggestion by a friend of mine. This one is touted as the classic chocolate chip cookie and I have to say so far out of all the recipes I had done until now, this one was the favourite. Recipe as is was great, no changes needed. Baking time and temperature were perfect. It was easy to do and the cookies were so chewy! I made this one twice so far as well because they were sooooo good. I made them without the nuts since I wanted a classic cookie. Next time I make this I will add nuts.
After a bit of a break, we were getting cookied out and I was gaining a few pounds, I decided to try a recipe that was suggested to me by a twitter follower. He liked it so much he did a blog post about why it was his favourite. The recipe comes from the powerhouse brand, Company’s Coming. You may remember their establishments at your friendly neighbourhood mall back in the day. I sure do. I have a cheese ball recipe from them that was introduced to me by a friend years ago and I still make it. All that to say very good things come out of Company’s Coming.
As of now, this cookie is by far the best one yet. Interesting to note this recipe also uses only brown sugar and one ingredient I don’t normally associate with cookies, cornstarch. The entire list of ingredients combines for yummy goodness. I have made these twice as well. The second time I added walnuts. My oven tends to run hotter than than what its temperature says so I found taking these cookies out of the oven after 9 minutes worked perfect. One batch I left in for 10 minutes and they burned.
A few weeks ago Doubletree by Hilton released the recipe for its chocolate chip cookies guests receive upon arrival. Several friends tagged me on this one and thank you. I made this one a few nights ago and its not bad. I was surprised by some of the ingredients in this one as well. Oats in chocolate chip cookies? Lemon juice, cinnamon? I had some reservations and they turned out to not be true. These cookies are quite good. I would place them 3rd on my list of top favourites. The oats give the cookies a different texture and look. I like the lower baking temperature at 300 degrees and the longer baking time. Often I have found one minute can make a difference between chewy cookies and crispy cookies so I appreciated having more time to control that. This might be another one that gets made for a second time so I can add walnuts. As is though, very good.
I would like to add I’ve taking to making my cookies on the smaller side. When you are eating several in a day (I’m trying to cut down I swear), calorie wise it helps if they are smaller.
Those are all my completed recipes to date. The list of potential recipes to make at a future date is below. If you have any recipes you think I should try, send me a note and I will add it to the list.
Martha Stuart Chocolate Chip Cookies
Levain Bakery Chocolate Chip Crush Cookies
Melt in your Mouth Chocolate Chip Cookies
Mini Chip Butter Crisps
Chewy Chocolate Chip Cookies (vegan) – Fraiche Food Full Hearts
Perfect Chocolate Chip Cookies – The Perfect Cookie
Everything Chocolate Chip Cookies – The Cookie Book
When I started working in the e-commerce department at Home Depot in 2006 it was a very different landscape than what you see today. There were very few websites in Canada at the time. Trying to convince Home Depot store vendors e-commerce was worth the time and effort for their products was a constant battle. The Retail Buyers did not love us. We were seen as taking sales away from them. Online exclusive product was seen as competition to the stores, not the enhanced offering it was meant to be. Thank goodness that mindset over the years has changed.
One of the areas I have seen the most progress in is content. Back in 2006, there was hardly any quality content available. Sometimes brands had to actually create copy for us and pay to have images taken. At the time, that was seen as pretty hefty investment and few wanted to do it. For vendors, coming up with product copy and images was time and effort they didn’t want to spend. And lets be honest, the return on that investment at the time was going to be minimal. Some of the images we received were so bad they looked like they had been taken by someone with a digital camera in their garage. Countless times, we received images that were dark, blurry and on some weird background. E-commerce wasn’t important and they definitely didn’t see the value it in. Then try to convince US brands to pay for french translation and you had some pretty big hurdles to get over before getting product online.
Fast forward over a decade and e-commerce has come a long way. Many brands have invested a huge amount of time and money into producing great content, images, videos, copy, to sell their product and tell their brand story. To the point where at my last job, we couldn’t even use all of the content being offered to us. Older websites didn’t have the capacity to house more than a few images and video was out of the question. Asking vendors what content they had available was an entire discussion in itself and if they didn’t have what you were looking for, they said they would CREATE IT FOR YOU! That is how far we have come folks.
Now in a time of global pandemic, e-commerce is one of the ways retailers and brands are still able to sell to consumers. No doubt it is helping keep some afloat right now. For retailers and brands who didn’t have an eCommerce site up and running before this, I’m sure they reacted very quickly, possibly at the expense of sacrificing experience over efficiency. Regardless, at this time, it was the right thing to do. Unfortunate it took something so extreme to get them to move in the e-commerce direction. Platforms like Shopify have made it easier for smaller businesses to have a professional looking website. I’m impressed every time I see a small business launch and their website is already capable of taking and fulfilling orders. Its great to see and allows me to replenish products from smaller brands I wouldn’t be able to buy from otherwise.
I hope in the future this channel continues to be as important as it is now. Countless articles spell out the advantages of offering multiple channels for customers to shop. It will be interesting to see what happens to e-commerce once things return to normal. Will companies still place as high of an importance on e-commerce sites? What kind of funding will there be to improve it? From my side, what can we do as Buyers to shift our experience over to this channel? Personally I am of the mindset that Retail Buyers are not as necessary as they once were. For websites, some kind of product management is still needed in some capacity, so what can we do to prepare for that? If I figure it out, I will let you know.
One of my favourite things to do in the Fall is go apple picking. It feels like I wait all year long to drive out to a farm to pick apples. To me, it seems like the start of getting ready for the cold to come. As long as I have apples, I can make applesauce and apple crisp to get us through the cold long winter. In my opinion, the apples picked fresh from a farm are far tastier than anything I’ve ever bought in a grocery store. So every year, I pick a farm, drive out to the country and pay a ton of money for farm fresh, pick my own apples. Macintosh are my apple of choice.
In the past I have dragged my boyfriend, a somewhat reluctant participant in this activity. He definitely enjoys the baked goods that come out of it but he is not a fan of the actual process. This year I was lucky enough to find a more enthusiastic apple picking partner. An avid fan of Fall, Sebrina is the perfect partner for a Fall country adventure. Sebrina’s friend also had the scoop on a farm out in Milton, ON that didn’t charge an admission fee (that’s right, most farms around here charge you for the opportunity to pick your own apples + the cost of the apples). Wheelbarrow Orchards, is where we were directed to go and we took a lovely scenic route up Appleby Line to get there. While it is true they do not charge admission fees (thank you) they do have you buy a bag from their market for your apple picking. The beauty of that is once you fill your bag you can leave. No having to stand in a line to get apples weighed and be shocked by your total.
Two sizes of bags are offered, a 10lb bag (small) and 20lb bag (large). The prices for each are inline with what I have seen at other farms. I purchased a large bag for $42 which I thought was reasonable compared to other places I have been. Once you buy your bag, off to the apple orchard you go! You have the option of taking a wagon ride out to the orchards or walking. We walked to the furthest end of the orchard (to get the best availability of apples) and it only took about 10 minutes. I can see the wagon ride being easier if you have children, plus its more fun and should be part of any apple picking experience. Note that a large full bag of apples is quite heavy so you may want to take the wagon back in. Not a problem for us since Sebrina is much stronger than I and helped carry my heavy bag.
We went last weekend of September and there was still good availability for Macintosh, Spartan, Empire and Cortland. Gala apples were pretty much gone. Honeycrisp apples are available for purchase in the market only. You cannot pick those yourself. Any other variety seems to be fair game as long as you time your visit accordingly.
Once we were done picking apples, we decided to check out the goodies in the market. I highly recommend you do this. The variety of salad dressings, jams, jellies, sauces and baked goods were mouth watering! You can also try a sample of their cider, hard and regular. Their sparkling water is also quite delicious. I exerted some uncharacteristic self control and came away with only Balsamic Maple Vinaigrette Salad Dressing, Maple BBQ and Dipping Sauce, Sparkling water, some fudge and a butter tart. So far I have had everything except the bbq sauce and everything is delicious! I could see myself making a trip out there just to stock up on some the dressing and sauces.
A big thank you to the staff in the market who were so friendly and helpful in assisting us with our choices. I hope to see you again very soon. Pretty sure I will be back next year for apple picking and maybe before that for some non apple goodies.
Photo Credit: all photos taken by Sebrina Bromfield. Used with permission.
I’ve wanted a dog my whole life. Like every other kid probably does, I remember asking my mom if we could get a dog, several times, and her answer was always no. As an adult, realizing what goes into raising children, taking care of a household and taking care of the family (husband included) I can see why her answer was no.
When I moved out of my parents house into my condo, I seriously considered getting a dog. After much thought and consideration I came to the conclusion it wouldn’t be the right thing to do. The dog would be home alone to much and it wouldn’t be fair. When my boyfriend and I started looking for a house a few years ago I knew this would finally be the right time.
Fast forward a few years. We got settled into the house, painted and started to plan renovations. Last year we started (I started) searching for a dog for us. Ryan was adamant he wanted to adopt a rescue dog and I agreed, knowing we could give a dog in need a very loving home and a great life. It seems that all the rescue organizations I got in touch with thought differently. They didn’t consider us good candidates. That we had never had a dog together previously and both worked outside the home seemed the biggest strikes against us. We also did not have experience dealing with the types of issues that sometimes come with rescue dogs so the dogs we could consider for adoption were few and far between. The odd time we did find a dog suitable for us, there were multiple families interested and we knew with our inexperience we would never be selected over others and we never were.
After months of this, we were very discouraged and made the decision to look for a puppy. While I’m sure all the #adoptdon’tshop believers will be up in arms about this, it was really the only way I saw us being able to get a dog. I started looking for breeders for Portuguese Water Dog puppies. I found a breeder and we began the process of going to meet him and his dogs to make sure Ryan wasn’t allergic (he wasn’t thank goodness), sent in our deposit and got on the list for the next litter. That litter didn’t work out for us but the next one did. Our little guy was born late November 2018 and we brought our baby home end of January 2019. Ryan wanted to name him Jones. I’ve always wanted a dog named Chico so I combined the names and he is now known to everyone as Chico Jones.
There were many people who warned us how much work a puppy would be and they weren’t wrong. I didn’t care how much work it was. I had wanted a dog for so long and was finally going to have one. I was willing to do whatever was necessary to raise a good dog. People were not exaggerating, it was a ton of work and some very sleepless nights. We never could have done it without the help of family. When we couldn’t be home, a rotating array of family members were here to care for Chico Jones for which we are very grateful. When I lost my job, I became the one who took care of him all day. I’m grateful for this time with him. He is still a puppy and needs ongoing training. The fact I’m here all day every day now means I can dedicate more time to his care and training. We love him so much even when he is being bad and one of us has to walk away for a break.
There is such an education in terms of what to get our puppy to keep him occupied. From stuffed bones, to tug toys and treat balls and Kongs we are learning as we go. From friends and coworkers and our wonderful training school, we have picked up many tips along the way. For a shopper like me, its opened up a whole new world of stores and products to look at. I love the challenge of figuring out what our little guy needs and what he might like best.
For all the people who told us puppies/dogs were a lot of work and absolutely worth it, you were bang on. I love our life with Chico Jones and can’t wait to see what adventures we get to share with him. Stay tuned for future updates on puppy shenanigans, adventures and favourite toys.
When we moved to Burlington a few years ago, we decided to do a monthly date night to get out and see what our new city had to offer. The deal was one person picks, the other pays and we flip every month. I’m so glad we started doing this and have come across quite a few gems that are now on a list of recommendations we give to other people. If your every in the Burlington area I hope you’ll give one of these places a try.
This was the first place we ever went to for date night (I picked it) and in my opinion its still the best restaurant we have been to so far. We have been back with some friends since the inaugral visit. Food is fantastic, service is incredible and both times we have been there the owner/chef has come to our table to ask how everything was. I do not recall that happening at any other restaurant I have been to.
For dinner we have always made reservations and I would encourage you to do so. It is quite popular and I could see it filling up quickly, especially on weekends.
Located in the Village Square in downtown Burlington, Rayhoon is the kebob specialist. We have also been back to this place after our initial date night dinner (BF’s pick, to be fair), and enjoy trying different things. I especially like the card on the table that provides the proper instructions for eating your kabob meal. It involves cutting up the tomato and adding a seasoning which I can’t remember the name of right now. The kabobs are very tasty and the meat tender.
Also in downtown Burlington, not far from Rayhoon, Son of a Peach is a pizzeria that does not disappoint. Just from the name alone you would give it a try. Pizza is one of my all time favourite foods and I am always ready to try a new pizza place. We ate here on a friday night around 7pm and it was very busy so keep that in mind. We had to wait about half an hour for a table. A friend told me the Garlic Knots are excellent. We didn’t have them but saw them being carried out to many tables and they do look delicious.
This restaurant is in a plaza we are in on a regular basis so didn’t have to search to far for this date night choice. I love cashew chicken and tend to stop looking at the menu as soon as I find it which was the case here. Had to ordered a side of rice with it, as I usually have to do in most thai restaurants, and to me it would be incomplete without it. Service was good, food was good and quality was great. The staff seemed genuinely happy to have us in their restaurant and if felt like a family was making our meal.
This wasn’t a date night restaurant but a pick for my birthday dinner last year. I selected it largely based on Trip Advisor reviews which were very favourable. They were absolutely correct and this is one of the best birthday dinners I’ve ever had. When you book a reservation online you can enter if your celebrating an event. I entered we were celebrating a birthday and when we got to the restaurant, our table had little birthday decorations on it! What a great touch. All the food we had was amazing, the service impeccable and a manager came over a few times to ask how everything was. This is the sister restaurant to Lake House Restaurant which you may have seen on the way to Niagara. After our great experience at Stone House, we are anxious to try Lake House.
Pictures below of our decorated table and dinners at Stone House. Ryan had the prime rib and I had a pasta dish that I asked to have vegetables added to. Appetizers are in the top right photo. Everything was fantastic.
Unfortunately I do not have photos from all of our dinners. Ones I did have seem to have been deleted. In the future I promise to do a better job of including photos as I continue to highlight any new favourite date night places. If you end up trying one of the places on my list please let me know how you liked it.
I have always been slightly bothered by what a waste aluminum foil and saran wrap is. It seems silly to spend money on products that really only have a one time use. What bothers me even more is that even if those things aren’t dirty after you use them, you aren’t going to keep it for another day. It just didn’t make sense to me or seem efficient. If there is one thing I like to be it is efficient.
So when one day at work, a coworker told me about a product she had bought that was made out beeswax and from a local company, I felt that this was a product I could see myself making a commitment to.
The product is Beeswax Food Wraps and the ones I have are from the company “Mind Your Bees“. The wraps are sold in a variety of patterns and sizes. I purchased the Small Set which includes 1 Small 7×7, 1 Medium 10×10, 1 Large 13X14 . I wasn’t sure which size I would need or use so this was a good start for me. The wraps are sticky and the material sticks to itself once you fold it and wrap it around food or a container. I currently have one in use around sliced cheese and I have used the larger one to wrap up my banana bread. The only food the instructions say not to use it on is meat. Once its done doing the job, you wash it with cold water, air dry and put it away until the next time you need it. Each wrap is good for about 100 uses and can then be composted.
I have to say the wraps do come in handy and I am so glad I have them. I feel better knowing I’m using something more responsible to the environment and that I am helping to reduce our waste. It also feels good to support a local business, this one more local to me than some others. Mind Your Bees is made in Hamilton, ON which is practically down the street from us!
Ingredients: 100% premium cotton, local beeswax, organic jojoba oil, pine tree resin and coconut wax.
Hello and welcome back to those who used to follow my other Not A Shopaholic blog. Many years ago, I started Not A Shopaholic over on blogspot where I wrote about all kinds of cool and unique brands and products that were not at your local mall. I loved doing it and had great feedback about it but finding time to write it became a challenge so it ended up on the back burner.
Fast forward many years and as of May 2019, I found myself unemployed once again and in the cycle of job hunting and networking. As I was applying to jobs, I started to notice some online forms had a place where you could enter a personal website. Since I hadn’t kept up with Not A Shopaholic, I wouldn’t fill out that section out but it got me thinking and I started seriously considering starting it up again.
Other than time, the challenge I had originally was finding enough brands and products to write about. When your focus is non mainstream stuff, it takes a bit longer to find things you want to write about. So I decided if I was going to start writing again, I would branch out on topics. In addition to the core content of the original Not A Shopaholic, I will also be incorporating thoughts and views on trends and news in the business world, maybe throw in the odd story about our newest family member, our Portuguese Water Dog puppy: Chico Jones and also take you through some of the renos we are doing on the house. Nothing like a home that needs a ton of work and updating to open you up to new shopping opportunities!
That’s the plan right now. We will see how it all rolls out and adapt as new ideas and inspiration arise. I hope you will join me for the journey. Look forward to writing for you.