Wednesday, December 30, 2015

Bespoke Post "Distilled" Review


And here's the Bespoke Post box that I picked up for my husband for Christmas, the last of our super-awesome Groupon deal for a Bespoke Post subscription.  Ordinarily, a box is a little pricey at $45 US (or $55 for a one-time purchase).  Shipping to Canada is an extra $10 but I have found a few boxes that will not ship here (one I really wanted was "too heavy").  But I picked this one up for about $63 plus shipping with that deal.  Although I really love Bespoke Post's boxes, this will likely be our last for quite awhile as they are pricey to begin with. . . and exchange is killing my cross-border shopping these days :(  I won't cancel (yet) though because I can easily skip until there's a box I can't resist, our dollar gets better, or I need to pick up a great gift for someone.

Although Bespoke Post does ship once a month, their website allows you to skip a month or swap out the box they've selected for any other available box (there are usually a few new options as well as some old favourites).  If you forget to skip or swap, they will send you your default box for the month, as many of these types of subs do.  Billed as a men's subscription, I prefer to think of Bespoke Post as a lifestyle sub.  True, some boxes seem very geared towards men but a lot of them would appeal to anyone!

As for this box, Distilled, it's the perfect combination of two of my husband's favourite things:  science and gin :)  Seriously, it's like a chemistry set for booze - check it out:

Tuesday, December 29, 2015

Two Awesome Coupons: FabFitFun and Five Four Club!

*Last Call:  These codes expire today, 12/31/15!!

Yikes! The coupon codes are out in full force this week - must be the time of year. . . or perhaps the force awakening?? (*cringes* Don't throw fruit at me, please!)

I usually share coupon codes during my reviews if I can find any but these two are sooo awesome, I had to share them immediately!  I love both of these subs and rarely see deals this good so if you want to try them out, now's the time (with a little Christmas money, perhaps?).

FabFitFun is offering 25% off purchases of their Winter box - regular price is $49.95 (plus $8 shipping to Canada) so that's a great discount.  I haven't reviewed mine yet (it just arrived on Christmas Eve) but it's a really nice box and includes easily over $250 in value! I'll post my review as soon as I can but in the meantime, you could check out my review of the Fall box :)  Just enter coupon code OMG!

- and Five Four Club is offering 50% off your first two months! This sub is regularly $60 US plus $25 surcharge for Canadians (which works out to about $115 dollars at the moment) so this coupon will get you 2-3 gorgeous, quality men's clothing items per month for $55 US (if you're Canadian, or $30 US if you're not).  I would highly recommend checking this one out - my reviews are here (September, October and November) if you want to see what kind of items might arrive at your door.  Just enter coupon code FFWINTER!

Bespoke Post's 2015 BLKBX Review


Bespoke Post offers a special "Black Box" (BLKBX) with Black Friday purchases (boxes or shop purchases over $45, I believe) each year.  I have never received one. . . until now!  I knew that I wanted to get a Bespoke Post box for my husband's Christmas gift so, instead of waiting until the 1st, I picked it up on Black Friday and this box came free (and became a bonus gift from Santa).   

What is Bespoke Post?  Billed as a men's subscription, I prefer to think of Bespoke Post as a lifestyle sub.  True, some boxes seem very geared towards men but a lot of them would appeal to anyone!  So I was expecting some men's grooming and lifestyle items in here - and Bespoke Post did not disappoint.  Their regular subscription boxes are a little pricey at $45 US (or $55 for a one-time purchase).  Shipping to Canada is an extra $10 but I have found a few boxes that will not ship here (one I really wanted was "too heavy").  Boxes do ship once a month but you can easily skip a month or swap out the box they've selected for any other available box (there are usually a few new options as well as some old favourites).  If you forget to skip or swap, they will send you your default box for the month, as many of these types of subs do.  

This particular box was free with purchase (there will likely be another one next year FYI) but it will also show you the type of items and quality of products (I can not stress the quality enough!) that Bespoke Post offers.

First look:  lots of little, individually wrapped items :)

Friday, December 25, 2015

Frugal Fridays: A Christmas Thought

So, obviously I'm not doing a full-out FF post today - it's Christmas! I'm spending the day with family, especially with my boys :) Hopefully you're doing likewise. . . with your family. . . because it would be weird if you spent it with mine, lol! (unless you are my family)

Anyway, here's a frugal Christmas thought:

Your shopping is done.  The only thing you should be spending today is time with your loved ones :)

Merry Christmas everyone!

Tuesday, December 22, 2015

Fabletics December 2015: Return Experience for Canadians

Well, that's a bummer! I was sooo close to picking up the gorgeous black sweatshirt dress last month.  But I didn't.  So this month, I saw it in another colour (this gorgeous winter white / black heather) and needed it.  Urgently.  I pictured myself lounging in front of the Christmas tree, sipping a cup of Tea Sparrow with a sheet mask on. . . *sigh*.  Doesn't the model look so comfy? But it was not to be.  So this month's "review" post is going to be all about the Fabletics return process, and how it works for Canadians, instead!

For those who are unfamiliar with Fabletics, they offer monthly workout outfits (or loungewear, if you're more like me) starting at $49.95 for VIPs (and seemingly at $10 increments from that point depending on the items and the number of items - outfits tend to be 2 or 3 pieces).  It is a subscription program so at the beginning of each month, you must either choose an outfit or opt out for that month - if you fail to do either, you will be charged the $49.95 minimum cost although you can later use that money to make a purchase (it's not like a punishment fee or anything).  To make things even more enticing, Fabletics offers your first month at half price - that's $25 for one of the cheaper outfits (or half of whatever the cost is of the outfit you choose).  Note the phrasing there:  "first month" - that means that taking advantage of this offer will set you up in their VIP program and you will then either need to purchase/skip each month. . . or I guess you could take advantage of the offer and then cancel if you really wanted to.

Saturday, December 19, 2015

Bisou Beauty Bar Haul and Product Reviews


Well, it's been quite awhile since I've done a hauls post! I've been getting them. . . but, I don't know. . . I guess I didn't think they were all that interesting? What do you think? Would you like more hauls? Are you interested in more skincare posts? Let me know what you think!

That out of the way, I decided I simply had to share this one with you because I am so incredibly impressed with this new source for asian / k-beauty products and I am excited to tell you all about it!

Bisou Beauty Bar is relatively new on the scene and operates out of Vancouver, BC (that's in Canada for those international readers).  They source their products directly from Korea and currently ship via Canada Post to Canadian addresses and via Canada Post / USPS to American ones.  The best thing about having a (reliable) source for my favourite beauty and skincare products in Canada is that they charge in Canadian funds! And offer free shipping on orders over $65! With our dollar the way it is, sourcing these products from the States or from Korea can get rather pricey. . . while BBB's pricing is not rock-bottom (like Rose Rose Shop or even Tester Korea), not paying for shipping or exchange definitely makes up for it, imo.  Plus shipping is so fast (like under a week during peak holiday season!), they have lots of items on sale and include plenty of free samples with your order.

The selection is not huge but they are adding new items regularly and I am so happy to see lots of items from CosRX, Re:cipe, LJH and SU:M37 (among other brands) since they make some of my favourite things (or things I really want to try) and can sometimes be difficult to find elsewhere.  Love!

While I have included lots of links in this post, they are not affiliate links.  All opinions are my own:  I have not been compensated for any of this and I purchased all of these products with my own money.

Here's what I picked up in my very first Bisou haul: 

Friday, December 18, 2015

Frugal Fridays: 10 Things You Should Know About Planning a Wedding

Today is my 5th wedding anniversary.  Yup, my husband and I have officially been married for half a decade.  So this isn't going to be a terribly long post - we have some celebrating to do this evening which means I need to clean / tidy my house so the sitter (my mom) doesn't think we live in squalor. . . we don't. . . I promise.  But I digress.  Thinking about our wedding, and pulling out the pictures, reminded me of all the planning and hard work we put in to make our wedding the way we wanted it. . . on the budget we had to work with.  Hence this post!

So, without further ado, I present to you the 10 things I now know that I wish I could travel back in time and tell my pre-married self about planning a wedding.  And yes, that's a ridiculously long title for this list ;)

Tuesday, December 15, 2015

Julep December 2015 Review



Julep's December 2015 Collection is the "Up All Night Collection" and, lol, can I relate. . . but not in the fun, party way they expect! Between the toddler (who rarely wakes, to be fair) and the baby (who makes up for it), I sometimes feel like I am truly "Up All Night!"


Julep is a monthly nail polish subscription box / beauty subscription.  Their polishes are 5-free and vegan-friendly which I love! For $24.99 per month (or $19.99 per month if you sign up for 3 months up front), you will receive your choice of 2-3 nail polish / beauty items each month according to your profile.  "Classic With a Twist", "Bombshell" and "Boho Glam" profiles receive 2 polishes and 1 beauty item; "It Girls" receive 3 polishes and "Modern Beauties" receive 2 beauty items.  But now, no matter what profile you are, you can totally customize your box or even switch to a totally different box! And you can skip any month after your first month as a Maven (Welcome Boxes don't count).  Sounds perfect to me!  

If you're interested in trying out the subscription, my links will take you to a FREE Welcome Box, just pay the cost of shipping - this will sign you up for the subscription so be forewarned about that (if you scroll down though, you can get in for the 3 month rate of $19.99 per month).  Check out the Welcome Box I received here.  This is an American sub so do factor in the cost of exchange although, aside from Welcome Boxes, shipping is free for Mavens - even Canadian ones :)

On to the products!

Friday, December 11, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Checkout 51

First, thanks to my best friend for pointing me towards this next frugal service!  It's awesome to find new things to help save :)


Checkout 51 is another online service / app that issues you a cheque when you've saved enough cash - much like Ebates (and here's my post on how awesome Ebates is - we saved almost $100 on my husband's new computer!! No joke!).

Do you clip coupons for grocery shopping? Checkout 51 works kind of like that - except it's way easier and you don't have to carry around little pieces of paper with you.  Here's how it works:

Tuesday, December 08, 2015

Five Four Club November 2015 Review



And now for month three of Five Four Club, the third and final "Volume" for the autumn season.  Five Four has indicated a slight change this season in order to provide customers with a more cohesive range of outfits per season.  In September, my husband received two shirts - one dress shirt and one lightweight hoodie (that review here) and in October, a fantastic fall jacket and scarf (that review here).  What would arrive this month? Pants, right? Gotta be pants? How else can we call this a "cohesive range of outfits" if it includes no bottom half?

Never heard of Five Four Club? It is a men's clothing subscription out of California.  They have a lot of celebrity clients (including Mark Wahlberg) and offer a variety of Five Four-branded clothing items.  It is a little pricey at $60/month (especially for Canadians since there is an additional $25 surcharge for us - boo! - and exchange on top of that!) but there are, occasionally, deals to be had.  This was our first full-price month and it worked out to just about $115 with last month's exchange rates.  If you're interested, you could try coupon code AFMOMMY15 to get $15 off your first month or AVIATORS to pick up a free pair of sunglasses when you subscribe (I think they're both still working but if they're not, let me know and I'll adjust this).

When you join Five Four Club, you fill in a pretty detailed profile indicating your sizing and preferences so that your stylist can select the perfect items for you.  Last time we subbed, my husband signed up for "Business Casual" and picked up a lot of button-down shirts.  This time, he opted for "Mix" to get a little more variety - and he's definitely getting some more casual items, which he likes (his style is evolving!).  I notice that the style profiles have changed a bit from last year - Casual, Forward, Classic and Mix - which I like.

So, what did he get this month?

Sunday, December 06, 2015

Tea Sparrow November 2015 Review

Mmm. . . tea :)  While I do drink tea all year round, the autumn/winter is decidedly my favourite time to curl up with a cup (and a good book, and a fire, and a cozy blanket. . . sigh).  And Tea Sparrow is my favourite way to try delicious new teas.  While I am consistently impressed with the quality and variety of teas sent each month, I think this month might be my favourite! And that's saying something!


What is Tea Sparrow?  A fave sub in my house!  For $20 CAD per month (including shipping), Tea Sparrow sends 4 different types of loose leaf tea (so yes, you need some way to brew loose leaf  - tea balls are an inexpensive option) - usually a green, a black, a rooibos and an herbal but sometimes they mix it up.  The teas are separately packaged and are each approximately 0.6oz for a total of about 35 cups of tea per month (less if you use a lot of tea in brewing, maybe more if you're willing to brew twice using the same tea). 

If you want to try Tea Sparrow, check out this 60% off offer and get your first month for only $8!  When you click the above link, you will be taken to a password-protected page.  Enter "teas" as your password and you will be offered the promotional discount.  Please be aware that this will start a recurring monthly subscription but Tea Sparrow allows you to skip any month through their website (although why would you want to?) and you can cancel at any time.  Or, for a limited time, use this link to pick up a Tea Sparrow gift subscription as a Christmas gift (I'd highly recommend it!) for 15% off.  Enjoy!

Now, on to the teas!

Friday, December 04, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Make it Meatless! (Part Two)

Last Frugal Friday, I decided to tackle the monumental task of a meatless cooking post (it's here if you like)! It was so huge that I had to continue it in a second post! As I explained in that post, opting to eat vegetarian or even vegan meals fairly regularly (even as little as once a week) can really save you some cash.  Meat products can be quite expensive.  So can some meat substitutes. . . but there are others that are cheap and delicious.  While many people hesitate to opt for vegetarian meals because they worry they won't feel full or have the misconception that they will somehow be lacking in iron and protein, that simply isn't true.

For comparison's sake, here are the stats on two commonly- recommended "cheaper" meat choices and last week's two "winners" - meat alternatives that are inexpensive while also being high in protein and iron.  The costs are from livingin-canada.com (where possible) and the nutritional content is through Google (I think they use Wikipedia) as well as nutritiondata.self.com when not available elsewhere.  I'm focusing on calories, protein and iron since that's usually what people ask vegetarians and vegans about, in my experience.  More protein will make you feel fuller so in terms of a healthy diet, higher protein in fewer calories is a plus.



Cost per kg Cost per serving (100g) Calories per serving Protein per serving Iron per serving
Ground Beef $12.75 $1.28 332 cals 14g 8% DV
Chicken $7.58 $0.75 239 cals 27g 7% DV
Chickpeas About $1.10 (dry) - $6.00 (canned About $0.11 (dry) - $0.60 (canned) 364 cals 19g 34% DV
Black Beans About $1.10 (dry) - $6.00 (canned About $0.11 (dry) - $0.60 (canned) 339 cals 21g 48% DV

Last time, I covered "Gateway Subs" - those easy substitutions that you might already eat or can easily add into your diet without it being too much of a shock.  This week, I will tackle "Next Step Subs" which are a little further from the average diet but still easily found in most grocery stores.  And I will also introduce you to some "Say What? Super Subs" that you may never have heard of unless you are vegetarian/vegan and that you may have to pick up at a specialty shop (health food store, natural foods store, etc.) if you decide to try them out.

Saturday, November 28, 2015

Bespoke Post "The Butcher" Review


This is the second "month" (I skipped one!) of my super-awesome Groupon deal for a Bespoke Post subscription.  Ordinarily, a box is a little pricey at $45 US (or $55 for a one-time purchase).  Shipping to Canada is an extra $10 but I have found a few boxes that will not ship here (one I really wanted was "too heavy").  Boxes do ship once a month but you can easily skip a month or swap out the box they've selected for any other available box (there are usually a few new options as well as some old favourites).  If you forget to skip or swap, they will send you your default box for the month, as many of these types of subs do.  Billed as a men's subscription, I prefer to think of Bespoke Post as a lifestyle sub.  True, some boxes seem very geared towards men but a lot of them would appeal to anyone!

As I mentioned, I got in on a fantastic deal with Groupon:  three months of Bespoke Post came to $63.20 US plus shipping (because. . . Canada).  Total.  That means I will be receiving three boxes of my choosing for less than half price :) Although I'd love to keep them all to myself, we will likely be using most of these for Christmas gifts so. . . if you're friends or family and don't want your gifts spoiled, stop reading! You've been warned ;)

Friday, November 27, 2015

Err. . .

I know I promised a Frugal Fridays post for today - my Make It Meatless (Part 2) post, to be specific! But. . . err. . . Black Friday. . . shopping. . . No one's surprised, right?

Instead, here are three simple tips for keeping (reasonably) frugal on the biggest shopping weekend of the year:

1.  If it's not on sale, don't buy it!! (This is a weekend for sales - regular pricing need not apply!)

2.  If you don't need it, don't buy it!! (I got car seats - yay! I passed on the great slow cooker deal b/c I have one - yay for restraint!)

3.  If it's an online purchase, don't forget to use your Ebates!! (lots of bonus cash back to be had this weekend)

Monday, November 23, 2015

Julep November 2015 Review


Julep is a monthly nail polish subscription box / beauty subscription.  Their polishes are 5-free and vegan-friendly which I love! For $24.99 per month (or $19.99 per month if you sign up for 3 months up front), you will receive your choice of 2-3 nail polish / beauty items each month according to your profile.  "Classic With a Twist", "Bombshell" and "Boho Glam" profiles receive 2 polishes and 1 beauty item; "It Girls" receive 3 polishes and "Modern Beauties" receive 2 beauty items.  But now, no matter what profile you are, you can totally customize your box or even switch to a totally different box! And you can skip any month after your first month as a Maven (Welcome Boxes don't count).  Sounds perfect to me!  

If you're interested in trying out the subscription, my links will take you to a FREE Welcome Box, just pay the cost of shipping - this will sign you up for the subscription so be forewarned about that (if you scroll down though, you can get in for the 3 month rate of $19.99 per month).  Check out the Welcome Box I received here.  This is an American sub so do factor in the cost of exchange although, aside from Welcome Boxes, shipping is free for Mavens - even Canadian ones :)

November's Collection was "The Switch-Up Collection" and all about shifting seasons. So, what did I get?  Well. . . a lot of stuff, as usual!

Friday, November 20, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Make it Meatless! (Part One)

As you may have discovered through previous posts, we don't eat a lot of meat in my house.  I am not a strict vegetarian but I am a mostly-vegetarian.  I eat eggs and dairy, fish and seafood and, occasionally poultry - it's easier to eat some meat since my husband and children do! When I first started cooking regularly for my then-boyfriend, a meat-eater lover, he had two concerns about vegetarian meals:  they had to be filling and they needed iron. I was quickly able to show him that vegetarian does not mean starving or lacking in iron. . . nor do the vegan recipes we've embraced either!  Incidentally, he says he much prefers bean or lentil-based meals than those which use more "meaty" meat substitutes like tofu, tempeh or seiten (say what? more on those next week!) so if you're nervous about trying something different, those might be good places to start.

But vegetarian / vegan cooking can mean delicious, easy meals that are good for you (have you read the stuff they're saying about red meat consumption?), and even better for your pocket book!

So without any further ado, here's my guide to the best meat alternatives and substitutions, complete with recipes (most of which, I have actually tried!).  If you have Pepperplate, you can easily add the recipes you like to your collection by clicking the link and then clicking the "add to Pepperplate" button on your browser (if you downloaded it).  If not, then it might take a little more effort ;) I have organized them from the easiest, gentlest starter subs - things you probably already eat, to things you may not eat but can probably find in the grocery store, to things you might not have heard of and might need to purchase at a specialty store.  The Gateway Subs are included in this post and I'll tackle the rest next week :)

Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Fabletics November 2015 Review

I skipped last month's Fabletics but this month. . . well, let's just say they had me at snuggly Arctic/winter inspired outfits :) As much as I really dislike winter by, say, March, I love late autumn-early winter:  snuggly blankets, no more yard work, sweaters, and body conscious outfits that don't show a ton of skin :)

For those who are unfamiliar with Fabletics, they offer monthly workout outfits (or loungewear, if you're more like me) starting at $49.95 for VIPs (and seemingly at $10 increments from that point depending on the items and the number of items - outfits tend to be 2 or 3 pieces).  It is a subscription program so at the beginning of each month, you must either choose an outfit or opt out for that month - if you fail to do either, you will be charged the $49.95 minimum cost although you can later use that money to make a purchase (it's not like a punishment fee or anything).  To make things even more enticing, Fabletics offers your first month at half price - that's $25 for one of the cheaper outfits (or half of whatever the cost is of the outfit you choose).  Note the phrasing there:  "first month" - that means that taking advantage of this offer will set you up in their VIP program and you will then either need to purchase/skip each month. . . or I guess you could take advantage of the offer and then cancel if you really wanted to.

Now that that's out of the way, on to this month's outfit! 

Friday, November 13, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Cheaper Breakfasts In a Hurry

Last week, I tackled why you (and I!) should stop buying coffee (that post here).  Even when it's 7:30 and you needed to be on the road 10 minutes ago to drop your kids off before you have to get to work.  It's all about planning ahead and setting yourself up for success.  And the same goes for breakfasts.  How many of you cannot resist the call of the McMuffin (especially as you line up for your morning cup?)? Or worse, how many of you have just gone without the "most important meal of the day?"

Thing is:  we know we should eat breakfast. . . and we know that anything we make ourselves at home is going to be cheaper and healthier (and way more delicious) than anything we buy on the go.  But it doesn't always happen.  All we can do is set ourselves up for success - it's easier to stick to a plan if it's foolproof. . . and to actually eat your breakfast if it's ready and waiting for you (and more appetizing than a baggie full of Cheerios - not that I don't like Cheerios but I digress).

Here are some delicious ideas to feed yourself (and your family, if you have one) quickly, relatively easily and cheaply in the morning!  They run the gamut from ready-to-eat, to handheld, to minimal prep in the AM. . . and I've tried almost all of them.  Most are ovo-lacto vegetarian (that means they include eggs and/or dairy) but some are vegan and others can be easily veganized or meatified if that's your thing.  Personally, I find breakfast is the easiest meal to make meatless and cutting back on your meat intake can save you a ton of cash (upcoming post alert!). If you have Pepperplate, you can add these recipes to your collection with the click of a button (and here's why I love Pepperplate)!

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Happy Bloggiversary!

Umm. . . so this was actually yesterday. . . but I forgot :(

It's been one whole year since I started this blog! We've been through some times, haven't we? Happy posts, sad posts, and lots and lots of reviews.  What are your faves? What are you most excited to read?

And, in honour of the day, here's my greatest hits, the top 5 most read posts from the past year:

5.  Frugal Fridays:  Save Money By Planning Your Meals (Oct. 23, 2015)

I'm happy one of my Frugal Fridays posts made the cut! It's kind of fun for me to cost things out and think about responsible finances :)  Here are all of my Frugal Fridays posts.





4.  Fabletics August  2015 Review (Aug. 16, 2015)

Still love me some Fabletics :)  November's review is coming soon! (here it is!)












3.  SquareHue September 2015 Review (Sept. 19, 2015)


Well, that's interesting. . . I'm not subbed to SquareHue any longer and this post pretty much explains why.  I guess a lot of you felt similarly?








2.  Memebox Superbox #77 Foot Therapy Review (Dec. 14, 2014)


An oldie!  And one of my first box reviews!  Memebox was so fantastic for a time.  And then they broke up with the world (well, aside from the US, China and South Korea basically).  Ah, well, here's a throwback to what once was.




And. . . the most read post on my blog this year was. . .


1.  Colour Blindness:  Figuring It Out (Sept. 2, 2015)

Thanks for this :)  Obviously this is a topic near and dear to my heart and my first post about raising a child with colour blindness was a long time in the making.  It definitely needed more researching than most of my posts.  And it's also one of the ones I am most proud of.  It is rewarding to see many of you felt similarly :)

Here are all the posts in my series on this topic.



Whether you've been with me all year or this is your first visit, thank you.  When I started this, it was just for me to write.  I wasn't sure anyone would even care to read what I had to say.  While I know I don't have a huge readership (blogger has stats, you know), I do know that there are some of you who stop by from time to time.  So thanks!  Cheers!

Five Four Club October 2015 Review

 

Here's our second month of Five Four Club.  As indicated last month, Five Four is making a slight change in order to provide customers with a more cohesive range of outfits per season.  Last month, my husband received two shirts - one dress shirt and one lightweight hoodie (that review here).  We were hoping for a bigger ticket item this month and Five Four did not disappoint!

What is Five Four Club? It is a men's clothing subscription out of California.  They have a lot of celebrity clients (including Mark Wahlberg) and offer a variety of Five Four-branded clothing items.  It is a little pricey at $60/month (especially for Canadians since there is an additional $25 surcharge for us - boo! - and exchange on top of that!) but there are, occasionally, deals to be had.  This is our second half-price month (since I used an awesome coupon code!).  Coupon code FBSAVE50 might let you get your first box at half price.

When you join Five Four Club, you fill in a pretty detailed profile indicating your sizing and preferences so that your stylist can select the perfect items for you.  Last time around, my husband signed up for "Business Casual" and picked up a lot of button-down shirts.  This time, he opted for "Mix" to get a little more variety.  I notice that the style profiles have changed a bit from last year - Casual, Forward, Classic and Mix - which I like.

So, what did he get this month?

Sunday, November 08, 2015

Tea Sparrow October 2015 Review


Despite the warm weather we've been having, it is autumn (right?) and that's my fave time of year for curling up with a good book and a good cup of tea.  So it's the perfect time for Tea Sparrow!

What is Tea Sparrow?  A fave sub in my house!  For $20 CAD per month (including shipping), Tea Sparrow sends 4 different types of loose leaf tea (so yes, you need some way to brew loose leaf  - tea balls are an inexpensive option) - usually a green, a black, a rooibos and an herbal but sometimes they mix it up.  The teas are separately packaged and are each approximately 0.6oz for a total of about 35 cups of tea per month (less if you use a lot of tea in brewing, maybe more if you're willing to brew twice using the same tea). 

If you want to try Tea Sparrow, check out this 60% off offer and get your first month for only $8! When you click the above link, you will be taken to a password-protected page.  Enter "teas" as your password and you will be offered the promotional discount.  Please be aware that this will start a recurring monthly subscription but Tea Sparrow allows you to skip any month through their website (although why would you want to?) and you can cancel at any time.  Enjoy!

So what arrived in my mailbox this month?

Friday, November 06, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Stop Buying Coffee!

I know. . . sometimes you're running out the door with two kids, a backpack, a briefcase and you realize you haven't even brushed your teeth, let alone had anywhere near enough caffeine to face the day.  (What? Just me?) And these are the days when the allure of the drive through coffee shop is almost impossible to resist.

But, have you ever stopped to ponder just how much your daily cup is costing you?  And if there is an easy way to avoid this cost to begin with? No? Well, it's your lucky day because I, apparently, have nothing better to do than conduct a little coffee comparison shop just for you :)

Seriously, I think this might shock you. . . I didn't expect these results to be so dynamic!

Friday, October 30, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Meal Planning Made Easy With Pepperplate

Last week's Frugal Fridays post covered the whys of meal planning and hopefully didn't scare you away.  It can seem daunting at first but once you're into the groove, it becomes a relatively quick way to organize your meals and your grocery list.  Oh and, save money in the process :)

I promised to share my go-to method with you this week and here it is, my secret weapon. . .

Friday, October 23, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Save Money By Planning Your Meals!

This week's Frugal Fridays post is about. . . Meal Planning!

Wait! Don't go! I know many of you either a) have tried and given up on meal planning because it takes way too long or b) have avoided meal planning because. . . well. . . it takes too long.  Don't worry - I got you covered!  This post will tell you why to plan meals and how to do it, quickly and easily :)

Tuesday, October 20, 2015

Five Four Club September 2015 Review


And today. . . a men's sub! Five Four Club is a men's clothing subscription out of California.  They have a lot of celebrity clients (including Mark Wahlberg) and offer a variety of Five Four-branded clothing items.  It is a little pricey at $60/month (especially for Canadians since there is an additional $25 surcharge for us - boo! - and exchange on top of that!) but there are, occasionally, deals to be had.  We tried Five Four last year for a few months as part of my husband's birthday gift and he loved it.  The jeans he received are his favourite pair (mine too) and he reaches for his Five Four shirts more than any others.  Everything is still in great shape after a year as well.  And they're all just different and exciting enough that he gets compliments on them :) So, of course, when I saw a coupon code for 1/2 off two months of Five Four Club, we had to dive back in - I'd share it with you but it was a one-day only code, sorry!  I find autumn is an especially good time for a clothing sub as the items tend to be versatile enough to wear at other times of year as well.

When you join Five Four Club, you fill in a pretty detailed profile indicating your sizing and preferences so that your stylist can select the perfect items for you.  Last time around, my husband signed up for "Business Casual" and picked up a lot of button-down shirts.  This time, he opted for "Mix" to get a little more variety.  I notice that the style profiles have changed a bit from last year - Casual, Forward, Classic and Mix - which I like.

So, what did he get this month?

Monday, October 19, 2015

FabFitFun Fall 2015 Review


I'm in love with a new sub! After reading some reviews of FabFitFun last year, I was so sad to hear that they were not, at that time, shipping to Canada.  But now they are. . . and for the reasonable cost of $8 a box (since this is a seasonal sub that's only $32 a year)! I tried to hold off but the reviews of the fall box (this one) were so fantastic that I managed to convince my husband that over half the cost of a year's subscription would be covered by the amount of Christmas gifting I could squeeze out of this box alone.  Of course, that also leaves some goodies for me too :)

What is FabFitFun? A seasonal lifestyle box which includes items to help you feel fab, get fit and have fun.  An individual box costs $49.99 or you can sub to a whole year (4 boxes) for $179.99.  I have no idea how they do it but the value of items in this box alone is so outstanding, it covers the yearly cost! And there are lots of coupon codes out there to make it even more of a deal ("PUMPKIN" will take $10 off a box at the moment).  While a $50 box does sound pricey, since it's a quarterly box, that really works out to under $20 per month.  So I can justify that :)

Incidentally, if this review makes you want to try FabFitFun, this is the box you will receive if you sign up now.  So you could sub for the year (like I did) and start with this box or you could just pick up this exact box for $49.99 (or $39.99 if the above coupon code works for you).  This is a US sub so add exchange and $8 shipping if you are Canadian.  It's still an awesome value. . . check it out:

First look - Instead of a product card, FFF provides a glossy mag? Fancy!

This box is packed crazy-full of stuff!

And here's everything unboxed - seriously a lot of goodies :)

Friday, October 16, 2015

Frugal Fridays: 4 Stupid Reasons Not to Compare Before You Buy (and how to avoid them)

Here is the third installment of my Frugal Fridays series.  The others are here and here if you missed them.

Reasons Why I, on occasion, Break My Own Rules and Don't Comparison Shop:

See, I know that I should care about how much my bananas cost or where I can buy the best bananas on the cheap.  But sometimes I just need them.  Now.  Like when my toddler is insistent that we MUST have bananas at all times in the house. . . even though they usually end up overripe and in the freezer waiting for the day that I will eventually, at some point, turn them into banana bread.  And then I don't comparison shop.  So here are some barriers to comparison shopping and how to overcome them.

Sunday, October 11, 2015

Julep Maven October 2015 Review


Julep is best known for being a monthly nail polish subscription box but they've also expanded into offering other beauty products.  Their polishes are 5-free and vegan-friendly which I love! For $24.99 per month (or $19.99 per month if you sign up for 3 months up front), you will receive your choice of 2-3 nail polish / beauty items each month according to your profile.  "Classic With a Twist", "Bombshell" and "Boho Glam" profiles receive 2 polishes and 1 beauty item; "It Girls" receive 3 polishes and "Modern Beauties" receive 2 beauty items.  But now, no matter what profile you are, you can totally customize your box or even switch to a totally different box! And you can skip any month after your first month as a Maven (Welcome Boxes don't count).  Sounds perfect to me!  

If you're interested in trying out the subscription, my links will take you to a FREE Welcome Box, just pay the cost of shipping - this will sign you up for the subscription so be forewarned about that (if you scroll down though, you can get in for the 3 month rate of $19.99 per month).  Check out the Welcome Box I received here.  This is an American sub so do factor in the cost of exchange although, aside from Welcome Boxes, shipping is free for Mavens - even Canadian ones from what I can tell! :)

This was my first month as a Maven and. . . I got a lot of stuff.  October's collection is the "New York Never Sleeps" collection and it was so gorgeous, it was really hard for me to narrow things down.  So what did I get?

Friday, October 09, 2015

Frugal Fridays: How to Comparison Shop Like a Pro

This is the second post in my Frugal Fridays series.  The first one's here if you missed it :)

We all know (or should know) that comparison shopping is the key to smarter spending.  How many times have you said "why would I spend that much on bananas when I can spend this much?" Or "wow! organic bananas are so much more expensive! I'll stick to my regular ones"?  Or maybe you don't care so much about the price of your bananas.  Or you don't like bananas.  Whatever.  It's an example.  Use tomatoes or toilet paper or shoes or whatever makes you happy.  Same deal.  But sometimes we just don't do it.  Here's how to (relatively painlessly) comparison shop:

Thursday, October 08, 2015

Tea Sparrow September 2015 Review


Well, for better or for worse, the weather is turning decidedly autumnal.  A great time to sleep with windows open (as long as you have a warm duvet) and to hit the pumpkin patch on a school trip (we go tomorrow!), autumn is also tea-drinking weather :) Actually, I drink tea all year round but there's something extra cosy about a blanket, book and mug of great tea.  So it's the perfect time for Tea Sparrow!

What is Tea Sparrow?  A fave sub in my house!  For $20 CAD per month (including shipping), Tea Sparrow sends 4 different types of loose leaf tea (so yes, you need some way to brew loose leaf  - tea balls are an inexpensive option) - usually a green, a black, a rooibos and an herbal but sometimes they mix it up.  The teas are separately packaged and are each approximately 0.6oz for a total of about 35 cups of tea per month (less if you use a lot of tea in brewing, maybe more if you're willing to brew twice using the same tea). 

If you want to try Tea Sparrow, check out this 60% off offer and get your first month for only $8! When you click the above link, you will be taken to a password-protected page.  Enter "teas" as your password and you will be offered the promotional discount.  Please be aware that this will start a recurring monthly subscription but Tea Sparrow allows you to skip any month through their website (although why would you want to?) and you can cancel at any time.  Enjoy!

Let's check out this month's teas, shall we?

Friday, October 02, 2015

Frugal Fridays: Ebates Canada!

I know I spend a lot of time on this blog justifying my spending and encouraging you to spend money too.  But obviously, being able to spend (or save, if you are more frugal than I) is heavily reliant on actually having money.  So, especially with my being off work on mat leave at the moment, I've had to get creative with our finances and find some great ways to save. . . at least save enough so that we can continue to live in the style to which we have become accustomed (that's code for "I still need my boxes" and "I can't just quit online shopping cold-turkey").  I thought maybe some of you might have use for some tips and tricks from an admitted online shopping junkie.

And so. . . introducing. . . Frugal Fridays! For the next few months (I think that's how many post ideas I have so far), I'll be posting every Friday (because alliteration!) about a money-saving idea, tip or trick.  Sound good? Alright, let's begin.  (Well, I plan to post every Friday but sometimes planning and doing aren't the same thing when you have a baby and a toddler. . . so, you know!)

Thursday, October 01, 2015

First Julep Haul and Product Reviews


Julep is best known for being a monthly nail polish subscription box.  I recently re-joined after they made some changes for the better in my opinion:  for $24.99 per month (or $19.99 per month if you sign up for 3 months up front), you will receive your choice of 2-3 nail polish / beauty items each month according to your profile.  "Classic With a Twist", "Bombshell" and "Boho Glam" profiles receive 2 polishes and 1 beauty item; "It Girls" receive 3 polishes and "Modern Beauties" receive 2 beauty items.  But now, no matter what profile you are, you can totally customize your box or even switch to a totally different box! And you can skip any month after your first month as a Maven (Welcome Boxes don't count).  Sounds perfect to me!  If you're interested in trying out the subscription, my links will take you to a FREE Welcome Box, just pay the cost of shipping - this will sign you up for the subscription so be forewarned about that (if you scroll down though, you can get in for the 3 month rate of $19.99 per month).  Check out the Welcome Box I received here.  This is an American sub so do factor in the cost of exchange although, aside from Welcome Boxes, shipping is free for Mavens - even Canadian ones from what I can tell! :)

Julep also sells their products in their online store and Mavens get discounts and free shipping on everything.  I had a 50% off code arrive in my Welcome Box so. . . I splurged and bought some more beauty items.  While I love nail polish, I was really impressed by the lipstick that came in my Welcome Box and wanted to try a few more things.  Here's what I picked up:

Saturday, September 26, 2015

Colour Blindness: Strategies for Home

This is the fourth post in my series on parenting a colour-deficient child.  The others are here, here and here just in case you missed them :)

How do you teach a child about colour?

Well, you probably start by talking about the colours of things you encounter (telling, really):
  • "This is Mommy's car.  Mommy's car is silver." 
  • "That is a nice orange shirt you're wearing." 
  • "This block is red.  That one is green."
Then you might move on to matching:

  • "Here is a red block.  Let's put all the red blocks together."
  • "This triangle is blue.  Do you see anything else that's blue in this picture?"
  • "These puzzle pieces are the same colour.  They should go together."
And on to questions about colour:
  • "What colour is this block?"
  • "What colour is your bedroom? What colour is your brother's bedroom?"
  • "What colour is daddy's hair?"

But what if that child is colour blind?

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Bespoke Post "Cheers" Review


Bespoke Post! It's been awhile since I ordered a box of awesome from Bespoke Post (see the review of "Aged" here). . . mostly because, as awesome as they are, they are also pretty expensive for a monthly sub (especially with exchange) and I just couldn't justify that!  Billed as a men's subscription, I prefer to think of Bespoke Post as a lifestyle sub.  True, some boxes seem very geared towards men but a lot of them would appeal to anyone!

Bespoke Post's boxes cost $45 US each and ship monthly (or you can make a one-time purchase for $55).  Shipping to Canada is an extra $10 but I have found a few boxes that will not ship here (one I really wanted was "too heavy").  But this is a sub which allows you to skip any month you would prefer not to receive a box, provided you do it within the first few days of the month.  And it also allows for choice which makes me happy.  Here's how it works:  at the beginning of the month, Bespoke's monthly selections are revealed and members receive an email indicating which box they are currently set to receive.  If you like that box, do nothing and they'll send it to you.  If you would prefer one of the other options (there's usually a new box or two plus some old favourites available), log into the site and swap your box.  If you would prefer not to receive a box at all, log in and skip the month.  If you forget, they'll send your default box that month.

Luckily, I got in on a fantastic deal with Groupon:  three months of Bespoke Post came to $63.20 US plus shipping (because. . . Canada).  Total.  That means I will be receiving three boxes of my choosing (I can still skip!) for less than half price :) Although I'd love to keep them all to myself, we will likely be using most of these for Christmas gifts so. . . if you're friends or family and don't want your gifts spoiled, stop reading! You've been warned ;)

This box is entitled Cheers and centres around. . . beer! Here's the first look:

Saturday, September 19, 2015

SquareHue September 2015 Review


For those unfamiliar with SquareHue, they make and sell 5-free polishes through a monthly subscription service.  They do not, at this time, sell the polishes outside of this monthly service.  Unlike some monthly nail polish subs, SquareHue does not offer choices or previews, instead promising 2 or 3 full-size colours and finishes according to a particular theme - truly a mystery box! The 2-polish box costs $10.99 per month and, according to their website, the 3-polish box is regularly $21.99 (but $14.99 right now. . . which is interesting because that's what I pay having picked up my first box for the same "deal").  Shipping to Canada is an extra $10 according to the FAQs but I'm not sure if that's changed since I signed up - I pay $23.99 US a box.  Go figure.  If it sounds like I have no idea about this sub, it's partly because I've been steadily skipping since April and partly because I'm a little disillusioned with this month's offerings.

Thursday, September 17, 2015

Colour Blindness: Famous Faces

This is the third post in a series on parenting colour blind children.  If you've missed the others, you can find them here (on Figuring it Out) and here (on The Science, Simplified).  This series was inspired by my searching for information on parenting colour blind children (since we discovered our 3 year old inherited this condition) and coming up mostly empty. . . well, except for a lot of articles about not seeing race. . . instead of, you know, not seeing colour which is what I was looking for.  Argh! So, not to be deterred, I decided that if it's not out there, it should be and maybe this is a sign for me to use this venue to share what I have discovered through research and experience.  Please share with anyone you think might benefit - especially parents and educators - and to share your own experiences and ideas in the comments.

The last two posts have been a little heavy.  Not intensely so.  But a little heavy nonetheless.  So today's is going to be a little sunshine-y, with smiles and happy feels.  Because a colour deficiency isn't the end of the world and it's not something that needs to stop you in your tracks or keep you from doing the things you love!  So, without further ado, here are some famous faces of people who have done great things despite their issues with colour.  While there is a lot of speculation out there, I've decided to stick with those people who are candid about their colour deficiencies or about whom I have been able to find evidence to support the assertion (with links wherever possible).

Sunday, September 13, 2015

Fabletics September 2015 Review

Have I mentioned how much I love Fabletics?  Oh, I have?  Well, forgive me if I do so again.

For those who are unfamiliar with Fabletics, they offer monthly workout outfits starting at $49.95 for VIPs (and seemingly at $10 increments from that point depending on the items and the number of items - outfits tend to be 2 or 3 pieces).  It is a subscription program so at the beginning of each month, you must either choose an outfit or opt out for that month - if you fail to do either, you will be charged the $49.95 minimum cost although you can later use that money to make a purchase (it's not like a punishment fee or anything).  To make things even more enticing, Fabletics offers your first month at half price - that's $25 for one of the cheaper outfits (or half of whatever the cost is of the outfit you choose).  Note the phrasing there:  "first month" - that means that taking advantage of this offer will set you up in their VIP program and you will then either need to purchase/skip each month. . . or I guess you could take advantage of the offer and then cancel if you really wanted to.

Now that that's out of the way, on to this month's outfit! 

Saturday, September 12, 2015

Julep Maven Custom Welcome Box Review


Introducing a new sub to this blog (but likely not new to many of my readers):  Julep Maven!

I had tried Julep this time last year and was not impressed.  The products were great (I got some nail polish and a top coat) but they were making some changes as a company and it had a negative impact on their shipping time and packing.  But I loved those polishes. . . so I kept an eye on what was happening in the Julep world and they really seem to have overcome whatever hurdles they were encountering last time around.  They have also branched out more and more into make-up, instead of just nail polish, which I like.  Since I've given up on Ipsy and am likely bidding Square Hue farewell in the next month or so, it seems like a great time to go for a nail polish and beauty sub.  Additionally, unlike the other two, Julep offers some customization and, like Square Hue, is skippable (after the first month).  Win-win!

Wednesday, September 09, 2015

Colour Blindness: The Science, Simplified

This is the second post in my series on parenting a colour-blind child (the first is here).  This series was born when I discovered that googling "colour blind children" and other combinations of those words, leads to a lot of articles and blogs about teaching children to ignore race.  Which is ridiculous in and of itself, and also ridiculous because there is a Real Thing called Colour Blindness that Real People deal with daily. While there are some excellent resources out there, they are few and far between.  So I decided to use my resources and share a bit of my research and experiences on this blog.  I will be writing a series of posts on the topic over the next little while and will update with further posts when I have more to share.  If you are also parenting a colour-deficient child, are colour blind yourself, are a teacher (because, whether you know it or not, you've taught and will teach colour -blind students), or know people who fit any of these criteria, please feel free to read, share and comment.  I don't think enough of us are talking.

This post is, as promised, some of The Science behind colour deficiencies like my son's.  I'll keep it simple because, well, I'm not a scientist. . . and I also think that simple explanations are easier for all of us.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Tea Sparrow August 2015 Review


Another delicious month of Tea Sparrow! It is so exciting when this package lands in my mailbox :)

If you haven't heard of this sub, for $20 CAD per month (including shipping), Tea Sparrow sends 4 different types of loose leaf tea (so yes, you need some way to brew loose leaf  - tea balls are an inexpensive option) - usually a green, a black, a rooibos and an herbal but sometimes they mix it up.  The teas are separately packaged and are each approximately 0.6oz for a total of about 35 cups of tea per month (less if you use a lot of tea in brewing, maybe more if you're willing to brew twice using the same tea). 
If you want to try Tea Sparrow, check out this 60% off offer and get your first month for only $8! When you click the above link, you will be taken to a password-protected page.  Enter "teas" as your password and you will be offered the promotional discount.  Please be aware that this will start a recurring monthly subscription but Tea Sparrow allows you to skip any month through their website (although why would you want to?) and you can cancel at any time.  Enjoy!

Again this month, Tea Sparrow opted for summery teas perfect for brewing up some iced tea (or hot tea, if you so choose).  While there are lots of ways to brew iced tea from loose-leaf, my favourite is a cold brew method as I find it easiest.  I add as much tea as desired to a pitcher (anywhere from a few tsps to a few tbsps depending on the tea) and top up with water from my Brita.  The pitcher then sits in my fridge for anywhere from a few hours to overnight (again, depending on the tea and how it seems to be brewing) then I strain out the leaves and it's done :)

Here are this month's selections:

Earl Grey Vanilla Rooibos (rooibos, calendula petals, almond slices, vanilla and bergamot)

Earl Grey Vanilla Rooibos:
For some people, Orange Pekoe is Tea.  In my house, it was always the Earl so I love getting fancy teas with an Earl Grey flavour profile and this one is fancy and delicious.  While rooibos, despite being naturally caffeine-free, isn't usually my favourite type of "tea" (air quotes since it isn't, strictly, tea - different plant), Tea Sparrow seems to be working hard to change that.  This might be my favourite selection this month, equally delicious hot and cold.  Yum!

Pineapple Coconut Oolong (organic oolong tea from Taiwan, organic coconut flakes, organic pineapple flavour and organic coconut flavour)

Pineapple Coconut Oolong:
Awesome tropical flavour! Perfect for a batch of iced tea (I don't even think it needs sweetening. . . then again, I rarely think any tea needs sweetening so there's that).  I also tried this hot. . . not the best.  There's something a little strange for me about hot pineapple.  But so good, iced!

Mandarin Rose Tea (black tea, longan fruit and rose petals)

Mandarin Rose Tea:
Firstly, this is probably one of the most beautiful teas I've had.  Look at those rose petals! And it's also delicious.  I wasn't sure whether the rose would be off-putting as a flavour but this doesn't taste overly flowery and the fruitiness is quite pleasant.  I didn't get a chance to try this one hot yet (we just bought a Keurig so I've been taste-testing my way through a variety of coffees this month), but it makes a fresh, summery iced tea.  I even used it in a martini! Here's the recipe if you're into tea with your booze:
Rose Mar-tea-ni
1 1/2 oz Dillon's Rose Gin
1 oz brewed Mandarin Rose Tea
splash lemon juice

Shake over ice and strain into a chilled martini glass.  Garnish with a twist of lemon.

Seriously good.  I linked to Dillon's website if you've never heard of them or their awesome brews.  They have a "Where to get it" link if you're interested in trying the Rose Gin. . . and you should be - it's so delicious and unique!  But, back to the teas. . .

Citrus Sunburst (papaya cubes, mango bits, apple pieces, hibiscus blossoms, orange slices, pomegranate arils, and safflowers)

Citrus Sunburst:
Not my favourite this month.  While I have had great fruit teas from Tea Sparrow in the past (the Maracuja Orange from June in particular), this one just didn't hit quite the right note for me.  Where the Maracuja Orange offered almost an autumnal flavour to me, warming and bright, this one doesn't seem to have the same depth of flavour.  It's tasty but. . . just. . . not the one I'm reaching for this month.  I think it's better as an iced tea than a warm cup but did have a few issues brewing it - large pieces of fruit.  As you can see in the pic, I received a pretty much full-size orange slice.  In trying to brew a balanced cup using only 2 tsp as recommended, this was a bit of a pain - it took up too much space! I ended up biting it in half (it was hard!) to reserve some of the orange for later.  It looks nice but wasn't very practical unless I were brewing a large amount of tea.

As always, Tea Sparrow is consistently one of my favourite subs.  While I wasn't crazy on the fruit tea this month, the other 3 were all huge hits and I'm happy with that.  Unlike past months, there didn't seem to be a "plain" or "neutral" option this month either and I really appreciate that.  While I like the more conventional blends I've received, they aren't the ones I'm most excited about. . . and they tend to linger in my cupboard a little longer.

Wednesday, September 02, 2015

Colour Blindness: Figuring It Out

It's not uncommon - especially among males (8% of the male population in fact).  Yet it's not something many of us think about or know much about.  And that's not a big deal. . . for most of us.  Unless you are a teacher (in which case you should know and you should care).  Or are colour deficient (I think that sounds much nicer than colour "blind" - more accurate too).  Or have a colour deficient child.

And I am a teacher.  And I am a parent of (at least) one colour deficient child - we will have to wait until our new arrival is a little older to find out what his vision is like.  And I am frustrated at the lack of information and resources out there for parents of colour blind children.  I know it's not life-threatening and I know that most people with less-than-optimal colour vision develop excellent coping techniques and many achieve great things.  But how do I facilitate that for my son? How do I support the students who may not even realize that they see the world differently from others?

I am frustrated that when I google "colour blind children" and other combinations of those words, I get articles and blogs about teaching children to ignore race.  Ummm. . . that's nice and all. . . but colour blindness is a thing that real people live with every day, not a hashtag.  While there are some excellent resources out there, they are few and far between.  So I decided to use my resources and share a bit of my research and experiences on this blog.  I will be writing a series of posts on the topic over the next little while and will update with further posts when I have more to share.  If you are also parenting a colour deficient child, are colour blind yourself, are a teacher (because, whether you know it or not, you've taught and will teach colour blind students), or know people who fit any of these criteria, please feel free to read, share and comment.  I don't think enough of us are talking.

So my first post is entitled "Figuring It Out" because, obviously, the first step to addressing issues with colour is determining that there are, in fact, issues with colour.

Family History:
In my next post (here!), I'll get into the genetics connected with red-green colour blindness (I need to refresh myself on high school Biology first) but, in short, if there are any colour blind men in the mom's family, that may result in colour blind children.  It isn't a guarantee (unless mom, herself, is colour blind - in which case her sons will certainly be colour blind and her daughters have a decent chance as well), but it should be an indicator that this is something to be conscious of.

In my case, my father is colour blind as are two three (oops!) of his brothers.  Colour blindness, and strategies for coping with it, have been a way of life in my home since I can remember.  While my father is excellent at determining which colours go together (based on depth and hue), he often struggles with determining exactly what colour he is looking at - is that sweater a gray-green or a lovely heathered purple? He actually bought a pair of pants that he thought was a great deal. . . until my mom let him know they were pink instead of the gray he saw when he looked at them.  Until I moved out, I remember helping my dad select the tie he should wear with the shirt and jacket he had already chosen.  He could usually make good choices. . . but just needed the extra set of eyes to make sure he wasn't committing a fashion faux pas.

Needless to say, when I learned how colour blindness is passed along in families, I knew that if I had a son, this would be something to look out for.

The Clues:
My son is a voracious learner.  At 3 years old, he is fascinated by dinosaurs, fossils and how things work.  We'll read a story about how the earth's revolution around its axis causes day and night. . . the next evening, he's telling us that we're moving away from the sun and it will be nighttime soon.  He knows many shapes.  He sings various songs - some "kid" ones and a selection from the radio.  He can count to 20 (excluding a few numbers in the teens that he just doesn't like, and with the addition of "frelve").  He is mostly accurate while singing the ABC song and understands that letters make up the words in his story books (although he can't identify the letters themselves).

I don't share this to brag.  I share this so that you understand why the alarm bells were clanging when, despite our gentle teaching and colour-related games and patterning, he just didn't seem to get colour.  It was not uncommon to ask "what colour is this?" and have him pause and then seemingly pick one at random.  Asking him to match blocks of the same colour was just as likely to result in piles of green/yellow and red/purple as in discrete piles of just one colour.  He just didn't get it and was quickly losing interest in these types of games.

But blue.  He nails blue.  Every.  Time.  It's his favourite colour!

Some other signs that you may encounter (we didn't, possibly because of how young our son is) include:
  • smelling food before eating it (and reluctance to try new foods) - it's hard to find a meal appetizing if you're missing the colourful aspects of it
  • lack of interest or attention span in colouring in worksheets or games with a focus on colour
  • using the "wrong" colour (purple leaves, green faces, etc.)
  • excellent sense of smell and night vision (compensation?)
  • sensitivity to bright lights
  • complaining about head or eye aches when looking at something green on a red background or vice versa
  • denial of an issue with colour

We knew that we needed to get him checked out.

Next Steps:
Since I wear glasses and/or contact lenses, I have an eye doctor that I see.  She also examined my son's eyes when he was about 8 months old to ensure that they were healthy (I didn't even know that was a thing but I'm glad I found out about it).  So we had someone to turn to.  If I didn't have an optometrist, I would have asked my family doctor for her advice. . . it probably would have been to see an optometrist.

For adults, there are a range of tests that can be used to determine colour deficiencies.  For young children, it is a little more difficult.  I'm sure you've heard of the Ishihara Plate test? Well, maybe not by name, but it's this one:

There are many plates with various colours and numbers but generally, if you have normal colour vision, you should be able to read the numbers (can you?).  If you can't, you may have an issue with colour (although there are many people with normal colour vision who still have issues with this test apparently).

Now, obviously, a 3 year old is not going to be able to read these numbers off the page whether he can see them or not, so the children's version of the test uses shapes.  Our optometrist showed him a page with a circle, square and triangle on it and asked what the shapes were.  Satisfied that he could identify them by name (because if he couldn't, what's the point?), she moved on to the plates.  On each page, she asked what he could see.  She sometimes asked him to point to the shapes to ensure that he was, in fact, seeing them and not just caught up in "playing the game".  He loved every second of it!

The results were pretty clear:  he does have a red-green colour deficiency just like his grandpa.  And now we know.  And now we're learning and adjusting the way we deal with colour in our house.  And we know to let his teacher know so when he starts preschool next week, his difficulties with colour don't suggest other issues (with his development or with his attitude).

My dad doesn't remember consciousness of his vision being a thing.  It probably wasn't, in the 1960s.  But I like to think that we've become a bit more thoughtful and considerate about the various challenges that our children and students may face by 2015.  At least I hope so!

So welcome to our adventure and exploration of what it means to be colour blind and how we can best support our son while helping him to develop strategies to cope with his colour deficiencies.  I hope this isn't a one-way soap box but a conversation starter.  Please feel free to continue that discussion in the comments, in your own homes and communities, wherever you choose!

Here are some excellent resources to get started on exploring colour blindness: