Category Archives: Life & Photography

Zehrs Online Grocery Shopping Review

I was talking with a friend a couple of weeks ago about how much he hates the process of grocery shopping to the point he’s come to dread the tedious chore. I suggested trying Zehrs’ new online grocery shopping service, knowing very little about how it actually worked. He confided in me that not knowing what to expect from this new way of shopping would make him as uncomfortable as he is doing it the tried and true way. I said I would help him any way I could and we left it at that.

A few hours later, I had the idea to test the service out myself so I could let him know what the procedure was. A day after that, I realized he’s probably not alone in letting his introversion and social anxiety get the best of him when it comes to this sort of thing and that there may be others who are curious about this pre-self-serve-supermarket throwback style of how we do our weekly shop, so I had the idea to try it out and share my experience!

Placing the Order

The process starts out easily enough, you choose a 2 hour time slot for when you would like to pick up your order. You can choose any time, from 9 am – 7 pm, seven days a week, up to two weeks in advance. The pickup fee for 9-5, Monday – Friday is $3, while the fee for after 5 pm and weekends is $5, which seems entirely reasonable. (You can try it out for free for your first month by using coupon code FREEMONTH at checkout.) You can place an order up to two hours before pickup and you can alter your submitted order up to midnight the night before your pickup day. There is a $30 order minimum.

Next, you add items to your order by searching for them or browsing by section. If you are a PC Optimum member and swipe your card every time you shop, you can shop from a special section of your frequently purchased items to speed thing up. I imagine this feature will become even more useful the more you use the online ordering and build a database. It took me much longer to shop online than it does to shop in person but I got really bogged down in just how easy it was to shop the sales and compare prices, nutrition and ingredients of similar items, especially ones that aren’t displayed together in the store. It was so much easier to discover new products when shopping online vs in store. It was easy to say, “oh this looks good,” and add it to your cart with the click of a button, but it was also much easier to change your mind and ditch your impulse items at checkout – and not feel like the monsters who shove their mistaken ground beef in the magazine rack. When you are done shopping, you checkout, mark any items that you will not accept a substitution for if they become out of stock, provide your credit card information and have an option to tick a box if you would like to bring your own bags. I chose to have my groceries bagged before pickup and as far as I can tell, there was no charge for the bags.

After you place your order, you receive a confirmation email. On the morning of your order pickup date, you receive an order update email with pickup information, that looks like this:

It also includes a list of any items that were out of stock that day and had to be substituted. Here’s what my substitutes looked like:

Most of the items that were not substituted were because I asked that they not be. I guess they were out of jalapenos that morning and had no obvious substitute to work with. As you can see, my $0.49 name brand soups were substituted for an $0.89 off-brand soup, which I had an option to decline. I chose to keep them and they came in a separate, colour coded bag for easy subtraction.

Picking Up the Order

About a half hour before our pickup time slot, as we were running other errands, we received an inconvenient phone call detailing all the information that was included in the email and were asked if we would like to pay with the credit card used during online checkout. I assume this call was due to the newness of the program, both for the store and the customer, and hope it can be done without in the future.

When we arrived, we looked for the specially reserved online order pickup parking spots located near the entrance and took the last remaining one as the others were filled by people who were shopping regularly and are, I guess, not great at reading signs. We called the number provided, a general store employee answered and we were transferred to the correct department. A very cheerful woman on the other end of the line then asked us for the parking spot number we were in and told us to sit tight and she would be out with out order in five minutes. After a little more than five minutes, she appeared in a safety vest with our cart of groceries. My husband got out of the car to open the truck for her and help load in the groceries. She thanked him, handed him a bottle of water and a small bag of free snacks with a handwritten thank you note, and told him he could sit and relax in the car. She quickly and carefully placed the groceries in the trunk, closed the door, waved good bye to let us know she had finished, and we drove off. We completed a few more errands and went home to unpack out groceries. We noticed that they were very well packed, with cleaning products separated in their bags, cold things together, pantry items together, etc.

All in all, the whole experience was quite simple and pleasant. I could have done without the phone calls, but I’m sure it’s an improvement that can be made as the store figures things out. I would definitely continue to use this service for my larger, organized grocery shops. Even when the free trail ends, and we have to pay the pickup fee, I think we will still save money when it’s so much easier to shop the sales and compare prices using the online shopping system; the “sort price low – high” button was my best friend. Plus there is the cost of our time saved not trudging around a busy grocery store.

My Everyday Carry

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Here they are: the secret contents of my purse. The things I carry everyday. Depending on the day, the weather, the plan or the purse, I frequently carry more, but never less.

So, what’s always at my side?

( from top, down; left to right)

  • chap stick (Lip Smacker, bubblegum flavour)
  • stitch ripper
  • safety pins
  • handkerchief
  • cleaning cloth for my glasses
  • compact mirror
  • wallet
  • notebook
  • hand lotion
  • gum (the weirder, the better)
  • ruler
  • band-aid
  • pen
  • nail file
  • Tide To Go spot/stain remover
  • lighter
  • business cards

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Some of the things I would be absolutely lost without are my stitch ripper, safety pins, pen, notebook and ruler. As a seamstress, I can’t responsibly leave the house without my stitch ripper and safety pins. They have saved the day on many occasions at weddings, parties and markets. I take a strange joy in asking a man if his suit jacket is new and then helping him remove the temporary stitching on the vents. I use my pen and notebook everyday for lists, ideas, recording or giving out information. I don’t know how others live without them. My ruler is especially handy when shopping or settling those strange arguments that only happen between close friends.

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I don’t get to use my lighter often, but I keep it full and ready for those exciting occasions when someone needs a gentleman to light a candle or cigarette. I delight in being a gentlemanly woman among average men.

Some things you may think are missing from my bag are keys, phone and tampons. I hate carrying keys. I don’t drive often and we installed a fancy, futuristic keypad code lock the first day in our new house, so I don’t have much use for keys and frequently forget to take them when I leave the house. I do usually carry my phone, but not always. It’s far too easy for me to work from my phone, so I leave it behind when I need to force myself to rest, relax and be present. I recently freed myself from the need to carry a clutch of tampons and liners when I switched to a menstrual cup and Thinx period panties backup system (both of which I highly recommend). I don’t leave the house feeling unprepared for life with a uterus anymore, so I don’t usually need to carry any disposable products with me.

My Everyday Carry | Sophster-Toaster Blog

All photos be me.

Dreaming of a White Christmas

Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I once read that we imagine Christmas as snowy thanks to Charles Dickens. All of his Christmas stories feature a cold, snowy Christmas season, even though the holiday is only a few days into winter – and rarely sees more than a slight dusting of snow in reality. Scholars think this is because Dickens’ childhood took place during an unusually cold decade and he grew up seeing more Christmases with a heavy blanket of snow than not.

When I first learned this fact, it remind me of my own childhood, growing up in the snow belt of Southern Ontario. It was normal for us to get a few big snow storms in November, I even remember having snow ball fights with my brother on his birthday at the end of October, and have that snow stick around and build through March and sometimes into April. My mom had a running joke about dreaming of a green Christmas and I remember wondering what that would be like, since I had only known white Christmases. As a teenager, the snow seemed lighter, but it was still always there. Then I moved to where I live now in the Niagara Region microclimate where most Christmases are brown and a snowfall before January is highly unusual. Sure driving is safer and there’s no shovelling to do, but I find myself missing the snow very much at Christmastime. There is just something so magical about a soft, fresh, downy blanket of snow covering the houses with colourful Christmas light glowing from underneath and the way the city seems so quiet and still before people have left their warm homes and covered the snow in footprints.

That’s why I was so excited when we got a big snow storm last week! It’s nearly all melted away now, but I made sure to get out and enjoy as much of it as I could while it was here, starting with grabbing my camera and heading out the morning after the storm to capture the city all done up for Christmas.

Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog Dreaming of a White Christmas | Sophster-Toaster Blog

All photos by me.

The Puppy

It feels like things are just starting to get back to normal since we brought the puppy home just over two months ago. Pepper turns 18 weeks old today and I’m just now able to keep up on orders, make new designs for the shop and create content for the blog like I did before, all while giving her the care and attention she needs. I’ve typed a lot of weird, desperate and frantic questions into google these past two months but the one I searched for the most, and never really found an answer to, was, when do puppies learn to chill.

The Puppy | Sophster-Toaster Blog

I knew bringing a puppy home, especially when I work full time from home, would be a lot of hard work. I did plenty of research leading up to the day – and I’ve raised one puppy and one difficult rescue dog before with my family – but I was not prepared for just how physically and emotionally taxing the first couple of weeks and months can be when you are the adult in charge. I felt like I’d given up my entire life to care for this rambunctious puppy that did nothing but pee on the floor and bite me. I could feel myself falling in love with her, and her bonding with me too, but the emotional strain of working doubly hard all day to get half as much work done and then not being able to relax and unwind at the end of it because she’s still here and still needs me was overwhelming at times. Add to that the constant fear that I’m doing everything wrong and will raise a bad dog and you can see why I really needed to know when this puppy would learn to sit still long enough for me to catch my breath.

I read many discouraging non-answers to this important question, most being:

  1. Small dogs mature more quickly than big dogs. – ok, thanks
  2. The puppy phase generally lasts one year but can vary by size and breed, lasting anywhere from around eight months, to two years. – surely, there has to be some difference between a ten weeks old and ten months old!
  3. Dogs don’t “chill out” until they are one year old; three years old; seven years old; some never do. – I don’t expect a stuffed animal, I just need to know when I can have a second to myself

These answers were very unreassuring to the new owners of an Australian Shepherd, a breed known to be difficult due to it’s high intelligence and high energy levels. I understand where they are coming from, it’s a hard question to answer when every breed, even every dog, is going to be different and you want people to be prepared for the realities of dog ownership before they take it on, but come on! Giving these types of non-answers to such a frantic question can make a person in a normal situation feel hopeless. I desperately needed to know when I would have time to sit down again. I just wanted to know when this puppy would stop needing 100% of me, 100% of the time. When she would sit on the floor and calmly chew a toy instead of trying to bite me all the time. When she could go for a walk without going crazy and having a meltdown in the middle of the street. When she would stop tearing across the yard just to rip my clothes. When my husband could greet her after being at work all day and not have her demand a blood sacrifice. Most importantly, when would life with a dog be at least a little more joyful than it was miserable.

So here’s my answer.

For my dog, who is a medium sized herding breed, spends nap times behind a baby gate but has at least one owner at home 90% of the time, takes three walks a day, and has had consistent, positive reinforcement, “tough love” style training since day one, she has just started to “chill” at four and a half months. What I mean by this is, she still needs constant supervision but is now able to entertain herself with an appropriate activity for a few minutes at a time, she can cuddle on the couch without immediately getting mouthy and we are able to control and deescalate her meltdowns when they happen. She is still very much a puppy and her training is nowhere near over, but she is now a silly, polite and charming puppy more often than she is mean, frustrating and destructive hell-beast. She still has bratty moments and can struggle to control her emotions when she’s tired, but she is starting to become a good dog.

The Puppy | Sophster-Toaster Blog The Puppy | Sophster-Toaster Blog The Puppy | Sophster-Toaster Blog The Puppy | Sophster-Toaster BlogThe Puppy | Sophster-Toaster Blog

Dress Sophster-Toaster
Top H&M
Tights Target
Shoes ModCloth
Necklace Craft Arts Market / Emery & Opal

All photos by me.