musings

Nikon MOMents: A is for Aperture

A few weeks ago, I shared my fab news: I’m a Nikon MOMents Blogger! Over the next 12 months, I’ll be documenting my life (nothing new) with my Nikon D3300 camera (very new – and exciting). After taking in an informative training session last month, I felt ready to unleash my inner shutterbug.

Now if there’s one thing I learned from the Nikon D3300 training, it’s this: purchasing an expensive DSLR camera, and then proceeding to shoot in Auto, is likely one of the most costly mistakes you’ll ever make. It’s kind of like buying a car and not using the air conditioning, radio or power moonroof! Because if you don’t take the time to understand your new DSLR and its features, then you’re better off using your camera phone. Seriously, I mean that.

I’m guilty, of course. Last year, I purchased a DSLR camera and thought I was so-o cool. Sure, the quality of my pictures improved, but I was shooting still objects. And using the flash. And pretending like I knew what I was doing. That is, of course, until my son ran across the lawn, yelling “take a picture of me!” and as I held down the shutter in Auto (Flash Off) Mode… it returned a gloriously, über high quality, BLURRY photo.

But I spend hundreds of dollars on my camera! How rude!

And that’s why it’s great to have a kick-ass camera, but it’s equally important to know how to use it. After training, playing around, learning and being curious about the functions of my Nikon D3300 camera, I’m really starting to feel comfortable behind the lens. Today, I’m actually kind of giddy to show you how far I’ve come!

JW Marriott MuskokaNow y’all probably know that my husband and I celebrated our seventh wedding anniversary two weeks ago. We trekked up to the JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, where we spent a few wonderful days celebrating our marriage and family. Camera in tow, I dared myself to move away from Auto to my new favourite mode, Aperture.

Ah, Aperture. Where have you been all my life?

Aperture refers to the opening of a lens’s diaphragm through which light passes. It is calibrated in f/stops, where the lower f/stops give more exposure because they represent the larger apertures, and the higher f/stops give less exposure because they represent smaller apertures. I *could* go into detail, but honestly, that’s what Google is for. All you have to know is this: Aperture mode gives you MUCH more control over the brightness, creative blur and sharpness of your photos.  (more…)

food

What’s in YOUR Minute Maid Lights Mocktail?

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Last week, I shared with y’all details from the Minute Maid Lights brunch in Toronto. I’m ecstatic that there are so many cocktail and mocktail lovers among us! And as promised, I’m back today to share the recipe for Nadine Hughes’ Lemon Ginger Punch, which will, by all accounts, change your life. Love lemonade? Love the sharp, spicy bite of ginger? This drink is for YOU.

Minute Maid Lights Lemon Ginger Punchhalf English Cucumber, cut into thin rounds
Small handful of fresh mint leaves
1 lemon, cut into thin rounds
7 cups Minute Maid Light Lemonade
2-3 cups Ginger Beer or Ginger Ale
Crushed Ice

This recipe is so simple to follow, you’ll find yourself making the punch over and over again. (Clearly, I speak from experience.) You can also add your own touches, like substituting basil for mint, or adding fresh raspberries.  (more…)

family

Seize the Summer: Muskoka Sports and Recreation

This summer, if you live in Ontario, or are visiting Ontario, I want you to do two things:

1) Book a stay at JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa.
2) Make a reservation (or two, or three) with Muskoka Sports and Recreation.

Muskoka Sports and Recreation is JW Marriott’s premier partner in Muskoka, offering recreational activities, rentals and lessons to guests of the resort. And if you’re going to be spending time on the stunning Lake Rosseau, it’s only wise to make the most of the scenic natural surroundings. Included in your resort fee: bike rentals, canoeing. family lawn games, kayaking, pedal boating, stand-up paddle boarding and of course, the kid-favourite water slide. What more could you ask for?

Well, how about water skiing? Or tubing on the crisp, cool waters? Maybe you want to slow down the pace with a little fishing, or take a private boat tour of Lake Rosseau. Muskoka Sports and Recreation offers all this, and more.

You’ll find their friendly, knowledgeable staff down by the deck, and if you’ve made reservations for your water adventure, you’re just moments away from reuniting with nature. The representatives on site are mostly students and young adults, but surprisingly, they display poise and professionalism with a flawlessly courteous manner. It is evident that Daniel Arcand, General Manager of Muskoka Sports and Recreation, has been diligent in his selection of seasonal employees; it was a pleasure interacting with the staff from start to finish.

On our recent summer stay at JW Marriott The Rosseau Muskoka Resort & Spa, we were treated to a Tube Run and an Ice Cream Pontoon Boat Cruise. Since I can’t seem to select from the 100+ gorgeous photos I took on the boat cruise, I decided it was probably best to split my posts in two. Hence, today, I’ll chat about our Tube Run.

First and foremost, tubing on the lake is exactly as fun as it sounds! As the boys are 4 and 6, they’re at a perfect age to enjoy a thrilling ride on open water. Of course, since Ryder is always a *tad* resistant to new things (read: scared sh*tless), I’m super proud of him for making the effort. And Reid? Total beast mode, as always.

We made our way down to the deck on a partly cloudy, hot summer day. Of course, when this is your view -

Muskoka Sports and RecreationYou’re already winning. (Side note: I don’t believe it’s possible to not love the stunning Lake Rosseau.)  (more…)

Contests

On the Go? We’re Serving Up #DinnerIn15!

It’s 6:00pm, on any given night. Tick tock tick tock. Really, dinner should be on the table. Instead, you:

- sort through takeout menus for a dial-a-dinner
- rummage through the freezer for food packaged in a cardboard box
- climb a kitchen chair to peruse the (dusty) top shelf of the pantry
- jump in a car hell-bent for the nearest drive-thru

Sounds familiar? Yeah, it happens to me too. And the thing is, dinnertime is inevitable. There’s just this informal social custom that you have to feed your family every night (rolls eyes). Also inevitable? Those nights when you know you *could* whip up something fantastic, but dammit, you just don’t want to. And the second your will starts to waver, you begin your path to the dark side… which often ends with, “Would you like fries with that?”

But what if you could create a delicious, wholesome meal in just 15 minutes? Put that takeout menu away, sister! It’s time for #DinnerIn15!

From the gastronomic geniuses at Maple Leaf Foods, they’re created inspired ways to assemble a hearty meal in 15 minutes or less, starring their scrumptious ham products. Think Reuben Ham Skillet Dinner. Tropical Ham and Cheese Pizza. Hamexican Tostadas. YES, I said Hamexican!!!

Want to learn more? Join the @MapleLeafFoods #DinnerIn15 Twitter Party on Wednesday, June 30th at 8pm EST. We’ll be sharing our best recipes to get in you in (and out) of the kitchen in 15 minutes or less!

#DinnerIn15In addition to joining a fabulous conversation, we’re also serving up a chance to win a one-on-one online cooking class with Chef Bob Villeneuve, including a complete food hamper with all the goodies you’ll need to make a variety of 15-minute meals. Wowzers!

(We’ll also have tons of free product coupons up for grabs – this IS a Maple Leaf Foods Twitter Party, after all!)

Finally, we’ll announce the $1,000 winner of Appehtite’s Dinner in 15 Challenge LIVE at the Twitter Party. If you haven’t entered yet, what are you waiting for? Simply create a meal that can be made in 15 minutes or less using Maple Leaf or Schneiders ham, and submit your recipe to Appehtite.ca.

Sounds like we’ll have an awesome night! For your chance to win, RSVP below. Looking forward to partying with you!  (more…)

family

Family Travel: How to Spend 24 Hours in Toronto

We’ve just passed the halfway point of summer vacation, and if you’ve got children away at camp, high five to you!

I don’t have children away at camp.

So, I have to find things to do to keep them entertained, educated and out of trouble, all while convincing myself that I didn’t really need to get any work done… or get that pedicure… or comb my hair. Sigh, children really do monopolize every bit of time, especially during the summer months. And you know the saying: if you can’t beat ‘em, join ‘em. Hence, I’ve been organizing a variety of day trips, staycations and mini getaways to keep me from hurting them keep them happy. It’s one fun adventure after another!

At the top of my reco list for mini getaways? 24 hours in Toronto, ON. And I’ve got it down to a science; I’ll show you how to park once, get twice the entertainment value, sleep in comfort, “swim” with sharks, and more.

To begin your adventure, make a reservation at the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel. Designed as the ultimate entertainment getaway, the Renaissance Toronto Downtown Hotel is located inside the Rogers Centre and offers full-service luxury accommodations.

Renaissance Toronto HotelOn the day of your mini-getaway, check in and take advantage of their valet parking for $35 per day. While the self-park option is $25, you will actually need a map (supplied by the hotel) to find the lot. Hence, for $10 more and the convenience of hopping off at the curb, it’s recommended you take advantage of this service. And here’s the best part: you’ll only need to park once. That’s right – all the amazing sight-seeing and family fun you’ll experience over the next 24 hours is within walking distance of the hotel! Two words: perfect location.  (more…)

Contests

Sometimes, It’s ALL About the #TINYWIN

Taking the stairs at work. Parking farther away from the mall entrance. Dancing around the kitchen while making dinner. Sounds like a great idea!

Drinking eight glasses of water per day. Swapping fried potatoes for baked potatoes. Surviving on one less cup of coffee every morning. That’s doable, no?

A small change which can lead to HUGE lifestyle rewards. That is the #TINYWIN.

We believe every step in the right direction deserves a celebration! Because, let’s face it, life is short, but days can be long. Faced with the stresses of balancing work, family, social obligations and more, it’s not always easy to stay on track with a healthy lifestyle. But when you pause, take a deep breath, and give yourself a pat on the back for your #TINYWIN, you’re well on the way to making a positive life change.

Need a little inspiration to get you started? Join us for the @KraftCanada Crystal Light #TINYWIN Twitter Party on Thursday, July 24th at 8:00pm ET. We’ll share our best tips for living an active, healthy lifestyle, and how you can make small (er… tiny!) changes every day to keep you positive, motivated, and most importantly, feeling your best.

CrystalLight-TwitterPartyE-viteTo thank you for joining the conversation, we’ll have some amazing prizes up for grabs! So, think of your own #TINYWIN strategy, and get ready to share. Cheers to a healthier you! (Click here for official Twitter Party Rules.)

For your chance to win, RSVP below. Looking forward to partying with you!  (more…)

beauty

The Voice Tour Presented by CLEAR Scalp & Hair #ClearVoice

If you caught my blog a couple of weeks ago, you’ll know that I offered one lucky reader a “melodious” experience – the chance to see The Voice Tour LIVE when it rolled into Toronto. But the prize pack included more than just tickets to the show; the lucky winner and guest were treated to backstage passes, the opportunity to sit in on sound check, and of course, a chance to see their favourite performers and personalities live!

The Voice Tour TorontoThe tour, presented by CLEAR Scalp & Hair (hashtag #ClearVoice) featured past stars and this season’s finalists, including Josh Kaufman, Jake Worthington, Christina Grimmie, Kristen Merlin (fan favourite), Jake Barker, Tessanne Chin and more. The crooners entertained a full house with their most popular hits from the show.

The Voice Tour TorontoOf course, other than the singing, it was pretty apparent that the performers had one thing in common – amazing hair! Could their secret be CLEAR Scalp & Hair products?  (more…)

Contests

We’re Celebrating #HotDogDay with a Twitter Party!

Wednesday, July 23rd is officially Hot Dog Day in Canada! Yes, apparently every dog has its day.

When I was a wee one, “Hot Dog Day” meant a school lunch consisting of a boiled hot dog, a small bag of chips and overly sweet lemonade. Oh, how I adored Hot Dog Day! It allowed me the chance to have lunch at school with my friends, and savour three delicious foods at the same time. I can distinctly remember eating my hot dog s-l-o-w-l-y to relish every bite; popping the end in my mouth with a self-satisfied grin. At the time, ketchup was my topping of choice – but I’ve since evolved to include more inspired toppings such as smoked cheddar, salsa and even coleslaw.

(Extremely frustrating? I live with three boys who prefer NO condiments on their hot dogs. None! Zilch! Nada! Isn’t that like food blasphemy? Or are Maple Leaf Hot Dogs so good that no adornments are needed? Regardless, I’m still on team #ketchupmustardrelish.)

Now who doesn’t enjoy a good hot dog? Whether at a birthday party, ball park or in your own backyard, they’re one of the best handheld foods that the whole family loves. And today, the choices are endless! Maple Leaf Natural Selections, Angus Beef, Less Salt and more – there’s a hot dog to suit every taste and lifestyle. Pair them up with fresh Dempsters Hot Dog Buns, and you’re in flavourtown!

Hot Dog DayOf course, the best way to celebrate #HotDogDay is with a Twitter Party! Join @MapleLeafFoods as we pay tribute to the mighty hot dog. We’re starting the celebration one day early with a #HotDogDay Twitter Party on Tuesday, July 22nd from 8-9pm ET. There’ll be lots of yummy conversation and amazing prizes as always!

For your chance to win, RSVP below. Looking forward to partying with you!  (more…)

food

Experience the Taste of Toronto!

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

You know me and local food festivals. Oh, you don’t? Okay, I’ll explain – if there’s one happening, I WILL attend.

The chance to savour new and exciting cuisines. The opportunity to chat one-on-one with world-renowned chefs. The time to learn about cooking techniques, flavours and culinary inspiration. The thrill of purchasing sauces and spices that have yet to make it to market. THAT is why I love food shows.

Today, I’m happy to introduce the FIRST ever Taste Of Toronto, a Taste Festival.

Taste Festivals, an IMG event, is considered the world’s greatest restaurant festival. The festival concept began 10 years ago in London, England, and has rapidly grown into an international event with festivals in 20 cities around the world including Dubai, Amsterdam, Milan, Moscow, Melbourne, Dublin, Mumbai, Sydney, and Johannesburg, to name a few. Everywhere it goes, Taste represents a gourmand’s dream come true: delicious food created by the city’s greatest restaurants, world famous chefs, superb drink and outstanding entertainment, set in stunning surroundings.

Taste Festival, Regent's Park, London, 2008At Taste of Toronto, visitors can participate in a full schedule of cooking classes, demonstrations, chef Q&As, book signings and much more. Several special guests will be mingling with the crowd including Momofuku chef and owner David Chang; French-Canadian chef and television personality, Chuck Hughes; and cookbook author and Canadian chef, Roger Mooking.

With 17 of Toronto’s top chefs offering new culinary creations and over 50 signature small plates from their restaurants, sample the delicious fare over a picnic at the music stage featuring music performances by the likes of Jason Collett and The Darcys, curated by local record label Arts & Crafts. Be sure to tour the producers marketplace, including nearly 70 premium vendors, and visit the Officer’s Mess Kitchen for historical cooking classes for kids and adults alike.

Admission tickets start from $30 and give access to the festival grounds and programming listed below as well as $6 worth of ‘crowns’, the event currency. For more information or to purchase tickets visit tasteoftoronto.com(more…)

food

Lighten Up! The #MinuteMaidLights Brunch

A few weeks ago, I had the pleasure of co-hosting a weekend brunch with Minute Maid Lights. It was fah-bu-lous, dah-ling! You know what they say… ladies who brunch enjoy the punch… or in this case, the hand-crafted Minute Maid Lights Mimosas personalized with flair and flourish.

(FYI – I totally just made up that saying, just because I have a strange need to make words rhyme. I’m a poet and I want everyone to know it! Okay, moving on….)

Introducing Minute Maid Light Light Orange Juice Beverage. It’s made with the goodness of Minute Maid but with 50% fewer calories than their regular orange juice – yet still provides an excellent source of Vitamin C.

Minute Maid Light Lemonade is made with real lemons, is an excellent source of Vitamin C and has 65% fewer calories than their regular lemonade. It’s the goodness of Minute Maid, now in a delicious Light version.

Minute Maid LightsWhat can you do with Minute Maid Light Lemonade? Well, you *could* enjoy it straight from the carton, as it happens to be super tangy and refreshing, but I’d rather see you whip up some Lemon Ginger Punch. (Recipe to come, folks! Plus a sweet little giveaway.) Pictured above is the “adult version” with added Pimm’s – yum!  (more…)

family

8 Ways to Keep Baby Cool on Hot Summer Days

So here’s a curious little fact about me that you may not know: I had the very same due date for both boys, two years apart. Yup! May 25th was circled on my calendar twice – what are the odds?

(Another curious fact: if you count backwards and do the math, that means my husband and I got frisky on Labour Day long weekends. Now, we vacation separately. Don’t want to chance another May 25th to circle on the calendar!)

My two May babies were born just before the hot, sticky summer weather rolled in, which presented a few challenges to this neurotic mom:

1) How do I know if he’s too hot? Do babies sweat?
2) What does heat rash look like?
3) Should I apply sunscreen to a one month old?

Ugh, I really stressed out about this kind of stuff with Ryder. (We all know that I just stripped Reid down to his diaper and left him in the bouncer. Cause that’s what you do with your second kid, obvi.) At the end of the day, I just wanted to make sure my boys were cool, comfortable and content.

Baby's First Summer(I found the above photo of Ryder at 13 months old… looks like he found a great way to keep cool on hot summer days! And ye gods – that kiddie pool was tiny - and so was he! Ah, memories…)

Badge-FinalToday, I’m proud to announce that I am a Disney Baby Mom Ambassador. If you’ve been reading my blog over the past few years, you’ll know it’s a match made in heaven! (Yes, you’re also looking at a Disney Social Media Mom and a Disney Junior Mom… let’s just say I have a love affair with the brand.) As part of my collaboration, I’ll be posting the very best in tips and tricks straight from the experts at Disney Baby, in addition to sharing their latest products, innovations and promotions.

Coming along with me on this journey? My beautiful niece… who at 10 months old, is the apple of my eye! I am thrilled that she will be a bona fide Disney Baby.

To start, we all know summer with a baby can be a lot of fun. There are plenty of outdoor activities you can enjoy together and lots of new spaces for baby to explore. When you’re outside with your baby in the summer heat, comfort and safety are key. Here are some tips from Disney Baby on how to keep your little one cool, so you can get back to having fun in the sun.  (more…)

beauty

Put Your Best Eyebrows Forward

I have an eyebrow obsession. Some people have good hair days… I have good eyebrow days. 

I tend to be vain about them, too. That’s why I couldn’t resist taking this photo last night – chillin’ in bed with the kiddos, I realized that my eyebrows were quite awesome. So of course I Instagrammed the picture and tagged it #goodeyebrowday.

Eyebrow ObsessionI know, I’m very strange.

Now you may be asking yourself, What’s the secret to perfect eyebrows? Well, there really isn’t a secret at all. You just need to remember three things:

1. Your eyebrow shape has been pre-designed to perfectly frame your eyes and provide expression to your face. Balance and proportion are what the human eye perceives as beautiful, so always work with your natural shape vs. trying to tweeze them into an unnatural arch.

2. If you have gone overboard and tweezed your brows into thin lines (or the dreaded “comma” shape), grow them back. Many women will claim that after over-tweezing, their eyebrows won’t grow back. However, unless you’ve been tweezing for 30+ years, it’s hard to permanently damage the hair follicle.

You just need to be super patient (re-growth can take up to 6 months) and put up with unpolished brows for a season or two. This past winter, I successfully grew back 30% of my brows by leaving them alone.

3. Regardless of your eyebrow state, use a brow pencil or brow powder to define the shape and fill in sparse areas. You’ll need a steady hand, and a lot of practice. (Hint: if you look like Groucho Marx, wipe if off and start again.) You can even purchase handy eyebrow stencils (yes, stencils!) from Sephora, but I don’t prefer them as they force you to create a new shape vs. defining your own.

Here are my tools of the trade:

Tweezerman Tweezer. Positively the finest general use tweezer in the world – top eyebrow artists always recommend the original Slant tweezer for expert brow shaping. The perfectly aligned, hand-filed tips grab every hair, every time with true precision.

CoverGirl Brow & Eyemakers Pencil. Create beautiful brows with this incredibly versatile pencil. It has a soft hue and powdery finish, and offers the perfect amount of coverage when applied with a light, feathery stroke. Best of all, the two-pack of pencils retails for about $5.00!

My very best tip when using an eyebrow pencil is to ensure your brows are darker than your hair colour. The biggest mistake I see is when women use a light or medium brown eyebrow pencil/powder when they have dark brown or blonde hair. Even natural blondes have dark brown brows, people! Stick to midnight brown and you’ll be good to go, regardless of your hair colour.

Do you have questions about shaping or filling eyebrows? I’m here to help! After years of obsessing over my own, I consider myself quite the expert on the subject.

musings

Shirking My Responsibility

cartoonFriends, I’ve been a bit of a flake. You see, when I first set up my blog, I made a promise: that I would respond to every reader comment. And for almost six years, I made good on my word!

Alas, for the last 3-4 weeks, I’ve been travelling, attending events, hosting events, juggling two boys at home, and otherwise spending every waking moment mentally scrolling through my to-do list. As a result, my blog interaction has sucked eggs.

However, today I will remedy the situation. I don’t care if you left a comment on June 12th – today, I’m writing my response. Made a joke on June 29th? Got it. My “Hahaha! Too funny!” is on the way!

Seriously, though – I love y’all. And I love even more that you take a few moments out of your day to let me know that you’re there for me. Now it’s time for me to reciprocate.

Since I won’t be posting content today, here are a few suggested readings:

The 35 Funniest AutoCorrect Fails EVER
Top 100 Inspirational Quotes
30 Ideas For Your 2014 Bucket List
20 Things That Are Too Canadian To Handle

Or, you know, you could just go and enter some of my great contests. (Psst – I’ve got TWO more to blog this week! Stay tuned.) Have a great day all!

food

Chill Out with the Wave Station from Hamilton Beach

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

If I had my way, I’d play DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s Summertime on repeat, all summer long. (Disclaimer: You need to be at least 35 years old to remember this tune, or have an affinity for early 90′s music.)

The weather is hot and girls are dressing less
And checking out the fellas to tell ‘em who’s best
Riding around in your jeep or your benzos
Or in your Nissan sitting on Lorenzos

When I was a young teen, radio stations would plop this anthem into rotation the minute the mercury rose above 20°C, where it would repeat endlessly until back to school flyers started circulating. It was the perfect “chill out” song.

Today, while I still love summer music, I also love cooling down with a refreshing fruit smoothie. After all, nothing says “summer in a glass” more than the tangy, cool blend of ripe fruit, creamy yogurt and refreshing ice. Until recently, I spent a little too much money ordering these delicious concoctions from drive thrus and juice bars, but now, I do it all at home.

Introducing the Hamilton Beach Wave Station Express Dispensing Blender. Two things you need to know right off the bat: First, it is currently on sale at Walmart Canada for just $14.94, so immediately after reading my review, I suggest you order one online or run out to your nearest store. (In fact, I’ll wait here if you need to quickly pop one in your cart. Remember, you’ll receive free shipping at Walmart when you shop online!)

Second, this machine is a beast. With a 500 watt peak power motor and 9 blending functions, the Wave-Action system continuously pulls mixture down into the blades for smooth results every single time. Plus, its 48 oz. dishwasher safe DuraBlend jar is large enough to make four 8 oz. smoothies at once – perfect for families and entertaining.

This summer, chill out with a Tropical Smoothie.

 Hamilton Beach Wave Station Express Dispensing BlenderThe following “recipe” (if you can call it that – I simply throw together some good foodie stuff) serves two. As you can see, there’s plenty of room to make four smoothies, all within a compact small appliance. And hello! Check out the fabulous, fun colour!  (more…)

beauty

GTA: See “The Voice” LIVE in Toronto!

Today I have a chance to chat about TWO things I love – CLEAR Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy… and The Voice!

(And… they just happen to partner perfectly together – read on for your chance to see The Voice live in concert in Toronto! Now that’s CLEARLY something fans of the show won’t want to miss.)

Long-time readers will remember that I first tried CLEAR products early last year. Having a deep desire to improve the health of my hair, I put CLEAR Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy to the test. It’s a nourishing hair care line, with Nutrium 10, a rich blend of vitamins and nutrients. CLEAR feeds your scalp and can give you stronger, more beautiful hair in just seven days!

CLEAR Scalp & HairAnd the results? After the third or fourth wash, I started seeing a noticeable difference in the feel, look and texture of my hair. It was much shinier, felt somewhat healthier and the breakage was pretty much NIL. Honestly, even Jerry Seinfeld would approve the zero strands of hair left behind on my brush!

Did you know that 99% of hair’s natural strength and beauty comes from the scalp? Just like we apply moisturizer for beautiful skin, the scalp needs the same attention to grow healthy hair. And THAT’s why CLEAR Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy is totally fab – it targets the hair at the root.

So… what about that amazing partnership? CLEAR Scalp & Hair is the official sponsor of The Voice Tour! And on Thursday, July 10th, 2014, they’ll sing their way to the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts in Toronto at 7:30pm.

The Voice TourThe Voice Tour features past stars and this season’s finalists! Catch up on their journeys on The Voice and see them showcase their resilience. Featured artists include Josh Kaufman, Jake Worthington, Christina Grimmie, Kristen Merlin (Your Pick!), Jake Barker, Tessanne Chin and more. Does this sound like music to your ears? Here’s your chance to WIN!

One lucky reader and a guest will be treated to an incredible show, backstage passes, and a number of interactive experiences for some great photo-opportunities. (Note: transportation to/from the venue is not included.) To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling us what you love about The Voice – and, let us know if you’ve tried CLEAR Scalp & Hair products! I’ll draw for a winner on Monday, July 7th, 2014. Good luck everybody!

<<EDIT: A winner has been chosen! Congrats Marcy!>>

food

The Curious Thing About Curiosity

Before I became a mother, I associated curiosity with many positive traits: growth, intellect, analysis and inquisition. To me, curiosity represented a willingness to learn, better oneself, and most importantly, be cognizant of the wonderful world around us. I admired those who challenged the status quo by becoming curious about things, people and places that matter.

Of course, after I had children, my interpretation of the word shifted just slightly.

Now, curiosity means sticky fingers and broken electronics. It means a glass figurine pulled from a top shelf; a centipede trapped under a bowl, a melted crayon found on white berber carpet. And that’s just scratching the surface. My home has been taken over by amateur scientists, hell bent on discovering who, what, when, where and WHY – sigh, always why. Does everything need a reason?

Yet as I type this, I realize how short-sighted I’ve been. I’ve let my petty frustrations mask the true joy of raising curious children. Because for every shattered glass figurine, there’s an appreciation for how fragile life can be. For every trapped insect, there’s respect for our living ecosystem. And for every melted crayon, there’s a lesson in science – namely, coloured wax + expensive carpet = mom furiously scrubbing with a bucketful of chemicals while muttering obscenities under her breath. Okay, so maybe there’s a lesson in science and linguistics.

Maybe it’s time I rethink my views on curiosity.

And now I’m smiling, because I’m thinking about the very first time Ryder tasted ice cream; a tiny lick off a tiny spoon, and instantly, his eyes became twice as large with sheer delight. I’m remembering Reid’s first bites of corn on the cob; holding the ear of corn at arm’s length, trying to decide what to do with it. I’m laughing at Ryder’s introduction to steak, where he chewed the fibrous meat for about 5 minutes before he pulled it out of his mouth and declared, “Beef is broken. Can’t eat.”

In fact, for little ones, I truly believe that curiosity begins in the kitchen - and a fun and delicious way to encourage kids to be curious is by involving them in preparing and tasting new flavours and textures. I’m pleased to once again partner with Minute Maid, who along with the Canadian Living Test Kitchen has created a new line of recipes that will spark creativity and help pave the way for future curious culinary exploration.

Today, I showed the boys how good greens can be with this delicious and simple Berry-Banana Green Smoothie.

1 can (250 mL) Minute Maid Frozen Smoothies Strawberry Banana
2 cups frozen mixed berries
1-3/4 cups milk
1 cup baby spinach leaves
Half avocado

In blender, combine Minute Maid Frozen Smoothies Strawberry Banana, mixed berries, milk, spinach and avocado; purée until smooth.

Minute Maid SmoothiesI am blessed; both my boys have pretty adventurous palettes, and rarely do I need to “hide” vegetables from them (ten times out of ten Ryder will eat the broccoli, Brussels sprouts or beans first). I sincerely hope they continue to be curious about the foods they eat, the things they do and the places they see… and if that sense of curiosity brings them to melted crayon territory, I’ll just remember to look back on this post, and chill out.

For more delicious recipes that are perfect for curious little individuals, visit Minute Maid.

family

#ThrowbackThursday #tbt: Seven Years

In 2014, I will be participating in #tbt courtesy of the Epson Expression Premium XP-810 Small–in–One printer, the ultimate choice for scanning and printing. Ultra powerful and ultra slim, it produces stunning borderless photos and documents quickly and affordably. Featuring the ultimate in wireless printing, the XP-810 makes it easier than ever to print from your iPad, iPhone, tablet or smartphone, whether in your home or out and about.

On Monday, we will celebrate seven years since 07-07-07.

kissI knew I was going to marry my husband from the moment I met him. He has undeniable qualities that I cherish; thoughtfulness, optimism and a jovial manner that ensures I’m always laughing or smiling or feeling amazing, regardless of the circumstances. However, if I had to nail down one quality that warms my heart, it’s the fact that I can never deny his love for me. With every word, action, thought and gesture, he is steadfast in his adoration.

Yep, he’s a keeper. And I intend on hanging on to him for seven more years, and seven more after that… and seven more… and still seven more… and seven after that…

family

2014: We Shall Seize the Summer

Folks, we are in the month of July. JULY! And just like every single year, the summer seems to be zipping along way too quickly for my liking. The promise of long, hazy days and relaxing nights on the patio will soon pass with a snap of the finger, leaving me to wonder where the time went – and exactly how I spent it.

This year, I’ve had a revelation of sorts. You see, I’m really good at making plans for all I want to do… but I always let life get in the way, and then fall short. NOT. THIS. SUMMER. This season, I’ve made a commitment to my family that we will seize every weekend and get out, enjoy the weather, take a dip in a pool, do something different, try something new, capture the memories, spend time together… you get my drift.

Seize the SummerThe summer fun is already underway. After spending a luxury weekend getaway at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, and then following up with a Day of Discovery with Renaissance Hotels (including two awesome days at Ripley’s Aquarium!), we’re off to Canada’s Wonderland this Friday, to be followed up with a weekend (and anniversary!) getaway to our favourite northern destination, the JW Marriott Muskoka. After that, we’re taking in an advanced screening of Planes: Fire & Rescue, followed by a visit to African Lion Safari, a dinner and tournament at Medieval Times… and whatever else pops up in between. And, that’s just over the next three weeks.

See? I’ve made good on my word, and will continue to do so.  (more…)

fashion

Dress for Success: Moores Canadian Suit Drive

FACT: Donated Suits Improve Men’s Chances for Employment.

Chances are, you know someone who has been out of work this past year. And with unemployment comes hard times, even harder choices and a limited amount of options to find fulfilling, meaningful work. In fact, this past April alone, there were 744,600 reported cases of unemployed men across Canada – and the need to help these men is a very real issue.

I’ve had friends, family members and loved ones who have unexpectedly found themselves unemployed. And let me tell you – it’s rough. But the only thing worse than scouring the want ads, re-writing your resume and worriedly checking on the bank balance, is not having confidence in the way you present yourself at interviews. After all, your self-esteem when you walk through the door can dictate how successful your meeting is. However, for several men looking to break back into the workforce, they simply don’t have access to an interview-ready wardrobe.

Moores Suit DriveThis year, I’m proud to partner with Moores Clothing to help spread the word about the Moores’ Canadian Suit Drive. The Suit Drive provides free suits and professional clothing to men seeking to turn their lives around by working directly with more than 60 local recipient organizations across Canada that provide job readiness programs for men seeking employment.

“We may not realize how much confidence a suit can give, but sometimes that small act of donating a suit to someone in need hoping to transition back into the workplace can make all the difference,” says Paige Souter, Executive Director at Dress Your Best in Toronto.

It makes perfect sense to me, and this past weekend, I raided my husband’s closet to find worthwhile items he was ready to part with. From shirts and jackets to pants and ties, I collected a nice pile of stylish clothes that we knew would be better suited (pun intended) to a job seeker than hanging out at the back of his closet. And it’s all good, because we win too! As a thank you for donating, customers will receive 50 per cent off their next purchase from Moores (excluding shoes, clearance, and Exceptional Value items).

Now in its fifth year, Moores’ Canadian Suit Drive runs from July 1-31, 2014. Canadians can donate men’s suits, shirts, jackets, pants, ties, belts and shoes as well as women’s professional clothing at any of the more than 100 Moores’ stores across Canada. For more information, visit www.canadiansuitdrive.com.

No suit? No Problem! You can donate even if you don’t have any professional attire to spare. For every social mention of #SuitDrive, Moores will donate $1 (up to $10,000) to the cause. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Come on – if you’re on Twitter, go on and hit RT below….

Remember, by contributing to the Suit Drive, you’re helping at least one Canadian man facing barriers to employment get back on his feet. So dig deep! I can’t think of a better reason to make some room in your boyfriend or husband’s closet. Click here to visit Moores’ Canadian Suit Drive.

Contests

Celebrating 30 Summers Days with Staples Canada

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

At the beginning of June, I accepted the #30SummerDays photo challenge, sponsored by @StaplesCanada.

For the last month, I’ve posted themed photos that showcase my love for the season. And while y’all may have looked at my Instagram stream, thinking, “cute pictures!” – I actually have a little secret: I took them all with a handy little camera from Staples Canada!

30SummerDays4Staples Canada is the place to find Wifi-enabled cameras from Canon and Nikon, which allow you to upload your pictures and movies on-the-go. A social sharer’s dream! And, they just happen to have the BEST prices on some of the hottest cameras – like the Nikon COOLPIX S9600 Digital Camera, which features built-in Wi-Fi for instant photo sharing and remote camera control with a compatible smartphone or tablet.

30SummerDays3The 30 days flew by! I mean – newsflash – it’s the first of July today! And, if there’s one thing I learned from the photo challenge, it’s the importance of documenting life’s moments (big and small). Now would be the perfect time to pick up a Wifi-enabled camera from Staples Canada, to start cataloging your own memories.  (more…)