food

Are YOU Kraft Canada’s Ultimate Food Hacker?

Are you a ninja in the kitchen? Can you take a meal from bor-ing to brilliant! by swapping an ingredient or two? Maybe you’re the queen of one-bowl meals, prepping and cooking dinner with lightning fast precision. Or, perhaps you’ve found the most versatile way to use ordinary cooking appliances (waffle sandwiches, anyone?).

Kraft Canada knows that consumers have never been more committed to eating better, yet busy lifestyles force many to make compromises for the sake of convenience. Enter food hacking — a growing movement aimed at helping moms cook tasty meals, using unexpected twists and elements of inspiration.

Food Hacking is serious business. It’s not just a fancy title for a foodie who can Instagram a picture of their meal. It’s an emerging food trend and social conversation. And it’s something Kraft Canada is helping to amplify, showing consumers that when it comes to meal preparation, it can be as easy as “Get these. Do this. Done.”

To bring Food Hacking to a new level, Kraft Canada is launching a national talent search for our nation’s #IamFoodHacks ULTIMATE Food Hacker. This is the real deal! A real PAYING opportunity with real credibility. The selected winning candidate will be Kraft Canada’s official Food Hacker, develop new Food Hacking recipes and drive food hacking content through Kraft social channels. This once-in-a-lifetime opportunity comes with a one year contract including a total of $25,000 in compensation and a generous monthly food allowance designed to inspire creative food hacking solutions.

Need some inspiration? Check out this One-Pot Sun-Dried Tomato Pasta. Everything goes in at once! The water, the seasonings and the pasta. Bring to a boil, then 12 minutes later you have a pot of perfectly cooked pasta!

IamFoodHacks220 g spaghetti, uncooked - 3 cups water - 1 cup halves cherry tomatoes - 1 onion, thinly sliced - ¼ cup Kraft Extra Virgin Olive Oil Sun-Dried Tomato Dressing - ½ cup fresh basil, divided - ¼ cup Kraft 100% Parmesan Grated Cheese

Bring spaghetti, water, tomatoes, onions, dressing and ¼ basil to a boil in large skillet. Cook on medium heat 12 min. or until spaghetti is tender and most of the water is cooked off, stirring and turning spaghetti frequently with tongs. Add cheese; mix lightly. Top with remaining basil. And just like that: Get these. Do this. Done.

So, you think you have what it takes? HURRY! It’s your last chance to enter the Kraft Canada #IamFoodHacks contest. For official competition guidelines and complete program details, visit: http://offerpop.com/foodhacks 

beauty

Summer Hair Care: The Choice is CLEAR

When it comes to beauty essentials, I’m a creature of habit. Although my position as a blogger allows me to review a variety of products, at the end of the day, I tend to stick with my tried and true favourites. In fact, if you’ve been paying attention, you’ll see that my product recommendations for beauty products are few and far between… simply because I feel like a fraud if I endorse a different beauty product every other day.

Hence, if I’m talking about something, chances are, I use it. A lot.

Now when it comes to CLEAR Scalp & Hair, I love introducing it into my beauty rotation to “shake up” my routine. I’m a firm believer that your body can get used to the products you repeatedly use, which over time, lessons their effectiveness. In the case of hair care, I generally switch my stand-by products every few months with a quality system, such as the CLEAR Intense Hydration line.

CLEARResilient, beautiful looking hair starts at the foundation. CLEAR Intense Hydration Shampoo, Conditioner and Deep Nourishing Mask are clinically proven to help replenish the scalp with essential 24 hour hydration, making hair resilient to dryness for soft, silky tresses. CLEAR Intense Hydration products are infused with Cactus extract, a known hydrator.

It’s very hard to put into words exactly how much I truly enjoy CLEAR Scalp & Hair. I love the luscious fragrance which lingers on after my hair has dried. I adore how the shampoo lathers with ease and the conditioner rinses clean away with minimal effort. And I’m convinced the texture of my hair has improved since I started regularly using the Deep Nourishing Mask.

But if I had to name one thing that has me sold on CLEAR Scalp & Hair, it’s that I just have many more good hair days when I use the products.

It’s not complicated. I spend less time heat styling my hair, because my locks are more tamed. I find fewer hairs in my comb and brush, because my hair seems to resist breakage. And most importantly, I receive more compliments about the overall healthy appearance of my hair.

(Even my husband notices! And he’s, like, impervious to most things beauty-related.)

So take a long look at your hair, and your hair care routine. Do you need a break from your every day? Try CLEAR Scalp & Hair. I’m quite confident you’ll be impressed with the results. And remember, for a limited time, you can try it for less! Here’s a coupon for $3.00 off your purchase of a CLEAR product.

Visit www.clearhaircare.com.

food

#FlavourStory: The Great Canadian Grille-Off!

Some people vie for the best car. Others, the best lawn or garden. And for a long time, in a room full of strangers, I needed to have the most frivolous designer handbag. (It’s okay, you can roll your eyes at me.) And my husband? Well, it’s simple – he needs to be the best grill master ever. Honestly! He’s constantly comparing his barbecuing expertise with every person he meets. And – shhh - he judges people based on theirs. I know he does.

You could say that he’s the perfect candidate for a Grille-Off! Introducing the Club House La Grille Spice Challenge. Throughout the summer, eight celebrity chefs from across Canada will compete in four culinary duels to determine the BEST barbecue recipes using Club House products.

Grille-OffWhat’s in it for you? Well, besides the opportunity discover new and delicious recipes that you can steal for your own backyard barbecues, if you vote for your favourite Great Canadian Grille-Off recipes, you’ll have the chance to win a $500 pre-paid credit card! And, you’ll also be automatically entered to win the grand prize: a sizzling summer grilling party hosted by a celebrity chef for you and five lucky friends. PLUS, you’ll get a $2,000 pre-paid credit card to put towards the grill of your dreams!

This week, we’ve got two amazing Toronto chefs going head to head; Chef Joanna Tymkiw debuts her Crispy Thai Tacos using Roasted Garlic and Peppers Rub Marinade, while Chef Rocco Agostino presents his Montreal Rubbed Flank Steak Speducci featuring Montreal Steak Spice Rub Marinade. And great news! I just happen to have a copy of their recipes to share with you!

Chef Joanna: “Toronto has a colourful blend of ethnicities and cultures which is celebrated throughout my cuisine. The city offers the newest fusion food creations which you’ll find anywhere, from renowned restaurants to foodie favoured food trucks. I believe a recipe featuring warm weather fare like tacos with the refreshing yet satisfying elements of Thai cuisine is sure to be a hit with home cooks.”  (more…)

family

BMO Ready, Set, Goal!

This summer has been infinitely more enjoyable for me, and it’s not because of the weather (obviously), the time spent on the patio (since that’s dependent on the weather), or the copious amounts of icy drinks I’ve enjoyed (I’ve lost count). The reason this summer totally rocks is that I am officially a soccer mom! That’s right, Ryder started a house league back in June, and now, I find myself participating in a whole range of soccer mom shenanigans.

I’ve stood on top of shaky folding chairs to cheer him on; hollered encouragement at him during warm up drills, and *tried* to avoid hanging my head in embarrassment that time he almost scored in his own net. Oh dear.

The point is, I’m his biggest fan and he absolutely deserves my love and support! And that’s why I’m so happy to partner with BMO to spread the word about the BMO Ready, Set, Goal! contest. The contest celebrates the sense of team spirit and camaraderie that makes soccer special – and, they’re on the hunt for the most spirited cheers across Canada! The lucky winners will have a chance to attend a Major League Soccer (MLS) game. Goal!

girl_on_grass_englishHere’s what you need to do:

Submit your team’s cheer video to www.BMOSoccer.com until September 26, 2014. Amateur videographers are welcomed! In fact, submissions can be shot from smart phones or home video cameras as the focus is on team spirit, rather than elaborate production. The contest is open to youth soccer players aged 7-12, from any team, at any level.

Reward for Entry Prize: By entering this contest, each entrant will receive a prize pack for their team that includes 15 water bottles plus a special offer from BMO!

Early Bird Prize: The first 500 entries will receive a Coaches Kit that includes 1 mesh soccer bag, 2 soccer balls, and 1 clipboard.

Weekly Prize: Each week up to 100 names will be randomly chosen to receive a $75 Prepaid MasterCard. This is a rolling prize over 10 weeks; every name that does not win will continue to be entered in the draw for the next week.

Grand Prize: One random team will win a team VIP weekend to a MLS match in October.

Furthermore, 26 coaches across the country will also receive $1,000 to go towards their soccer team. This cheque will be presented to them at a local BMO branch in their neighbourhood. (See official rules here.(more…)

fashion

Step into the World of Onyx

Standing behind the velvet rope, I stepped on tiptoes, craning my neck for a better look. The attendant at the door frowned slightly, shifting to the right to block my view. I crossed my arms at my chest, silently willing him to move aside so I could once again peek through the door. I heard the deep laughter mixed with clinking glasses. I felt the pulsating beat of music escaping onto the sidewalk. I saw the onyx walls alternating between dark and dangerous, with every flash of a strobe light.

Determined, I adjusted my facial expression from surly to sultry. Smiling at the attendant, I asked:

“So, what can I do to hasten my entry tonight?”

He looked at me shrewdly, and then, leaning forward, whispered: “How much have you got?”

I leaned forward boldly, aware that to enter the world of Onyx, there is only one thing I had to do.

I had to keep being me.

“Six thousand,” I stated quietly, raising my eyebrows in challenge.

With a lop-sided grin, he retreated and released the velvet rope. Taking a deep breath, I stepped through the threshold, my eyes adjusting to the dark with ease as my gaze shifted from side to side.

The World of Onyx.

AIR MILES OnyxAnd that, is how I was introduced to AIR MILES’ Onyx program: a way to thank their best Collectors with exclusive benefits, including personal shopper service, discounts on flight and merchandise rewards as well as priority customer service, to name just a few. An event held recently in Toronto announced the program for high-earning Collectors who earn 6,000 AIR MILES reward miles during one calendar year (from January 1 – December 31). So, keep doing what you’re doing, collecting those reward miles and living life.  (more…)

musings

Make the Promise to End Distracted Driving

Every time I leave my house, I have to confront the memory. The nightmare.

I can’t avoid it; I can’t turn around and take another route. I can’t NOT think about it as I approach the intersection, because it’s the only way for me to make it onto the main road. I can’t do anything but place my foot on the gas and take a deep breath as I drive ahead.

Three years ago, I was in a serious car accident – just moments from my front door. Now I won’t be so dramatic as to say it changed my whole life, but it did give me profound insight into one truth: FOCUS on the Road.

Distracted DrivingIt was a sunny, cold morning and my husband was uncharacteristically working from home for the first part of the day. Seizing an opportunity to run to the grocery store without toting two tots, I threw on a coat and jumped into his car, yelling that I would return in less than 20 minutes.

IT ONLY TAKES ONE SECOND TO CHANGE THE REST OF YOUR LIFE.

The grocery run itself was unremarkable; loading up on baby cereal, assorted fruits and veggies, I left the store and drove the 4-minute commute back to my house. (Repeat: the 4-minute commute.) At the major intersection before my side street, I waited patiently for the light to turn green.

I remember glancing out the window; thinking about what I should make for dinner that night, chewing on my bottom lip. The light turned green, and I calmly stepped on the gas. Rihanna sang away on the radio.

And the next thing I knew, I felt the force of impact; air bags exploding all around me; the smell of burnt rubber assaulting my nose. I opened my eyes and was acutely aware that although I was travelling westbound, I was now facing north… in the southbound traffic lanes. What the hell had happened?  (more…)

food

Bring Out Your Inner Brrrr-rista

Since letting y’all know about the Second Cup Summer Drink Festival last week, I hope you’ve had a chance to try out the NEW Frozen Lemonade and NEW Black Cherry Smoothie! I mean, let’s put it in perspective… you’ve got one drink that is crisp, clean and refreshing; with a light and tangy real lemonade flavour – and another that is made with real black cherry fruit puree (and everyone knows that cherries are the BEST fruit on earth). Super yum!

All summer long, Second Cup will feature one of five icy beverages – Chillatte, Matcha Green Tea Frappé, Frrrozen White Hot Chocolate or the above-mentioned Frozen Lemonade and Black Cherry Smoothie – at a special price, but for those of you who want to take this tasty trend home, the experts at Second Cup offer the following iced coffee recipes and tips to help you bring out your inner brrrr-rista.

Beverage_Iced-Vanilla-Bean-LatteIced Latte: Fill a tall glass 2/3 full with ice. Prepare a fresh double shot of espresso, and simply pour over ice. Top up glass with dairy of your choice; stir and serve. Barrista Tips:

- Espresso should be used immediately after preparation.
- Stir chocolate syrup into the espresso shot before pouring over ice to make your Iced Latte an Iced Mocca.
- For a healthier choice, switch your milk to skim.

If your Iced Latte is too milky, add an additional shot of espresso. Most people switch to large glasses when preparing iced drinks, and if your standard espresso shot is 2oz, and then you add both ice and milk to the espresso, you’ll naturally end up with a latte that is very milky.

To get sugar to dissolve completely in an Iced Latte, put the sugar into your espresso cup/pitcher before you drop your espresso shot, then stir it together after you’ve produced your shot. This will dissolve the sugar entirely before you pour the espresso over your ice.

If you’re an Iced Latte lover, visit Second Cup for Latte Tuesdays throughout the summer, where customers can enjoy any iced or hot latte for a special price!  (more…)

fashion

I Never Met a Coupon I Didn’t Like.

If you look back… way back… into my blog archives, you’ll uncover a not-so-dirty little secret. And that is… when I first started my blog back in 2008, it was simply a way for me to share coupons with my friends and family. You see, I had long been applauded for my deal-finding prowess, and decided to set up a central location where I could post all my epic finds. I was a couponer, loud and proud.

Of course, as my blog transitioned to more of an editorial journal, my frenzy of deal-related posts cooled off. But I never truly lost my frugal nature; I rarely pay full price (I have infinite patience when it comes to waiting for sales), I constantly look for the best promo of the season, and when shopping online, I always, always, ALWAYS look for online coupon codes.

It usually happens like this: I am speeding along in the online checkout process, and then, I see it. The field that says “PROMO CODE”. I am momentarily paralyzed as I wrack my brain for recent emails, searches, Facebook posts - anything that can save me a few extra dollars on my purchase. And then, if my mental catalogue of deals pulls up nothing tangible, I’ll often enlist the expertise of the coupon experts.

shopster-11Shopster is a brand NEW site that provides Canadian online shoppers with the biggest discounts from the biggest online stores. And here’s what sets them apart from the competition: while other coupon and deal sites think more coupons are better, Shopster believes big discounts from big names are way better! High five if you’re down with that!

A quick glance at the site reveals coupons for SHOP.CA, Canon, GAP, Cafe Press, The Home Depot and more.

Another pet peeve about most coupon sites? Well, they use automated programs to pull information from thousands of different online stores, many of which I’ve never even heard of. In fact, several of these stores don’t even ship to Canada! Really, what a colossal waste of time.

Shopster hand-picks every single store they work with and builds relationships with these stores. It’s all about the partnerships, folks! Then, they select each and every coupon or deal before it gets published to ensure that the discount is big enough to get people excited.

Because you don’t want 15% off at Martha’s Shirt Store, you want 60% off at Macy’s.

At Shopster, they aim to make it happen. I’ve been watching the deals for a few days now, and I’m curious to see how they’ll evolve as more coupons and savings are loaded onto the site. Regardless, it’s always good to have one more outlet that helps you save money. If you’re looking for online coupon codes, pop on over to Shopster and let me know if you find what you’re looking for. Click here to visit www.shopster.ca.

family

Priceless Toronto: Summer in the City

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

It happens to most of us at one point or another. We hold a membership to a club or service, but don’t fully understand the perks. We pay out of pocket for health benefit plans, but don’t take advantage of the massage allowance. We carry a credit card in our wallet, but don’t capitalize on the member benefits.

Super fun thing #72: Being rewarded. Just because.

I want every single one of my readers to do one thing this week – look into ways you can reward yourself. Read the terms and conditions of your auto club membership for hidden discounts; take advantage of online deals when shopping at your favourite stores, and if you happen to hold a MasterCard, take advantage of a host of special treatments, savings and perks.

Introducing MasterCard Priceless Cities, exclusive to MasterCard cardholders. In cities across the globe, you can take advantage of a host of special treatments such as a look behind-the-scenes or a spot at the front of the line, as well as access to private experiences and tickets to the most coveted events. Simply visit www.priceless.com and select the city you’d love to explore. Here, you’ll find downloadable vouchers for discounts, upgrades and more.

I’m so proud to share that Toronto has been included in MasterCard’s esteemed lineup of Priceless Cities! This summer, treat yourself to the luxury of the Ritz Carlton, and as a MasterCard cardholder you’ll be treated to a One-Bedroom suite upgrade. Visit the Canadian castle, Casa Loma, at a special price. Experience Ontario Wine Country like an insider with 25% off the regular price.

So, what can you do to have a priceless summer? You can…

Return to an Age of Bravery and Honour. As a MasterCard cardholder, only you are the recipient of a special price of entry to King Don Carlos’ court. MasterCard is proud to honour its cardholders with 30% off child general admission and 40% off adult general admission to witness the brilliance of all the cast at Medieval Times. (This is by far one of the most generous discount offers I’ve seen for this show! Take advantage while the offer lasts.)

We spent Saturday evening in King Don Carlo’s court, where our red knight - the truest son of mighty Castilla, Baron Ruiz de Roig – defended our honour in a mighty duel.

Medieval TimesYou can also let the family scream out loud at Canada’s Wonderland. Your family will get the best out of their day by exploring the park, and only your MasterCard gets you these thrills and adventures at a whopping $23 off the price of admission. (Hurry! These vouchers sell out quickly! Within hours of letting my Twitter followers know about this Priceless Toronto discount, they were sold out. But, good news! The site has been replenished and there are more available now.) We rounded out our priceless weekend soaring through the air on thrill rides.  (more…)

food

Mississauga: Your NEW Hot Spot is HERE.

My husband insisted on the title of this post. Mostly, because he’s been calling random friends, colleagues and acquaintances left and right, using this exact phrase:

“I’m down for drinks but only if we’re going to Bier Markt Square One. Dude! The Bier Markt is in ‘Sauga now! It’s the newest hot spot. Meet you in 20??”

Okay, so *maybe* he doesn’t use those exact words. And *maybe* the only reason I’m poking fun at him is because since Bier Markt opened its Mississauga location, I’ve seen less and less of him. Truthfully, if I didn’t know any better, I’d think he preferred beers from around the world, signature gastropub fare and gorgeous bar chicks over staying home and folding laundry with me. Huh.

Bier Markt Square One Friends and Family Event.Nevertheless, I shall take responsibility for his introduction to the city’s newest hot spot, as I was once again treated to Executive Chef Michael Cipollo’s culinary genius at a recent visit to the resto-pub. I want to find something I don’t love about this joint - if only to provide a complete and debatable critique – but the truth is, I can’t. Every element, from carefully orchestrated contempo-chic decor to game-day friendly outdoor televisions, simply works. Actually, it does better than just work – it elevates Bier Markt to the best option any time of day, or season, for residents west of Toronto.

At Bier Markt Square One, they have invented a new religion: Charcuterie. Unique to this location is the Chef’s Charcuterie Bar, which is tucked away in plain sight, offering guests a semi-private “chef’s table experience” while seated in the charcuterie kitchen. A market-style menu boasts the age of the salt-cured, brined and smoked delicacies, promising patrons “a delightful smorgasbord”.  (more…)

food

Second Cup Offers a Delicious Blast of Cool!

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

If there’s anything better than a refreshing icy beverage on a hot, summer day – like… oh… today! – I don’t want to know about it. In fact, if I was ever offered compensation in the form of frozen drinks… I just might consider the offer.

I suppose my love affair with iced coffees, fruit drinks and smoothies began years ago, when every celebrity was photographed with an iced beverage in tow. There’s just something about the combination of designer handbags and delicious drinks that makes want to have that lifestyle. And I’m not alone; the iced coffee market has grown in Canada in recent years, and a recent survey commissioned by Second Cup reveals that the majority of iced coffee beverages are still consumed out-of-home.

At Second Cup, customers can order an iced version of any espresso-based beverage, coffee or tea, any time of day, any time of year, and it will be handcrafted to exact specifications. And now… they’re offering a delicious blast of cool with the NEW Frozen Lemonade and a Black Cherry Smoothie! So, whether you’re craving an icy coffee or something a little different, there’s a chilled beverage on the menu for you.

Second Cup Summer Drink FestivalTo celebrate, the Second Cup Summer Drink Festival is featuring one of five favourite drinks at a special price – $3.49 for a medium (while supplies last) – all summer long. These icy heroes include:

  • Chillatte – a chocolate frappe, ice cold, creamy and lightly sweet; made with Second Cup premium espresso
  • NEW Black Cherry Real Fruit Smoothie – made with real black cherry fruit puree
  • NEW Frozen Lemonade – Crisp, clean and refreshing; with a light and tangy real lemonade flavour
  • Frrrozen White Hot Chocolate – The deliciously decadent taste of white chocolate blended with milk and ice
  • Matcha Green Tea Frappé – a creamy and sweet source of antioxidants, with the revitalizing flavours of fresh herbal and green tea notes

The featured beverage changes every two weeks, so keep popping into Second Cup to find your favourite, and visit the Company’s new website at www.secondcup.com for more details.  (more…)

family

#ThrowbackThursday #tbt: Well That Was Fun.

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.

You won’t see it from the picture. I’m simply smiling for the camera, and it looks like we’re about to begin a confectionery class of sorts. Well, that much is true – we were participating in a cupcake making class, and waiting for everyone to take their seats before the cellophane was removed from the table.

#throwbackthursdayOkay, so that’s what you see. Simple enough, right? But what you don’t see:

1) The cupcake class was at sea. It’s true! At the time, we were aboard the Royal Caribbean Allure of the Seas – the world’s largest cruise ship – sailing on its 100th voyage. The cupcake class was a special perk bestowed on all the Fisher-Price Moms.

2) I hated my hair colour, so I tied my hair back as much as possible. Here, it was in a Pocahontas-style braid. However, I also hate my hair tied back, so this was a doubly bad hair day. I was actually thinking about how quickly I could bleach it back to blonde when this photo was taken.

3) The boys were supposed to recreate a bunny’s face on the cupcake, and so we were given licorice pieces, Smarties, gum drops and other various candies. But the thing is, they only gave us enough candy to complete the face almost precisely, and Ryder kept eating all the damn candy. Seriously, I would literally lean down and growl menacing threats into his ear, and then I’d turn my back, and the silly gumdrop nose would be wadded inside his cheek.

4) Do you see those containers of candy behind me? When I asked for a replacement gumdrop nose, I was denied. “We don’t have any more candy to spare.” Like, whoa. I knew cruise ships had to ration supplies, but even my eyes turned wide as I was flat out denied. Although, considering Ryder’s cupcake looked nothing like a bunny, I dropped the matter quickly. But I never really got over it.

5) The wonderful thing about the boys aging two years from when this photo was taken is that they actually look at the camera and smile when asked now. Most of the time. After repeated threats.

October 2012. This is my throwback.

family

The Happiest Party on Twitter: #DisneyFamilyTravel

In the mid-1960s, Walt Disney’s dream was to build a family resort destination like no other. The dream became a reality when Walt Disney World Resort opened in 1971, featuring Magic Kingdom as the centerpiece.

If you’ve ever wished to gaze upon Cinderella’s castle, hold Mickey Mouse’s hand or take a journey under the sea with Ariel, you’ll know the power of dreams. And today, at Walt Disney World Resort, you can experience the magic with your entire family. Walt Disney World Resort and its Cast Members deliver one-of-a-kind experiences to millions of guests annually, and if you’ve been planning a family vacation to this world-class entertainment and recreation center, this one’s for you -

We’re pleased to invite you to the #DisneyFamilyTravel Twitter Party, on Tuesday, July 29th at 9:00pm ET. We’ll share all the latest Walt Disney World news including the latest attractions, current and upcoming events, vacation planning tips and more. To thank you for joining the conversation on Twitter, we’ll be giving away ten (10) Disney Store Gift Certificates valued at $50 each. (Please see official rules here.)

Disney Family Travel

For your chance to win, RSVP below. In the words of Mickey Mouse, See you real soon!  (more…)

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 spent 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, July 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…)