Tips for a Sparkling and Safe Holiday

December 2, 2016

The Griswolds, we are not. In fact, while I was tempted to show you a photo of our current holiday lighting setup, I can’t – because I made my husband take it down. Yep, he’s been tasked with a do-over.

(Don’t roll your eyes at me! I just want our Christmas to be merry and bright – in an orderly, colour coordinated, non-fire hazardish fashion.)

So instead, here’s a picture of what I have in mind for my husband. Take note, dear!Hahaha. Now that I’ve been served with divorce papers, let’s get real about the topic at hand.

The festive season is here, and soon we’ll be busy decorating our homes for the holidays. When starting your holiday décor shopping for lighting, decorations or gifts, please keep electrical safety in mind! While Christmas lighting and electrical decorations (I see you, neon Santa) do contribute to the splendor of the season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and electrical injuries if not used safely. (more…)

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Friends, Get Re-Leaf! Introducing Advil® 12 Hour

November 28, 2016

Ask a Canadian, in fall, what he or she is doing over the weekend, and you’ll invariably receive an answer like this:

“I’m cleaning up the front yard. And the back. We have a ton of leaves to rake.”

T’is the season of knit sweaters, pumpkin spice lattes and leaves. Leaves everywhere! Sure, they’re fun for the kids… especially naughty younger brothers…
14726427_170006780129508_7160100388153065472_nBut for adults, raking season can be a pain! Let’s be real, there are so many things I’d rather do than sweep up a pile of fallen leaves, especially since they convey a stark reminder that winter is around the corner. And the truth is, I don’t have the best technique – watching me rake leaves is akin to watching some toddlers try to dance in step. (Let’s just say there’s a distinct lack of coordination.) In my experience, the wrong leaf raking method always leads to muscle and joint pain. Bummer.  (more…)

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Celebrate the REAL Side of Parenting: #StopCOMPAREnting

November 26, 2016

You do it. I do it. At one time or another, we all do it.

We compare ourselves to other parents – specifically, the filtered, staged and cropped images we see in our social feeds. Even though these images often depict a filtered reality, and not the real picture.

It’s time to #stopCOMPAREnting.

To celebrate the real side of parenting – the one we don’t always see through our social media feeds – QUAKER is calling on Canadian families to join the #stopCOMPAREnting movement and embrace life outside of the square. On Tuesday, November 29th, join us for a very special Twitter Chat.
quaker-masterbrand-promographic-nov28-2Bring your photos and your stories that celebrate the real side of parenting. Look beyond the image and revel in the authentic, unpolished everyday moments. Be inspired and inspire others in return. And most importantly, #stopCOMPAREnting.

There is no RSVP for this chat; simply join the conversation by following @QuakerCanada and @Listen2Lena on Twitter. See you on Tuesday night!

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The Holidays are Magical at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort!

November 24, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

A Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort vacation at Christmas. Could there be anything more magical? (Hint: the answer is NO.)

I first visited Walt Disney World in December 2012, almost exactly four years ago to the day. At the time, the entire resort was teeming with holiday spirit, featuring whimsical Christmas decor and shopping, festive feasting and magical wintery wonder. It was, without a doubt, one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.
Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime ParadeThis season, I want you to experience the magic, too!

It’s not too late to book a Disney vacation for the holidays! The BIG news is the Canadian Resident Ticket Offer – at Walt Disney World, save 25% on 4-day or longer tickets and enjoy all four Disney Theme Parks at a whopping discount. At Disneyland Resort, save 25% on 3-Day or longer tickets.

To take advantage of this special offer, you must purchase your tickets in advance before February 28, 2017. The best part? At Walt Disney World, you can use these discounted tickets at any time during 2016, 2017 and beyond – they won’t expire! At Disneyland Resort, the tickets must first be used by December 31, 2017.  (more…)

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EGGcellent Hacks with EGG Creations

November 22, 2016

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, I am keenly aware of three things:

1. It’s my busy season. No really, I know I say that all the time, but the holidays bring about a special kind of chaos that is simply unmatched at any other time during the year. And, being a workaholic, this means that I’m more stressed than usual (it’s a good kind of stress, I promise!), fighting to meet deadlines and balancing work and family life.

2. Meals around here are optional. Working around the clock means that I’m not always eating the way I should, which leaves me vulnerable to falling ill during cold and flu season. There’s a certain go-go-go attitude that propels me through the week, but when I’m down, I’m out for the count. Therefore, it’s incredibly important for me to choose healthier meal options and make eating regularly a priority.

3. When it’s cold outside, I crave comfort. While I’m multitasking and juggling and trying to survive the season, I’m also craving those cold-weather foods that bring me warmth and comfort. Spaghetti and meatballs. Chicken stew with dumplings. Spicy chili. And my very favourite, Stracciatella Soup.
_dsc0797aStracciatella (egg drop soup) is high on my list of comfort foods because it has a little of everything I love: a garlicky soup base, bright green baby spinach, creamy eggs and salty Parmesan cheese. In fact, whenever I feel myself coming down with a cold, I always crave this soup with a dash of hot pepper sauce. However, working around the clock leaves little time to make comfort food from scratch, but I’ve found a few EGGcellent hacks to make it in no time.

This recipe only calls for five (5) ingredients. If you always keep them on hand, you’ll always be able to make Stracciatella in a hurry!  (more…)

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Perfect Party Appetizers and #BretonForEveryone

November 21, 2016

Getting the girls together is no easy task.

There are schedules to juggle and babysitters to hire (Or, husbands to bribe). There are missed calls, apologetic texts and my personal favourite: “Was that THIS Friday?”

However, when the stars align and we can find some time to reconnect, I’m always left deeply fulfilled – both emotionally and literally, because we eat a lot of good food and drink a lot of great wine. Of course, the hostess is always tasked with putting together a spread that everyone will love… which may sound simple, but it’s not. Our little tribe is made up of vegetarians, calorie-counters and health-conscious girlfriends, so creating a quick menu that suits everyone’s needs is always top of mind.

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over these Greek Salad Bites, featuring Breton Sprouted Grains Sea Salt Crackers.
_dsc0557aThey couldn’t be simpler to make and are chock-full of wholesome ingredients you likely already have in your refrigerator and pantry. Plus, Breton Sprouted Grains crackers contain 5g of sprouted whole grains per serving (sprouted grains include whole wheat flour, cracked rye, cracked wheat, buckwheat and quinoa). The crackers have no artificial colours or flavours, and both the Sea Salt and Caramelized Onion varieties are only 80-90 calories per serving.  (more…)

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Cold Weather Comfort: How to Reduce Allergy Triggers

November 20, 2016

This post was sponsored by the makers of REACTINE®. All opinions are true and are my own.

Oh, you thought we were done talking about allergies? I wish! The truth is, even though we’re all familiar with the term “seasonal allergies”, a large percentage of Canadians (myself included!) are affected by allergy triggers all. year. round.

(That’s four seasons of seasonal allergies, for those keeping tabs.)

With the cold weather approaching, it simply means a switch from one trigger to another. A great big pile of old, mold-prone leaves, anyone? A-choo!
15034728_164065140725007_7501481220815978496_nThe good news: there are things you can do to limit your exposure to allergens. During winter months, we tend to stay indoors more, so mold, dust mites, and pet-related allergies are the main trigger of allergy symptoms. REACTINE® has amazing resources on their website, including a list of ways to Reduce Allergens in Your Home. Today, I’m happy to share some of the techniques that have worked for me!  (more…)

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The Pièce de Résistance? The Ugly Christmas Sweater, Of Course!

November 18, 2016

“But WHY is it called an ugly sweater?” my mom asked.

“Well,” I explained, “it’s like this. For years we’ve received these hideous – but well intentioned – holiday sweaters from parents and grandparents. And now it’s time to turn the tables and own it! So before you run out and buy me a Christmas-y sweater, I’m beating you to it. It’s ugly and I’m proud to wear it!”

“I still don’t really understand why it has to be ugly,” she replied. “Why can’t it be a nice sweater with a jolly Christmas motif? Like reindeer or elves or a picturesque snowy Christmas town?”

POINT. MADE.
_dsc0686abIt’s colourful. It’s ironic. It’s like Christmas exploded and you swept up all the pieces and turned it into jaunty pullover. Whatever it is, the ugly Christmas sweater has marked a special place in our hearts during the holiday season. (more…)

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The Home Depot Canada: Welcome to Christmas Central!

November 15, 2016

It’s only a small percentage of my readers, but they do exist. The people who have no idea that The Home Depot Canada is the BEST place to find beautiful and whimsical, classic or contemporary holiday décor.

Still in the dark? Come join me in the light. Lights. Christmas lights.
christmas-lights-232x174Recently, I had an opportunity to attend The Home Depot Canada’s holiday preview, which was chock full of design and décor inspiration for every taste (and budget). Whether you’re looking to be the talk of your neighbourhood with standout lighting, add some sparkle to your classic collection of ornaments or liven your space with some Canadian-grown greenery, The Home Depot Canada is #ChristmasCentral(more…)

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Picture Perfect: Holiday Hair To ‘Do List

November 11, 2016

This post was sponsored by Dove, Nexxus®, TRESemmé® and Shoppers Drug Mart. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is a paid influencer, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Dove, Nexxus, TRESemmé and Shoppers Drug Mart.

This holiday season, I’m all about pulling together classically chic looks with minimal effort and maximum effect. It’s no secret that my go-to hairstyle is the voluminous blowout; it lends a fun, modern vibe and is suitable for all hair lengths and textures.

Have you ever worried about being “overdressed” for a holiday party or get together? Me too. Often, I text fellow invitees or the hostess in a vain attempt to fit in with the crowd, but often hear the maddening response, “Oh, just wear what you’re comfortable in!”

Spoiler: I am comfortable in yoga pants and a t-shirt.

So, over the years, I’ve come up with a fool-proof way to be perfectly outfitted for a party, and believe it or not, it involves my hairdo. (Yes! Keep reading!)

You see, I find that a flirty, volume-packed blowout is the perfect way to “dress down” an outfit, even when the outfit is formal wear. Loose waves, a textured crown and even a touch of bed-hair prowess sends the message that although you’ve made an effort, you clearly don’t take yourself too seriously. And while there’s a time and place for structured waves and chic updos, a perfectly smooth blowout is a great way of communicating cool confidence with a big, flowy dramatic look.
_dsc0561aAre you on board? Here’s a simple Holiday To ‘Do List to help you achieve the style with ease!

‘DO: Select the right styling aids. Volume-filled hair always needs a little help, so start with a quality product like Nexxus Mousse Plus Volumizing Foam. It creates incredible body and fullness with a spectacular shine (and no sticky residue!).  (more…)

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My Moment of Relief

November 9, 2016

As the sun sets and the day winds down, we begin the nighttime ritual. Homework is checked; the boys are bathed and bedtime stories are read.

We have a few false starts.

Ryder is bathed while we holler at Reid.

Reid is tucked into bed while Ryder dashes downstairs for a glass of water.

Both boys beg for one more chapter, enthralled with their bedtime story.

Finally, finally the boys are off to dreamland, warm and secure in their beds. And as I wrap myself in my fluffiest robe and join my husband for some quality time with Netflix, I breathe a contented sigh.

This is my moment of relief.

Today, I’m seeing if I can extend that relief straight through to the next morning, with La Roche-Posay Toleriane Ultra Overnight. We know that waking up to calm, rested skin is a sigh of relief – but for many women – including myself – itchy, irritated, ultra-sensitive skin is the reality.
img_3698Recently, I’ve been discovering the Toleriane range by La Roche-Posay. It contains high tolerance products formulated with a minimum of ingredients to limit the risks of allergies. Toleriane promises extreme, instant and lasting comfort in a fragrance-, preservative- and alcohol-free formulation to soothe damaged or irritated skin.  (more…)

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Best Buy Baby: Big Savings on Brands You Trust

November 8, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

It’s been a while since I shopped for baby gear. Everything has changed… and yet, it all stays the same.

Because when it comes to strollers or swings, breast pumps or bassinets, in the end, it all comes down to two things: quality and price. The first is easy to prove: find out the longevity of the brand in the marketplace, read online reviews, ask friends and family. And for the second, it’s even more simple: just shop at Best Buy.

YES, Best Buy!

Best Buy has the best products from reliable brands that parents trust. In a previous post, I shared my top picks for baby-to-be… fitting, because my brother and sister-in-law are expecting another little girl! It’s true – this princess is just a few short months away from becoming a big sister.
_dsc0545Now, I know you’re probably zeroing in on my adorable niece in her “Peaches n Cream Barbie”-inspired dress, but I really want you to look behind her, and take a peek at the gorgeous Stork Craft Princess 4-in-1 Crib. The solid wood crib converts to a toddler bed, daybed, and full-sized bed, and the heirloom scrollwork and beautiful bow detailing make this crib an enchanting piece for any nursery.  (more…)

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Love It or List It? The Case for Decision-Making Renos

November 4, 2016

Next July, we will have been in our home for 10 years.

Our home was supposed to be a “starter home”. The first real estate purchase as an entry point into the market; a tidy semi-detached house in the suburbs that would be a stepping stone to a more expansive property down the road.

Except, while we were unpacking boxes and re-stocking kitchen cabinets, I was running to the bathroom with bouts of sickness.

Folks, I am a statistic. We conceived a honeymoon baby.

Suddenly, the dark hardwood we had selected for our main floor was doomed to show scratches from children’s toys. The expensive, hand-woven berber carpet on the second floor would no doubt be victim to spills and stains. The money we had spent on builder upgrades – oh, all the upgrades! – should have been spent on strollers and diapers. However, we had no choice but to plough ahead, effectively turning our starter home into our “TBD” home.
img_1343It didn’t make sense to move. The boys were growing and the house grew old with them. As predicted, the hardwood floors became scuffed and the carpet bore stains. But, we also put a lot of love into the home, finishing the basement, landscaping the front and updating the back with a stamped concrete patio.

And every so often, we got the itch to move.  (more…)

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Busy Families, Hectic Mornings: How to Start out Smart

November 2, 2016

It’s no secret: Mornings are hectic. From the moment I hear the dreaded “5 more minutes!” until the boys are finally out the door, it’s a mad rush against the clock. This means that sometimes, one of my kids will go to school with mismatched socks, and more often, breakfast will be rushed (or in my husband’s case, skipped altogether).
_dsc0602aWe’re working on changing that. Using simple techniques to encourage a more seamless morning routine, the boys and I have been able to get more out of our time together before school. Curious? I thought you might be! I’ve partnered with Minute Maid to provide you with some easy tips and tricks to start out smart!  (more…)

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Discover the Fresh Taste of Fall.

November 2, 2016

I love fall. I love walking with my boys in the morning, hearing the sound of freshly fallen leaves crunching under their footsteps. I love stopping by my local coffee shop, chatting up my favourite barista as she prepares a foamy, spiced latte.
_dsc0459aMost of all, I love scrolling through my Instagram feed, smiling at photos of children posing in a pumpkin patch, families picking apples and grandparents joining in for hay rides at a nearby farm. It reminds me that even as generations pass, the harvest is a time of togetherness.

I’m not sure if it’s by design or coincidence, but I tend to entertain more often in the fall months. The bountiful fresh produce offerings make it easy to create one-dish meals and rustic desserts, and my local Walmart is the perfect place to find colourful squash, earthy root vegetables, tree-ripened fruit and crunchy, cruciferous favourites. There is always a large selection of high-quality, locally sourced produce that is refreshed daily. (more…)

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Because the First MINUTE of the Day should be a Nutritious One.

November 1, 2016

In Canada, one of every five children is at risk of starting the school day on an empty stomach due to a lack of access to nutritious food. That means that nearly one million Canadian children are at risk of getting nothing to eat before they go to school in the morning.

This is not only alarming, but also something that I feel truly requires our attention as parents, and as a society. As I urge my children to finish their breakfasts in the morning, I’m caught thinking about this statistic. I think about it when they turn up their nose at the food options I present, or leave the table without finishing their meal. I think about it after they’ve left for school, as I scrape food remnants from their plates and bowls into the garbage bin.

Sounds familiar, mamas? I know it does.

A generation ago, my own mother chastised my brother and me for skipping breakfast; she reminded us how lucky we were to have the opportunity to go to school on a full stomach. At the time, I placated her – just as my kids do now – scarfing down my meal to avoid a lecture.

Today, I realize that it’s about more than just food waste and rumbling tummies. I know there are real benefits to going to school nourished, including heightened concentration and learning potential. And, when you realize that 60% of learning happens before lunch, it becomes clear why breakfast is indeed the most important meal of the day.
_dsc0626aIn fact, according to Breakfast Club of Canada, when children get a balanced meal in a positive, stimulating environment, there are marked improvements in:

– Behaviour and concentration
– Academic performance
– Social skills, self-confidence and the ability to interact with peers and adults
– Overall interest in the subjects being taught
– Incidents of bullying (more…)

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Powering Halloween Safety

October 28, 2016

Trick or treat! We take Halloween seriously. I mean, remember the “Zombie Minnie Mouse” from 2015? Well, I won’t let you forget her.
12145525_182846688723752_346863970_nMy boys are equally excited about the spookiest day of the year. They’ve been asking to wear their costumes daily (“for the last time, NO!”) and we’ve already planned out our trick-or-treating route. And, like every mom getting her kids ready for a night of Halloween fun, safety is a top concern.  (more…)

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Create Cold-Weather Curb Appeal from Recycled Rubber Products

October 26, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to residents of Ontario, Canada only.

Oh the weather outside is frightful…

Okay, not quite yet. But it IS getting cooler – much cooler! – and with winter around the corner, Canadians are doing their best to get their homes ready for the season. The patio furniture is stored; flowers are uprooted from their beds and decorative urns are emptied and stashed away.

Is it just me, or are Canadian homes lacking a certain curb appeal over the winter months?

I know, other than holiday decor, the northern climate doesn’t exactly allow for a host of ornamental options. However, there are a few simple ways to create curb appeal during the cold-weather months, and I’m happy to share them with you today!

1. Start with a Solid Base. Winter lacks a certain greenery, but with earth-savvy planters, you can infuse a little life into an otherwise bare space. Crescendo Urns, made by Multy Home, are a great option – they’re made using Ontario recycled tire rubber that would otherwise have ended up in a landfill.

(You may recall an earlier post, Simple Steps to Mini Garden Success with The Home Depot, where I featured the multi-season slate rubber urn – pictured below.)
dsc_1031aBecause this planter is designed to withstand the cold weather – with no cracking or fading – it will take you through all seasons seamlessly. You can also find recycled rubber mulch from a variety of Ontario-based manufacturers to fill the base which drains rapidly and efficiently, resists mold, mildew and fungi, and is also non-toxic.  (more…)

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Now THIS is a #nextlevel Opportunity!

October 25, 2016

The most *amazing* contest is happening right now – and I have to share the details!

But first, a little background. Earlier this year, I shared that Max Domi, professional hockey player (and son of the infamous Tie Domi) was diagnosed with type 1 diabetes at the age of 12. By opening up about his personal experiences with diabetes, Max hopes he will inspire Canadians to visit poweredbyaccuracy.ca to learn more about diabetes.
maxresdefaultEssentially, the CONTOUR® NEXT Powered by Accuracy website offers a support system for people living with diabetes, helping them to take their management of the disease to the #nextlevel.

Well, in partnership with CONTOUR NEXT, Max is offering Canadians a chance to participate in the Powered By Accuracy 16 Reasons Contest. Listen up friends, because it’s a good one!  (more…)

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Celebrations Made Remarkable!

October 22, 2016

Note: The following contest is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area only. 

‘Round here, we used to take celebrations very seriously.

I’m the daughter of a perfectionist. Growing up, my mother did not serve a single appetizer, meal or dessert to dinner guests unless she had made it, purchased it, perfected it ahead of the celebration. She believed in triple-testing her menu before it was presented to company, and her tenacity and unwillingness to settle for anything but the best earned her “entertainer extraordinaire” status among friends and family.
_dsc0375aToday, I’d like to say I follow her lead, but the truth is, I’m more willing to live on the edge. I don’t mind trying new meal ideas for guests, and if it doesn’t turn out the way I intended, there’s always wine in the cellar and a La Rocca cake waiting in the fridge. You see, to me, getting together with family and friends is more about spending time together and less about achieving culinary perfection. And while I’d like to be taken for a domestic goddess, I also want to be known for my humour, wit and willingness to welcome others into my home.  (more…)

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