Celebrate Family Day! WIN a Disney Infinity 3.0 Prize Pack!

February 6, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

With Family Day in Ontario just around the corner, I’m sure many families are either a) packing their bags for a mini vacation or staycation, or b) scrambling to find something for the kids to do!

This year, I’m firmly in camp “b”. That’s why I’m so happy my boys love Disney Infinity 3.0! Disney Infinity 3.0 gives my children endless amounts of freedom and opportunity to create their own stories and play experiences, starring their favourite Disney Characters. So, next weekend, we’ll stay in our pjs, eat copious amounts of popcorn, and engage in a galactic battle… Star Wars-style!

And, you can too! My friends at Disney Interactive want YOU to have an epic Family Day weekend! So, we’ve teamed up to give my readers the chance to win a COLOSSAL Disney Infinity 3.0 Prize Pack. The bundle includes 10 items – including Star Wars Rise Against the Empire and Star Wars Twilight of the Republic power discs – and is valued at $240!
Giveaway_ListentoLena (2)One lucky reader will win: PS4 Disney Infinity 3.0 Starter Pack · Rise Against the Empire Play Set · Darth Vader Figure · Darth Maul Figure · Chewbacca Figure · Ezra Bridger (SW Rebels) Figure · Sabine Wren (SW Rebels) Figure · Zeb Orrelios (SW Rebels) · Power Disc Pack: Star Wars Twilight of the Republic · Power Disc Pack: Star Wars Rise Against the Empire. WHEW! What a prize!  (more…)

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Expect Something More: Disney Cruise Line

February 6, 2016

It’s been just about three weeks since we’ve returned from our Disney Cruise Line vacation… and I’ve only been *this close* to booking another Disney Cruise just about 20 times. It’s true! I’m officially hooked. From the stunning destinations to the superb and spacious accommodations; the unique fine dining to the live Broadway-caliber shows, I’ve found a new way to spend my vacation dollars.

And, I can’t think of a better investment.

Because that’s the crux of the matter, yes? The fact is, when planning a family vacation, your choice is bound to be based on interests, preferences and your total travel budget. And for the first two – interests and preferences – I can assure you that a Disney Cruise Line vacation will easily cover these points. There is authentically something for everyone! (No, seriously, take a look.)
overview-whats-includedBut it’s important for me to address the elephant (possibly Dumbo?) in the room: Why is a Disney Cruise worth your hard-earned vacation dollars? What makes a Disney Cruise different from another cruise line? Why should you consider paying a premium when there are so many last minute “deals” and “promos” offered by competitors?

It’s actually quite simple. With a Disney Cruise Line vacation, you can expect something more. In fact, what’s included in the price of your cruise may surprise you.  (more…)

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Escaping the Cold? Make a Winter Travel Checklist

February 5, 2016

For Canadians, escaping the winter is a thing.

And why not? Winter travel down south offers an opportunity to get away from the cold, endure one less week of slush, sleet and snow, and trade windchill values for humidex values. Okay, so it’s not just a thing… for many, it’s a necessity.
12070644_1502206640097187_1907736570_nOf course, while jetting off to a sunny vacation in the throes of winter is the epitome of awesome, it also presents its own set of challenges that requires some planning ahead. My advice? Make a winter travel checklist!  (more…)

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Making the Most of #EverySecond.

February 5, 2016

They’re competitive and loud and rarely respond unless I scream. They’re argumentative and ornery and way too sensitive about the silliest things (He’s looking at me, mom! He’s LOOKING at me!). They push my buttons, push for a later bedtime and always push each other.

Yet, they’re the heart of my home. They breathe so much life, excitement and vigor into my day. And when I catch them sitting together – because they just can’t stand to be apart – I remember that beyond the spats and bickering, they truly are the very best of friends.  I am truly blessed to share every second of my day with them.

You may watch the video and think, so what? It’s just two boys simply going about their day, exploring their interests. And you’re not incorrect. But I see so much more.

I see two brothers who need physical contact to reassure themselves of each other’s presence. I see two friends who delight in the other’s company, even if they’re engrossed in separate hobbies. I see two boys who have settled into the biggest chair in one of the warmest, most comfortable areas in our home – a place they always feel safe, secure and loved.  (more…)

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Chocoholics Rejoice! Your Favourite Hot Chocolate is Now A Cookie

February 3, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

If you’ve ever had Second Cup Coffee Co. signature Hot Chocolate, then you *totally* know what I’m talking about. Canadians from coast-to-coast have rated Second Cup Coffee Co. signature Hot Chocolate the best they’ve ever tasted with its perfect balance of velvety steamed milk and real cocoa powder. Now, Second Cup Coffee Co. is thinking outside the mug by offering a new, decadent, soft-bite and not-too-sweet Hot Chocolate Cookie featuring the same delicious Hot Chocolate flavour that you know and love!
Second Cup Hot Chocolate Cookie - High-res (2)The perfect complement to a Second Cup Coffee Co. Latte, the new Hot Chocolate Cookie is handcrafted locally from scratch using premium ingredients and delivered daily to Second Cup Coffee Co. cafés to ensure the highest possible quality and freshness. A unique twist on the traditional warm beverage, the new Hot Chocolate Cookie features the same superior quality and delivers a premium taste experience!  (more…)

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What Will You Do? Where Will You Be… When You’re Flu-Free?

February 1, 2016

This past weekend, I was out and about. I shopped for groceries, attended my son’s indoor soccer game, took my other son to a birthday party and even managed to squeeze in a quick brunch with a friend, which yielded the following plate of scrambled eggs.

I think I’ve been eating scrambled eggs the wrong way my entire life. Oh-Em-Gee.
12556141_1005051036240084_1934865149_nMy weekend was fun, productive, and most of all – I didn’t miss out on life’s little adventures because I was sick at home with the flu.

How did you celebrate a flu-free weekend? I posed the question to my followers on Twitter, and it was heartwarming to read all your responses! From enjoying time outdoors with the kids to celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, nothing kept you down. Congratulations on being winter warriors!  (more…)

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Online Shopping, Saving and Splurging… My Way!

February 1, 2016

NOTE: The following contest is open to Canadians only.

So, you received a prepaid credit card (or two, or ten) over the holidays, and you’re thinking:

I should probably spend this on groceries.

STAAAHP. Just stop. I mean, you *could* spend it on groceries. Go ahead! Make my day. But if you do, you won’t be making the most of that magical little prepaid credit card. In fact, you’ll be doing a disservice to gift givers everywhere. Really.
Mastercard 2Today, I’m here to show you all the possibilities of prepaid cards. And after our little discussion, if you’re still keen on using it to buy groceries, I promise I won’t hold it against you.

ONLINE SHOPPING. Because open loop prepaid cards look and function like traditional credit and debit cards, they can be used anywhere the card network (American Express, MasterCard and Visa) is accepted, including online, on the phone and around the world. So, if you’re shopping online for say, a new handbag at Michael Kors, using a prepaid card allows you to make a secure purchase while reducing the chances of fraud or identity theft.  (more…)

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The Most Delicious Way to Show Your Support!

January 31, 2016

I’m a former baker. In fact, I was *this close* to pursuing a diploma in pastry arts! I’ve had a sweet tooth my entire life, and always saw myself as the Suzie Homemaker type that would bake sweet treats for her family. That was the dream.

Reality: All three of my boys (husband and sons) prefer salty snacks.

Alas, my pursuit of pastry perfection was a short-lived fantasy, but from time to time, I like to dust off my apron, pull out my measuring spoons and get ready to bake up a storm.

This is one of those times.

February 29th, 2016 is National Cupcake Day! And before you think it’s just another excuse to indulge – and trust me, I will be indulging – here’s why baking cupcakes for your family and friends is the most delicious way to show support for a great cause!
20160125_182717National Cupcake Day is a fundraiser for SPCAs and Humane Societies across Canada. Animal lovers and bakers unite to host cupcake events throughout the month of February, leading up to the big day on February 29th. Participating is easy, and with your support, you could save a puppy, kitten or pony and make everyone’s day a little brighter with a scrumptious treat. What could be sweeter?  (more…)

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Let’s Get Away.

January 28, 2016

This year, I’ll write about travel. A lot.

I’ll review hotels and resorts and share food pics from restaurants. I’ll cover sun, sand and skiing and will even throw in a staycation to keep things interesting. I’ll RT the heck out of travel posts and photos, talk about Disney obsessively and will probably squeeze in a beach selfie (or ten).

And, I won’t apologize for it.
12523806_1059920337391805_1507124597_nI won’t be rubbed the wrong way when a well-meaning follower says, “Nice job you have!” I have a very nice job, thank you.

I won’t cringe when a family friend says, “Seriously? Didn’t you just take a vacation?” It was actually a work trip, but yes, I did bring my family along. And yes, we’re leaving again soon.

I won’t be embarrassed to share the news of our upcoming cruise, all-inclusive resort vacation, hotel stay or (insert fabulous travel opportunity here). It’s my job to cover family travel.

And I certainly won’t feel the need to a) stress how hard I’ve worked on my brand and reputation to earn the distinction of working with world-class clients. I won’t disclose b) the hours I’ve spent researching destinations and negotiating travel opportunities, many of which require out-of-pocket expenses. I won’t point out that when I’m travelling, c) I’m not making a paycheck – which means I’ve traded quantitative income in order to give my family experiences that are a direct benefit of a).

Oooh boy. Okay, I’ll stop being all crazy defensive and overly-sensitive starting… now.

My goal this year is to collect memories instead of things. And I never forget for a minute – not even a second – how fortunate I am to be able to choose between the two. My hope is that you’ll come along for the ride this year, following my adventures, social posts, media appearances, etc. – knowing that beyond the glitz and glamour, it’s really just work for me. And if my blog post convinces you to plan your own family vacation… then I’ve done my job well.

Happy travels, everyone!

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Everything You Want to Know About Star Wars Day at Sea

January 24, 2016

Okay, so you’ve seen my (many) Tweets and Instagram posts. And, you’ve come to the conclusion that Star Wars Day at Sea is the coolest. thing. ever. (You don’t have to convince me… I was there!) However, you have questions – which is expected. After all, Star Wars Day at Sea is a brand new offering by Disney Cruise Line, and there is limited information available online. Until now!
star wars day at seaToday, I’m here to divulge everything you want to know about Star Wars Day at Sea, based on my first-hand experience during the inaugural sailing on January 9, 2016. I’ll go heavy on the high-level details and light on the spoilers, because I never like to ruin a good surprise. So grab a coffee – and your calendar – because once you go through my Q & A, I promise you’ll be ready to book your own Disney Cruise.  (more…)

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Rediscovering Nature: Embracing Canadian Winter

January 24, 2016

I’m not an outdoors person; I don’t pretend to be and I don’t apologize for being elements-averse. After all, why camp in the woods when you can, I don’t know, be served breakfast in a hotel bed? Why paddle through a lake when you can lounge on a pontoon? And *why* spend a minute – never mind hours – outdoors in Canadian winter, skiing down a mountain as the wind whips past your face?
DSC_2067aBecause my kids want to. And as we rediscover nature, we’re discovering a love for the outdoors.

For the past six months, encouraged by Nature Valley and their #RediscoverNature campaign, we’ve been doing our best to get outdoors. From a trip to Niagara Falls to a recent weekend in Mont Tremblant, we are embracing the elements and getting reacquainted with Mother Nature. (more…)

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Multi-Generational Memories

January 24, 2016

It’s a moment I don’t want to forget.

The rain clouds began to dissipate, revealing a bright sunny day with a promise of the perfect weather Orlando is known for. As we made our way into Walt Disney World’s Magic Kingdom, Ryder, my sweet, sensitive 7-year old, beckoned me with his hand.

“I want to look at the castle,” he said.

This is our tradition. Skirting over to the nearest curb to avoid the crowds, I let him drink in the sight of Cinderella’s castle. It didn’t matter that we were too far for an unobstructed view. It didn’t matter that we were pushed together as a steady throng of guests shuffled past us. My entire world was reduced to a little boy, staring in helpless wonder at a fairy tale come to life.
DSC_0064aWhat is he thinking? What does he see? I wondered. Was he imagining himself as the brave prince who fights for the maiden’s honour? Was he envisioning the colourful burst of fireworks that adorn the sky at night? Or did he simply see the castle for what it was – an iconic representation of a place where dreams come true? I had to know.  (more…)

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Live Better: It’s a #GreatValueContest Twitter Party!

January 23, 2016

Introducing a NEW line of products that offers certified organic foods at budget-friendly prices – Walmart Canada’s new Great Value Organic line features a variety of pantry staples that your entire family will love!

”The Great Value Organic products align to our promise to customers that we will help them save money on organic products so that their families can live better,” said Pablo Heyman, Senior Director, Brand Management, Walmart Canada. “We are proud to offer an assortment of packaged organic products, each Canadian certified organic, from cereals and granola bars to pasta and pasta sauces and starting at just $1.97.”

Want to learn more? We’ll be sharing easy ways to incorporate these delicious products at the #GreatValueContest Twitter Party!
Walmart_GreatValue_TW-Chat_v03 (2)Join us on Wednesday, January 27th at 8PM EST. There is no RSVP; simply attend the Twitter Party, answer the questions and always remember to use the hashtag #GreatValueContest. The contest is open to Canadians only (excluding QC); see official rules here.

We’ll also be giving away over $1200 in prizing, including a grand prize valued at $250! This is definitely one Twitter Party you won’t want to miss. See you on Wednesday night!  (more…)

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Comfort Food Extreme: French Onion Soup

January 22, 2016

A thick, rich and hearty beef broth loaded with slices of sweet onion and topped with crusty French loaf and melted Emmental cheese.

Dear GOD why don’t I have French Onion Soup more often?

This past December while vacationing in Mont Tremblant I gave in to my insane craving for comfort food and ordered the divine dish at Pizzateria, an Italian eatery centrally located in the pedestrian village. And I’ve kinda sorta been dreaming about it ever since.
DSC_2122aFirst and foremost, when in Tremblant and at Pizzateria, order this soup. The marriage of sweet and savoury is just too beautiful to adequately put into words. Second, if you’d like to make French Onion Soup at home (which I’ve already done – twice) try this fabulous recipe I found on EpicuriousIt’s pretty much a bowl of heaven.

The recipe yields two hearty servings but you can double up if you’re serving 4-6 and are looking for appetizer-sized goodness. Use Vidalia onions if you can find them as they’re sweeter and less pungent than cooking onions. I’ve tweaked the recipe slightly to reflect my personal tastes, but if you don’t trust my adjustments, you can find the original recipe here.   (more…)

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Writing it Down.

January 19, 2016

When I was 14-years old, I started a diary. It coincided with the beginning of high school. I was a fresh-faced “minor niner” and suddenly, my world became a lot more interesting. There were new friends, new crushes and of course, a new set of important tasks that almost overshadowed my education (where does one buy the perfect grunge-inspired plaid shirt to go with Revlon’s Blackberry lipstick?). And when I was happy, troubled or somewhere in the middle, I wrote.

I wrote about my insecurities and my fears. I jotted down unsolicited opinions on everything from the length of a mean girl’s kilt to the blueness of my crush’s eyes. I wrote about my first boyfriend and my first heartbreak. And most of all, I wrote about my hopes for the future. I wrote about having a job I loved, exactly two sons (it was always my preference), and of course, meeting my prince in shining Burberry sunglasses. Funny how things work out, huh?
let goI wrote in a first, second, third…. seventh diary throughout my high school years and even into my first year of university. I can’t describe the sense of relief I felt as I unloaded my feelings. My diary didn’t judge me, offer unsolicited advice or spill my secrets. It was a form of much needed therapy through a period of angst and personal discovery.  (more…)

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Welcome to the Dark Side: The Christening

January 15, 2016

It happened in the blink of an eye. A brief exchange, a meaningful look. An awakening in the force.

It was the inaugural Star Wars Day at Sea. Just like all guests who opted into character meet and greets, our family was given the opportunity to get up close and personal with our favourite Star Wars heroes and villains. My boys, dressed as Darth Vader (Ryder) and Kylo Ren (Reid), were brimming with anticipation at the chance to take a photo with history’s most famous Sith, Lord Vader.

We waited in a short queue and before long, it was our turn to approach the designated meet and greet area. Reaching into my beach bag for my camera, I suddenly realized that my mini Kylo Ren had approached Lord Vader and was now directly in front of him.
DSC_2507a(Warning: Spoilers from Star Wars: The Force Awakens ahead.)  (more…)

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WDW: Dare You to Find a More Magical Sight.

January 9, 2016

No matter how old I am… no matter how many times I’ve visited Walt Disney World… there’s something truly, truly special about Cinderella’s castle.
12446017_856563911122838_550749723_nIt’s no secret that January is my favourite time to visit Walt Disney World. Perfect park weather, reduced wait times due to lighter crowds, and the piece de resistance: most parks are still outfitted in holiday decor, such as the stunning icicle lights on Cinderella’s castle at Magic Kingdom.

It’s not too late to plan an incredible Walt Disney World vacation! Have a magical day!

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I Had the Flu Shot. No Big Deal.

January 7, 2016

Well, okay… maybe it was a big deal, because it was my FIRST flu shot EVER.

But really, it’s business as usual here. I didn’t get the flu immediately after taking it; I didn’t suffer any strange side effects and my arm definitely didn’t hurt as much as I thought it would. All in all, I pretty much felt the same – except now, I’m less likely to contract the flu this season. Sounds very straightforward and reasonable… so *why* did it take me so long to get myself vaccinated?

The truth is, I believed in the myths that I stated above. I actually thought that taking the vaccine might give me the flu, and after watching my husband whine and complain about how much it hurts (he takes the flu shot annually) I’ll admit I was hesitant to take it on the wuss-factor alone. But this flu season, with one vacation under my belt and another just days away, I decided not to take chances with my health or the health of my family.

That’s me in a photograph taken last month. I’m enjoying the stunning winter wonderland that is Mont Tremblant, and am healthy, energized and most-importantly, flu-free!
12346025_855546841229468_1373533255_nNow don’t get me wrong; I don’t actually think I’m Superwoman or immune to contracting the flu. But with careful hygiene (hand washing and sanitizing) and healthy eating habits, I’m much less likely to succumb to the dreaded virus. (And if I do, I’ll hopefully have a shorter, less intense bout of illness and recover more quickly.)  (more…)

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You May Just Flip for a Fleep

January 6, 2016

Mail delivery mattresses.

I’ve been open to them in the past. In fact, I’ve been more than intrigued about the entire process. After all, I am nothing if not welcoming of change, and in 2016, we do things a little bit differently.

We “talk” to our friends by typing. We eat food that has been genetically modified. We listen to music on the same machine that can do our taxes. We order a mattress over the Internet and it arrives by mail. And, it’s fleepin’ PERFECT.

Introducing Fleep. It’s the ONLY dual comfort reversible mattress sold online, and this 100% Canadian mattress features the two most popular comfort levels (soft ‘n perfect or firm ‘n perfect), which together satisfy over 95% of the population.
DSC_2308Above: child model not for sale.

First, you will need to decide if you prefer soft or firm support. Chances are, you already know the answer to this… but if you’ve never slept on a memory foam mattress, this may be a process of trial and error. Thankfully, you have time to decide; Fleep offers a 111 night trial – that’s more than three months! – so you have plenty of time to try out both sides and choose the comfort level that suits you best.

(To give your body time to get completely comfortable, Fleep recommends that you test each side of your Fleep for 30 days. After all, you’ve got 111 days to make your choice. Compared to the typical 10-minute trial period you get when you’re shopping at the store, that’s 111 more reasons to flip for a Fleep!)  (more…)

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A Fantasy Like No Other

January 5, 2016

It’s the beginning of a new year, and normally, this blog is spilling with news, views and reviews. However, this year is a little bit different. This year, I’m too busy packing.
10349822_1003419279717743_1163164245_nTHREE. MORE. DAYS.

In three days we’ll leave for Orlando, where we’ll embark on the majestic Disney Fantasy cruise ship for the inaugural Star Wars Day at Sea. This sailing marks the first official appearance of the heroes and villains of Star Wars aboard a Disney Cruise Line ship.  (more…)

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