Entertaining this Spring? Make it a Breeze.

April 25, 2017

I’m always on the lookout for simple, crowd-pleasing desserts that I can add to my repertoire – but often, it’s easier said than done. Admittedly, I’m a creature of habit and tend to revert to my old, faithful standbys; desserts I can make with the ingredients I have on hand. Because really, what’s worse than discovering you have 18% – or worse, 98% – of the ingredients you need to make a sweet concoction?
Bread PuddingOf my many staple showstoppers, one does stand out: Banana Walnut Bread Pudding. As long as I have ripe bananas on hand – and truthfully, with two young boys, bananas are a fixture in our fruit bowl – I can always make this much-loved brunch food. My secret ingredient? Almond Breeze Vanilla. (more…)

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The Perfect Boyfriend Cardigan: I #GotItAtSears!

April 24, 2017

After a few false starts, I was finally able to do it, with confidence: I put away my winter coat. GASP! I know, I know, I’m dangerously close to jinxing us all – Mother Nature has been less than forthcoming this season – but I’m pretty confident that the cold temps are behind us, once and for all.

It’s officially sweater weather.

I’ve been on the hunt for the perfect boyfriend cardigan, a staple piece for every fashionable mom. The cardigan, also known as an “oversized sweater” or “open knit cardigan”, is roomy and long enough to wear over leggings, skinny jeans or with a slim dress, making it a wardrobe must-have. And when I saw this marled grey cardigan from Sears Canada – featured on their brand new Sears Label – I knew I had to have it!
_DSC2172aIt’s super soft and, hello – deep pockets! I love that I can dress it up for a client meeting or go casual with skinny jeans or leggings. The generous sizing means that I can even wrap and belt it for a more structured look. It’s priced at just $34.99, but you can grab it right now for a sweet 30% off, making it just $24.49! A steal!  (more…)

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It’s Time to Doodle 4 Google!

April 24, 2017

What I see for Canada’s future is…

Well, who better to answer that question than today’s youth?

With Canada celebrating its 150th birthday this year, Google Canada wants Canadian students to imagine what the next 150 years will look like. (This question, posed to my 6-year old, involves hovercrafts and robotic superheroes. I like it!)

Keeping this in mind, Google Canada is encouraging students across Canada, from Kindergarten to Grade 12, to redesign the logo for the Google.ca homepage for a day.

In addition to bragging rights, the winning student will also receive a $10,000 university scholarship, a Google Chromebook, and a $10,000 technology award for their current school – along with a trip to the final event on June 13, 2017! Submit a doodle now.

Looking for a little inspiration? If you’re in the GTA, join me at the Mississauga Google shop for a very special, family-friendly doodle session! On Saturday, April 29, 2017, visit the Google shop at Best Buy Heartland (6075 Mavis Rd, Mississauga) from 1:00 – 2:30pm or 3:00 – 4:30pm. We’ll have everything on hand to help your little artist create an entry for the Doodle 4 Google contest, plus a few fun surprises! Children can submit their doodle on location or finish their masterpiece at home – just remember that all submissions must be in by May 2, 2017 at 11:59pm EST. (more…)

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Keeping Kids Engaged This Summer: The Case for Day Camp

April 24, 2017

Growing up in a suburb of Toronto with a predominantly European community, we didn’t hear much about “going off to camp”. Most of our moms stayed at home to raise us; the only consideration over the summer holidays was how late we’d be able to play outside before our parents started hollering about our bedtimes.

However, as times changed and cultural norms shifted, one by one, our mothers returned (or entered) the workforce. By then, many of us were old enough to care for ourselves during the day, but a handful were whisked away to camp for the summer.

It sounded magical.

A chance to meet new people and form lasting friendships. An opportunity to develop a sense of responsibility and pride in oneself. A fun way to learn new skills and build confidence. I promised myself then and there that when I had children, I would do everything in my power to provide them with a summer camp experience.
2016MWCityCamp-56 (2)Of course, I have two boys who are now the perfect age for summer camp. But, being a mom, I also realize that not all kids are ready for an away-from-home experience. My oldest, who still has a touch of social anxiety, and my youngest, who has not yet learned to control his impulses, would not necessarily make the best candidates for full-fledged overnight camp. But what if there was an alternative – a summer camp that allowed kids to absorb the benefits of camp during the day, while allowing them to sleep in their own bed at night?

Friends, I’ve found the answer: Day camp!  (more…)

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How I Fell in Love Again: A 4K Story

April 18, 2017

At the tender age of fourteen… I fell in love. With baseball.

You may recognize the year – 1992 – and you’ll probably recognize these names, too: Roberto Alomar, Joe Carter, Juan Guzman and Kelly Gruber. These were the men I followed; I knew their batting averages and on base percentage. I celebrated every home run, every run batted in, every base on balls. I held them to the highest standard. My role model (and even my first crush) could be found in that 40-man roster.
World SeriesI followed the boys of summer straight through to their World Series Championship win that fall, and again the following year, when they repeated the feat. By the time I saw Joe Carter jumping up and down for the second time, I was already a bona fide baseball superfan.

Now I want to say that I continued to obsess over the Blue Jays, even as they spent years trying to rebuild a championship team, but the simple truth is that I was a teenager and I had more pressing issues (cough, boys) to attend to.  (more…)

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For the Biggest (and Lil’est!) Toronto Maple Leafs Fans!

April 17, 2017

It’s official: Leafs Nation is LOUD and PROUD.

Come on, fans – we’ve been waiting for a team like this for a long, long time – and with a solid performance thus far in the playoffs, there are plenty of reasons to cheer for the boys in blue!

tmlOf course, they couldn’t have picked a better time; with Canada’s centennial year celebrations in full swing, we’re all rooting to see a Canadian team make it all the way. This season, Carter’s | OshKosh and the Toronto Maple leafs have partnered to launch a FREE Limited Edition Lil’ Leafs Bodysuit to celebrate the Leafs 100th Anniversary and Canada’s 150th. This fun collectors item is available exclusively to Torontonians and families in the GTA until April 30, 2017.

To grab your absolutely free bodysuit, simply register online at Mapleleafs.com/hockeydreams. You’ll instantly receive a Lil’ Leafs Bodysuit certificate; just print it out and bring it to a participating store before the end of the month.

The bodysuit is a fun gifting idea, especially if you know someone who’s recently had a baby or has one on the way (the bodysuit is size 6 months). I just picked one up for my niece – I can’t wait to drop it off for our brand new, lil’est Leafs fan!

Tell me, do you have hockey dreams for your little one? Or, did you grow up watching the Toronto Maple Leafs? While I’d never bet against my favourite team, I’m not sure that this is *the year* they go all the way… however, with the new, hungry talent on the ice and the improved management behind the scenes, they have nowhere to go but UP!

Hurry! You only have until April 30, 2017 to collect your FREE Limited Edition Lil’ Leafs Bodysuit.

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Being a #BigWorldExplorer: Our Orlando Story

April 13, 2017

Some people visit the family cottage every weekend. Others pack their backpacks for an outdoor camping adventure. My family? Well, friends like to joke that Orlando is our home away from home.
_DSC1615They’re not incorrect! Looking back, we’ve visited Orlando 12 times over the past three years – most recently, courtesy of my friends at Expedia.ca as part of their #BigWorldExplorer program. (Were you following my tweets?) And there’s a reason – actually several – we keep going back.

Proximity. If you’re flying from Toronto, did you know that Orlando is only 2.5 hours away? Too true! It’s a great short-haul option and several airlines offer a direct flight from YYZ (or BUF, if you’ve found a less expensive flight via JetBlue or Southwest). The proximity makes it perfect for families with young children – I like to say that the flight is one-and-a-half Disney movies away!  (more…)

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#MommyTalks: Spring Traditions

April 12, 2017

Before I had children, I romanticized what it would feel like to be a mother.

I envisioned having these perfect little humans – the spitting image of me, of course – who would be the center of my world. There’s nothing I wouldn’t do for them; my children would define and justify my existence.
_DSC1987aI have children now – two perfect little boys, only one is the spitting image of me – and they are the center of my world. My pre-offspring predictions about how much I’d love my children were pretty spot on. But for all the feelings of love, anticipation, nurturing and excitement I’d felt, there was one I hadn’t counted on – guilt.

Mothers feel guilty, all the time.

I feel guilty about my choices and the choices I don’t make. I feel guilty when I take on too much and when I don’t take on enough. I feel guilty when I say no… and sometimes, I even feel guilty when I say yes. (more…)

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Make 150 Count.

April 11, 2017

1987. I was nine years old; a third grade student, a child of the eighties. It was the first year I was asked to participate in the school’s annual fundraiser – the “MS Read-A-Thon” – where students asked friends and family to sponsor them for every book read.
_DSC2104As the donation booklets were distributed, my eyes ran up and down the columns at the back of the brochure. Sponsors. Amount Offered. Books Read.

I paled slightly, my hands trembling as I shoved the booklet in my desk. I felt sick.

My immigrant parents weren’t the type to support charitable initiatives. Don’t get me wrong; they willfully donated to their church and its associated fundraising campaigns, it’s just that they were much less inclined to extend that generosity to organizations unknown to them. I feared that I would be the only student who didn’t raise a sizable contribution – or any at all! – for the fundraiser.

My grade 3 teacher could sense that something was off. Pulling me aside during outdoor recess, she asked if I had any questions about the annul Read-A-Thon. Not wanting to lie, I confided in her.   (more…)

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Welcome to #PaybackSeason: Busting the Top 5 Tax Myths

April 11, 2017

It’s the middle of April, which means you are likely in one of two camps: those who have finished filing their taxes, and those who are postponing the inevitable for as long as humanly possible. Can you guess which camp I’m in?

Whether you’re blissfully spending your refund or are still in the process of collecting all your forms and receipts, it’s always a good idea to ensure that you have the correct information. Friends and neighbours may often be a source of great advice, but when it comes to taxes, it’s best to leave the advice to the experts.
banner_media-centerCourtesy of my friends at H&R Block Canada, here are some of the top tax myths. Spoiler alert: cats are not considered dependents for tax purposes. I’m serious.

Myth #1: If I receive a tax refund, my return is approved. The Canada Revenue Agency (CRA) will process your return and send you a refund fairly promptly. However, the CRA also has three years in which to review returns and request follow up paperwork. The review may result in a Notice of Reassessment with a balance owing. For example, if you claimed moving expenses that were not eligible, the CRA will disallow your claim and send you a tax bill.  (more…)

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It’s Time to Put the “Beauty” Back in Beauty Sleep

April 6, 2017

“I am the Genie of the Lamp! I will grant you three wishes.”
“Er – that’s cool. But I just need one.”
“Are you sure? You can get three….”
“Yeah, I don’t mean to be rude, but I just have one wish –

UNINTERRUPTED, BLISSFUL SLEEP.

Dreamland. Siestaville. Beauty Sleep. It’s evaded me for, oh, about nine years. And my oldest will turn nine next month. Coincidence? HA!

My fellow mamas will know exactly what I’m talking about. Because once you become a parent, you go through various stages of a sleep-deprived existence… which I’ve heard doesn’t end until they’re adults and have left the house. (And maybe not even then.)

I mean, I don’t regret having children – of course not! But I do regret not taking better care of my skin, especially at night. After a long day, the last thing on my mind was hauling my weary body to the sink to complete a nighttime beauty regime. I never go to sleep with makeup on, but, since I only wear makeup about once every two weeks, it was a struggle to stay on top of cleansing, moisturizing and the like.

That was last year. This year has started off much, much differently, as I’ve finally committed to putting the “beauty” back in beauty sleep. This is 39… and I’m pretty happy with the canvas. No injections or fillers, no need to change what God gave me.
IMG_3959(Okay, maybe a little airbrushing. Under eye circles are the bane of my existence!)

It’s a well-known fact that new skin cells renew faster while you sleep, so a good evening facial routine is always a good idea. At night, the goal is to repair damage from the day’s pollution, sun and stress, as well as to keep skin hydrated during the hours you’re not actively drinking fluids. (more…)

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The Good Old Hockey Game

April 4, 2017

My husband is in software and technology sales.
My brother manages a team of advisors at an insurance company.
My sister-in-law oversees clinical trials in biotechnology and health sciences.
I’m a former corporate trainer – and now, a blogger.

What do we all have in common? Our love for the good old hockey game.

Growing up in Canada, hockey wasn’t just a pastime – it was a religion. I can vividly recall my brother pouring over his Upper Deck and O Pee Chee hockey cards, memorizing the stats and organizing the players by team. Sometimes, I’d flip through the cards too, familiarizing myself with my favourite players from the Toronto Maple Leafs.
tournament9Wendel Clark. Doug Gilmour. Mats Sundin.

These are the hockey greats that made an impression on me as a youth. Scoring a pair of tickets (pun intended) to a home game was akin to winning the lottery – we painted our faces, donned our jerseys and were ready to root for the boys in blue. And when we couldn’t see them live, we huddled in front of our televisions, humming along to the Hockey Night in Canada theme song.

Today, we’re continuing the tradition with our children. The boys attended their very first hockey game this past December, and for Christmas, they both received ice skates. Little by little, they are becoming absorbed in the sport that is synonymous with Canadian winter. And one day, the hockey greats that they are watching today – Austin Matthews, hooray! – will one day become legends.  (more…)

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All Aboard! WIN a Cruise Vacation for Two with AIR MILES!

March 30, 2017

The phone rings on a busy weeknight, just as you’re ushering the kids out the door. You consider letting it go to voicemail, but you’re close to a handset and can avoid checking messages later. You answer – on the other line, a pleasant voice informs you that, courtesy of AIR MILES, you’ve won a tropical cruise vacation for two.

What is your reaction?

A) Denial – nope, it’s too good to be true.
B) Confusion – you don’t recall entering a giveaway!
C) Cautious Optimism – Could this actually be real?
D) Pure Joy – THEY PICKED ME! I WON!

Friends, I’m here today to tell you that the correct answer is D. The best part? You may have already entered to win – just by using your AIR MILES Card as you normally would!
logo2Introducing the AIR MILES All Aboard Cruise Giveaway. As part of their commitment to providing Collectors with the best experience possible – AIR MILES is giving away 1,300 staterooms aboard the AIR MILES All Aboard Cruise.

(That is NOT a typo! 1,300 cruise vacations for two, including flights!)  (more…)

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It’s Tradition! Celebrate the Toronto Blue Jays with Schneiders

March 25, 2017

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

With mere days to go until the start of the Toronto Blue Jays 2017 season, I know so many of my friends and family are gearing up for another Championship race.

Rooting for Canada’s team? It’s tradition.

This year, we’ll once again be hosting a home opener party, and I’ve grabbed tickets for a few games too! My husband and I love reinforcing our love for the game with our sons, and our hope is that they’ll also become baseball-obsessed as they grow. Hey, what can I say? It’s more fun when everyone’s rooting for the home team.

Of course, if there’s one brand that’s steeped in tradition, it’s Schneiders. From Juicy Jumbos Wieners (my fave!) to everyone’s favourite, Schneiders Country Naturals Bacon, the possibilities for delicious crowd pleasers are endless.
14032940_292587061110042_193811059_nSchneiders wieners are once again the Official Hot Dog of the Toronto Blue Jays! And to celebrate the Jays, baseball, and – of course – traditions, they’re offering my readers the chance to win $100 in free product coupons.  (more…)

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Hashtag, No Sick Days

March 23, 2017

Smack in the middle of what seems to be the worst cold and flu season – well, EVER – I know some of y’all may be thinking, No Sick Days? Don’t even go there Lena.

I get it. Everyone I know is sick, has been sick, or is getting over being sick. And just in case you’re wondering, heck yes I was sick, too. (It took a full 10 days to recover!) In Canada, seasonal flu activity begins as early as September and continues until late May, affecting a large percentage of the population.

My entire family got the flu shot almost as soon as it was available. I’ve practiced obsessive hand- washing and other virus-evasion techniques, including, but not limited to, holding my breath until I almost turned blue to navigate a checkout lane filled with hideous hackers. I’ve sanitized surfaces, avoided crowded malls and declined invitations to all non-essential events.

And then I took a 9-day vacation with my family. Two airplane rides, three hotels, one cruise ship.

65,000 people at the happiest place on earth.
16465433_1623753451266724_6140890307916464128_nOh yeah, I was due to wave that white flag.

So here’s the scoop. I was down, but never out. I managed my cold to the best of my abilities, using a few tried and true methods. Need relief from your cold and flu symptoms? Here’s what you can do.  (more…)

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So My Life Isn’t Perfect …. #butIvaccinate.

March 23, 2017

It always amuses me when friends and followers praise me on social media.

“You’re killing it, girl!”
“You’re such a good mom, your boys are so lucky!”
“Wow, everything looks perfect! You’re my inspiration.”

To which, I only have one response:
DSC_0210Photo Caption: HA HA HA HA HA HA.

The truth is, I don’t always discuss my #parentingfails, but trust me, there are many. Like the time I sent my boys to a birthday party – a week too late. Or my inability to remember any of the “special coloured shirt days” at school. Or how about the time I slept through, not one, but TWO alarms and had to usher them off to class a half hour late? (more…)

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Snacking Just Got Fresher!

March 23, 2017

This work-at-home mom is on the go.

Sure, I spend a fair bit of time in my home office, but I’m also, well, all over the place. Client meetings and radio segments. School drop offs and pickups. Errands, photo shoots, press events, media trips.

Did I mention I’m a snacker? The most serious kind, too.
_DSC1547bI love to snack. Who doesn’t? It keeps hunger pangs at bay between meals and gives me that second wind I desperately need, especially mid-morning. (Yes, I would vote to make “elevensies” a thing.) But not just any snack will do – for me, the perfect noshing food is delicious, packed with quality ingredients and most importantly, contains important nutrients such as protein, fibre and a whole lot of whole grains. And, if it’s equally easy to sneak in my crossbody bag as it is to pack in the kids’ lunch, we’ll call it a winner.  (more…)

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Hit the Ice at a Life-Changing Event!

March 22, 2017

Wendel Clark. Darryl Sittler. Darcy Tucker and Al Iafrate. These are just a few of the hockey legends I grew up watching, huddled in front of the television on Saturday nights. I can recall the voices of the commentators, the sound of a slapshot and the feeling of euphoria when a goal light flashed red. Truly, following the Toronto Maple Leafs on their road to the Stanley Cup – er, post season? – will always have a special place in my childhood.

You too? Well, what if there was a chance to lace up with these hockey greats and more… all for a great cause?
pro-am-various56Introducing the Scotiabank Pro-Am for Alzheimer’s in support of Baycrest. It’s the largest on-ice hockey charity tournament in North America! The tournament takes this year on May 5th and 6th, and allows everyday hockey fans the chance to team up with some of hockey’s greatest players. Now I’ll break down the ways you can participate in just a moment, but first, I wanted to chat about some of the recent wins in Alzheimer’s research, all thanks to the tournament.

Since its inception in 2004, the Scotiabank Baycrest Pro-Am has raised over $30 million to support Baycrest Health Sciences, a global leader in brain health and aging. And, the event is the largest source of new donors to the foundation year over year. In fact, ALL contributions to the event will help support Baycrest Health Sciences’ mission, part of which is to conduct research into cognitive diseases like Alzheimer’s. Seeing these tangible results, and knowing that my support is helping those with dementia or cognitive impairment, is all the motivation I need to get involved. (Donors to the Baycrest Foundation play a critical role in keeping Baycrest running, because government funding only makes up about 64% of revenues.)  (more…)

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Kids Get Arthritis, Too

March 21, 2017

“You’re too young to have arthritis.”
“It’s just growing pains.”
“The arthritis is temporary and can be cured by diet.”

You know the old saying, “Kids say the darndest things?” Well, kids hear the darndest things, too – especially when it comes to their juvenile arthritis (JA) diagnosis. The fact is, most people think of arthritis as an “old persons” disease, but that’s not the case. And, for more than 24,000 Canadian children who live with arthritis, active play can be a challenge.

March is Juvenile Arthritis Awareness Month, and I’m on a mission to help bring awareness and build understanding about the disease.
CAM-2017-kaajal-facebook-ENJuvenile arthritis is an autoimmune disease. To put it simply, the immune system goes a little bit haywire and sends out white blood cells to attack the body’s own healthy cells. The result is inflammation in joints, as well as other health issues such as fatigue, rash, vision problems, slow growth or swollen lymph nodes, to name a few.  (more…)

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DIY! All the Details on H&R Block Online Tax Software

March 20, 2017

It’s a fact: Not all tax software is created equal.

Welcome to spring – also known as tax season – er, #PaybackSeason! By now, you may be thinking you *really* need to get those income taxes done, but may lack the money, and motivation, to begin. And the truth is, with all the different tax software options available, the process can be a little daunting.
C5Sr8k-UYAEpyhdWhat happens if you have questions along the way? Who can you trust to give you the most accurate result? When is “free” really free?

If you find yourself dragging your feet, looking for the right solution, muddle no more – trust the tax experts at H&R Block. They proudly offer free tax software with a high level of personalization, allowing you to choose the best option for your needs.  (more…)

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