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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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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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?

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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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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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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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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Protect Yourself: Don’t Be a Victim of Identity Theft

February 26, 2017

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

It’s not a subject that is at the top of everyone’s mind, but in my humble opinion, it’s not discussed enough. This year’s identity theft statisitcs are in. And, they are downright scary.
Almost one in five Canadians have, or know someone who has, been a victim of identity theft. Think about that for a moment. Statistically, that means by the time you’re done reading this post, hundreds of Canadians will have been victimized.

Don’t be one of them.

Identity theft is the most serious, non-violent crime and fastest growing type of fraud in North America. When someone takes your personal information and uses it for financial gain, it is classified as identity theft or fraud. According to Statistics Canada, identity fraud has increased by 8.62% from 2013 to 2014. In 2014 more than 20,000 identity theft cases were reported in Canada, with a loss of more than $10 million, according to the Canadian Anti-Fraud Centre.  (more…)

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News You Can Use: Smart Diabetes Management

February 19, 2017

Often, when my husband and I see one of our little guys struggle with life’s basic lessons – like tying a shoelace or cracking an egg – we often say, “If this was an app he’d have it mastered in 15 seconds.”

There’s no denying it – we live in a digital world.

I embrace advancements in technology, particularly when it comes to healthcare. Visiting with my family doctor, he can pull up my medical history before we’ve finished our small talk. After having blood work done, I love that I can view my results online within 12 hours. And when I have appointments with specialists, it’s terribly convenient they can chat with my family doctor – in real time – via their own messaging app.

We know app technology has paved the way for digital healthcare management, helping us to take charge of chronic health conditions, stay fit and focus on healthy eating. Today, I’m pleased to introduce you to CONTOUR® NEXT ONE. If you, or someone you love, is living with diabetes, you’ll want to read on.

Ascensia Diabetes Care was recently issued a Health Canada license for the CONTOUR® NEXT ONE blood glucose monitoring system (BGMS) in Canada. The CONTOUR NEXT ONE is a new smart meter that presents blood glucose (BG) results in a simple and easy-to-use manner that is personalized to the user.

The meter features smartLight Technology and Bluetooth to connect to smartphones. When used with the CONTOUR DIABETES App, patients can:

– View results over time
– Add events to the readings
– Share results and reports with healthcare professionals  (more…)

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Stay Safe, Friends: Winter Driving Tips from Michelin Canada

February 6, 2017

You know how some memories from your childhood just stick with you? I was 11 years old, in grade five. We had just returned from Christmas break and a fellow classmate, Tommy something-or-the-other, was recounting a horrifying ordeal while vacationing in Florida.

“It SNOWED!” he said in disbelief. “And there were accidents EVERYWHERE because my dad said that no one in Florida knows how to drive in the snow! We were stuck on the Interstate for SIX hours!”

At the time, I recall being quite pleased – I loathed Tommy and was secretly happy that his vacation was at least partially ruined by Mother Nature. Of course, at 11 years old, I couldn’t process that the numerous accidents could have resulted in injuries, extra costs in time and insurance, or both. But one thing did stick with me, even after more than two decades: If you don’t know how to drive in winter road conditions, you’re in trouble.

Today, I’m pleased to share some winter driving tips from Michelin driving expert, Carl Nadeau, to help you stay safe on roads this season.  (more…)

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Now THAT’s a Perk: Save 25% on CHL Games with #AIRMILESPerks

February 1, 2017

NOTE: The following giveaway  is open to Canadians only.

The year was 2004. I was vacationing with my then-boyfriend in beautiful Quebec City, spending four days over a New Year’s long weekend. We shopped, we ate, we visited museums and took pictures in the quaint city. The snow fell at a steady pace and we felt as if we had been transported to a winter wonderland. It was blissful.

Towards the end of our vacation, the boyfriend turned from the newspaper in excitement. “The Océanic are in town!” he exclaimed. “Who?” I questioned in response. “What?”

“I really want to see them play,” he continued without missing a beat. “There’s a player on the team who’s pegged to be the next Gretzky.”

He made a call to the hotel concierge who assured us that tickets would be easy to obtain from the box office at the arena. I hemmed and hawed at the idea of spending my last day of vacation watching minor league hockey, but I acquiesced when I saw how excited he was.

That night, I watched a fast-paced game of hockey at the Colisée Pepsi. The venue was intimate; a crowd of about 4,000 Quebecois cheered on their team, the Quebec Remparts. It was my first experience at a minor league game, and I was duly impressed with the heart and ferocity of the players on the ice. But that wasn’t why we were there.

“There he is,” the boyfriend said, pointing to a player on the opposing team. “Watch him play and remember his name. You’ll be hearing about him again.”

That player was Sydney Crosby.
crosby(Photo: Ottawa Sun) Imagine. I watched Sydney Crosby play before he was a household name. I watched him score two goals and lead his team to victory; I watched as he skillfully maneuvered the puck with a superstar-like talent. And even though I didn’t know it at the time, the then-boyfriend was correct: I did hear about him again.  (more…)

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Your Road to Retirement: What are Your Savings Goals for 2017?

January 16, 2017

I had it all planned out.
beachYears ago, while working my corporate job, I set aside the same amount each month to put away into my retirement fund. It was a small, manageable sum for a single gal in her 20’s, but it gave me a sense of accomplishment and responsibility.

I was adulting, dammit.

Later, when I became a mom-turned-entrepreneur, I no longer had a monthly RRSP contribution – rather, every January, I deposited a sizable contribution (often maximizing my deduction limit) to be applied towards the previous year. I’ll admit it; watching my savings grow, knowing that I was looking out for my future… well, it was kind of a rush. I settled into a pattern, smug with the certainty that I was on track to meet my retirement goals.  (more…)

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Let’s Talk About Money: Staying on Budget in 2017

January 10, 2017

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Happy New Year, friends! It’s that honeymoon period – we’re still basking in the afterglow of the holidays… but haven’t yet received our December credit card statement.

Oh yeah, all that holiday spending. Shudder.

Now, if you read my previous post Holiday Shopping? Here’s How NOT to Blow Your Budget! and took my advice, congratulations! You’re in the clear. However, we’re all human and mistakes do happen – even when that mistake is a pair of Louboutin peep toe pumps. (Which happened to a friend, obviously.)
amex-mc-image-2-2I have good news. It’s the beginning of a new year, which means another chance to wipe the slate clean and start fresh. Today, I’m sharing three of my best tips for staying on budget – and guess what? You *don’t* have to cut up your credit cards to do it!

1. Shop online for groceries. No, really. With so many companies offering grocery pickup service, it’s time to try it out. Here’s why.

First, you’re less likely to impulse shop and stick to your grocery list, especially if you utilize the website’s “search” function vs. the “browse” function. Not being swayed by fad products or add-ons (which are bad for your wallet and your waistline) is a great way to stick to your weekly grocery budget.

Second, when you shop for groceries online, the total amount is tallied in real time vs. at the end of the checkout process, so you’ll always keep on top of how much you’re spending. And when you use a prepaid card, like a prepaid Mastercard, American Express or Visa, you’ll add another level of budget-staying prowess – you can conveniently use prepaid cards online while accessing a set amount of funds.  (more…)

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Holiday Shopping? Here’s How NOT to Blow Your Budget!

December 12, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… as long as you’re not feeling guilty about overspending!

Okay, let’s get real for a sec. How many of y’all set your holiday shopping budget according to how much you *want* to spend vs. how much you truly believe you’ll need to spend? It’s a mistake many Canadians make (intentional or not), and it’s the easiest way to blow your budget this festive season.

Not on my watch!

I’m happy to share with you my very best tips for 1) creating a reasonable budget, 2) accounting for everyone you’ll need to shop for, 3) monitoring your spending in an easy and convenient way and 4) even sourcing the best “emergency” gift! Watch my recent segment from What She Said below:

It’s no secret that I’m a huge fan of prepaid cards, such as Mastercard, American Express and Visa. Not only do they offer many of the benefits of a traditional credit card (YES – you can use them online and over the phone!), they come with a distinct advantage for budgeting: a set amount of funds pre-loaded onto the card. That means when the funds are depleted, you holiday shopping spree is over – which assures you’ll never go over budget!  (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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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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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 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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A Pantry-Inspired Refrigerator? Now that’s Smart!

October 21, 2016

Moms are masters of their domain.

We know how to stretch a dollar and roll with the punches. We can carpool six children and feed a party of twenty. We have eyes at the back of our heads and a sixth sense for when our kids are up to something, well, shifty.

We know how to organize a refrigerator… just kidding! We don’t. We have no idea how to organize a refrigerator.

Mom truth: if you have offspring under the age of 25 who are currently living in your household, your fridge is likely crammed with a variety of delicious foods (and some forgotten leftovers). There is no rhyme or reason as to how the food is stored… which ultimately leads to a decrease in overall storage space. But let’s face it: conventional refrigerators don’t allow for creative storage options. Until now.

Introducing the Whirlpool® Smart French Door Refrigerator.  

Completely and intuitively re-imagined on the inside, the pantry-inspired layout in the Whirlpool Smart French Door Refrigerator is designed to use space more efficiently with a unique shelving system for families to fit and find all their edible favorites, making it the easiest refrigerator to organize1.wp_232-2(If you just uttered Sweet Moses that is an incredible fridge… you wouldn’t be alone.)  (more…)

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Tell Me Something Good

October 11, 2016

Hello, wonderful friends!

If you’re like me – still in a food coma from Thanksgiving – you’ll forgive me for taking a pass on writing today. Truth is, I’ve got errands to run and appointments to keep, all while greeting the official return of fall (weather wise) in Ontario.
1476073934815Photo: Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images

So, let’s play a game. Tell me something good! I want to know your good news today. I’ll begin: the Toronto Blue Jays are going to the American League Championship Series! If you stayed up on Sunday to watch 10 nail-biting innings of baseball, you weren’t alone: over 4,000,000 Canadians tuned in to watch the game. And now, we’ve got a few days to catch our breath before they move on to face the Cleveland Indians. You know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

Your turn! Leave a comment to tell me something good!

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Overcoming Barriers to Financial Independence

September 25, 2016

In a previous post, Driving Change with Financial Literacy, I shared the work of Enactus Ryerson: Project Dago. The program was initiated in August 2011 in Dago, a rural village in Western Kenya, which is home to over 3,000 households. Enactus Ryerson members empowered villagers to break the cycle of poverty by teaching money management and cultivating entrepreneurial skills.

Even though Dago is miles and miles away, at home in Canada, our own college and university students have returned to school. However, while they may be prepared for their required curriculum, a recent Capital One Canada Financial Education Study suggests that many could be blindsided by a crash course in money management.

Forty-six per cent of Canadians – and 50 per cent of 18-25 year olds – say they were unprepared to manage their finances going into post-secondary education. (more…)

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