Babysitting My Bella: A Play Date with Play, Stow and Go!

November 11, 2015

The very best thing about being an aunt to a sweet little girl is the ability to watch her grow, explore and learn about the world around her, one step at a time. This past weekend, I had the pleasure of babysitting my two-year-old niece Bella, and I don’t know who was more excited! I got to pinch her chubby cheeks and watch her toddle around, and she had a chance to play with the new PLAYSKOOL Play, Stow and Go toys, the ultimate in portable entertainment. They’re a mom’s – and this babysitter’s – dream!

Hey there little princess! Look who’s joining us for the drive to Aunty Lena’s!
DSC_1621aIt’s PLAYSKOOL All Day Elmo! This cuddly and interactive Elmo toy has 150+ responses, plus eight games and activities to help keep her engaged. And when playtime is over, Elmo can become a loveable friend for Bella to cuddle – because with a squeeze of Elmo’s nose, he can play a soft lullaby with gentle music. It took only a few moments for my niece to get acquainted with Elmo, and then, they became fast friends!  (more…)

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Now THAT’s What I Call EPIC.

November 11, 2015

With great power comes great responsibility….

Oh wait, that’s a quote from Spider-Man. However, it’s rather a fitting opening line for this blog post, because with this website, I have both power and responsibility. (And my kid happens to be wearing a Spider-Man t-shirt.) You see, I have the power to get my hands on some of the hottest toys for Christmas 2015, and I have the responsibility to tell y’all which ones are at the top of my list.

Friends, the LeapFrog Epic may just be number one. Discover the tablet experience that adapts as your child grows and offers endless possibilities for exploration, learning and play. And, if it can entice smiles like this –
DSC_1627You know I’m all over it.

Okay, so first things first. The LeapFrog Epic is the next generation of LeapFrog tablets. Suitable for ages 3-9, it’s a unique Android-based tablet experience that grows with your child. Featuring a customizable and playable homescreen and a safe, out-of-the-box web that expands when they’re ready to explore more, it’s the perfect union between fun and learning. In fact, I’ve never been so pleased to see Reid learn through play; the games are just addictive enough, the lessons pose the right amount of challenge and the gaming possibilities are virtually endless.  (more…)

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Festive Fashion with Style & Co!

November 9, 2015

The days are getting shorter… the nights are getting colder… and that can only mean one thing: the holidays are around the corner! This year, I’m once again pleased to team up with Style & Co to help get your festive looks in order – everything from cozy and comfortable to holiday glitz. And before I go any further, here’s a sweet little deal just for you:

Spend $100, save $25 until November 19th with promo code STYLE! Shop Online Now.
DSC_1670aSo, what’s keeping you busy this season? How about work, school, parties, shopping, visits to Santa… oh my! Chances are, you’ll need a wardrobe that can play double-duty and still be fashion-forward (and affordable!). Enter Style & Co. Available exclusively at Hudson’s Bay, they offer on-trend pieces that are comfortable, wear well and can be dressed up or down for any occasion!

This year, I’m all about sweaters and tunics. They’re perfect layered over leggings and are equally appropriate for both the workplace and after-work drinks. I love the Mixed Pattern Sharkbite Tunic pictured above. Leopard and chevron collide! It has a pretty scoop neck and is just long enough to feel comfortable and carefree. I paired the tunic with Basic Leggings in a soft stretch cotton (a staple for any wardrobe). I love this look for every day office, holiday get togethers with the girls and even Christmas dinner!

(Don’t forget your accessories! Here, I added my favourite Double Heart Charm Necklace. It’s so versatile, I own it in gold, silver and rose gold. It also makes the perfect accompaniment if you’re gifting a special gal Style & Co clothing this season.)  (more…)

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Paradise Found: The Islands of The Bahamas Bucket List

November 9, 2015

3922_lg… and then they found their way to Paradise, where they abandoned their troubles, sipped the nectar of gods and swam with pigs. (That’s not a typo. More on the ‘Official Home of the Swimming Pigs’ below!)

For millions of Canadians, The Bahamas is on their travel bucket list.Set in the breathtaking turquoise and azure waters of the North Atlantic Ocean, The Islands of The Bahamas are a group of over 700 islands boasting some of the world’s most beautiful beaches – graced with perpetual sunshine and warm balmy breezes.

I’ve longed to visit The Bahamas. Interestingly, my husband and I had planned to honeymoon at one of their scenic, enchanting islands – only to cancel our vacation when I became violently ill from morning sickness just weeks after our wedding.

(Yes, we had a ‘honeymoon baby”… we just never made it to the actual honeymoon!)

So, you could say that I’ve been drafting my Bahama Islands Bucket List ever since; we hope to turn those plans into reality in the near future. And today, I’m happy to share what’s at the top of my list!  (more…)

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Use Your Voice: END Dietainment for the Next Generation.

November 7, 2015

Thigh gap. Sexy abs. Toned arms. Barely there hips. Perky breasts. Apple bottom.

I can think about these standards of “perfection” and laugh, but that comes with being a 37-year old woman with greater goals than a 24-inch waist. However, for a large portion of young girls, celebrity fad diets, weight-loss tricks and miracle foods are positioned as “health” messages and disguised as harmless entertainment.
dietGet a Beach Body NOW! Ten Steps to a Thinner You! Stop Eating these Foods and Lose Weight Now!

It’s quite honestly exhausting, and the truth is that from generation to generation, very little has changed. I can absolutely recall reading through my own favourite teen magazines for tips on how to achieve the perfect flat tummy and the most toned, slender calves. And today, with the addition of social media (Selfies! Instagram likes! Snapchat! Kardashians!) it’s no wonder children are left feeling even more pressure to live up to society’s version of perfection when it comes to body image.  (more…)

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Investing in Our Future: #LetsTalkRESPs

November 6, 2015

Having two boys, my husband and I have tried to avoid the “H” word for some time now. So far, it’s working… but I’m not fooling myself. I know that one day, I’ll need to sit down with one son – or both – and explain exactly why this house is, and always will be, a hockey-free zone.

“We love hockey!” <- Yelled from our living room. Nowhere near an actual hockey rink.

Here’s the thing. I’m a realist; I know that I probably have a better chance at winning the lottery than having my child make it as a professional hockey player. In fact, of minor league hockey players in Ontario (where roughly 45% of Canada’s hockey players live) born in 1965, 1975 and 1985, only 1 in 1,000 played a single game in the NHL.

If you’re willing to chance those odds, I’m definitely not going to rain on your parade, but here’s the thing – hockey, and other extracurricular activities – are expensive. Like, hella expensive. (As a former dance mom, I am particularly qualified to make this claim.) True statement: 46% of Canadian parents are or know someone who is pulling kids out of extracurricular activities (such as hockey, swimming, music lessons, etc…) because of the cost.
hockey_twoyoungplayers_faceoff-612x300Now if you’ve got the cash to fund your child’s sporting activities AND have set aside (or are continually saving) money for their post-second education, congratulations! You are living the dream. And may the hockey gods be forever in your child’s favour!

However, the grim truth is that less than half (48%) of parents are saving money for their children in the form of a Registered Education Savings Plan, and almost half of Canadian parents (43%) are willing to go into debt or even defer their retirement to put a child in hockey and other activities.

The message is loud and clear: parents are still struggling to score the right balance this winter when it comes to hockey and education.  (more…)

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The Battle of the Holiday Bulge, and How to WIN.

November 4, 2015

Now that we’ve established that Fall Body is a thing, it’s time to turn our attention to most magical time of year.

For every Christmas, turn, turn, turn.
There is a temptation, turn, turn, turn.
And a plate filled with cookies and holiday cheer.

Tell me: HOW can any self-loving woman resist all the splendours of the season? It’s almost impossible to turn down a glass of Irish cream on ice or a second helping of savoury stuffing. And please don’t judge the amount of baked goodies that I can consume without batting an eyelash. If there’s a time to create a Healthy Holidays plan, it’s now!

(Homemade salted caramels? Oh yeah, they’re also a thing chez Lena.)
Dessert-Moments1-662x1024 copyToday, I’m pleased to share some tried and true tips for managing your weight throughout the holidays. Some are common sense – like don’t overeat! – but for the times you do find yourself indulging a little too much and a little too often, there are ways to circumvent those added inches.  (more…)

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Join the Ultimate Play Date with Walmart Canada and Playskool!

November 4, 2015

When it comes to busy days with baby, simple is better.

Take this weekend. If you’re a parent, chances are, you’ll be out and about running errands with your little ones. And one of the first rules of Mommyhood is learning to keep kids entertained on the go.

(Stay tuned for details about a super fun play date!)

Enter PLAYSKOOL Play, Stow and Go. The toys are easily compacted, collapsible and some even include a handy little travel clip for the ultimate in portability. Now, playtime can happen nearly anytime, anywhere! They can be stowed inside a stroller, a diaper bag and can even be stashed into a pocket. And since the toys are appropriate for ages 3 months and up, they’re perfect for babies as well as toddlers.

My picks? For smaller babes, these space-saving Stack ‘n Stow Cups are perfect for families on the go. Designed for kids with grown-ups in mind, the seven colourful cups let babies stack and explore fun combinations. When finished, they quickly condense into one piece for easy storage and travel. Heading to an appointment? Don’t leave home without the stacking cups!
716ZaagIuAL._SL1500_I love PLAYSKOOL All Day Elmo. This cuddly and interactive Elmo toy has 150+ responses, plus eight games and activities to help keep kids engaged. When playtime is over, Elmo can become a loveable friend for little ones to cuddle – because with a squeeze of Elmo’s nose, he can play a soft lullaby with gentle music. A second squeeze of Elmo’s nose will make him play a soothing instrumental lullaby.  (more…)

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Safety at its BEST with Best Buy!

November 2, 2015

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

It’s an argument I’ve had with my husband at least twice in my lifetime.

“You are not going to mount that TV yourself,” I’ve cautioned.
Of course I’m not going to do it myself! I’m going to call Dave to come help,” he’s responded.

And the conversation loops on repeat for about five days, until Dave shows up, measurements are made, holes are drilled, and the television is hoisted… and then set back down. On the TV stand. Where it currently resides.

I hate to say I told you so but… yeah.

Okay, in my husband’s defense, we can’t actually mount our television in our current setup because the wall has a concrete backing. So, we either redesign our glam cave or use a television stand as an alternative. (Which actually has its own safety concerns – read on.)

For the purposes of this post, here’s a picture of the glam cave in our basement, the last time it was super clean – which I believe was last Christmas. Hey! Halloween is over. I’m allowed to post pictures of holiday happiness!
IMG_32001As you can see, the 60-inch television is supported by about a 4-inch stick which connects to the base… and that’s about it. Nothing could go awry with that, right? WRONG. Settle in, friends, because I want to chat about a topic you haven’t attributed enough time and attention to. I’m talking about safe television installation. And I’ve got a super sweet giveaway coming up – valued at approximately $500.00! – so it’s in your best interest to follow along.  (more…)

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Because We *KNOW* Breakfast!

November 1, 2015

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

… and sometimes, breakfast is a cup of celebration cake, served with a freshly brewed cup of bold, flavourful coffee. Stay tuned for the recipe for this Birthday Mug Cake, and the chance to win a gorgeous Hamilton Beach 12 Cup Programmable Coffeemaker plus a Hamilton Beach Custom Grind Coffee Grinder. Because Hamilton Beach knows breakfast!
DSC_1580aSo, the cold weather is settling in and we’ll all start to mentally prepare for the long winter ahead. What better time to step up your breakfast game? A warm, nutritious and satisfying breakfast fortifies your body against the elements, and keeps you alert and focused so you can make the best of your day. Hamilton Beach, the leader in small appliances, is leading the way with inventive and creative ways to enjoy breakfast. Today, I’m happy to share some of my favourite products that are must-haves for you this season.  (more…)

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Long Live Learning: #ThankYouTeachers

October 29, 2015

September 1992.

As I huddled in homeroom English, I glanced at the clock, willing it to inch forward. It was Monday, and I knew what was coming – my grade 9 English teacher, Mrs. Meredith, would soon ask me to return to her class after school. Her newspaper club met then, and she was anxious for me to become a member. I suppose she spotted potential still unknown to me; a geeky, chubby 14-year old with coke-bottle glasses and frizzy hair – but I continually declined, theorizing that joining the writing geeks would certainly not elevate my already non-existent status.

But she was persistent, and creative – the very next Monday morning, Mrs. Meredith slapped me with detention for a questionable, minor offense. Bewildered, I stuttered an apology and agreed to return that afternoon. And so, I was sucked into the meeting, and into the club, and before I knew it, I was the first 9th grade Editor-in-Chief in newspaper club history.

We’re Facebook friends now. And she still calls me “chief” from time to time.

These were the days of dot matrix printers and 13-inch computer monitors. When electronics were limited to your boyfriend’s pager and your oversized boombox. When technology was a luxury.
hero-nominationsToday, 88% of Canadian teachers and 80% of parents agree with the use of technology in the classroom. Providing a national voice to those closest to students, Parents and Teachers on Education asked both groups to share their perspective on Canada’s education system.  (more…)

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Make it Better with Bertolli!

October 29, 2015

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

There are a few brands in my pantry that I consider “iconic”. At the top of that list: Bertolli Olive Oil.

Renowned as the world’s leading brand of olive oil, the Bertolli tradition began in 1865 in Italy in the small town of Lucca. There, Francesco and Caterina Bertolli opened a trading shop underneath the family home, where they sold olive oil.

Thank you, Francesco and Caterina, for bringing deliciousness into the homes all around the world for more than 150 years. From full-bodied to mild and sweet, the Bertolli range has an olive oil for all my cooking needs. oo_landing_bottles_newSalads, pasta dishes and grilled vegetables come to life with Bertolli Originale or Gentile Extra Virgin Olive Oil. For an all-purpose cooking oil for stews and sautés,  I always reach for Bertolli Classico Olive Oil for its mild olive taste. And when I want a light tasting all-purpose oil with a very high smoke point (including deep frying and baking), I can trust Bertolli Delicato Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil.

And now, Bertolli introduces 100% Olive Oil Sprays! Available in Extra Virgin and Extra Light Tasting Olive Oil, these new products offer the versatility of 100% olive oil for both raw and cooked dishes, with the convenience of portion control and just 4 calories per spray. Plus, they are all natural and contain no gas propellants.  (more…)

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On Winged Eyeliner, Rocker Chick Vibes and Grocery Clerks

October 27, 2015

Spoiler Alert: I’m not spontaneous with my beauty routine. AT ALL.

I mean, why should I be? Why should I care? I work from home, my wardrobe consists of tee shirts and track pants, and I’ve been known to extend the washing of my hair by a day (or three).

That’s my life 90% of the time. The other 10% – the part you see on social media – is my glamorous life; the media events and photo shoots, the fashion advertising and beauty blogger selfies. And, if you can only envision one Lena, I want you to think of that version. Because I totes woke up like that. Totes.

Yesterday, feeling like a bored suburban housewife on a Monday morning, I decided to spice up my life. Dipping into a stash of COVERGIRL cosmetics, I created a rocker chick look, complete with winged eyeliner, tousled hair and pouty lips.
IMG_1080I couldn’t let this awesome look go to waste, so I visited Loblaws and picked fresh produce. The end.

(There’s probably a reason I’m not spontaneous with my beauty routine – I don’t have the necessary lifestyle to enjoy it! Nevertheless, a grocery store clerk did check me out. Or, he was side-eyeing me because I was messing up his tower of green peppers.)  (more…)

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Mint, Honeydew and Avocado Smoothie

October 26, 2015

Need an afternoon pick-me-up? Instead of reaching for another coffee, try this Mint, Honeydew and Avocado Smoothie! Take half a honeydew melon and three ripe avocados. Seed, cut in chunks and toss into a blender, adding mint syrup (recipe follows) until desired consistency is achieved. Garnish with mint leaves. Enjoy!
12107523_1117459691621005_1353696617_nThe recipe was created by Chef Andres Marquez for our #AvoSocial. The smoothie is satisfying, refreshing, and best of all – good for you! A moderate fat diet that includes one fresh avocado daily may help your body absorb nutrients from other foods and lower cholesterol. More than 75 percent of the fat in avocados is considered “good” fat, with 3g coming from monounsaturated fat and 0.5g from polyunsaturated fat (per 1-ounce serving).

Okay, back to the recipe. To make that mint syrup, you’re going to need to boil one (1) litre of water. Grab four (4) mint sprigs and separate the leaves from the stems. (The leaves are used for garnish, above.) Add the mint stems and 2 cups of sugar to the boiling water. Turn the heat off and let all the ingredients steep for about 5 minutes. Remove the stems and cool completely.  (more…)

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Living the GoodLife: Falling into Health and Wellness

October 22, 2015

There’s no use denying it: one of the reasons I love fall so much is the excuse to wear sweaters and coats. Big, warm, bulky articles of clothing which hide the extra bit of bulk I may be hiding underneath. It’s true, fall is my worst season for managing my weight. You too? Yeah, it’s not surprising at all.

In the beginning of the year, there are resolutions and promises. And for a while, it works. Then comes early spring, also known as travel season, where myself and countless Canadians are vacationing down south to escape the Canadian climate and reset our perspective on life. And since a bikini body is always top of mind, chances are, diet and exercise are happening in some form or fashion.

Then there’s summer. The season where extra clothing is not an option, and fitness routines are easier to stick to thanks to the availability of both indoor and outdoor options. As a result, weight is managed and self-esteem remains intact.
DSC_0895-876x1024(Pictured above: Me, in summer. Just like every summer – at my best weight of the year.)

But then… then comes fall. And after months of watching what I eat, fitting in exercise, squeezing into skinny jeans and jumping on the weighing scale, I’ve had enough. Enough! I will gladly ensconce myself in the sanctuary of oversized sweaters and strategically cut blazers and always say yes to that second helping of lasagna.

Fall Body. It’s a thing, folks.

And the most dangerous thing about Fall Body is that it sets the pace for Holiday Body, the free-for-all of overindulgence (usually involving copious amounts of sweets, stuffing and sangria) which ultimately leads to Resolution Body in January.  (more…)

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That’s a Wrap! Peanut Butter, Honey and Banana Breakfast Wraps

October 21, 2015

Looking for a quick and delicious breakfast your whole family will love? Spread whole wheat tortillas with peanut butter (or wowbutter) and honey. Roll around a peeled ripe banana, and wrap in foil. Bake in a 350°F oven for 10 minutes. Serve warm!
DSC_1299aYou can switch it up by substituting peanut butter and honey with Nutella or REESE Spreads, or add a touch of texture and sweetness with dried cranberries or raisins. And, if you’re looking for something really special, dip the wraps into extra honey. So good!

I begin to crave these wraps whenever the colder weather settles in. They’re a perfectly nourishing and satisfying way to start to your day… stay warm friends!

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A Plane SO Cool… It’s Frozen!

October 20, 2015

When I buckled the boys into their car seats on Sunday morning, I had a vague idea about our final destination.

Where are we going, mommy?
Is it a party? A Sunday morning party?
Will there be kids? Will there be kids? Is it far? 
Are we there yet? (Asked at 2 minute intervals, of course)

Thankfully, our rendezvous was less than a half hour away. And as we pulled up to the WestJet hangar, my intuition spiked into overdrive.

This is going to be amazing, I whispered to my husband.

Inside, the excitement was palpable. Adults and children alike buzzed with anticipation, constantly checking the time and willing it to inch forward to the 10:00AM event start. A large curtain, ominously descending from the ceiling, veiled our eyes from what was surely the star attraction, hidden for the time being. And finally, as Bob Cummings, WestJet Executive Vice-President, took the stage, the audience surged together and leaned forward.

“Two years ago, we launched the #MagicPlane, our first Disney-themed aircraft, and no matter where it flies throughout our network, it is the most-anticipated and most-photographed aircraft in WestJet history. Today, we are proud to team up with our great friends at Disney to create a sequel like no other.”

Introducing the Disney Frozen Themed Plane.
FrozenPlane_Reveal_I won’t hesitate to admit that the hairs on the back of my neck stood up straight with excitement. The plane, so painstakingly detailed, brings Disney’s Frozen to life by marrying art and aviation in a way that speaks to the child in all of us. From Olaf’s adorable invitation to join him on the beach to Elsa and Anna’s celebration of sisterhood and snow (I truly believe Elsa’s spell adds tailwind to speed the aircraft along), the plane promises to be yet another star in WestJet’s already magical fleet.

Let’s get a little closer, shall we? (Click here to view my live tweets from the event.(more…)

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Making Sense of it All: Join the #TaxTalkTime Twitter Chat

October 16, 2015

It’s really no surprise to learn that personal tax implications sway 70% of Canadians’ votes. Of course! We all want to know how our support for a particular party will directly affect our bank account. However, studies from H&R Block have previously shown widespread confusion about personal tax topics, ranging from marital status filings to TFSAs.

To help address the persistent questions around taxes, join @HRBlockCanada for a #TaxTalkTime Twitter Chat on Thursday, October 22nd at 8:00pm EDT.
twitter party oct 22 (2)“Canadian consumers are right to be concerned about how proposed tax platforms will impact their personal taxes,” says Caroline Battista, senior tax analyst, H&R Block Canada. “Personal taxes are complicated enough with the rules changing constantly, especially during an election year.”

We all know it’s important to pay attention so we can understand how the election’s outcome will impact our personal filing situation. That’s why I encourage everyone to join the chat! To thank you for your participation, we’ll give away $750.00 in cash card prizes, including a grand prize of $250.00.

There’s no RSVP for this chat; simply tweet on the hashtag to join the conversation, and for a chance to win! See you on Thursday night!

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Questions About Skincare? Ask a Dermatologist Anything!

October 16, 2015

Do you need professional help? Sometimes we all need therapy … for our skin, that is.

However, it’s not always easy to reach an expert when we need one most. Questions about your skin care routine? Changes in aging skin, or adult acne? If you’re like me, you may want to know more about Botox, microdermabrasion or laser hair removal.

Facebook Graphic (2)Here’s your chance to ask an expert – join the @CeraVeCanada #DermWednesday Twitter Chat on October 21st at 8:00PM EDT. Dr. Ben Barankin from The Toronto Dermatology Centre will be on hand to answer any of your skin care concerns.

To thank you for joining the conversation, three (3) attendees will win a CeraVe Prize Bundle, including a selection of CeraVe’s must-have cleansers and moisturizers.

CeraVe is the first brand to contain the essential ceramides, cholesterol and fatty esters that healthy skin needs, delivered through a controlled-release MVE system over 24 hours. The daily regimen of cleansers and moisturizers helps repair, replenish and protect the skin barrier to leave your skin looking and feeling soft, clean and healthy.

It promises to be an informative chat! Mark your calendars!

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On the Go with Little Ones? Introducing Play-Stow-Go!

October 15, 2015

I’m not exactly sure why they call it a “diaper Bag”, because truth be told, it held everything but the kitchen sink.

Diapers – for sure. A change of clothes, a stack of wipes, a selection of snacks. Bottles, binkies and blankets. And toys… oh, the toys.

Back when the boys were little, it was a mission to find portable toys that were child-friendly, promoted sensory play and were small enough to take everywhere. Because whether it was a trip to the mall, a plane ride or an afternoon at grandma’s house, keeping them entertained on the go was a top priority. The toys had to be storable, portable and adorable!

stowngoToday, I cherish the time I spend with my little niece. She’s not quite two, but she’s quite the busy-body! Watching her learn through play, fine-tune her hand-eye coordination and perfect her motor skills is a joy to behold. And today, it’s even easier to entertain her on the go with Playskool’s Play-Stow-Go toys.

The toys are easily compacted, collapsible or include a handy little travel clip for the ultimate in portability. So, playtime can happen nearly anytime, anywhere! They can be stowed inside a stroller, some even into a jacket, and of course – a diaper bag. Yep, consider these toys, which aid in developing fine motor skills and sensory play, a diaper bag staple for on the go fun.

The collection also makes at home play much easier because as the toys collapse into a smaller size for easier storage, the pieces conveniently fit inside the toys, so you can avoid having to search for missing parts. It’s as easy as Play, Stow, Go!  (more…)

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