Focusing on the Future: Saving for Retirement

February 27, 2017

Friends, I’ve got a plan.

The last time we chatted, I expressed fear over being able to adequately balance my short-term financial obligations with my long-term savings goals. Of course, never one to simply lament and move on, I created an action plan with one clear objective in mind: meet with a financial advisor.

(Of course! Leave it up to the experts!)
jarRecently, I had the opportunity to chat with Simpreet Sivia, Senior Financial Advisor at Scotiabank. And I’ll be honest – discussing my financial triumphs (few) and shortcomings (many) with a stranger is not easy. However, I attended the meeting with an open mind, and by the time we were through:

– I had a better understanding of my current financial situation
– I had a path to help attain my long-term savings goals
– I was better prepared for unexpected life events
– I learned how to work toward the things I’ve always dreamed of  (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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Focus on the Facts: Be a Nutrition Fact Finder

February 24, 2017

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

I’ll never forget when my family – and really, Canadians as a nation – learned about serving sizes.

The year was 2003. Before then, it was not mandatory for packaged goods sold in Canada to display nutritional information of the contents. And so, for many years, we simply helped ourselves to a portion we considered fit, without knowing exactly how we were impacted by our choices. When serving sizes were listed on the label – among other things, such as number of calories, amount of fat, etc. – we all took a step back.

Like, whoa.

Suddenly, many Canadians received a wake up call when it came to consumption habits. While the information on the nutrition facts label helped guide our understanding of portion sizes, it also helped us make better food choices. Suddenly, words like “calorie counting” become synonymous with dieting, and the demand for fat-free snacking foods and sugar-free beverages was at an all-time high. For better or for worse, we were informed.

Today, the Nutrition Facts table, found on most packaged food products in Canada, is key to making more informed food choices for you and your family. With the help of my little Nutrition Facts Finder (note the detective hat and magnifying glass!), we’re going to make it easy for you to focus on facts!
_DSC1497Step 1: Start with Serving Size. You can find the Serving Size under the header “Nutrition Facts”. Remember, if you eat a different amount than the serving size, you will need to adjust the corresponding information in the Nutrition Facts table.  (more…)

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Spring into Action, Mississauga!

February 22, 2017

“Have you signed up the boys for soccer yet?” my husband asks.
“Not yet… I have to find the website,” I reply.
“What about swimming? Skating? Karate? Summer camp?” he continues.
“It’s on my to-do list…” I hedge in response.

The truth is, it’s the bane of my existence. Trying to coordinate multiple activities for multiple kids… while visiting multiple websites (with varying degrees of user-friendliness) over multiple days of the week for multiple months…

Let’s just say it’s not my favourite thing to do.

I think the most frustrating thing about scheduling activities for my boys is the sheer amount of time I spend in the planning stages. I have to decide if they’ll be interested in an activity or sport, research the organization that offers the services I’m looking for, compare dates and schedules, check if the fees fit within my budget… and so on. But the worst part is the very real FOMO I feel when booking a sport or activity – what else is out there? How do I know I’m choosing the right league? What is the newest class or activity they’ll be dying to try out?

Thank goodness for Erin Mills Town Centre ‘Spring into Action’ Sports and Camps Show.
8120_ErinMillSportsCamp2017_24x36_New (2)This fun, family-oriented event takes place on Saturday, February 25th from 10am to 5pm at Erin Mills Town Centre in Mississauga. Visitors will have the opportunity to ask questions from knowledgeable experts and sign up for sports programs, while enjoying exciting displays, demonstrations, fun interactive activities, a free photo booth and the chance to win great prizes.  (more…)

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Smooth Move: Is it Time to go Glycolic?

February 19, 2017

If you haven’t heard of Glycolic Acid, chances are, you’re missing out on the secret to smooth skin.

But first, what is it? Glycolic acid is an Alpha Hydroxy Acid (AHA). Alpha Hydroxy Acids are a family of naturally occurring mild acids that work as exfoliants. Remember those sharp, beady scrubs you grew up with? Same principle, except there’s no manual scrubbing component. Instead, by speeding up the skin’s own natural shedding process (which slows down as we age), they encourage the skin to slough off dead cells, allowing newer ones to reach the surface more quickly and evenly. Glycolic acid, the AHA of choice, is a discriminatory exfoliator, as it only affects the dead cells.

Did you hear that? Science, friends.

The small molecular size of Glycolic acid makes it effective in removing the build-up of dead cells on the surface of the skin.

So, do you need Glycolic acid in your life? It really depends. If you have uneven, dull or flaky skin, the answer is yes. If the texture of your skin is rough or “ruddy” to the touch, it’s a yes, again. If you’re looking to reveal your skin’s radiance and decrease the look of fine lines, DEFINITELY yes.
FullSizeRender (2)Here’s where to start. Introducing NeoStrata Glycolic Renewal Antioxidant Smoothing Serum. Harnessing the exfoliating power of Glycolic Acid, as well as the antioxidant protection of Lipochroman, NeoStrata’s new Glycolic Renewal Antioxidant Smoothing Serum “works like a daily fitness regimen for your skin, revealing smoother, more radiant skin while protecting against external aggressions.”  (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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DIY or DIFM (Do it For Me)? Hardwood Installation with The Home Depot Canada

February 16, 2017

If you’re lucky enough to know a general contractor or someone who specializes in flooring installation, I am really, really, jealous.

Seriously. A home reno that involves a flooring install is a BIG deal, and it involves time, money and a general upheaval of your living conditions. And, when you have to trust the work to strangers, it makes it all the more ominous: will I like the results? Can I trust the quality and workmanship? You’re gluing what to where and how?

Yeah, it can get a little ambiguous.

Thankfully, you’ve got me – I’ve recently survived a hardwood install! Today, I’ll tell you what you need to know to make it as painless as possible.pic1Tip #1: Buy Your Own Wood. If you call a contractor, chances are they will offer a selection of hardwood or engineered hardwood for you to peruse, and may even try to lure you with their “contractor’s discount.” Don’t be persuaded, unless they present you with a sample you love at a price you can live with. There are other options, promise.

You see, the selection at The Home Depot Canada is unsurpassed! From the type of flooring to the species and finish, YOU get to decide what is best for your home. And remember this advice: ALL wood species are suitable for everyday use. An associate in the flooring department can help you find a look and finish that you’ll love.  (more…)

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Your Road to Retirement: Let’s Chat about Financial Planning

February 15, 2017

I know, I know. The subject makes you want to turn and run, right? You’re not alone – I can think of very few people who actually enjoy the process of dissecting their spending and saving habits. But you know what? It’s truly not as painful as it seems, and today I’m here to show you (nay, convince you) why it’s the perfect time to sit down with a financial advisor. At Scotiabank, they offer this service for free with no minimum balance – so what do you have to lose?

First, let’s look at the calendar. March is creeping up on us! And in advance of the March 1st RRSP contribution deadline, it’s important to uncover where you are with your retirement savings, and where you want to be. Last week, I wasn’t all that certain.

You’ll remember from a previous post, Your Road to Retirement: What are Your Savings Goals for 2017? – I was once a smug saver. Today, I’m not as comfortable – with a brand new home (and brand new mortgage) on the horizon, I’ve been under mild stress (read: panic attacks) trying to figure out if I can afford to save. Rather than trying to crunch the numbers myself, last week, I visited my local Scotiabank branch and sat down with Simpreet Sivia, Senior Financial Advisor.
IMG_4206 (2)Here’s what I learned from my visit.

1. Overcome your fear of financial judgement. I get it. It’s hard to be so transparent with a stranger – even one who’s trying to help you sort through your finances. No one likes to have their spending habits judged; we’re all just trying to do what’s right for ourselves and our families. But the logical first step in the financial planning process is admitting that there’s room for improvement, and then, being open to advice. (more…)

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5 Steps to the Perfect #PizzaNight!

February 9, 2017

Tell me, when was the last time you celebrated… pizza night?
_DSC1088I know, I know. The script usually looks like this:

OMG I’m working late and junior has hockey practice… let’s make it a pizza night.
We have no food! We need to do a grocery run – but not tonight. Let’s do pizza.
I literally CAN’T. Too tired. Won’t cook. Pizza night it is.

See? Pizza is normally treated like a second-class citizen; universally relied on for its deliciousness, broad appeal and affordability… yet never fully given the appreciation it deserves.  (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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Marvelous Garnier Whole Blends Moroccan Argan & Camellia Oils

February 6, 2017

Although this post has been generously sponsored by Garnier Whole Blends, the opinions and language are my own.

It’s my own personal tradition. Each January, I’ll make a list of ways to better myself throughout the year. Often it’s as simple as trying to get more sleep. Sometimes, it’s a little more ambitious: learning a new language, honing a culinary skill or exploring our diverse ecosystem.

This year, I’m focused on incorporating wholesome rituals that enhance my well-being.
_DSC1063Strolling. Not walking, not jogging… just… strolling. Taking time to smell the roses and ponder the meaning of life. (Or, just escaping the chaos of having two rambunctious little boys.) I spend a lot of time on a schedule, constantly checking the clock while I rush through my day. This year, my plan is to download my favourite tunes, slip on cute loafers (check!) and go for many leisurely strolls.  (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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May All Your Travels be #HealthyTravels

January 30, 2017

FACT: It is estimated that 30% to 70% of travellers who go to a tropical or subtropical region will have at least one episode of diarrhea, which may last three to five days.

Well, hello to you too! I normally don’t start my posts with such an attention-grabbing headline, unless of course I’m trying to grab your attention. So let’s try that again –

FACT: 98% of travellers will make a dietary or beverage mistake within the FIRST THREE DAYS of their vacation, increasing their risk of contracting enterotoxigenic E. coli (ETEC).

(Be smart! You should be spending your vacation on the beach, not in bed.)

If you’re thinking, “Okay Lena, you have my attention. Tell me more!” – you’re in luck! On Tuesday, January 31st, join the #HealthyTravels Twitter Chat at 8PM EST. We’ll share smart tips and information to help ensure all your travels in 2017 are healthy.
Healthy Travels GraphicTo thank you for joining us, we’ll give away 5 x $75 Shoppers Drug Mart Gift Cards – perfect for stocking up on everything you need before you head down south!

To all those travelling this March Break, wishing you #HealthyTravels!

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Questions About Winter Tires? I Have Answers.

January 25, 2017

“Are you sure we need winter tires this year?” my mom asked. “We’re retired. We don’t have to venture out when it snows. We can just stay indoors.”

“My all-season tires are brand new!” my friend lamented. “The tread is fine, trust me.”

“There’s no way I can afford winter tires,” another friend confided. “With the cost of gas, insurance and car payments, I can hardly afford to drive!”

Sound familiar? You may even see your own situation in the answers above. And so rather than lecture you (I’d never do that!) on the importance of winter tires, I’m just here to answer your questions.
20170114_100609a“Are you sure we need winter tires, even if we don’t venture out?”

You probably don’t need winter tires if you *never* have to leave your house when it snows, like, ever. (Frankly, even that is a misconception – winter tires actually begin to work their magic the minute the temperature falls below 7° Celsius.) But what about when you’re already out and it begins to snow? Freshly fallen snow on the roads – before the salt trucks can do their thing – can present dangerous driving hazards. So unless you’re a meteorologist (or are obsessive about checking your local weather channel), chances are you may be faced with inclement driving conditions.

And, do you ever have to leave to pick up a child or grandchild? Go to the doctor or the hospital? Run out for a bag of sugar? You know, those things you don’t plan for, but necessitate leaving the house? Yeah, that happens to me too, which is why I’d rather have the added safety of winter tires.  (more…)

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New Year, Old Traditions: Cooking with Turmeric

January 18, 2017

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Turmeric. No, I did not just sneeze… although inhaling this peppery spice may have that effect!

If you’re not familiar with turmeric – what I consider one of the most effective nutritional supplements in existence – make 2017 the year you get turned on to its unique flavour.

And if you know someone of East Indian descent, like my mother? Well, they put that yellow stuff in EVERYTHING.
_DSC1055I find it amusing that turmeric is often identified as a new food trend, since I’ve been exposed to it since birth. Every stir-fry, vegetable dish and curry my mom has ever created always included a pinch (or punch) of turmeric. My mom will say she adds it for colour, but a brief online search will show the properties of this herb go well beyond its cosmetic use.

(Remember, always consult your doctor or nutritionist before starting a new regime – even when it includes natural foods!)  (more…)

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New Year, New Home: Top Five Factors When Selecting Hardwood Flooring

January 16, 2017

From my previous post, Love It or List It? The Case for Decision-Making Renos, you’ll know that after nine long years with our berber carpet on our home’s second floor, it was time for a change.
HD1However, settling on the perfect hardwood flooring – even when you’re simply matching one floor to the next – is not a quick and simple process. There are many variables that can influence the colour, type and price of the flooring you choose. Today, let’s go over the Top Five Factors When Selecting Hardwood Flooring. (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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Let’s Have a Seriously FUN Talk.

January 5, 2017

“Are your kids in any competitive sports?”

It’s a simple question, but one that instantly puts me on the defensive. Because let’s be honest; in the past few years, kids’ sports have become increasingly competitive, to the point where competition – and winning – are the main undercurrents of the program. In fact, while both Ryder and Reid participated in house league soccer for years, we recently pulled Reid from the program.

It’s not a big deal. The team was fine, the coach was fine, but there was definitely an emphasis on winning – a slightly uncomfortable emphasis, if I’m being honest. One day, as I watched Reid, running head down and visibly frustrated, I realized one thing: it wasn’t fun for him anymore.

And kids’ sports are supposed to be FUN.

This past Christmas, both Ryder and Reid received their first pairs of ice skates. I know what you’re thinking – if there’s one sport that has a reputation for competitiveness, it’s hockey. But it doesn’t have to be that way.
McDonald’s Canada believes kids’ hockey should be fun. That’s why they sponsor more than 53,000 Atom and Bantam hockey players across Canada each year. The atoMc Hockey Program provides teams a full set of primary game jerseys and socks, featuring the Hockey Canada logo – the same worn by Canada’s National teams.  (more…)

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This Winter, What are You Willing to Risk?

December 29, 2016

As the sun rises, the tantalizing aroma of freshly brewed coffee fills the air. Reaching for a cup, you glance down at your smartphone, scrolling past the text messages and onto the local weather app. An inclement weather warning flashes across the screen. You peek outside the window, confirming that there is a fresh layer of snow blanketing the ground. You know what you have to do.

You’ll dress your children warmly, adding layers of protection to cover their delicate skin. You’ll start the car and let it idle in the driveway, allowing the interior to warm to a comfortable temperature. You’ll double check the car seats, ensuring they are positioned properly and the harness is snug. You’ll clear the car’s windshield of snow and ice, confirming you have a clear, unobstructed view.

After all, your children are your most precious cargo. You’re not willing to risk their safety.

And then, you’ll slowly ease out of your driveway, ready to merge into the rush of morning traffic. And just like 34% of the other drivers on the road, you’ll do it without the added safety of winter tires.

What are you willing to risk?
15306597_1066604200118142_1272488536519475200_nDespite an overwhelming majority of Canadians indicating that safety outweighs cost when it comes to purchasing winter tires, a recent Michelin survey revealed that more than 1 in 3 Canadian drivers still do not own a set.

Think about it. Think about everything you do to protect your kids, to keep them safe. And if you don’t have children or grandchildren, think about what you would do to protect the ones you know – a niece, a nephew, a student, a friend. Think about what is holding you back from purchasing winter tires for your car.

Think about why you are willing to take the risk.  (more…)

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