You Can (Totally) Leave Home Without It

June 13, 2016

Until now, all of my “Travel Tips” and “What to Pack” posts have focused on what to take on vacation. You know, the must-haves for mom, families and children alike. However, it occurred to me this morning that often, we needlessly complicate the process. Packing cubes! Reminder notes! To-do lists! We know how to keep on top of the things we need to take, but what can we leave at home?
12783999_1566234280334864_1614171988_nToday, I’m pleased to share tips for things you can absolutely, positively, totally leave home without.

(Sounds like your kind of list? Me too!)

1. Your Life Story. Take a peek at your wallet. If you’re travelling with your Social Insurance Card, every credit card and store card you own, your membership cards, frequent customer cards and more, you’re travelling with too much damned access to your entire life story. Edit, friends! In the unfortunate event that your wallet is misplaced (or stolen), you don’t want to add identity theft to your list of troubles.  (more…)

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Our Ritual, Our Togetherness: Nespresso Evoluo

June 13, 2016

Hands down, my husband and I are really, really bad at gift giving.

It goes something like this: I’ll say I don’t want anything, because I really don’t. He’ll ask and suggest and try his best to find a gift I’ll love – only to abandon all attempts and concede that when I want something, I’ll simply buy it myself.

He’ll say he’s good, there’s nothing he wants… except that $5,000 watch and the $2,500 audio system or a $10,000 European vacation. I’ll laugh and serve him breakfast in bed (maybe) and tell him I’ll think about his wish list (unlikely).

This year, I’ve decided to go back to basics, and think about the things that make us happiest; the products we use in our everyday lives that bring us closer and strengthen our love. For us, it’s our coffee ritual. Our morning coffee is a chance to go over the flow of the day; who will be home, who’s got the kids, who’s in charge of dinner and what needs to get done. Our afternoon coffee happens any time we can fit it in; if we’re both working from home, it happens around 2:00pm. If my husband is on the road, it may take place at 5:00pm. But we never have that second coffee alone – it’s part of our routine, part of our togetherness.

The only caveat: the coffee must be delicious, and it must be easily, quickly brewed. I’ve dabbled in single-serve coffee makers in the past, reluctantly sacrificing quality for convenience. “It’s so easy!” I’ve declared. “It’s so convenient!” I’ve parroted.

And it was. They were. But they weren’t Nespresso.
DSC_0513Nespresso revolutionizes the world of coffee with Evoluo. Using the unique and innovative Centrifusion and barcode reading technology of the VertuoLine system, Evoluo brews both large-cup, high-quality coffee and authentic espresso with ease and effortless maintenance. This technology guarantees that each precisely portioned cup of coffee is brewed to perfection and finished with a silky and generous crema – a sign of world-class coffee.  (more…)

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#MyLittleDreamer Twitter Party

June 12, 2016

As a child, I dreamed big. I dreamed of castles and kings, of becoming a teacher or a theatre actor. I wanted a house in the suburbs and a quiet spot on a beach. I lusted after high heels and a low maintenance lifestyle. I thought of unicorns and university boyfriends. I wanted it all.

Kids dream BIG, and Heritage Education Funds have helped them achieve their dreams for over 50 years, with the support of parents and loved ones. So to celebrate all of the kids – and parents – who never stop dreaming, they’re throwing a twitter party!

Join @HeritageFunds for the #MyLittleDreamer Twitter Party this Thursday, June 16, 2016 at 9:00PM ET. They’ll be sharing ways to help nurture your little dreamers and can’t wait to hear your tips, too! As always, it promises to be a heartwarming party filled with helpful information.
MLD_Twitter_Party_FB (2)Join the conversation and tweet along with some fabulous Canadian bloggers and – surprise! – Celebrity Guest Caroline Rhea! To thank you for participating, there will be over $1,000 in prizes up for grabs, courtesy of Heritage Education Funds, iTravel2000, The Canadian Mother Resource, Heritage Lending Group and DK Canada:

2 – $250 travel voucher, courtesy of iTravel2000
1 – Samsung Galaxy Tab A 8” Tablet (ARV $200), courtesy of The CMR
2 – $100 Visa prepaid gift card, courtesy of Heritage Lending
1 – $100 Indigo gift card, courtesy of Heritage Education Funds
1 – $100 Eyewitness Collection from DK, courtesy of DK Books (Canada)
1 – $100 swag prize pack, courtesy of Heritage Education Funds

Whew! Now THAT’s a party! RSVP here for a chance to win, and see you on Thursday night!

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How to Have the Best Summer Ever!

June 12, 2016

If the weather forecast is any indication, summer in Canada has unofficially arrived.

Welcome, heat!

Summertime is for long walks and short naps. It’s for picnics by the lake, ice cream by the side of the road and drinks on the patio. And for one lucky Canadian, it could be a much-needed family vacation.

Have you entered the Banana Boat Canada My Best Summer Hacks Contest? Think of your best tip for summer fun, and share it via Banana Boat Canada’s Facebook contest by submitting a photo and short description. Your Mommy Hack could be featured as the Hack of the Week,  plus, you could win $2,500 towards a summer vacation for the family!
12555915_1671703529777420_2084205620_nNow I’ve already shared three of my favourite “Mom Hacks” for applying sunscreen on kiddos, but you didn’t think I’d leave you with just a handful did you? Here are three more of my tried-and-true hacks for protecting my children – easy, peasy, lemon-squeezy!  (more…)

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When the Moon Hits Your Eye….

June 10, 2016

Can someone *please* explain this expression to me? I mean, if the moon suddenly looked like a pizza pie, I’d ditch whomever I was with and boot it to the nearest take-out counter. Pizza love? Now that’s amore!

However, I rarely order pizza when I’m out and about for two reasons:

1) I’ve been trying (with moderate success) to live a gluten-free lifestyle. It’s not because I have an allergy or intolerance, or because I’m overly health-minded. It’s just that when I reduce gluten from my diet, I legitimately feel better. Sometimes, I’ll brag about my gluten-less ways (as opposed to glutton-less ways) but the truth is, wheat-free for me is more of an idea than a lifestyle.

2) I’m rarely satisfied with restaurant pizza. My preferred pizza is wood-fired with a thin crust, and has just the right balance of sauce to cheese. The sauce must be savoury without being tangy and the cheese should be stringy without being milky.

In Toronto? Let me recommend FIGO.
pizzaOne of the newest hot spots in the Entertainment District, FIGO offers up authentic Italian cuisine using contemporary techniques. I recently had the pleasure of dining there with friends, and their Margherita Pizza is one I’ll definitely have again.

How do you prefer your pizza? Are you a meat lover, a thin crust aficionado or a fan of pan pizza?

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Putting Women’s Health First: Shoppers LOVE. YOU

June 7, 2016

Over the eight years I’ve been publishing my blog, I’ve had only a handful of guest writers. I suppose it’s inherent to my A-type personality; I have a hard time giving up the controls, opting to simply do things myself rather than depend on others.

(And, to be honest, I really do think I can do a better job. See! I’m not a martyr, I’m a snob.)

However, today I’m shaking things up. Did you know that in any given week, at least 500,000 Canadians will miss work due to a mental health issue? And one in eight women will develop depression at some point in their lives? Mental illness indirectly affects all Canadians at some time through a family member, friend or colleague.

It happens, we know that. But four in ten Canadian women say that they are too embarrassed to admit to mental health issues, and they have never sought medical help. Adding to the frustration, more than one third (38 per cent) of Canadians agree that if a friend or family member had a mental health issue, they would not know how to support them.

And that needs to change.

To put a spotlight on mental illness, I’m handing over the reigns to my husband; he’ll be giving me a much-deserved break today from my busy schedule as a mom and business woman so that I can have a moment for my own mental health. Everyone, please meet Michael Almeida!

Hi everyone, I’m Michael, Lena’s husband. I know it was really difficult for her to let me guest write on her blog (she’ll probably edit my submission for grammar) but today she’ll be able to sit in the backyard with her e-reader while I try to keep up the writing standards on this blog!
12115705_10156181176100182_127853852107564748_nAlmost 10 years to the day I proposed to this beautiful girl. It was love at first sight for me and from the moment I met her I knew I wanted to spend the rest of my life with her. She was always so happy and so positive and so sweet.  (more…)

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Welcome to the New Laura!

June 7, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Recently, I had the distinct pleasure of checking out the brand new Laura concept store at Sherway Gardens. This completely redesigned, completely gorgeous retail space features Laura, Laura Petites, Laura Plus and Laura Plus Petites – all under one banner, in one store!
IMG_2431The store itself is beautiful. Thoughtfully categorized, well-lit and with dedicated spaces to lounge while waiting for your shopping party, it’s a must-stop when looking for a perfect piece to update your wardrobe. In store, you can expect to find stylish workwear, casual separates and elegant eveningwear, plus an extensive selection of outerwear and accessories.  (more…)

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We Love Local! Join the #LoveONTFood Twitter Party!

June 6, 2016

Life is a bowl of cherries. Especially in June, when they’re in season.

Let’s celebrate, friends – it’s Local Food Week in Ontario! Finding locally grown, fresh, tasty food in Ontario is becoming easier all the time – and the diversity of the products available is incredible. By buying local, you’re not only getting nutritious, delicious and environmentally friendly groceries – but you’re supporting your neighbours, friends and the local economy. Now that’s something to celebrate.

Here’s how to make the most of Local Food Week:

1. Visit www.loveontfood.ca. Here, you’ll find a list of events that are happening across the province to celebrate Local Food. From farmers markets to pop-up shops, find the best in locally produced meats, eggs, dairy products and greenhouse vegetables for your family’s nourishment and enjoyment.

2. Enjoy the FREE We Love Local! E-Magazine. Inside, you’ll find a collection of scrumptious Ontario-inspired recipes, barbecue and campsite cooking hacks, and my favourite – an Availability Guide which showcases which locally-grown fruits and vegetables are in season!

3. Join our #LoveONTFood Twitter Party. Hosted by @FoodlandOnt and myself, @Listen2Lena, visit us on Twitter this Wednesday, June 8th at 8PM ET. (@Brunette_Baker and @BrittanyStager will also be there to dish local foodie tips and tricks!)
Twitter-Party-Promo-Graphic (2)We’ll be talking about all the good things that grow in Ontario and will have some AH-MAZING prizes* up for grabs – Three (3) prize packs from Foodland Ontario partners + Five (5) $50 Sobeys Gift Cards + One (1) $250 Sobeys Gift Card Grand Prize!

* Everyone is welcome to participate in the party, but only residents from Ontario are eligible to win prizes.

RSVP below for a chance to win, and we’ll see you on Wednesday night!  (more…)

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The Conversion to Customer: Favourite Purchases YTD

June 1, 2016

One of the very best things about being an influencer in the online space is the opportunity to review products and services that I have a keen interest in. Translation: the chance to test out products I’d actually buy.

Back in 2014, I made a promise to myself – and to my audience – that I’d cut out the spam. No more accepting freebies, no more “fluff” reviews for the sake of content, no more overtly gushing testimonials about one-off products I’d never open my wallet to purchase. And for the most part, it’s been very effective: I spend my time talking about the products, services and destinations I love, and you can trust that if it appears on my blog, it’s because it has my personal endorsement (and isn’t just a paid endorsement).

Of course, the benefit of being choosy with my content means that more often than not, I can convert from a reviewer to a customer! As such, I thought I’d put together a quick round-up of the brands I’ve featured this year that I am now a bona fide customer. It’s putting my wallet where my website is!

Kamik Rain Boots. Part of Kamik’s appeal to me is their focus on sustainability. Their Zylex liners are made from 77% – 97% recycled water bottles, and their rubber boots are 100% recyclable. Combined with the fact that they’re a Canadian company (with over 70 percent of their products made in Canada), and they have some of the prettiest designs I’ve seen, it’s no wonder I purchased a second pair (“Jennifer”) in addition to the “Orchid” style I received for review!
13188193_1568370533460479_1610109504_nI purchased my Kamik Rain Boots at Globo Shoes, but you can also find them at Soft Moc, Town Shoes, Sporting Life and more. Tomorrow’s forecast is calling for rain… I’m all set to conquer the elements in style!  (more…)

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5 Reasons to Live Your Life in 4K

May 30, 2016

*Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.*

Technically, this post would be *much* more awesome if I provided 4,000 reasons (get it? 4K? yes?)…. but let’s be honest, it’d be 2018 by the time I got through my list. Hence, I’ve narrowed my scope to be both practical and entertaining. You’re welcome!

It’s been just under two months since I’ve experienced television like never before thanks to my new Samsung 4K SUHD TV and the Rogers NextBox 4K. You may have noticed that over the years, I’ve greatly reduced the number of product reviews on my blog; this is to make room for glowing testimonials for the products and services I truly. freaking. love.

And I LOVE #Lifein4K.

Now, I know a lot of y’all followed along during my Blue Jays Home Opener Party. It was quite the soiree! We had food, family, fun… and the chance to cheer on the Jays while watching in resolution that’s four times better than HD alone.
4kHowever, one recurring question from followers was, “Is it really worth it? Should I invest in a NextBox 4K and/or upgrade my television?” I didn’t feel qualified to answer immediately, simply because we still needed time to get comfortable with the TV (the settings! all the settings!) and I always prefer to make an informed recommendation. The solution: hours and hours of 4K viewing. (Hey, this was the kind of research I could get behind!)  (more…)

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Reinventing the Castle – A New “Shake” on Salt

May 30, 2016

Even iconic brands need to be refreshed from time to time.

It’s been a part of Canadian life since 1893, and part of my family’s own cooking traditions for as long as I can remember. In fact, it’s a preferred brand in our household, used in every dish from early morning breakfast to late-night snacking by the television. It’s a staple. It’s inevitable. It’s what makes our food come alive.

It’s Windsor Salt.

The quintessential brand, used in Canadian kitchens for generations, recently went through a comprehensive brand refresh, which includes an updated logo and product packaging. But don’t worry; the quality product – and delicious results – are still the same.
kebabPictured Above: Moroccan-Spiced Kebabs. Not pictured: my satisfied smile as I bit into the succulent, savoury and well-seasoned meat. I think it’s already time for seconds.  (more…)

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Safe Sun: What’s Your Hack?

May 28, 2016

Moms, when was the last time you were asked for advice? Probably in the last few hours, yes? It’s the role of Moms everywhere to dole out suggestions, guidance, recommendations and direction. (Confession: I’m running out of synonyms.)

Of course, as Moms, we sometimes give unsolicited advice – but it’s well-meaning, I promise! It’s just too irresistible to mind our own business at times. And trust me, I’m not shaming, I’m totally guilty too! Pardon me while I instruct my husband on the correct way to load a dishwasher. He’ll welcome my opinion, I’m sure.

But tell me, when was the last time you were rewarded for sharing your best advice? And I’m not talking about being thanked with words of gratitude… I’m talking about surf, sand and sun. Saddle up, Moms, here’s your chance to WIN big!
BB-Hacks-Header_ENIntroducing the Banana Boat Canada My Best Summer Hacks Contest. What’s your top tip for summer fun? Share it and you could win $2,500 towards a family vacation!

Maybe it’s bringing the beach to your own backyard… a slick trick to soothe a scraped knee… or a crafty creation for cooling off. Perhaps it’s just a great way to slather on the sunscreen before the kids slip out for some fun in the sun. Whatever it is, share it via Banana Boat Canada’s Facebook contest by submitting a photo and short description. Your Mommy Hack could be featured as the Hack of the Week,  plus, you could win $2,500 towards a summer vacation for the family!  (more…)

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It’s Time to #OwnTheThrone!

May 26, 2016

Ladies, it’s time to open the bathroom door wide open.

Bowel health, and particularly bowel health issues, aren’t always the easiest conversations to have. For many women the subject is considered “taboo”, especially when discussing with members of the opposite sex. And if you feel uneasy chatting about it, you’re not alone: according to the Dulcolax® Bowel Health Poll, seven in ten Canadians feel comfortable discussing their bowel movements with their doctor, but only two in five feel comfortable discussing the subject with their partner, and even fewer would discuss it with a close friend, parent or co-worker.

The stigma around bathroom habits needs to be addressed.

Join us on Wednesday, June 1st at 12:00pm ET for the #OwnTheThrone Twitter Chat. We’ll discus ways to keep digestive health a priority this season, and have a fun conversation to prove number two doesn’t have to be so taboo!
Twitter Party Invite - FINAL (2)To thank you for attending, we’ll be giving away six (6) #OwnTheThrone prize bundles valued at $125 each! They include everything you need to – you guessed it – own the throne.  (more…)

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You’re Invited: Laura Concept Store Grand Opening!

May 24, 2016

Calling all fashion lovers in the GTA – have I got an invitation for YOU!

The latest fashions, impeccable service and practical style advice. That’s the Laura philosophy.
13103543_1262976010396366_3552315898681950462_nLaura has come a long way since 1930, when company founder Laura Wolstein opened her first boutique in downtown Montreal. Today, Laura has over 170 stores (and still growing). However, perhaps most exciting is that you can now shop from home; Laura has launched an eCommerce website, where you can browse the entire Laura collection and have it delivered right to your door. (Tees and capris are currently buy one, get one 50% off.) Love it!  (more…)

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#BandTogether! Get Meghan Trainor to a Canadian Small Town!

May 23, 2016

I’ll admit it: growing up in and around Toronto, I’ve had no shortage of opportunities to see “big name” acts live in concert. In fact, even when other large Canadian cities are shunned on “World” or “North American” tours, Torontonians are always treated to a stop for the most popular bands and singers.

Time to change that.

AIR MILES is proud to present DETOUR, a new music program launched by the AIR MILES Reward Program in partnership with Live Nation. In the spirit of being better together, AIR MILES will be rewarding a lucky Canadian small town with an epic music experience – a chance to host Meghan Trainor LIVE in concert!
bg--vip-headerWant to get in on the fun? You should – because there’s totally something in it for YOU!

First, select the small town Canadian town you’d like to support from these finalists. I have committed my vote to Mulmur, ON! (Here’s a reason: They’re home to a festival that changed music history.)  (more…)

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Better Meat for Better Living: Greenfield Natural Meat Co.

May 20, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Following my post on Ontario Pork’s Social Responsibility Report, and my new found commitment to consume food from animals that are raised (not produced), I am pleased to introduce you to Greenfield Natural Meat Co.

Unlike most prepared meat products in the marketplace, Greenfield Natural Meat Co. products are only made with meat from animals raised without the use of antibiotics or hormones, and contain no artificial ingredients. And, the animals used in Greenfield Natural Meat Co. products are treated under some of the highest standards of animal care.

Does an Avocado, Ham & Provolone Sandwich made with 100% vegetarian-fed, Canadian farm-raised pigs taste *that* much better? Yes. Yes it does.
Lena Sandwich (2)I’ll be honest: I’m keen on Greenfield Natural Meat Co. products. Packaged meats (available across Canada) include family favourites such as bacon, baked honey ham and Black Forest ham; fresh meats (currently available in BC, Alberta, Saskatchewan, Manitoba) include pork loin boneless chop, St. Louis-style side rib, pork tenderloin and more.  (more…)

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Just In Case You Needed a Reason to Buy More Bacon

May 19, 2016

Thinking about it, one of the hardest things about being a mom (or a parent, for that matter) is the responsibility to make good food choices for my family. It’s my role to ensure that my boys grow up with a variety of healthy, nutrient-dense foods that are rich in flavour and offer a variety of tastes and textures. Because, I know that the favourable habits they form as children will dictate how they feed their own families in the future.

(What’s for dinner? Why not try this recipe for Grilled Pork Chops With Fresh Peach or Mango Salsa, courtesy of Ontario Pork. Prep time is only 10 minutes!)
ontario porkBut it doesn’t stop there. It’s also my role to ensure the food that we’re enjoying is produced and processed in a way that is economically, environmentally and socially responsible. Last month, Ontario Pork launched its inaugural Social Responsibility Report, becoming the first livestock commodity group in the province to commit to socially responsible practices achieved through education, greater dialogue and increased transparency.  (more…)

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Mom Hacks: Smart Sun Protection!

May 18, 2016

Ah, summer. How I’ve longed to feel the hot sun on my shoulders, the sound of children playing in the streets… the scent of sunscreen in the air. It feels like ages since I last felt your divine presence.

Wait a minute… I was in Orlando, Florida last week. It was hot, and it was fabulous.
IMG_2312 (2)Now, most of us are aware of the importance of wearing sunscreen all year round to protect our skin. UVA rays are present even on cloudy (and snowy!) days, and although exposure doesn’t cause burning to the skin, it is absorbed much deeper into our dermal skin layers and can cause ageing, pigmentation and cancer.  (more…)

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Today’s Post is Brought to You by the Number 28

May 17, 2016

Twenty-Eight. Vingt-Huit. Veintiocho. No matter how you say or spell it, it’s a beautiful number.

It’s the number of lunches I have left to make in the 2015-2016 school year. It’s the number of times I’ll hover over the kitchen counter, cutting a red apple for the kid who doesn’t like green grapes and peeling an orange for the kid who doesn’t like brown pears (this makes more sense if I draw you a directional diagram). It’s the number of times I’ll hear sounds of protest from both kids as I pack what I thought was their favourite food… only to find out it was their favourite food *last week*.

I’m done.

Thankfully, I have two saving graces. The first is the fact that the end of the school year is around the corner. The second is Schneiders Simply Lunch.
DSC_0368aNow you may not have pegged me for a lunch kit kind of mom. Truthfully, even I didn’t know I was a lunch kit kind of mom, until I was recently introduced to NEW Schneiders Simply Lunch.  (more…)

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