A Recipe for Happiness: CHIPITS + Christmas

December 19, 2016

Bake on, friends, bake on.

This holiday season, don’t worry if you don’t have an arsenal of Christmas-themed recipes. (Although you could try my Santa Baby! Bars. Super easy!) Don’t worry if you’re not a domestic goddess; if you don’t have coordinating tableware or if your home is only half decorated. There’s only one thing I want you to do: grab an apron, a cookie sheet (or pan) and a few staple ingredients. And bake on.

Bake delicious chocolate chip cookies or decadent brownies. Know that regardless of the time of year, comforting homemade goodies are always perfect for the occasion.
20161203_111345Recently, we attended the Lakeshore Santa Claus parade in Etobicoke. It was a nice change from the hustle and bustle of downtown Toronto’s parade; here, there was a feeling of community, and many of the floats included local residents, businesses and of course, children. We staked out a great spot along the front of the route, and my boys had a wonderful time taking in their favourite floats and characters.  (more…)

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Season’s Cravings! A Holiday Experience at McDonald’s Canada

December 16, 2016

It’s the holiday season, which invariably means three things:

1) The boys are really, really excited. About everything. They’re excited about Christmas cookies and concerts, presents under the tree and stockings hung over the fireplace. There’s a real sense of urgency to usher in the all things festive, merry and bright.

2) I’m really, really busy. The holidays are my “crazy” season; I’ve got year-end deadlines to meet while finding time to bake cookies, volunteer my time, trim the tree and buy presents.

3) We both need a break. Amidst the hustle and bustle of the holidays, we often need to just sit down and recharge, if only for a short while.

This month, we’re satisfying our Season’s Cravings at McDonalds.
_dsc0915Now I *could* go straight to telling you all about the deliciousness of the Potato Rosti and Bacon Burger pictured above, but that’s only part of the narrative. You see, stopping into your local McDonald’s is no longer your typical “fast food” experience.  (more…)

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Put a Bow on It! Canadian Tire’s Top Toys for Christmas

December 16, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Ho-Ho-How’s that holiday shopping coming along?

If you’re like me, you’ve already put a dent in your to-do list. Parents? Check! Husband? Check! Kids….?? Okay, so I *still* have a little bit of shopping left to do. The thing is, kids are notoriously difficult to shop for, because there are just too many amazing toys to select from!

LEGO or Air Hogs? Dolls or a dream house? NERF Blasters or Micro Machines?

Never fear, friends – I’m here to narrow down the options in the best possible way – by sharing Canadian Tire’s Top Toys for Christmas, straight from Santa’s Workshop!

No, really. I’ve been there.
img_3891It gets better. Last week, I hosted a very special Mom’s Night Out for some of my favourite Toronto influencers! With very special instructions for how to make it to the North Pole (it’s a secret, after all) we gathered for a night of food, girl talk and merriment.  (more…)

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Affordable Chic? Think Chic Marie

December 13, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to residents of the Greater Toronto Area only. 

It’s the middle of the December, which means you’re probably entering the panic zone for that hard-to-shop-for friend, sister or daughter-in-law.

She’s stylish and savvy, always chic and at the forefront of fashion trends. She loves clothes and is a shopaholic, but often has buyer’s remorse when the credit card statement arrives. She wears her heart on her sleeve, and that sleeve is the latest season’s fashion, accessorized perfectly with statement jewelry, a stunning handbag and perfectly pointy peep-toes.

(Maybe that hard-to-shop-for woman is…. you?)

Introducing Chic Marie. Fresh off its success in Quebec, Chic Marie, a booming clothing rental business with a service based on an affordable monthly subscription, is now available in Toronto!
chic_marie-_bannerweb_2500x930Chic Marie’s mission is to offer women a range of quality clothing at a wallet-friendly price. This holiday season, if you’re shopping for a professional woman – someone who normally dedicates a healthy portion of her budget to wardrobe spending – here’s why Chic Marie may just be the perfect present for her – or YOU! (Start dropping those hints, girl!)  (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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Ayurveda: Find Your Balance

December 12, 2016

I don’t just “pop in for a quick spot of tea.”

Growing up, I observed tea to be a ritual – never rushed. Tea leaves were selected by the season, the temperature, and sometimes, even the time of day. Aromatic spices were added for fragrance and flavour; the blends customized with cooling herbs or spicy roots.

The focus was never on tea as a beverage – rather, a cup of tea was a means of achieving nourishment, comfort, and most of all, balance.

Tetley Ayurvedic Balance teas were inspired by one of the world’s oldest holistic healing systems, Ayurveda. Developed more than 5,000 years ago, the word Ayurveda in Sanskrit means “science of life” – its practice teaches that holistic well-being is achieved through the balance of the mind, body and spirit.
_dsc0843aToday, as much as I’d love to continue the rituals from years past, I realize my restraints on time. That’s why I look to Tetley Ayurvedic Balance teas; each tea addresses a common situation or need state related to one of the three doshas – Vata, Pitta, Kapha. (more…)

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How Do You Spell Relief? For Me, It’s Spelled Toleriane

December 8, 2016

This is the “after” photo. Clear, smooth, happy skin – without any irritation in sight. Bliss.
img_3692But it wasn’t always this way – in fact, just four weeks ago, it was a completely different story.

It was the weirdest thing. I’d go to sleep with perfectly clear skin, but upon waking, I’d find these angry, itchy red welts across my cheeks. Sometimes they’d disappear within hours; often, it took a day or two to settle down, only to repeat the cycle again.

“It’s rosacea,” the first dermatologist said.
“It’s allergic dermatitis,” the second one concluded.
“I’m not really sure what that is,” the third one admitted.

And in the meantime, I tried creams, lotions, potions – you name it. Later, at my family doctor’s office, I complained about the lack of diagnosis.

“Could you just have ultra sensitive skin?” he asked. Huh. I suppose it was possible – I mean, the cycle of irritation had only appeared in the last 18 months, but our skin is constantly changing and evolving, right? So, it’s not inconceivable to think that maybe – just maybe – I had developed a dermatological sensitivity. (more…)

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Because When Baby Breathes Better, You’ll Feel Better Too

December 6, 2016

Sponsored by hydraSense®

Just in time for cold season, keep reading for information on hydraSense®, the number one nasal saline brand in Canada for children*. Made with 100 per cent undiluted natural-source seawater that helps reduce and relieve nasal cold symptoms such as nasal congestion to help baby breathe better.
20161106_141738I’ll never forget my baby’s first cold.

He was just over five months old, and one chilly afternoon in fall, it all began with a telltale stream of thin, watery mucus escaping from his sweet little nose.

“Uh oh,” I thought to myself. “Here we go.”

By nightfall, he was fussy, refusing to feed and increasingly congested. It was heartbreaking to watch my baby struggle to breathe through his nose, knowing that as every hour passed, the runny mucus was turning thick and yellow. I don’t think my husband or I slept a wink that night, taking turns walking up and down the hall, soothing him to sleep.  (more…)

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Traditions, New and Old: Ross Petty’s Sleeping Beauty

December 3, 2016

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

I’ll be completely honest, friends. When I was asked if I’d like to attend Ross Petty’s latest production, Sleeping Beauty – The Deliriously Dreamy Family Musical, I had to Google it.

(Please don’t shake your head at me. Clearly I’ve been living under a rock.)

The thing is, when I started asking around, and doing my own little research, I found out that Ross Petty’s annual production is not only a tradition for many, many families each holiday season – it’s also one of Toronto’s longest running theatrical events!
cykdzfxusaarzmnSince 1996, Ross Petty Productions have been producing what they call “Fractured Fairy Tale Musicals” at Toronto’s Elgin Theatre. The shows are firmly in the old English pantomime tradition, incorporating many of that style’s elements — broad comedy, winking asides that break the “fourth wall”, audience participation, and, of course, a man in a dress. (Source) (more…)

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Santa Baby! Holiday Bars Your Family will Love

December 3, 2016

Years ago, when I worked in the corporate world, I was a willing participant in holiday potlucks.

“I’ll bring the Christmas cookies!” I’d declare with glee, enthusiastically sacrificing a weekend to bake goodies around the clock. For years, this tradition continued – me, offering a variety of sweet treats in whimsical holiday colour and shapes, and the others, oohing and ahhing over my baking prowess.

Until one fateful year, when she-who-will-not-be-named brought in the most decadent, most delicious holiday bars I had ever tasted.
_dsc0861a“What are these?” I asked in wonder.

“Oh, I don’t know,” she replied modestly. “I’ve always just known them as Santa Baby! Bars.”

From then on, her bars took top billing at the annual holiday potluck. Defeated, I swore I would never bake again. (I’m kidding, of course. But it really was a shot to my ego!) However, not one to let a good thing go, I cornered her before I left for maternity leave, practically begging her to share the recipe. (more…)

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Tips for a Sparkling and Safe Holiday

December 2, 2016

The Griswolds, we are not. In fact, while I was tempted to show you a photo of our current holiday lighting setup, I can’t – because I made my husband take it down. Yep, he’s been tasked with a do-over.

(Don’t roll your eyes at me! I just want our Christmas to be merry and bright – in an orderly, colour coordinated, non-fire hazardish fashion.)

So instead, here’s a picture of what I have in mind for my husband. Take note, dear!Hahaha. Now that I’ve been served with divorce papers, let’s get real about the topic at hand.

The festive season is here, and soon we’ll be busy decorating our homes for the holidays. When starting your holiday décor shopping for lighting, decorations or gifts, please keep electrical safety in mind! While Christmas lighting and electrical decorations (I see you, neon Santa) do contribute to the splendor of the season, they can also significantly increase the risk of fires and electrical injuries if not used safely. (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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Celebrate the REAL Side of Parenting: #StopCOMPAREnting

November 26, 2016

You do it. I do it. At one time or another, we all do it.

We compare ourselves to other parents – specifically, the filtered, staged and cropped images we see in our social feeds. Even though these images often depict a filtered reality, and not the real picture.

It’s time to #stopCOMPAREnting.

To celebrate the real side of parenting – the one we don’t always see through our social media feeds – QUAKER is calling on Canadian families to join the #stopCOMPAREnting movement and embrace life outside of the square. On Tuesday, November 29th, join us for a very special Twitter Chat.
quaker-masterbrand-promographic-nov28-2Bring your photos and your stories that celebrate the real side of parenting. Look beyond the image and revel in the authentic, unpolished everyday moments. Be inspired and inspire others in return. And most importantly, #stopCOMPAREnting.

There is no RSVP for this chat; simply join the conversation by following @QuakerCanada and @Listen2Lena on Twitter. See you on Tuesday night!

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The Holidays are Magical at Walt Disney World and Disneyland Resort!

November 24, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

A Walt Disney World or Disneyland Resort vacation at Christmas. Could there be anything more magical? (Hint: the answer is NO.)

I first visited Walt Disney World in December 2012, almost exactly four years ago to the day. At the time, the entire resort was teeming with holiday spirit, featuring whimsical Christmas decor and shopping, festive feasting and magical wintery wonder. It was, without a doubt, one of the most awe-inspiring experiences I’ve ever had the pleasure to witness.
Mickey's Once Upon a Christmastime ParadeThis season, I want you to experience the magic, too!

It’s not too late to book a Disney vacation for the holidays! The BIG news is the Canadian Resident Ticket Offer – at Walt Disney World, save 25% on 4-day or longer tickets and enjoy all four Disney Theme Parks at a whopping discount. At Disneyland Resort, save 25% on 3-Day or longer tickets.

To take advantage of this special offer, you must purchase your tickets in advance before February 28, 2017. The best part? At Walt Disney World, you can use these discounted tickets at any time during 2016, 2017 and beyond – they won’t expire! At Disneyland Resort, the tickets must first be used by December 31, 2017.  (more…)

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EGGcellent Hacks with EGG Creations

November 22, 2016

As the days get shorter and the nights get colder, I am keenly aware of three things:

1. It’s my busy season. No really, I know I say that all the time, but the holidays bring about a special kind of chaos that is simply unmatched at any other time during the year. And, being a workaholic, this means that I’m more stressed than usual (it’s a good kind of stress, I promise!), fighting to meet deadlines and balancing work and family life.

2. Meals around here are optional. Working around the clock means that I’m not always eating the way I should, which leaves me vulnerable to falling ill during cold and flu season. There’s a certain go-go-go attitude that propels me through the week, but when I’m down, I’m out for the count. Therefore, it’s incredibly important for me to choose healthier meal options and make eating regularly a priority.

3. When it’s cold outside, I crave comfort. While I’m multitasking and juggling and trying to survive the season, I’m also craving those cold-weather foods that bring me warmth and comfort. Spaghetti and meatballs. Chicken stew with dumplings. Spicy chili. And my very favourite, Stracciatella Soup.
_dsc0797aStracciatella (egg drop soup) is high on my list of comfort foods because it has a little of everything I love: a garlicky soup base, bright green baby spinach, creamy eggs and salty Parmesan cheese. In fact, whenever I feel myself coming down with a cold, I always crave this soup with a dash of hot pepper sauce. However, working around the clock leaves little time to make comfort food from scratch, but I’ve found a few EGGcellent hacks to make it in no time.

This recipe only calls for five (5) ingredients. If you always keep them on hand, you’ll always be able to make Stracciatella in a hurry!  (more…)

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Perfect Party Appetizers and #BretonForEveryone

November 21, 2016

Getting the girls together is no easy task.

There are schedules to juggle and babysitters to hire (Or, husbands to bribe). There are missed calls, apologetic texts and my personal favourite: “Was that THIS Friday?”

However, when the stars align and we can find some time to reconnect, I’m always left deeply fulfilled – both emotionally and literally, because we eat a lot of good food and drink a lot of great wine. Of course, the hostess is always tasked with putting together a spread that everyone will love… which may sound simple, but it’s not. Our little tribe is made up of vegetarians, calorie-counters and health-conscious girlfriends, so creating a quick menu that suits everyone’s needs is always top of mind.

Lately, I’ve been obsessing over these Greek Salad Bites, featuring Breton Sprouted Grains Sea Salt Crackers.
_dsc0557aThey couldn’t be simpler to make and are chock-full of wholesome ingredients you likely already have in your refrigerator and pantry. Plus, Breton Sprouted Grains crackers contain 5g of sprouted whole grains per serving (sprouted grains include whole wheat flour, cracked rye, cracked wheat, buckwheat and quinoa). The crackers have no artificial colours or flavours, and both the Sea Salt and Caramelized Onion varieties are only 80-90 calories per serving.  (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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The Pièce de Résistance? The Ugly Christmas Sweater, Of Course!

November 18, 2016

“But WHY is it called an ugly sweater?” my mom asked.

“Well,” I explained, “it’s like this. For years we’ve received these hideous – but well intentioned – holiday sweaters from parents and grandparents. And now it’s time to turn the tables and own it! So before you run out and buy me a Christmas-y sweater, I’m beating you to it. It’s ugly and I’m proud to wear it!”

“I still don’t really understand why it has to be ugly,” she replied. “Why can’t it be a nice sweater with a jolly Christmas motif? Like reindeer or elves or a picturesque snowy Christmas town?”

_dsc0686abIt’s colourful. It’s ironic. It’s like Christmas exploded and you swept up all the pieces and turned it into jaunty pullover. Whatever it is, the ugly Christmas sweater has marked a special place in our hearts during the holiday season. (more…)

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The Home Depot Canada: Welcome to Christmas Central!

November 15, 2016

It’s only a small percentage of my readers, but they do exist. The people who have no idea that The Home Depot Canada is the BEST place to find beautiful and whimsical, classic or contemporary holiday décor.

Still in the dark? Come join me in the light. Lights. Christmas lights.
christmas-lights-232x174Recently, I had an opportunity to attend The Home Depot Canada’s holiday preview, which was chock full of design and décor inspiration for every taste (and budget). Whether you’re looking to be the talk of your neighbourhood with standout lighting, add some sparkle to your classic collection of ornaments or liven your space with some Canadian-grown greenery, The Home Depot Canada is #ChristmasCentral(more…)

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Picture Perfect: Holiday Hair To ‘Do List

November 11, 2016

This post was sponsored by Dove, Nexxus®, TRESemmé® and Shoppers Drug Mart. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author, who is a paid influencer, and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of Dove, Nexxus, TRESemmé and Shoppers Drug Mart.

This holiday season, I’m all about pulling together classically chic looks with minimal effort and maximum effect. It’s no secret that my go-to hairstyle is the voluminous blowout; it lends a fun, modern vibe and is suitable for all hair lengths and textures.

Have you ever worried about being “overdressed” for a holiday party or get together? Me too. Often, I text fellow invitees or the hostess in a vain attempt to fit in with the crowd, but often hear the maddening response, “Oh, just wear what you’re comfortable in!”

Spoiler: I am comfortable in yoga pants and a t-shirt.

So, over the years, I’ve come up with a fool-proof way to be perfectly outfitted for a party, and believe it or not, it involves my hairdo. (Yes! Keep reading!)

You see, I find that a flirty, volume-packed blowout is the perfect way to “dress down” an outfit, even when the outfit is formal wear. Loose waves, a textured crown and even a touch of bed-hair prowess sends the message that although you’ve made an effort, you clearly don’t take yourself too seriously. And while there’s a time and place for structured waves and chic updos, a perfectly smooth blowout is a great way of communicating cool confidence with a big, flowy dramatic look.
_dsc0561aAre you on board? Here’s a simple Holiday To ‘Do List to help you achieve the style with ease!

‘DO: Select the right styling aids. Volume-filled hair always needs a little help, so start with a quality product like Nexxus Mousse Plus Volumizing Foam. It creates incredible body and fullness with a spectacular shine (and no sticky residue!).  (more…)

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