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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Travelling with Baby this Winter? Here’s What to Do.

December 22, 2016

Compensation for this post was provided by hydraSense®. Always read and follow the label.

We first travelled with my sons when they were ages 2 and 4 – and since then, they’ve been on an airplane 38 times.

I think we have this “travelling with kids” thing down pat.

Of course, we’ve learned a few lessons along the way! Travelling with children requires a heightened level of planning and organization (if you think it could go wrong, it probably will) and when it comes to vacationing over the winter months, it’s even more important to be prepared.
img_3777-1If you’re planning family travel around the holidays or in the new year, here are a few of my tried and true tips for travelling with young ones!

1. Don’t ignore a runny nose (for too long). I know, we’re told not to run to the doctor for every little thing. But if you’re travelling with young ones, especially in flu season, it’s better to have them checked out at home (or even abroad) to properly diagnose and treat the ailment. In one instance, I ignored the onset of cold systems and decided to fly with the boys, only to have Ryder clutching his ears and howling with pain for the entire flight. We had him checked out when we landed – you guessed it, ear infection. Had I taken him to the doctor before we departed, I could have saved time, money and most importantly, protected him from a painful experience. If you think your child is sick, don’t take chances!  (more…)

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Potluck Perfection: Cranberry, Pear and Bacon Stuffing. (Mmm…)

December 21, 2016

With the hustle and bustle of the Christmas season, I’m regularly asked to provide tips for tackling the holidays with ease. For the most part, my suggestions can vary from creating homemade decor to trying the Secret Santa method of gift giving. However, one tip that appears on all my lists – and at the top of most – is to share the workload and have a potluck dinner.

A potluck, people! It’s the perfect way to celebrate togetherness, one dish at a time – especially if that dish is this Cranberry, Pear and Bacon Stuffing. Recipe below!
_dsc1011Now, often A-type personalities will argue, “It’s too complicated to coordinate a potluck. I’d rather make all the dishes myself; I have more control over the menu that way.” Touché. And I say, “Have fun in the kitchen!”  (more…)

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We All Add Up! This Season, Find Your Gratitude Number

December 20, 2016

It’s the last week before Christmas.

If you’re running around, trying to find the perfect gift, I want you to stop. Step back and breathe.
If you’re frantically searching online for the latest gadget or gizmo, walk away from the computer.
If you’re convinced that your tween or teen will have high expectations, relax. Don’t stress.

The truth is, all they want for Christmas is… you.

Put those wallets away! The most popular gift for teens this season doesn’t have a price tag. A new survey from Ronald McDonald House Charities Canada (RMHC) found that what your teen wants most this holiday season is actually closer to home than you think – spending quality time together as a family is the most important thing to teens. And contrary to popular belief, only 1% of teens surveyed said giving gifts ranked high on their must-haves for the holiday.

Does this ring true in your house?

While my boys aren’t teens (yet!), I can still appreciate the feeling of love, comfort and security that comes from knowing my family is close. But this year, 497 families of sick children will rely on a Ronald McDonald House each night to keep them together for the holidays. Tonight, we are grateful to be home, together.
14592080_692171424291970_4687042280492630016_nWhat is your Gratitude Number? Our Gratitude Number helps us give the gift of keeping families close. Simply add up the ages of your family members – then donate that amount to RMHC. It’s a fun and easy way to show your support!

Why RMHC? It’s simple. Did you know that 70% of Canadian families live outside a city with a children’s hospital? So when a child gets sick, they often have to travel hours to get treatment. The 15 Ronald McDonald Houses across Canada give families a place to stay close to the hospital where their child is being treated. And, as a parent, keeping families together at Christmas is very close to my heart.  (more…)

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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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