How to Live Your Life in 4K

July 10, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

If you caught my last post, 5 Reasons to Live Your Life in 4K, you’ll know that I enthusiastically endorse the Samsung 4K SUHD TV and Rogers NextBox 4K. And really, why wouldn’t I? With a new era of picture quality, allowing users to view an even wider range of brilliant and vibrant colours, deep contrast, incredible brightness and 4K resolution, you can think of it as an investment into your happiness.

And I’m pretty damned happy living life in 4K.

However, I would be remiss to equate a vibrant life with simply a high quality (okay, ultra high quality) viewing experience. Life in 4K encompasses so much more! So, now that I’ve provided reasons to live your life in 4K, I’m here to show you *how* to do so, with gusto.

1. Take a Dream Vacation. Did you know that 26 per cent of Canadians are not using paid vacation days provided by their employer? It’s no secret that one of the barriers to travel is simply not having the funds to do so. But I’m here to tell you that’s hogwash. (Clearly, I’ve decided to tell you in a British accent.) We can all find the time and money to get away – we just have to prioritize travel and attribute a value to the benefits we derive from it.
10387805_1674863439421167_313603232_nSit down with family or friends and decide on your dream getaway, and then take steps – every single day – to save for it. Perhaps it’s collecting the change from drive thru orders or setting aside a fixed amount on each paycheque. Then, open a savings account strictly for your vacation. Living in 4K includes realizing that rest and relaxation are keys to happiness.

(Travelling soon? Check out my post on things You Can (Totally) Leave Home Without.)  (more…)

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DeeBee’s TeaPops: The Next Pop Star

July 9, 2016

“Can I have a glass of fruit punch?” my son asks, pointing to the carton in the fridge.
“Water,” I respond, steering him away from the sugary beverage.
“I’m so sick of water,” he counters, woefully accepting a bottle.

While staying hydrated over the summer months is incredibly important, it can also be a drag for little ones. We’ve all been told that water is the simplest (and most effective) way to prevent dehydration, but kids crave variety and often get frustrated when the only option for refreshment is plain old H2O.

However, what are the alternatives? Pop? Juice? Super sweet icy treats? They’re a favourite among kids, there’s no doubt, and they do offer hydration benefits… but they’re not ideal due to the high caloric and sugar content. I’m constantly looking for refreshing options that the kids will love while keeping them safely hydrated throughout the summer.
DeeBees-SpecialTea-Foods-LtdIntroducing DeeBee’s TeaPops. TeaPops are the ultimate treat; created by Dr. Dionne Laslo-Baker to satisfy her own kids’ cravings, each of the seven flavours are bursting with a delicious combination of organic super fruits and a heart-warming cup of organic tea. These tealicious treats are certified organic and vegan, non-GMO, kosher and gluten-free – for absolutely every taste out there!  (more…)

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Let’s Make it a Popcorn Party!

July 8, 2016

Having two boys in the primary grades at elementary school, we’ve done the birthday party circuit a time or two… or twenty-eight.

That’s right. Between Ryder and Reid, twenty-eight invitations have made their way into our home this past school year. And don’t get me wrong; I’m thrilled that they’ve been included in the celebrations of their peers, as social acceptance is high on the list of desires for a 6- and 8-year old. However, not so thrilling is the standard script: snacks, cake and an hour or two at the local indoor playground, featuring a bouncy castle nirvana.

You know I could never adhere to the standard script.

I began thinking, what do my boys love? Well that’s easy – they love movies. And, I was willing to bet that their classmates loved movies too! Yet, in all the invitations we’ve received over the past school year, not one had been for a movie theatre party. What’s up with that? It seemed like the perfect solution (food, friends and fun entertainment of the less-rowdy variety) and I was determined to learn more about what was offered.
popcornparties_655x250_en2So, I began researching Cineplex Popcorn Parties. And I decided – within minutes – it was perfect for Ryder and Reid’s combined birthday bash.

Do you have a child’s birthday around the corner, and you’re looking for a fun, affordable alternative to an indoor playground? Listen up, because here’s how Cineplex Popcorn Parties will help you flip the script, too.  (more…)

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Be the Most Prepared Mom!

July 7, 2016

It’s here, friends! The hot, hazy days of summer!

And, if you’re lucky enough to take a weekend getaway from the hustle and bustle, you’ll want to pack up the kids, pack up your troubles, and be the most prepared mom! Today, I’ll show you how to ensure you’ve got the essentials you need for safe, summer fun.
13408849_296159470723601_1877003576_nEssential #1: Sunscreen. (I am totally NOT going to tell you to pack sunscreen. It’s 2016, folks! We know the negative effects of damage caused by harmful UVA and UVB rays. And if you don’t know, look it up! Trust me on this one.)  (more…)

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Babies 101: The Importance of Healthy Sleep.

July 5, 2016

Last week, I shared information about my collaboration with P&G as they support Canadian athletes at the 2016 Olympics in Rio. Over the next two months, I’ll continue to spotlight Mark Oldershaw, a third generation Olympian, and his partnership with Pampers – the only brand I’ve never cheated on.

Today, I’m speaking to parents of little ones. We know that well-rested children learn more rapidly. Their attention, memory and decision-making abilities are all directly impacted by their sleep patterns; particularly, their ability to have an adequate night’s sleep.
Reid_armsIn fact, well-rested children have improved hand-eye coordination, which impacts fine motor skills and development. Conversely, basic skills like crawling, walking, running, and climbing can be affected by lack of sleep. Children that are tired can be more irritable, hyperactive, and oppositional. Even more troubling? Behaviour problems have been linked to sleep deprivation.  (more…)

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Hamilton Beach Ultimate Summer Giveaway!

July 2, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

I see you, summer. And I raise you the Ultimate Summer Giveaway.

If there’s one thing that’s synonymous with warm weather, it’s ice cream. And grilled foods. And we can’t forget shaved ice, cold milkshakes and mixed drinks. You know, the basic, yummiest foods and beverages you can think of.

When I think of yummy foods, I think of Hamilton Beach.

Did you know that as one of Canada’s leading distributors of small kitchen appliances, Hamilton Beach Brands, Inc. sells over 35 million appliances every year? Chances are, you’ve got a few of their innovative products in your own home – ready to chop, sear, mix or blend your favourite ingredients into a delicious culinary creation.

Of course, if there’s one time I love to pull out my Hamilton Beach standbys, it’s summer! That’s why I’m so thrilled to partner with them to bring you the Ultimate Summer Giveaway. One lucky Listen to Lena reader will win ALL FIVE of the summer-themed small appliances pictured below – for a total prize value of over $300!

HBSo, what’s up for grabs? Only the most popular, most cutting-edge small appliances for your summer entertaining needs!  (more…)

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Ageless.

June 30, 2016

Standing in the bathroom, I moved closer to the mirror. “There,” I murmured, finding the dark spot near my right eye. “And there and there and there,” I continued, pointing to the pigmented markings that were dusted across my cheeks and nose. “Age spots,” I sighed in defeat.

Freckles. Age spots. Sun spots. Liver spots. No matter what you call them, they’re essentially the same thing: collections of pigment, also known as melanin, that often appear after exposure to ultra-violet light.

Sun damage.

Naively, I thought I was immune to the effects of the sun. Being of South Asian descent, I’ve always believed that I have a “built-in SPF”, allowing me to skip a daily application of sunscreen and occasionally, tan with reckless abandon.
DSC_0549Technically, I’m not completely incorrect; darker individuals have a higher natural SPF thanks to the increased amounts of melanin in our skin. However, no one’s natural SPF is enough to keep the effects of sun damage at bay, which includes, but is not limited to, skin cancer, wrinkles and hyperpigmentation.

Back to those age spots.

You have to look closely, but you can see them. Scattered across my nose and cheeks; the darkly pigmented spots that seem to increase with gusto as I get closer to age 40. To me, they represent years of taking my skin for granted; a lax skin care routine coupled with sporadic sunscreen use.  (more…)

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Thank You, Mom: Road to Rio 2016

June 29, 2016

It takes a special kind of heart. It calls for fierce determination. An unwillingness to give up; a remarkable resilience, a selflessness marked in integrity and profound in perseverance.

Thank you, Mom.

Because it takes someone strong to make someone strong, this year, I’m pleased to partner with P&G as they support Canadian athletes at the 2016 Olympics in Rio, and celebrate the strength of moms who helped get them there.

Need a tissue? Don’t worry, I’ll wait. I understand.

Of course, my introduction could have also pertained to any one of our Canadian Olympic hopefuls; an immeasurably focused group of athletes vying for gold at this summer’s Olympic Games. (more…)

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Let’s Start a Conversation

June 28, 2016

A few days ago, my girlfriend sent me an email entitled, “Clean Conversation Starters.”

I’m going on a blind date, she wrote, and I want to know which conversation starters I should throw out there to get to know him better. Which ones should I bring up?

ratherFirst, I have mad respect for anyone who will attempt a blind date in 2016. With dating apps, photoshop, internet creepers, etc – it takes a special kind of confidence (bravery? foolishness?) to meet a stranger for drinks.

Second, conversation starters!! How delightful!

I spent the next little while pouring over the questions, pausing to mentally answer most of them (and surprising myself with some of my responses!). So, let’s play a little game today – go ahead and select one or two of the following conversation starters, copy and paste the question and leave your answer in the comments!

Would you rather eat your favourite meal for every meal for the rest of your life or never be able to eat your favourite meal again?

Would you rather live in a place where it is always hot or always cold?

Would you rather be poor with lots of good friends or rich with no friends?

Would you rather lose all of your money and valuables or all of the pictures you have ever taken?

Would you rather never be able to eat warm food or never be able to eat cold food?

Would you rather be a famous director or a famous actor?

Would you rather take a vow of celibacy or take a vow of silence?

I look forward to reading your answers! And in case you were wondering, I’d rather live in a place where it is always hot, and I’d much rather be a famous director!

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Fun in the Sun… with $500 in Fisher-Price Toys!

June 23, 2016

Popping in today to tell you about an AH-MAZING summer contest from Fisher-Price!

Three (3!) Canadians will be treated to a Fisher-Price prize bundle valued at $500 each. Included: everything you need for an entire season of summer fun! (I’m looking at you, Jeep Wrangler!)
201606-SummerSweepsClick here to enter the sweepstakes. I really hope one (or all) of my readers nab this awesome prize. After you enter, don’t forget to check out the Fisher-Price Playtime Guide to find the best toys for any age. I have it bookmarked for all my gifting needs… and okay, to engage in a little nostalgia. How I loved being a Fisher-Price mom! Good luck all – contest ends July 3, 2016.

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Sally’s Cereals DIY: Under the Sea!

June 21, 2016

Note: The following contest is open to Canadians only. 

We know that breakfast is the most important meal of the day. So, why not have a little fun with it?

Challenged by Sally’s Cereals, a delicious line of cereals that come in a re-sealable bag, I created a fun, distinctly oceanic-themed breakfast table for my kiddos. Using easy-to-find, creative and budget-savvy materials, I’m pleased to show you how you can recreate your own “Under the Sea” DIY table!DSC_0499aAll of the items for your themed summer breakfast table can be found at your local party store. At first I wanted to surprise my boys with the breakfast table, but then decided that half the fun is having them involved! So, we channeled our inner “Martha’s” and went right to work.

Here’s what you’ll need to create your “Under the Sea” adventure:

One burlap table runner
Decorative fish netting
Blue or green place mats, napkins, cereal bowls and plates
Three glass votive candle holders (or small vases)
Blue tissue paper (light and dark blue)
Assorted seashells
Coloured foam paper, cut into sea creatures such as starfish, fish and sea horses
Your favourite Sally’s Cereal!  (more…)

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Summer Sixteen

June 20, 2016

It’s finally here! SUMMER! And it arrives with a blaze in Toronto, reaching temperatures of 41°C with the humidity this afternoon. Hands up if you’d rather be running through a backyard sprinkler today!
13402308_634847196670543_894784101_nI’m putting up my “Out of Office” for the day, whipping up some homemade popsicles for the kiddos and fruity sangria for the adults. Wishing you all a wonderful start to the work week, and to summer!

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(Their) Dad, My Hero.

June 17, 2016

From time to time, my husband and I chuckle about his father’s “well-meaning” advice.

It was shortly after we had returned from the hospital, just days into becoming a family of three. My husband’s parents had arrived for a visit with their brand new grandson. Ryder, a sweet but fussy infant, demanded constant crooning and attention. Needing a moment to collect myself, I passed our baby to my husband, declaring he was officially nominated for diaper change duty.

Later that evening, as I rocked Ryder to sleep, curled up in my arms, my husband relayed a conversation he’d had with his father.

“I was changing Ryder’s diaper,” he explained, “and my dad followed me into the room. He said, You shouldn’t be doing this. It’s the woman’s job to take care of the baby. You need to concentrate on work and let her handle everything else.

For about two seconds, I seethed with rage. But as I looked up at my husband, ready to launch into my “oh-no-he-didn’t” diatribe, I realized he was laughing, shaking his head in astonishment. Because he no more believed in gender stereotypes than I did; beyond that, he wanted to take an active role in our son’s care and upbringing.

“Let’s not worry about dear old dad’s advice,” he concluded.
13398595_1733175216968258_1320105471_nToday, my husband is the father of two boys. He has changed diapers; he has drawn baths. He has cooked and cleaned and kissed boo boos and chased away monsters. He is an active role model for the boys and their hero – not just because he brings home the bacon, but because he fries it, too.  (more…)

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Toronto: Enter to Win Tickets to a Screening of Kung Fu Panda 3!

June 15, 2016

*Note: The following sweepstakes is open only to those in the Greater Toronto Area who can travel to the Toronto Zoo for the event on June 24, 2016.*

ENTER TO WIN TICKETS TO A SCREENING OF KUNG FU PANDA 3 AT THE TORONTO ZOO!

After reuniting with his long-lost father, Po travels to a secret village and meets tons of hilarious new panda friends and family members. But when the supernatural villain Kai challenges all the Kung Fu masters across China, Po must discover the teacher within himself and train his clumsy brethren to become the ultimate band of Kung Fu Pandas!
KungFuPanda3_2048x1024TWO lucky readers will win a Family Prize Pack consisting of 4 ‘admit one’ passes to attend an exclusive screening of Kung Fu Panda 3 at the Toronto Zoo. (Parking included.)

Date: Friday, June 24, 2016
Time: 1 pm arrival, 2 pm screening
Location: Toronto Zoo: 2000 Meadowvale Rd, Toronto, ON
Screening will take place in the Wildlife Marquee, Discovery Zone

Bonus: Winners will receive passes for full entry to the zoo before and after the screening!  (more…)

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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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