Peek-A-Boo! Spooky Activities for You and Baby

October 8, 2014

I’ll never forget Ryder’s second Halloween.

(What happened to his first Halloween? Meh – he was a mere 5-months old, and barely sitting upright. It was very anticlimactic. Pretty sure we dressed him up like a cow. Moooo.)

Ryder’s second Halloween was the one we were waiting for. At 17-months old, he was the perfect age to be introduced to spooky scenes, creepy costumes and eerie eats… in small doses, of course. We did our best to ease him into the Halloween spirit, beginning with Jack-o-Lanterns, followed by ghosts, and finally, witches and goblins. And he took it all in stride, like good little toddlers do.

We were ready. Dressed in an oh-so-cute lion costume, he crouched and gave us his best ROAR!
RoarOf course, we wanted to take him around, show him off! An unseasonably warm October night provided just the right conditions.

Except… the doorbell rang. And the first set of trick-or-treaters happened to be older kids, all dressed as zombies. That’s right – a pack of rowdy pre-teen zombies, complete with blood, guts and mangled brains, rang my freaking doorbell and scared the living bejesus out of my kid.

After that, he refused to leave the house. Ah well, so much for our second Halloween.  (more…)

Keep Reading

The #MATCHGirlTalk Twitter Chat

October 5, 2014

I am a female, in Canada, in the year 2014.

The above statement requires thanksgiving, praise, and sheer reverence for my complete and utter fortune. Because I am very aware that not every woman is as lucky as I.

Are you a female, in Canada, in the year 2014?

Changing the world for women has to start with helping them live through the realities they face today. But in order to make real progress, we must also find ways to change those very realities. That’s why The MATCH Fund is committed to helping women hold the ground they’ve gained, while they look for new ways to break ground in securing the basic human rights they seek.

The MATCH International Women’s Fund works to increase the resources available to women’s organizations striving for change in their communities.This approach means that they are not a traditional charity. Direct-grant making ensures that money and resources reach the hands of women working for change in their communities. They support projects that dismantle barriers, challenge perceptions, change behaviours and, ultimately, transform society for a more equal world. From supporting education-based initiatives that also generate income to aiding survivors of violence by building capacity with midwives; the Fund is working to strengthen the ability of grassroots women’s rights organization to plan, respond and track their actions.

The rights of women around the world is an integral issue that warrants more discussion. As such, I’d like to invite you to the #MATCHGirlTalk Twitter Chat on Wednesday, October 8th at 7:00pm EDT. We’ll share ways to get informed and get involved. And to thank you for your participation, we’ll have hundreds in gift cards up for grabs.
MATCHGirlTalk Twitter Chat GraphicPlease, join us for a compelling and comprehensive discussion, because transforming society is not easy. Stopping the cultural, societal and physical oppression of women requires new thinking and novel solutions – innovations which harness new ways to bring about social change. RSVP below to indicate your attendance and to be eligible for prizing (Canadians only).  (more…)

Keep Reading

Shopbake.com: Your Online Bakery Marketplace

October 5, 2014

My thighs clearly aren’t looking for me to indulge in baked confectioneries… especially the type that are delivered right to my front door… but when I heard about Shopbake.com, I simply had to share the news about this sweet little online retailer. Without further ado, introducing Canada’s first and only online bakery marketplace.

For buyers:

Shopbake.com is your destination for the very best sellers of baked goods in Canada. Shop for cupcakes, cookies, cakes, bread, and more. Aside from regular baked goods, find nut-free, Kosher, gluten-free, vegan and other specialty bakeries close to your location.

For sellers:

Sell your baked goods on shopbake.com! Build your own shop quickly and easily, and list your products for Canadians all across Canada to purchase. It’s free to open a shop!
Short and Sweet CupcakesI happily sampled goodies from Short & Sweet Cupcakes, Dollop Bakery and more. But come on, I expected deliciousness – so what’s unique about Shopbake.com? Quite simply, it’s a convenient way to send gifts of  love, congratulations or well wishes – from the comfort of your home or office. (And with the cold air settling in, a very welcome option indeed!) You’ve sent flowers to your loved ones. And maybe even a basket of fruit or cookies. Now it’s time to give the gift of macarons.   (more…)

Keep Reading

Halloween: Dig Right In!

October 5, 2014

It was bound to happen, at one point or another. And friends, the time has come.

Halloween is literally the most important thing to my boys, like, ever.

They talk about it incessantly. They watch You Tube videos of everything spooky and scary and creepy crawly. They discuss at length the merits of a Captain America costume vs. a Grim Reaper costume. Often, the discussions escalate to full-blown brawls as they defend the honour of the bestest costume ever.

(Truthfully, the “bestest costume ever” will be the one that is $39.99 or less.)

Hence, it dawned on me just a few short weeks ago: this Halloween, I will have to make a frightfully good effort. Because in addition to wearing a sick costume (my husband’s words, not mine) they’re at that age where they can describe cool decorations, tricked out bags, spooktacular treats.

Yes folks, it’s time to channel my inner Martha Stewart, and kick things up a notch.

We’ve already purchased an entire set of graveyard decorations, complete with the ghoulish sounds and menacing cackles. Fluorescent treat bags lie in wait. And I’ve found the perfect spooky recipes to try for Halloween night!
COFFIN CRISP MummiesIn case you’re wondering, those are COFFIN CRISP Mummies. Ha ha ha! Clever, right?  (more…)

Keep Reading

Fall in Love with Puerto Vallarta

October 4, 2014

The truth is, I want to tell you all about Puerto Vallarta… alas, I’ve never been. Instead, my husband spent a bachelor-style week there (appropriately so, since it was before we met), and I’ve had to hear stories about his absolutely amazing time ever since.

“The parties,” he says. “Out of control.”

Of course, I take perverse pleasure in knowing that his parties now include several controls, including two boys, Zip Loc bags of goldfish crackers, and the odd toddler toilet seat.

So there.

And we have every intention of exploring beautiful Puerto Vallarta as a family! Puerto Vallarta is a Mexican Beach resort city of discovery and exploration. There’s something for everyone in the family to experience and enjoy, and the tours and adventures are almost limitless:

– Zip Line and Canopy Tours
– Sea Turtle Release Program
– Sea Lion Encounters
– Beautiful Beaches
– Snorkelling and Scuba Diving
– Volunteer Opportunities with the SPCA of Puerto Vallarta

Friends who have recently vacationed there (including our sassy host, @SassyModernMom) have assured me that Puerto Vallarta is a safe, friendly, adventure-filled destination and is perfect for families, fun, and an educational adventure. I can’t wait to vacation there!

Want to learn more? Join our #VisitPV Twitter Party, with special guest @PVvisit!
VisitPVTwitterPartyImage3BONUS: We’ve got *quite* the incentive for you to spend the hour with us… (I feel like this needs a drum roll)… Our grand prize is a three (3) night stay for a family of four (4) at one of Puerto Vallarta’s all-inclusive properties! Folks, this is a $3,000 value!*

RSVP below to be sure to follow @PVvisit and your hosts to be eligible for prizes and your chance to win. See you on Tuesday afternoon!  (more…)

Keep Reading

Giveaway: $200 Minute Maid Prize

October 3, 2014

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

Earlier this week, I shared my views on childhood independence, and how it inspires individuality, confidence and competence.

(I also shared a kid-friendly recipe for Creamy Orange Fruit Dip, which is a big hit chez Lena!)
Minute Maid Creamy Orange DipNow, we want to hear from you –

How do you encourage independence in your children? Please take our short survey, found in the contest form below, to share your views. To thank you for participating, one lucky reader who answers the survey in full will have a chance to win a Minute Maid Prize Pack.

The Minute Maid Prize Pack, valued at $200, features everything needed to help nurture independence – especially as kids settle into school mode! The prize pack includes: a pitcher and wooden mixing spoon, two Minute Maid aprons and chef’s hats to get into the role of head chef, a large mixing bowl, a kitchen accessories kit, and a food processor (to use with a parent!) to create Minute Maid’s scrumptious recipes.  (more…)

Keep Reading

Oh, Those McCafé Moments

October 2, 2014

As I stir under the covers, I mentally calculate how long I’ve likely slept. Four hours? Six hours? I suppose it doesn’t matter; as the fogginess from sleep clears, I know my body is beginning to awaken.

For about ten seconds, I convince myself that it’s the middle of the night; I can turn over and snuggle deep into my warm, comfortable bed. Alas, my eyes betray me as they flit open and glance at the alarm clock, acknowledging with resignation that it is indeed 5:56AM, and I indeed need to rise from slumber.

What happens next is a ritual that has been taking place for as long as I’ve known my husband – almost ten years, to be honest. It is a habit that developed in our early days together, and one that I refuse to break, because frankly, it’s to my advantage.

I’ll tap my husband, and whisper good morning.

He will grunt, and turn his back to me.

I’ll give him a playful shove, which is meant to convey, Come on, soldier! Up and at ‘em! – but which we both know actually means…

COFFEE. NOW.

And my wonderful, adoring, not-such-a-morning-person husband, will amble out of bed and make his way down to the kitchen, where he will fulfil his marital duties and put on a pot of coffee.

Upstairs, I’ll wait in bed, already propped up by pillows and attacking the keys on my laptop. From time to time, I’ll inhale deeply – attempting to sense the exact stage in brewing so I can anticipate the arrival of a steaming cup of rich, dark roast coffee.

Moments later, my husband will return to the bedroom, handing me a cup as he sits on the edge of the bed with his own. This is our time; we’ll talk about our day ahead, dinner plans, meetings, school drop-offs, conference calls, life.

And at least once a week, I’ll say, I wish this was McCa coffee. And at least once a week, he’ll drop off the boys at school, and return with two cups of McCafé Premium Roast Coffee for us to enjoy.

Until recently, combining both – our morning ritual and good coffee – was just out of reach. However, I’m so pleased to share that McCafé coffee is now available in grocery stores! It’s true!
McCafeMcDonald’s Canada is expanding its coffee portfolio with the launch of McCafé Premium Roast ground coffee, as well as on-demand single-serve formats compatible with both the TASSIMO and Keurig brewing systems. Available in major grocery retailers across the country, the consistently rich, smooth and delicious taste of McCafé coffee will be more accessible to diehard fanatics (like me) than ever before.  (more…)

Keep Reading

Transat Holidays: Introducing the Family Travel Expert (Me!)

October 2, 2014

The best partnerships are the ones that you have to initially keep hush about. Think about it: there’s just something so incredibly satisfying about having to wait to make the big announcement… and then BOOM! The time comes to share the news with family and friends, and perhaps even do a little dance of joy. (My dance of choice is The Robot.)

Well folks, today is the day that I can let y’all in on a not-so-little secret….
Transat HolidaysI’m so pleased to announce my partnership with Transat Holidays as their Family Travel Expert. Over the fall and winter months, I’ll be your point of inspiration for seeking out the sun, with kids in tow. Looking for a resort for families of five or more? Got you covered. Need to find a place that’s cool for teens and fun for wee ones? Come chat with me – I’ll give you scoop on finding the best resort, at an incredible price, with Transat Holidays.

Go on! Plan a vacation that’s memorable for the whole family. Transat Holidays knows how important family vacations are, and they’ve put everything in place so you can enjoy your trip from A to Z… which includes a go-to Family Travel Expert, ME!  (more…)

Keep Reading

Independence.

October 1, 2014

“You’re so lucky”, sighs my sister-in-law, struggling to contain my 10-month old niece while she pulls away from her mother’s hold. “Your boys are past this stage; they’re so independent now. You have your life back.”

I reflect on her observation. Yes, we’ve come a long way. From diapers to bathroom independence, breastfeeding to watching them fetch their own snacks, my boys have achieved a certain level of autonomy that comes with the passage of time. And it is likely the main reason I know my family is complete; I revel in their independence, and am keenly aware that I no longer want to change diapers, burp babes or breastfeed.
IndependenceStill, as excited as I am to have a small – but significant – piece of my life back, I fear that a child’s independence does not always arrive on mom’s terms, often sneaking up on us as we continue to cut grapes in half and check on sleeping children at night. It’s the day Ryder talked back to me, surprising me with his clever rebuttal and acute sense of injustice. It’s the pair of scissors that Reid reached for, not out of curiosity but because he wanted to strategically cut his art project in half. It’s the routine walk through the school playground without a backward glance as they both make their way to classes. The constant space between our lives that grows and grows until one day, I wait for a hurried weekend phone call, listening as they assure me they have clean clothes to wear and food to eat.

While some moms fear the emotional and physical distance that naturally comes with independence, I acknowledge that the trait is actually made up of several qualities, all of which I wish my sons to have. Independence inspires individuality, confidence and competence. It offers children the freedom and objectivity to make decisions and choices that they will undoubtedly learn from, which toughens their resolve and builds self-assurance. And after I allow them to make those choices, I’ll be there – offering support, love, and advice… but never “I told you so.”

My boys’ independence begins in the kitchen. With the start of the new school year, I have encouraged them to take a more active role in preparing their snacks and lunches. This means that they select their own pre-cut fruit from the fridge, portioning it out into their lunch boxes. Sandwiches are assembled together assembly-line style, with them adding the meat and fixins’ just before I close and cut the sandwiches. They are in charge of placing juice boxes in their lunch bag, with the understanding that a forgotten juice box means a trip to the water fountain at school. In short, this half-hour of meal preparation helps build the foundation for a day when they’ll prepare their own meals from start to finish… maybe even their entire family’s meals.  (more…)

Keep Reading

Quality Essentials: They’re Your Holiday Must Haves

October 1, 2014

This post was brought to you by the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers via sheblogs. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and are not indicative of the opinions or positions of the Canadian Association of Petroleum Producers.

Thanksgiving – a holiday synonymous with food and family. In my household, the buzz begins shortly after the beginning of October: who’s hosting? How shall we give thanks? What’s on the menu? Who’s making the cranberry sauce?

And then, before we know it, a flurry of activity takes place…

Preparing and placing make-ahead food in storage containers. Cleaning the home from top to bottom. Strategically placing spice-scented candles throughout the first floor, and pulling out last year’s gold-painted pumpkins. Replacing the soap in the guest bathroom. Sorting through a handful of my favourite CDs, settling on Sam Smith. Putting away the boys’ crayons and diecast cars, with a warning issued to keep the place tidy. Finding the roasting pan from its hiding place in the pantry. Grabbing a pen and notebook to list out exactly what must be done to make this get together a success. Forgiving myself in advance if it doesn’t go exactly to plan.
decorWondering about the words in bold above? They’re all things that have been derived from crude oil in some way. In fact, for the majority of Canadians, petroleum is an essential part of our quality of life. We rely on it to make gasoline for cars, trucks, buses, trains, boats and planes. And, as previously demonstrated, it’s necessary for making our Thanksgiving celebration go off without a hitch.

So, other than reaping the benefits of products and services that are made from crude oil, why should we care? Well, for starters, Canada has the third largest oil reserves in the world, with 97% of those reserves in the Oil Sands. This translates to 168 billion barrels with the potential of over 100 years of production. In fact, over 800,000 jobs could be created in the next 25 years alone. Hence, if you are Canadian, and enjoy your current quality of life, you need to understand just how dependent we are on a booming oil industry.

This Thanksgiving, perhaps petroleum will be the furthest thing from your mind. And that’s okay. Just as long as we all realize how we are impacted, day in, day out, by its presence, and how it is an integral part of our lives, our holidays, our celebrations.  (more…)

Keep Reading

The Kid, The Lunchbox and The Kinder Surprise Bribe

September 30, 2014

I’ve got two very different little boys. Ying and yang, I like to call them. Because even though they’re both Tauruses, share physical characteristics and have an intense dislike for the bad “b” word – bedtime –  they really couldn’t be more dissimilar. Which I suppose is half the joy of raising more than one child; the varying array of quirks, conflicts and complex personalities that keep you on your toes. (And often, reaching for a bottle of wine.)

This year, with Reid being in school for the very first time (translation: freedom!) I’m once again reminded that he is very different from his older brother. Whereas Ryder will ALWAYS finish his entire lunch at school, Reid has an insurmountable decision-making process, known only to him, for what he will eat, and what will go untouched.

“Why didn’t you eat your sandwich?”
“It was too melty.”
“Why didn’t you finish your grapes?”
“They’re too round. I like them less round.”
“Why did you bring back your cookies?”
“They smell funny. Like someone has been breathing on them.”

Now I ask you, what does melty even mean?? And how does it relate to a pristine turkey sandwich?

Two weeks in, I was seriously beginning to wonder if he would ever get the hang of eating a school lunch. And then I remembered a key piece of armour – a strategic tactic, if you will – in the war against determined toddlers: The Bribe.

Please don’t look for The Bribe in parenting manuals. We are stoically told from the moment our children are born that thou shalt not bribe children to elicit a desired behaviour or outcome. To which I say, yeah, and my toddler was toilet trained in 3 days when I bribed him with a KINDER SURPRISE.
KINDER SURPRISESo, I did what any responsible parent would do: I told Reid that if he finished his lunch… within reason, of course… he would receive a KINDER SURPRISE as an after school treat. The first day, he attempted to call my bluff; returning with an almost full, untouched lunchbox. However, when I doled out one of those delicious chocolate eggs to his brother, and not him, he quickly revised his stance.  (more…)

Keep Reading

THE GAME OF LIFE – CAA Edition

September 30, 2014

The spin of a wheel. The roll of a dice. This is the game of life.

It’s funny. Years ago, when playing the iconic board game with friends and family, I was asked to explain the rules.

“It’s like this,” I began. “The game basically mirrors life events; you know, going to college, raising a family, buying a home, working and retiring.”

“That’s it?” our new player asked.

“Well, it’s a little more complicated than that. I mean, there are a handful of intersections – representing choices – but ultimately, it’s a game of luck.”

Is life a game of luck? Or is it simply reflective of the conscious and cumulative choices that we make?

I’d like to think it’s a little of both. Because I attended university, and as luck would have it… my first employer’s brother-in-law was my professor. I signed up for an online dating service, and as luck would have it… my husband was the first match out of 1256 possibilities. I started a blog, and as luck would have it… I established a presence just before social media took off.

Of course, I’ve had to make some critical choices along the way, too. Leaving my corporate life. Moving to the suburbs. And most recently, deciding that our family is complete with just two children. It was likely one of the hardest decisions we’ve ever made, exacerbated by the fact that I really do believe I have much more love to give – I simply don’t have the time, or patience, or willingness to start over.

But, we spin the wheel. We move along. We don’t look back.
Game of LifeDo you have fond memories, playing your own game of life?

It’s not too late to play. Introducing THE GAME OF LIFE – CAA Edition! Back for its fourth year, if you live in South Central Ontario, you can earn entries by playing THE GAME OF LIFE – CAA Edition daily for your chance to win over 2,600 instant prizes – and earn entries into the grand prize draw for an incredible dream vacation.  (more…)

Keep Reading

Disneyland Resort, California: Disney, On Your Terms

September 28, 2014

Having recently returned from a fun-filled #DisneyVacayCA in sunny Anaheim, California, I am invariably confronted with the following question:

So, which one do you prefer, Disney World or Disneyland?

It is a question I know I cannot avoid, having posed it myself countless times to friends and family who have experienced both parks on opposite coasts. And even though I have forewarned myself that the query should be expected – even prepared to make a choice and stand by it – I am nevertheless unable to give a satisfying response.

I like them both, I hedge mildly.

Way to take a stand, Lena! At this point I should warn you that I also make a terrible expert witness, mediator and/or customer in line at Starbucks.

What’ll that be? asks the barista.
Hmmm… I can’t decide. I quite like lattes… but I like cappuccinos too.

Pathetic.

Honestly, you can’t blame me. Asking me to choose between Disney World and Disneyland is like asking me to select a favourite among my offspring! It simply can’t be done – I love both my boys irrevocably and unequivocally for very different reasons. (Except when Ryder does that weird yodeling thing… or, perhaps, especially when he does that weird yodeling thing.)

However, since I’ve described my love affair with Walt Disney World in previous posts, I think it’s only fair that I make the case for Disneyland, too. Simply put, a visit to Disneyland Resort in California offers Disney, on your terms.
Disneyland ResortLet me explain. Using a numbered list, of course.  (more…)

Keep Reading

Sunday Morning Shopping

September 28, 2014

It’s the inaugural edition of “Where Has Lena Been Shopping on Sunday Morning?”

Technically, I can’t really make this a thing, because my husband is worried that I’m a little too quick with my “ADD TO CART” reflexes. So, perhaps this will be the first and last edition.

(In my defense, I could have been stuffing my face with stale doughnuts this morning, replanting my windowsill herb garden, or clipping the boys’ toenails. And instead, I chose to clothe our family with fabulous outfits at incredible prices. To say I feel unappreciated is an understatement, husband.)
091514_CDA_EN_PixieProductSpotlight_hp_PRIMLove, love, LOVE these pixie pants from Old Navy. Although I am obsessed with the Houndstooth print, I’m now wondering if it will be friendly to curvalicious women. Sigh – only one way to find out! Of course, at $25 and a very generous return policy, I’m feeling fine.  (more…)

Keep Reading

#FamilyTravelCA: Trafalgar Family Experiences

September 28, 2014

I’m not afraid to ask for directions. I’m not afraid to ask questions. And I’m certainly not afraid to ask for help when it comes to planning a vacation.

Trafalgar Travel has been creating exceptional guided vacations for almost 70 years. With more than 230 trips to worldwide destinations, including Europe, North, Central and South America, Australia , New Zealand, Asia and Africa, they continue to offer new ways to travel every year.

So what’s caught my eye? Aloha Hawaii. Because, Hawaii.

Aloha and welcome to the beautiful Hawaiian Islands on this family-friendly itinerary. Your adventure begins in Honolulu where you’ll meet chocolate flavourmeisters and make your own chocolate bar. Take in the sites of the infamous Pearl Harbour and join an insider on an exclusive visit aboard “Mighty Mo.” Enjoy the endless white-sand beaches of Maui and marvel at the Volcanoes National Park, a UNESCO World Heritage Site on this guided trip of a lifetime.
Hawaii-4
Family Experiences by Trafalgar Travel are designed to appeal to every generation from children to grandparents, offering a mix of education and entertainment. Your Travel Director will make sure every aspect of your trip runs smoothly with meticulous precision, from 4 and 5-star accommodation and luxury travel to making sure you never have to carry your own luggage or queue at the sights. (Newsflash: this is my kind of travel.)

Want to learn more? Join us at our monthly #FamilyTravelCA Twitter Chat!  (more…)

Keep Reading

Purify Your Air.

September 25, 2014

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

It happens every year, like clockwork.

On a morning – just like this morning – I will wake up, rub the sleep from my eyes, and swallow. And I will have a tickle at the back of my throat. Later that day, my nose will twitch; my eyes will water. I will understand that the misery of seasonal allergies is upon me, and I will resign myself to weeks (maybe months) of discontent.

It’s a September thing.

Canadians invest $9.1 billion annually in janitorial and sanitation supplies to clean surfaces, remove odours and kill germs with touch-free hand sanitizers – all of which address an issue that does not kill the key contributor to illness from air transmission. And even with all these products, if your child has asthma, there’s a 1 in 4 chance he or she will be heading to hospital in September. Every year, up to 25% of the annual hospital admissions for asthma flare-ups among Canadian children occur in September.
Purify Your AirWhy? It’s simple – and complicated. With the new school year, so comes some of the most frequent asthma triggers: germs, low use of appropriate asthma medications over the summer months increasing vulnerability, and unventilated classrooms that may contain dust, mould spores and more.

Although I thought allergies were my biggest concern, I’m actually writing this post on the heels of a very disturbing phone call I received from Reid’s school, just this afternoon.

“Mrs. Almeida, we’re concerned Reid has been coughing a lot today, bordering on wheezing.”
“Oh!” I replied. “Well, he was sick recently…”
“Is he asthmatic?” she asked.
“Noooo….” I answered.

And now, of course, I’m wondering if he is. It’s Reid’s first time in a group environment, so naturally he is exposed to germs, allergens and a whole grab bag of potential triggers that I simply did not have to worry about before. I know that most asthma exacerbations are caused from the air we breathe, and the dirty truth is that inside air can be up to five times more polluted than outdoor air. And, we spend an average of 90% of our time indoors.  (more…)

Keep Reading

A New Snack for the Lunch Box! #NVLunchbox

September 23, 2014

Every weekday morning, for the next nine months, during the hours of 7:00 – 8:00am… I will have only one purpose in life… to pack a healthy, delicious and peanut-free lunch box for both my boys.

Sounds simple enough? I suppose it is… except sometimes, peanut-free snack items let me down. Sure, I have my pick of cookies, bars, treats and more… but often, those snacks offer little more than a sugar rush and don’t always have a high nutritional value. Surely there has to be a better way to snack?

Introducing NEW Nature Valley Lunch Box bars. These peanut-free granola bars offer an amazing bundle of better-for-you benefits for the entire family. With 20% of your daily value of fibre, no artificial colours or flavours and 8g of whole grains, kids and adults alike will look forward to snacking on these scrumptious lunch box heroes!

NVLunchbox Graphic v2Join us at the #NVLunchbox Twitter Party where we’ll dish on the new Nature Valley Lunch Box bars and more.  To thank you for participating, you know we’ll have some fabulous prizes up for grabs! RSVP for a chance to win – and see you on Monday night!  (more…)

Keep Reading

Mangia Meatballs!

September 23, 2014

Once in a while, I stumble upon a recipe so ridiculously good that I literally leave the table in the middle of dinner to go blog about it. (My family hates me right now.) I mean, how could I not share this Italian goodness with y’all? After going on and on about how difficult it was to find the perfect meatball recipe, POOF! It fell in my lap this afternoon.

MeatballsOkay, it didn’t really fall in my lap; my husband emailed me this recipe for Meatball Nirvana with the subject line “Woman. Kitchen. Cook.” He’s very persuasive.

Nevertheless, I tweaked the recipe slightly, and O-M-G it’s like I’m in Florence all over again. (Or for the first time, since I’ve never actually been.) I didn’t really have a chance to properly photograph the meal (the angry family was glaring at me as I snapped the picture above), but if you’re into tasty balls of beef, you’re in for a treat!  (more…)

Keep Reading

When Age Isn’t Just a Number

September 22, 2014

It’s a conversation I’ve had with women from time to time; a lofty discussion about our age, and looks, and how others perceive us.

“Everyone thinks I’m 24,” states one woman haughtily, who has been blessed with a smooth, line-free face. “I was carded the other day – again,” proclaims another, tossing her long, thick locks behind her shoulder. “I only get hit on by teenagers!” laughs yet another, shrugging her shoulders in a gesture of false modesty. “It’s not my fault they think I’m so young.”

The truth is, we’re all well into our thirties. (Maybe forties, for some.) And as non-smoking, health-focused and fashionable women, it’s only natural that we enjoy a youthful appearance; one that veils our true year of birth. And let’s be honest – unless you’re 14 years old and trying to sneak into a bar, no woman wants to look older than she is. So, we continue to live our lives, having conversations like this, immersed in a culture that assures us we should strive to look younger than our age, and pat ourselves on the back when we do.

Lately, this notion has started to offend me.

After much thought, I’ve decided that I want to look 36-years old, and not a day younger. Certainly not a day older; but not for the reasons you may assume (we’ll discuss that later). I want to look 36-years old because I have earned every year that I have lived. I place value on every achievement, every obstacle, every win, every defeat. For if someone says, “Lena! I thought you were 24 years old….” well, let’s see. At 24, I may have had a university degree, but I didn’t have my corporate career, my marriage, my children, or my own business. And so the value – the level of respect, admiration, esteem or regard – I would appear to have is akin to another 24-year old, or a 24-year old me. And that’s not who I am. To say I look 2, 5 or even 10 years younger actually belittles every single accomplishment; every single stride I’ve made towards a better me.

In truth, I’m too good to look like a younger woman. I’m too smart, too motivated, too successful – and I want the respect that comes with those attributes. A twenty-something Lena spent her nights in bars. I spend my nights with my family. Or in a 5-star hotel. Or being awesome.
photo (3)So you know what? Please don’t be tempted to tell me that I look younger than I am. Because 10 out of 10 times, I’d rather be called a “stunning woman” by an older gentleman than a “hot chick” by some young punk.

As for why I don’t want to look a day older? Simple. I haven’t earned it yet.

Keep Reading

Infiniti Q50 Twitter Party #InfinitiUndiscovered

September 22, 2014

At least once per month, my little family piles into our car and sets off on a road trip.

“Where are we going this time?” Ryder asks. “I don’t know”, I respond, which is the truth. We simply buckle up, choose our favourite tunes, and drive. There’s no set destination; no predetermined course that we’ll take. Each trip is an adventure, whether it be a winding drive through the Niagara Escarpment or a bumper-to-bumper journey into the downtown Toronto core.

As the kids grow, we push the final destination farther and farther away from home, with the hopes of one day embarking on an epic cross-Canada adventure. We’d love to explore New Brunswick’s Appalachian Mountains and enjoy a salty, gooey poutine in Montreal. I want to show my boys the beauty of Kananaskis Country, Alberta and set aside a shopping day in trendy Vancouver.

Alas, since a cross-Canada road trip isn’t in the cards for us just yet, we’ll settle for the next best thing – a new series called Canada Undiscovered, airing on nature and wildlife specialty channel Oasis. Hosted by TV personality Sean Moffit, the 3-part original series will highlight unique and rare natural wonders across Canada. Prepare to be taken on a coast-to-coast road trip while learning fascinating historical facts about some of Canada’s most unique locales including Pacific Rim National Park in British Columbia, Athabasca Sand Dunes in Saskatchewan and Sable Island in Nova Scotia.

Want to hear more? Please join our @InfinitiCanada Twitter Party: #InfinitiUndiscovered.

INF_FB_TwitterPrty_04Prizes include 7 x Infiniti prize packs (valued at approx $100 each), plus a GRAND PRIZE valued at approximately $300, which will include a $250 gas card! RSVP for a chance to win – and see you on Thursday night!  (more…)

Keep Reading