musings

Shirking My Responsibility

cartoonFriends, I’ve been a bit of a flake. You see, when I first set up my blog, I made a promise: that I would respond to every reader comment. And for almost six years, I made good on my word!

Alas, for the last 3-4 weeks, I’ve been travelling, attending events, hosting events, juggling two boys at home, and otherwise spending every waking moment mentally scrolling through my to-do list. As a result, my blog interaction has sucked eggs.

However, today I will remedy the situation. I don’t care if you left a comment on June 12th – today, I’m writing my response. Made a joke on June 29th? Got it. My “Hahaha! Too funny!” is on the way!

Seriously, though – I love y’all. And I love even more that you take a few moments out of your day to let me know that you’re there for me. Now it’s time for me to reciprocate.

Since I won’t be posting content today, here are a few suggested readings:

The 35 Funniest AutoCorrect Fails EVER
Top 100 Inspirational Quotes
30 Ideas For Your 2014 Bucket List
20 Things That Are Too Canadian To Handle

Or, you know, you could just go and enter some of my great contests. (Psst – I’ve got TWO more to blog this week! Stay tuned.) Have a great day all!

food

Chill Out with the Wave Station from Hamilton Beach

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

If I had my way, I’d play DJ Jazzy Jeff & The Fresh Prince’s Summertime on repeat, all summer long. (Disclaimer: You need to be at least 35 years old to remember this tune, or have an affinity for early 90′s music.)

The weather is hot and girls are dressing less
And checking out the fellas to tell ‘em who’s best
Riding around in your jeep or your benzos
Or in your Nissan sitting on Lorenzos

When I was a young teen, radio stations would plop this anthem into rotation the minute the mercury rose above 20°C, where it would repeat endlessly until back to school flyers started circulating. It was the perfect “chill out” song.

Today, while I still love summer music, I also love cooling down with a refreshing fruit smoothie. After all, nothing says “summer in a glass” more than the tangy, cool blend of ripe fruit, creamy yogurt and refreshing ice. Until recently, I spent a little too much money ordering these delicious concoctions from drive thrus and juice bars, but now, I do it all at home.

Introducing the Hamilton Beach Wave Station Express Dispensing Blender. Two things you need to know right off the bat: First, it is currently on sale at Walmart Canada for just $14.94, so immediately after reading my review, I suggest you order one online or run out to your nearest store. (In fact, I’ll wait here if you need to quickly pop one in your cart. Remember, you’ll receive free shipping at Walmart when you shop online!)

Second, this machine is a beast. With a 500 watt peak power motor and 9 blending functions, the Wave-Action system continuously pulls mixture down into the blades for smooth results every single time. Plus, its 48 oz. dishwasher safe DuraBlend jar is large enough to make four 8 oz. smoothies at once – perfect for families and entertaining.

This summer, chill out with a Tropical Smoothie.

 Hamilton Beach Wave Station Express Dispensing BlenderThe following “recipe” (if you can call it that – I simply throw together some good foodie stuff) serves two. As you can see, there’s plenty of room to make four smoothies, all within a compact small appliance. And hello! Check out the fabulous, fun colour!  (more…)

beauty

GTA: See “The Voice” LIVE in Toronto!

Today I have a chance to chat about TWO things I love – CLEAR Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy… and The Voice!

(And… they just happen to partner perfectly together – read on for your chance to see The Voice live in concert in Toronto! Now that’s CLEARLY something fans of the show won’t want to miss.)

Long-time readers will remember that I first tried CLEAR products early last year. Having a deep desire to improve the health of my hair, I put CLEAR Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy to the test. It’s a nourishing hair care line, with Nutrium 10, a rich blend of vitamins and nutrients. CLEAR feeds your scalp and can give you stronger, more beautiful hair in just seven days!

CLEAR Scalp & HairAnd the results? After the third or fourth wash, I started seeing a noticeable difference in the feel, look and texture of my hair. It was much shinier, felt somewhat healthier and the breakage was pretty much NIL. Honestly, even Jerry Seinfeld would approve the zero strands of hair left behind on my brush!

Did you know that 99% of hair’s natural strength and beauty comes from the scalp? Just like we apply moisturizer for beautiful skin, the scalp needs the same attention to grow healthy hair. And THAT’s why CLEAR Scalp & Hair Beauty Therapy is totally fab – it targets the hair at the root.

So… what about that amazing partnership? CLEAR Scalp & Hair is the official sponsor of The Voice Tour! And on Thursday, July 10th, 2014, they’ll sing their way to the Sony Centre For The Performing Arts in Toronto at 7:30pm.

The Voice TourThe Voice Tour features past stars and this season’s finalists! Catch up on their journeys on The Voice and see them showcase their resilience. Featured artists include Josh Kaufman, Jake Worthington, Christina Grimmie, Kristen Merlin (Your Pick!), Jake Barker, Tessanne Chin and more. Does this sound like music to your ears? Here’s your chance to WIN!

One lucky reader and a guest will be treated to an incredible show, backstage passes, and a number of interactive experiences for some great photo-opportunities. (Note: transportation to/from the venue is not included.) To enter, simply leave a comment on this post telling us what you love about The Voice – and, let us know if you’ve tried CLEAR Scalp & Hair products! I’ll draw for a winner on Monday, July 7th, 2014. Good luck everybody!

<<EDIT: A winner has been chosen! Congrats Marcy!>>

food

The Curious Thing About Curiosity

Before I became a mother, I associated curiosity with many positive traits: growth, intellect, analysis and inquisition. To me, curiosity represented a willingness to learn, better oneself, and most importantly, be cognizant of the wonderful world around us. I admired those who challenged the status quo by becoming curious about things, people and places that matter.

Of course, after I had children, my interpretation of the word shifted just slightly.

Now, curiosity means sticky fingers and broken electronics. It means a glass figurine pulled from a top shelf; a centipede trapped under a bowl, a melted crayon found on white berber carpet. And that’s just scratching the surface. My home has been taken over by amateur scientists, hell bent on discovering who, what, when, where and WHY – sigh, always why. Does everything need a reason?

Yet as I type this, I realize how short-sighted I’ve been. I’ve let my petty frustrations mask the true joy of raising curious children. Because for every shattered glass figurine, there’s an appreciation for how fragile life can be. For every trapped insect, there’s respect for our living ecosystem. And for every melted crayon, there’s a lesson in science – namely, coloured wax + expensive carpet = mom furiously scrubbing with a bucketful of chemicals while muttering obscenities under her breath. Okay, so maybe there’s a lesson in science and linguistics.

Maybe it’s time I rethink my views on curiosity.

And now I’m smiling, because I’m thinking about the very first time Ryder tasted ice cream; a tiny lick off a tiny spoon, and instantly, his eyes became twice as large with sheer delight. I’m remembering Reid’s first bites of corn on the cob; holding the ear of corn at arm’s length, trying to decide what to do with it. I’m laughing at Ryder’s introduction to steak, where he chewed the fibrous meat for about 5 minutes before he pulled it out of his mouth and declared, “Beef is broken. Can’t eat.”

In fact, for little ones, I truly believe that curiosity begins in the kitchen - and a fun and delicious way to encourage kids to be curious is by involving them in preparing and tasting new flavours and textures. I’m pleased to once again partner with Minute Maid, who along with the Canadian Living Test Kitchen has created a new line of recipes that will spark creativity and help pave the way for future curious culinary exploration.

Today, I showed the boys how good greens can be with this delicious and simple Berry-Banana Green Smoothie.

1 can (250 mL) Minute Maid Frozen Smoothies Strawberry Banana
2 cups frozen mixed berries
1-3/4 cups milk
1 cup baby spinach leaves
Half avocado

In blender, combine Minute Maid Frozen Smoothies Strawberry Banana, mixed berries, milk, spinach and avocado; purée until smooth.

Minute Maid SmoothiesI am blessed; both my boys have pretty adventurous palettes, and rarely do I need to “hide” vegetables from them (ten times out of ten Ryder will eat the broccoli, Brussels sprouts or beans first). I sincerely hope they continue to be curious about the foods they eat, the things they do and the places they see… and if that sense of curiosity brings them to melted crayon territory, I’ll just remember to look back on this post, and chill out.

For more delicious recipes that are perfect for curious little individuals, visit Minute Maid.

family

#ThrowbackThursday #tbt: Seven Years

In 2014, I will be participating in #tbt courtesy of the Epson Expression Premium XP-810 Small–in–One printer, the ultimate choice for scanning and printing. Ultra powerful and ultra slim, it produces stunning borderless photos and documents quickly and affordably. Featuring the ultimate in wireless printing, the XP-810 makes it easier than ever to print from your iPad, iPhone, tablet or smartphone, whether in your home or out and about.

On Monday, we will celebrate seven years since 07-07-07.

kissI knew I was going to marry my husband from the moment I met him. He has undeniable qualities that I cherish; thoughtfulness, optimism and a jovial manner that ensures I’m always laughing or smiling or feeling amazing, regardless of the circumstances. However, if I had to nail down one quality that warms my heart, it’s the fact that I can never deny his love for me. With every word, action, thought and gesture, he is steadfast in his adoration.

Yep, he’s a keeper. And I intend on hanging on to him for seven more years, and seven more after that… and seven more… and still seven more… and seven after that…

family

2014: We Shall Seize the Summer

Folks, we are in the month of July. JULY! And just like every single year, the summer seems to be zipping along way too quickly for my liking. The promise of long, hazy days and relaxing nights on the patio will soon pass with a snap of the finger, leaving me to wonder where the time went – and exactly how I spent it.

This year, I’ve had a revelation of sorts. You see, I’m really good at making plans for all I want to do… but I always let life get in the way, and then fall short. NOT. THIS. SUMMER. This season, I’ve made a commitment to my family that we will seize every weekend and get out, enjoy the weather, take a dip in a pool, do something different, try something new, capture the memories, spend time together… you get my drift.

Seize the SummerThe summer fun is already underway. After spending a luxury weekend getaway at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, and then following up with a Day of Discovery with Renaissance Hotels (including two awesome days at Ripley’s Aquarium!), we’re off to Canada’s Wonderland this Friday, to be followed up with a weekend (and anniversary!) getaway to our favourite northern destination, the JW Marriott Muskoka. After that, we’re taking in an advanced screening of Planes: Fire & Rescue, followed by a visit to African Lion Safari, a dinner and tournament at Medieval Times… and whatever else pops up in between. And, that’s just over the next three weeks.

See? I’ve made good on my word, and will continue to do so.  (more…)

fashion

Dress for Success: Moores Canadian Suit Drive

FACT: Donated Suits Improve Men’s Chances for Employment.

Chances are, you know someone who has been out of work this past year. And with unemployment comes hard times, even harder choices and a limited amount of options to find fulfilling, meaningful work. In fact, this past April alone, there were 744,600 reported cases of unemployed men across Canada – and the need to help these men is a very real issue.

I’ve had friends, family members and loved ones who have unexpectedly found themselves unemployed. And let me tell you – it’s rough. But the only thing worse than scouring the want ads, re-writing your resume and worriedly checking on the bank balance, is not having confidence in the way you present yourself at interviews. After all, your self-esteem when you walk through the door can dictate how successful your meeting is. However, for several men looking to break back into the workforce, they simply don’t have access to an interview-ready wardrobe.

Moores Suit DriveThis year, I’m proud to partner with Moores Clothing to help spread the word about the Moores’ Canadian Suit Drive. The Suit Drive provides free suits and professional clothing to men seeking to turn their lives around by working directly with more than 60 local recipient organizations across Canada that provide job readiness programs for men seeking employment.

“We may not realize how much confidence a suit can give, but sometimes that small act of donating a suit to someone in need hoping to transition back into the workplace can make all the difference,” says Paige Souter, Executive Director at Dress Your Best in Toronto.

It makes perfect sense to me, and this past weekend, I raided my husband’s closet to find worthwhile items he was ready to part with. From shirts and jackets to pants and ties, I collected a nice pile of stylish clothes that we knew would be better suited (pun intended) to a job seeker than hanging out at the back of his closet. And it’s all good, because we win too! As a thank you for donating, customers will receive 50 per cent off their next purchase from Moores (excluding shoes, clearance, and Exceptional Value items).

Now in its fifth year, Moores’ Canadian Suit Drive runs from July 1-31, 2014. Canadians can donate men’s suits, shirts, jackets, pants, ties, belts and shoes as well as women’s professional clothing at any of the more than 100 Moores’ stores across Canada. For more information, visit www.canadiansuitdrive.com.

No suit? No Problem! You can donate even if you don’t have any professional attire to spare. For every social mention of #SuitDrive, Moores will donate $1 (up to $10,000) to the cause. You don’t even have to leave the house!

Come on – if you’re on Twitter, go on and hit RT below….

Remember, by contributing to the Suit Drive, you’re helping at least one Canadian man facing barriers to employment get back on his feet. So dig deep! I can’t think of a better reason to make some room in your boyfriend or husband’s closet. Click here to visit Moores’ Canadian Suit Drive.

Contests

Celebrating 30 Summers Days with Staples Canada

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

At the beginning of June, I accepted the #30SummerDays photo challenge, sponsored by @StaplesCanada.

For the last month, I’ve posted themed photos that showcase my love for the season. And while y’all may have looked at my Instagram stream, thinking, “cute pictures!” – I actually have a little secret: I took them all with a handy little camera from Staples Canada!

30SummerDays4Staples Canada is the place to find Wifi-enabled cameras from Canon and Nikon, which allow you to upload your pictures and movies on-the-go. A social sharer’s dream! And, they just happen to have the BEST prices on some of the hottest cameras – like the Nikon COOLPIX S9600 Digital Camera, which features built-in Wi-Fi for instant photo sharing and remote camera control with a compatible smartphone or tablet.

30SummerDays3The 30 days flew by! I mean – newsflash – it’s the first of July today! And, if there’s one thing I learned from the photo challenge, it’s the importance of documenting life’s moments (big and small). Now would be the perfect time to pick up a Wifi-enabled camera from Staples Canada, to start cataloging your own memories.  (more…)

food

Cafe Boulud: A Feast for the Senses

One of the wonderful things about Toronto is the wealth of dining options. Every cuisine, every taste, every whim and fancy is catered to, with varying degrees of punch and panache. From food trucks to street meat; fine dining to fusion fare, Toronto offers diners the best the world has to offer, amidst a vibrant, trendsetting city backdrop.

“Located at the exquisite flagship Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, Café Boulud serves a menu inspired by Chef Daniel Boulud’s French roots, inflected with international flavors. Dishes are timeless and expertly executed by Boulud’s talented team of chefs, from the signature Potato Wrapped Sea Bass over leeks and pommes purée to a hearty Slow-Roasted Veal Shank for Two. Downstairs from the café is dbar, the lively bar and lounge serving an array of bar-friendly faire, extensive wine list and unique mixed cocktails.” – Cafe Boulud Toronto

Recently, my husband and I had the fortune of dining at Cafe Boulud, where we experienced a celebration of delectable French cuisine. While I teased photos of our selections via Twitter and Instagram, here is a tribute to our meal from beginning to end.

NOVA SCOTIA LOBSTER SALAD
iceberg lettuce, marinated quail’s egg, cucumber
avocado cream, marie rose

Cafe Boulud TorontoThe plump, delicately poached lobster meat is complemented beautifully with a creamy, refreshingly bright sauce. As soon as the dish starts to border on over-indulgent, a sharp, acidic bite of marinated quail’s egg restores the palette’s equilibrium and balances the richness of the dish.  (more…)

fashion

Deal Detective: Michael Kors Hamilton Large Tote

I often receive e-mails from deal-seeking readers who are looking for the best price on beauty or fashion finds. Normally, I’ll try to steer them in the right direction, whether it be through re-sellers, coupon codes or the location of their nearest outlet store. Playing “deal detective” is a hobby and a challenge!

Michael Kors Luggage ToteRecently, I’ve been tasked to find the best price in Canada for a Michael Kors Hamilton Large Tote. A classic, designer handbag that never goes out of style (and therefore, never goes on sale), it is available at Canadian Michael Kors retail stores for $395.00.

Okay, first things first. It sells for $358.00 in the US, so there’s definitely a price discrepancy for north-of-the-border shoppers. However, only you can decide if the $37.00 surplus is worth your time, gas and duty charges to cross the border and find it in the States. And don’t even think about ordering it online and shipping it home; the delivery and extra charges will surely surpass the $395.00 Canadian price.

Hence, we’re working with a Canadian selling price of $395.00 plus tax, which totals $446.35 if you’re in Ontario, like me.

If you are a Costco member, your first option is to purchase the handbag from Costco online or in-store. Curiously, it is referred to as the “North South” tote, but for all intents and purposes, the bag is seemingly identical to the original.

Pros: The Hamilton Tote retails for $319.99, with shipping and handling included. That’s $75.00 off the retail price! The total, plus HST, is $361.59.

Cons: Since Costco is not an authorized dealer for Michael Kors, the manufacturer’s warranty does not apply. In place of the manufacturer’s warranty, Costco will refund your purchase price if you are not completely satisfied with the product. Since Costco is known to have a very liberal return policy, this does not bother me.  (more…)

musings

Brace-Bound Teeth: Keeping ‘em Clean

It’s a time I remember very well, because really, it didn’t happen too long ago. Yes, I was an adult with braces. You know, the gal who studied and worked during the day, and at night, went clubbing with her girlfriends. That was me! And when that tall, dark stranger approached, I gave him a shy, reserved smile… because anything would be better than revealing a mouth full of metal at age 21 – UGH!

(Oh, and when the orthodontist tells you that your braces will be off in 12 months, it’s a lie. Two full years of brace-face, baby! You don’t forget stuff like that.)

Okay, so clubbing sucked. And so did the removal of four teeth. And getting the braces on. And the elastics. And that damned retainer. But if I had to single out the worst experience of wearing braces, it was definitely keeping my teeth clean and healthy while trying to navigate through all the wire. Even though it’s only been 15 years since I had my braces, electric toothbrushes weren’t a thing back then, so I had to rely on good old fashioned brushing (and pretty much failed miserably). I truly wish I had taken better care of my teeth when I had braces, because when they came off, I was the proud owner of straight teeth – but they were discoloured and I had acquired two cavities. (Insert sad face.) Weeks of whitening strips and two filled cavities later, I could finally enjoy my brand new pearly whites.

But don’t make the same mistakes I did! If you, or someone you know, is currently wearing braces, I want you to have a better experience. And that begins with proper oral hygiene. Today, I’m pleased to share the following intel for brace-faces everywhere:

3M is working with Crest and Oral-B to ensure the necessary information is readily available on how to care for brace-bound teeth. According to certified orthodontic clinical assistant, Cathy Sundvall, there are six key steps that should be followed by brace wearers to ensure a good oral hygiene routine:

1. Rinse: Start by removing loose food particles.
2. Tree brush: Use an interproximal brush to check behind your archwire for any remaining food debris.
3. Water flosser: Use a water flosser to ensure you’ve removed food particles from around the brackets.
4. Floss: Remove any food that’s in between your teeth with floss.
5. Power brush: Brush using a specially-designed electric toothbrush head, which removes plaque in tiny, hard-to-reach spots, like the areas around your braces.
6. Final rinse: Now that you’re done cleaning your teeth, make sure your mouth is fresh and toothpaste-free with a quick rinse.

Not inspired? Consider this – research indicates that a clean mouth prevents various life-threatening diseases like aspiration pneumonia, gum disease and heart disease.

3M has set up a nifty little website that explains the above steps in detail, so you can avail yourself of handy oral hygiene tips and tricks. Best of all, you’ll find the appropriate suggestions for all types of braces, whether you have metal, ceramic or the brand new incognito style. (Hello! Where were incognito braces in 2001? Pfft.)

Brushing with Incognito BracesSo, I have a confession to make: as soon as my braces were off, I literally tuned out the orthodontist as he cautioned me to wear my retainer. Nope, didn’t happen. Didn’t care – didn’t listen. And now 2-3 of my teeth have shifted… and I’m looking into getting braces again. And if/when they do reappear in my life, you can bet I’ll be paying very close attention to my oral hygiene regime. Let’s just say I’ve bookmarked this post.

(Psst - Are your kids about to get braces? Check out www.PaintYourSmile.com which allows them to see what they’re going to look like with braces. Super cool and a fun way to prepare them for their new smile!)

family

Planes: Fire & Rescue – Win a Family Pass! (GTA)

If you have Disney-loving offspring in your household, chances are, you’ve got July 18th circled on your calendar. Why? Well, it’s the North American release of Planes: Fire & Rescue, of course!

“Planes: Fire & Rescue” is a new comedy-adventure about second chances, featuring a dynamic crew of elite firefighting aircraft devoted to protecting historic Piston Peak National Park from raging wildfire. When world-famous air racer Dusty (voice of Dane Cook) learns that his engine is damaged and he may never race again, he must shift gears and is launched into the world of aerial firefighting.

Dusty joins forces with veteran fire-and-rescue helicopter Blade Ranger (voice of Ed Harris) and his courageous team, including spirited air tanker Dipper (voice of Julie Bowen), heavy-lift helicopter Windlifter (voice of Wes Studi), ex-military transport Cabbie (voice of Captain Dale Dye) and a lively bunch of brave all-terrain vehicles known as The Smokejumpers. The fearless team battles a wildfire and Dusty learns what it takes to become a true hero.

Planes: Fire & RescueI’ve got two little fans who cannot wait to see the new movie, and I’ve got a special surprise for them – we’re attending the advanced screening on July 16th in Toronto! Yup – they’ll get their Dusty-fix before anyone else (which translates to two more days of hearing roaring plane engines for me).

The best news: you can join us! I’ve got one Family Pass of 4 to give away to the advanced screening of Planes: Fire & Rescue on July 16, 2014 in Toronto. The show will take place at Cineplex Yonge & Dundas at 7:15pm.

If you’re interested in treating your family to this epic aerial adventure, simply leave a comment on this post. I’ll randomly draw for a winner on Sunday, July 13th, 2014. Good luck everyone!

family

Let’s Go: Family Travel at Four Seasons Toronto

Last week, I had the distinct pleasure of being a guest of the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto. We enjoyed family-friendly amenities without sacrificing refinement, and explored the city’s most lavish surroundings while making lasting memories. Our flawless stay included a romantic dinner for mom and dad (sans kids!) at Café Boulud; an in-room family movie night; breakfast in bed; an aromatherapy massage at The Spa for mom while dad and the kids enjoyed the pool; lunch at d|bar, and more.

And while I have so many aspects of our incredible stay that I’d love to cover, today, let’s discuss the little details that make Four Seasons Hotel Toronto a luxury family-friendly destination.

Stepping into their dazzling lobby, I was greeted by whimsical artwork and overflowing floral arrangements, lending a peculiar combination of warmth and chic opulence all at once. My instinct was to hush the boys, who, after a long car journey peppered with summer construction, were ready to stretch their legs (and voices).

Four Seasons Hotel Toronto

Yet within moments of checking in, the friendly representative came from behind the front desk and took my boys to strategically hidden vending machines, where they were each offered a coin and a treat. If I believed for a second that Four Seasons Hotel Toronto was not geared towards young families, this one act of candy courtship effectively erased that doubt. We were presented with our room keys, and herded the boys (who were now blowing kisses to their new friend) into the elevator.  (more…)

family

#FamilyTravelCA: Introducing Four Seasons Toronto

Have you ever wanted to hear tips and tricks for successful family travel… from a hotel’s perspective? I mean, think about it – they could tell you what to look for, what to expect, and most importantly, how to make the most of your family stay. Sounds pretty helpful, right?

Well, we just don’t have *any* hotel joining us for the next #FamilyTravelCA chat – we’ve got a leader in service and luxury; the epitome of opulence and innovation. Introducing the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto.

FamilyTravelCA 1pmFour Seasons Hotel Toronto offers 259 spacious luxury hotel guest rooms, including 42 suites, in Toronto’s Yorkville neighbourhood. Relax and rejuvenate in their 2,787-square-metre (30,000-square-foot) state-of-the-art spa, or enjoy spectacular cuisine by international chef and restaurateur Daniel Boulud at Café Boulud and d|bar.

Join us on Tuesday, June 24th at 1:00pm EST (mind the NEW time!) for the #FamilyTravelCA Twitter Chat, where we welcome @FSToronto as our very special expert guest. They will share ways to make the most of your family travel experience from the hotelier’s point of view – which can be invaluable if you’re wanting a truly seamless and wonderful experience. And, thank you for joining us, they’re offering one tweeter a *very* special prize:

ONE NIGHT STAY FOR TWO GUESTS IN A DELUXE ROOM
DINNER FOR TWO GUESTS AT CAFE BOULUD (excludes alcohol and gratuities)

A total value of $900.00! Having just returned from a flawless stay at the Four Seasons Hotel Toronto, I can authentically say that for one lucky winner, this will be a stay of a lifetime, and a meal to remember!

RSVP below for a chance to win, and see you on Tuesday afternoon!  (more…)

food

Savour the Summer: Belvedere Vodka Martini

If you follow me on Twitter, you may have noticed my tweets toasting World Martini Day, celebrated every year on June 19th. But do we really need a reason to indulge in a martini? Just thinking out loud here.

World Martini DayCourtesy of Belvedere Vodka, the original and true expression of luxury vodka, I channeled my inner Bond and created a classic dry martini. But for all my savvy and sophistication, I know very little about martini culture - except to only accept one from a stranger at a bar.

(I’ve done the morning-after walk of shame after accepting two – I won’t be repeating that any time soon!)

So, what exactly is a vodka martini? A vodka martini is a cocktail containing unequal portions of vodka and dry vermouth (somewhere in a ratio of about 2:1) served chilled, in a conical stemmed glass, garnished with either a green olive or a lemon twist.

Shaken or stirred? Well, here are the facts. Shaking cools a drink more quickly, but is more likely to chip small shards off the ice, some of which will make their way into the drink, no matter how carefully one strains and pours. Which may be part of the reason why some people prefer their martini stirred. At the end of the day, neither option is better – it’s simply what you prefer.

Though it’s decidedly cooler to say #BelvedereShaken.

What’s the big deal about vodka? Premium vodka, specifically the iconic Belvedere brand, is created exclusively from Polish Dankowskie Rye and quadruple-distilled to create the perfect balance of character and purity. It is completely free of additives and is sourced from purified water from Belvedere’s own artisan wells.  (more…)

family

Planning the Perfect Trip: Summer Travel Tips

Are you gearing up for a family trip? Flying with family is no simple task. Getting everyone packed, organized and ready to go through security with little fuss can present quite a challenge! Thankfully, the Canadian Air Transport Security Authority (CATSA) has a few pointers to help make your summer travel experience run smoothly.

Know How to Carry-on: Children get hungry for snacks. You know this and you want to be prepared. Solid foods such as apples, granola bars or sandwiches can be packed in your carry-on for the plane ride, and any liquid food – such as yogurt, pudding or peanut butter - must be in containers of 100ml or less and placed in a clear, closed, resealable one-litre plastic bag.

catsa_family_1However, if you’re traveling with a baby (under the age of two), items such as baby food, breast milk, formula, water and juice are exempt from the 100 ml limit and do not have to be placed in a plastic bag. Still, you must present these items to the screening officer for inspection.

Other personal items to keep the kids entertained, like iPods, tablets and toys, can go in your child’s carry-on baggage. Always be sure to leave toys that look like weapons (e.g. water guns, toy grenades, etc.) at home.

Check Wait Times: Preparing for your departure is easier with CATSA’s online wait time indicator. Wait times for security screening checkpoints major airports provide extra convenience when planning your trip. (I check it obsessively before travel! Super convenient.)  (more…)

Contests

#ArmYourself Ladies! It’s a Bliss Spa Twitter Party!

We’re just a few days away from the official start of summer! You know what that means… drinks on the patio, freezies and fresh fruit, and… tank tops! Take a peek under that heavy clothing… are you putting your best arm forward?

Introducing Bliss Spa products, available exclusively at Sephora and at Sephora.ca in Canada! Who says serious skincare has to be so, well, serious? Not the brains behind Bliss: Though their cult-favorite products pack seriously effective ingredients, Bliss’ cheeky names never fail to make you smile (FatGirlSlim, anyone?). Each blackhead-busting, cellulite-ridding, skin-smoothing treatment is created for the needs of actual Bliss Spa-goers. And even better, every Bliss tube, tub, bottle, and bar is injected with the same signature blend of humor, science, luxury, and ease that the Bliss spas are famous for—leaving you looking and feeling like you’re in a constant state of Bliss.

And now, we’re pleased to share with you the NEW FatGirlSlim Arm Candy.

What it is: An arm-perfecting cream to reduce redness while providing a firmer, smoother, and more toned appearance.

What it is formulated to do: Formulated with a complex of lactic acid, caffeine, white sapphire, and moisture beads, this powerful Arm Candy provides optimal results and beautiful, flaunt-worthy arms. It’s the only arm-perfecting cream, complete with a massaging applicator, proven to clinically reduce redness, firm, smooth, and create a more even skintone.

What else you need to know: This is not a weight or fat loss product. As part of your body-bettering routine, use in conjunction with regular exercise, a healthy diet, regular vigorous massage, and the rest of the Bliss fatgirlslim regimen.

Based on a clinical study of healthy females from 22 to 45 years of age after 4 weeks of use:
- 96% said arms felt soft
- 90% said arms felt smoother
- 80% said skin feels smoother
- 93% said it was easy to use

Want to learn more about it? And… want a chance to WIN ONE OF SEVEN Bliss Spa Gift Baskets, valued at over $250 each? Join the #ArmYourself Twitter Party – Thursday, June 19th at 1pm EST!

Twitter Party Invite - Bliss Rev5 (1)RSVP now for a chance to win, and we’ll see you on Thursday night!  (more…)

family

Hot Wheels Track Builder Challenge. {We Failed}

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

There a few things my boys love more in life than die cast cars. (Popsicles and Christmas immediately come to mind; however, both are seasonal occurrences, whereas their love for Disney Cars and Hot Wheels is steadfast and endures throughout the seasons.) Hence, when I was approached by @HotWheelsCanada to join the Hot Wheels Parent Connector Club, of course I jumped at the opportunity. Heck, why wouldn’t I take all the credit for being a hero mom? I sensed exultation and accolades, and I wanted in.

Before long, a veritable cornucopia of Hot Wheels tracks, stunts cars, playsets and more arrived at our front door. The boys were in heaven! They immediately wanted to rip into the toys, but I cautioned that they’d have to wait, as we were tasked with participating in a Hot Wheels Track Builder Challenge. This meant that I’d be inviting over some of their friends, having a little party, and challenging them to build the most epic Hot Wheels track ever. Sounds like fun, right? Gentlemen, start your engines!

Hot Wheels Track Builder ChallengeOkay, so there’s only one car at the start line. And that’s because there was only one boy at our “party” – Ryder. Now before you start feeling sorry for him for having no friends, let me explain.

It’s been a hard month. We’ve had an illness in the family, and I’ve been struggling to juggle the demands of momhood, business, family travel… and life’s little curve balls. Although we had originally settled on a date for the track challenge party, our guests had to postpone. Then we had to postpone. And then life got crazy. And every time I thought to myself, “Damn, I really have to host that party with the boys and the cars and the tracks and the noise…” … I shuddered a little.

So yes, it’s pretty much my fault.

But then, in between planning yet another playdate and trying to sync everyone’s schedule, it occurred to me that Hot Wheels are about play. So, I unceremoniously tore apart all the boxes, dumped some tracks on the backyard patio, and I told Ryder to play. And he did. From generation to generation, the trusted Hot Wheels brand has ensured hours of fun for children of all ages. The newest playsets are just as enjoyable, with innovation and ingenuity that is both anticipated and appealing.  (more…)

family

Baby on Board: #CMRCarSeatSafety

They’re a part of your child’s life for a very long time. Sure – they’ll outgrow their cribs, high chairs and strollers – and mercifully, you’ll be able to say goodbye to diapers after a few years too. But from infant car seat to combination to booster seat, your child’s road safety for many years is dependent on a quality, correctly installed car seat.

Have a child or one on the way? Join The CMR’s Car Seat Expert for a #CMRCarSeatSafety Twitter Party, tomorrow night at 9pm EST. We’ll share car seat safety tips and answer your most frequent questions surrounding purchase and installation. Of course, to thank you for joining, we’ll be giving away over $1500 in prizes, including FOUR Evenflo Platinum Symphony car seats!

cmr_carseatsafety_twitterparty_promo_4This chat is especially important for parents-to-be, as we’ll be sharing some valuable insight surrounding car seat legislation and our Car Seat Expert Wendy (@mapsgirl) will be available to direct you to local resources should you require further assistance.

In addition to car seats, we’ll have other terrific prizes up for grabs that EVERYONE can enjoy! Click here to RSVP now and see you on Thursday night!

Contests

AIR MILES Cash = Instant Gratification

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

Chances are, you participate in at least one rewards program you don’t quite understand.

How many reward miles  equal a dollar? How are rewards applied? How do I earn reward miles? And most importantly… how the heck can I redeem them?

It can be *slightly* tricky, especially when you have to convert reward miles into dollars. Now for those saving up for a dream vacation, I suppose the learning curve is well worth it. But what if you’re an “in-the-moment” kind of person who wants instant gratification? That is, what if you want to simply earn, spend, and repeat? If this sounds like you – rejoice! AIR MILES Cash is right up your alley.

AIR MILES Cash

And now, there’s a NEW way to redeem with AIR MILES Cash! Not only can you redeem instantly in-store at participating Sponsors, but you can also redeem online, giving you even more flexibility and the chance to choose how your AIR MILES reward miles are redeemed.

(I’m an online shopaholic and I approve this redemption feature.)

The new AIR MILES Cash eVoucher feature makes it easy to take cash off everyday purchases like movie tickets, groceries, apps and music, cab rides or even your daily latte fix, thanks to a variety of popular participating partners. Here’s what you need to know:

1) First, sign up for AIR MILES Cash at www.airmiles.ca/cash and set a balance preference. Any reward miles earned going forward will be deposited in your AIR MILES Cash and/or Dream balances related to the preference you have set. For example, 100% Cash, 100% Dream, or a preference in between!

2) You must have at least 95 reward miles in your AIR MILES Cash balance in order to redeem. Ninety-five (95) reward miles from an AIR MILES Cash balance can be redeemed online for $10 or more worth of value at participating Reward Partners, or you can redeem right in-store at participating partners for cash off your bill. For example, if you have 960 miles in your AIR MILES Cash balance, you can redeem for eVouchers up to $100 in value (950 reward miles = $100 in eVoucher value). What did I tell you? Instant gratification.

3) You can redeem up to a maximum $750 value in eVouchers per day, across all eVoucher partners.  (more…)