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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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#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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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…)

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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.

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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…)

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Moms, Now is the Time for YOU: Healing Mix

September 21, 2014

I often feel we’re programmed to answer the question “How are you?” a certain way – namely, “Good”, “Fine”, “Great”, or the ever popular “Can’t Complain!”

Until recently, there was only one way I truly wanted to answer that question: “Tired.”

You may remember my previous post about Now For Mothers Healing Mix

“I’m tired all the time. In fact, from the moment I gave birth to Ryder six years ago, I’ve never felt truly rested. First, it was the stress of post pregnancy – nighttime feedings, hormonal imbalances, and postpartum blues that ebbed and flowed for almost a year. Then, it was keeping up with a feisty, curious toddler… while caring for his newborn baby brother. And later, it was balancing both boys and my inhuman drive to succeed – and while it’s been great for business, there have been casualties along the way: my health, stamina, diet, energy… you could say I’m constantly juggling a few too many balls in the air.”

At the time, I introduced you to Healing Mix, a Superfood for ALL moms taken from the first day of giving birth continuously for up to six years afterwards. The continuous benefits of Healing Mix include:

– Stimulates energy flow and increases metabolism
– Stabilizes blood sugar levels for sustained energy
– Assists in reducing congestion and phlegm in the body
– Aids in flushing toxins from the system

Today, I’m here to tell you that I’ve been enjoying it every single day for just over a month. And I’m here to tell you that it works.
Now for Mothers Healing MixFirst and foremost, it’s delicious. I’m not exactly sure what I was expecting, but whenever I hear the words “supplement”, “all-natural” or “organic”, I generally brace myself for a dirt-like concoction that I have to pinch my nose to swallow. Not the case with Healing Mix. The all-natural formula is nutty, slightly sweet and very tasty – the perfect accompaniment to smoothies, yogurt, warm milk, or even straight from the package.  (more…)

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Fancy Winning Toys for a YEAR? #fpsmartstages

September 18, 2014

Picture it: You’ve just purchased a toy for your little one, or a little one you know. It’s cute, it’s colourful, and you’re sure he or she will love it… between the ages of six to twelve months, because according to the manufacturer’s claim, that’s how long it’s appropriate for. After that, you’ll have to buy a new toy, of course. And another. And then another.

Well, that’s great. And I’m sure it’s a great toy too! But what if I told you that you could purchase a universally-loved, quality toy from one of the most trusted toy companies on the planet… and that toy would grow with the child for months and months – or even years?

Introducing Fisher-Price Smart Stages technology, an exciting new way to change learning content as baby grows. Every baby develops at his/her own pace, and Smart Stages gives you the ability to select the stage that’s best for your child. There are a variety of developmentally appropriate songs, phrases and sounds within the three levels of play – just slide the switch or enter baby’s age for automatic level changes.

In a nutshell, that means you can get A LOT more play out of the same toy!

Fisher-Price Laugh & Learn products reward curiosity and encourage experiential learning through play. We know baby develops dramatically in the first two years of life, so Fisher-Price has created the first line of toys that evolves with age-appropriate learning content as your baby grows. The content keeps the baby engaged as he/she develops, and offers longevity of play value to parents!

(Now THAT’s ingenious.)

Want to learn more? Let’s make a play date… we’ll call it, oh, the #fpsmartstages Twitter Party!

FP GraphicIn addition to sharing the latest information on Fisher-Price Smart Stages technology, we’ll have some incredible prizes up for grabs:

2 prizes of a Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Chair + a $50 Visa Gift Card
4 prizes of a Laugh & Learn Smart Stages Toy + a $100 Visa Gift Card
Grand Prize is TOYS FOR A YEAR! (12 of Fisher-Price’s Most Popular Toys!)

RSVP below for your chance to win, and see you on Wednesday night! (more…)

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AIR MILES Onyx: Meet Your Personal Shopper

September 16, 2014

From time to time, I get ridiculously excited and just have to share some shopaholic intel.

This is just like the time I uncovered those UGGs at 50% off. And almost better than that unadvertised Black Friday sale at Tory Burch. And it’s definitely as good as the Urban Barn Outlet in Scarborough. Now ladies and gentlemen… I’d like to introduce the Personal Shopper Service, available only to AIR MILES Onyx members.

But first, a refresher. The AIR MILES Onyx program is a way to thank their best Collectors with exclusive benefits. There’s no application process, or hoops you have to jump through, because you will automatically qualify for the AIR MILES Onyx program by earning at least 6,000 AIR MILES reward miles during one calendar year. Onyx members enjoy a variety of perks and special services, including greater access to airline seats, 20% fewer reward miles needed to redeem for seasonal activities, free movie passes to select films, special monthly giveaways, and more. And, in my humble opinion, the best benefit of all? Access to the personal shopper service.

(Let us all pause for a moment to pay homage to this shoppertunistic service.)

To fully understand the awesomeness, I’ll need to break it down for you. Now pay attention, because once you achieve Onyx status, you’ll want to take advantage of this tout de suite. Trust me.

First, the scenarios. Let’s just say you’re an AIR MILES Onyx Collector and have a bunch of reward miles in your Dream balance, but aren’t really sure how you should redeem them. You’ve perused the AIR MILES online catalogue, but you just can’t decide what to choose. You want to treat yourself, but aren’t sure if you want to part with your miles unless something really rocks your world.

In the second scenario, you are lusting after a pair of designer shoes. You are desperate to have them, but always talk yourself out of the purchase, because it seems like a lot of money, and you rationalize that it could be better put to use. You are an AIR MILES Onyx Collector, but strappy Sam Edelman sandals are not in the reward catalogue.

kate-upton for Sam EdelmenBut what if you could use AIR MILES reward miles to “buy” merchandise that is NOT in the catalogue?

Welcome to The World of Onyx; specifically, the Personal Shopper Service.

Says AIR MILES: “We have a team dedicated to finding and getting you a variety of rewards outside of the online catalogue using reward miles from your Dream balance. Whether it’s the latest tablet for your daughter’s birthday or that designer watch you’ve had your eye on, we dare you to dream of new ways to be rewarded.” YES!!

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Get the Look: Jennifer Aniston

September 15, 2014

The truth is, I was on Team Jolie.

Yeah, I know the supposed feud went down about 10 years ago, and the only people who still care are the overly enthusiastic commenters on gossip websites. (Side note: have you ever read the comments on www.usmagazine.com? They’re actually more entertaining than the article!)

But I digress. My reason for sticking with Ms. Jolie was one of simple fact: you can’t steal a man. Either a man wants to leave his wife, or he doesn’t. Unfortunately for both Angelina and Jennifer, they were unwilling participants in the tug-of-war of the century.

Of course, when Brad Pitt is the grand prize, I *almost* understand, and forgive, the hype.

And aside from Jennifer’s stoic resolve to stay respectful when speaking to the media, I had to admire one thing…. her otherworldly incredible hair and skin. Truly! There is just something so flawless about her beauty, from her perfectly bronzed skin to her thick veil of stylishly coiffed locks. She is a beauty and style icon; an ambassador to those who revere a fresh, natural look.

Recently, AVEENO Global Ambassador Jennifer Aniston showed off her glowing skin at the premiere of her upcoming film, Cake. Aniston’s make-up artist, Angela Levin, created the star’s natural look, which she debuted at the Toronto Film Festival. And I just happen to have all the beauty tips, straight from Angela Levin herself!

"Cake" Premiere - 2014 Toronto International Film Festival“I started the day by prepping Jen’s skin with AVEENO POSITIVELY RADIANT Skin Brightening Daily Scrub. It’s very gentle and leaves the skin feeling clean and fresh, making it a perfect surface for makeup application.

I proceeded by applying AVEENO POSITIVELY RADIANT Daily Moisturizer SPF 15 on her face and neck. Jen loves this moisturizer – it feels light on the skin and is very effective in keeping it hydrated and toned throughout the day.

I then applied a light coat of foundation by CHANEL Perfection Lumière Velvet, in two colors – 60 Beige on her neck and outer areas of her face and 50 Beige in the center.

I then used CHANEL Les Beiges in N50 as a bronzer on her forehead, chin and cheek using the brush that comes with the compact. I love this product because it’s matte and I can build the application to heavier or lighter.

For her cheeks, I mixed CHANEL Cream Blush in Chamade with Make Up Forever Cream Blush 335 and gently applied using my fingers, creating a sun kissed natural look.  (more…)

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Welcome to My NEW Website!

September 13, 2014

Come on in! Make yourself at home. Take a look around (but don’t look too closely, as I’m still ironing out the glitches). Welcome to my brand new website; a little more grown up, a little more sass.

This project was a long time in the making, because frankly, I was pretty attached to my old site. But when my trusted design guru, Juan Beltran, convinced me that he could create an even better site than the first one he conceptualized for me, I gave in. “Have at it,” I said. “Impress me.”

So, he set out to design a custom website that is inspired by the unique elements of my old Listen to Lena site, while introducing new touches that modernize the overall look. And I couldn’t be happier! It looks like me. It feels like me. It is me.

There’s a reason I have design gurus in my life. 

So stay a while! I hope you love the refresh as much as I do.

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