Kids will Flip for Flip4Gold!

April 18, 2016

“I hate math,” my seven-year old says, pushing his homework aside.
“But you’re so good at it!” I counter, trying to find the right level of enthusiasm.
“It’s boring,” he replies, as if it’s obvious.

Truth is, math IS boring. Arithmetic, with its rules and repetition, goes against everything my free-spirited little dreamer embraces. He loves colours, musical notes and a world that’s lit in bright, vibrant technicolour. (Translation: he’s like every other child growing up with technology at his fingertips.) And today, there’s no shortage of educational apps and games available, created to make learning fun and assist in the development of essential skills.

One such app is Flip4Gold, a math game consisting of four rows of nine tiles each using dice and flash cards to create multiplication, division, addition and subtraction equations to be solved.
IMG_2190Now, you may be thinking – Another educational app? What makes this one different from the others? Well, it’s simple: Flip4Gold concentrates on strengthening one core skill – mental math – and does it really, really well.  (more…)

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Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup) – The Fast Slow Pro Way!

April 14, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Growing up, it was the most horrific small appliance in my mom’s arsenal of horrific small appliances. I can still picture it: a turbulent aluminum contraption, rattling, hissing and spurting bursts of steam violently until I was certain it would explode, blanketing the kitchen with shards of beef bones and perfectly flavoured broth.

My few encounters with my mom’s pressure cooker was enough to put me off them for life.

However, rave reviews for Breville’s Fast Slow Pro started popping up everywhere. A modern day combination pressure and slow cooker, which moms like me – with no HAZMAT or ninja training – were using with ease and producing mouth-watering results… it was almost too good to be true! I had to check it out for myself, and Breville graciously obliged, sending over a Fast Slow Pro for me to experience.

Folks, I am in love. Pho Ga (Vietnamese Chicken Noodle Soup), made on my very first try with the Fast Slow Pro. It was flavourful, authentic-tasting and ready in under an hour.
DSC_0198aI suppose the first, and most important, fact to share is that today’s pressure cookers are nowhere near as frightening as models from years past. Breville’s simple controls and exclusive dual sensor technology remove the guess work – detecting when and how the pressure should be released, while monitoring time and temperature for perfect results every time, no matter the dish.  (more…)

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It’s Tax Time! Your Questions… Answered! #HRBrep

April 11, 2016

If you’d rather (insert torturous activity here) than do your taxes, trust me, you’re not alone.

April is upon us, and that means it’s tax time! If your 2015 return has been prepared, filed and you’ve already spent your refund, congratulations – you are a much better person than me. I’m still trying to sort through receipts, invoices and… oh, never mind. I’ll worry about it next week :)Now, if you’ve been attending our #HowtoRefund Twitter Chats with H&R Block Canada, you’ve already been privy to a wealth of knowledge and advice from their tax experts. And this year, it’s easier than ever to get things done: you can DIY with H&R Block’s FREE Online Tax Software or visit your nearest H&B Block tax office and have an expert do the work for you. And step to it! There are less than three weeks to the deadline!

(Tax questions? Our third and final #HowtoRefund Twitter Chat is taking place on Tuesday, April 19th at 8PM EST. Tune in for last-minute tax advice and the chance to win Visa Gift Cards!)  (more…)

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The Chic Retreat

April 7, 2016

If you didn’t attend our #TimetoRefreshContest Twitter Party last night, it may already be too late.

On trend pieces for home décor? Check.
Affordable prices? Check.
A desire to purchase everything in the collection? Check!

And, it is selling out like crazy. I may have placed a piece or two in my shopping cart last night!
824pmLENAIntroducing the Chic Retreat collection from Walmart. A limited offering for Spring 2016, this style driven collection offers a full range of linens, furniture, décor and accessories, making it easy and affordable to decorate an entire room or simply add a piece or two to update existing décor in bed, bath and living.  (more…)

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Make Your Teeth a BIG Deal

April 4, 2016

Confession: I’m only *mildly* obsessed with my teeth.

I brush and floss twice a day and use an interdental pick to get in between my bonded retainer. I rinse with an antiseptic mouthwash at least once daily and visit my dentist like clockwork every four months. I used to whiten my teeth aggressively with at-home whitening strips, a practice I abandoned in recent years, preferring to simply stay on top of my oral hygiene for a more natural look.

odaAnd what can I say? I have a great smile.

April is Oral Health Month! If it’s been a while since you’ve seen your dentist, now would be a perfect time to make an appointment. Regular dentist visits are the very best way to detect oral (and overall) health problems you might not know you have, and prevent them before they start.

Need a little more convincing? Here are 10 Reasons to Make Your Teeth a Big Deal!

1. Your Appearance. *Of course, * I’m going to get a little vain here. Your smile lights up your face; it’s high on the list of “attractive qualities” for both men and women alike. Your smile is also part of your first impression, which is essential for both social and professional interactions.

2. Your Self-Esteem. Oral health affects physical, mental and social well-being. If you have tooth pain, are missing teeth or experience frequent tooth infections, it can have an impact on how you speak, eat and socialize. Keeping your teeth in optimal condition goes a long way to boost your self-esteem.  (more…)

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A Cleaner Dishwasher? Now THAT’s Affresh!

April 2, 2016

Have you been lucky enough to come across a product you just can’t live without? You know, one that totally changes your life, and you can’t believe it took so long for you to discover it?

That’s exactly how I feel about affresh Washer Cleaner. And, if you’re one of the thousands of Canadians who have Googled “how to get rid of sewer smell in front load washing machine”, chances are it’s your miracle product, too.

And now, I’m over the moon about affresh Dishwasher Cleaner! I had started to suspect that my dishwasher was under-performing; my stemware was slightly filmy, my plates and bowls were often not clean enough.

(Not to mention, but I will anyways, a musty odor. No one wants to eat off dishes that came from a funky washer, am I right?)

I fiddled with the rinse agent and even poked around the dishwasher to see if there was a problem, when all of a sudden, the heavens parted and I realized my dishwasher likely just needed a good cleaning. Of course! I couldn’t believe I hadn’t thought of it sooner – it was pretty gnarly in there! And since I consider affresh Washer Cleaner my personal salvation, you know I couldn’t wait to get my hands on affresh Dishwater Cleaner.
DSC_0185bThe promise: affresh Dishwater Cleaner powers away hard water and mineral deposits to keep your dishwasher working its best.

The outcome: Heck yes! If you’re just about to begin your spring cleaning, you’ll want to add this product to your shopping list. Promise. And don’t worry – if you’re feeling mildly alarmed that you’ve never cleaned your dishwasher before, you’re not alone: while cleaning inside your appliances is an important step to keep them working their best, only 25% of Canadians have cleaned inside their dishwashers in the last 12 months.  (more…)

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It’s Tradition! Toronto Blue Jays Season Opener Party!

March 31, 2016

Today, traditions are falling by the wayside. The rituals that generations before me delighted in – like family get togethers, religious commitments and more – have been shrugged off because we simply don’t have the time to keep them going.

Truth is, we don’t make the time.

2016 is the year for me to begin new traditions with my family and friends. To start, what better way to get people together than with sports, food and fun? That’s why the Toronto Blue Jays Season Opener on Sunday, April 3rd is the perfect way for me to start a new Almeida Family tradition.
bautistaHere’s what I’ll need:

Food. Of course I’ll need food, it’s a party after all! And since Schneiders is the Official Hot Dog of the Toronto Blue Jays, you know I’ll be serving up Schneiders hot dogs and sausages. Additionally, I’ll be sure to have other ballpark favourites on hand, such as popcorn, nachos and cheese, ice cream bars and of course, beer! (With a designated driver, always.)  (more…)

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COVERGIRL: Embrace Your Face

March 29, 2016

Welcome to Spring! It’s my favourite season of the year – and I’m not just saying that because my birthday is coming up in two weeks!

Spring is about renewal. It’s about shrugging off the heavy layers (both physically and metaphorically) that we endured all winter, and looking forward to longer, brighter days. It’s also a great time to lighten up: our diets, clothing, hair colour, and even our makeup routine.

This Spring, embrace your face with COVERGIRL! In just 30 seconds, you can get matched to your perfect foundation based on the coverage you need, your skin type and skin tone, and the preferred makeup finish you are looking for. Personally, I love buildable coverage for my dry skin, with a natural look for my medium complexion. According to the #EmbraceYourFace Makeup Finder, I was matched with TruBLEND Liquid Makeup!
IMG_1765cTruBLEND Liquid Makeup is available in 14 shades and features a new shade matching system. To find your perfect blend, first determine your shade family. Second, choose your number. Coordinate complementary truBLEND products based on your number for a seamlessly flawless nude look that blends in and virtually disappears.

I’m wearing truBLEND foundation in Golden Beige M-3, with a light dusting of TRUblend Pressed Powder in Translucent Honey 3. I wore a strapless top to illustrate how closely the liquid makeup matches my natural skin tone; as you can see, it is a touch more rosy than my yellow-based skin, but overall, I’m quite happy with the shade and ease of application.  (more…)

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When Spring Gives You Ice Storms…

March 24, 2016

… You curl up into a ball and cry. Sure, I thought I was incredibly cool, posting just a few days ago how I had survived March Break.

“Get out of my house!” I said.
“Go back to school!” I said.
“I finally have freedom!”…. I thought.

And then, thanks to a little ice storm, the kids are home again. Just before the Easter weekend. Which means a FIVE-day weekend, less than a week after March Break.

I haven’t survived at all.

Today? Today I’ve got nothing for you. Today I will be making breakfast and lunch for the little ones, rescheduling one meeting and two conference calls, and counting to five before I snap. Today is a day for decorating Easter Eggs and watching Disney movies in pajamas.

So, here’s a smorgasbord of a few things I’ve been working on. Wishing you a joyous Easter!

1. EASTER GIVEAWAY! Hop to it Canadians – Enter to win 1 of 3 $1,000 Mattel Easter Baskets!
EasterSweeps_FacebookThe sweepstakes ends on April 1, 2016, at 11:59 p.m. ET, so you’ve still got time to enter! Good luck – what a special treat for a lucky child (or children) in your life!  (more…)

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At the Table: Easter Traditions

March 21, 2016

Family and food, in that order. That’s what is on my mind every time a holiday approaches, and Easter is no different. Growing up, we didn’t have an Easter tradition, per se; we simply enjoyed a robust, home cooked meal – perhaps on a slightly grander scale than average. On the other hand, my husband’s European family celebrates Easter with a decidedly lighter menu: a selection of meats and cheeses, complemented with freshly baked bread and assorted pickles. And now that I’m all grown up, and a wife and mother, I’m in charge of starting our own family tradition. For Easter, it’s a blend of the two: I like to serve an abundance of finger foods, with substance.

Moroccan-spiced lamb kebabs with mint chutney. Tangy watermelon and feta salad. Roasted eggplant with Parmesan and parsley. Ricotta-stuffed pasta shells. And this year, a brand new addition: Rosemary and Onion Flatbread with Mozzafina di Latte, Prosciutto, Cherry Tomatoes and Arugula.
DSC_0136aNever before have I tasted such a heady, earthy flavour combination. The fresh Mozzafina di Latte, a fresh soft cheese ball with a creamy, delicate white texture, adds necessary richness without overwhelming the palate. The salty prosciutto is offset by the sweetness of the cherry tomatoes, and the peppery arugula punches through at the end. All this is balanced by an herb-encrusted flat bread, which brings comfort and structure to the dish.  (more…)

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I Survived March Break.

March 21, 2016

I survived two spilled milks (one on my bedroom rug). I survived twenty-two temper tantrums. I survived one lost remote control, four late night arguments, forty-six rounds of “he called me ____” or “____” or “____” and six broken boxes. I survived another March Break.
DSC_0150Sure, kid, you’re cute. Now get out of your box house, rip off those sunglasses and go to school. Yes, I know you’re sad that the holiday is over. No, you can’t stay home with mommy for one. more. second.


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2016 Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival

March 18, 2016

If you’re lucky enough to visit Walt Disney World from March 2 – May 30 this year, you’re in for a treat! You can experience the annual Epcot International Flower & Garden Festival, FREE to guests with valid park admission. This year, it takes place for an unprecedented 90 days!The festival authentically has something for everyone. For foodies, Outdoor Kitchens offer delectable small plates and flavorful non-alcoholic and alcoholic beverages. The kiddos will adore the brand new Harmony Gardens Musical Playground, featuring state-of-the-art net climbers. And for the nature-lovers in your travel party, feast your eyes on more than 70 world-renowned Disney-themed topiaries, vibrant gardens and wildlife habitats.  (more…)

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Do It Yourself: Baby-to-Be Baskets

March 17, 2016

I’ve always been hands-on when it comes to gifts for little ones, and if I can make it myself, I prefer the personal touch. For a while after my first son was born, I went through a phase of creating custom scrapbook pages for fellow new parents. It was therapeutic and a great way to have a little time to myself, especially after spending most of the day (and night) with a newborn.

Later, I discovered the simple joy of putting together baby-to-be and new baby gift baskets. Using novelty items like teddy bears, weaved in with necessities like body and bath products, it was a great way to add a personal touch to gift giving.
Aveeno Baby-Soothing ReliefAlthough it’s been some time since I’ve created a baby basket, the principals remain the same! Pictured above, a “Welcome Baby” basket from The Basket Company.

If you’re creating your own baby-to-be or new baby basket, here’s what you need to do.

1. Select a theme. It can be as simple as girl or boy-themed, or a little more imaginative, like a “Baby Essentials” basket for new parents or perhaps a “Calming” basket to promote good sleep vibes. Choosing a theme for the basket will make it easier for you to decide on the contents and establish a spending budget.  (more…)

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Maybe I’m Not Offended.

March 15, 2016

You won’t find this t-shirt at Forever 21. It was removed from its stores and online shop over social outrage (translation: Twitter Fingers) that the t-shirt promoted rape culture. In fact, the backlash was so severe that the brand instantly pulled the shirt off its website, offering, “Forever 21 strives to exemplify the highest ethical standards and takes feedback and product concerns very seriously… We sincerely apologize to anyone who was offended by the product.”

Exhibit A: The t-shirt in question. Let’s discuss.maybe2Without knowing the context behind the outrage, at first glance, I’m not offended by this t-shirt at all. In fact, the opposite may be true: I can interpret this statement to be one of empowerment.

Don’t say maybe if you want to say no. To my sons, stand your ground. If you’re considering the moral, ethical or legal ramifications of following through with a decision, err on the side of caution and be true to yourself and what I’ve taught you. Be strong and have the guts to swim against the current, and while others may be persuaded, have the courage to walk away. Saying “maybe” often opens a door that is better off closed; if you want to say no, just say no.  (more…)

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Travel in Style! RALPH LAUREN Parker Leather Tote

March 11, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

The sun is shining… the birds are singing… it’s the perfect time to get away! Now you *may* have noticed that I’ve had travel on my brain lately – between vacation reviews, our Sunwing Twitter Parties and my radio segments on What She Said – I’m itching to get away! The good news? There’s less than two months to the Disney Social Media Moms Celebration, which I’ll be once again attending with my family. Orlando, here we come!

Until then, I’m pleased to offer my readers a chance to travel in style with your own RALPH LAUREN Parker Leather Tote! Available at Hudson’s Bay, this classic leather tote is wonderfully lightweight and offers adjustable straps at each side to make it even more spacious. Stash your passport, sunglasses and a few magazines, and you’re ready for your next adventure!

tote– Double top handles, 9″ drop
– Top zip closure
– Removable leather luggage tag
– Signature “LRL” monogram at the front
– Adjustable straps at each side
– Inside slip pocket
– 13″ W x 11″ H x 6.5″ D
– Leather, Imported
– Available in three colours

The tote retails for $248.00 but you can now grab it for $20 off with code SPRING at Hudson’s Bay. And, if black isn’t your jam, you can also purchase it in beige or white.

(Though I love the timelessness of a good black tote, wouldn’t you agree?)

To enter, simply fill the form below with your qualifying entries. Good luck everyone, and happy travels this spring! Click here to purchase the RALPH LAUREN Parker Leather Tote.  (more…)

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Disney Fantasy: Date Night at Sea

March 9, 2016

Today, I’m here to lay to rest any notion that a vacation with Disney Cruise Line is for kids, only.

Adults can unwind at Quiet Cove, an adult-exclusive pool, offering tranquil solitude, ocean breezes and spectacular views. At night, you can delight in live music, cabaret shows, dance parties, karaoke and more at venues that cater exclusively to adults when the sun sets. You can even treat yourself to rejuvenating spa therapies, get a makeover or enjoy an invigorating workout – all in scenic, modern facilities.

And, you can savor fine, elegant French-inspired cuisine at Remy.
DSC_2469aCheers, husband! You make 40 look good. Our date night on board the Disney Fantasy was everything we were hoping for: time alone to reconnect as a couple, a chance to engage in uninterrupted adult conversation, and of course, the opportunity to savour the finest French fare.

I’m not exaggerating when I say that our meal at Remy was the best of our lives.

There are several factors that led to our enjoyment. First, and most importantly, was the knowledge that our children were well looked after, well entertained, and well into forgetting we existed! At Disney’s Oceaneer Club, our boys were immersed in character-driven performances, special storytelling sessions, larger-than-life playgrounds and cool interactive activities. Is it any wonder they were more than happy to give us space for a few hours?

And, knowing that they were in the trusted hands of Disney cast members went a long way to help us relax and enjoy the moment. No fighting traffic, no checking our watches. The boys were a phone call away, and we were in seventh heaven.  (more…)

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Travelling this Spring? Avoid Five Carry-On Mistakes

March 9, 2016

Trust me, I’ve made mistakes when it comes to travel. *Many* mistakes. And if you’re vacationing with kids this season, I really don’t want you to leave your diaper bag on your porch (that’s never happened), forget about a Swiss Army knife in your purse (only one time!) or have a situation with orange soda and white jeans (which we shall never speak of again). In fact, I want your travels to be organized and relatively painless – which is why I’m sharing the Top Five Carry-On Mistakes, and tips on how you can avoid them.
carryNow we all know carry-on luggage is necessary when travelling with your family. Being trapped in an airplane with a child… for hours… is actually a special kind of torture. You’ll need everything from snacks and activities to electronics and stuffies. And the following list isn’t a packing list: you can Google “what to pack when travelling with kids”, and I encourage you to do so. The following list is simply a rundown of some of the most common mistakes parents make when it comes to getting ready for a flight. Avoid these carry-on mistakes at all costs, and it will be smooth sailing (er, flying?) for you!  (more…)

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#DermWednesday: Putting a Spring in Your Step!

March 7, 2016

If I think about one of the most overlooked and neglected parts of my body, it has to be my feet. Dry, cracked heels… chipped nail polish… rough callouses. You too? Especially after a long winter, our tender tootsies are just begging for a little TLC.

Cerave GraphicThis week, our #DermWednesday Twitter Chat tackles the subject of foot care! Specifically, what cleansers and moisturizers you can use to improve the appearance and texture of you feet, just in time for the warmer weather. As always, Dr. Ben Barankin from The Toronto Dermatology Centre will be there to answer any of your skin care questions and/or concerns.

To thank you for joining the conversation, three (3) attendees will win a CeraVe Prize Bundle, including a selection of CeraVe’s must-have cleansers and moisturizers!

For my dry, cracked heels, I always slather on CeraVe Moisturizing Cream immediately after my morning shower, followed by a pair of clean cotton socks. The cream increases the skin’s ability to attract, hold and distribute moisture, and is recognized by the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Skin Health Program.

Follow @CeraVeCanada and @DermatologyTDC on Twitter, and see you on Wednesday night!

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It’s Not Easy Being Sneezy.

March 4, 2016

“So, what do you like to do on weekends?” he asked casually, leaning back in the restaurant booth.

“Oh, you know, this and that,” I answered dismissively, hoping to discourage further conversation about interests and hobbies.

“Do you like to camp?”

Er… I shook my head quickly, picking at the chips and guac.

“Long walks in the woods? Drives in the country? Beach sports?” he continued, an endless barrage of questions now flowing freely from his lips.

“I have allergies!” I blurted suddenly. “I hate the outdoors!”

And that, my friends, is how to kill a first date.

It’s not easy being sneezy. I’ve suffered with hay fever for more than half my life – that’s almost 20 years of itchy, watery eyes, a drippy, running nose, and of course, relentless, endless sneezing. Outdoor allergens are produced by plants, trees, grass and weeds, but I’m mostly at the mercy of pollen, the most common outdoor allergen. It’s lightweight, airborne, and takes no prisoners.
pollenI’m not alone. Up to twenty-five percent of Canadians suffer from hay fever. For many, “allergy season” starts in early spring (ahem, RIGHT NOW!) and goes until the first frost of autumn. Translation: it’s possible to spend 3/4 of the year in hay fever hell.  (more…)

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March: In Like a Lion…

March 1, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Welcome to March! And as I refresh The Weather Network for the umpteenth time to check when the winter storm will arrive, I can only concede that there’s some truth to the ol’ saying.

So today, instead of stressing about the inclement weather (kids have been shipped off to school), the inevitable snow shoveling (it’s a good workout after all) or the incessant storm reporting on the news (not like we live in Canada or anything), I’m going to colour.
colourPhoto: Colourwithclaire via Instgram

Have you tried your hand (pun intended) at the new adult colouring trend? According to the American Art Therapy Association, art therapy is a mental health profession in which the process of making and creating artwork is used to “explore feelings, reconcile emotional conflicts, foster self-awareness, manage behavior and addictions, develop social skills, improve reality orientation, reduce anxiety and increase self-esteem.” (Source(more…)

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