Here’s a “Tip”: Try this Recipe for Bourbon Street Chicken!

February 27, 2016

Tell me. Tell me you’re guilty of spending too much time on Facebook watching 60-second “Buzzfeed Food”, “Tasty” and “Tip Hero” videos.

Tell me that your tummy rumbles as you witness the ooey gooey delicious snack foods, main courses and desserts be created with astonishing clarity before your very eyes. Tell me that you gaze at the calorie-laden, mostly-overloaded-with-cheese dishes and think, OMG that looks soo good.

Me too, friends… me too.

However, I wasn’t necessarily inspired to try to recreate one of the dishes until recently. It was Family Day, dinner was up in the air, and I really didn’t want to spend hours in the kitchen. So, like a sign from heaven, I happened to scroll across Maple Leaf Prime’s Facebook post:

“At home with the family today? FYI there’s still time to make this Slow Cooker Bourbon Street Chicken from Tip Hero for dinner tonight. ‪#‎delish”

I couldn’t believe it. I actually had all the ingredients on hand! And since it was 2:00PM, I had just enough time to pop them into the slow cooker for four hours. I rushed downstairs, followed the ridiculously simple recipe, and that night, we had the most delicious Family Day meal!
DSC_0132a(Confession: I don’t know how to make this meal photograph well. But I promise, it was scrumptious. That was just one of three Bourbon Street Chicken sliders that I had. And I want another right now!)

This easy chicken recipe is sweet, saucy and packed with flavor. Plus – it’s a slow cooker dish! So, you can spend your precious minutes with your family, not slaving over the stove. Here’s how.  (more…)

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A Parent’s Wish. A Child’s Future. Because it Matters.

February 23, 2016

When I was a young girl, the script went something like this:

You need to study hard and go to a good school and get a stable job in an office.

That, my friends, is the extent of the career counselling I received from my parents. And I don’t blame them for their lack of inspirational advice; they were simply following a cultural norm, one that dictated that children should be fed, clothed and educated – with the fervent hope that their post-secondary education would lead them to a cushy, 9-5, “white collar” job.

(Do we still use that term in 2016?)

So I did it. I went through school, I landed the office job, and I proceeded to establish a career – one that, at first glance, seemed glossy and full of promise, but in reality, was far from perfect. Because I carried a chip on my shoulder.

I was angry at my parents for putting education on a pedestal without considering my passions and aspirations. I was angry at myself for complacently following along, lacking the appropriate motivation to challenge the status quo. I was angry that I couldn’t get a raise, couldn’t lose 5 pounds and couldn’t find a way to rewind the clock.

In the end, I got it “write”.

This is a picture of my two boys on their first day of school last September.
IMG_0413 (2)Who will they become? What will they be? As I watch them grow, mature, and find inspiration in the world around them, I’m full of hope for their futures. Because whether they choose to be an actor or an analyst, a fashion designer or a fire chief, the world is their oyster and the opportunities are endless. And, unlike generations before me, I don’t have a set expectation of what defines success.  (more…)

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Vacationing in Paradise? Watch Out for Unwanted Travel Companions.

February 22, 2016

The countdown is on! We’re just three weeks away from March Break, and for Canadians, that means a large percentage of us will be travelling down south to sunny destinations. If you’re one of the lucky ones who is getting away, have a fruity drink for me, mmmkay?
fruityNow, you know I want you to have the BEST vacation ever, which means that *of course* you should be prepared with the information you need for #HealthyTravels. If you missed our Twitter Party last week, fear not! I’m here to share some of the most important takeaways with you today.  (more…)

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Start Enjoying The Great Indoors!

February 20, 2016

Ah, Canadian winter. (Cold, Canadian winter.) As the snow falls lightly to the ground and the landscape turns into a picturesque…

Oh, stuff it. If you need me, I’ll be indoors.

Celebrate #TheGreatIndoors with @Schneiders, @MapleLeafFoods and @MapleLeafPrime and have a chance to TWEET LIVE with Kevin Pillar (@KPILLAR4) of the Toronto Blue Jays! Join our Twitter Party on Tuesday, February 23rd at 8:00PM EST. There is no RSVP; simply join the conversation, tag your tweets with #TheGreatOutdoors and tweet to win.
KP Twitter Party (2)Psst… See that little shopping bag with oh, “$5,000 in Prizes” noted? Heck yeah! We know Maple Leaf Foods Twitter Parties are all about delicious food, helpful tips and recipe inspiration – okay, we know they’re about prizes too! And this time, many attendees will walk away with awesome swag.

Would you rather take the game inside, too? Don’t worry, Appehtite has you covered. Introducing the The Great Indoors Playbook; here, you’ll find fun indoor versions of your favourite outdoor activities, plus delicious recipes that you can snack on while you play.  (more…)

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It’s a Shopping Spree, on a Budget. It’s a Match Made in Heaven.

February 19, 2016

I get it, I really do. It’s an oxymoron, I know. *How* could I treat myself to a shopping spree if I was on a budget? Aren’t the two mutually exclusive?

Folks, it CAN be done. With prepaid cards, it’s easy to splurge while sticking to a set spending limit! Think about it: open loop prepaid cards look and function like traditional credit and debit cards with a significant difference – they access funds that have been pre-loaded by a consumer or business. Therefore, they’re the perfect budgeting tool! They allow me to exert control over my spending and at the same time, avoid interest charges and overdraft fees (win-win-win!).

This past week, my good friend Zeba from Ella Pretty Blog and I went on a prepaid shopping spree. Armed with my American Express prepaid cards, we had a girls’ day at the mall with one mission in mind: spend the entire balance available to me (a whopping $500).

Which brings me to my second point: sure, you *could* spend a prepaid card on groceries (remember my previous post?), but I really want you to do something amazing, just for you. A prepaid card is often a gift – treat it like one! You only live once, and splurging on yourself is twice as nice.

Now, since Zeba is my official style advisor and the only person I trust to advise me on fashion and trends, you could say that we had way too much fun. But that’s the beauty of prepaid cards: you get to spend, spend, spend until the card runs out, and then, you walk away with amazing new things – not credit card debt!

Are you ready for the big reveal? Here’s what we bought!
AMEX IG Giveaway BNow I may be biased, but I think everyone needs a little Chanel, Minkoff, Spade and Kors in their life! Collectively, these are all items I would have coveted excessively but never had the gumption to actually purchase. Thanks to my American Express prepaid cards (which feel prestigious, almost luxurious, not gonna lie!) and a sweet shopping companion, I feel good about my purchases and know that I splurged the smart way.  (more…)

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Wayback Playback: 2010 Edition

February 17, 2016

This morning, searching through my blog for a recipe (Mangia Meatballs!) and trolling in the archives for a makeup review, I randomly stumbled on a post that I published on October 26, 2010 entitled, “Life is Good.” The post was short and sweet:
img_3513“It’s 8:23 PM. I’m getting the boys ready for bed… Life is Good.

Disclaimer: They don’t actually sleep together. Ryder would eat Reid. But they do enjoy snuggling in Ryder’s truck-inspired bed, and Ryder enjoys wearing his truck-themed pajamas. I love my boys, I am thankful for my many blessings, and Life is Good.”

Ugh! This simple post and picture made me weepy to the extreme! First, because they DO sleep together now, and have shared the same double bed for over two years. Second, because just this past weekend, my husband and I were shopping for two twin beds. At almost 6 and 8 years old, it’s time to give them their own spaces (although they still want to share a room, which we’re fine with).  (more…)

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Family Day Brunch: Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding

February 12, 2016

I have a mission in life, of sorts. And although it’s not as noble as say, finding ways to reduce greenhouse gas emissions, it is nonetheless heroic to certain segments of the world’s population.

I’m on a mission to turn indulgent desserts into family-friendly breakfast and brunch items. (You’re welcome.) It’s been done before, of course. Cake morphed into muffins, fried dough was branded with a more breakfast-friendly moniker, “doughnuts”, and toaster strudels? Let’s not even go there.

However, I think I’ve hit a home run with my Chocolate Banana Bread Pudding. With the goodness of whole grain whole wheat bread, fresh, ripe bananas and a touch of pure cocoa powder, I feel good about serving this pseudo-dessert. And, with Family Day just around the corner, Healthy Grains Institute challenged me to create a fabulous addition to a brunch menu that features one of our favourite comfort foods… bread!
DSC_0120It’s no secret that food brings families together. Some of our fondest memories are from moments spent around the breakfast table; giggling while we pick marshmallows out of cereal, teasing the boys about their latest crush, or simply enjoying the sheer pleasure of breaking bread (preferably the warm, out-of-the-oven kind) with loved ones.  (more…)

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Snow Time Like the Present.

February 11, 2016

Last week, chatting with my girlfriend who resides in Los Angeles, she gently chided me about our famous Canadian winters.

How much snow, so far? Nothing to speak of, really.
Didn’t you have an epic snowstorm recently? Actually, that was New York. We’re good here.
Isn’t Toronto one of the coldest places in Canada? One word: Prairies.

Now I know I’m not qualified to speak to January’s temperatures as I spent almost half the month in the Caribbean, but this snowman (snow worm? snow totem pole?) that the boys made this past Tuesday was actually our first of the season!
12728597_1756142027953057_1757163740_nWhich begs the question – if we’re waiting until February to make a snowman, what impact does our current climate have on future generations? Should we chalk this up to a mild winter, or be mildly alarmed about global warming? I guess my question today is, how concerned are you about the effects of the Earth’s climate system?

I know, I know, deep thoughts for a Thursday morning. Yet I can’t shake the feeling that one day, I’ll look back at this picture. I’ll stare at the smiling faces of my boys with their snowman, and be truly terrified about the world we live in.

Today, I’m going to take some time to learn about climate change, something I admittedly know next to nothing about. Of course, the fact that it’s downright freezing in Toronto today gives me some solace that we’re not about to melt… at least not yet.

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Chronic Dry Skin? Join the #DermWednesday Twitter Chat!

February 7, 2016

Can you believe that we’re heading into our 12th CeraVe #DermWednesday Twitter Chat? It’s true! For those that have been with us from the start, you know that each chat is a wealth of skin care tips and advice. Plus, Dr. Ben Barankin from The Toronto Dermatology Centre is always on hand to answer any of your skin care concerns.

FB GraphicThis Wednesday, the theme of our chat is “Know Your Options: Treatment Choices for Chronic and Extreme Dry Skin Conditions”. We’ll share tips on how to protect your skin in extreme cold conditions – timely, since the cold weather is really starting to settle in – and help prepare you for everyday commutes or upcoming Family Day weekend activities.

Did you know: many Canadians are unsure if they have chronic dry skin, and have questions about how to care for their skin in the cold, dry and harsh winter climate.

Come to the #DermWednesday Twitter Chat! We have answers.

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. My recommendation? Try CeraVe Moisturizing Cream! It increases the skin’s ability to attract, hold and distribute moisture, and is recognized by the Canadian Dermatology Association’s Skin Health Program.

Stay warm, keep moisturizing… and see you on Wednesday night!

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Wipe Away Winter Blues! Sign Up for eBills for a Chance to Win!

February 7, 2016

Friends, it’s 2016… and we are living in an (almost) paperless world.

Don’t fight it.

For my readers in Toronto, it’s time to switch to Toronto Hydro eBills. Trust me! You want to do this. With eBills, you have 24/7 access to your account from anywhere that you access the Internet. Plus, you can view all your bills for the past two years (great if you own a small business and use your home as a tax write-off). And because it’s paperless, it’s obviously better for the environment.
01-header-graphic-AspenClean-prizingNeed further motivation to sign up? All those who sign up will receive a FREE AspenClean all-natural cleaning product, every new subscriber is entered in a draw to win a GRAND PRIZE: One year (72 person-hours) of natural home cleaning services with AspenClean, valued at approximately $3,000.00 (CAD)!

And if you’re *still* not convinced (work with me, friends), consider this:

1)  According to Pay It Green, a coalition of businesses and financial institutions promoting paperless billing, if you’ve already made the switch to paperless billing, you’re saving 171 pounds of greenhouse gases, 63 gallons of water and 4.5 gallons of gasoline annually. Your household is also reducing paper usage and conserving our nations’ forests by saving nearly a tenth of a tree each year.  (more…)

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Celebrate Family Day! WIN a Disney Infinity 3.0 Prize Pack!

February 6, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

With Family Day in Ontario just around the corner, I’m sure many families are either a) packing their bags for a mini vacation or staycation, or b) scrambling to find something for the kids to do!

This year, I’m firmly in camp “b”. That’s why I’m so happy my boys love Disney Infinity 3.0! Disney Infinity 3.0 gives my children endless amounts of freedom and opportunity to create their own stories and play experiences, starring their favourite Disney Characters. So, next weekend, we’ll stay in our pjs, eat copious amounts of popcorn, and engage in a galactic battle… Star Wars-style!

And, you can too! My friends at Disney Interactive want YOU to have an epic Family Day weekend! We’ve teamed up to give my readers the chance to win a COLOSSAL Disney Infinity 3.0 Prize Pack. The bundle includes 10 items – including Star Wars Rise Against the Empire and Star Wars Twilight of the Republic power discs – and is valued at $240!
Giveaway_ListentoLena (2)One lucky reader will win: PS4 Disney Infinity 3.0 Starter Pack · Rise Against the Empire Play Set · Darth Vader Figure · Darth Maul Figure · Chewbacca Figure · Ezra Bridger (SW Rebels) Figure · Sabine Wren (SW Rebels) Figure · Zeb Orrelios (SW Rebels) · Power Disc Pack: Star Wars Twilight of the Republic · Power Disc Pack: Star Wars Rise Against the Empire. WHEW! What a prize!  (more…)

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Expect Something More: Disney Cruise Line

February 6, 2016

It’s been just about three weeks since we’ve returned from our Disney Cruise Line vacation… and I’ve only been *this close* to booking another Disney Cruise just about 20 times. It’s true! I’m officially hooked. From the stunning destinations to the superb and spacious accommodations; the unique fine dining to the live Broadway-caliber shows, I’ve found a new way to spend my vacation dollars.

And, I can’t think of a better investment.

Because that’s the crux of the matter, yes? The fact is, when planning a family vacation, your choice is bound to be based on interests, preferences and your total travel budget. And for the first two – interests and preferences – I can assure you that a Disney Cruise Line vacation will easily cover these points. There is authentically something for everyone! (No, seriously, take a look.)
overview-whats-includedBut it’s important for me to address the elephant (possibly Dumbo?) in the room: Why is a Disney Cruise worth your hard-earned vacation dollars? What makes a Disney Cruise different from another cruise line? Why should you consider paying a premium when there are so many last minute “deals” and “promos” offered by competitors?

It’s actually quite simple. With a Disney Cruise Line vacation, you can expect something more. In fact, what’s included in the price of your cruise may surprise you.  (more…)

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Escaping the Cold? Make a Winter Travel Checklist

February 5, 2016

For Canadians, escaping the winter is a thing.

And why not? Winter travel down south offers an opportunity to get away from the cold, endure one less week of slush, sleet and snow, and trade windchill values for humidex values. Okay, so it’s not just a thing… for many, it’s a necessity.
12070644_1502206640097187_1907736570_nOf course, while jetting off to a sunny vacation in the throes of winter is the epitome of awesome, it also presents its own set of challenges that requires some planning ahead. My advice? Make a winter travel checklist!  (more…)

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Making the Most of #EverySecond.

February 5, 2016

They’re competitive and loud and rarely respond unless I scream. They’re argumentative and ornery and way too sensitive about the silliest things (He’s looking at me, mom! He’s LOOKING at me!). They push my buttons, push for a later bedtime and always push each other.

Yet, they’re the heart of my home. They breathe so much life, excitement and vigor into my day. And when I catch them sitting together – because they just can’t stand to be apart – I remember that beyond the spats and bickering, they truly are the very best of friends.  I am truly blessed to share every second of my day with them.

You may watch the video and think, so what? It’s just two boys simply going about their day, exploring their interests. And you’re not incorrect. But I see so much more.

I see two brothers who need physical contact to reassure themselves of each other’s presence. I see two friends who delight in the other’s company, even if they’re engrossed in separate hobbies. I see two boys who have settled into the biggest chair in one of the warmest, most comfortable areas in our home – a place they always feel safe, secure and loved.  (more…)

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Chocoholics Rejoice! Your Favourite Hot Chocolate is Now A Cookie

February 3, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

If you’ve ever had Second Cup Coffee Co. signature Hot Chocolate, then you *totally* know what I’m talking about. Canadians from coast-to-coast have rated Second Cup Coffee Co. signature Hot Chocolate the best they’ve ever tasted with its perfect balance of velvety steamed milk and real cocoa powder. Now, Second Cup Coffee Co. is thinking outside the mug by offering a new, decadent, soft-bite and not-too-sweet Hot Chocolate Cookie featuring the same delicious Hot Chocolate flavour that you know and love!
Second Cup Hot Chocolate Cookie - High-res (2)The perfect complement to a Second Cup Coffee Co. Latte, the new Hot Chocolate Cookie is handcrafted locally from scratch using premium ingredients and delivered daily to Second Cup Coffee Co. cafés to ensure the highest possible quality and freshness. A unique twist on the traditional warm beverage, the new Hot Chocolate Cookie features the same superior quality and delivers a premium taste experience!  (more…)

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What Will You Do? Where Will You Be… When You’re Flu-Free?

February 1, 2016

This past weekend, I was out and about. I shopped for groceries, attended my son’s indoor soccer game, took my other son to a birthday party and even managed to squeeze in a quick brunch with a friend, which yielded the following plate of scrambled eggs.

I think I’ve been eating scrambled eggs the wrong way my entire life. Oh-Em-Gee.
12556141_1005051036240084_1934865149_nMy weekend was fun, productive, and most of all – I didn’t miss out on life’s little adventures because I was sick at home with the flu.

How did you celebrate a flu-free weekend? I posed the question to my followers on Twitter, and it was heartwarming to read all your responses! From enjoying time outdoors with the kids to celebrating birthdays and anniversaries, nothing kept you down. Congratulations on being winter warriors!  (more…)

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Online Shopping, Saving and Splurging… My Way!

February 1, 2016

NOTE: The following contest is open to Canadians only.

So, you received a prepaid credit card (or two, or ten) over the holidays, and you’re thinking:

I should probably spend this on groceries.

STAAAHP. Just stop. I mean, you *could* spend it on groceries. Go ahead! Make my day. But if you do, you won’t be making the most of that magical little prepaid credit card. In fact, you’ll be doing a disservice to gift givers everywhere. Really.
Mastercard 2Today, I’m here to show you all the possibilities of prepaid cards. And after our little discussion, if you’re still keen on using it to buy groceries, I promise I won’t hold it against you.

ONLINE SHOPPING. Because open loop prepaid cards look and function like traditional credit and debit cards, they can be used anywhere the card network (American Express, MasterCard and Visa) is accepted, including online, on the phone and around the world. So, if you’re shopping online for say, a new handbag at Michael Kors, using a prepaid card allows you to make a secure purchase while reducing the chances of fraud or identity theft.  (more…)

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The Most Delicious Way to Show Your Support!

January 31, 2016

I’m a former baker. In fact, I was *this close* to pursuing a diploma in pastry arts! I’ve had a sweet tooth my entire life, and always saw myself as the Suzie Homemaker type that would bake sweet treats for her family. That was the dream.

Reality: All three of my boys (husband and sons) prefer salty snacks.

Alas, my pursuit of pastry perfection was a short-lived fantasy, but from time to time, I like to dust off my apron, pull out my measuring spoons and get ready to bake up a storm.

This is one of those times.

February 29th, 2016 is National Cupcake Day! And before you think it’s just another excuse to indulge – and trust me, I will be indulging – here’s why baking cupcakes for your family and friends is the most delicious way to show support for a great cause!
20160125_182717National Cupcake Day is a fundraiser for SPCAs and Humane Societies across Canada. Animal lovers and bakers unite to host cupcake events throughout the month of February, leading up to the big day on February 29th. Participating is easy, and with your support, you could save a puppy, kitten or pony and make everyone’s day a little brighter with a scrumptious treat. What could be sweeter?  (more…)

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Let’s Get Away.

January 28, 2016

This year, I’ll write about travel. A lot.

I’ll review hotels and resorts and share food pics from restaurants. I’ll cover sun, sand and skiing and will even throw in a staycation to keep things interesting. I’ll RT the heck out of travel posts and photos, talk about Disney obsessively and will probably squeeze in a beach selfie (or ten).

And, I won’t apologize for it.
12523806_1059920337391805_1507124597_nI won’t be rubbed the wrong way when a well-meaning follower says, “Nice job you have!” I have a very nice job, thank you.

I won’t cringe when a family friend says, “Seriously? Didn’t you just take a vacation?” It was actually a work trip, but yes, I did bring my family along. And yes, we’re leaving again soon.

I won’t be embarrassed to share the news of our upcoming cruise, all-inclusive resort vacation, hotel stay or (insert fabulous travel opportunity here). It’s my job to cover family travel.

And I certainly won’t feel the need to a) stress how hard I’ve worked on my brand and reputation to earn the distinction of working with world-class clients. I won’t disclose b) the hours I’ve spent researching destinations and negotiating travel opportunities, many of which require out-of-pocket expenses. I won’t point out that when I’m travelling, c) I’m not making a paycheck – which means I’ve traded quantitative income in order to give my family experiences that are a direct benefit of a).

Oooh boy. Okay, I’ll stop being all crazy defensive and overly-sensitive starting… now.

My goal this year is to collect memories instead of things. And I never forget for a minute – not even a second – how fortunate I am to be able to choose between the two. My hope is that you’ll come along for the ride this year, following my adventures, social posts, media appearances, etc. – knowing that beyond the glitz and glamour, it’s really just work for me. And if my blog post convinces you to plan your own family vacation… then I’ve done my job well.

Happy travels, everyone!

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Everything You Want to Know About Star Wars Day at Sea

January 24, 2016

Okay, so you’ve seen my (many) Tweets and Instagram posts. And, you’ve come to the conclusion that Star Wars Day at Sea is the coolest. thing. ever. (You don’t have to convince me… I was there!) However, you have questions – which is expected. After all, Star Wars Day at Sea is a brand new offering by Disney Cruise Line, and there is limited information available online. Until now!
star wars day at seaToday, I’m here to divulge everything you want to know about Star Wars Day at Sea, based on my first-hand experience during the inaugural sailing on January 9, 2016. I’ll go heavy on the high-level details and light on the spoilers, because I never like to ruin a good surprise. So grab a coffee – and your calendar – because once you go through my Q & A, I promise you’ll be ready to book your own Disney Cruise.  (more…)

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