musings

#ThrowbackThursday #tbt: Family Picnic

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.

Before the little ones came along, my husband and I were avid picnickers. There’s just something so very romantic about stretching out on a big, soft blanket and enjoying a rustic meal… all the while being surrounded by nature on a warm, sunny day. In fact, almost 8 years ago I received a proposal for marriage while we were picnicking – which essentially made me a #Fan4life.

Our very first family picnic happened just about a year after Reid was born; we put out a simple spread of finger foods (cooked chicken nuggets, vegetable sticks, sandwich halves and chips) and stocked our travelling toy chest with balls, Frisbees, squirt toys and picture books. And of course, before the fun began, we captured the moment.

throwback thursdayI later added this photo to my scrapbook, with the caption: “You have defined and justified my existence.”

musings

I’m Ready to Capture Nikon MOMents

About six months ago, I purchased my very first DSLR camera. Almost overnight, my blog’s photography component went from Jennifer Lopez to Meryl Streep. Sure, I was taking better photos, but that was mainly due to the fact that I simply owned a better camera. But for the most part, I was only shooting in two settings: “Auto” and “No Flash”.

Well, what good is a DSLR camera if you don’t have the training, skills and expertise to go with it?

That’s why I’m so pleased to be working on the Nikon MOMents campaign with Mom Central Canada for the next 12 months. Today, I’m off to enjoy a full day of training, which I’m hoping will give me the confidence and knowledge to get creative with my brand new Nikon DSLR camera. So I suppose what I’m saying is… get ready for gorgeous new photography on my blog in the months to come!

Nikon D3300So, what’s my new machinery? It’s the Nikon D3300.

Creating beautiful photos and videos has never been more fun! Life is full of surprising, joyful moments—moments worth remembering. The D3300 makes it fun and easy to preserve those moments in the lifelike beauty they deserve: stunning 24.2-megapixel photos and 1080p Full HD videos with tack-sharp details, vibrant colors and softly blurred backgrounds.

With its included zoom lens, the new ultra-compact AF-S DX NIKKOR 18-55mm f/3.5-5.6G VR II, the D3300 is a small and light HD-SLR and easy to use, too. Like sharing photos? The D3300 photos can appear instantly on your compatible smartphone or tablet for easy sharing with the optional WU-1a Wireless Adapter*!

Whether you’re creating high-resolution panoramas, adding artistic special effects or recording HD video with sound, the D3300 will bring you endless joy, excitement and memories—just like the special moments of your life.

Follow the #NikonMOMents hashtag for a great conversation about photography. Have a great day all!

family

Celebrating Dad: The #CAAChat for Father’s Day!

It is my humble opinion that dads are unsung heroes. Think about it: moms get all the glory! Large corporations invest in expensive commercials applauding their efforts. Crafty aprons proudly proclaim a woman’s work is never done. The busiest day of the year for international telephone calls is Mother’s Day. I could go on and on.

But what about dad? What about the men who fearlessly make spiders disappear, take out the garbage without a peep of protest, and teach junior how to ride a two-wheeler? They braid hair, kiss boo boos and pick up your dry cleaning – when they’re not grilling the most delicious homemade burgers for their families, of course. Dads deserve every ounce of recognition, and more!

Well, it’s time to show dad just how much you love him – by winning a prize for him at the @CAASCO Father’s Day Twitter Party! And trust me – you won’t want to miss this one!

Twitter-party-with-logoSimply tweet with the hashtag #CAAChat on Thursday, June 12, 2014 between 12-1 ET. We’ve got TWO grand prizes to give away, including a 16GB iPad Air and a $300 Home Depot Gift Card! Other amazing prizes include gift cards worth up to $300 from East Side Mario’s, Hard Rock Cafe, Kernels, SportChek and tickets to Toronto FC, Argos & The Hamilton Bull Dogs. I’m pretty sure I know a lot of dads who would love any of those prizes.

No RSVP required, so all you have to do is show up! With Father’s Day right around the corner, the question on most people’s minds is “what do I get for the man who has everything?” Get ready to swap Father’s Day gift ideas, great Dad stories and more. See you on Thursday!

Contests

Delissio Vintage Pizzeria: Official Pizza of Pizza Night

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

It’s no secret. We go through a lot of frozen pizza chez Lena. And can you blame me? I’ve got two boys (and a husband) with hollow legs, limited time to put together snacks fulfilling enough to keep their hunger at bay, and a swanky new pizza maker that cuts down on baking time.

In fact, you could say we’re frozen pizza connoisseurs. 

We know what we like. A thin, crispy crust; rich, flavourful tomato sauce; crisp and tasty toppings. And to top it all off, the perfect ratio of bread:cheese. I thought I had zeroed in on the boys’ favourites, allowing them to indulge on a regular basis, until we discovered Delissio’s NEW Vintage Pizzeria.

Delissio’s NEW Vintage Pizzeria is the official pizza of #PizzaNight! This new great-tasting line is inspired by the traditions of authentic pizzerias with the crust drizzled with olive oil and free of artificial flavours. The four Delissio’s Vintage Pizzeria varieties (Pepperoni, 4 Cheese, 3 Meat and Deluxe) will satisfy the entire family.

DelissioWE LOVE IT. It’s everything we look for a pizza, and more! Super deliciousness packed into every bite. Now normally, I’m not a crust person – tossing them to Ryder to finish off. But Vintage Pizzeria are infused with the fruitiest of olive oils, making them soft, scrumptious and incredibly flavourful. THIS is the frozen pizza we’ve been waiting for!

Want to make Delissio’s NEW Vintage Pizzeria the official pizza of YOUR #PizzaNight? Enter to win a Pizza Night Prize Pack, which includes coupons for Delissio pizza as well as a pizza cutter, pizza pan, napkins and a great board game – everything you need to have a fun pizza night with the entire family! (Total value$100.)  (more…)

beauty

Hit The Snooze Button: The Dirty on 5 Dry Shampoos

Often, when I least expect it, I have flashbacks to my corporate days. Oh, I rarely think about my tiny cubicle, the 4pm meetings (who schedules 4pm meetings?) or the frequent travel – but I do think about the mornings. The mornings where, almost on a daily basis, I whacked the snooze button and began the internal debate of whether I could get away with not washing my hair.

You see, back in the mid-2000′s, there was exactly one dry shampoo on the market – Oscar Blandi – and it was ex.pen.sive. It still is! At $30 for just 2.5 oz, it’s a great option only if you’d rather drop hundreds a year on fake shampoo than drag your sorry ass out of bed.

(Of course, I can be rational about it now, because it’s not 6:00am and I haven’t slammed my alarm clock twice.)

Alas, since I wasn’t willing to invest in Oscar Blandi, I dragged my ass out of bed. And now, when I don’t need to wake up in time for a morning commute, of course there’s a plethora of affordable dry shampoos on the market. Isn’t it ironic, Alanis Morisette?

So, how do you choose the perfect dry shampoo? Well, the good news is that with so many options that won’t break the bank, you can afford a little trial and error. From my own personal experience, I can tell you there is no “one size fits all” miracle product. I thought I had found the perfect dry shampoo, until I tried another, and then another, and then another. And now I realize that dry shampoo is a very personal choice; one that changes with your hair’s length, texture, colour, styling habits, and of course, oiliness. Hence, without further ado, here are five new-to-market, affordable and readily available dry shampoos. I’ll start with Pantene’s trio of products, as they really do deserve separate mentions.

1. Pantene Original Fresh Dry Shampoo

The Pitch: With our dry shampoo formula, it’s now possible to wash your hair without the water. Cleanse, remove oil, and refresh your style even when it’s not convenient to shower. Fuses tapioca with Pro-V Science; leaves no excess residue; tapioca starch is solubilized in ethanol to provide minimal white residue; made without emollients for excellent oil absorption.

Pantene Dry ShampooThe Perfect Customer: Gals with slightly oily hair. The product smells fabulous and goes on relatively translucently, so for application, it’s a clear winner. However, it had a tough time whipping my limp, greasy locks into shape, even with repeated applications. Hence, this product is best used the first day after washing as a maintenance dose, rather than trying to repair already oily hair. But OMG the scent! *Love* it.

2. Pantene Blowout Extend Dry Shampoo

The Pitch: Want to keep your runway-ready style a little longer? Our new waterless formula helps extend your blowout, giving your style a fresh, clean look, even on the second day. Outstanding Oil Absorber technology featuring tapioca particles; quickly evaporates leaving the oil absorbers available to clean effectively.

The Perfect Customer: Just about any gal. Does a great job of protecting the integrity of a fabulous blowout, restoring hair to its full, bouncy state. Showed amazing promise after three daily applications, extending my hair washing cycle effectively and without too much build up. With a good blow out, your volume potential is almost limitless. Definitely my pick of the bunch.  (more…)

Contests

Change. Your Life. With Bacon. This Bacon.

Yes folks, it’s that time again. It’s time to #ChangeYourLifeWithBacon.

Remember the iconic commercials from a year ago? Lucky mom! With the help of Ready Crisp Bacon from Maple Leaf Foods, she had her family at her beck and call. Light bulbs were changed, dishes were washed, tables were set. In short, Bacon = Power.

Well, the family is back! This year, the power of bacon is taken to a whole new level with a science fair project:


Now if you’ve watched the video and are looking for a little “Baconspiration” (I am trademarking that word, BTW) be sure to visit Appehtite, where you’ll find a wealth of recipes where bacon is the star attraction. Roasted Potato Leek Soup With Bacon, Bacon Mac and Cheese or Bacon Quiche anyone? You can find all these recipes – and more – at Canada’s Kitchen.

Still wanting more? We aim to please! Join us for a YUM-MAZING #ChangeYourLifeWithBacon Twitter Party with @MapleLeafFoods on Wednesday, June 11th at 8:00pm ET!

TwitterParty-1Now, you want to talk about prizes? Okay, let’s talk about prizes. How about FIVE winners of Bacon for a YEAR (52 coupons)! And if that wasn’t enough to make you drop everything, we’ll also be giving away #BonusBacon to any partiers who catch our eye with tweets, whether they be funny, creative or show ultimate Bacon Love. And, we *may* have yet another special surprise up our sleeves, but you’ll just have to join us to find out!

RSVP now for a chance to win, and we’ll see you on Wednesday night! (more…)

food

Ste. Anne’s Salted Caramel Toffee

One of the highlights of my recent Culinary Retreat to Ste. Anne’s Spa was of course, a visit to Ste. Anne’s Bakery. Here, you’ll find freshly prepared, gluten-free baked goods and a wide selection of cookies, cakes, breads, jams, chocolates and fruit butters made from products found on the Ste. Anne’s property. The bakery serves organic, locally roasted coffee and specialty teas, as well as quiche made with a gluten-free crust, fresh salads and a variety of wraps and sandwiches.

At the bakery, I found a little slice of heaven – in the form of Salted Caramel Toffee. This scrumptious brittle treat is dangerously addictive, combining smooth dark chocolate with a salty pecan crunch. For weeks, I thought about returning to the bakery just to splurge on a few confectionery delights… and Chef Khushroo must have sensed my obsession, because Ste. Anne’s recently published the recipe on their blog!

Caramel_Toffee

Hence, I’m going to save my husband the drive and attempt this chocolatey treat at home first. And as someone who has enjoyed this toffee first-hand, trust me, this recipe’s a keeper!

INGREDIENTS

2 cups granulated sugar
1 cup unsalted butter
1/4 cup glucose or corn syrup
4 tsp vanilla extract
1 tsp sea salt
2 cups dark chocolate (60-70%)
1 cup pecans (optional)

Caramelize sugar, butter, vanilla extract and glucose until golden brown over high heat. Line baking tray with parchment paper. Pour ingredients onto tray, cover with parchment paper and use rolling pin to smooth. Let cool at room temperature for 4-5 hours.

Set a stainless steel bowl over a boiling pot of water. Add 1 cup of chocolate and stir until melted, then add remainder of chocolate until melted (stir occasionally).

Remove parchment paper and spread melted chocolate over toffee. Add pecans immediately, before chocolate solidifies. Flip and remove parchment paper on the other side and repeat process. Keep at room temperature until solid, break into desired pieces and enjoy!

CHEF’S CHOCOLATE TIPS:

• Avoid water from contaminating the chocolate
• Working temperature of chocolate should be 32ºC, highest melting temperatures should be about 46º-50ºC
• Adding additional chocolate aids crystallization, snap break, glossy appearance and shelf life

Contests

Travel in Style: Pack N’ Go with Heys!

Note: The following giveaway is open to residents of the US and Canada only.

It’s Murphy’s Law: Anything that can go wrong will go wrong. So, if you’re tired and cranky after a 12-hour flight, and your cell phone is dead and your ears are popping, and you can’t remember how much you purchased abroad so you “guesstimated” on the customs declaration form… then of course your suitcase will be searched.

And, as you stroll towards the dreaded room reserved for security checks, there is only ONE thing on your mind… What does my packed suitcase look like?

Because the only thing worse than a customs agent discovering that Michael Kors hobo handbag you totally forgot to declare (and rip the tags off – amateur mistake there) is the realization that in about 2 minutes, he’ll be rifling through a cornucopia of dirty laundry, grungy ballet flats, various forms of birth control and a large bottle of Vodka. (NOT that this has happened to me.)

So what can you do to avoid this dreaded encounter? Well, practically nothing – cause if you’re gonna get searched, you’re gonna get searched. But you can avoid the panic over a less-than-pristine suitcase: just travel in style with Heys Pack N’ Go Travel Bags.

Heys Pack N GoGreat for any trip, Pack N’ Go Travel bags help you save space and keep you stylishly organized.

Available in three colours to suit every fancy, the travel bags are attractively priced at under $20 a piece. Mix and match or buy more than one bag depending on your own packing style and needs. But most importantly, keep your suitcase organized – and prevent your dirty socks from wrapping themselves around your curling iron :)

Now it’s no secret that I’m an organizing junkie when it comes to family travel, preferring to make elaborate lists, printing off much more paperwork than needed, and triple checking everything I’ve packed (so we don’t repeat The Case of the Missing Sunscreen).

In fact, I’m pretty sure a trip to Walt Disney World once necessitated a Venn Diagram.

Hence, you can probably guess the reasons behind my instant attraction to Heys Pack N’ Go Travel Bags.

Pack N’ Go – Clothes Packing Cube: The Pack N’ Go Clothes Packing Cube comes with unique features that help maximize space and make packing fun. Available in three colours, this packing cube is fully lined with a washable material, has an exterior pocket, and is a lightweight solution to organizing clothing on the go. Price: $14.99

Pack N’ Go – Compressible Laundry Bag: The Pack N’ Go Compressible Laundry Bag comes with unique features that help maximize space and make packing fun. This compact pouch turns inside-out into a large drawstring bag to store your laundry. Price: $9.97

Pack N’ Go – Compressible Sandals Bag: The Pack N’ Go Compressible Sandals Bag comes with unique features that help maximize space and make packing fun. This compact pouch turns inside-out into a large drawstring bag to store your footwear. Price: $9.97

Pack N’ Go – Shoe Bag: The Pack N’ Go Shoe Bag comes with unique features that help maximize space and make packing fun. This packing cube is fully lined with a washable material, has an exterior pocket, and keeps your shoes separate from the rest of your belongings. Price: $12.99

Pack N’ Go – Toiletry Bag: The Pack N’ Go Toiletry Bag comes with unique features that help maximize space and make packing fun. This compact bag features several compartments and pockets to hold all your toiletry essentials, and a hanging hook to keep your counter space clear. Price: $19.99  (more…)

Contests

Long. Live. PIE! A McCain Twitter Party

Years ago, it was quite easy to satisfy your sweet tooth.

Child: What’s for dessert?
Parent: Chocolate, Ice Cream, or Pie.
Child: I’ll have one of each.
Parent: I didn’t hear the magic word?

Ah, the simple life. When desserts were satisfying dollops of creamy goodness – not the strange, deconstructed variety they are today. (I’m looking at you artisanal doughnut. Or marzipan gelato. Or dragon fruit panna cotta.)

Friends, it’s time to rage against the pretentious dessert. Repeat after me: Long Live Pie! Let’s celebrate the classic and delicious taste of McCain Deep ‘n Delicious Cream Pie, made with real dairy and available in three yummy flavours (Cookies & Cream, Double Chocolate, Coconut and Cream).


Now THAT is what I call sink-your-teeth-into goodness: a chocolate lover’s dream with a graham cookie crust and indulgent chocolate filling, whipped cocoa topping and chocolate shavings. Just thaw and enjoy a slice of chocolate heaven!

Love what you see? Join us for the #LongLivePie Twitter Party - Tuesday June 10th at 8pm ET! We’ll be chatting about McCain’s scrumptious desserts, your favourite times to indulge, and of course, we’ll have YUM-MA-ZING prizes up for grabs: Free McCain Deep ‘n Delicious Cream Pie for a year (!) and over $1,000 in Visa Gift Cards!

McCain_LongLivePie_TW_Invite>> RSVP HERE << for a chance to win, and mark your calendar – we’ll see you on Tuesday night!

And, don’t forget to enter McCain’s #LongLivePie Giveaway, where they’re giving away a year’s worth of Deep ‘n Delicious Cream Pie, and entry is as easy as…pie!

So… Cookies & Cream, Double Chocolate or Coconut and Cream… which pie gets your vote?  

musings

Spring Cleaning? Pfft. Try Spot Cleaning.

Take a look around. Spring is officially on its way out, and we’re making way for warmer weather, longer days and starry nights. So… did you finish your spring cleaning?

I say forget about it. I mean, is there *really* an advantage to completely disrupting your entire household… when you know it’s just going to get messy again anyways? Come on, I have two school aged boys. They have literally made it their mission to turn my house into a combat zone – complete with mine traps (errant diecast cars), artillery (any toy longer than 12 inches) and water torture (the bathroom after a bath).

UGH! I have two choices: spend my life cleaning… or learn how to spot clean.

Spot cleaning is the equivalent of cramming for a final exam - appearing like you have sh*t together, when really, you attempt to fake a season’s worth of work (or in this case, cleaning) into one intense session. But you know what? It works nine times out of ten if you have the right tools.

Introducing the Dyson Digital Slim DC62 cordless vacuum cleaner.

Dyson Digital Slim copySimply stated, it is the most powerful cordless vacuum on the market, made possible by a combination of the Dyson digital motor V6, 2 Tier Radial cyclones and a re-engineered nickel manganese cobalt battery. Translation: it sucks up as much dust as a corded vacuum, without the bulk or inconvenience.

Now we all know that normally, Lena + Cleaning = Avoidance. However, I’m proud to say that the Dyson DC62 has revolutionized my viewpoint on the subject. Think about it: having a powerful, light and easy-to-manoeuvre vacuum at your disposal makes even the most arduous tasks seem like a piece of cake. A re-engineered floor tool with stiff nylon bristles dislodge ground-in dirt from carpets, while anti-static soft carbon fibre filaments gently remove fine dust from hard floors. And because the DC62′s centre of gravity is located near the grip, the unit is very easy to lift. This means that the top of your fridge, ceiling corners and the spaces between stair spindles will finally see some love.

All DC62 Vacuums Have:

Extra tools: All Dyson vacuums come with Dyson-engineered tools for cleaning hard to reach places.
Hygienic bin emptying: Just push the button to release the dirt. No more bags!
Convenient docking station: Stores and charges the machine, and holds additional attachments.
Boost mode: 6 minutes of increased suction power – for more difficult tasks. (We call it “Beast Mode”)
26 minutes of cleaning time: A re-engineered nickel manganese cobalt battery and run-time enhancing trigger.
2 year warranty: All Dyson cordless vacuums come with a 2 year warranty – parts and labour.

But if I had to single out the most important feature of the Dyson DC62, it’s that it excels at SCCA (Spot Cleaning: Crisis Aversion). That’s right – for every woman out there who is not quite Suzy Homemaker, here’s how to “cram” with the Dyson Digital Slim DC62(more…)

musings

Urban Barn #livein: Dining Room Reveal

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

The war against the inhospitable home is complete, and a winner has been declared… it’s me, of course!

This spring, I challenged the notion of a couch condom and waged war against the blueprint. Then, with the help of Urban Barn, I redesigned my dining room into a space that we can #livein. The goal: achieving an area where we can enjoy our meals, spend time together as a family, help the little guys with homework, whip out a laptop or tablet, colour and get crafty, mix cookie dough… in essence, creating a room that is full of zest and happiness – not one that exists solely on display.

A short while ago, I shared with y’all my picks for my brand new, functional living room. And today, I’m so happy to post my big reveal! TA-DA! This is my über modern, über gorgeous and über functional dining room, courtesy of the decor gods at Urban Barn.

Urban Barn #liveinPictured Above: Chateau Extension Dining Table $1,399.00; Chateau Bench $499.00; Wylan Dinnerware Set $79.00; Sensa Candles $9.00 – $12.00; Echo Wall Clock $249.00; Vintage Pillar Candleholders $19.00 each; Ashworth Wine Rack $39.00; Miko Collection – Orange $12.00 per piece; Chateau Sideboard $1,199.00; Brigette Vases $22.00 – $36.00; Rooster Menu Board $26.00  (more…)

family

Walmart Canada: Your One-Stop Party Shop

Last weekend was one for the books. It marked the last time I held a combined birthday party for the boys, and the first time I’ve spent less than $50 on birthday party decorations.

SAY WHAT?? It’s true! Thanks to Walmart Canada, I found everything I needed in one place, at fabulous prices. In fact, I *may* have thrown my own little party in Aisle 3 as I filled my cart with party favours and decorations in our theme du jour, Disney Pixar Cars. Ka-Chow!

WalmartFrom party hats to paper plates, temporary tattoos to cake candles, there is absolutely everything you’ll need to put on the perfect themed party. In addition to the goodies shown on the right, I scooped up:

- Door posters for my backyard sliding doors
- A balloon pump for the balloons
- Streamers and a “Happy Birthday” banner
- A Lightning McQueen pinata
- Cars-themed loot bags

I also purchased additional yellow balloons to strew throughout my main floor, leading up to the backyard where the party was set to take place. We were blessed with beautiful weather, surrounded by friends and family, and thanks to our resident grill master (my husband), were treated to delicious party food.

(Side note: I’ve decided that every party should include hamburgers and barbecued chicken. There’s just something so darn soul-satisfying about noshing on BBQ on a summery night in May.)

The boys’ party included a mix of parents and kiddos, so we had the best of both worlds – adult conversation (and beer) peppered with squeals of delight, my gorgeous niece and my girlfriend’s sweet lil’ shih poo.

Respecting the privacy of our guests, here are the two birthday boys, just after the party began.

Birthday Boys Have a children’s party to plan? Ditch the expensive party shops and find everything you need at Walmart Canada.

musings

Celebrate #30DaysofSummer with Staples Canada

I have a long list of perfectly preserved memories from my childhood summers.

Late nights on the porch with my little friends, swatting mosquitoes until my mom hollered from inside. Riding my bike to the neighbourhood park (which was much too far a jaunt without parental supervision by today’s standards – sans helmet or cell phone!). Double dutch on the sidewalk. Watching MuchMusic endlessly as one lazy day stretched into the next, hoping to catch A-Ha’s video for “Take on Me” or Belinda Carlisle’s “Mad About You”.

Not quite understanding the sexual innuendos in Three’s Company, but laughing along anyways.

instagram-buttonWith the arrival of June comes the unofficial start of summer. And what better way to preserve this year’s memories than a photo-a-day challenge? Sponsored by @StaplesCanada, follow along as I – along with some of your favourite bloggers – post themed photos to share our love of the season with #30SummerDays. Staples 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!

BONUS: To thank you for following along, at the end of the challenge, I’ll be giving away a Wifi-enabled camera to one lucky reader! Catch my posts on Instagram (@lenalivelovelaugh) daily, and if you’d like to participate yourself, here are the photo prompts:

#30SummerDays

1 – Rabbit, Rabbit! What brings you good luck?
2 – Monday, ugh! What’s keeping you going today?
3 – Who made you smile today?
4 – Look up. What do you see?
5 – #TBT (throw back Thursday) Share a photo from a past summer trip!
6 – National Doughnut Day! Snap a pic celebrating! Or, what did you have instead?!
7 – Saturday! What are you up to?

8 – Time to relax before the start of the week. What does relaxing look like to you?
9 – Manic Monday! What’s giving you a case of the Mondays?
10 – Is the sun out? Snap a pic! If not, what’s it like out there?
11 – Get over the hump of the week. How were you productive today?
12 – Treat yourself, it’s almost the weekend!
13 – Friday the 13th! Are you superstitious and ducking for cover, or out and about?
14 – Flag Day! Got one flying in the warm breeze?

15 – Happy Father’s Day! Snap a pic or share one of an awesome dad!
16 – Monday motivation. What motivates you?
17 – Got a pet? Share them with the world!
18 – Stretch those legs mid-week and go outside or for a walk. Snap and share!
19 – #OOTD, what are you wearing? Got your summer clothes on?!
20 – Happy Friday! You made it! Smile and say cheese!
21 – HAPPY SUMMER! Take a picture of what summer looks like to you to celebrate!

22 – Sunday Pancakes! Do you have a Sunday breakfast routine?
23 – Got those sandals out? What’s your favourite pair?
24 – What made you happy today?
25 – Are the flowers blooming? Take a picture of your favourite!
26 – Wehew, it’s hot out there. How are you cooling down?
27 – Last Friday of the month, what are you up to?
28 – Is today a beach day? Snap a pic and make everyone jealous!

29 – Go out for a picnic! Make sure to take a picture!
30 – Last day of June, how are you sending it off?

So… what brings me luck? Click here to find out! I look forward to spending #30SummerDays with y’all!

food

Summer Staples: Super Simple Nacho Dip

I firmly believe that everyone needs a super simple nacho dip in their repertoire of summer recipes. I dare you to suggest another appetizer that equally appeals to cavemen-like beer sloshers on fight night; posh friends in wedge sandals on the patio; or ravenous teens on a long summer night. A layered nacho dip is the perfect make-ahead starter that is both simple to assemble and guaranteed to be a crowd pleaser.

Lena's Nacho DipAfter tasting a similarly delicious concoction at a party years ago, my BFF’s uncle simply rattled off a list of ingredients with the ambiguous instructions: “Use what you like and layer it in a serving dish.” So that’s what I’ll share with you today –  my version of a layered nacho dip, which is hit every single time.

1 (8 ounce) package low fat cream cheese, softened
1/2 cup low fat mayonnaise
1/2 cup low fat sour cream
1/4 cup chili sauce (I like Maggi Sweet Chili Sauce or Frank’s Red Hot Sweet Chili Sauce)
1 cup medium salsa, drained (can substitute mild if you’re averse to a little heat)
1 cup diced green pepper
1 cup diced red pepper
1 cup diced green onion
2 cups shredded Cheddar cheese (can substitute 1 cup cheddar, 1 cup Monterrey Jack)
1 cup sliced black olives (optional)

In a large bowl, mix cream cheese, mayonnaise and sour cream until well blended. (If your cream cheese hasn’t softened to room temperature, this will be quite the chore.) Spread the mixture evenly on the bottom of a serving dish, about 9 x 13″ in size, or 8 x 8″ if you’d like deeper layers.

Layer by layer, top the cream cheese mixture with chili sauce, salsa, green pepper, red pepper, green onion and shredded cheese.

If using black olives, sprinkle on top. Chill in the refrigerator for at least an hour before serving. Recipe treats 6-8 lucky friends to a scrumptious summer dip. (Warning – there are never any leftovers.) Enjoy!

family

#ThrowbackThursday #tbt: Meet the Kid

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.

iwantmommyIt’s hard to believe that I blogged for a whole year without sharing a picture of Ryder with my blog readers.

Seriously! Y’all are probably used to seeing photos of my boys all the time, but back in 2008, I was a bit leery about giving readers access to my private life. So, I blogged about shopping, food and fashion – and while I mentioned my kid from time to time, I didn’t necessarily open up about my family of three.

So, this picture on Ryder’s first birthday is a PBD (pretty big deal), because it also marks the first time I shared with my audience a photo of my little offspring. Entitled “Everybody Hurts”, it portrayed a one-year-old in the throws of teething; gripping his cheek while his molars make their way to the surface.

Oh Ryder, how I miss your mean face! Jutting his bottom lip out as far as it would go, he would wrinkle up his nose and howl while the tears welled up in his eyes. Of course, he could turn it off just as quickly as he turned it on… the big faker!

musings

My Fancy New Gig: Travelocity.ca’s Summerologist

And it doesn’t even require a degree…. or fancy lab coat!

That’s right, friends… you’re looking at Travelocity.ca’s NEW Summerologist. Working with a team of five social influencers across Canada, we’ll do our best to share our favourite travel tips, the most popular (daily!) contests by @TravelocityCA, and of course, the very best deals on vacation packages, flights, hotels, car rentals and more. In short, we want you to #SeizetheSummer!

SummerologistHave a question about Travelocity.ca’s Price Guarantee? (Did you know: if you find a lower price, they’ll refund the difference and give you a $50 travel credit !) Flexible Hotel Payments? Or maybe you just need a weekend getaway – this weekend – and want to explore your options. Tweet me, tweeps! I’ll have an answer for you, or put you in touch with a Travelocity.ca team member who can guide you in the right direction. All part of the service!

Of course, since I’ve always got family travel on the brain, you know I’ll be your go-to for epic adventures (with kiddos). And now… off to perform my Summerologist duties… and to #SeizetheSummer!

musings

Daily Inspiration: A Graduation Gift

It’s easy to pretend you fit in. It’s easy to blend in with the crowd. But sometimes, it’s just easier to be yourself.

loopy“Be A Fruit Loop In A World Of Cheerios” hand stamped recycled vintage silverplate cereal spoon, $19.99 CAD from www.etsy.com.

Know someone who’s graduating this year? I think this makes a unique, functional and inspirational gift that will serve as a sweet reminder every single morning. Because the world needs more fruit loops.

Contests

WIN a Ste. Anne’s Culinary Retreat (Value $1,100!)

Note: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Okay, so by now, I know you may be a *little* envious of my recent Culinary Retreat to Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, ON. And trust me, I understand! Voted Canada’s Favourite Spa 2006 – 2013 (Spafinder Readers), the destination spa boasts an invigorating, Old World atmosphere, exceptional spa services and tantalizing menus.

Springtime-at-Ste.-Annes-Spa_thumbMy husband and I celebrated my birthday weekend with two glorious days of serenity, pampering, and most importantly, sumptuous gastronomic delights prepared by Ste. Anne’s talented culinary team. And to top it all off – a private lesson with Pastry Chef Khushroo, the world-renowned chocolatier and confectionery genius. If you happened to miss my posts, you can always check them out here:

Thirty-Six Reasons to Go on a Culinary Adventure
Recipe: Ste. Anne’s Almond Cookies
Gastropost: Ste. Anne’s Spa Dining Room Menu
Ste. Anne’s Spa: The Art of Chocolate

Well, the time has come to stop teasing you and offer up something BIG – you too can experience a Culinary Retreat at Ste. Anne’s! That’s right – one lucky reader will win a Culinary Retreat for Two at Ste. Anne’s Spa in Grafton, ON!

Included in the prize:

Overnight accommodations for two (2) in a beautiful deluxe room at The Main Inn (midweek stay; Mon-Thur)
A 3-hour culinary class (offered at dinner time) at their new culinary facility at Maison Santé
A 30-minute demonstration at Ste. Anne’s Bakery, which specializes in freshly prepared, gluten-free baked goods
$120 in spa allowance for each guest; you may choose from Ste. Anne’s full range of spa treatments
Breakfast for two, a 3-course lunch for two, and afternoon tea for two (see menus here)

For a total value of $1,100! Please note that transportation to/from the spa is not included in this prize, so whether you live near or far, you’ll have to find your own ride. Ste. Anne’s Spa is conveniently located just one hour east of Toronto. Trust me folks, this is a destination spa – worth the visit!

To enter, simply fill the form below with your qualifying entries. Good luck all!  (more…)

beauty

Damage Criminals: Guilty as Charged

I’m not just a damage criminal: I’m also a fraud. And a cheat. And a liar. Throw the book at me, friends, because I need to be rehabilitated.

Fructis Damage EraserThis is my current Facebook photo. Me and my BFF were at a wedding reception, ready to drink dance the night away! And just look at me – tousled, beachy waves cascading over my shoulders, perfectly smooth and not a hint of frizz to be seen. When I woke up that morning, I envisioned “sexy bed-head waves, with a casual, minimal-effort feel and look.”

It’s all a sham, people.

Do you know what it took to get my hair to look that way? Since I’m a damage criminal, let’s just run through my list of offences, shall we?

Charge #1: Overuse of heat-styling tools. To achieve this look, first my hair was blow-dried straight, using an 1875-watt hair dryer. Next, it was set in hot rollers, in an attempt to achieve a de-constructed wave. Finally, it was curled with a large-barrel curling iron, to seal the ends and set the style.

It’s true: searing-hot styling tools were used on my hair three times in less than two hours.

Charge #2: Overzealous back-combing. See my crown, full of body? Manufactured volume, peeps, created by back-combing the hair until it stands straight up, and then, is smoothed over. And in case you’re wondering, back-combing is just a stylist’s fancy word for teasing. YES, my hair was teased (read: ruined) and then sprayed into submission.

Charge #3: The use of an accomplice. I didn’t even commit the crime myself; I paid a stylist $175 to execute my vision of perfect hair. That’s right – I’m the worst kind of damage criminal; the kind that hires a hitman to do my dirty work for me. (He shall remain nameless to protect his identity.)

But perhaps the absolute worst offence – the one thing that ensures that I’ll never truly be a reformed character – is the fact that I don’t want to stop using heat-styling tools. I don’t want to have anything less than gorgeous hair. I just want something that will erase the damage – and allow me to continue a life of crime without looking over my shoulder, or in this case, pulling frizzy, tortured hairs from my hairbrush.  (more…)

Contests

#FamilyTravelCA: Let’s Talk Vacation Photography!

This month, me and my girls @ChildMode, @FeistyFrugal and @SassyModernMom are welcoming four NEW moderators just in time to chat about vacation photography. Please welcome @Candace_DX, @Kidsumers, @MommyGearest and @RossanaWyatt to the #FamilyTravelCA family!

FamilyTravelCAJoin us on Tuesday, May 27th at 9pm EST. We’ll tweet up a storm with suggestions and tips on how to capture the best memories by honing your vacation photography skills.

2-WifiBut hey, a chat wouldn’t be nearly as fun without prizes! This month, please say thank you to Nikon Canada – they’re our official prizing sponsor and have provided AH-MA-ZING prizes: two coveted Nikon COOLPIX cameras, which are perfect for toting along on your family travel adventures.

Nikon is perhaps most well known for its reputation as a world leader in imaging products, and its technologies continue to play a significant role in defining the photographic industry. Nikon’s COOLPIX cameras are helping reshape how people take pictures and share them with others. By integrating sophisticated automatic features, Nikon’s COOLPIX cameras are making digital photography more accessible to consumers and enabling anyone to take stunning pictures.

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