Skincare 101: It’s a Hand & Stone Twitter Chat!

October 21, 2016

Coming up: real talk about skin care.

Although “moisturize and go” may have been the extent of our skin care regime during our twenties, it is vital to revisit skincare routines as we age. Skin changes over the years, often becoming thinner and more sensitive with the weakening of collagen and elastin, and what worked for us in in the past… may not work quite as well now.

Think about it. Skin is your largest organ, and proper product use and regular facials beginning at an early age can make your routine a no-brainer. At Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa, the importance of this routine – being easy to maintain and affordable – is well understood. With more than 20 locations in Canada, Hand & Stone Massage and Facial Spa is bringing affordable luxury to the masses.
twitter-party-invite_finalI’ll be joining Hand & Stone this Monday, October 24th at 8pm EST for the #Skincare101 Twitter Chat. There, we’ll learn how to combat skin issues and how to adjust skin care routines as we age. They will also be giving away FIVE (5) amazing prizes, including product gift baskets and service gift certificates to the spa. Follow @HandandStoneCA and join the conversation using #Skincare101.

There’s no RSVP for the chat; simply tweet using the hashtag for a chance to win. See you on Monday!

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IndigoKids Holiday: My Wish List!

October 20, 2016

I’m not one to leave anything until the last minute.

Just kidding! I leave everything until the 11th hour. A serial procrastinator, I work best under pressure and thrive on the stress of a looming deadline.

However, for all my dilly-dallying, there’s one thing I never leave up to chance – Holiday shopping.

You see, it’s all well and fine if I fudge my own deadline or miss out on an opportunity. But I would never do that to the little ones in my life: my boys and nieces deserve to have their Christmas wish lists fulfilled, and when I can find everything I need in one place – with an incredible selection at great prices – of course I’ll be proactive!

That place is IndigoKids. This holiday season, I’ve partnered with Indigo to Make it Merry and help you find gifts that every kid on your holiday list will love!

So, why IndigoKids? A long time “must do” with my kids when we’re out and about, they offer a dynamic in-store experience (and stress-free online shop!) that ignites joy, imagination, and discovery in kids of all ages. Plus, they just happen to have one of the largest selections of children’s books in the country, in addition to wish list staples from popular brands like LEGO, Playmobil, Shopkins, Disney and Ty, as well as specialty brands such as American Girl, The Honest Company, Skip Hop, and Melissa and Doug.

Simply put, it’s a joy to shop at IndigoKids for the holidays!

This year, IndigoKids is back with their famed #IndigoWishlist. Selected by Indigo’s book and toy experts, they’ve assembled a line-up of exclusive and in-demand holiday gifts are guaranteed to please every child on your list! And this season, I’ve had the unique opportunity to curate my own wish lists for the boys!
116332_kids-influencer_06Now I don’t want to jinx it, but I think I’ve got a little reader on my hands. Ryder has recently taken a greater interest in books, and after visiting Universal Orlando last month, he’s now officially curious about Harry Potter. (more…)

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Treat Yourself – #NoMilesNeeded! Introducing AIR MILES Perks.

October 19, 2016

Are you Canadian? (√ Check.)
Are you an AIR MILES Collector? (√ Check.)

Did you know that you already have access to a HUGE variety of great deals, discounts and benefits – part of the AIR MILES Reward Program – with NO Miles needed?

It’s true! Prepare to be blown away, friends.

Introducing AIR MILES Perks. Perks have been hand-picked just for AIR MILES Collectors and are available to ALL Collectors, just for having an AIR MILES Card. You can find deals nationwide or ones that are tailor made for your city; simply visit the website, select your region and check out all the promos and savings!

Recently, I stopped by What She Said and shared all the details – check out my segment below!

Now I won’t spoil it for you (and I know how much you love to watch me chatting with gigantic head phones) but the gist is, some Perks are available simply by showing your AIR MILES Card (sweet!) while others have exclusive discount codes or eVouchers.  (more…)

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No Filter? Fabulous.

October 18, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only. 

Instagram filters. I love them. You love them. They are, without a doubt, the best thing since sliced bread. (Which, by the way, filters well with “Lo-Fi.” Really brings out the crusts and such.)

The thing about Instagram filters is that they hide the little stuff we don’t necessarily want the world to see: fine lines, age spots, pesky under-eye shadows and enlarged pores. In fact, whenever I apply a filter to one of my photos, I visualize a fairy godmother waving a wand and saying “Poof! You’re gorgeous.”

It’s a beautiful thing.

But something happened recently. A few weeks ago, I posted a photo to Instagram. It was a rare selfie of my husband and I (we manage to squeeze in about three to four dates per year), and I was happy to show off my new blonde highlights (I clearly don’t follow the crowd that goes darker for fall).

However, when I accessed the screen to select a filter, something – quite fabulous – happened:  I realized that my skin looked healthy and luminous… and the photo actually looked better without a filter. I looked young, fresh and happy! Hashtag: #nofilter!
13671950_187517688335085_434322412_nNow let’s be clear: I am wearing makeup in this photo. I have concealer under my eyes, a hint of eye makeup and blush, and a fabulous fuchsia lip gloss.

But other than under my eyes? Completely foundation-free. My pores? Almost non-existent. The fine lines and wrinkles around my eyes? I dare you to point them out.

And then I realized that I had recently made a change to my skin care routine – for the past three weeks, I’ve been using NeoStrata® All-in-One Night Serum and All-in-One Eye Serum(more…)

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Kids in the Kitchen? Oh Yes! Look What We Made (This Time!)

October 14, 2016

Last week, I invited y’all into my home as I shared a very special cooking session with my favourite little 6-year old. Reid and I made a flavourful Chicken, Broccoli & Rice Casserole that the whole family loved! And, the most important thing is that we made it together – from reading the recipe to preparing the ingredients, Reid was a fixture in the kitchen.

Teaching children to cook is an essential life skill, and if you’re looking for inspiration, Ben’s Beginners activities and recipes are a great place to get started. You’ll find interactive activities that teach basic cooking skills like peeling and stirring, as well as easy and delicious recipes for kids and parents to cook together.

This past weekend, look what we made! Turkey Meatballs & Rice!
While Reid is an enthusiastic sous chef, his older brother, Ryder, is more reluctant to help out. He’s at that “awesome” age where things just aren’t cool enough for him. Plus, he has very specific, healthy preferences that aren’t a bad thing – not by any means – but we normally have to alter recipes to suit his tastes. Thankfully, the Ben’s Beginners recipes allow for simple customization, and in our case, we used ground turkey in place of ground beef, and opted for Uncle Ben’s 100% Natural Whole Grain Brown Rice(more…)

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Tell Me Something Good

October 11, 2016

Hello, wonderful friends!

If you’re like me – still in a food coma from Thanksgiving – you’ll forgive me for taking a pass on writing today. Truth is, I’ve got errands to run and appointments to keep, all while greeting the official return of fall (weather wise) in Ontario.
1476073934815Photo: Tom Szczerbowski / Getty Images

So, let’s play a game. Tell me something good! I want to know your good news today. I’ll begin: the Toronto Blue Jays are going to the American League Championship Series! If you stayed up on Sunday to watch 10 nail-biting innings of baseball, you weren’t alone: over 4,000,000 Canadians tuned in to watch the game. And now, we’ve got a few days to catch our breath before they move on to face the Cleveland Indians. You know what I’ll be doing this weekend!

Your turn! Leave a comment to tell me something good!

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Step Up Your Menu! Make Your Thanksgiving Feast Even More Special #TasteTheFeeling

October 5, 2016

I have a love-hate relationship with holiday menu planning. Being an type-A personality, I always want to be the one to host special occasion dinners; I like the challenge of conceptualizing a feast, preparing the meal and basking in the glory of thankful family members.

“Oh, Lena, you outdid yourself! Everything is delicious!”

Yeah, I know. I’m pretty awesome.

Thankfully, I have a great partner in crime. Possibly the only person who enjoys entertaining even more than I do is my husband; he’s the first to grab cookbooks, suggest dishes and decorations, and always pitches in with the shopping, cooking and cleanup. We’re a dream team in the kitchen!
_dsc0070aThis year, I’ve decided go rogue and swap our traditional turkey for a savoury beef pot roast. Of course, since I’m already switching things up, why not do something super special? Thanks to my friends at Coca-Cola, an idea was born to incorporate our favourite beverage – both at the table AND in the meal! (more…)

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Look What We Made!

October 5, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

When kids learn to cook, they build healthier eating habits for life.

There’s no doubt about this. Developing a respect and appreciation, for both the ingredients and process of seeing a meal through to completion, is paramount for making wise food choices. As a young girl, I loved being “invited” into my mom’s kitchen to learn about foods, discover cultural traditions and of course, sample the ingredients along the way. (Though “licking the bowl” is now considered taboo! Boo hoo!)

Today, I have a young, enthusiastic sous chef who shadows me in the kitchen. Together, we tackle meal planning, work together to prep the meal and often, he’ll help me serve. (He’s great at garnish.)
_dsc0307However, I know that this isn’t the norm; many parents aren’t teaching cooking skills because they lack the confidence to do so. In fact, less than half of Canadian parents feel highly skilled at creating a balanced meal, and even have trouble with the most common kitchen tasks, like seasoning, chopping and pan frying. At the same time, 98% of Canadian parents think it is important to cook with their children.

So, we’ve got a situation where we know it’s important to teach our kids these essential life skills, but we simply don’t have the confidence to carry out the instruction. Here’s where Ben’s Beginners comes in.  (more…)

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I’m a Mom and I #ApproveThisLunchbox

October 3, 2016

“Good. Really good. I actually think I may like them more.”

Remember that quote. Because it came from an 8-year old kid who tried a different version of one of his favourite snacks – this time, made with the goodness of brown rice. And he really, really liked it.

Meet Ryder. He’s no stranger to Rice Krispies Squares. Having enjoyed them since he was in kindergarten, they’re one of his preferred lunchbox snacks. He loves the crispy and chewy texture; I love that they’re portable, enriched with essential nutrients and are trans fat free.

However, I recently discovered NEW Rice Krispies Square Bars Brown Rice. They’re made with no artificial colours, contain 8 g of whole grain per serving and offer the same ooey gooey taste that Ryder knows and loves.
_dsc0294aSo, I did what every mom would do – I switched them in my son’s lunchbox without telling him. Ha ha.

Okay, so I’m joking. First, I wouldn’t do that to Ryder – he loves to eat and his lunchbox always comes home empty, but that’s mostly because he has a hand in packing his lunch. We select the fruit, vegetables, protein and snacks the night before, and he lets me know what he prefers and what he’ll eat because he knows it’s good for him.  (more…)

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Dress it Up… and Fall into Style.

October 2, 2016

NOTE: The following giveaway is open to Canadians only.

Hello, sweater weather. It’s been much too long! And I’ve been awaiting your return – especially since I’ve updated my fall wardrobe to include a few key, timeless pieces.
_dsc0160aThis season, my go-to look is an oversized, chunky sweater with slim jeggings and slouchy boots. It’s the perfect combination of chic comfort and casual elegance, and I was able to find everything (including the boots – hello!) for just $75.91 pre-tax at Walmart.

YES, Walmart.

Ladies, when was the last time you visited the women’s section at Walmart? It’s teeming with the latest fall essentials from George at affordable prices. This year’s collection features everything from quality knits to stylish sweaters, and if the selection doesn’t blow you away, the prices surely will. I fell in love with this George Women’s Mock Neck Boxy Poncho with Sleeves for just $29.97.  (more…)

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Discover Fresh. Live Better.

October 2, 2016

Welcome, fall.

A season of changing leaves and warm layers. A time to swap swimsuits for sweaters; a chance to indulge in pumpkin spice and everything nice. And the very, very best time to shop for fresh, local produce.

My local Walmart is brimming with crisp apples, sweet peaches and earthy root vegetables. Squash in vibrant hues of yellow, orange and green beckon to be added to comforting soups and stews. Concord grapes, perfectly symmetrical and ripe off the vine, sit tightly packed in small baskets. Bartlett pears, soft and fragrant, offer versatility in the sweetest way.
_dsc0114aOf course, one of my favourite things to do is cook with nature’s bounty, creating flavourful meals I know my family will love – while showcasing the best of the fall harvest. These Pear, Brie and Walnut Crostinis are a delicious way to pay homage to locally grown Bartlett pears (my favourite!) and couldn’t be simpler to make. I found convenient 5-lb packages at Walmart, in addition to all the other ingredients for this recipe! (more…)

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It’s Time to #EndMomGuilt.

September 29, 2016

Oh, it’s a thing. And it’s time to put it to rest.

My first experience with mom guilt took place three days after my first son was born. Being a new mom – overtired, overwhelmed and overly emotional – I gave up on breastfeeding and bottle fed my son. *Guilt.*

My second son was exclusively breastfed. However, he also demanded a lot of my time and attention, so I felt that I was favouring him and not spending enough time to nurture his older brother. *Guilt.*

That’s how it started… and eight years in, it hasn’t really stopped. From battles over breakfast to screen time negotiations, from dinner dilemmas to bed time rituals, I always feel that I’m falling short in some way. That somehow, what I’m doing isn’t enough.

Can you relate to this?

The first time I watched the video, I could have cried. I feel you, moms! We’ve all been there, we’ve all done that. (And most of us bought the t-shirt, which was promptly covered with sticky fingers and baby drool, naturally.) (more…)

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A Sweet Celebration! LaRocca Celebrates Thirty Years!

September 26, 2016

I don’t often dedicate an entire blog post to endorsing a cake. I mean, cake is cake, right? Except, when that cake is the single most delicious dessert I’ve ever tried, I tend to make an exception.

La Rocca Creative Cakes is honouring thirty years of Canadian celebrations, special moments and craveable indulgences with a uniquely designed, limited edition Greatest Hits Cake. The layered creation will be headlining at participating grocery stores starting on September 30th, 2016.
14276436_326415501043895_1736987832242667520_nLast Friday I received the sweetest delivery – a chance to experience the delightful indulgence in advance of its release. The cake, which highlights a melange of La Rocca’s fan-­favourites through the years, comes together brilliantly in one layered delicious dessert.  (more…)

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Overcoming Barriers to Financial Independence

September 25, 2016

In a previous post, Driving Change with Financial Literacy, I shared the work of Enactus Ryerson: Project Dago. The program was initiated in August 2011 in Dago, a rural village in Western Kenya, which is home to over 3,000 households. Enactus Ryerson members empowered villagers to break the cycle of poverty by teaching money management and cultivating entrepreneurial skills.

Even though Dago is miles and miles away, at home in Canada, our own college and university students have returned to school. However, while they may be prepared for their required curriculum, a recent Capital One Canada Financial Education Study suggests that many could be blindsided by a crash course in money management.

Forty-six per cent of Canadians – and 50 per cent of 18-25 year olds – say they were unprepared to manage their finances going into post-secondary education. (more…)

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Best Buy: Big Savings on Baby Essentials!

September 23, 2016

Husband to Me: “What are you doing?”
Me: “Just browsing online at… they’re having a sale!”
Him (suddenly interested): “Oh really? What are you looking at?”
Me: “Baby gear! Cribs and car seats and gliders and monitors!”
Him (silent, slightly confused): “Um… baby stuff? At Best Buy?”

YES! If you didn’t already know, Best Buy has the best products from reliable brands that parents trust. From entertainment to comfort, to peace of mind, Best Buy is ready to meet all your parenting needs. And if you have a wee one to shop for, it’s the perfect time to check them out – ALL nursery furniture and decor is on sale this weekend only (Sept 23-25) in-store and online, and their Baby Event continues until September 29th, 2016.

Now I have the best news to share – our extended family is getting a little bigger! My brother and sister-in-law are expecting again, and soon I’ll have two little nieces to shower with love. So, of course I’m spending a lot of time on – seeing how I can spoil our new little princess! Here’s what I have my eye on –
1. Stork Craft Princess 4-in-1 Crib. Give your nursery a fairy-tale look! This solid wood crib converts to a toddler bed, daybed, and full-sized bed, offering a practical solution for your growing child. The heirloom scrollwork and beautiful bow detailing make this crib an enchanting piece for any nursery. On sale until Sept 29 for $479.99.  (more…)

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When Granola Bars are this Good, You Call them Great (Value)

September 23, 2016

Every mom has a list of her go-to snacks, and around here, we love a good granola bar.

Think about it: granola bars are small, extremely portable and easily napkin-free, which allows them to tackle a variety of snacking situations. They’re the perfect treat! From long car rides to lunchboxes, as part of a breakfast-on-the-go or in between meetings, we always have a variety on hand. Chances are, you do too! So tell me, are you a chocolate dipped or classically chewy kind of snacker?dsc_0013bLately, we’ve been enjoying Great Value Chewy Chocolate Chip Granola Bars. They’re peanut free, made in Canada and have no artificial colours or preservatives. They’re also crammed with granola and chocolatey goodness with just the right texture: not too chewy, not too soft. The boys always grab a granola bar before we head out to run errands, and I reach for them during the dreaded “3PM Snack Attack” when I need a little something to carry me through until dinner.  (more…)

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I Took a Vacation. And I Liked It.

September 20, 2016

After eight long years, I finally did it. I took a real, bona fide vacation.

I didn’t check my email. I didn’t rush to publish blog posts. (Did you miss me?) I didn’t tweet from the restaurant, stop what I was doing to capture the perfect Instagram photo (okay, maybe once or twice) or click on Facebook’s “Message Waiting” icon. I left my laptop in my carry-on luggage and sent all incoming phone calls to voice mail.

And I didn’t feel bad. At all. Not even a little bit.

The social media world did not fall apart without me. When I accessed my blog this morning, it was still here. No one called me out for failing to respond to a tweet; no one demanded an immediate email response. I was able to rest, relax and rejuvenate. It was glorious.
14240688_798483933587281_622348575_nThis week, I’m back to the grind. I spent the entire evening in catch-up mode and I shudder to think of all the deliverables coming up. But it’s worth it. I have newfound focus, clarification and determination. I know what I want to do and who I want to be. And I know I need to take vacations more often – especially to destinations that have palm trees and rum punch. Oh yes.

For now, it’s back to business! It’s good to be back, friends!

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Stop Illegal Tobacco.

September 13, 2016

In a previous post – Lighting a Cigarette, Loading a Gun – I shared information on the production and sale of contraband cigarettes in Ontario and Quebec. In fact, with over 50 illegal factories across the two provinces, potentially 10,000 illegal cigarettes can be produced every minute.
flicking-1For those thinking, “So what? I don’t smoke!” – Here’s why we all need to pay attention:

– The size of the illegal tobacco market in Ontario could be equivalent to 3 billion illegal cigarettes (15 million cartons).

– Estimated gross profit from illegal tobacco is $75 million dollars annually.

– The highly profitable sale of illegal cigarettes funds criminal activities, including drug and gun trafficking benefiting approximately 175 organized crime groups and gangs in Canada (nearly half of which are based in central Canada).

– Approximately 1 in 3 cigarettes purchased in Ontario are illegal, compared to an average of 1 in 10 in other provinces.  (more…)

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A Case of the Mondays

September 12, 2016

You know those days when you just don’t want to crawl out of bed? Where you’d rather pull your covers over your face and pretend the world doesn’t exist?

I’m having one of those weeks.

I get the blues in September because I’m generally resistant to change. I’ve grown accustomed to the chill vibe of summer, and suddenly, when confronted with school routines, the re-commencement of sports leagues and lessons, and – gah! – chilly mornings and early sunsets, I curl up in a ball and attempt to block it all out.

And I’d probably be successful, if not for the little hand that pulls away the covers and says, “Good morning Mommy! Would you like to join me for breakfast?”

Alas, my day will begin – just like it always does – and soon enough, I’ll acclimate to the new routines, become a pro at chauffeuring kids, and bundle up with knit sweaters and a pumpkin spice latte.

Taking the sting out of this particular Monday? Knowing that we’ll be leaving for Orlando, Florida in just three short days.
20160714-_dsc8537-1024x683-1Photo Credit: Orlando Informer

There, we’ll experience the brand new Loews Sapphire Falls Resort at Universal Orlando, Florida. Reminiscent of a leisurely estate in the heart of the tropics, the Caribbean-inspired resort boasts cascading blue waterfalls across lush grounds with a luxuriously landscaped 16,000 square foot, resort-style pool. (more…)

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The Most Prepared Mom: Back to School Edition

September 8, 2016

This post was sponsored by the makers of BENADRYL®. Thoughts and opinions are my own.

I mean, in theory. Back to school time always throws me for a loop; as much as I think I’m ready to have the boys return to a routine, there’s always a bit of a struggle. Mornings are hectic, weekday night schedules are constantly changing and let’s not discuss the shenanigans at bedtime. Sigh.

However, once we do get back into our groove, I like to make a few more updates for the new school year. First, I re-visit our cable television, internet and mobile phone plans to ensure that we’re only paying for the services we need and use. Next, I clean out the pantry. Over the summer we tend to be more lenient with the boys’ diets (do we really need eight kinds of cookies?) and a fall refresh ensures I’m stocking up on good, brain-fueling foods.

Finally, I always use back to school time as reminder to update our medicine chest and first aid kit. With the boys once again in close proximity with other kids in a shared environment, infections and reactions are sure to happen. And, cold and flu season is not far behind. Here’s how to be the most prepared mom: back to school edition.bear1. Replace all expired and soon-to-expire medications. The middle of the night is not the time to discover that your child’s fever-reducing medicine expired last month. Use back to school time as a reminder to check the expiration dates of all prescription and over the counter medicines, as well as items such as rubbing alcohol and sanitizer, antibiotic ointments and allergy medications.  (more…)

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