Thursday, December 26, 2013

Next Issue Canada: All Your Favourite Magazines At Your Fingertips

What's your guilty pleasure? One of mine is reading magazines with my earphones on, relaxing on the beach without a care in the world. The one thing I don't love is packing all my favourite magazines to take on vacation... they end up taking up too much space, I lose them, or they get covered in suntan lotion.

Here's an amazing new app subscription I love:  Next Issue Canada an awesome and very practical app that allows you to have unlimited access to dozens and dozens of magazines for only $9.99 a month. With the click of a button, you have access to over 100 magazines, including back issues. (Love that idea, especially if you're a magazine junkie like me!)

 
From Chatelaine to In Style to Entertainment Weekly, the Next Issue Canada app has all the magazines you know and love.


Some great articles I read this week online from Next Issue Canada? A fun interview with Britney Spears in the latest issue of In Style magazine, (with a peek at her favourite wardrobe pieces) a great interview in Glamour magazine's January issue with Homeland's Claire Danes, and an interview with my favourite actress Kate Hudson in the January issue of Harper's Bazaar, called California Dreaming. ("If Sunny Delight came in human form, this would be your girl.") I love that I can read back months that I may have missed, too, like October's issue of In Style with Julianne Moore on the cover.... she's always so elegant.

I also love reading Conde Nast Traveler, if only to fantasize about where I want to travel to next. (Capri and Paris are top of my list!) I loved reading Gold List in January's issue, about the world's best hotels. I've marked off a few I have to visit... soon! (I've got a crazy travel itch itch now.)

The articles in each magazine are easy to find and I love the way they are organized. The articles are easy to find, easy to read, and very easy to enjoy. And, total bonus? Absolutely affordable.

If you want, you can receive a free 30 day subscription right now, too, which is oh-so-worth-it. I'll be reading all my favourite magazines and articles on my iPhone on my flight to south Florida in a few weeks.

Happy reading!

Disclaimer: I received compensation for this post. All opinions and views are my own. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Merry Christmas And Everything In Between!

The Christmas countdown is officially on! Even though it has been the busiest month, it has also been a month filled with a lot of awesome. From the children's Christmas concerts and special afternoons in the classrooms, to the festive parties and get together's with friends and family, December is one of my favourite times of the year, despite the cold and snow. (And oh, boy, did we get a lot of snow!) I'm excited for the next few days, but maybe not as excited as my children are. Seeing their excitement this week is very heartwarming, and is a great reminder about what the season is all about.
 


Even though a lot of us are busy getting all our last-minute holiday shopping done, let's remember the true meaning of the season.

Wishing you all the most amazing Christmas and holiday season filled with lots of love and laughter. Here's to making sure our glass is always full with Bailey's... or wine... or champagne.

Cheers to a wonderful, happy, and healthy 2014!

Friday, December 20, 2013

Last Minute Holiday Gift Guide For Kids

The Christmas countdown is on! The school concerts and holiday events are over, and although I'm mostly ready, there are still a few last-minute gifts I have to pick up, presents to wrap, cookies to bake, and parties to attend. Yes, this is what I'd call one very busy week... but I'm not complaining at all!

Here are a couple of great last-minute gift ideas for the children on your list:

LeapPad Ultra: A few months ago, I was sent to Toronto to attend a LeapFrog event at Harbinger's head office with Amber Mac. We got to preview a whole bunch of awesome LeapFrog toys for kids of all ages.


A hot item that a lot of children will find under their Christmas tree this year? The LeapPad Ultra. This is a great tablet designed for kids aged four to seven. The LeapPad Ultra is totally kid-appropriate, and kid-tough. You can drop this tablet a hundred times, and nothing will happen to it! It features a kid-safe web browser that parents can trust, and works with LeapFrog's "vast library of more than 800 life-changing content experiences designed or approved by LeapFrog's learning experts."

The LeapPad Ultra also features a big 7-inch high-resolution screen and is designed to help children learn to write using a stylus while supporting interactive touch experiences. This child-friendly tablet even has a front and back camera and video recorder, on-board MP3 player and even more memory (8GB) for even more fun. The LeapPad Ultra sells for about $159.00, and will make the perfect gift for your little learner this holiday season.



If you're looking for other great educational toys by LeapFrog, I highly recommend the Leap|Reader. The LeapReader helps children learn how to read by helping them sound out words, read sentences, and let's kids play games and puzzles. It also helps children learn the basics of writing letters and numbers with special LeapFrog Learning Paper. I love the audio books, too, that help children learn songs and trivia, and helps children build comprehension skills and vocabulary. This sells for $59.99.

Little Passports: My almost six year old loves globes and world maps. Although he is already a little traveller, his dream is to explore even more of the world and go on many adventures. There is nothing more worthwhile than travelling, so I fully support my child's dream. A unique gift idea for kids who love geography and adventure? Little Passports.


Little Passports is an educational monthly subscription box that your little one can receive in the mail once a month, where they'll open up a new suitcase and learn about different cultures, history, and more, from different countries around the world. Kids can follow along with world travellers Sam and Sofia, and even take part in hands-on activities from the places they have visited. We received a suitcase from the world edition, and learned all about Brazil. My son is hooked and can't wait to find out where he'll be "travelling" to next. This subscription is $11.95 a month, or $10.95 a month for one year.

Other items that make great presents for children this time of year? Books, subscriptions to their favourite magazines, science kits, board games, and anything where they can be creative!
 
Happy last minute shopping, friends.
 

Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Unexpected Delight At Hampton Hotel (And A Hampton Hotel Holiday Giveaway!)

I love everything about the holidays—the beautiful decorations, the festive parties, shopping for the perfect gift for everyone on my list, and most importantly—re-connecting with family members from out of town. There is something absolutely magical about this time of year.

Although travelling is my favourite thing to do after shopping, travelling during the holidays can be a little... stressful, to say the least. Thankfully, I'm not going anywhere in December, but I am welcoming family members from Washington, D.C.

My children are excited to see their cousin again, and I'm looking forward to catching up with my family from south of the border. Hosting extended family members can be a bit tricky and overwhelming during the holidays, when to-do lists are already a mile long, though. I love helping my guests with their accommodations, and I know when I book them at a Hampton Hotel near my home they'll be well taken care of when I'm not with them.



Hampton Hotels (Hampton Inn, Hampton Suites, and Hampton by Hilton) provide their guests with friendly service, affordable accommodations, and clean, modern rooms. With over 1,900 locations worldwide, there is bound to be a Hampton Hotel near you to help make the holiday travel experience easier for your guests. Hampton Hotels really do cater to their guests.

Hampton Hotels offer:
  • High-quality and consistent accommodations and amenities.
  • Free Wi-Fi, including in hotel rooms. (Yes!)
  • Free hot breakfast (including waffles) for everyone. (Double yes!)
  • The latest technology and innovations, such as multi-unit Power Cubes and the brand's signature Clean and Fresh Hampton Bed. (You'll get a great night sleep, guaranteed!)
To make things even easier for you during this incredibly busy month, here are some tips I wanted to share with you...

Holiday Hosting Tips:

Be the best off-site host ever: As much as we love our friends and family, having people stay in our home for more than a couple of days can be a little hectic. You may feel restricted from going about doing what you normally would, and leaving your house to take care of your to-do list might prove to be more complicated with houseguests. You may also not have enough room in your house for all your loved ones. The perfect solution? Put your family up in a Hampton Hotel—these hotels are clean, modern, affordable, and offer added perks like free wi-fi and free hot breakfast for the entire family.

Surprise guests with a welcome basket: I love leaving baskets of goodies for my out of town guests in their hotel rooms. I include things like cookies, a map of the city, small games and books for the children, toiletries, and my favourite hand cream. It's also a great idea to include a set of keys to your home, so they know the door is always open. I leave a personalized note, as well, welcoming them, with all important contact information they may need. Hampton Hotels love welcoming guests with a favourite local snack (mmm... maple cookies, anyone?) or a fun local item to make guests feel even more at home upon checking in.

Plan a daily ritual: It's great when your out of guests have time on their own to do their own thing, but it's also important to make sure everyone stays connected. After all, the holidays are about keeping the family together, right? Plan something every day so that everyone can get together, whether it's hosting dinner every night or a game night for the kids. Just make sure you let your guests know the itinerary!

Get outside: It's winter, the snow is falling, and the lights are dazzling. Why not get everyone together and head outside for a big snowman building competition? Or how about lacing up the skates and taking a twirl on an outdoor rink? You can end your night sipping hot chocolate (or Bailey's, perhaps?) in front of the fire place. The perfect holiday evening!

Want to stay in the loop and find out more about holiday hosting with Hampton Hotels? Join MomTrends on December 17th for a fun twitter party at 1 p.m.  (Make sure you're following @Momtrends and @Hampton on Twitter so you don't miss out!)

And here's something extra sweet for one of my lucky readers... just in time for the holidays!

Thanks to Montrends and Hampton, I am giving away a one night stay at Hampton Hotel! Happy holidays, friends.  If you're the winner, you'll receive a "Be My Guest" card in the mail so you can enjoy a free night at a Hampton Hotel location of your choice, where you'll get to experience the full Hamptonality treatment. You will not be disappointed, I promise. 

Enter here for your chance to win:



Good Luck!


Disclaimer: Compensation was provided by Hampton Hotel via MomTrends. The opinions expressed herein are those of the author and not indicative of the opinions of Hampton or MomTrends. 

Friday, December 6, 2013

Awesome Stocking Stuffers Ideas (And My CTV Segment To Get You In The Shopping Mood!)

Are you out of ideas on what to get the kids or your loved one for their stocking this year? Well, don't worry. I've got some great stocking stuffer ideas everyone will love—items that are unique, practical, and affordable. (Even things I want to find in my stocking this year... hint, hint, Santa!)
Here's my segment from CTV Ottawa Morning Live where I showed some amazing items from Tag Along Toys and HomeSense. There is something here for everyone in your family!




Happy holiday shopping, friends. If you need a personal shopper, you know where to find me. Thanks for the great items I got to show on-air, Homesense and Tag Along Toys!

Also! I feel like Santa's helper right now... the amazing items I showed from Tag Along Toys? I'm giving them away to one of my lucky readers! Leave me a comment below telling me what you want in YOUR stocking this year, and you'll be entered to win! (Local residents only for this giveaway, please. Winner will be selected randomly on December 11th, 2013.)

Good Luck!

Thursday, December 5, 2013

Stress-Free Holiday Shopping With The RBC Avion Holiday Boutique

I consider myself a shopping expert, and through my many years of experience I've learned a few tricks about not getting totally burned out when holiday shopping in a busy mall. Searching for the perfect gift for everyone on your list in a crowded mall with long line-ups can be draining for everyone— even the most seasoned shoppers.

Wouldn't it be perfect if there was a place—in the mall—you could go to,  to re-charge your batteries? A place where you could enjoy a cup of coffee, drop off your coat, and even get your gifts wrapped... free of charge? No, seriously, I'm not dreaming! A place like this does exist, my friends. And it's called the Avion Holiday Boutique.

The Avion Holiday Boutique is a special place (a place of zen, if you will) where tired and overwhelmed shoppers (especially those shopping with young children!) can get a break from the hustle and bustle of the mall. The Avion Holiday Boutique runs until December 31st, so you have plenty of time to take advantage of the awesomeness of it all.


The Avion Holiday Boutique is open to all RBC Avion cardholders (just show your RBC Platinum Avion card, RBC Visa Infinity Avion card,  RBC Business Platinum Avion card, or your RBC Visa Infinite for Private Banking card for access) and if you're not a card holder? No problem! You can apply on-site for an RBC Avion card, and enjoy all the perks of the Avion Holiday Boutique, just like that.

Some of the awesome perks you'll receive:

  • Valet parking 
  • Coat and Parcel check 
  • Gift wrapping service (for up to ten gifts)
  • Access to the VIP Lounge and Cafe
  • Concierge/Porter service
  • Food court reservations 

You can enjoy these fabulous perks at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto, the Mail Champlain in Montreal, Coquitlam Centre in British Columbia, and the Halifax Shopping Centre.

So, my advice? Dress in your most comfortable clothes, shopping list in hand, and head to your favourite mall. Get started with your shopping, and when you start to feel a bit tired even though you haven't gotten through your list yet? Head to the Avion Holiday Boutique, put your feet up, sip a warm beverage, and when your batteries are fully charged again? You'll be ready for some more shopping!



Disclosure: I am part of the RBC Avion Holiday Boutique Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Saving With AIR MILES During The Holidays

I'm a card girl. 

By this I mean I hardly ever leave the house with cash, because shopping is more fun when I don't see how much I'm actually spending! I'm also a huge fan of AIR MILES, because I can whip out my little blue card at many of my favourite stores knowing I'll be getting something back. I use my AIR MILES Collector card when I'm shopping online at airmilesshops.ca, too, which is a total bonus during the holidays. Also? I just redeemed for my plane ticket to south Florida for my winter family vacation with my AIR MILES reward miles. The entire flight! Merry Christmas to me...

Up until December 24th, AIR MILES is giving you even more reason to love them. When you're busy shopping for the holidays—whether it's for food to entertain your guests, presents for your children and loved ones, or even new ornaments for the tree—you will be earning even more with AIR MILES—you'll receive 25 Bonus reward miles for every AIR MILES Cash redemption you make each day, per sponsor. I love when the purchases I'm already making end up being rewarding for me, too. 



Air Miles Cash gives collectors flexibility to choose how their AIR MILES reward miles are earned and redeemed by signing up for AIR MILES Cash, and setting a preference. Once set, future earned AIR MILES reward miles will be allocated into either AIR MILES Cash or AIR MILES Dream balance, or a combination of both (the choice is yours!). Reward miles collected in your AIR MILES Cash balance allow for instant redemption in-store at participating Sponsor locations across the country. Collectors can visit air miles.ca/cash to activate their AIR MIILES Cash balance and start earning. (95 AIR MILES reward miles = $10 off in-store.) 

To find a Sponsor near you, visit Airmiles.ca/cashevent for details. 

Happy shopping... and enjoy all the wonderful things you'll be able to get back simply  by using your AIR MILESCollector card this holiday season!

Disclosure: I received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

Wednesday, December 4, 2013

Self(ie) Control

Best friends know your deepest secrets, and they never judge. Conversations with best friends last into the early morning hours, and the laughs never stop.  I love my best friend because she knows me more than anyone else, and vice versa.

Best friends are also brutally honest with one another. Kind of like sisters.

Last year my best friend and I got in my car to go out, and I took out my iPhone to take a selfie.

"Lou," my best friend Suzanne said to me. "Don't do it. You take too many selfies! You don't need to. You're beautiful. Put the phone down." 

Me: Silence. Blink. Blink.  "Um, Suzanne? I do NOT take a lot of selfies! I hardly ever take selfies!" 

Suzanne: "Give me your phone. Okay, here's a selfie. And another one. And this one. And here. And here's a selfie of your face with the caption "Having a great day at the beach!" You can't even see the beach. You take too many selfies, babe." 

Me: "Oh, my God. I cannot believe this! I DO take too many selfies! I hate myself! I am so ashamed! I promise from now on, I will take fewer selfies! God, I'm awful. Okay, I'm totally stopping. Just after this one, because my hair looks good right now." 

As the days and weeks and months went by, I did my best to take a lot less selfies. Although I still take some, I don't do it very often. Here's proof:


On Instragram, out of 10 pictures, only one is a selfie. Not bad, huh?

And now if I ever question posting a selfie online, I turn to my sister or best friend for advice.

Like today, when I texted my sister:


So I took her advice and didn't post the picture I wanted to. I put a picture of her and I from about eight years ago. A picture that was taken before selfies even existed.


It's all about self(ie) control, you guys.

Oh, and I found the perfect gift for my best friend, too. She loves it!


Keep Holding On (And Sing Along For A Good Cause)

I love doing my part and giving back to causes and charities I think are important. And I love spreading the word about important causes, too.

The Women's College Hospital Foundation has teamed up with Canada's sweetheart, Avril Lavigne, to create a cover song of "Keep Holding On" which includes the voices of Canadians across the country. The remixed (and very awesome) song is available on iTunes and the proceeds from every single download go towards supporting the Women's College Hospital and women's healthcare. I could not think of a better way to support Canadian talent, while helping Canadian women at the same time.


You can find the song here, on iTunes. Have a listen, and then download it—you'll love it, because it's a beautiful song that you won't be able to stop singing. Trust me, I speak from experience. Ahem.



A little bit about the Women's College Hospital:

The Women's College Hospital is the only independent, academic, ambulatory care hospital in Ontario with a primary focus on the health of women, which began in 1883. The Women's College Hospital is a teaching hospital fully affiliated with the University of Toronto. The hospital supports research in women's health and leads the way in training health-care providers within an ambulatory setting.




Disclosure: I received compensation for this post, but am happy to support such a great cause. All views and opinions are my own.

Tuesday, December 3, 2013

Holiday Greeting Cards

Running to the mail box is always a lot more exciting in December, because bills are replaced with holiday cards from friends. Instead of receiving bills (oh, the joy!) my mail box is full of holiday greeting cards from friends and family.

Nothing brings a smile to my face like checking the mail in December and getting a card from a friend I haven't talked to in a while. I love placing the cards around my fireplace mantle, adding to the holiday décor.

There are so many great options at where to get holiday cards from, like You Print. I love the card selection that You Print has and I love the idea of personalized cards. Fast, quick service, great selection of cards you can customize, and super affordable prices? Yes, please! It makes the shopping part easy and painless, and you get the cards you want delivered to your front door.

I love shopping holiday cards through You Print because of how easy and affordable it is, and also because I love all the great options. It is a great service to use whether you're a business or just sending them out personally.

Mastermind Toys Giveaway!

I haven't really started Christmas shopping for my children yet, (or for anyone else, for that matter!) but there are a few stores I know I'll be hitting to get all that I need—like Mastermind Toys. I'm a pretty efficient shopper, and I'm one of those people who actually enjoys shopping even on December 24th. 'Tis the season, after all!

As children get older (my boys are eight and almost six years old) their likes and wants change, making it a bit more challenging to shop for them. However, I love challenges, and I love finding perfect gifts for the two most deserving people in my life—my children.

My eight year old loves Minecraft. A lot. He also loves science and chemistry, and anything to do with the Elements. He's also reading "real" books now—novels—which makes me incredibly happy, so checking things off his list is not too hard.

My almost six year old loves music and movies. He's a character, this child of mine! His new interest is geography—he has a collection of globes and maps in his room, and he knows all the continents and major cities.

I knew that I wanted to give him something special this Christmas that would completely impress him. He always wants to know what time it is in other parts of the world, so when I came across the Night and Day Globe that Mastermind Toys sells, I knew it would be the perfect gift for him.

This is no ordinary globe, you guys—it's a clock and calendar, too. As it rotates, it shows the time of day and the date for any location on earth. It also shows where people on earth are experiencing sunrise, sunset, and twilight. Isn't that amazing? It'll even teach me a thing or two about different time zones around the world, as well.




Mastermind Toys has done a great job putting together an awesome Holiday Gift Guide  designed to make your job easier. It is packed with amazing gift ideas for girls and boys of all ages, and you'll have fun checking things off your list thanks to the handy guide. The kids will love it, too.

From Rainbow Loom to Lego Mindstorms, there's something at Mastermind Toys for every child.

Since it is the season of giving, Mastermind Toys is giving away a $75 gift card to one of my awesome readers! How awesome is that?

To enter, leave me a comment below telling me one item that is on your child's wish list this holiday season. 

Bonus entries:

Follow me on Twitter.
Follow Mastermind Toys on Twitter.
Like Loulou's Views on Facebook.


Good Luck!



Disclaimer: I receive special perks from Mastermind Toys. All opinions and views are my own.

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Five Tips On Staying Healthy During The Holidays

December is here, and Christmas is just weeks away. I'm getting super excited, and so are my kids. It's pretty much the most wonderful time of the year, but it's also the time of year we might veer a little off the healthy road we're used to. It's easy for our expenses to grow in the month of December, but our waist line doesn't have to! There are simple things we can all do—children included—to stay healthy, even during the oh-so-tempting month of December.

Here are five tips on keeping the entire family healthy during the holidays:

1. Bake cookies, from scratch. Find a really hard recipe so that you'll be too exhausted to take even one bite once they're out of the oven. Isn't this a great way to save calories?

2. Get outside! Have a "who can make the best snowman" competition with the kids. You'll be surprised how many calories you'll all burn. (Be fair. Let them win!)

3. Get some zzz's. Sleep is so important, especially for the little ones who are excited for all the festivities. I could totally use a few more hours of sleep, too—I average four hours of sleep a night... for the last eight years!

4. Drink milk! It's a great snack choice when paired with fruit and vegetables, and you know your kids are getting the nutrients they need. We love Milk Unleashed because it's a safe shelf milk that is packaged in boxes that don't even need refrigeration until they're opened. My kids love milk for breakfast, lunch, dinner, and as a snack in the evenings. And yes—milk goes great with cookies, but just make sure to limit how many everyone has. Everything in moderation!

5. You'll be going to a lot of parties in December. Provide a healthy variety of snacks at home, so everyone in the family can treat themselves at the festive events without feeling too guilty.





Happy and healthy holidays!


Disclosure: I received compensation for this post from Milk Unleashed. All opinions and views are my own. 

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Top Five Holiday Movies To Get You In The Mood (For Christmas!)

Can you believe Christmas is just a few weeks away? (Yay!) Before the panic sets in because you haven't started shopping yet and you're hosting Christmas for your family of 35, why not kick up your feet and relax with one of these holiday classics that'll make you smile and get in the spirit of all things festive?

Here are my picks for BEST HOLIDAY MOVIES EVER:

Love, Actually

Oh, this movie... my heart... you know.

This scene right here:





Enough said.

Home Alone

True story, you guys. When Home Alone came out 20 years ago (Yes, 20 years ago. I know. We're old, okay?) I loved it so much, I saw it in theatres three times. Little did I know that this holiday movie (shout-out to John Hughes) would become my five year old's favourite movie. He went through a phase where he actually collected Home Alone DVD's like hockey cards. Let's not talk about that, because I may weep over the money I spent on this collection. Anyway, I'm glad my child has great taste in movies, and even though I've seen Home Alone way too many times, it's still on my list, because, well, it's awesome.



Elf

Elf is absolutely my most favourite Christmas movie ever. I watch it a few times every year, and laugh hard every. single. time.

"Buddy the Elf, what's your favourite colour?"



Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas

You're a mean one, Mr. Grinch. I love watching this movie with my boys because it's so heartwarming when evil Grinch becomes good, thanks to little Cindy Lou Who. It's a classic I truly love.



Rudolf The Red Nosed Reindeer

This is the one movie I get excited about every year but never really watch because I get bored easily. My children don't last for the entire movie, either, but we have good intentions. It's just nice to have it on in the background, even if we're busy doing other things around the house. It's a classic, and it's actually the longest-running holiday movie in TV history.



Honorable Mention: It's A Wonderful Life.

One popular holiday movie I have yet to see? The Christmas Story. Can you believe it?

What are your favourite holiday movies?

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Easy Holiday Entertaining Ideas

One of the things I love most about the holiday season is hosting parties and entertaining my friends and family in my home. Of course, I love attending festive parties just as much, if not more, because all I have to do is slip on a sparkly dress, wrap up a hostess gift, and I'm ready to rock and roll!

As much as I love hosting friends during the holiday season, it can be stressful when I'm trying to find unique and delicious recipes that will please everyone. I enjoy preparing a variety of different appetizers so it's a more casual atmosphere than a formal sit-down dinner. It's also easier when you're having more than ten people over, and finger foods that are easy to eat make it easier for guests to mingle and walk around, too.

Thanks to Parmalat Canada—and just in time for the holiday party season—a new Black Diamond product has arrived that's sure to be a hit... the Black Diamond Cheese Spread.

Parmalat came to the rescue to help me prepare for the holidays—they sent me a $150 Black Diamond cheese spread pack which included the four different Black Diamond cheese spreads (Original, White, Light, and Sharp) product coupons, a gorgeous Petite Maison By Wildly Delicious Large Olivewood Cheese Board, an Olivewood bread bowl, cheese spreaders, and oven mitts. I'll be using all of this to entertain my guests this festive season.


With the new Black Diamond cheese spreads, you can "Spread It, Spoon It, Dip It"—and more. The new Black Diamond cheese spreads are perfect paired with crackers and bread, or you can fancy things up and try a new recipe—perfect for your holiday entertaining!

I love the easy recipes I found online, like the Chicken and Chedder Quesadillas. I'm not the greatest cook, but this recipe takes only ten minutes to make, so I was brave enough to try making it. Before preparing it for my guests, I prepared it for my toughest critics: my children. Results? They loved it! Next up? I'm making the Cheddar Potato Gratin.



Chicken and Chedder Quesadillas

Prep time: 15 minutes

Ingredients:

2 tbsp. Black Diamond Original Cheese Spread
1 red pepper, sliced into strips
1/2 cup pulled roasted chicken
1/4 cup salsa
1 large flour tortilla

Steps:

1. Season peppers with salt and pepper and lightly sauté.
2. Spread Black Diamond Original Cheese Spread on the tortilla. Place peppers and chicken on top. Fold quesadilla in half and place in the oven to broil. Serve with salsa... and voila! You're done. (Note: I used grilled chicken breast in my version, and it still tasted delicious.)

I am also preparing the Cheddar Chickpea Hummus dip for my holiday party. How great does that sound... with some pita bread?  Let's get this party started!

I know you're all busy getting ready for your own holiday parties, ('tis the season!) so Parmalat is sending one of these awesome $150 Black Diamond prize packs to one of my readers, too! (This giveaway is open to Canadian residents only... sorry!) 

To win, just leave me a comment below telling me what you love best about the holiday season. 

I'll pick a winner randomly on December 1st, 2013. 


For more unique recipe ideas, check out Spread It, Dip It. Good Luck!

Monday, November 25, 2013

Shoppers For The Holidays? Yes, Please!



I think I've finally come to terms with the fact that summer is over. After all, it's almost December, the red cups are back at Starbucks, it's freezing outside, and it has started snowing. (Hold me as I weep.) The one thing that keeps me smiling through the cold until about January 2nd is the holidays. I love everything about the festive season, especially the shopping for other people part. And, okay, for myself, too. (We all need some new sparkle for the parties, right?)

Shoppers Drug Mart is one of my favourite holiday destinations for gift giving. And right now there are some amazing promotions going on that'll make your holiday shopping easy—I promise.

You'll find something at Shoppers Drug Mart for literally everyone on your shopping list. From amazing fragrance sets and gorgeous gift baskets to toys and electronics, Shoppers is your one-stop shop.

Shoppers Drug Mart always has great in-store sales and promotions, and they're always open late—as a mom, I've made the run to Shoppers past midnight, so I'm especially thankful for the great hours. Bonus? Earning all those Optimum Points! I save up my Optimum Points to get myself new perfume, like Prada Candy or Burberry Body, my two favourites.




Some great gift ideas I want to buy for the people on my list this year include: 

1. Olay Regenerist Gift Set: This set is a great gift to give to your mom, your best friend, or hey, even yourself. It includes the Micro-Sculpting Cream (fragrance-free) as well as the Night Recovery Cream and Eye Cream and Lash Serum Duo.

2. Eye Studio Sampler: This is a great gift for your best friend, sister, or anyone you know who loves new make-up. This cute little kit contains 6 deluxe mini mascaras, deluxe eye make-up remover, and a certificate for the complimentary full-size product of your choice, after you've tested them all out.

3. Sony Wireless Headphones: These wireless headphones come with a charging base station and they are awesome for pretty much anyone on your list. They're awesome if you want to drown out the noise of your fighting, whiny children, or if you just want to kick back and play video games... or listen to your music while working out!

For even more awesome holiday ideas, check out the Shoppers Drug Mart holiday catalogue. Also, select beauty products will have a free gift with purchase while quantities last, so make sure to visit your local Shoppers Drug Mart so you don't miss out on any of these great deals.

Want to share your favourite gifts? Join in on the conversation on Twitter at #GiftsMadeEasy.

Happy shopping!










Disclosure: I received compensation for this post. All views and opinions are my own, and I'm an avid Shoppers Drug Mart consumer. 

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Shop Wise(ly) This Holiday Season

A couple of years ago, I was introduced to a cool shopping app called ShopWise. After testing it out, I hosted a fun event with Yellow Pages Group and ShopWise at the Pantages Hotel in Toronto so I could talk about how practical and easy-to-use an app it was. What can I say? I love to talk about shopping, and I love spreading the word about shopping news I know others will appreciate, especially this time of year when we're trying to save money with all the holiday shopping we have to do.


If you're not familiar with ShopWise, you should be. ShopWise (by Yellow Pages Group) is an app that offers Canadians a better, smarter way to shop. It's basically the most important shopping app ever if you're looking for great deals and want to do some comparison shopping before you even leave the house. With the holidays around the corner, who wants to waste time driving from store to store to find the best price when you can find out all the deals with the click of a button? This app saves you gas, too... genius!

ShopWise just launched a whole new version of their shopping app.  It's the most complete shopping app available for Canadians.

With ShopWise, you can find great deals at restaurants, and find the best prices for shoes, baby clothes, sporting gear, even food—which is perfect if you're hosting some festive parties this season! You can find the hottest deals based on your location, and you can search for a specific product, store, or brand near you, thanks to the localization function. You can also stay-up-date with the best deals, customized just for you.

I love that I can be notified if spa treatments are on special—I love going for massages. $45 for a 60-minute massage is a pretty fantastic deal, and thanks to ShopWise, it's a deal I won't miss out on. (This would be a super sweet gift for my sister for Christmas, because she loves going for massages even more than I do!)


I even found out—thanks to Shopwise—that one of my favourite stores, Chapters/Indigo, has a great deal going on right now: buy three stocking stuffers, get one free. Sweet! I love filling my children's stockings with all the things they love, and they love pretty much everything at Chapters. (Glow in the dark table tennis would be perfect for my eight year old tennis player!)


And if a new pair of sexy shoes is on your holiday wish-list, for yourself, or for someone you're shopping for, look no further... ShopWise lets you know about all the sales going on at stores like Aldo.


Basically, ShopWise is working for you—saving you time and money, and helping you find that exact item you need to buy for the absolute best price, guaranteed, at major stores or even smaller, local stores.

I've got even more great news for you—ShopWise is giving away a prepaid $100 shopping card to one of my readers! Just download the ShopWise app and fill out the form with your email address in the "Help" section of the app. Then just enter the giveaway here: 

a Rafflecopter giveaway

I think $100 will go a long way when you're shopping for the holidays, especially with the great deals you'll find using ShopWise.

Good Luck... and Happy Shopping!



Disclosure: I was compensated for this post. All opinions are my own.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Lost In The World Of Play... And Imaginext

I've found that one of the great joys of parenthood is watching your children get lost in the world of play. As much as I love playing with my kids—I'm a very hand-on mom—I also enjoy sitting back and watching my children, as a silent observer.  I love wondering where their wild imaginations will take them, and what they'll think of next.

Sometimes I'll catch my boys talking to each other, and I try hard not to laugh out loud at the things they say. Whether they're playing at the park, running around the neighbourhood, or swimming together, they are definitely on their own adventure.

Often, I'll catch my five year old deep in play, with his favourite Fisher-Price Imaginext  toys. An entire part of our family room is devoted to these toys, and that's fine with me, because this child of mine plays for hours on end. He has a great way of setting up all his little people and then taking them on a wild adventure from Joker's Funhouse to the Batcave. Helicopters, car chases, you name it, he's got a scene going on in is head that he acts out perfectly. Complete with character voices, too.

Before being introduced to the Imaginext line, I thought our Fisher-Price days were over, because my boys were out of the baby and toddler stage. I was so glad when I discovered all the great toys Fisher-Price had for older kids. Now, Imaginext has come out with a new line I know my little boy will love... Ed Venture! Thanks to Fisher-Price and Mom Central Canada, my little one is going to get an amazing surprise come Christmas morning: the new Imaginext Rescue City Center. I'm looking forward to watching my little one create some rescue adventures at the gas station, bank, hotel, fire station, and police station. He's going to love this!


If you think your children would love to get lost in the world of Ed Venture, you should enter this great Imaginext contest where you'll play an online game to unlock the next phase by solving clues. Once the 9 clues are solved and the game is won, you'll be entered to win 1 of 5 $300 Imaginext prize packs that include:

The Imaginext Rescue City Center
The Imaginext Mega Apatasaurus
The Imaginext Eagle Talon Castle 
The Imaginext Batcave

Isn't that a great bundle of awesome to receive? Whether you'd keep them all for your children, give them away as holiday gifts, or donate some to your favourite children's charity, entering this contest is so worthwhile.

Then you can sit back, and watch your little ones get lost in their own adventures, too!


Disclosure: I am part of the Fisher-Price Imaginext Blogger Campaign with Mom Central Canada and I receive special perks as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Obsessions (And The Best Movie Ever)

I fall in love with things very easily. Perhaps that's not the right word... I get majorly obsessed over new things like movies, songs, books, and TV shows.

If I've seen the BEST MOVIE EVER and you haven't, you better, or else I won't shut-up about it. Related, if you've seen the BEST MOVIE EVER and you didn't like it? Don't even tell me. I probably will not be able to be friends with you anymore, let alone look you in the eyes. I'm just kidding... sort of.

I still haven't forgiven one of my best friends, who years ago, decided Dead Poets Society was too boring for her. Seriously, how can someone not absolutely love Dead Poets Society? I saw it again recently—the first time watching it since having kids—and I think I cried for an hour straight. BEST MOVIE EVER, you guys.

The BEST MOVIE EVER six months ago was The Great Gatsby. I mean, I was obsessed! I read the book again, I told all my friends to read the book again, and I fell in love with the movie and the soundtrack. Chilling, beautiful, sad... it was perfection.

I wrote about my most favourite movies ever a while back, and although this list hasn't changed, I've certainly added to it. When you're done reading about the BEST MOVIES EVER come back, unless you don't agree with me.

Okay, so I just recently—as in a few days ago recently—watched The Departed. Yeah, that movie that came out in 2006? I don't have any good excuses as to why it took me so long to see this film, so please forgive me.

But, you guys. The Departed? BEST FREAKING MOVIE EVER. Right up there with Goodfellas for me now. Yup. This is Martin Scorsese Oscar gold. This is also the movie that finally made me realize how incredible an actor Leonardo Dicaprio really is.



Now don't you just want to watch it again?

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

How To Save Money When Shopping For The Kids

Last week I was on CTV Ottawa Morning Live talking about a fabulous Canadian online shop, Minitrade.ca.


Minitrade.ca  is guaranteed to help you save money when shopping for your children. We all know how quickly children outgrow their clothes, so it's not always the best idea to splurge on things like jeans and coats for the kids. Minitrade.ca is the perfect solution if you're looking to de-clutter your children's rooms, too—hop onto Minitrade.ca, fill out your information, and the company will send you a bag. You fill the bag with items your children don't wear anymore, and ship it back to them—for free! Then, you'll get "credits" so you can shop new or gently used clothes for your little ones. How fabulous is that?

Here's my segment on CTV for all the details on Minitrade.ca—yes, I get very enthusiastic when I talk about shopping, especially when it's about a company as unique and easy-to-use as Minitrade.ca.

Happy Shopping!

Sunday, November 17, 2013

A $125 Citrus Silver Holiday Giveaway For You!

I first fell in love with Citrus Silver last year when I attended a pre-Mother's Day event in Toronto's Park Hyatt hotel. The unique, personalized silver jewellery Citrus Silver creates is easy to love. I was lucky to receive a stunning, hand-stamped pendant with my children's names on it, on a silver chain, along with a simple chain and small cross. I wear these two necklaces together, almost every day. I love them, and I receive a lot of compliments on them, too.


Citrus Silver creates stunning, quality, hand-stamped personalized jewellery. Made in Canada and sterling silver, every piece is as unique as the person who wears it. 



I love receiving—and giving—jewellery as gifts to people I love. Birthdays, Mother's Day, just because gifts, and, of course, CHRISTMAS GIFTS! I think personalized Citrus Silver jewellery is a great gift idea for the holidays. Perfect for a surprise stocking stuffer, or great wrapped under the tree. There are many different styles to choose from, so no matter what, the person you're shopping for will be very, very happy.

I love the Swarovski birthstone crystals, and the many different chains you can choose for your personalized pendants—juicy, zesty, fresh—all with cute names, and all so adorable.

Since it's time to start shopping for the holidays (fa-la-la-la-la!) I have an incredible gift for you, thanks to my friends at Citrus Silver: a $125 gift card to buy whatever you desire!

How amazing is that? Whether you buy something pretty for yourself or a loved one this holiday season, it's certain to be something you'll wear for a very long time.

Good Luck, everyone!



Monday, November 11, 2013

Win Two Tickets To See The Sens Take On The Leafs!

Almost winter in Canada means one thing: hockey time! Okay, it means a lot more than that, but most Canadians I know love their hockey and have a favourite team.... like the Ottawa Senators, whom I predict will take home the Cup this year. A lot of Canadians I know also love the Toronto Maple Leafs, and it's okay, we can still be friends.

Whether you're a Sens fan or a Leafs fan, I've got the perfect giveaway for you, thanks to the Ottawa Children's Gala—I'm giving away two tickets to the Ottawa Senators vs. the Toronto Maple Leafs, taking place on Sunday, December 7th at 7:00 p.m. How awesome is that? A night out to watch your favourite team (Go Sens Go!) score the winning goal? I wish I could enter!

I attended last year's Children's Gala and it was a wonderful event filled with entertainment for children and adults. From great food and drinks, to fun entertainment for the kids, it was a one-of-a-kind event, all in support of a very worthwhile cause. The 2014 Ottawa Children's Gala is being held in support of CHEO and Plan-It-Safe, a program dedicated to eliminating preventable childhood injuries in our city.

The mission is to increase local capacity, strengthen public policy, ensure effective programming and advocate for the creation of safe environments to reduce the toll injuries take on children and youth in our communities.

As a mom of two little boys, I'm thankful every day that we have a children's hospital as great as CHEO right here in our backyard. I know how great the nurses and doctors are at CHEO because my oldest son was admitted several times. When he was three years old, he had a severe case of pneumonia, and we spent 14 days in CHEO, where I saw first-hand the amazing work the nurses and doctors do for children 24 hours a day.

This year's Ottawa Children's Gala theme is Candy Land and it's going to be a very bright and colourful night. The big night takes place on March 8th, so get your tickets now before they sell out!

Here's how to enter to win tickets to see the Sens take on the Leafs:


rel="nofollow">a Rafflecopter giveaway





For more information the Ottawa Children's Gala make sure to follow them on Twitter and on Facebook, too.

Good Luck to everyone entering this great giveaway! A winner will picked on November 29th, 2013.

Friday, November 8, 2013

Baby, It's Cold Outside!

I'm officially freezing, and I'll be freezing until about... oh, May. I don't do well with winter, you guys. I know I've pretty much lived here my entire life, so at this point, I should basically embrace the cold, dark, dreary, miserable, icy long months of winter, (tell us how you really feel, Loukia!) but I just... cannot. I love summer way too much. Little dresses. Flip flops. Cute wedge heels. Bikinis. BBQ's and pool parties and never-ending sunshine and tanned skin and sand and swimming and cold drinks and patios and and and... the list goes on and on.

Last year, Canada Goose basically saved me, because they thought it would be a great idea to give me one of their oh-so-toasty-warm coats to review and keep. Seriously. (Thank you times infinity, Canada Goose Inc!)



And I kid you not—this coat changed my life. I was no longer crying when I had to watch my children play after school with their friends in the snow.  I was able to stay outside in minus 35C temperatures without feeling like my face was going to fall off. I was able to... enjoy? winter. I know, it shocked me, too. Sure, when I'm out doing stuff in the winter like skating or skiing, I appreciate the pretty. Still, it's damn cold. Finally, last winter, thanks to Canada Goose, I made sense of what everyone had always been telling me: if you dress warmly,  you'll be able to hate winter a little less! 

And here we are again, back to the cold.

Here are some ways you can stay warm (and cute!) this season:

Canada Goose Anything: If you live in Canada, a Canada Goose coat will be the best investment of your life, especially since we have like 19 months of winter. I love this pink coat so much! Canada Goose also had a great selection of winter gear for kids, too, and the cutest and warmest hats ever.
Banana Republic Coat: I loved this coat so much I bought it before the weather was even cold outside. The little bow is so cute and I know I'll wear this coat on the days when it's not minus 30C outside. It's a great coat for evenings out, and for days you know you don't have to stay outside too long.


J. Crew Cocoon Coat: I love this coat because it reminds me of Mad Men. It is a little pricey, but so adorable, so that justifies the price, right?


I also stay warm on the ski hills in my Columbia jacket, too. Winter is all about having a variety of coats to wear, after all!

Next up: stylish boots, hats, and scarves that'll keep you toasty warm through these cold months.


For The Love Of Reading

As a mom of two boys, I do my best every day to make sure my children are eating well and staying active. Their health and well-being is my number one priority.

On occasion, I take my boys to McDonald's for a treat, because every once in a while, a Happy Meal is totally okay with me. (Especially since there are healthier options like apple slices and yogurt.)

Here is some good news I'm happy to share with you about McDonald's: right now, Happy Meals will be coming with a new softcover book, until November 14th. After this, a new digital book will be released every month, available using the McPlay App. The books can also be found on HappyMeal.com.

I love seeing my boys read, and love stocking up on new books for them and filling their home library.

The four books that can be found in Happy Meals right now are:

The Goat Who Ate Everything: This softcover book is about a goat who has a big appetite and struggles to eat smart. But when he does, he feels great and becomes the playful kid everyone loves.

Deana's Big Dreams: This 28 page book includes a special fold-out page. This was my five year old's favourite book and it's all about Deana, the world's smallest dinosaur with big dreams.

Ant Can't: This book is about Ant, a bite-sized bodybuilder who's big on encouraging physical fitness through exercise and eating right. The illustrations are great, too.

Doddi the Dodo Goes to Orlando: This 28 page book is about Doddi the Dodo, a happy-go-lucky bird who travels the world.

All these books are great for children, especially for kids just learning to read.

If you'd like to receive these four books and some Happy Meal vouchers, just let me know in the comments below and I'll pick a winner on Monday, November 12th.

Good Luck!



Disclaimer: I received special perks for this post. All opinions and views are my own.

Thursday, November 7, 2013

Turning Treats Into Toys

As the holidays approach, I love working with companies who give back to those less fortunate. This holiday season, Kellogg Canada is donating $20 to the Salvation Army for every toy-inspired treat you make and upload to RiceKrispies.ca.  The Salvation Army will be using the donations to buy toys for children in need.

It's really simple—and a great way to remind your children about the importance of giving back to others, especially during the holiday season.

I had fun making some Rice Krispies treats with my youngest son, even though an artist... I am not.



If you want to take part, just create your own "toy" shaped treat—get as creative as you want—and then take a picture of your creation and upload it to RiceKrispies.ca. Rice Krispies will then donate a toy to a child in need.

To see what other crafty people are making, and to get some inspiration, check out #treatsfortoys on Twitter.



Disclaimer: I received a package from Kellogg's. All views and opinions are my own. 

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

A Perfect Stay At The Marriott Bloor Yorkville

As much as I love living in Ottawa, I have a major soft spot in my heart for Toronto. If my extended family didn't live in Ottawa, it would make my decision to movie to Toronto a little easier. At least, I think it would be easy. Even though I don't call Toronto my home, I visit as often as I can for events, celebrations, and just to get away. It's close enough that I can do the drive in no time, it's cheap enough to fly, and if I want to get some work done? I hop on the train.

Several times, I've had the opportunity to stay at the Marriott Bloor Yorkville, my favourite place in Toronto. My children love this hotel, and always ask to go back whenever we are in Toronto. The first time we went to celebrate my 35th birthday, and were treated to the two-floor Presidential Suite. The kids were so excited, and so was I. The rooms were grand... the service was amazing... and the special treats in our room? (birthday cake, balloons, special gifts for the kids, snacks, water, champagne) made our stay even more special and memorable. It was great to have the space for the kids to run around in—two floors and a whole lot of room. (I've also had the chance to stay with my girlfriends, and we had two amazing connecting rooms and once again, we all received exceptional service.)

The beds? Super comfortable. The bathroom? Massive. The bathtub? Luxurious.





We were lucky enough to be treated to another amazing stay this past summer. We could barely contain our excitement! This time, we invited friends over for dinner, since, you know, we had the space to do so. The kids had an especially wonderful time, exploring both floors, and letting the adults eat in peace. I think my favourite part about this hotel is the wonderful location, the views from the huge windows, and the attention to detail. The restaurant is great, too, as well as the staff.


If you're looking for a great place to stay the next time you're in Toronto, check out the Marriott Bloor Yorkville. From the service to the location, you will be very pleased and satisfied. And if you have any questions? Just drop me a line and I'll be happy to talk to you about this hotel in more detail!



Tuesday, October 29, 2013

Dancing With The Stars for Easter Seals (And Being Thankful)

What makes me super sad: when things I love come to an end. The before, and the during, I love. The after? Not so much.

Being a part of Dancing With The Stars for Easter Seals was one of my most favourite experiences ever. I'm thankful to have been a part of the event this year, thankful for Fred Astaire Dance Studio here in Ottawa, and thankful I had a great dance partner who put together two awesome routines that I had to learn in 16 lessons. (Thankful for his patience, too—ha!)

I'm especially thankfully for my amazing friends and family who donated to Easter Seals by voting for me and coming out to the event. Because of everyone's support, we raised almost $4,000. I am still totally blown away by everyone's generosity, and I can't wait to return the favour to everyone. #mindblown

I thought it would be impossibly hard to perform in front of two and half tables of family and friends, but having them there—and hearing them cheering for me—helped a lot.


I now have a little mirror-ball trophy on my night table, holding up all the books I'm in the middle of reading. We didn't win (congratulations to Lianne and Dan, who were super amazing—like wow—and congrats to all who took part this year… everyone was so damn good, and each routine was so fun to watch) but we did win a little something-somethin'… we won People's Choice for most online votes, and that makes me so happy. Besides the fact that the dancing was so much fun, I'm glad that Easter Seals raised so much money this year. It was for the kids, after all. It was so worthwhile.


What did I learn from this experience? I learned that if you put your mind to it, you can do pretty much anything. Even if you're scared and totally out of your element. And I did it. I may not be the most amazing dancer, but it does take some courage to get out there in front of hundreds of people who are looking at you (and probably judging you… good, or bad) and dance. I know I could not have done it alone.

I danced the rumba. (To Stay, by Rihanna.)
I danced the quickstep. (To Hot Honey Rag, from Chicago, my most favourite musical ever.)

And I loved every single second. It was fun hearing the judges talk about our dances afterwards. It felt a little like the real DWTS, minus Len and Bruno.


I loved how supportive and encouraging everyone was to each other. That's probably my most favourite part. I'm passionate about music and I love to dance, and this experience was a reminder that if you just step outside of your comfort zone, awesome things can happen. If I could go back in time I'd tell 16 year old Lou to not quit dancing. I don't want to stop dancing now, and I'd do it all over again in a heartbeat.


I had the time of my life. (Sorry, I just had to throw a Dirty Dancing reference in there!)

Thanks again, everyone. Love you all!

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