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!

Last Chance To Help Kick Diabetes To The Curb

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The Kick Diabetes Facebook contest is wrapping up, so if you haven't 'donated a kick' yet by selecting your favourite CFL team online, you should totally do it now. If you do this, you'll also have the chance to win one pair of 2014 CFL season tickets—isn't that almost better than a touchdown? (I don't know a lot about football, so maybe that's not totally accurate, but still!)

Sun Life Financial, in partnership with the Canadian Football League (CFL), has committed to donating $101 to the Juvenile Diabetes Research Fund (JDRF) every time a successful field goal is kicked during the CFL regular season, up to $40,000 in honour of the 101st playing of the Grey Cup Championship Game. It's all over on November 2nd, though!

An additional $10,000 will be donated to JDRF in the city whose team gets the highest number of 'donated kicks' by the end of the regular season. (If you want all the details, check this out.)

If you'd like to help "kick diabetes" to the curb, donate a kick. It'll cost you nothing more than a few seconds of your time and you'll be helping a really awesome cause. Win-win, if you ask me. 

Disclosure: This post was sponsored by Sun Life Financial, and I received compensation for this post. 


My Canadian Tuxedo (For World MasterCard Stylicity)

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My duties as a blogger for MasterCard Stylicity are not as easy as you may think. Sure, I have to check out the amazing deals going on online and in Toronto's hot shopping spots, like Yorkville, and do some shopping (I know, I know!) but I also have to style my own version of the Canadian Tuxedo. I love new challenges, so of course I accepted, but hmm… what exactly would MY Canadian Tuxedo be? I'm pretty girly. I love a great little black dress… and I can't say no to a gorgeous pair of stiletto's. The Canadian Tuxedo, in case you weren't sure, is usually a pair of blue jeans and a jean jacket. I love my jeans, but I think I'm going a bit fancier for this.

At first I thought I'd go with a little black dress with a twist, or a sexy pair of skinny jeans with a sparkly top, but then I fell in love with this red dress. It's  cute, sexy, and totally Canadian.

I'd love to do something fun with this dress, and pair it with this pair of heels… totally wild!

MasterCard would love to see your version of the Canadian Tuxedo. What do you think your Canadian Tuxedo would consist of? A sexy black pant suit? A jean skirt and jean shirt? A red dress? A form-fitted hockey jersey paired with a sexy jacket? Just tweet or Instagram a picture of yourself with the hashtag #Stylicity and you'll be entered to win a $2000 pre-paid MasterCard. Okay, that's a lot of shopping, no?

Get your creative juices flowing, and… go!

Disclaimer: As a MasterCard Stylicity blogger, I have been compensated for these posts. All views and opinions are my own. 

Stylicity and World MasterCard Fashion Week: Sweet Deals For You!

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I am so excited to be a Stylicity blogger for this year's World MasterCard Fashion Week! The program—now in its fourth season—brings WMCFW to the streets, offering MasterCard cardholders amazing offers at over 150 locations, in Toronto, and online... so we can all do some much-needed shopping, and receive some incredible deals. Stylicity is taking place until November 3rd.

As a Stylicity Ambassador for MasterCard Canada during World MasterCard Fashion Week, one of my very important jobs is to do some online shopping. I know, tough gig, right? But let me tell you something—it's not easy at all! The deals? All amazing. The stores? Even more amazing.

Need a new pair of booties or heels? Of course you do. You'll get 15% off at ALDO with your MasterCard during Stylicity. 

How about 15% off at J.Crew? I love everything J.Crew, especially Crewcuts for the kids!

You can even do some online shopping at Neiman Marcus, my most favourite department store. You'll receive free shipping on all purchases over $75.00. 

I'd love to stock up on some cute holiday ornaments, because even though it's not even November yet, as soon as the weather turns cold, I'm thinking about the holidays... the decorations, the presents, and the parties!

Speaking of holiday cocktail parties... how cute is this sparkly blue dress? Perfect for New Year's Eve, no? 

My favourite Stylicity offer has to be with Porter Airlines, though. How about receiving $150 off your flight? I'm totally booking a flight right now! To Toronto. So I can do some shopping in person, in Yorkville, with my best friend. 

I also love that we can receive $30 off purchases (of $200 or more) at Cosabella. Stocking up on new lingerie is always fun. 

Happy Shopping, my friends!

Disclaimer: I received compensation for this post from MasterCard Canada. 


Diary of a Wimpy Kid: Hard Luck (Interview with Jeff Kinney!)

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Edited to add: My oldest is now ten and has read every book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series at least three times. As long as he's reading, I'm happy! Now, with the new Diary of a Wimpy Kid book coming out in a few weeks (it's called Old School) he's so excited!

What I remember most about my childhood is how much time I spent reading. I always had a book with me, and I was happiest when my parents took me to the book store once a week. As a mom of two boys, there is one thing I never say no to: the purchase of a new book. Reading is so important to me, and now that my oldest is eight years old, I love to encourage him to read, too. He's currently reading the first book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, and he's loving it.

One of our favourites movies is Diary of a Wimpy Kid. (Along with Rodrick Rules and Dog Days.) We've seen all three movies, and we've loved them (and laughed our way through them) all. 

Today, I interviewed the author of these (seven!) best-selling books, Jeff Kinney. Despite the fact that the Diary of a Wimpy Kid movies have grossed more $250 million worldwide, speaking to Jeff Kinney was like having a conversation with any parent in the school yard. 

Your latest book in the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series is called Hard Luck and is out this November.  What happens in this book and what can we expect for Greg?

In this book Greg is a loner for the fist time. His best friend, Rowley, has a girlfriend, and Greg basically has to start over, figuring out where he fits in. He's definitely more sympathetic in this book, and he realizes the decisions he's made haven't been the best. 

How is his relationship with his brother, Rodrick, in this book?

His relationship with his brother is not as consequential in this book. His mom is way too involved in his life, though, and this is not always something a child in middle school wants.

What inspired to write the Diary of a Wimpy Kid series? Was it something specific about your childhood?

I was trying to write a book for adults, to remind us what it was like to be a child by bringing the issues into focus, but my publisher told me I had written a children's series. I was writing about everything I had experienced as a child. It's not exactly my autobiography; more of a DNA of my childhood in these books.

You're a father of two boys, aged 10 and eight years old—are they fans of your books? Have they read the series yet?

My ten year old loves to read and he's read the series so far. It's harder getting my eight year old to read, but he's starting book three now. 

How do you encourage reading time over screen time in your house?

Our children earn technology time. We also read with our boys every night in bed.

You worked on the first book, Diary of a Wimpy Kid, for eight years before showing it to a publisher. What advice would you give other aspiring authors and writers?

My advice? It's important to nurture something until it is ready. The best ideas are ideas that are developed over time. I would encourage people to take their time and to become experts in what they are working on, first. 

How many more books will there be in this series?

There will be at least two more books in this series.

Anything exciting on the horizon with regards to the Wimpy Kid series?

Yes—I'm working on an animated holiday special.

Sorry folks—this holiday special won't be out this holiday season, but at least we know we have something fun to look forward to next year, right? 

In the meantime, Hard Luck hits store shelves on November 8th. If your children can wait, this book would make the perfect holiday gift. 


Behind-The-Scenes At The Museum Of Nature

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Today I surprised my children with a special treat—I took them (along with my mom!)  on a private tour of the Canadian Museum of Nature's nerve centre—the museum's Research and Collections Facility building in Gatineau. We're members at all of Ottawa's great museums, and we very frequently visit the Museum of Nature, or, as my boys like to call it: the dinosaur museum.

My future scientist eight year old was in heaven today. He got to explore the huge facility, check out the research labs, meet a few scientists, palaeontologists, and curators. He walked around telling us what things were, more sure of himself than some of the folks working there! 

We saw where over 1 million plants of all kinds are stored, pressed, and preserved. We saw some awesome (and huge!) minerals, dinosaur bones, and fossils. We saw the research labs—and lots of people in white lab coats. We even checked out the the Large Skeleton Room where a massive wall of antlers, whale bones, and skeletons of all kinds were on display. It was pretty impressive!

The coolest part of our morning tour was watching a palaeontologist working on and preparing a dinosaur fossil for display. Encased in this fossil was an old newspaper clipping from 1913, which was in almost perfect condition. 

It was quite the experience, and my boys loved the special treatment and the private tour. My son is already signed up to be a museum volunteer when he's in high school!

If a special "behind-the-scenes" tour of the Museum of Nature's Research and Collections Facility is something you and your family want to check out, too, you can! There is a open house for everyone taking place on October 19th from 10-4

Cameras are allowed, and you can go at your own pace on the self-guided tour. 

Some highlights:

- See how dinosaur fossils are prepared for study and display
- Meet an Arctic plant researcher, explore an Arctic field camp, and learn about lichens
- Check out the wall of antlers, whale bones, and skeletons of all kinds
- See mammal specimens collected during the 1913-1918 Canadian Arctic Expedition
- Discovery how new discoveries are made in the DNA lab, X-ray lab, and Heavy Wet lab.

It's a perfect way to spend a couple of hours this weekend—fun, and educational for the entire family. It was so cool getting a closer look and meeting some of the people who help make one of the city's best museums as great as it is!


H&M Arrives In Ottawa

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There has been so much buzz lately about all the fabulous new stores making their way to Ottawa (finally!) One store that I've been hearing all my friends talk about non-stop? H&M. Everyone's favourite fashionable store with amazingly affordable prices is opening its doors in Ottawa, at Bayshore Shopping Centre on October 17th,  and I'm so excited be getting a look at the store before the grand opening.

As if I wasn't excited enough already, H&M sent me this fabulous little white studded jacket. The perfect jacket for fall—great to wear with jeans, a little pencil skirt, and even a dress with tights and little booties—my staple fall outfit. 

There are so many things I want to buy! Dresses... shoes... sweaters... I can't wait to take a look into the new store on October 15th during the private shopping night. A night of shopping, music, cocktails and friends is my kind of night!

H&M in Ottawa is an amazing thing—I'm so excited! I'll keep you all updated on what I find.

Thanks again, H&M!
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