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 d├ęcor.

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. 

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