Philly’s Harbor Park a Real Gem for Locals & Tourists

Philly’s Harbor Park a Real Gem for Locals & Tourists

Philly's Harbor Park a real gem for locals and tourists

It’s a beautiful summer afternoon on the boardwalk.  You lean against the railing in this rare moment of peace and gently close your eyes; you turn your face up to the sun letting its rays warm your cheeks.

boardwalk

Father and son enjoy a spirited debate over a game of giant lawn chess.  Bystanders chime in from the sidelines as a crowd gathers; everyone has a winning war strategy.  A group of high school juniors play bocce ball; you smile, reminiscent, as a lad and his date flirt like – well, like teenagers!

chess-bocce-jenga

A family is enjoying a picnic on the lawn chairs;  large hammocks play host to a varied crowd.  A couple whispers sweet nothings while snuggling; a young woman is enjoying a novel.

hammocks

You imagine yourself lying there, listening to the rustling of leaves as the wind carries voices of children at play, the nearby fountain a refreshing backdrop to a bird’s song.

fountain

How easy it would be to just close your eyes for a minute, sinfully drifting towards the ultimate guilty pleasure, an afternoon slumber.

nap

Fitting, that the city of brotherly love would give us a repose from our hectic lives; a place where class, race, and politics are forgotten; a place to find your community once again.

philly

Welcome to Harbor Park, Philadelphia.  Stay a while, won’t you?

Welcome to #harborpark - stay for a while, won't you? @visitphilly Click To Tweet

Harbor-Park-10

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Bake Better says BuzzFeed – Simplify Your Life

Bake Better says BuzzFeed – Simplify Your Life

Bake Better, says Buzzfeed

I love baking, though I haven’t in a while.  You know, taxes and all.

As I attempt to ride the allergy-induced migraine wave I’m scrolling through Facebook and came across this video by BuzzFeed.  These are some of the best baking hacks I’ve seen in a while!

Love #baking? Check out these cool baking hacks from @buzzfeed! Click To Tweet

Love buttercream icing, hate the smoothing?

Wait about an hour until the icing gets a little crusty.  Cover your cake with parchment paper (not wax) and gently use a rolling pin to smooth the surface. Voila!

What are your baking hacks?  Share them in the comments below!

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Sometimes Family Chooses You

Sometimes Family Chooses You

Sometimes Family Chooses You

They say you can’t choose your relatives but you can choose your family.  Though I wholeheartedly agree with this I also believe that sometimes it’s the other way around.

Sometimes that crazy family you never would have picked chooses you and becomes an indispensable – no matter how hard you try to avoid this.

Grace & Frankie, a Netflix Original series now streaming globally, is the perfect example.

Beyond the talented actors (and their chemistry), beyond the beautiful settings (hello beach house!), and the laugh out loud moments, this series has touched me in a weird way.

Wait.  Not, like, in a w e i r d way…. that just sounded icky and gross.  But I was hooked from the first few minutes and experienced a slew of emotions as I binge-watched the first season.

I won’t spoil it for you, but I will say it was very well done.  Classy, tasteful… Funny as heck.

Families are complicated.  Families are a pain in the ass.  Families are what saves us.  Enjoy this one, and be thankful for the family that is yours on this Mother’s Day weekend.

Sometimes #family chooses you #GraceAndFrankie @netflixCA #Streamteam Click To Tweet

grace_and_frankie

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Building Condos with Rotten Apples

Building Condos with Rotten Apples

Building Condos with Rotten Apples

Ants.

They are ugly, and gross, and icky.  They have a fondness for half-eaten apples and sandwich leftovers.  My kids manage to hoard food in their rooms despite being well fed and repeatedly reminded that no food is allowed in bedrooms.

Need I say more?

Not sure why <twitch> but somehow they manage to make their way in every spring.  The ants, not the kids.  Those just never leave… 😉 #mommyhumour

Cue the 8 year old cleaning her room.  Her best friend is ‘assisting’ as she’s tired of being told Jasmine can’t go out and play because her room isn’t clean.

“OMG I see an ant!” says one child.  “It’s the queen!” says another.  The two littles exclaim “Ant MIMIIIIIII!” because Toupie and Binou.

As I reheat my first cup of coffee for the third time I notice an open bag of potting soil on the counter.

“Jasssssmiiiinnnnnne!”

Don’t worry Mrs. A, we just made a home for the ant!” to which I respond that ants in the house are the be killed. I instruct the crew to terminate the intruder and – naively thinking the saga is over (I’m blaming the caffeine withdrawal) – I go about my day and forget about the one ant the kids saw.

BHAHAHAHAHA

Imagine my surprise a few days later when all the kids, Bella included, come running down the stairs screaming.  Chloe & Annabelle can’t stop repeating “Ant Mimi! Ant Mimi!  Lots-and-lots of Ant Mimis!”.  Bella is carrying a photo box – the pretty ones from the dollar store – in which I find an old apple core, potting soil, bread crusts, and a few layers of paper towels.  Duct tape covers the open top to prevent the new tenants from leaving.

“Welcome Home Ant Mimi” is blazoned across the side topped with a drawing of ants traveling towards a door.

For fuck’s sake! I’m trying to kill the damn things and she builds them a condo!  Or some sort of minimum security chi-chi prison, I’m not sure.

I'm trying to kill the damn things, she built them a condo! #ants #motherhood Click To Tweet

So.  How’s your day going?

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Betrayed by Friends – What would you do?

Betrayed by Friends – What would you do?

Betrayed by friends - what you would do?

B-Connected conference is an event I hold dear to my heart.  Seeing friends and colleagues pull together and create an amazing weekend for parent bloggers to connect with brands.  Spending an evening with friends old & new, playing Cards Against Humanity and drinking too much wine.  World-class speakers like Dino Dogan and many others.  Seeing our good buddy Chris conquer the stage as the weekend’s emcee.  A giggle-fest with my favorite travel roommies and way too much hotel coffee.  The opportunity to build new relationships and foster existing ones.

This is what I should be remembering.

Instead … All I can see is YOU.

Remembering You

This weekend was supposed to be amazing.  Even though I went to the WRONG hotel and got stuck looping around protesters.  Even though everyone knows about my faux-pas and trust me, I have yet to hear the end of it ;).

I.  Was.  Excited.  Excited to help you grow.  Excited to help you find easier ways to manage your blogging business.  Excited to be among friends my tribe, my people… You. 

I was excited to be among friends - my tribe, my people, #bloggers #bconnectedconf Click To Tweet

The Blog Expense Planner arrived at the hotel on Saturday morning and was unboxed at breakfast.  It smelled… new.  A year in the making it was finally here, live, in my hands.  I couldn’t wait to show you.

I started my day with too little sleep, too much caffeine, and determined to make sure everyone got their #usefulswag – The Ultimate Shoebox Blogging Edition.  I wanted to share my new book with you, hoping you’d be just as excited as I was about this revolutionary way of looking at blog expense.

“This is going to change my life!” you said, “I just have to buy one”.

“This is just what I need!  So fantastic”

I admit I was on a bit of a high.  People love my book!  Some actually want to buy it!  And everyone was happy about their #usefulswag.

The Slo-Mo reel

It’s like in the movies.  The memory of when it happened continues to replay in my mind.  Slow motion, blurred backgrounds, macabre music.  I arrive at my booth, laughing still at a joke I no longer remember – and then I see it.  The empty spot where my book was once displayed.  

Frantic, I search around the booth.  I ask my neighbors if they’ve seen it, then run back to my table in the session room.  Maybe I brought it with me and left it there?  

Nope.  

I walk back, defeated, glancing discreetly at tables, chairs, bags… I am stunned.  Flummoxed. My feathers are ruffled and I can’t imagine someone would do this. 

Yet, you did, didn’t you?  You did this.  You took the fruit of my labor, fresh from the press, and decided the $30 price point too rich for your blood.

An announcement was made.  You were given plenty of opportunity to anonymously return what is mine.  Even knowing you stole my door prize wasn’t enough for you to return it.

So what is is that I remember about this weekend?  You.

Your betrayal.

It’s bad enough knowing someone took from you – but when that person is someone you know… it drives the knife deeper.

The Sour Grape

I know – I wasn’t generous enough, right?  But it’s OK – I know you.  Sadly I won’t remember much more from this weekend – but I won’t forget.

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Obama Brings Awesome to the WHCD

Obama Brings Awesome to the WHCD

Obama brings awesome to the WHCD

Obama has a sense of humour y’all.

I already knew that, but seeing his speech at the White House Correspondents Dinner has reinforced all that I like about him.

Every leader should have an #angertranslator @barackobama . Truly hilarious! Click To Tweet

Regardless if you like him or not, you can’t disagree that this was pure genius.  Check it out!

Want to watch all of the awesomeness?  The entire speech can be seen below 🙂  Enjoy!

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Parenting with White Lies

Parenting with White Lies

Parenting with White Lies

Last night I found ‘Liar Liar’ on Netflix and bribed the kids to watch an ‘old person movie’ with their crazy mom.

Joke’s on them, they actually enjoyed it!  Jasmine had a hoot when she discovered one of my oft-repeated lines came from that movie – when Jim Carey announces the arrival of a character by signing “Here She Comes to Wreck the Day!!!!”.

She’s growing fast that one, and starting to grasp the nuances of sarcasm and wit.  A great skill… until its used on us parents lol.  But I digress.

The movie got me thinking about white lies.  Those little nuggets of half-truths we tell to soften the blow, ease a difficult conversation, or avoid hurting someone.   Don’t try to tell me you don’t do it – every parent becomes masters of The White Lie whether we want to or not.

So here are my white lies ’cause I know y’all won’t spill the beans to my kids right?  Right?!?

White Lie

The tooth fairy needs to know you lost your tooth by 6PM or she may not get the message on time.  She leaves her home with limited coins so you’ll get something different each time.

The Story

When my oldest lost her first tooth I slipped a 5$ bill under her pillow.  My mom thought I’d forgotten and she ALSO slipped a 5$ in there.  $10 for one tooth.  Oy.

The next time, she got 1$, 1 day late.  She. Was.  Pissed.  So I did what any self-respecting parent would do and said the first thing to come to mind: she doesn’t have a cell phone so I can’t call her after 6pm and she has a set number of coins for each night, so you may get something different each time.

To this day she still says the Tooth Fairy is on a budget and ‘you get what you get and that’s what you get… but I hope not too many kids lost their tooth today!’

White Lie

I know you jumped off the bunk bed because I can see through walls

White Lie: Moms See Through Walls. Truth: You're FREAKING LOUD #Streamteam #Parenting Click To Tweet

The Story

Seriously?  My kids are so.  flipping.  loud!  I know exactly when they’re up to something ’cause I hear it all.  Every jump, fall, and pummeling comes straight to my ears.  But yes….. Of course I see through walls.

White Lie

“I’m just going to the bathroom – and it’s going to take a while.  I’ll be right back I promise”

The Story

I’ve used this one a few times.  When we were trying to get rid of Jasmine’s soother (she had terrible rashes on her lips from it), when Annabelle couldn’t find her stuffie before bedtime, and when Chloe transitioned from the playpen to a toddler bed.

I’d tell Jasmine that I couldn’t find her soother but I’d go looking for it soon as I was done in the washroom and bring it to her.  The next morning?  ‘I came in and you were already sleeping’.  Conveniently, I’d lost it again by bedtime.  It took 10 days of ‘losing’ soothers to break this habit.  Maybe that’s why my kid thinks I’m full of shit?

The younger two are more skeptical than Jasmine was at their age, but I do manage to get away with this one once in a while.

White Lies are to #parenting what Jelly is to Peanut Butter #wealldoit Click To Tweet

What white lies do you tell your kids?  Do you have a few standing favorites?  Share them below!

Once you’re done lying to your kids about your digestive system check out Bloodline, a new Netflix Original Series that follows a family caught between the ugly truth and a terrible lie.  This would be a great time to steal some Easter chocolate and come up with an excuse later. 

#Bloodline is on @NetflixCA - Caught between an ugly truth and a terrible lie #StreamTeam Click To Tweet

netflix bloodline

As a member of the Netflix #Streamteam I have been compensated for this post. All views & opinions – as are my carefully (ahem) crafted white lies – are my own :).

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Food Bloggers Part 3

Food Bloggers Part 3

Food Bloggers Part 3

Audit Proof Your Blog Part 2 of 3

As seen on Food Bloggers of Canada

You’ve organized your kitchen, planned your posts and expenses, and now it’s GO time. Some of you are living vicariously through your bloggy friends’ tax refresh and you’re looking for that last little boost of dynamite in the derrière to get you moving.

Relax. Breathe. You’ve got this.

Grab a coffee – or something stronger if that’s how you fly – and let’s dig in, shall we?

Revisiting The Planner

That awesome planner we talked about last month? It’s sorta-kinda time to take a second look at it. Don’t worry – you didn’t do anything wrong. But you will be referring to it as we move on to the last step of spring cleaning your blog finances.

Click HERE to read the full article! 

audit proof your blog

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Reclaiming your space after kids

Reclaiming your space after kids

Reclaiming your space after kids

Your home looks like a cross between a college dorm and a nightmare-worthy daycare.

You’ve fully embraced the land of naked barbies and the marker on the wall adds character.  You’re secretly cursing the day stickers as we know them were invented as you peel yet another one off the floor.

You can afford nice furniture, but why bother?  The kids will just ruin it anyways.

Isn’t it time you reclaimed your space?  Your sanity? Sometimes a few modest changes can make a huge difference.

Reclaim your space among naked barbies, g.i. joe's and tonka trucks Click To Tweet

The Living Room

Our house is quite small and the living room gets rather crowded.  I got rid of the sectional, bought J-F a ‘man chair’, and grabbed this beauty for myself.


With a 5′ diameter it’s perfect for snuggling the kids but also great for ‘me time’ – or ‘Coffee Time’ as I’ve taught the kids.  My spot.  My playground.  No matter what the room looks like I can come on my chair and pretend I’m in my own little world. I’ve added a plant stand and floor lamp from Ikea and a print from Minted.com, premium provider of wedding invitations and stationary.

The Bedroom

That feeling when you wake up and realize you’ve got a barbie shoe stuck on your ass and someone ate crackers in your bed… again.  I desperately needed a sense of ‘adult’ in our bedroom so I bought new pillow cases & a comforter.  These ‘Fuck You, Love Me’ pillow cases by Said The King are flipping awesome!  I added a frilly lavender comforter – because, frilly – and 100% white bamboo cotton sheets.

bedroom
The Bathroom

Since we’ve yet to find our forever home and I’ve grown quite tired of the extra long, extra ugly counter and cabinet in the bathroom, I took advantage of J-F’s hunting trip to tear the beast out and replace it with a modern sink on sale at Lowes.  A quick coat of paint, a little shelf with baskets, a new mirror (clearance bin!!!), and a black stool from Ikea.  Voila, new bathroom.

Where once you couldn’t move around much at all there’s now plenty of room for both of us to get ready at the same time, even when the kids are circling like vultures.  It’s not exactly a new house, but for $250 I no longer feel claustrophobic in the loo and it definitely looks more grown up than it ever did.

baathroom-1

Little Change, Big Impact

You don’t always need a full tear-down or complete makeover to reclaim bits and pieces of your home.  Find pieces that make you feel good and incorporate them in your ‘design’.  A few little changes here and there can make a big difference and help you reclaim that grown-up feeling, even amidst G.I. Joe’s & Tonka trucks.

How do manage the toy madness?  What have you done to make your home feel grown-up again?

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Buying a Car – Not Just a Man Thing

Buying a Car – Not Just a Man Thing

Buying a Car - Not Just a Man Thing

After 4 years of blogging – wistfully longing to belong in this amazing tribe – it appears I have arrived.

In January Domestique Manager was included in Capital Parent’s Top Parent Blogs We Love.  I’ve since received several invitations and have enjoyed the privilege  of attending unique local events.

Having never attended a car show I was curious when Ford invited me to the Ottawa International Auto Show.  I have bought 7 cars since first signing on the dotted line for my first ride.  I know what I want in a car, which features are non-negotiable for my comfort and safety, and how much I’m willing to pay.

mustang-pin

4-wheel drive vs space

My must-haves? 4-wheel drive, adjustable pedals, decent gas mileage, and room for 3 kids are definite must-haves.  Butt warmers are nice too.

My Ford Escape had all of this minus the room for 3 kids part – or rather, room for 3 car seats and / or booster seat.  Since we can’t tie the kids up on the roof & hubby won’t consider the Ford Flex (he has no intention of driving a hearse, he says) we had to move away from the Ford family before Chloe was born.

So what am I driving now?  The Momobile – the Chrysler Town & Country van.  As far as vans go, this one is pretty sexy;  think Dodge Caravan with sparkles & heels.  It’s still a van though, and I miss my 4-wheel drive.

The Auto Show

After noshing on appetizers and enjoying some great wine the good folks at Ford Canada showed us their new lineup.  Wow.

Ottawa-Auto-Show

Sitting in the front seat of the Ford Focus brought back memories of Ikea trips and too many moves.  Seeing the new Escape made me want to take it out for a spin.  And then the pièce de résistance – the Ford Explorer.

Which now seats 7 😀 #colourmeexcited 

Beyond the great features we’ve come to know and love from the Ford family, there’s a few extras that were pretty awesome.  The backup camera has little wipers (how many times have I cleared salt and grime from ours?!?  Too many to count), the gas tank was cap-less, and it had a front-facing camera as well!

The backup cameras on the new @FordCanada lineup have tiny wipers and much more! Click To Tweet

Planning Ahead

I’m sure our insurance company wouldn’t be impressed if I forced our family van to Car Heaven so sadly I must wait till this thing kicks the bucket before upgrading, but I’m excited to test it out.  In July Ann & I are driving to NYC again for #BBNYC & BlogHer’15 and hopefully we’ll be able to test drive the Explorer for this trip.

Our road trips are pretty epic – remember Chicago? So I’m not going to bring the Keurig but an 8 hour drive is much better than a 13 17 hour one.

Are you a Ford Family?  What is the favorite car you’ve ever owned? Do you have any must-have features?  Let’s hear’em!

ford explorer

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Feeding the Mind & The Miracle of The Universe

Feeding the Mind & The Miracle of The Universe

Feeding the Mind & The Miracle of The Universe

The universe – the whole, wide, thing – has got to be the most beautiful sight you can see.  Satellite images and documentaries leave me in awe at the wonder, beauty, and miracle that is the universe.

It’s no secret my childhood was unique.  Wonderful!  But certainly unique by most standards.  We didn’t have television, we had a pet monkey,   and thunderstorms were enjoyed in front of the picture window – popcorn and wine (for the adults!) in hand.  To this day I still make popcorn and open up a bottle of wine to watch thunderstorms!

I loved these moments as child and enjoy creating similar memories with my kids.  Now that the internet has replaced the Complete Britannica Encyclopedia it’s increasingly easier to share the wonders of the world with the girls.

march 2015 streamteam

With march break 1/2 over and the kids getting antsy I’m planning on watching Deadliest Volcanoes with Jasmine while the little ones nap.  She loves science and I know she’ll enjoy this very much.  And if she doesn’t throw too much attitude around, I’ll add Cosmos – A space time odyssey to her list.  She’s using my parents’ old iPad and likes to relax with Netflix on Saturday mornings.  Y’all know I’m not a fan of most shows that top her list, so if I can avoid arguments over why she can’t watch such & such show by getting her interested in this series… all the better for everyone! 🙂

Are your kids showing interest in science?  Start them with baking – it’s a great way to start exploring reactions between elements!

As a member of the Netflix #Streamteam I have been compensated for this post.  All views & opinions are my own, and clearly I built the universe 😉

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Garnier Clean+ VS DiorShow Mascara

Garnier Clean+ VS DiorShow Mascara

Garnier Clean+ VS DiorShow Mascara

Once in a while a fantabulous mascara comes along and no matter how hard it is to wipe off you’re a devoted fan.  That’s what happened to me with my DiorShow blackest black mascara.

I don’t wear much makeup;  concealer, mascara, lipgloss…. maybe a brow highlighter if I’m feeling adventurous.  Having fantastic lashes is an absolute must, as is a quick and easy beauty routine.  Washing the stuff off?  Not no easy.

My New Miracle

I’m not one of those bloggers who receives unsolicited review products – ever.  So when I got a package in the mail from Crowd Social, a division of SheBlogs, I may have squealed just a little bit.  I have been a member for some time but had yet to be included in a campaign.

As I opened up the package I pulled out the Garnier Clean+ cleanser and makeup remover.

Tadaaa!

I wish I had a picture to show you, but the kids are usually playing with my phone when I need it most.

Bottom line?  I love it.  You’ll probably love it too, so you should go out and buy it 😉  Seriously though, it hasn’t failed to deliver.  I’ve been using it for a month now and have not had any mascara emergencies since.

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Blue Prints, Mr. Wonderful, & Discussions with an 8 year old

Blue Prints, Mr. Wonderful, & Discussions with an 8 year old

Blue Prints, Mr. Wonderful, & Discussions with an 8 year old

According to my kids, TV is where it’s at.  At the ripe old age of 2, 4, & 8 they know what they like & don’t like, what’s in, what’s out, and what’s what.

Now, I don’t pretend to know what goes on in other households.  But in this house?  The kids LOVE watching ‘our’ shows.  All 3 are avid fans of The Big Bang Theory and love to sing the opening song.  They enjoy cheering along with our favorite tribe in Survivor and encourage The Biggest Loser contestants from our side of the screen.

I don’t always like it when they watch our shows, but it does bring on many opportunities for real-world discussions that don’t involve My Little Pony and Ever After High.

Dragon’s Den is one of those shows.  Jasmine has been watching this with me since she was about a year old.  She knows the Dragons by name and can predict when deals will flop or close.  She sees entrepreneurs think outside the box to solve problems.  We talk about why some deals are closing and others aren’t.  About planning and execution, effective marketing, what an entrepreneur could have done differently to build a better business.  Using words an 8 year old will understand, of course.

She sees me run my own business and likes to talk about the empire she will one day build (paying all of us $5 / day to slave work for her while she goes shopping, as I’ve been advised recently).

She’s had the opportunity to meet Arlene Dickinson & Kevin O’Leary, and dreams of meeting all of the Dragons (and Sharks, since the US tank has recruited a few of her favorites). On both occasions there was a talk followed by a book signing.  She’s always picked out a book to have signed, and enjoys the talks almost as much as meeting the Dragons.

Jasmine & @ShoeboxBeGone meet @KevinOLearyTV with @indigoFR & @IndigoGreenRoom! http://goo.gl/MKYniX Click To Tweet

 At the age of 3 she designed a lipstick machine, in magic marker, on her wall.  The thing was about 4 ft wide by 3 ft high.  It was very intricate, but the end result was that it expertly applied lipstick to your lips.  Of course, in order for the ‘prototype’ to work it needed real lipstick.  FYI, industrial quantities of lipstick are almost impossible to wash off a wall.

Then again, I remember my own room being plastered with posters of Joey Lawrence, Marc-Paul Gosselar, Jonathan Taylor Thomas, and Brad Pitt.  If she wants to look up to self-made millionaires… who am I to complain?

She’s on a Dragon Den kick again, so thankfully seasons 5 & 6 are now available on Netflix.  I like having mini-marathons with her but frankly I’m getting sick of hearing Barbies & ponies argue.  So we listen to grown-ass adults argue…. LOLbut at least their voices aren’t as high pitched!

What do you watch with your kids?  What conversations are you hoping to start with them?

As a member of the Netflix #Streamteam I have been compensated for this post.  All views & opinions are my own, and all engineering prototypes are clearly my daughter’s.

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Food Bloggers Part 2

Food Bloggers Part 2

Food Bloggers Part 2

Audit Proof Your Blog Part 2 of 3

As seen on Food Bloggers of Canada

Last month in part 1 of Audit-Proff Your Food Blog, we discussed cupboards and logistics, transforming your kitchen into a filing cabinet for food bloggers. By now you’ve reorganized your kitchen and stocked your food blog pantry with the staples of any decent kitchen. Now it’s time to focus on planning your posts and related expenses so you always have what you need on-hand.

The Scarlet ‘A’

When it comes to tax audits we all get nervous. Will my tracking be sufficient? Will they allow all my expenses? As food bloggers, an extra question comes to mind. Will they try to tell me my expenses don’t count because my family ate the food? We’ve seen it happen to other bloggers and we want to make sure our expenses will count.

Part of the problem is that auditors and tax preparers are still fairly clueless about the business of blogging. Many – most – don’t understand social media and how it relates to tax laws. To complicate matters, most audits happen a few years later – making it harder to prove recipe expenses.

Click HERE to read the full article! 

bigstock-Smooth-Touch-Workspace-73768573-640x426

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Laura Vitale Turns Up The Heat For Valentine’s Day

Laura Vitale Turns Up The Heat For Valentine’s Day

Laura Vitale Turns Up The Heat For Valentine's Day

I’m a sucker for holidays and Valentine’s day is no exception.  I don’t see it as an excuse to show people how you feel, but rather a day to celebrate those feelings and relationships.

In my early twenties, when budgets were tighter and I hadn’t really figured out how to manage money, I would cook an elaborate dinner for the one that held my heart.  I’ve always been a good cook, and you know the way to a man’s heart, right? Exactly.  It’s also the way to a man’s pants, if one is so inclined.  So cook I did, and I did it well.

I look back on those years, before YouTube and Google, and remember perusing my favorite cookbooks for the perfect recipes.  I’d spend half an hour chatting up the liquor store clerk discussing wine pairings for my menu, from appetizer to dessert.

There was almost always new underwear and for the love of all this holy I avoided gas-inducing foods for 3 days prior.  Priorities, you know?

Remember when date night meant new underwear and 48hrs of 'safe' foods? Click To Tweet

These days the love holiday is more about the kids.  Special crafts, activities, and hopefully some ‘us’ time once they’re are sleeping.  Dinner is some sort of red concoction – the kids would be scandalized if it weren’t.  That means tomato & cheese stuffed ravioli with marinara sauce.

But those ‘millenials’ – those kids that are now young adults, forging their way through life… I’m guessing the new twenty-somethings still can’t afford a nice dinner out, and that’s where Laura Vitale – host of hit YouTube show ‘Laura in the Kitchen‘ – comes in to help.

Check out this video for her ideas on creating the perfect date-night in for you & the man;  a date-night that won’t break the bank with fantastic foods that not only taste great but are quick and easy to prepare.

So put on those sexy underwear, open that bottle of wine, and enjoy your night.

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Cory McCloskey wants you to know – it’s gonna be hot!

Cory McCloskey wants you to know – it’s gonna be hot!

Cory McCloskey wants you to know - it's gonna be hot!

Remember when I talked about John Oliver taking opportunity by the balls and running with it?  Yeah.  Well it happened again, only this time it was some weather guy from Fox 10 Phoenix.

As one must with live TV, Cory McCloskey checked his show beforehand but overlooked a few minor details.  Instead of burning under pressure… he kept his cool.

The best lines?  ‘Steel boils at this temperature‘ & ‘Don’t bother going there to loot, everything is gone‘.

Funny as this may all be, I’m calling it here today.  This 1 min 30 sec blooper is now a defining moment in Cory’s career.  Someday – sooner or later – a life-changing opportunity will be given because of this blooper.

Not because he screwed up – cause let’s be honest, someone should have caught this – but because of his quick wit under fire.  This man can think on his feet and it will pay off in dividends long before he retires.

Luck is being ready when opportunity calls.  Lucky for Cory – his show didn’t go up in flames.

Thanks for the laughs Sir, signed myself &  8+ million viewers.  And if you’re looking for a few speaking gigs hit me upI know people.

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Wordless Wednesday – Just call me Bones

Wordless Wednesday – Just call me Bones

Wordless Wednesday - Just call me Bones

csi bones

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Traveling Alone to Las Vegas

Traveling Alone to Las Vegas

Traveling Alone to Las Vegas

“Sorry, I’ll be in Vegas for business that weekend…”

Sounds glamorous, doesn’t it?  Like some highfalutin’, high-rollin’, big-world exec.  HA!

 Funny.  But not quite. 

As a speaker at the Type-A Vegas Bootcamp I have a room booked at the Paris Las Vegas, my hair looks good – for now – and by some airline miracle missing my flight is the only reason I land in Vegas before the conference is over.

Traveling for business can be fun but it’s far from glamorous, specially on your own dime.  Whether you’re traveling for business, pleasure, or both here are my tips for traveling alone to Las Vegas – or anywhere else for that matter.

 Tip # 1 – Bring DOUBLE the emergency cash you feel is reasonable.

My flight leaves at 7 am.  Snow flurries turn into a blizzard, my cab driver is very late, and I get to the airport just before the checked bags cutoff time.  Except I no longer have my wallet.  Because it’s at home, in the snow.  With my passport and credit cards.

$90 later I’ve been driven to the airport, home, and back again.  I arrive in time to hear the boarding call and approach the ticket counter in tears.

I’m hoping to get on the 8 am flight ’cause if I don’t get on this one I’m not in Vegas before midnight.  The flight I missed is on its way BACK to the airport for technical issues and I’m starting to feel relieved – that could have been me.

hotel-bed

After much back and forth they’ve confirmed the solo missing passenger has not entered the building and 2 minutes before the doors shut the attendant & I are running down the ramp, shoes & bags in hands.  Huffing and puffing I make my way to my seat, relieved that – at least for now – I’ll arrive by mid-afternoon.

I haven’t left the ground and already I’ve blown through a quarter of my ‘emergency money‘. You never know what can happen so being extra prepared is never a bad thing.

Tip #2 – Don’t make funny with Security

You’re travelling alone.  You haven’t checked any bags.  You’re flying back in a few days.  You’re sporting stylishly comfortable clothes with no belt, you’ve got flip-flops on your feet, and you’ve left your bulky parka at home. You’ve yet to hear screaming banshees that belong to you so you’re in a rather perky mood on this fine, frigid, early morning.

One would think this screams ‘Seasoned Traveler’; you are, after all, scoring A+ on the efficiency scale.  No messing around with shoe laces and belts while going through security.  No waiting for luggage once you land and definitely no carrying around bulky winter gear you won’t need for days.

TSA staff are a breed of their own.  Unnaturally friendly lone traveler with few belongings, no checked luggage, and a laptop-that’s-not-a-tablet-that’s-not-a-laptop like the Surface Pro 3 apparently screams ‘Terrorist’.

travel selfie

Threatening?

You may be in a good mood, you may be super efficient, but those TSA agents will not crack a smile.  The more you try to be friendly, the more you’ll be grilled.  Keep the commentary to nada and know where the hell you’re going & why this is NOT the time to get mommy brain.  Once – and only once – you’ve passed the normal citizen test you’re free to smile & wish them a great day – they don’t get much of that.

Tip #3 – Don’t be afraid to explore

Just because you’re travelling alone doesn’t mean you have to stay in the hotel!  Go exploring, see the sights, just remember some basic security common-sense.

Always have a charged cell phone, some cash (as in bills & coins, not just a credit card), and stick to well populated areas.  I’ve gone searching for steak with a friend at 11pm in Time Squares, explored the night lights in Vegas and toured San Francisco on my own.

Wear comfortable shoes you could run in if you had to, be aware of your surroundings, and avoid the ghetto.  Oh – and have fun!!!! Who knows when you’ll be back?

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Tip #4 – You don’t have to buy ALL the souvenirs

I know.  Everything looks awesome.  Your husband would appreciate the humour in a gag item so outrageous you have to buy.  Those tutus & t-shirts would look great on your girls.  Your best friend would love the statue of David replica.

STOP.

Take pictures!  The funny, the awful, the absurd – and share them with your loved ones.  Let them appreciate the humour without making them feel like they have to wear the ‘Tower of Love’ boxers.

Buy a few meaningful pieces – I picked up a Venus De Milo replica at Caesar’s Palace and an Eiffel Tower wine glass at the Paris Las Vegas.  I followed my tradition of buying a local Christmas ornament and picked up dice suckers and fuzzy pens for the girls.  I kept it simple but took LOTS of pictures of the wonderful finds I really couldn’t bring home.

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Tip #5 – Indulge a little

Visiting new cities you sometimes find one of a kind items.  I found this Predire Paris mask in one of the shops.  Though it sells for way more than I would pay for a full-on wardrobe makeover the lady sold it to me for $40.  I need so little of this product it will last a very long time.  I absolutely love it, and if it wasn’t for the price-point I’d tell you to go buy it.  If you happen to be going to Vegas, would you mind picking me up some?  Message me, we’ll talk 😉.

Google is your best friend.  Want to make sure you’re really getting a ‘special deal’?  Do a quick search on your phone and decide if it’s worth it or not.

Predire-Paris
Parting Thoughts

As women, wives, moms… we rarely get time for ourselves.  If you find yourself alone in a strange city for a few days, make the most of it.  

Squeeze in a once-in-a-lifetime experience, go shopping, get pampered, and enjoy being in your own company.

#Traveling alone? squeeze in a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity. Who knows when you'll be back?! Click To Tweet

And who knows?  Maybe you’ll even remember what makes you so awesome.

Traveled alone?  Want to?  Let’s talk!

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Food Bloggers!  Check this out

Food Bloggers! Check this out

Food Bloggers! Check this out

Audit Proof Your Blog Part 1 of 3

As seen on Food Bloggers of Canada

You’ve heard the horror stories: bloggers having to pay higher taxes, fines, and levies because accountants and CRA auditors refuse to count your food blogging expenses. They’re not dense – mostly – but they lack a general misunderstanding of the business of blogging, never mind food blogging.

I know the veterans in the crowd have pulled many a hair getting ready for taxes – and the rookies are sweating with anxiety at the prospect of having to do so.

Fear not my friend, that’s why I’m here.

Click HERE to read the full article! 

Supermarket Receipt

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The Baby-Sitters Club & My Youth – StreamTeam

The Baby-Sitters Club & My Youth – StreamTeam

The Baby-Sitters Club & My Youth - StreamTeam

OMG.  Shut the front door. 

The Baby-Sitters Club is on Netflix.  We’re talking the series – the one I couldn’t watch growing up because we didn’t even own a television.

BSC Series on Netflix

I don’t think you understand.  These books?  They saved me.  And they were everywhere.  I hid them in between towels in the bathroom, inside pillow cases in my bed, under my desk at school, and even between couch cushions.

Piles.

Piles, and piles, and piles of books.  

By the time I grew out of the life and times of The Baby-Sitters Club and the Stoneybrook community I’d amassed quite the collection of dog-eared paperbacks.  The series was my prized possession and followed me through my mid-twenties, only to perish in a flood.  Some parents keep Disney books for their kids – I kept my BSC collection.

The novels are an integral part of my youth that I want to share with my daughters.  Jasmine – who is 8 and attends French school – is on book 5 and she loves them as much as I did.

I was waiting for her to get through at least 15 books or so before showing her the 1995 movie, but who are we kidding?  You can bet your bottom dollar we’ll be watching the 13 episodes together.  And then maybe the movie.

Cause is there anything better than sharing a slice of your youth with your kids?

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NYE with kids: Bringing Sexy Back

NYE with kids: Bringing Sexy Back

NYE with kids: Bringing Sexy Back

I used to be the queen of NYE.  I always had plans.  They were always epic.  I celebrated in style.  Sometimes en grandeur, sometimes en tête-à-tête – clothing optional – but always in style.  Champagne, chocolate strawberries, a multitude of hors d’oeuvres that didn’t feature tostitos or pinwheel PB&J’s.

Great outfits, simple updos, and fancy underwear were a staple in my celebrations – as was great food, flowing wine, and chickie cocktails because why not.

Cost was never a factor.  I’m a New Year’s baby so the money I saved on birthday celebrations I used to splurge on my NYE plans.  Because who am I kidding?  Most people are usually too hungover to remember my birthday or too broke post-holidays to come celebrate with me.  Even if it wasn’t ‘my’ party, it was *MY* party and no tears were allowed.

In (out?) comes kids, Out goes the fancy underwear.

And, frankly, all semblance of party plans.  Ever since I had Jasmine 8 years ago I have spent the eve alone on the couch in PJ’s.  In the 6 years JF & I have ∗ celebrated ∗ together he’s been working or sick.  I’ve stopped making plans because even when I do, he gets called into to work (apparently someone needs to answer those pesky 911 calls).

This year, I had ALL the plans.  And…. true to tradition hubby’s schedule got switched.  Because you’re an awesome bunch – and I’m just nice like that – I’m sharing how I planned to bring sexy back to our NYE celebrations… even if it’s with kids.

3 tips for celebrating nye with kids

 Get in the mood with accessories

Not those kinds of accessories, you sick bastard – the jewelry kind.  I was shopping at Aldo and found this really cute headband that reads ‘Meet Me At Midnight’.  Can it get more suggestive?  Also great no matter your relationship status.  You’ll stand out in a sea of ‘2015’ and ‘Happy New Year’ glitter headbands.

For you non-parent people sometimes a great kiss is all the action you have time or energy for.  Those kisses help you remember that there’s still an grown-ass woman under all that extra baby skin.

Get cheeky with the menu

Toffee bars?  Nah-ah!  Sinful Threesomes.  Get the recipe HERE.  How about some beer cocktails?  F*Bombs & Mistletoe are sure to keep you both smirking.

Molson Mistletoe

While you’re having fun sipping your drinks – serve them in martini glasses for a fancy look – let the kids pretend they’re big people for a while with their own ‘cocktails’.  Milk flutes, complete with chocolate chip cookie sticks, and homemade sparkling apple cider.

NYE mocktails

Lie to your kids

By now you must have heard of Netflix’ new Dreamworks original series All Hail King Julien the wacky lemur from Madagascar.  

King Julien likes to party and get his shake on.  He’s famed for rocking out to ‘I like to move it-move-it’ and crazy pineapple hats.  For a lemur he sure spends a lot of time glaring at us through the screen with his come-hither look.

Maybe that’s why he wants to help you lie to your kids.  ‘Cause now the folks at #AllHailKingJulien have created a fake  3 minute NYE countdown that you can show the littles….. at whatever time you see fit!!!!  To watch the countdown, go here: http://nflx.it/kingcountdown

No more waiting for Time Squares to get with the program, no more fumbling for good YouTube footage of celebrations in Australia, and no more whiny kids who won’t sleep ’cause they’re wired!  Brilliant, right?  Maybe you won’t be able to fool the older kids but at least the wee ones will be squared away long before you pucker up.

Let them have their fun with noisemakers, streamers and New Year’s Eve glasses – then off to bed they go!

All Hail KIng Julien NYE Party Pack

 NYE with Kids – Can you still bring sexy back?

Well, like I mentioned you need 2 willing participants.  And sleeping kids.   But even if you can’t ring in the new year with a bang the sous-entendres are sure to keep you both on your toes and – at the very least – remember that you still like each other – because that’s always important!

Can't ring in #NYE with a 'bang'? @Netflix_CA helps you create time to pucker up in peace 😉 Click To Tweet

bringing sexy back to #nye

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Beer Cocktails – the new chickie drink

Beer Cocktails – the new chickie drink

Beer Cocktails - the new chickie drink

This post is not sponsored though I’m sure Molson will be pleasantly surprised to see this in their feed.

I first met up with Molson at my very first blogging conference in 2011.  During this inaugural event I was introduced to a new product, and a new concept.  Beer cocktails made with Molson ’67 beer.  Think chickie drink without the calories.

I was hooked!  The drink we had that weekend was the Sour 67 – or, as I prefer to call themFuckBombs in a glass.

 The Sour 67 recipe card

Yes.  It’s that good.

This recipe calls for Molson 67 but I’ve used with many beers and it never disappoints.  Just…. Not the dark beers OK?  Take my word on this one ;).

Another favorite is the Molson Mistletoe – and not just because of name, either.  It’s red (who doesn’t love a red drink?!? Reminiscent of fond red juice memories from our childhood, I guess) and the name suggests nookieness – or at least, a precursor to nookieness.

Molson Mistletoe recipe

I don’t care how much your head hurts you can’t go wrong with #fuckbombs & mistletoe beer cocktails!

So will you be naughty or nice this holiday season?  Have you tried any of these?  What do you think?

Molson 67 Naughty or Nice recipe list

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Sinful Threesomes Recipe – or, if you must, Toffee Bars

Sinful Threesomes Recipe – or, if you must, Toffee Bars

Sinful Threesomes Recipe - or, if you must, Toffee Bars

Years ago I discovered a toffee bar recipe and instantly fell in love.  Back then, we referred to them as ‘squares’.  Today?  We call them Sinful Threesomes.

It wasn’t until a few years later that these beauties earned their moniker.

At the time I lived in quaint duplex with poor heating and a terrible layout.  I loved that apartment and it holds many dear memories.  It was a cold winter, I had no cable (I was broke…) and the storm meant my ‘high speed’ internet was on the fritz… again.  So I bribed the guys downstairs with some baking in exchange for tube time.  American Idol was in full swing and week after week I would produce yummy goodness for my bachelor friends who put up with my girly shows for an evening a week.

The first time I brought down my squares the boys looked suspicious.  ‘Come on, have one.  I guarantee you won’t regret it’ I said.  Finally someone grabbed a piece and shoved it in his mouth.

OHMERGOOD!‘ he said.  After much groaning and chewing he swallowed the last few crumbs and turned to his posse.

‘OMG that felt like 3 layers of sin were having sex in my mouth!!!’.  

And so, Sinful Threesomes were born.  Enjoy, you can thank me later!

If you decide to test this Sinful Threesomes recipe, tell me about your results in the comments below!

 Sinful Threesomes Recipe by Angele @Shoeboxbegone

A few tips

You don’t *have* to melt the butter in step 1, but it makes the cookie layer more fluffy and easier to spread in the pan.  Also, you can substitute margarine if you wish, but the resulting texture will be different.

Your step 2 mixture should have the consistency of warmed putty; same for your chocolate layer.

This time I added a 1/4 tsp peppermint extract in both the toffee and chocolate layer.  Feel free to experiment!

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Food Pantry Holiday Makeover With James Young

Food Pantry Holiday Makeover With James Young

Food Pantry Holiday Makeover With James Young

James Young – host of DIY Network’s I Hate My Kitchen loves tearing up and rebuilding kitchens.  He’s working on a great project and took some time to answer a few questions for you.

Food pantries across the nation face higher demands every year.  With the holidays upon us they’ll be needing more than just meals to help families in need put food on their table.

Food Pantry Holiday Makeovers

From Dec 2 to 12th visit www.walmart.com/holidaymakeover and cast one vote per day to help your local food pantry (US).  75 winning food pantries will each receive a $20,000 grant to purchase things like new kitchen and storage equipment, furniture, paint, and other supplies that are needed to continue providing fresh meals and exceptional service to local communities.

Check out this video and don’t forget to VOTE.  You never know who you’re helping.

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Got Beef? Don’t Have A Cow

Got Beef? Don’t Have A Cow

Got Beef? Don't Have A Cow

We all know cows are lazy.

But are they?

cow1-got-beef
Imaging spending hours each day producing and expressing milk.  You eat like there’s no tomorrow and drink gallons of fluid so your body will be able to produce said milk.

You’re so exhausted you don’t bother grooming;  the flies are attracted to the sweet smell of milk so its not like cleaning yourself up will help.  As for the bull pacing on the other side of the fence?  He hasn’t had action in so long he doesn’t give a rat’s ass what you look like.  

You have nothing left to give, they’ve taken it all.  Exhaustion fills you.  Your body, your mind… even your soul feels depleted.

Whoever said sleep is for the weak nailed it.

Along comes a serene moment of solitude, a short time to close your eyes and rest your soul.

Cows are expected to nap, but when it comes to mothers… It’s not normal.  There must be something wrong.  Normal people don’t sleep during the day.

You are not normal.  You a giver.  A provider. A caretaker.…. a Mom ♥

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Raw

Raw

Wordless Wednesday: Raw


Broken.  Raw.  Spent.  Exhausted. 

raw-web-

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Sick in Bed with Russell Peters

Sick in Bed with Russell Peters

Sick in Bed with Russell Peters

It’s been one of “those” days.  The kind of days where the baby just wants to sleep and nurse.  Oh, and be stuck thisclose to you.  Failing to abide by these requests will treat your neighborhood – and possibly the whole county – with apocalyptic screams.

Oh, the joys of a growth-spurting, molar-breaking, almost 2 year old.  At least is was just the 2 of us and I was able to stay in bed with her.

Facebook gets boring after a while and Twitter – well,  Twitter just isn’t what it used to be.  Color me happy because is there anything better than snuggling with a baby under thick blankets, the window cracked open just a bit, and some hi.la.ri.ous. comedy?

Remember the days of trekking out to Blockbuster in PJ’s and fuzzy slippers, toque firmly in place because bed hair?  For the young’uns reading this, Blockbuster was where you went to rend VHS videos and eventually DVD’s.  You hoped to get there before all the new releases were gone or you were watching 3 Men & a Little Lady for the millionth time.  Or Ghost.  Or the newest Olsen twins made-for-tv movie.

netflix logo

Luckily I have Netflix on my tablet and spent the day in bed with Russell Peters, sans toque.  Jim Jefferies, Eddy Murphy, and Joan Rivers also made an appearance but they don’t know me like my Russell does.  He had eyes only for me, and knew just what to say to make me feel better.  And he did!

Maybe on Friday I’ll have him over for a glass of wine and invite him to stay till breakfast.   

Connect with Netflix & discover comedy lineup!  And since you’re here…. Who’s your favorite stand-up comedian, and why?

As a member of the Netflix #Streamteam I have been compensated for this post.  All views, opinions, and fantasies are my own.

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Yvette Corporon Finds Her Story

Yvette Corporon Finds Her Story

Yvette Corporon Finds Her Story

I refuse to give in to the notion that celebrities, public figures, and powerful influencers are somehow above us.  That their notoriety is cause for worship, that our demeanor when interacting with them should be ‘appropriate’ and guarded – I just don’t buy into that.

My disregard of this social convention – disconcerting to some – stems not from a lack of respect.  Au contraire, regardless of where one falls in the social hierarchy we’re all made of the same stuff.  There’s a person – a human, a life, a story – behind the public persona and that’s who I’m talking to.

Everyone has a story.  That person behind the title? They were once a baby with through-and-through diaper emergencies.  They were toddlers who begged for just 5 more minutes at the park, one more turn on the slide.  They have a family, a history.  And, believe it or not… everyone wipes their own bum after going to the washroom – even the Queen.

I’ve met some incredible people, had amazing conversations.  Authors, actors, high-level executives.  I don’t care if others see you as a waiter, a CEO, or the golden ticket to the mouse ears.  When we talk, I see you.

Karmic Joke

Then life hands you the opportunity to interview an Emmy award-winning writer, producer, and author and you end up sounding like a babbling idiot – not unlike the 15 year old version of you asking a boy for his number. 

Like that time – a few short hours ago – I interviewed Yvette Corporon, author of When The Cypress Whispers and senior producer at EXTRA.

This incredible woman has interviewed just about everyone and covered the biggest stories in news and entertainment, and now I’m interviewing her.  I was prepared, I was ready… I was star-struck.  Look, it happens to everyone, ok?  It’s still a great interview, but please don’t mind the high-pitch, over-excited, my-vocabulary-has-no-synonym-for-awesome-and-amazing, voice of the interviewer.

Finding Your Story

Yvette shared insights on her new book, a story inspired by her own family and their history on a magical Greek island.  In a time of war and fear Yvette’s Yia-Yia and the people of Erikousa risked their lives to help shelter and save a Jewish family escaping the Nazis.

It’s a powerful story, one I’m excited to read.  Even more interesting, though, is what happens next.

In researching this book Ms. Corporon looked up the man her Yia-Yia helped save.  With the help of MyHeritage.com she found his family and within hours was communicating with them.

I got lost in my own history on MyHeritage.com while writing this piece.  I was able to accomplish so much in the 5 hours I spent there before I decided to upgrade to a paid account.  All I had were my grandparents’ names and even if there are many more branches to fill, I think it’s great progress for a first session.

Family Tree - Angele Lafond

You are the product of an epic story.  You may find royalty and celebrities, you may find dragons and skeletons.  But your story it is.  Have fun, do some research, and to give you a nudge in the right direction you can save 30% at MyHeritage.com with the coupon code CYPRESSWHISPERS.

And if you haven’t already, scroll back up and check out my interview with Yvette Corporon, a moment that will surely become part of my story. 🙂 

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Too Young for Old Lady Lips

Too Young for Old Lady Lips

Too Young for Old Lady Lips

Feathering.  Bleeding.

Words that were never part of my vernacular.  I’ve always had big, full lips like my twin Angelina and never worried about such things as lipstick going awry.

Until today.

Today, I left the house a confident, young, professional woman and mom.  My hair rocked, my rolls cooperated, and my lips looked FAN.TA.BU.LOUS.  I hopped in the car, energized and ready for anything.

If only I hadn’t checked the mirror.  A seemingly innocuous task, yet it revealed secrets I thought would remain hidden for years.

My face has aged.

Stress, postpartum depression, child bearing – and rearing – have all taken a toll on my youth and today the proof stares back at me.

Holy shit balls.  I have old lady lips.

I’m too young for this shit.  Too young to be in the sandwich generation – yet I live it everyday.  Too young to be old.

Most days I manage to dig deep and forget.  But – Mirror Mirror, on the wall. Why today this aged version of me?

Today?  Today I feel the weight of my not-so-many-years… And that’s ok.  But I’m still too young to have old lady lips.

too-young-to-be-old-small

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YouTube, The Museum, & Galapagos

YouTube, The Museum, & Galapagos

YouTube, The Museum, & Galapagos

“too-do-too, too-do-too, tadadada-da-da… tou-do-too, too-do-too…. tadadada-da-da. I’m an Igua-aaaa-na!  Down in Galapagos.  I’m an Igua-aaaa-na!  Seaweed.  I li-ike the most!”

This awesome children’s song is controlling the audio reel in my head and my child’s lunch is to blame.

The Angele Factor

That’s what J-F calls it.  Me?  I prefer Murphy’s Law.

It was one of those mornings where you haven’t done groceries in days and you’re left with carrot sticks and apple sauce for school lunches.  Because you’re clearly winning at this parenting thing you promise you’ll drop off a proper lunch before the field trip to the museum.

Except… the bus left 15 minutes earlier than you thought and you miss it by 5 minutes.

Shit.  Crap on a pogo stick.  I don’t have much of a choice, so I hop on the Queensway and head to the museum.   I sweet-talk my way inafter all, I’m only dropping off a sandwich and a muffin – and catch up with her classroom.

I must have spent close to an hour there – oops – but I’m in a terrific mood and on my way out I stop at the information desk to thank the gentleman who helped me locate the kids – not an easy feat for a building of over 1 million square feet.

And that’s when I see it.  Right there behind him.

IMAX Galapagos 3D…. Galapagos!  Oh my god, the iguana song!  And…. Ta-da!  The audio reel is born.

IMAX_Galapagos_Web-Banner_FINAL

Now we have to go see the IMAX movie because Galapagos.  And seaweed.  And iguanas on YouTube.

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Are you ready to #StreamInto2015

Are you ready to #StreamInto2015

Are you ready to #StreamInto2015

home-alone-1-poster-widescreen-2I know we’d all like to forget, but Christmas is less than 2 months away!

My favorite holiday pass-time?  Watching all the classics.  From Home Alone to National Lampoon, and all the cheezy love-sappy movies in between.

This year I’ve decided its time for our family to crown OUR all-time favorite holiday movie.  I’ve teamed up with Staples Canada to #StreamInto2015 and 1 month from now we’ll unveil our family’s favorite.

Follow along our journey, there will be prizes for you to win!!!!

Meanwhile…. What is your favorite holiday movie and viewing traditions?  Each year, the kids & I snuggle up with big blankets and real popcorn for National Lampoon.  It’s a must, and it’s not Christmas without it!  You?

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Holiday Shopping Hack – Simplify Your Life

Holiday Shopping Hack – Simplify Your Life

Holiday Shopping Hack - Simplify Your Life

Don’t you just LOOOOVE Christmas shopping?  The crowds.  The shoving.  The mom-bullies tackling unsuspecting by-standers to get the all-elusive-brand-new-hot-toy-of-the-year?

Or how about on those midnight madness sales, when there’s a new deal every hour?  And you have to PAY for it in that hour?  On top of tackling you now have to face long lines…. 4 times, because the 4 things you came to buy at 70% off are on at different times.

Fun?  No?

You’re stuck.

You can’t go back to your car to drop stuff off – there’s a lineup to the road of people waiting to be admitted in hell.  If you get out now…. you’re never getting back in. Not that you want to.

Except Barbie Dream House and the newest gaming console.

WELCOME TO HELL

The local Broke ‘R Us had several of these midnight madness sales last year.  The fine print?

Hourly Specials In-Store & Online

What? Come again?  ONLINE?

I made a list, checked it twice, and settled in to watch Friends reruns with my friends Merlot & Popcorn. Each hour – on the hour – I logged in, filled my cart with sale-price goodies my kids would love, checked out, and went back to the boob tube.

I shopped 3 hourly specials.  I got 75 bonus Air Miles, and even managed to give myself a mani-pedi.  3 days later the UPS guy showed up – twice – to deliver the goods.  Off to the secret storage space they went and Santa had fulfilled my kids’ wish lists.

My Visa Debit card is getting much love even this early in the season and my browser & I are closer than ever!  My secret spot is filling up with goodies for everyone on my list and I’ve yet to purchase a Ho-Ho-Ho gift in store.

Midnight Madness Sales?

Hacked. 

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Abusive Relationships can happen at any age

Abusive Relationships can happen at any age

Abusive Relationships can happen at any age

Mary Kay 2014 Truth About Abuse Survey ResultsDomestic abuse – It starts young

I recently had the opportunity to chat with Olympic gold medal gymnast Jordyn Wieber and Brian Pinero, director of digital services for the National Domestic Violence Hotline and loveisrespect.org. 

Did you know that 70% of dating college age youth surveyed have reported experiencing emotional abuse in their romantic relationships? For many teens and young adults finding themselves in an abusive relationship (be it physical, emotional, sexual, verbal, tech or controlling situation) can feel like an inescapable trap.

In partnership with loveisrespect.org, Mary Kay’s 2014 Truth About Abuse Survey aimed to understand how long teens and young adults wait before they reach out for help and gauge what type of abuse is most prevalent among those who seek help.

This issue is close to my heart.  When I was 18, I dated (and moved in) with a guy for 2 years.  He never hit me.  But it took me 2 years to accept that what he was doing was emotional and sexual abuse.  I won’t go into details – I’ve dealt with my past and came out a stronger, happier woman.

Today’s young women need to know how to reach out, how to ask for help, and how to recognize abuse.  Check out the survey results and have a look at our interview.

If you are experience any form of abuse – talk to someone.  Get some help.  It could save your life.

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October is ADHD Awareness Month

October is ADHD Awareness Month

October is ADHD Awareness Month

ADHD.

We all worry about it, even when we don’t want to admit we do.  Is my child simply overreacting because he’s a child?  Or is there more to the story. When do you need to start worrying?  What checkpoints can put in place with your child’s teachers?

I spoke with ADHD expert Dr. Adelaide Robb about this very issue.  Click to listen to the interview!

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Frozen

Frozen

Frozen

Chloe, the youngest, will be 2 years old next month.  Like most girls she’s currently a little obsessed with ‘Let it Go’ and everything Frozen.

The Elsa doll we bought my niece that sings? Yup – we’re planning on getting it for her birthday.  She danced with the box for 1/2 hour at the party!

So last night after taking the girls shopping for clothes we peek into Toys’R Us because I have a death wish I’m crazy I promised them each (1) ONE surprise if they behaved – which they did, mostly.

I turn to the stroller, 1 stuffie in each hand.  “Do you want….. This one?  Or This one?” I inquire, presenting two equally yummy options.

“EEEESSSSSSAAAAAAAAAAA!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!” She screeched.  What the f…. was that?

“ESSA!  ESSSSSSAAAAAA!  ESSA-ESSA-ESSA-ESSAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAAA”

It takes me a minute but I come to the realization that she’s screaming ‘Elsa’.  As in Frozen.  As in I’m standing right in front of the damn doll I’m supposed to buy for her next month.

Fuck.  Full disclosure: it is my kids’ mania I object to, not the Frozen movie.

So I caved.  I bought it, along with a crown for Annabelle.  And she hugged it, and squeezed it, and loved it so much!  The whole mall likely heard the song the damn thing plays.

It’s time to head back home but what the heck – the kids are being good so I decide a quick trip to the Showcase store can’t do any harm. You know – that ‘as seen on TV’ store?

Ha!

Don’t go in there – at least, not until the holidays are over.  It’s a freaking Frozen mecca.  Coin banks, tin purses, stuffed Olaf’s, fake snowballs that feel like real snow balls, cutlery, tattoos and every other Elsa & Anna crap you can think of prevails.

Double Fuck.  All caps.

We left the store with 3 tin purses – one for each daughter.

There are no more words, so I show you pictures.

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Restaurant Hack – Simplify Your Life

Restaurant Hack – Simplify Your Life

Restaurant Hack - Simplify Your Life

I hate ordering the ‘perfect‘ meal at a nice restaurant only to end up paying a fortune for something I barely touched.

I’m so over it, to be honest.  I once asked if I could order off the kids’ menu because the portion was reasonable and HELLO $10. 

The snooty waitress ‘reminded‘ me that kids menus were for the 12 and under crowd.  Thanks. 

I’ve discovered that it’s not what you ask, but how you ask it.

If you say  ‘can I order off the kids’ menu‘ it’s an immediate no.

If you say ‘I don’t care how much you charge me but THIS is the portion I want’ you’ll get the kids meal item at the kids meal price – just without juice and desert.

I went to dinner with friends last night and was hungry for steak.  I had a 6oz New York Striploin with mashed potatoes and veggies…. and it cost me $10.99.

I didn’t over eat, and I didn’t spend a fortune.

life-hacks-kids-meal

Do you have tricks for easier and / or cheaper eating out?  Less here your restaurant hack!

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Type-A Atlanta – The Album

Type-A Atlanta – The Album

Type-A Atlanta - The Album

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#WGSPhilly – A SITS Girls Event

#WGSPhilly – A SITS Girls Event

#WGSPhilly - A SITS Girls Event

This past weekend I had the pleasure of speaking at the SITS Girls Women Get Social #WGSPhilly boot camp in Philadelphia.

If you’ve never been think of it as BlogHer PRO’s little sister with an east coast feel.  This was an intimate gathering of bloggers, writers and influencers who are serious about this whole business thing.

Bigger is not always better.  We all participated in the same sessions so instead of running from room to room figuring out which breakout is best for me I got to grab a cup of coffee, enjoy some networking, and come back to my table.  Amazing!

My session – Steak, Potatoes, & Managing your Blog Income – was a blast; I love speaking to bloggers ’cause they’re usually a fun bunch.  This crowd did not disappoint – Hokey Pokey and all (you heard me!  If you’re going to talk taxes you have to keep them awake – specially after lunch.  EVERYONE does the Hokey Pokey when I speak).

I met some fantastic people and forged relationships that will likely outlast your cell phone contract.  The sponsors – LG and Mirasou Wines – where fantastic and shared some great new products with us.

If the SITS Girls are coming to a town near you I strongly suggest you sign up – it will be worth every penny!

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Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ – Adventure Aquarium

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ – Adventure Aquarium

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ - Adventure Aquarium

Once again my career took me on the road.  My mission?  Find 1 ‘once-in-a-lifetime’ opportunity and make the most of my 1 day of visiting.  You may remember I did the same thing in San Francisco last fall

Though I was in Philly for the SITS Girls Women Get Social conference I decided that a small detour to Camden NJ was in order.  Why Camden?  Wasn’t I getting enough love from Philly? Sure – but Camden has Adventure Aquarium.

As in – come swim with the sharks and paint with penguins Adventure Aquarium.  So I did what any sane blogger would do and got myself a media pass which covered my parking and general admission.  Nothing was going to keep me away from the sharks and the penguins.

Of course by the time I got everything sorted out the shark tank was full but I managed to get a ticket to go paint with penguins.  The cost of an experience can be a little steep compared to general admission but if you love penguins (or sharks, turtles, etc…) it’s worth every last penny you’ll put down.

I’m glad I had time to explore as I really wanted to spend some time in Hypo Haven, the Jules Verne Gallery, and Shark Realm.  I would have LOVED to also visit the turtles but there are only so many minutes in one hour.  Wide-eyed and elated after going through the shark tunnel I moseyed on over to guest services where a cute cabana boy whisked me away to South Africa.

Painting with Penguins in Camden NJ - @adventureaqua #travel Click To Tweet

Actually, that didn’t happen but wouldn’t it be nice?  I did, however, meet 2 wonderful handlers who brought us to meet the locals.  I’ve always loved penguins.  Now I know why.  They are cute, they have personality, and they (mostly) love 2-legged creatures.

Penguin Experience

My artist groomed me, kissed me, and generally played nice with this human thing that was willing to give it all its attention.  This particular penguin was new to the arts and must have been sporting some sort of performance anxiety – it was, after all, her first time painting in an experience.  She handled it like pro though and you could tell she was having a blast.  She may have stolen a piece of my heart back there.

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Every time I come home I tell J-F we have to go back as a family cause wherever I just came from is so so cool.  But its true!  There are hidden gems in every city and it’s my mission to find them for you!

There are hidden gems in every city! Click To Tweet

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Pedicure Hack – Simplify Your Life

Pedicure Hack – Simplify Your Life

Pedicure Hack - Simplify Your Life

Barefoot.

That’s how I like to be.  I’m in flip flops from March to November and if I can swing it sock-less as much as possible throughout the winter.

My feet sweat.  A lot.  Have you tried finding cotton socks these days?  Unless I want to spend $20 / pair – which I won’t because hubby steals my black socks; something about them being thinner and softer than men’s socks –   I have to shop the Walmart / Target express.

Yeah.  You’re funny.  The most ‘cotton feeling’ pair they had was 72% Polyester, 24% Nylon, and 4% RUBBER.

That’s right folks!  Socks are now made of plastic, stretchy plastic, and FUCKING TIRES!!!!

So.  No socks for me. 

As you can imagine (or, try not too – the visual is quite disturbing) my feet look like shit.  I can’t afford weekly pedicures so I’ve tried the DIY approach and bought those nifty scaly-feet-scary-razors like they have in salons.

My feet looked like they were attacked by Edward ScissorHands, there was blood everywhere, and needless to say the end result was NOT sexy. 

Fear not, friend,fear not.  *I* have experimented for you, and here’s the absolute best pedicure hack I can come up with.  And no one needs to know 😉

pedicure-hack

 Take a plain old razor – preferably with a new blade – and shave off those corns and calluses as you would your wooky-like legs.  I like the one pictured above but any razor will do.  Bonus, if your husband is pissing you off this week, use his! 

Use a razor to shave off corns and calluses as you would your wooky-like legs #pedicureemergency Click To Tweet

Follow up with some lotion and voila!  Instant soft feet that didn’t cost you your firstborn. You’re welcome.

soft-feet-before-&-after

Do you have any DIY pedicure horror stories?  Let’s here’em.

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Monkeying Around

Monkeying Around

Monkeying Around

There’s a moment in one’s life where one come to the distinct realization that their family might just be a little more different than most.

I was inducted into the Hall of Weird at age 7.  Except I thought it was the Hall of Cool.  Like, Samantha-is-wearing-leggings-and-pointy-shoes-and-a-neon-shirt-that-falls-off-the-shoulder-and-OMG-did-you-know-she-wears-a-bra cool.

Not unlike finding out from the latest teeny-bopper magazine that your chest is a AAA – which clearly beats out your friend’s AAAA cup – and being oblivious to the wry smiles of everyone each time you brag about your bounty, sometimes we’re the last to know that HoC is really HoW.

I was so oblivious it never occurred to me that carrying around my induction trophy, membership card, and certificate of authenticity (of the Hall of Weird, not my cup size) was maybe not such a great idea after all.

Incorporating spaz-tastic, mads the shits yo, What-Ever, talk to the hand, ‘and a half’, fubared, dis, wicked, totally, burn, and many others into my vocabulary in sad attempts to coolify myself would have been a better idea.

But I digress, I’m a little spazzy tonight.

Cue Star Wars opening credit song

“We’re getting a monkey!”

and…… play!

It’s illegal to import monkeys, but it’s not illegal to own them.  And this guy at a local pet shop had this adorable – and wild – young long-tailed chap.  And he was coming home with us!

Though my parents and sister visited him many times those 2 weeks he was at the shop all I had were images from my vivid imagination.  I was beyond excited and practically ran home from school the day my new ‘brother’ Charlie was adopted.

Charliethe small, gorgeous, capuchin monkeywas my new best friend.  He was still wild when he came home but he quickly adopted us and began to think of himself as human It’s true!  He would scream at you if you uttered ‘monkey’ in his presence;  if you served guests coffee and didn’t offer him a beverage, he’d poop in his hands and throw it at said guests He was one of us, and insisted we never forget.  (The time the poop landed in the coffee mug though – that was priceless.)

With peanuts, and juice, and fruits, and tiny little sweat-tarts ‘pills’ we taught him to be gentle We would put a candy in our mouth and he would then climb up to take it with his teeth.  We hid peanuts in our pockets and let him search usMom started walking us to school with Charlie on his leash when it was nice out. 

IMG_0490

Charlie loved kids, and loved people.  During hot summer days he’d hang out front in the shaded outdoor cage and the neighborhood kids (and adults alike!) would come chat with him.  He was a real charmereven shaking hands before going all klepto on some poor old lady’s purse or unsuspecting mom’s cleavage.

When Mom and her then fiancée split up we had to leave Charlie with him – we would be moving into a tiny apartment with no balcony and it was no place for a monkey.   For years he’d summer with us like the Kardashians summer in the Hamptons.  We would stop by after school and go spend time with him.

The last time I saw him, we both criedThe following month I found out my mom’s ex had given him to the Papanack Zoo, where he became a local celebrity.

I never saw him again – I couldn’t make myself go see him I wanted to.  I wanted to call them up, talk to his handler, have alone time with him – not through a cage.  But I couldn’t.  He would cry.  I would cry.  Would he understand why I was leaving without him?  I couldn’t make myself break his little heart like that. 

He passed away in 2005, his handler at his side.  I like to believe she loved him almost as much as we did.  J-F was showing the kids videos of funny animals on YouTube and there were several like Charlie – same sounds, same little faces…. and he’s been on my mind. 

So yeah, I’m the weird girl with the monkey.  And that’s a trophy I will forever proudly carry on my back.   Cause he was one special little dude.  

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Type-A Parent Conference – Atlanta 2014 #typeacon

Type-A Parent Conference – Atlanta 2014 #typeacon

Type-A Parent Conference - Atlanta 2014 #typeacon

I’ve been to a lot of blog conferences in the last 3 years – I’ve even spoken at several.  Fun? Check.  Meeting new people?  CheckAwesome learning opportunities?  Check.

con-logo-partners

I wanted to attend the Type-A Parent conference in Atlanta this year because DisneyYou heard meDisneyAs in the large mouse with the big ears.

I’ve had a blogger crush on the Disney social media moms program since I first heard about it.  I am in awe of all things Disney and social media so when I discovered they were the sponsor for THIS conference…. How can I say no?!?  (BTW, Mouse-Folk, I’ll be there 😉 nudge-nudge, wink-wink.  You can’t miss me – curly hair, big eyes, and a bubbly personality that would put Minnie to shame – Let’s connect, shall we?)

Then I looked at the schedule and speaker line up for the Type-A Parent conference.

Ahem.

type a Twitter-header3

Yowza!   The schedule looks fantastic and some time slots I will have a hard time picking between sessions.  I only know one of the speakers and I’ve never seen her on stage before (that’s a good thing!).  Many topics are covered at most conferences but having a fresh perspective on said topicsSign me up.

I’m excited for the Refining Your Voice session, and the Stop Being Scared of VideoThe opening keynote – Think Like A Rock Star – looks fantastic, as does The Power of IRL.  There’s the We Still Blog awards and – something I’ve never seen before – scheduled BRAND DINNERS!!!

I’ve heard great things about the Type-A Parent Conference and I’m really excited I get to attend this year.  A new city explored, new connections, and new experiences that will take me out of my comfort zone.

So what are you waiting for?  Sign up NOW to attend the world’s top conference for mom and dad bloggers. Then find some roomies over at #typeacon and let’s get this party going!

See y’all in Atlanta 🙂

typeacon14-partner

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Are you a good mother?

Are you a good mother?

Are you a good mother?

Summer always starts off with the gentle earth-mother-esque firm-yet-gentle whisper-screaming-scary-mom voice. By the time back to school rolls around the earth mother has disappeared.  Her replacement must shout scream bellow just to be heard over the herd of screaming hyenas posing as innocent children.

Yeah, I know.  I should scream less.  I should be more patient and understanding.  I should probably stab myself in the eyes with a cayenne-laced pencil instead of getting upset.

The newly folded laundry is on the floor mixed with the dirty clothes that WAS in the basket.  There’s an (empty) bowl of cherries under the table and you know that’s going to end up in a shitstorm.

The preschooler found time to pee in the potty but the 3rd grader was doing ‘running-jumping-dance-gymnastics‘ and tripped over the pot while the other one was pulling up her pants.   Meanwhile, the toddler has a sock in one hand and my brand new shirt in the other, attempting the clean the pee in a ‘wax-on-wax-off’ fashion.  

There’s a decapitated naked Barbie on the floor and Daddy’s shoes are wedged between the seat cushions of our couch.  The now-empty laundry basket is turned upside-down, trapping the cat who’s furtively trying – and failing – to escape his new cage.

All of this because I decided that my exploding bladder was more important than, say, just about anything else in that moment.  All of this for a quick 30 second pee-wipe-flush-wash sprint.  There must be a time-warp vortex in our house – how else can you explain so much damage in so little time?

Does this make me a bad mother?

GoodMothersmaller

Probably not.  But I won’t lie, I’m super excited for Back-To-School.  So excited that when I saw this post about turning shower caddies into homework stations I just had to make some for the kids (and maybe for me too…).  All I needed – other than copious amounts of school supplies – was a dollar store shower caddie and some chalkboard labels from Kidecals.

Ultimate-Back-To-School-Party-Ideas-Printables-AfterSchoolSnacks-Recipes-More-Must-Have-Mom

Awesome post from MustHaveMom.com

Kidecals

I recently discovered Kidecals and now I might be getting slightly obsessed with this whole labeling thing.  I got labels for the pantry (breakfast stuff does NOT go on the pasta shelf and vice versa!).  I got more of the chalkboard labels to use over the hooks I bought to organize the kids’ coats (the fact that said hooks have been in their Ikea bag for 6 months is besides the point).  I might even have gotten a label for my bin of labels.

Kids still driving you nuts?

Grab a glass of wine, sit back, and browse the Kidecals website while dreaming of your perfectly organized pristine dream home with white towels and sheets that stay white and a kitchen devoid of fruit flies as you’ll never discover a shriveled up old orange in the (properly labelled) utensil jar.

While I didn’t find my dream home for sale on their website, I am excited to reorganize my life once the kids are back in school and label the heck out of  everything 🙂 Shipping to Ottawa was roughly $13 and the prices are super reasonable.  What are you looking forward to labeling?

KDL_stickers_fnl

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Naked Barbies and that time I swallowed my mojo

Naked Barbies and that time I swallowed my mojo

Naked Barbies and that time I swallowed my mojo

I can’t write.

There.  I said it.  Well…. I wrote it.  Which totally mitigates my point.

But still – I can’t write!  I came home from and inspiring weekend at BlogHer amongst amazing women feeling rejuvenated and excited to write.

And yet…. I’ve been sitting with this draft open for 25 minutes, failing to complete a sentence.  So I guess I’m going to write about not being able to write.  Oh dear God I’m starting to sound like the Bloggess (Maybe that’s not such a bad thing after all.)

why I write snarky

It was so much easier when I was 6 years old and forced to play out my stories with 3 Barbies, an imaginary Ken, and 2 killer 80’s outfits (there was always 1 naked Barbie, hiding out under the couch with the Imaginary Ken).

At 8 I acted out all sorts of stories with my dolls and cabbage patch kids.  In the dark.  Cause I was supposed to be sleeping.  At one point the playpen left in my room became a Barre even though the only ballet I knew came from my vivid imagination.  Think interpretive dance meets Kimmy Kibler.  Not kidding.

At 12 I had conversations in my head I was too shy to have out loud with real people. In high school I just poured out my creative energy on stage.  I didn’t exactly belong with the cool kids, but on stage?  On stage I was a waitress, a clown in love, a reporter of sorts, a fiancee, a neighbor… On stage I belonged.

Did I write?  Sure.  There were many essays and independent studies, one-liners to collaborate on, and many a note craftily folded and surreptitiously  passed on.

At 30 something the only play I want to see involves little people picking up their shit and garbage miraculously making their way to the curb. The masses appreciate my cooking and thank me for it at every meal.  Sunshine and lollipops y’all.

Blogging the funnies of every day life proved an unwelcome challenge this week.  What the fuck do I write?

Does anemia suck the funny out of your bones or just the life out of your blood? Did I bite my tongue once too many times and swallow my mojo?

 mojo interruptus

So fair warning to all, maybe this week I won’t bite my tongue.  Or maybe I will.  So just save yourself the suspense and stick it where the sun don’t shine?  No offense mind you – I just want my mojo back.

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BlogHer – An Open Letter to Brands

BlogHer – An Open Letter to Brands

BlogHer - An Open Letter to Brands

For 20 years I’ve been attending various conferences and I must say that my favorite is blogging conferences.  It doesn’t matter how weird or quirky you are – you’ll be welcome with open arms.  You’re guaranteed to laugh AND cry, you’ll be inspired, and somehow there always seems to be alcohol floating around.

Speaking of alcohol – It’s always interesting to observe the 30-50 crowd.  There’s the ‘I haven’t been out of the house in six months and dammit I’m having my fun’ bunch; you’ll find these women dancing with wild abandon and dressed like they were sixteen again.

There’s the ‘I don’t drink but ooohhhhhh what the heck hand one over!’ ladies.  They tend to be lightweights and they get darn funny if they make it to the 2nd drink.

I tend to fall in between these two groups – sometimes heading more in one direction or another.  19 crimes launched their wine at BlissDom Canada last year and we could take mug shots.  Mine was awesome, if I do say so myself.

SONY DSC

But wait, there’s more! (in a cheesy ‘as seen on TV’  commercial)

The brands.  Need I say more?  Most conferences have title sponsors, but tickets to blogging conferences are highly subsidized by the brands who sponsor the event.

I think its fantastic that we have this opportunity to discover new products, meet with brand representatives, and make connections that could possibly turn your career around.  It’s the same reason I love going to trade shows like the National Women’s Show.

Getting Flack?

Are we all just a bunch of entitled brats disguised as grown-ass women?  There’s a lot of talk about SWAGHow much of it, how good it is, how its not as good as it used to be.  I’ve seen a lot of bitching on the interwebs and I agree, things have changed.  What no one is doing though is offering a solution other than ‘give me more swag’.

I think the real problem is not the swag (or lack thereof), but the experience.

Why do you sponsor in the first place?

You – the Brand – want people to experience your brand, fall in love with your brand, and praise hallelujahs about your brand on social media.  It’s a great theory, but the fact is you won’t achieve that simply by having a table and a PR rep  handing out coupons.

So what gives?

It’s all about the experience.  People forget coupons, but they remember experience.  Let’s go over some companies that have done it right, some that haven’t, and look at how the latter could be improved.  This applies to both brand events and expo hall booths.

Disney Junior

Disney Junior held a breakfast at BlogHer ’12 in NYC.  OMG.

Coming up the hallway you could hear the Mickey Mouse theme song and Mickey balloons were all over the door.  The room was decked out in Mickey Mouse colours, Jake (of the neverland pirates) and Minnie Mouse made guest appearances, and the food was awesome.  Sure, we heard a seasoned executive talk to us about where they were, where they were heading, but we also got a preview of a new show to come and some inside info on the ‘making of’.

It was fun!  There was great discussion about diversity and kids’ programming.  There was swag, but it wasn’t about the swag.  We each received a bag with (1) Minnie OR Mickey plush, a Doc McStuffins notebook, a Mickey shaped rice krispie treat, a branded iPad cover and a pen.  My daughters love those stuffies, the notebook was well loved, and we are now devout fans of Sophia The 1st – the show we previewed.

So what did they do right? 

For 90 minutes I was immersed in the world of Disney Junior and I felt like a kid again.  *I* was excited to introduce my girls to Sophia – so much so that we planned a movie and popcorn date for the series premiere – and overall I got to EXPERIENCE Disney Junior for all it’s glory.

Poise

Again in NYC Poise had a booth in the expo hall and held a private event.  The booth was fun and funny.  They gave out samples and you could record your own embarrassing LBC stories.

The event had us sipping wine and enjoying a comedy show about the issues we face as we age and / or keep popping out more babies.  I was about 20 months pregnant at the time (or so it felt) and I had hot flashes worse than my mom.  I also couldn’t sneeze, laugh or cough without peeing myself – never mind the constant puking.  It was so bad that some days I had to choose which mess I’d rather pick up as I would pee uncontrollably while I violently puked the 3 sips of water I’d managed to hold down.

Needless to say their message rang true.  We received a cute beach bag with a full size of each product in their new line.  To this day I’m still a fan and I use the lady-bits soap daily.

Walgreen’s, Minute Clinic, Procter & Gamble

Pharmaceuticals.  OTC meds.  Need I say more?  At both BlogHer ’12 and ’13 (in Chicago) you got to ‘shop’ their line of OTC meds.  A trip to BlogHer meant I had enough allergy, heart burn, fever, and cold medicine to last through the next conference.  I can tell it’s almost conference time when I start running out of meds.

The dollar value I received was usually more than the cost of my conference ticket which helped justify the cost to my husband who thinks blogging conferences are an excuse for a vacation.

P&G had a ‘refresh’ station where you could get your makeup touched up, mini massages, or mini manicures while learning about their products.  Talk to me all you want lady, so long as you keep massaging those shoulders! I’m a big fan of P&G products and got to take home some favorites.

I am fully aware that this can get expensive; on the plus side I usually make a little swag bag for women close to me such as my mom and my sister – They always included some of the meds and they also fell in love with the brands.

While the Walgreen’s and Minute Clinic booth didn’t offer an immediate experience I experienced their brand for a full year following the conference.

Going the extra mile?  If they wanted to improve on their performance I would suggest bringing in a pharmacist to do private consults to review your current meds and your conditions to determine if there are any conflicts, as well as suggest alternatives to OTC products we are using.

Bridgestone

BlogHer ’14 in San Jose brought us Bridgestone.  They were featuring tires that you can still drive on after getting a flat.  Their booth, the ‘No Pressure Zone’, offered us the chance to get pampered, learn about car care and enjoy some treatsCan you say tire shaped cake pops?

We got to take home a pressure gauge and one lucky blogger walked away (rolled away?) with a brand new set of tires A select few were driven to a closed course to test drive said tires and received a car care kit.

The experience drove home (see what I did there?) their message.  I didn’t feel like I was being sold to and got to relax while chatting with the team.

Going the extra mile?  Their Selfibration contest could have included the flat tire and road-side props and a sign that said ‘No Pressure No Problem’ or something of the sort.

RosaceaFacts.com

In NYC I got to interview a dermatologist about rosacea.  They filmed and edited the video that I could then use as content for my blog.  I learned a lot, got great content, and left with some Cetaphil for myself and a readerTheir suite had a lounge section, some refreshments, and experts that could answer your questions if you didn’t want the video interview.

Wilton’s

Being in Chicago – the home of Wilton’s – they bused some of us to their school and testing facility.  We spent a few hours playing with icing, touring their testing kitchens  and experiencing first hand the process of creating masterpieces for their yearbook.  You could smell the buttercream as you walked into the doors.  mmmmm.

VSP Eyecare

Though not present at the conference per se, they held a ‘pin it to win it’ contest before the NYC ’12 conference.  100 bloggers won a pair of designer sunglasses (including MOI!) and we got to pick them up in the hotel lobbyI wish they’d do it again

A few booths that rocked it

Lean Cuisine (the fresh honey, the jams, and everything else… it was a great learning – and tasting – event)

Coffee-Mate breakfast (OMG girl scout cookie flavour!)

Verizon held a series of mini talks to showcase different products.  Each session a participant won the product in question.

LazyBoy with their upholstered-outfit men.

Serta with a king size bed to try out – great for putting up your feet while catching up on twitter notifications.

Evenflo Baby (at BlissDom Canada) with their #clickclickpush car seat – They had the back seat of a van and we could practice installing and removing the car seat with the super easy mechanism.  I fell in love with the car seat and ended up reviewing it on the blog (along with a super cute video featuring my daughter).

Hallmark (again at BlissDom Canada) allowed us to pick a card and mail it to a special someone.  I sent three to my daughter, my mom, and a good friend.

Chuck E Cheese always has a fun booth, and this year we had to spin to win.  Board games, gift cards, a few iPads, and my roomie even won a 5000$ Disney cruise voucher!!!!  A little bit extra?  They could have more arcade games to play, specially multiplayer games Another option would be to hold a private event and bring Chuck E Cheese to a ballroom. Think the ultimate gaming and pizza party.

Sonic brought their slushie machine and copious amounts of nerd candy to put in said slushies.  Double YumI wish we had a Sonic where I live so I could go to the drive-in – if only to get a blue slushie with nerds. Improvements?  Hold a drive-in night at the conventionWasn’t @MovieMarshall doing a pre-screening of a new movie?  They could easily have come together and offered the movie in a drive-in settingBlogHer Movie Night – large pillows and shaggy carpets, popcorn, slushies, and a great movie projected on the wall.  Or you create something similar, but outside.

Skype and the #paywithpassion campaign.  Pledge (and tweet your pledge), choose swag of your choice?  Yes! The charger is one of the best piece of swag I got.  Also, we got to all talk about SKYPE while also reflecting on our own lives.  Brilliant.

The brands that missed the mark, and how they can do better next year.

It’s no secret that most of the private events this year were… lacking.  If I’m going to take time away from a session, a keynote, or another party I want an experience I’ll never forget.

There’s a lot of talk going around about those that held these events but the talk doesn’t exactly bring warm-fuzzies.

Merz Aesthetics

Aside from the irony that I’ve just been told I’m enough and now I’m being pitched Botox and facelifts, this event could have been stellar. 

You’re an aesthetics clinic.  You could have set up  facial stations – mini-micros, power facials, glycolic peels, etc.   Talk to me all you want about your clinic, your procedures… and give me an experience.

Let me sit back in a salon chair, champagne in one hand, strawberries in the other, as you pamper my dehydrated jet-lagged skin.  I guarantee you I’ll leave feeling refreshed, and I’ll have a positive outlook as to what ‘Aesthetics’ really means.  Bottom line: if you’re going to tell me I should have started using Botox in my twenties, soften the blow a bit and at least give my skin some much needed love.

Bright Starts

Based on the event description I was expecting to walk into a room resembling something out of a toddler’s gym.  Bright colours, exercise mats in different shapes, toy stations… I was disappointed to find out we’d all be sitting around the same round tables every other event had.

I once heard of a company that brought adult size bouncy chairsWho wouldn’t want to sit in a vibrating adult sized bouncy chair?!?  Oversized replicas of your best sellers, like the play mats and crib toys would have been awesome.

Show me your world from the eyes of a toddlerAnd yes, absolutely, share with me the research on laughter and babies.

Zarbee’s

Great product, great food and coffee, and great presentation…. but again we were all sitting at tables hearing about your brand instead of experiencing it. 

Have tables set up around the room, manned by your staff, showing the traditional remedy and the Zarbee’s option for various ailments.  Let me go around the room, mingle with your reps, learn about your brand, and see first hand how you are the better option. And sure, we can gather ’round to listen to your presentation.

P.A.L.

How about a more informal setting?  Couches and settees instead of round tables.  Each seating area could have a coffee table with an assortment of leashes and other products.  Maybe do a pop quiz for a few giveaways?

The dogs were cute – I’ll give you that much. Pets may add life, but I was drained when I got out of there.  The hamster video was cute – and I love the initiative – but I didn’t come here to view yet another slide deckThat’s what sessions are for. 

Bring a handler with a mutt and show us all the great tricks he taught that mutt.

I can learn about your programs at the boothhow about having a trainer show us tips for integrating a rescue into our lives?

A photo booth where you can take a picture with one of the dogs and a sign that says “I’ve got my P.A.L., do you?” Or maybe have us in a ‘just caught the Frisbee with my mouth mid-air’ type of pose and add a park-like setting to the background.  Something – anything – interactive and fun but still on-brand and on-message.

Booths and Swag

Yes, conferences sponsorships are a lot of money.  You don’t necessarily want to spend a fortune building your booth either.  But do remember that the goal is to get people talking POSITIVELY about your brand and using your product.

Tiggly

Great product – Love Love Love.  The giveaway of an iPad with a set of Tiggly shapes?  Also love.

Improvements?  Figure out what your budget is for giveaways.  Divide that by the cost of your product and that’s the amount you can give out.  If you can only afford 10 units, that’s 5 a day – hold an ongoing giveaway, every few hours, of a set of shapes, and keep the grand prize of the iPad with shapes. 

Many people already have iPads.  Even if one doesn’t, they can give it to someone who does.  More users, more app downloads, and more people spreading news of your great app for babies and toddlers.

Pledge, Shout, Ziplock, and Glade

Have one-on-one competitions – who can clean the fastest, who can remove a stain better, etc.  Let us have fun with your products.  Let us try to scoop spaghetti sauce in your Ziploc bags that stand up on their own.  Have some Glade warmers plugged in so we can smell the goodness as we do all this.

Samsung

I was once at a tradeshow where they had competitions like timed dishwasher loading, unpacking groceries, getting a batch of cookies in the oven, and other multitasking kitchen stuff.  Each competition had 1 winner, who would win the featured appliance.  At the end of the show they’d given away 1 of every appliance.

Bloggers could sign up and name drawn at random to come compete at a predetermined time.  As the buzz builds, you get more excitement about your brand and your product – driving traffic to your booth – throughout the weekend.

And finally

Are you giving away deli meat samples?  How about a bun and condiments bar with that slice of meat in a fabulous ‘make your own sandwich’ booth?  We all know that bloggers are perpetually hungry.

Promoting a new phone with case that takes awesome pictures?  Bring a handful of units and hold a mini demonstration each hour where people get to practice ‘live’ the tips you’re sharing.

Demonstrating a new app / game / etc?  Have several devices loaded with said app and a few comfy chairs.  Let people come by, put up their feet, and play / read for a few minutes.

Hair products?  Before & After shots.

Pregnancy products or health information geared to the pregnant woman?  Single-use ovulation and pregnancy tests.

Hair removal products?  Offer brow shaping in the expo hall.  Makeup?  Mini-makeovers.  Skin care?  Skin analysis with sample that works best for your issues.

I think you get the point by now.  Yes, I care about your message and your purpose, but if you want me to remember you and become your next brand evangelist, give me an experience. 

How can you step up your game for your next event?  Think about it!  And if you need help designing your next booth experience, you can hire me HERE.

Without sponsors there would be no conference – You’re investing a lot in this anyways, make the most of it!

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BlogHer ’14, The Album

BlogHer ’14, The Album

BlogHer '14, The Album

I know, I know!  I’m late in the game.  My BlogHer recap is coming soon I promise! #reentrysucks.

Meanwhile, take a look at these awesome pictures I took.  Feel free to use these on your social media sites, but please respect my work and leave the watermark intact.  High-rez print-ready images are available for $20 each – just contact me and we’ll get you sorted out! :). 

This slideshow requires JavaScript.

Lastly, a little bit of funny for you 🙂  Truth?

BlogHer the truth

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Sex Tape The Movie VS The Real Thing

Sex Tape The Movie VS The Real Thing

Sex Tape The Movie VS The Real Thing

**** DISCLOSURE ***** This post contains adult content and is not intended for all viewing audiences INCLUDING my mother, my sister, my mother-in-law, my husband, or anyone else remotely connected to us by blood.  Kids, if you find this in 15 years, move on please – move on!

What’s the worst that could happen? 

A little bit of this, a little bit of that, all in efforts to rekindle that seemingly long-lost spark.

Let me be the first (if not the last) to tell you that married sex is different than dating sex – even if you were in a committed long term relationship before you got married. 

When you’re dating, ‘date night’ is a night off.  You take your time getting ready, shaving your legs, listening to your favorite music, maybe have a glass of wine.  By the time the bedroom tango comes along you already came at the door, in the stairs, and on the floor beside the bed. 

Married sex?

It’s different, but you don’t really notice it as much until you have kids.  Experience tells me there’s an 18 month lull – or dry spell, if you will – after each pregnancy.  You just don’t feel it!  At all. Screaming kids, poopy shit-fests, mountains of laundry and that good’ole glow, a remnant of sweat accumulated since your last shower four days ago!

We all do it: mercy sex.  You know, the “Fine, cause if we don’t tonight you’ll pout for a week” kind of mercy sex?  That.  Sometimes you’re in the mood, but its never at the same time as your partner’s mood.  Not to say you don’t enjoy it…. but you do need a lot of convincing!

I can understand the drive to try just about anything to get that spark back but it doesn’t always work out as planned, does it?  (continued)

We don’t have ‘The Cloud’ as they do in  Sex Tape The Moviebut we do have cats.

The new cat has a sex radar.  If we don’t close the door she’s right up in there, trying to get in between our legs.  She once cleaned our sheets while we were looking for a towel, and God forbid you take out the vibrator!  She’ll sing (purr?) in tune with it while pawing away at your leg.

Sex tape?  BAHAHAHAHHAHAHHAAHA!  It would likely end up looking like this:

So grab your main squeeze and head out to watch Cameron Diaz and Jason Segel battle The Cloud in Sex Tape The Movie, in theatre everywhere July 18th!  I’m sure it will be more entertaining than my cat, and perhaps provide fodder for the imagination 😉

Even if it doesn’t get you laid you’ll at least have had shower and a few laughs 😛

Though I was compensated for this post all cat interruptions, 4-day-old-mom-stink, and thoughts are my own. 

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1st Impressions and my 2 Minute Miracle Face

1st Impressions and my 2 Minute Miracle Face

1st Impressions and my 2 Minute Miracle Face

*** Scroll down for tutorial ***

It’s my favorite time of year:  BlogHer time.  I’m leaving soon to spend a few days with 2500 crazy over-sharers bloggers.  ‘Peanut-Butter-Jelly-Time, Tada-tada tada-ta!’ 

Think 3-4 days with little sleep, much fun, copious amounts of caffeine – and ok… *maybe* some alcohol – and running around trying to get out of the door on time cause we’ve gotten out of the habit of prettying ourselves up before the crack of dawn.

“Angele, wake up!”

Doesn’t fail.  I like to sleep and though I set 3 different alarms – much to my roommates’ dismay – its Go Time and I’m still in bed.

“You won’t have time to get ready” yells someone from the washroomanother chimes in with “uh-ha-hiiii-hi-hus”If you don’t speak toothpaste-in-mouth-ism that’s code for You Have Fiiive Minutes.

“I’m up!  I’m up, I’m up, I’m up!”

My hair is standing on ends, my mouth feels gross and my face looks like death.  I’m ready y’all!  Kidding.  Sort of.  I still need to throw on a bra.

When you only have 2 minutes to throw on a bra and humanize your face #blogher15 #BBNYC Click To Tweet

And make myself look human.  “From dead to alive in 2 minutes, Ann, I promise!”

Moisturizer, a brightener concealer pen, some Mistura 6-in1 Beauty Solution, and mascara.  That’s it.  That’s all.  Boom.  Miracle Face.

Except I discovered a new secret while browsing the cosmetics section at the superstore.  Garnier 5 second blur Skin Renew.

Tried it, loved it, brought it home to play with and adore (as I go on singing the hippopotamus song).

Loved it so much I tried to blot it on some pictures thinking it would be easier than Photoshop.  I didn’t really.  You know that right?  Right?  Come on, I’m not THAT dense! 🙂

So here’s the thing:  I found a shit-ton of bad reviews saying it didn’t blur crap.  People!  YES, its a super cream, but it also has LIGHT REFLECTORS.  The ‘blurring’ happens when exposed to light – your face looks airbrushed, and the effect changes slightly based on lighting.

The 5 second blur in action!

5 min blur before and after

Before I put it on: red splotchy skin, dark spots, and more than a few ‘laugh lines’.

After?  Gone!  Look at the 3 different light sources – when the light hits my forehead it looks airbrushed!  In the middle image, you can barely tell there are freckles there!   Love it.  For the record, I’m not wearing any makeup in these before and after shots.  Just my own mug with some moisturizer and the 5 second blur. 

The 2 Minute Miracle Face

Want your own miracle face?  Need to make a great 1st impression early in the morning?  Doesn’t fail, you WILL look gorgeous.  Add some champagne cream eye shadow (Lise Watier has a nice one), a touch of liner in the lash line and an extra coat of mascara to switch from day to night.  You’re welcome 😉

Garnier's 5-sec blur, Caryl Baker Visage Mineral Brights Concealer Pen, Mistura mascara, and lip gloss were used to achieve this look.

Garnier’s 5-sec blur, Caryl Baker Visage Mineral Brights Concealer Pen, Mistura mascara, and lip gloss were used to achieve this look.

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Mastermind Toys Opens a 3rd location in Ottawa – Barrhaven!

Mastermind Toys Opens a 3rd location in Ottawa – Barrhaven!

Mastermind Toys Opens a 3rd location in Ottawa - Barrhaven!

#haveyouheard

Mastermind Toys is now open in Barrhaven and they’re having a party!

Join the team for The Grand Opening of Ottawa’s 3rd store from July 10th – 13th, 2014.  A party wouldn’t be complete without loot bags for kids, special offers and of course giveaways.  If you happen to be there on Saturday, there may or may not be cupcakes 😉  #earlybirdgetstheworm

mastermind toys barrhaven now open

71 Market Place in the Chapmen Mills Marketplace

I love this store!  From the first time I walked in last year and every visit since, they are the best.  In a hurry?  No problem.   Need to find a gift for the pickiest kid?  No problemGiftwrapping?  Right this way please!   The complimentary gift wrapping team will be there all weekend!

Our Generation Dolls

Love ‘American Girl’ dolls?  Hate the hefty price tag?  Fear not 😉  Our Generation Dolls have arrived in Ottawa and they  do.  not.  disappoint.  Outfits, accessories, chapter books…. When the Mastermind Toys team sent me one to review I quickly hid it away for Thing 1’s birthday – she’s turning 8 this week!

FLASH GIVEAWAY FOR OTTAWA READERS!

In honor of  The Grand Opening of Ottawa’s 3rd store, Mastermind Toys is giving a $50 gift card to one (1) lucky reader!

Enter your information below and be instantly entered to win!  #whoot

Winner will be drawn on July 9th and prize will be available for pickup in the Ottawa location of your choice.

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Whatcha waiting for?

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Keeping it real with the Surpahs digital bathroom scale and body fat monitor

Keeping it real with the Surpahs digital bathroom scale and body fat monitor

Keeping it real with the Surpahs digital bathroom scale and body fat monitor

Yeah, I said it.  Body.  Fat.  Monitor. 

In the last few years I’ve relied on my own body fat monitor.  I call it a mirror.  There’s no mistaking the dimples on my behind and the wrinkles where my abs used to sit.

I’ve had 3 kids, and lost ALL the baby weight within 8 weeks for each of them – without trying, really.  There are some advantages to Hyperemesis Gravidarum –  A non-glamorous pregnancy one may have, but it’s pretty hard to gain non-baby weight when you can’t keep anything down for 9 months! 

The only thing is, with the last 2 I gained it ALL back (and then some!) AFTER losing the weight.  You can’t really call it baby weight at that point….  After many attempts to normalize my weight my doctor & I discovered that a change in medication is the most likely culprit.  We’ve switched things up and I can feel myself getting smaller – 1/16 of an inch at a time! 

logo

Knowing that I was on my way back down I didn’t hesitate at the chance to review the Surpahs Digital Bathroom Scale and Body Fat Monitor.  I like numbers and this seemed a good way to geek out my weight loss journey.

After putting in our profiles (age, height, gender, athlete or not) we each stepped up on the scale to see what’s what; it almost felt like the Biggest Loser without the crowd, and the trainers, and the cameras, and the…. Ok.  It was nothing like Biggest Loser – except for the wait.   At least I wasn’t hanging precariously off the edge of the scale – with a weight capacity of 400 lbs its built solid!

Surpahs Digital Scale & Body Fat MonitorThe results were in and I’d  lost a total of 10 lbs in four weeks!  Yeehaaw!  A few seconds later the scale showed my body fat percentage (not BMI, but actual percentage of our body that is made of fat), muscle and water percentage, and bone mass (weight). The numbers didn’t shock me…. but they didn’t necessarily please me either!

1 week later I jumped back up on the scale.  I’d been good all week:  I exercised, ate well, minimized evening snacks….. all of this and its been crazy hot outside!  So I peer down, almost afraid to look, and BOOM!  I lostshit, I gained – 1/2 lbs.  

“Common Baby, give me my numbers!” It’s like that moment when you’re playing the slots and there’s just the last reel left to stop and you’re just missing 1 genie lamp to launch the feature.  Aaaannnnd….. Body Fat %: no change!  Water percentage, however, did creep up.  Everything else was the same as last week.

I’m not happy – It’s definitely not the number I wanted to see on the scale – but I am encouraged.  I never drink pop and had 2 sodas in the last day or so – my rings were tight and I felt a little bloated.  Knowing that the gain really was water retention, and not an increase of blubber, made me feel better about what I was seeing on the scale.  We tell ourselves these things all the time, ‘it’s just water weight’, but we never really know, do we?  Until now.

Bottom line, I’m glad I got the Surpahs digital bathroom scale – it’s a great buy!  You can add up to 8 profiles (the kids had fun weighing themselves!) which is awesome for large families.  Nothing like having to draw straws as to who gets left out!  The science – or bio-metrics if you will – behind it?  Check out their website for more detailed info.  It’s worth every penny… even better if you get it on sale 😉 

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