December 28, 2016

Restaurant Review: Sparks Premium Grill + Bar

Imagine a restaurant that's big and bright, trendy and cool, with a menu full of appetizers, salads and sandwiches and delicious entrees. A tour around the world with International and cultural dishes that you and your party are sure to love. A restaurant that allows adults to have a real meal and kids, too, are welcome. Oh, and everything is made in house.

And it's in Vaughan.



Sparks is one of the newest establishments in town; it's independently owned and really, really good. Donny and I and the kids had a chance to visit when the restaurant first opened and we were treated with an impressive menu and dishes that would definitely have us coming back. 

The restaurant touts itself as a Grill + Bar, but this is not your typical loud and obnoxious joint. It's modern and fresh with a polished decor. And the food selection is definitely worth mentioning. An international menu with favourites from around the world -- you have Butter Chicken on the same menu as Asian Stirfry. Pasta, poutine, steak and lamb are also fan favourites.

We started with an appetizer -- the flaming calamari, which were lit up at our table.

While we perused our menu, we ordered off the kids' one -- and at $7.50, it's definitely notable. Isabelle had the spaghetti and meatballs, which she devoured in minutes and Maddie opted for Sparks' version of mac and cheese. Portions were sizeable, crayons were offered and the staff didn't make a fuss when there was a significant amount of pasta on the floor.


And then it was time for our lunch.

Donny opted for the Canadian BBQ Burger -- 8 oz. of fresh meat patty topped with bacon and cheddar cheese, crispy onions and BBQ sauce. And I went with the server's recommendation to try the Lamb Chops. The lamb chops are grilled to your liking, and topped with a luscious, creamy red wine sauce. At almost $30, this is one of the most costly items on the menu, and take it from me: it's totally worth it. I've since had these lamb chops at another visit and the sauce is so good you could (and maybe should) lick the plate.



And the burger? See for yourself.




How good does that look!? All entrees come with your choice of side -- salad, fries, veg, rice -- so you can customize your plate. 

Another thing to note: this restaurant is fairly large and can accommodate gatherings of all different sizes and types. A lot of their food is ideal for sharing, too. And sports fans will be happy to know there's a new spot where you can catch the next big game and have a great meal at the same time. 
Sparks Premium Bar + Grill is also ringing in 2017 in a big way. Join them on Dec 31 (tickets must be purchased in advance) for a 3-course meal, complimentary champagne toast, music and dancing, games and prizes!


I got a sneak peek at the NYE 2017 menu and it's AhhhhhMAZING! And my fave part -- the restaurant is super close to home, which means very affordable cab and uber rides. Get home safe, everyone. DO NOT Drink and Drive. Ever.

Sparks Grill has given Simply Suppa a $50 gift certificate to use at the restaurant! To win, enter the Rafflecopter below!

Cheers!

a Rafflecopter giveaway


December 22, 2016

Last Minute Picks from Hasbro #playlikehasbro

Ok -- you've waited long enough. Christmas is days away and you haven't picked up a single toy for your kids or family.

Don't worry. I've got you covered. And you can pick these up all in one store. (Major Department Store or Toy store)

Here are my family's top picks from Hasbro this holiday season. These toys are all readily available and will be a guaranteed hit with your family.

Maddie's Pick: Love2Learn Elmo
Elmo is always a favourite in our house and this new Love2Learn Elmo from Playskool doesn't disappoint. He sings and talks but the selling feature? He has his own app that helps kids learn their ABCs, counting and some favourite songs. $59.99















Isabelle's Pick: My Little Pony Baby Flurry Heart
Isabelle noticed this toy on TV a while back and she literally ripped it out of the box when it came to our house. Kids will love taking care of sweet little Baby Flurry Heart. She's soft and cuddly, she talks and her horn lights up. While this is Isabelle's pick for Best Toy, Maddie has also had a blast playing with Baby Flurry Heart and even put a diaper on her -- or two! (not included --our own!). Baby Flurry Heart comes with a rattle and bottle. Teaches imaginative play. $39.99


Julia's Pick: FurReal Friends Torch, My Blazin' Dragon

OK -- this Dragon is seriously cool. Battery operated, Torch the Blazin Dragon moves and makes noises, fine, but he blows smoke!! Help Torch roast marshmallows with his flame coloured mist. This is unlike any toy I've seen before but kids will recognize the FurReal Friends brand, which is now famous for its lifelike toys. $79.99




Donny's Pick: Star Wars Interactech Imperial Stormtrooper Figure

There's nothing like a grown man who plays with figurines. To say Donny was excited to see this Stormtrooper is an understatement, and while this IS a kids toy, Dads who were once Star Wars fans are always Star Wars fans, I'm told! This Stormtooper has more than 65 different sound effects and phrases and uses a motion sensor to respond to specific movements. $29.99

Family Game: Bop It!

Do you remember Zip Zap Zop? Well this is KINDA like that, only you have this Bop It! gamer that uses motion technology to test your skill and quick hands. Bop It! is portable and has three solo and social play options, so you can play individually or with a group. And if you're competitive, this is your game! Bop It! not only keeps score, he makes you feel bad when you mess up! Ha! $19.99


So what are you waiting for? Get out there and get your paws on some of these great toys before time really runs out!

We also have a FurReal Friends Torch, My Blazin' Dragon to give away! Unfortunately, it won't arrive before Christmas, but will still make an awesome gift another time of the year! To win Torch, subscribe to my newsletter (top right) and leave your name in the comments!


Good luck!

December 20, 2016

Lock in Your Love this Christmas #vmlovelocks


As many people around the world are gearing up for Christmas Day, doing last minute shopping, decor and preparations, it's important to note that not everyone will be celebrating a Merry Christmas this year. There are many families who are suffering, through illness and/or tragedy, and this time of year is an especially difficult time. And because Christmas is typically a wonderful time for children, my heart and prayers go out to those kids who are unwell -- I hope one day you have a Christmas you cherish.

This post is dedicated to all those children who are sick or who are no longer with us.



'Tis the season to GIVE, they say, and one of my favourite ways to give, especially at this time of year is to donate to the Sick Kids Foundation of Toronto. If you are still stuck on a gift idea, I think this is a great one, and a meaningful one. At a time when many of us have homes full of "stuff" a small donation can help fund research and provide resources to children in our own community who are not well this holiday season. Your money can help save a kid's life.


This year, Vaughan Mills Mall has teamed up with the Sick Kids Foundation and is selling Love Locks. You may know how love locks work -- just like in Paris, you write a message or a dedication on a lock and lock it on the Love Lock Wall. The cost of each lock is $15 or 2 for $25 with the proceeds going directly to Sick Kids. What's more, every time you buy a love lock, you receive a delicate chain with a message -- Dream, Hope, or Believe. Kris Kringle gift? Teacher present? This is a beautiful tribute.


And if you haven't gone to visit Santa yet at Vaughan Mills, all the proceeds from The Santa Experience also benefit Sick Kids, so it's another way to give back.

I'm so proud the mall in my home town in participating in initiatives like this one. It reminds us that in the midst of all the hustle and shopping, there's always an opportunity to stop, donate and give back. And that's the best gift of all.

The Love Lock Wall is up and open until Christmas Eve in Neighbourhood 4.

 

December 16, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: Maplelea Girls

We've officially hit the one week mark -- one more week til Christmas, 7 more shopping days if you've left it this long. And if you're like me (this year), you've definitely left it this long. I'm not usually this tardy with my gift buying, but what can I say? December escaped me this year and hey! we still have 7 days left, right!?

The good news is, there's still TONS of time to shop and TONS of great gifts that are readily available for everyone on your list. Over the next few days, I'll be highlighting a few of them.

Today it's all about the girls -- Maplelea Girls, that is. Maplelea is a distinctively Canadian line of 18" dolls with journals that celebrate our country's spirit and identity.


There are 7 Maplelea Girls in the collection, along with dozens of Maplelea friends. Each girl comes with her own story, shared in a 64-page story journal. There's Alexi from Toronto, LĂ©onie from Quebec City, Saila from Iqualuit, Charlsea from the West Coast, Brianne from the Prairies and Jenna from the Maritimes, and Taryn from the Rockies.

Our girl is Alexi from Toronto. Originally from Cabbagetown in Toronto, Alexi has ambitions to be a scientist and wants to volunteer at the Hospital for Sick Children when she's older. She's got beautiful, silky hair and a really funky wardrobe -- right down to her clogs. The dolls are soft to hold, light and easy to move around.





But here's what I love most about Maplelea: 

  • First and foremost -- the Canadian connection. From the company's name to the identity of the girls, real Canadian girls can associate with these Canadian dolls.
  • Learn about the country -- as I said, each doll comes with a journal. In the journal is a map of the doll's hometown, why she loves the place she lives and a story about her home. 
  • Ambitious girls -- In addition to career goals, the girls are busy with extracurriculars, interests and hobbies. Alexi likes gymnastics and playing the piano.
  • The accessories -- each doll comes with an outfit and journal, but there are so many outfits and accessories you can collect as you grow with your girl. 
  • The ability to customize -- if you don't want one of the signature 7 dolls, customize your own Canadian girl. Choose everything from skin tone to hair colour, eye colour, and of course, her story.
  • Matchy-Matchy -- you can even buy matching clothing and pjs for your child and his/her Maplelea Girl. So. So. Cute. 
A Maplelea Girl is the type of gift that will last a long while, and become a collectible. I'm sure my girls will love to construct all sorts of scenarios with their Alexi, change her outfits and maybe even take her Downtown Toronto one day. 


Maplelea Girls are typically available online only, but there is currently a Seasonal Store at Yorkdale Shopping Centre in Toronto. The pop up shop will be open until March 2017 and you're bound to find plenty of gift ideas there! 


Oh, and there are some wonderful event at the Seasonal Store all Holiday Break. Visit the website to find out how you can craft, have tea or ring in the New Year with Maplelea! 

Happy Shopping!


December 13, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: Joe's Bracelets



Gina Mazzaferro is a mom working tirelessly to keep the memory of her son, Joe, alive. Joe passed away at the age of 33 to a rare disease called Goodpasture Syndrome -- an extremely rare auto-immune disease that attacks the lungs and kidneys. Joe passed away within weeks of his diagnosis.

After his passing, Gina started fundraising to raise raise awareness and fund research. She began making bracelets -- Joe's Bracelets -- in his honour and memory. She sells at various community events and festivals, and through her social channels.



I was able to buy my first Joe's Bracelet this fall at an event and think of Gina every time I wear it. The proceeds of the bracelet sales go to St. Michael's Hospital Foundation in Joe's name. Gina was so proud to tell me that thanks to her fundraising efforts so far, she has secured a spot for her son's name on the St. Michael's Hospital Tribute Wall.

During a season of giving, Joe's Bracelets would make an excellent gift. Gina has ready-made bracelets and rosaries available, and may be able to complete custom order as well. 

To make a donation in Joe's name, visit the St. Michael's Hospital Foundation

To contact Gina directly to purchase a bracelet, you can email her



December 12, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: Love my leggings #giftguide

When I was a kid, I lived in leggings. I had leggings in every single colour of the rainbow. Like most kids of the 80s, I would wear a long t-shirt or tunic top with that little plastic loopy, belt buckle minus the belt, thingy, overtop my leggings.

Sometime between age 12 and 30, leggings became uncool. More than uncool. They were a faux pas. An embarrassment, even. Certain body types were discouraged from wearing leggings and if you did bare the bottoms, you had best be wearing them properly. Leggings are not pants, magazines and fashion shows would remind us. I even remember raising an eyebrow at the thought of putting on a pair -- no way, no how.

Fashion is a funny beast and as most styles do, leggings are not only back in, there are a thousand and one different styles, and they're made for all types of bodies. Imagine that.

I recently re-entered the legging game just a couple of years ago -- maybe it was being home on maternity leave, or the thought of wearing something that can easily be dressed up or down and be comfortable all at the same time. Whatever the reason, I'm happy to be embracing my old favourites again.

Only, leggings aren't the same as they were 20+ years ago. Thanks to new technologies, fabric, designs, leggings are changing the way some women wear their pants. And there are companies like My Legwear Shop that not only specialize in leggings, they carry hundreds of types, and are available through online purchase (I have a little thing for online shopping).

You may recall my love for My Legwear Shop last year when I tried a pair of Slymwear leggings. Well, I'm happy to say I still wear those and they've held up through a year of wash and wear. But my new faves are the Yummie by Heather Thompson brand -- so much so, I bought two pairs.

The Yummie tights are a high rise that hit at the belly button and hold all the wiggly bits in place. They're stretchy but thick enough, which means they're NOT see-through. The standard black legging (Gloria Skimmer -- I'm short!) is perfect for weekend wear, although I have worn them underneath a long sweater with knee high boots. For an average height woman, try the ever popular Rachel.



And my newest favourites? The Tony faux leather. I can't even believe it myself. Leather pants! These faux leather leggings are like a second skin, so they fit like a glove. They're not plastic-like as you may imagine, and they're quite thin. Just a note if you don't handle the cold; you may need to wear a boot with this legging as the weather cools even more. And because they are the Yummie brand, they're also a high rise and hold everything in. Like shapewear and legging all in one. My Legwear Shop sells a variety of leather-like leggings, so if the Tony is not for you (or if they're out of stock), try the Nygard Slims, or the Sarah Borgi Hosiery Collection, or even the Calze Transparenze.

Antonella from My Legwear Shop has generously given one Simply Suppa reader the chance to win a $75 gift card to be used on anything in the online shop.

a Rafflecopter giveaway
Good luck!

December 08, 2016

Holiday Gift Guide: Happiness Is Inc. #giftguide


By now everyone knows that I try and support local, and support Canadian, as much as I can. And I love finding new and interesting items that are uniquely Canadian that aren't maple syrup or a hockey puck.

And we have Happiness Is Inc.

Happiness Is Inc. is the brainchild of 95-year-old Gordon Carton: a former MPP, World War 2 veteran and entrepreneur. Gord believes that happiness is all around him; his moments of happiness are about being Canadian and he's on a mission to inspire all Canucks to join him in celebrating their happy moments. Hence the reason why, at 95, he founded this company.

Happiness Is Inc. makes ultra soft tees and hoodies (all Made in Canada btw). The tees often feature a little bit of Canadiana -- a leaf, a canoe, a tree, or simply, the word Canada.

And if that wasn't cool enough, 10% of the net proceeds of the company's sales go back to Canadian non-profits. Happiness Is Inc. is currently a supporter of the David Suzuki Foundation.

Ordering can be done online, with Free Shipping over $99. And I'm so happy to share a special code for Simply Suppa readers. Enter SIMPLYSUP15 to receive 15% off your order. Valid until Dec 31, 2016.

What's your Canadian Happiness moment?