November 27, 2014

Christmas Countdown: RBC Avioners Holiday Lounge #AvionVIP


28 days to go! If there's one thing I dislike about the rush of the holidays, it's the mall madness. Don't get me wrong -- I love me some quality shopping and I can certainly navigate around a mall, even in tough crowds. (I used to wake up super early on Boxing Day to sift through the mall rats, oh yes I did.) But add two kids to my load, a stroller and a little less patience, the thought of navigating the parking lot alone is overwhelming.

What would you say if I told you you could get free valet parking, coat and parcel check, access to a VIP lounge, free gift wrapping and refreshments the next time you go to the mall to do your holiday shopping? Sign me up, right!?


Well, if you're an RBC Avioner, you can jump for joy because this holiday season, you get all of these perks! Introducing the RBC Avion Holiday Boutique, a brand new addition to Yorkdale and Square One Malls in Toronto and Mississauga, respectively. Inside, RBC Avioners can take advantage of all the perks mentioned above PLUS soak in the luxury of a VIP Lounge, complete with movies AND a cafe with coffee, tea, hot chocolate, water and treats. Plus, there's a live pianist tickling the ivories with holiday classics. 

It's like taking the joy of shopping and the calm of a high end spa boutique and wrapping it all into one perfect gift. 

After a long day of shopping, or even a short one, it feels really nice to take a pause in the lounge, enjoy a latte and a gingerbread cookie. And thank heavens for coat check! It makes life so much easier to shop sans parka. The Holiday Boutique is also stroller and wheelchair accessible, so if you're toting a large stroller like me, you're safe. 

If you're not an RBC Avioner, you're still welcome to take advantage of the gift wrapping and coat/parcel check services, although there is a charge to do so. But if you do choose to use the Gift Wrapping service, all funds collected will be donated to charity. Pretty cool, huh? And if you're not an Avioner, but WANT to be, you can sign up for a card right in the Boutique. How's that for convenience?


The RBC Avioner Holiday Lounge is now open at Yorkdale and Square One and will stay open until December 31, 2014. (That means you can put your feet up on Boxing Day, too!) There is also a location in Coquitlam, BC and a mini boutique in Halifax, NS. 

Happy Shopping! It certainly will be more enjoyable with the RBC Avion Holiday Boutique at your disposal!


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

November 26, 2014

29 Days 'Til Xmas #BoogieBoard


We're less than a month away. As mentioned yesterday, Simply Suppa will be doing a Countdown to Christmas. Day 30 featured the inspirational and feel-good Shoebox Project, an initiative to help women and girls in local shelters by surprising them with little luxuries. 

The next 29 days will be a melange of gift ideas, experiences, family to-do's and charitable causes you can contribute to this holiday season.

So without further adieu, here's Day 29:


The Boogie Board LCD eWriter

I like multi-purpose items, and the Boogie Board fits the bill. What was originally reviewed as a kids' toy has actually become a popular tool in our home. The LCD screen comes with a stylus pen so you can draw and doodle, sketch and write very easily. The entire screen is wiped clean with a simple press of the reset button on the top of the board. The Boogie Board is portable and light, and can also be hung on the wall.

Here are some of the many uses for this great device:


Isabelle loves to play with her Boogie Board and we actually leave it out on the coffee table for accessibility. The best part? It's super affordable ($39.99), so it's perfect for sometimes clumsy toddler hands. We don't have to worry about an expensive tech gadget breaking or being dropped, and she can scribble and draw to her heart's content.

The Boogie Board comes in various colours and a protective sleeve is available for purchase separately. Available at Mastermind Toys. Makes a wonderful stocking stuffer or Kris Kringle gift!



Disclaimer: I received a Boogie Board to review for this feature. As always all opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

November 25, 2014

30 Days Until #Christmas! #ShoeboxLove

It's the most wonderful time of the year! Now that Remembrance Day has come and gone, American Thanksgiving is around the corner, and Santa has visited our community, it's about time we start thinking of Christmas. Christmas is my favourite time of year; the parties, the cheer, the gifts and goodwill. It seems everyone is just HAPPIER around the holidays. Wouldn't it be nice if it could be Christmas all year long?! 

I speak of Christmas, because, well, I'm Christian. But regardless, if you celebrate Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, or something else, there is a certain magic this time of year. 

Today, November 25, marks the one month countdown until Christmas Day, but the holiday season seems to get longer and longer each year (not that I'm complaining). Over the next month, Simply Suppa will be devoting all posts to the holidays -- that means gift ideas, experiences, crafts, DIY, restaurant suggestions, charitable causes -- all things I think are super, especially this time of year. 

I call it the.....


Cute, huh? I'm no graphic designer, but I think I did a good job! :) Thanks to Pic Monkey for the help! So, today marks 30 DAYS! 


I start my Christmas Countdown with a really cool initiative: The Shoebox Project. How would you like to turn an empty shoebox into a gift for a girl or woman who is less fortunate? It's easy, affordable and makes you feel really good.
Picture
Here's what you do:

  1. Find an empty shoebox (not boot box) and decorate it, so you can still open it. 
  2. Fill the box with items that you love, and little luxuries you'd like to share with other women. (ie. make-up, tissues, socks, nailpolish, scarf, tea, subway tokens, gift cards) The items must be new and not used. The total value of the box should not exceed $50. Please do not include razors or items containing nuts. 
  3. Add an inspirational message to the box.
  4. Drop off your box at a supporting location near you. Here's a list of all the locations in York Region, but please visit the website for a location near your home or business. The boxes are all inspected before being delivered to the local shelters.
  5. The deadline is December 10!
Last year, in York Region, the Shoebox Project helped women and girls at Yellow Brick House, Sandgate and ETA Vaughan Women's Shelter. 

I think this is a wonderful cause and a great feel-good project for young girls all the way up to adult women. I also love that it supports women in our own communities who would really appreciate some of the luxuries many people take fore granted every day.

Here's another idea: instead of exchanging gifts among girlfriends, why not make a shoebox each to donate?

For more information on The Shoebox Project and how you can make your own box, please visit their website. 

We're off to a good start! Come back soon for more great ideas!

November 24, 2014

Fall in Love with a Facial #giveaway

Last week, we felt the first effects of a winter snap. Snap. Just like that. One day it was above zero and tolerable and the next day, -18 with a windchill. Big time snap. Technically, it's still fall or autumn, if you prefer, and will be for almost another entire month. 

There are a lot of things you need to do to prepare for the start of winter, which, apparently, seems to be showing up before December 21. There are MANY things I do at the change of the seasons, specifically from fall to winter: 
  • Tidy the garden, rake leaves, trim trees
  • Take out heavy coats and boots from storage
  • Sort through closet and make a pile of clothing to donate, others put away for another year
  • Add snow tires to my vehicle 
It's all about maintenance; maintenance for your home, your car, and even your closet. I'm willing to bet a lot of people maintain many of the same things I do. I'm also willing to bet more people DON'T maintain their face. 

That's right. I said your face. Do you maintain your face at the change of the season? Well, I didn't -- not in the past anyway. This fall, I decided to give it a shot -- with a facial at Sanctuary Day Spas. I think I've had 2 facials in my entire life. It's true: I tend to neglect my face.

I signed up for a Sanctuary Spa Facial, which is like the beginner facial, if you will. An aesthetician will evaluate your skin, discuss what will be done, and proceed with the treatment. I thought this was a good option for a facial newbie, although there are many more facial treatments available on the spa menu. 

As I suspected, my skin was dry - very dry - likely due to that aforementioned snap!, the change of the seasons, and the sudden use of heat inside our home. There's less moisture in the air, and definitely in my face. Oh, and the postpartum hormones don't help either. 

I'm told everyone should get a facial at least twice a year -- at the start of winter and at the end of winter, to prepare for spring. That makes sense to me, even if I haven't had my share of facials before. Let's use the metaphor of my closet: make sure you're stocked up with winter gear and clothing at the start of the season and once the snow starts to melt, get all that stuff out of there and prep for the rebirth of spring.

Same with your face -- plan for winter, and kiss it all goodbye once the season is done. And as I've been told, you hide age in your face and we want to keep that looking fresh and young. 

The treatment is easy, pain free and quite relaxing. Once your skin is assessed, the aesthetician will explain the process -- there are lots of serums and creams, cleansers and toners. I loved the hot towel treatment and the arm and hand massage, and appreciated laying in silence for 15 minutes without any interruption. (That NEVER happens anymore!) And, in case you were wondering, I didn't break out afterwards. 

I thought I'd *bravely* post a before and after shot -- be warned: I'm not wearing ANY make-up in these photos. Nada. Zilch. No filters either. ;)



I had a definite glow for days after the treatment and my skin DID feel cleaner and fresher. The rest is really up to the customer. I was given a list of product suggestions, but mainly advised to keep treating my face with hydrating moisturizers to prevent more dryness. Follow-up appointments are helpful, but not necessary.

I was really glad I decided to take the time to maintain my face this year. After everything we put it though -- the sun, the wind, the make-up, the late nights and early mornings -- our face deserves it. After all, we only get one, and we need to take care of it!

Have you ever had a facial? Well now's your chance to WIN a FREE FACIAL courtesy of Sanctuary Day Spas. Enter the contest below and good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Disclaimer: I am a Sanctuary Day Spas Ambassador and receive special perks as part of my affiliation. As always, the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

November 17, 2014

World Prematurity Awareness Day #preemie #worldprematurityday

On February 1, 2012, my eldest daughter, Isabelle, was born too soon. She was 30 weeks gestation, and was delivered via c-section after I quickly developed a very serious illness. She didn't "want out", nor did I go into labour, as many people awkwardly joke. It was a terrifying experience.

After 9 weeks in two different NICUs, Isabelle came home to us, and the last 2.5 years have been phenomenal. She is a brilliant little girl, our blessing. We have never let her prematurity define her, or prevent her from doing anything. Being born premature was just a minor blip in the early start of her life's journey.

That said, we celebrate Isabelle's prematurity and make people aware, especially on days like today -- World Prematurity Awareness Day. 1 in 10 babies is born premature, for a whole variety of reasons. It's a situation you're never really prepared for in pregnancy, and truth be told, I don't think you'd ever understand it unless you become a preemie parent.


When I became pregnant again, having another preemie was always at the back of our minds. The doctors were aware of my history, I was constantly being monitored and checked (so grateful) and family members were always looking for signs of impending illness: was I swollen, did I have a headache, any abdominal pain, how was my blood pressure?

Luckily and thankfully, we made it to 36 weeks this time, and while Madeline is technically still a preemie herself, it's strange to think of her as one; we didn't have any NICU stay, she was born at nearly 6 pounds (HUGE compared to Isabelle!), and she doesn't require any formal follow-ups. But, as any preemie parent appreciates, every day in the womb makes a difference, and even at 4 weeks early, Maddie was born very sleepy, didn't have her suck/swallow reflex down and had trouble initially gaining weight. She, too, was born too soon.

I'm thrilled to say both my girls are healthy and happy and thriving.

There are hundreds of preemies born in the world every day -- some as young as 23 weeks. They're so early they're called Micro-Preemies. Some will have a very challenging shot at life. Others defy the odds and amaze the experts. I've had the pleasure of meeting other preemies, some born at 24, 25, 26 weeks, who are running and jumping and talking like a full-term child would. You would never know they were born premature. Because being preemie is a part of them, yet it doesn't define them.

But on a day like today, we have to stop and make everyone know and appreciate the wonder of our teeny babies, who, despite having an unconventional start to life, are simply amazing.

Today is also a day to give thanks to the amazing teams of doctors and nurses who take care of our itty bitty miracles; it takes a very special person to work in an NICU and we were fortunate to have had these outstanding people become like family while Isabelle was in their care. Thank You.

And to all preemie moms and dads out there, I salute you-- today and always.

My name is Julia and I'm a proud preemie mom. And my child is nothing short of extraordinary.

November 12, 2014

Bogs for One, Bogs for All #review

When I, or someone in my family, receive an item for review or testing, we pride ourselves on taking the time to wear, taste,  play with and sample the product in question. That's why it sometimes takes days or weeks, or even months, to review something -- especially when it comes to clothing or footwear. I want to be able to confidently write about how the product stood up to the elements, washed, weathered, etc.

Isabelle and I were first introduced to Bogs Footwear earlier this year. Bogs are known for their waterproof fabric, easy pull on handles and many unique and colourful designs.


When Isabelle first saw her Baby Bogs Waterproof Boots in the box, she was floored. She loved the floral pattern, and was so excited to put them on herself. That was in the spring. She has honestly worn these booties nearly every day and they still look new. They're machine washable, have a great fuzzy interior and are "comfort rated" to -10 degrees Celsius, which, I'm afraid, we'll be feeling very soon. At $55, they are not the cheapest boots on the market, but they last and they work. You can also wear these boots through the seasons (although she may need warmer socks in the winter). Most of all, it makes leaving the house that much easier and the boots allow my little lady to exercise her independence.

In the above photo, I'm wearing the Urban Farmer, a classic rain boot with a lace. I have such a hard time buying boots, as I've been *blessed* with very large calves and dancing for 15 years didn't really help my cause. This mid-height boots are fairly easy to get on, and the sturdy rubber leaves you confident if you're faced with a tiny puddle or torrential rainstorm.

New styles are released all the time. Here are some of my other favourites from the Bogs collection: (Note: I have not tried any of these....yet. Just online browsing!)

For women, the Pearl Slip On Boot. This boot features waterproof leather, and comes in various heights and colours. (Mid-calf for me!)

For kids, the Insulated Tacoma Rain Boot. It comes in amazing bright colours, is insulated and withstands temps of -15. It's a knee-high boot, so kids can make a real splash when they hit that puddle.





For toddlers and babes, the Wall Ball Hook + Loop Shoe. No laces on this shoe, so it's easy to put on. It's water resistant, with an non-marking sole.

And for the guys, the Eugene Chukka. It's a sophisticated lace-up bootie that's waterproof and has a slip-resistant sole.





Of course, there are hundreds of other options on the website, and Bogs are available at many local retailers. Oh, have I mentioned my obsession with online shopping? Free shipping from bogsfootwear.ca :)



Disclaimer: I received boots to review for this post. All opinions expressed on my blog remain my own. 

November 11, 2014

Mama Must-Have: A solid nursing bra (or two, or three!) #review

Two months ago, we welcomed our second daughter into the world. The past 8 weeks have been somewhat of a wonderful whirlwind: exciting, exhausting, blissful, stressful and well, hormonal, to say the least. It's taken weeks to feel somewhat normal again, and you'd think I'd remember that, since I've gone through this before. Well, I didn't -- and it's true, every pregnancy, delivery and recovery is different.

There are very few things that new moms or postpartum moms need; of course, we need support, company, reassurance and food and water, but in terms of tangible THINGS, the list is small. For moms that are planning on breastfeeding or pumping, though, here's what you absolutely do NEED -- a nursing bra. And not just any nursing bra, a solid, comfortable, easy to wear nursing bra. Or two. Or three. (For moms who have nursing bras from a previous pregnancy, tip: try them on. I thought I was well equipped. Wrong. None fit properly.)

Soon after having Isabelle, I went to a local boutique and bought my first-- and favourite-- nursing bra. At the time, the brand Bella Materna meant nothing to me. I bought a few different brands, but always favoured this one, black bra and had to do laundry a couple times a week so it was always clean. Fast forward a couple of years and it was time to buy nursing bras again. I went back to my trusty favourite and actually tried on a few others from the collection. I bought a few...well, a bunch. I only do laundry once a week, so I wanted to make sure I always had a bra at my disposal. While I like some styles more than others, each is supportive, comfortable, affordable and even decent looking! Note: none of these models are me. Ha, ha.

Comfort Shape Nursing Bra: This is the first bra I bought, years ago. I bought two more this year. This fabric is stretchy and soft and the clips are easy to open and shut. Still my fave!



Smooth Wirefree Nursing Bra: This bra reminded me of a ballerina. It's a tighter fabric, yet still soft. If you're ordering this one, aim for a size up. I like the fact it's wirefree, but still has shape and support under the breast.
Anytime Nursing Bra: I love the comfort of this one, although I rarely wear it outside of the house because I find it's not as supportive as some of the others. That said, when I'm staying home, it's a go-to. It's super easy to wear and nurse because it has no clips -- just pull open and feed. I enjoy wearing this one as a sleep bra, too.







Nursing Sports Bra: Breastfeeding moms who exercise need a bra that has even MORE support, yet easy access. The fabric of this bra is super taut, offering support so you can jump, dance and run. The elastic around the back is larger and more supportive, too.


Sexy T-Shirt Nursing Bra: Va-va-voom! I ordered this bra because I've never thought of having a sexy nursing bra. I've also never worn a nursing bra with underwire. I don't find this one as comfortable as the rest for long-time wear, BUT, if you're going out and want extra lift with support and ease to feed, this is your pick. I love the detail along the cup line and see the little rings between the cups? Those are called Infinity Rings and transform the bra from a nursing bra to a regular wear bra after you've finished breastfeeding.



It's true. I own all these bras. Most I purchased myself, although I did receive two for review. It's a bit of an investment, but, I figure I'm going to be wearing these for about a year (I hope), so it's important to have well-structured under-garments.

Here are some other things to know about Bella Materna: you can order easily online, which I love. Use the simple size chart to get proper measurements. If you receive your order and it doesn't fit, you can easily return. Customize your bras with additional back clips, or infinity clips, as mentioned above. And, opt for a matching panty should you wish. You can also read the many reviews posted online from past-purchasers. There are great tips there.

Breastfeeding is NOT easy. It can be frustrating, tiring and sometimes painful. Having the proper gear and equipment can make this experience so much more positive. It's thanks to companies like Bella Materna for making this journey an enjoyable one for me.

So if there is one thing (or two, or three) that you need, it's a good nursing bra. Treat yourself.