September 08, 2014

Our Generation for a New Generation of Doll Lovers

It goes without saying that when you have a daughter, you're bound to have a few dolls laying around. Without getting into a whole gender stereotype discussion here, while we encourage our LO to play with ALL sorts of toys, she just happens to love dolls. They are her babies and I find them very nurturing and think they have really helped her prepare for becoming a big sister. That said, I also don't think there's anything wrong at all with boys playing with dolls, either.

There are literally thousands of dolls on the market today. If you take a trip to a toy store, it is so easy to become overwhelmed by the babies in the aisles. What makes a "good" doll?

I appreciate a doll that educates as well as offers some entertainment; I'm not saying they need to talk or walk or be battery-operated. Quite the opposite, actually. In my opinion, a good doll will simply encourage imagination and make-believe -- whether that is feeding, potty training, caring, etc.

A few months ago, Isabelle received an Our Generation Doll to test and play with. Our Generation Dolls are Canadian-designed, with each doll having her own story. Our Generation is about girls growing up together, and the accessories speak to the "multifaceted lives girls live". The girls are animal lovers, detectives, campers, charity workers -- they strive for excellence and hope to inspire young girls to make a difference in the world.


It goes without saying that Isabelle was excited with her doll as soon as she saw it. Shannon is an 18" doll who enjoys the "Magic Under the Stars". She comes with her own storybook, and various camping accessories. While she is trendy and cool, her two outfits are anything from frilly or stereotypically girly; Shannon is comfortably cool in her plaid dress and hoodie with cargo pants. She's a modern girl ready for the open air. 

There are many reasons to love Our Generation Dolls: they're lifelike and beautiful, but their stories speak volumes to kids and parents alike. Teach your child about volunteering at the animal shelter, or raising money for the local charity, or going on a detective mystery adventure. Awesome lessons for our next generation. 

And with so many additional accessories to choose from (see motorcycle above) it's easy and fun to create a whole new world of Our Generation Dolls. After months of having her in our home, Shannon is still one of Isabelle's favourites. She loves putting her in  her little tent, dressing and undressing her and taking her for a ride around the room. She treats her like a friend, has discussions with her and one day, when we take her camping, I'm sure Shannon will come along, too!

Our Generation Dolls are priced well, with an outstanding selection of accessories available for each girl. Starting at $29.99. Available at Mastermind Toys.


Disclosure: We received an Our Generation Doll and accessories for review purposes. The opinions expressed on this blog remain my own.

August 21, 2014

Gourmet Grilled Cheese Panini with Ivanhoe Cheddar #GayLeaFoods

Cheese is a staple in our home. It's not uncommon for us to have at least 3-4 cheeses in our fridge at any given time. It's our go-to snack while waiting for dinner, our apres supper dessert, our late night munchie. Parmeggiano, Gorgonzola, Bocconcini, Cheddar, Asiago, Piave -- we love it all and we eat it all.

I also love sampling new and different cheeses and have a great time at the specialty cheese section of the supermarket. If I'm in a cheesy mood, it's not uncommon for me to spend an upwards of $30-40 on new cheese selections. One brand I had never tried was Ivanhoe -- until now.

Ivanhoe Cheese is an Ontario-based cheese manufacturer that has been around for nearly 30 years. About 5 years ago, they joined forces with Gay Lea Foods. They make everything from specialty cheddars to gouda and mozzarella, and thousands visit their factory each year in the Hamlet of Ivanhoe (just north of Belleville). 

Seeing as cheese is such a part of our every-day living, I wanted to sample the Ivanhoe cheese in the best way I could -- au natural. The Ivanhoe Old Sharpe Cheddar is moist and almost crumbly; it's buttery and smooth, a bit salty and delicious. Isabelle loved it right away; I knew we had a winner.

So I decided to use the cheese to make a twist on a fan-favourite for dinner: Gourmet Grilled Cheese Panini.


For these Grilled Cheese Panini, you will need:
  • Ivanhoe Old Sharpe Cheddar
  • Prosciutto slices
  • Arugala or other delicate lettuce
  • Ciabatta bread
  • Panini Press (not necessary but helpful)
This isn't much of a recipe, because, well, it's a sandwich. Unlike a traditional grilled cheese, I didn't use buttered toast bread, but you totally could. I opted for a truffle ciabatta loaf, layered lots of prosciutto, slices of the cheddar and topped it with arugala. Then I pressed the panini in my press for about a minute to melt the cheese and the prosicutto together. If you don't have a press, you could toast in the oven for a few minutes. 



This is such an easy sandwich, loaded with flavour and there are so many options to customize it to your own liking. But, if your two-year-old enjoys it, go with it! Winner, winner! Gourmet Grilled Cheese Dinner!



Disclosure: I am part of the Gay Lea Ambassador Program 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
 

August 19, 2014

It's Paint Canada Pink Week! #cbcf #paintcanadapink

Me, doing my Run Director thing, in 2012
Photo by Gennarino Photography
This week -- August 18-24 -- is Paint Canada Pink Week and marks 50 days until the annual Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation CIBC Run for the Cure.  As many people know, I've been volunteering as a Run Director for the last 4 years; I have led both the Richmond Hill and the Woodbridge/Vaughan events.

Last year, in our inaugural year in Woodbridge/Vaughan, we raised more than $200K for the Canadian Breast Cancer Foundation! It takes thousands of hours of hard work to put on an event of this magnitude, but the feeling we get when we look into the eyes of survivors, or reveal our grand total makes it all worthwhile. It is actually a very emotional and humbling experience.

One of my amazing cousins, Matthew Evans, edited this highlight reel of last year's event at Kortright Centre. I invite you all to watch and reflect how amazing our first-annual event was.



And, now the call to action. While I've been working on the event since early 2014, there's a chance I will not be present on Run Day, October 5, as I may be tending to a a newborn.

So I ask and implore you to support anyway -- donate for the cause, for the cure, and for the tireless efforts of the volunteers who devote themselves to making an event like this a great one.

We are all affected by cancer -- one way or another. For my family, breast cancer hit very close to home. We are all so happy my mother-in-law is a survivor. We participate in her honour, but also in honour of all those who have fought. Some are with us today, and others aren't.

I also volunteer my time and walk for the future. A future without breast cancer. A future for my girls, and the possibility of a life without this disease.

To donate to me personally, please click here. If you are interested in volunteering for our Run, here's the link!

I thank you in advance for your generosity and contribution.

August 15, 2014

Bamboo Clothing a Great Fit for Me

Five years ago, when we got married, I registered and received my first and favourite set of bedsheets. Not overly exciting, right?! Wrong. These were made of bamboo cotton -- they were soft and cooling, yet warm, never needed ironing and it always felt like you were sleeping on a cloud. I still have these sheets, and after hundreds of washes, they still perform.

Since then, whenever I find something to snuggle with made from bamboo, I give it a second glance. Sheets, socks, and my latest bamboo-bestie, Leave Nothing But Footprints clothing.

Leave Nothing But Footprints (LNBF) is a Toronto (Markham) based company that was founded in 2007; they make eco-friendly and luxurious fabrics like viscose from bamboo, Tencel and organic cotton. The bamboo fibre used by LNBF is certified organic by the Organic Crop Improvement Association.

My girlfriend first introduced me to LNBF last year when I was on the hunt for good quality leggings that weren't going to cost me a fortune and didn't pill, weren't see-through, were age appropriate and were comfortable! Quite the tall order -- even for a short girl :). 

Well, I took her advice and bought two pairs of LNBF Suri Leggings in the delectable bamboo and they quickly became a favourite. Just like my bed sheets, these leggings keep you warmer when it's cool out, and cool when it's warm out. It's amazing. They wash well, wear well and the fabric doesn't pull, pill or see-through!



Well, that started it. I quickly bought some more items online -- a jacket, an open sweater and a great tunic. (Shown right) Each one of these items is super comfortable, light-weight and doesn't look ratty or worn after a few washes. 

A few months ago, I had to put the leggings away, sadly, because they weren't fitting over my preggo-belly. Luckily for me, being preggo doesn't mean I can't enjoy LNBF. 

The Lilia Dress, shown left, went right on as soon as it came out of the box. I could sleep in this dress -- and really, you may want to. Ideal for pregnant ladies in the summer, this dress has a cute empire style, is very cooling, and has a great open back detail. Best of all, it's not even a maternity dress. You could totally wear this dress after pregnancy, and if the weather co-operates through the fall, even use it as a nursing dress. 


I love the beautiful purple colour, the pattern and the feel of this fabric. It never needs ironing, is anti-static and is super breathable, even on the hottest summer day. This dress is made of viscose from bamboo.

The Clover Top is another favourite of mine -- I knew I'd love it as soon as I ordered it. First of all, it's in my favourite, coral colour (Hibiscus -- although it comes in Teal and Ivory, too). The Clover is cut slightly larger, so if you're not pregnant, it drapes beautifully, hangs in the right places and hides any imperfections. For me, the larger cut means it wraps all the way around the front of my belly, while still accentuating my bump. This is a great top for work or play and can easily be dressed up or dressed down. The Clover Top is made from bamboo jersey fabric. Again, it's not a maternity top, so it works for everyone!

I can't say enough about this company: Canadian, cute styles, comfortable, super-convenient and clothing that works for women of various ages, sizes, and tastes. 

Now's a great time to visit the LNBF website, as you can score these awesome summer garbs at AWESOME prices, plus, sneak a peek at the new Fall collection that is coming out. 

And the folks at LNBF want Simply Suppa readers to take advantage of the looks, the styles and the prices -- with a DEAL!! When purchasing online at www.lnbf.ca, use the promo code SUPPALNBF (valid until September 18, 2014) to receive 15% off your entire order! WOW!

And if that wasn't enough, we have an AMAZING contest going on with Leave Nothing But Footprints! Here's your chance to win a $75.00 gift card to use online and score some bamboo clothing for yourself. To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below. 

Good luck to all and happy shopping, and wearing!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Here are some more great facts about bamboo:

  • It is hypoallergenic and anti-bacterial
  • Bamboo is completely biodegradable
  • Garments are thermo-regulating, keeping you cool in summer and warm in winter
  • It's anti-static


Disclosure: I received the Lilia Dress and Clover Top in exchange for a review. As always, the opinions expressed on my blog remain my own.

August 12, 2014

Pre-Natal Massage: Just What the Doctor Ordered

I think it's safe to say: many people don't treat themselves nearly enough in life. Moms and moms-to-be are definitely in this group. I can tell you when I was pregnant the first time, while I certainly had more time to take a little time for moi, I rarely did. Being 32 weeks pregnant with a toddler at home is a whole other ball game; I know it's important, but treating myself often takes a backseat.

One area where I TRY not to skimp on is Pre-Natal Massage, mainly because I don't consider it a treat (it is!), but a necessity. I'm a sucker for a good massage any time of year, but when you're pregnant, a Pre-Natal Massage can do so much for your blossoming body. Everyone knows when you're pregnant, you're carrying extra weight -- and that's not to mention swelling and edema, leg cramps, general discomfort, issues sleeping, sciatica and poor circulation. Being pregnant takes a toll on your body. 

But don't take my word for it. I went to the pros at Sanctuary Day Spas, specifically RMT Audrey, to get some more information on why Pre-Natal Massage is so beneficial. 

Audrey joined Sanctuary in May 2013, and has quickly gained a faithful following of clients that regularly seek relief from pregnancy-related symptoms, low back pain, neck and shoulder work-related stresses as well as relaxation massage. Her treatments are individually customized to focus on your specific needs and requirements, employing Swedish massage techniques enhanced with Eastern and Western massage philosophies.  Audrey is certified in pregnancy massage, which she gained while working in the High Risk Pregnancy Unit at Sunnybrook Hospital in Toronto.    

Q: What's the difference between a pre-natal massage and an ordinary massage?

A: The key differences between pre-natal massage and an ordinary massage are the proper positioning of the pregnant client on the massage table for maximum comfort and support. Pre-natal massage focuses more on symptomatic areas where expectant mothers typically feel the most discomfort.  Firm pressure can still be applied during a pre-natal massage, but it is recommended that deep pressure be avoided in certain regions of the body.

Q: I've never had a pre-natal massage. Are there things I need to know?

A: The first thing to know is that pre-natal massage is perfectly safe, and has many physical, physiological, and even emotional benefits for both mother and baby. The second thing is that you can receive a pre-natal massage at any time during your pregnancy. Lastly, since Registered Massage Therapists often have their own specialties and areas of expertise, it’s best to request an RMT who specializes in pre-natal massage to ensure that you have the utmost confidence in your massage therapist and that you get the most out of your pre-natal massage.

Q: I'm in my first trimester. Can I have a pre-natal massage?

A: Absolutely! Pre-natal massage is suitable at any stage of your pregnancy. However, it is always a good idea to get approval from your doctor to receive a pre-natal massage should you have any pregnancy condition that is a cause for concern.




Q: This is my first pregnancy and having really bad lower back pain. Can I speak to my therapist about concentrating on a particular area?

A: Before your massage begins, your therapist will ask you about areas that you would like to focus on and what pregnancy related symptoms you are experiencing. In this way, your pre-natal massage treatment will be specifically customized to target your areas of concern. However, it is important to know that your massage therapist will also need to work on other areas too, not just the one requested area. This is because all of the muscles, joints and soft tissue in your target area are interconnected with its surrounding areas, all of which need treatment in order to get the full benefit of the pre-natal massage.

Q: What do I need to do to prepare for my appointment?

A:  There is no real preparation required, but be sure to arrive at least 15 minutes prior to your appointment.  This will give you ample time to fill out the necessary health history paperwork, enjoy a glass of spa water and use the restroom. You will enjoy your massage so much more if you are calm and not rushing to get to your appointment. Then all you need to do is relax and let your Sanctuary Massage Therapist do the rest!


Q: Being pregnant, I'm a bit self-conscious about my body. What do I wear for my treatment?

A:  Your privacy is of utmost importance throughout the entire massage treatment. Before the massage, your RMT will give you privacy to undress and to get on the table and under the sheets before they re-enter the treatment room. 
During the massage, you will be lying under a sheet and blanket at all times, and your Massage Therapist will only uncover and massage one specific area at a time during the treatment.  At the end of the massage, the therapist will exit the room and give you time to get dressed. You don’t need to wear anything special for your massage; just comfortable clothing and underwear. 

Q: How often should I receive a pre-natal massage?

A: The frequency for receiving pre-natal massage will be determined by you and your massage therapist.  It will be based on your individual pregnancy-related concerns and how you are feeling. In general, we recommend treatment every 3-4 weeks during the pregnancy, but if you have specific issues then we may recommend more frequent visits.  I have had clients come once a week for the last 10 weeks of their pregnancy to help manage their severe low back pain. We also recommend a post-natal massage once you have had your 6-week check-up to help your body recover from the stresses of the delivery and the demands of being a new mother.

Q: Can massage induce labour?

A: Essentially this is a myth. It is highly unlikely that a massage will induce labour. There are certain acupressure points that are thought to induce labour if stimulated by applying pressure for extended period of time, but a massage treatment does not concentrate on one specific point for more than a few seconds.  However, if you are still concerned about the remote chance of inducing labour, you may specify any area of the body that you do not want to receive massage.

Q: Do you have male and female RMTs who can do a pre-natal massage?

A: Since each of our RMTs at Sanctuary, both male and female, has various specialties ranging from pre-natal, low back pain, deep tissue, relaxation, therapeutic hot stone, you can specifically request a massage from an RMT that specializes in pre-natal massage.  It is best to call in and speak to one of our receptionists who will help pair you with the most suitable RMT from our team that will best meet your massage therapy needs.

Sanctuary Day Spas is offering Simply Suppa readers the chance to experience a sensational RMT massage with one of their pros. If you're never had a massage, or have been neglecting treating yourself, now's the chance to enter this AMAZING contest. 

Special thanks to Audrey and the team at Sanctuary for answering our pre-natal massage questions. 
For more information on Sanctuary Day Spas or to book your own RMT treatment, visit www.sanctuarydayspas.com.

Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway



Disclosure: I am a Sanctuary Day Spas Brand Ambassador and receive special perks as part of my affiliation. The opinions expressed on my blog remain my own.

August 09, 2014

Mother-Daughter Day at Glama Gals Tween Spa

At the start of the summer, I wrote about setting up our family intentions -- our bucket list, so to speak. I'm proud to say while we still have about a month left of summer, we've successfully managed to cross nearly every family activity off the list.

One of these experiences was a Mommy/Daughter Day at Glama Gals Tween Spa. Months ago if you asked me to take Isabelle to a little girl's spa, I would have been skeptical; she was only just 2 and I didn't know if she would "get" it. On top of all that, I didn't want to create a little girl obsessed with girly things like getting her nails done and looking pretty.

Fast-forward a few months, and Isabelle is 2.5 years old and while she LOVES going to the park and playing in the dirt and picking up bugs (ew!), she is also very much a girly-girl. What can I say? She watches her mama and mimics -- I love playing with make-up, wearing skirts and dresses and painting my nails. So, I thought a trip to my friends at Glama Gals was in the cards and it would be a great treat for the two of us this summer.

We decided to visit one of Glama Gals' newest locations, on Historic Main Street Unionville in the City of Markham. Unionville Main Street is likely one of my favourite spots in the region, and Glama Gals has an amazing site in an old barn.


As soon as we arrived, I knew I had made a good decision. Isabelle was so excited to get right inside. We were greeted by franchisee owner, Glama Gal Liz, who escorted Isabelle to try on a pair of spa slippers and introduced us to our aesthetician, Glama Gal Leona. I have to say: the Gals behind Glama Gals are pros. They know how to interact with girls as young as 2 and as old as, well, me! (and beyond!) They were all so patient and kind, energetic and approachable. I'm not the only one who thought so: Isabelle, who normally doesn't do well with strangers, was enamoured. 

After we were suited up with spa slippers, it was time to head upstairs for our treatments. Leona equipped us both with matching GG robes and we had an opportunity to sit and enjoy some refreshments -- cupcakes and juice/water! Then it was time for our nails. 


Isabelle made it perfectly clear from when we left the house that she did NOT want pink nailpolish, oh no. My modern and very mature Glama Gal wanted BLUE nails. And that's just what she got. She perused the nail polish wall and selected her favourite shade of blue for her toes.

And as we sat and got our matching pedicures (Mommy got blue toe-polish, too), I was thinking about our experience and all that it was teaching Isabelle.

Sure, you can't miss the fuchsia pink in Glama Gals' logos and decor, and yes, it's essentially a spa for little girls (despite the "Tween" in the name, my LO fit RIGHT in). But it's so much more than a little girl's spa that focuses on superficiality and frivolous beauty. It's quite the opposite, actually. The company's mantra is simple: Be Confident, Be Positive, Be You!

While you're receiving your treatments, you have the opportunity to read amazing, uplifting quotes from girls and women, each one offering a bit of positive advice. And then there is The Glama Gal Oath that hangs proudly on the wall. The first line reads:

I promise to always hold my head up high with a smile on my face
Remember my beauty is from within and that you cannot replace

And that is the biggest lesson of all -- and that is what I want to teach my daughter. While it's fun to dress up and paint our nails and look pretty and girly, there is so much more to a girl -- especially a Glama Gal -- than that. Her brains and her confidence will send her forward in life, and I want her to know that she is beautiful for so much more than what's skin-deep.

And if the start of that amazing self-discovery is made through a bright blue nail polish at two years old, I'm totally fine with that.



Disclosure: I am a Glambassador and receive special perks as part of my affiliation. As always, the opinions expressed remain my own. 

July 25, 2014

Why Today is a Milestone

Photography by Picture Perfect Designs, Woodbridge

Today is a milestone for me. I'm 29 and 6. What does that mean? It means I'm 29 weeks, and 6 days pregnant. Tomorrow, I'm 30 weeks. Isabelle was born exactly on the 30th week mark. It was on this day of my pregnancy, nearly two-and-a-half years ago, that I was sick and asked my husband to bring me to the hospital, and therein started my journey into motherhood. (I do believe I was preparing for motherhood while being pregnant, but nothing could have prepared me for that day)

I think about that morning when we got to Markham-Stouffville Hospital often; I had a lovely nurse, Michelle, who didn't leave my side. A great on-call OB who spoke with such a calm demeanor I couldn't have been able to tell my situation was a very serious one. They were the professionals who took care of me and quietly rushed me to Sunnybrook to have my baby. The staff at Sunnybrook will also always be in my mind -- my first nurse there, who was with me right into the OR, the surgical team, the NICU team and the nurses who took care of me post-delivery. One of my nurses was from Wiarton, and on February 2, groundhog day, I made a joke about it. I was definitely still loopy from all the meds, and it was probably not funny, but she still laughed. Oh, boy.

This pregnancy so far has been different, a bit more positive and relaxed. And I'm going to keep it that way. Every day from today is time Isabelle didn't have to grow inside me. And when I look at her, I can hardly believe it. She amazes me every day. So, I'm going to have a nice, calm day and just like I did when Isabelle was born, I'm going to celebrate all the little milestones from here on in.

Thanks for everyone's best wishes on a healthy -- and full term! -- pregnancy.