July 27, 2015

VarageSale partners with First Book Canada #varagesale

Have you tried VarageSale yet? VarageSale is a free and friendly marketplace app that allows you to sell your secondhand items. There are thousands of items posted on the site, which is divided up by community -- for ease of sale. They recently launched a Richmond Hill community, Brampton, Vaughan and Mississauga.
This week, VarageSale announced a new and wonderful partnership with First Book Canada. Effective immediately, for each of the 60 local VarageSale communities in Ontario that ads 1,500 new members, VarageSale will donate $2,500 to local schools through First Book Canada.
That equals 600 books in each city or 30,000 books across Canada!

If you haven't joined, now's your chance:
1. Visit the VarageSale website or download the FREE iPhone or Android app.
2. Join your nearest VarageSale community in Ontario.
3. Don't forget to spread the word to drive more book donations!  

Click to share on Facebook: http://on.fb.me/1TOGmln
Click to share on Twitter: http://varage.me/34a30f33

July 23, 2015

#FreeYourBaby with Seventh Generation #contest

Natural. Organic. Gluten Free. Healthy. Eco Friendly. Green. Non-Toxic. Toxin Free. 

Everywhere we look, we are inundated with attractive words that entice consumers to be better, be natural, be conscious and healthier. Of course, I want to be an informed shopper, a healthy person and a responsible parent. Who doesn't?

The thing is -- a lot of the time, messaging is warbled, and what you think you're getting isn't always the case. There are lots of hidden ingredients, sometimes chemicals, and misleading statements that can undoubtedly cause shoppers confusion. Try yourself: take a box of anything -- food, packaged food, cleaning product. Do you understand everything on the label? 

As a family (that is, as soon as we became parents to our fur-baby 5 years ago), we have made an effort to buy products that are free of chemicals. We use eco-friendly and chemical-free cleaning products, don't fertilize and try to keep anything within doggy reach, safe. Fast-forward a few years and with two kids, it's now increasingly important to ensure we are removing as many toxins from our home, as possible.

Now, don't get me wrong. We're not perfect. There are lots of products lingering around our home that are filled with gunk. I'm sure of it. And we don't eat organic ALL the time. And I still wear make-up, and use hair sprays and standard toothpastes and deodorant. We're getting there. It takes time to shift your entire lifestyle.

But for now, we focus on the kids and the home. 

I was recently introduced to a company called Seventh Generation. Hmmm, a new eco company, I thought. Wrong. Seventh Generation has been around for 27 years formulating plant-based products -- long before it was trendy.

They make everything from diapers to cleaning products, feminine hygiene products and recycled products. And I got to test a bunch of them.

I'm happy to say that we've been using Seventh Generation for a few weeks now in our home, and they fit right in. The diapers are super soft and have a wonderful elastic waistband. Yah, so they don't have an animated character or a powdery scent, but that's because they are not bleached, have no lotions, dyes or fragrances. Somehow, that's a nice peace of mind. And really, leak protection is the most important factor to me!

The dish soap is nice, too. The first thing I did when I opened it up was smell it. No scent. Obviously. The soap is concentrated and gives nice suds when cleaning up after dinner. It's also biodegradable. (The dish soap is available in a few different natural scents, too)

My favourite product in the bunch has got to be the baby wipes. These wipes are STRONG. They are made primarily of wood pump, and they have a nice weight to them, perfect for big diaper messes, removing make-up or general clean-up. They are made in the US and not tested on animals. The disinfecting wipes (in the canister) are also great. They also have a nice thickness to them, are safe to use around the kids and dog and are multi-surface friendly.

Seventh Generation products are available at Well.ca and at various supermarkets.

Simply Suppa has an outstanding giveaway. How would you like to test out Seventh Generation products for yourself? Who wouldn't!?

To enter, please fill out the Rafflecopter below.

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July 17, 2015

Joe's Bracelets for Goodpasture

Sometimes you "meet" people online who capture a bit of your heart. 

I've never met Gina Mazzaferro in person, although more than 2 decades ago I did take a dance class with her daughter (what a crazy, small world). Gina wrote to me on Facebook to help share her story about her son Joe, who died at the age of 33, my age, due to a rare disease called Goodpasture Syndrome.

Goodpasture (GPS, or Goodpasture disease or syndrome) is an auto-immune disease that attacks the lungs and kidneys. The precise cause is unknown, and diagnosis is often difficult as it is extremely rare. Joe passed away within weeks of his diagnosis.  

Gina has made it her mission to raise awareness and funds for research of this disease. I can appreciate this. When Isabelle was born prematurely and I nearly died from HELLP syndrome, I, too, became an advocate. You share your knowledge so others are aware. 
Gina has turned to her creativity as an outlet for awareness, and she sells handmade, custom bracelets to raise money and awareness, in Joe's memory and honour. The bracelets can be seen on her website or can be ordered by contacting Gina directly, here

Gina will also be showcasing her bracelets at the Woodbridge Vendor Fair, at the Veneto Centre, on July 26.

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

July 08, 2015

Product Review: Slackers Slide & Surf #review #contest

Every so often I get the opportunity to test a product that excites other people in my family. Isabelle is usually the beneficiary of most of my product reviews, but this time, my husband was all in to try a water toy that brought him back to his youth.

This is the Slackers Slide & Surf. 

I should preface this review by saying that 33 year-old men should NOT be using this outdoor toy (it's recommended for kids 5-12); he also weighs more than the restrictions on the box. But for the sake of nostalgia, he decided to be the guinea pig. 

The Slide & Surf definitely got his approval. And hey, if you can impress an adult with a kids' toy, there's no doubt in my mind the targeted consumer would be over-the-moon happy.

The Slide & Surf is a 20-foot vinyl strip, complete with a padded launch pad, bumpers with water holes and an area at the end where water pools and creates a splash. Setup for this one was very easy -- inflate the padded areas, secure the slide to the ground and attach the hose to create the fountain effect.

It's best to use the Slide & Surf on a large piece of soft grass, free of any rocks or uneven ground. You want enough room to run before your start your slide, and equal space at the end to prevent injury.

True to its name, you can also surf aboard the slick surface (using the Slackers Skimboard, sold separately). Our favourite feature of the Slide & Surf has got to be the misting side walls, which ensure the slide stays wet and extra slippery. When I was a kid, I recall this challenge, and our solution was to run the sprinkler simultaneously! This is a convenient improvement.

At the end of the day, the Slide & Surf delivered what it promised: endless fun and ease of use. It's also great to see a modern adaptation of a toy we enjoyed for years as kids.

The Slide & Surf is available at Mastermind Toys.

Simply Suppa is giving readers an opportunity to win a $50 gift card to Mastermind Toys. To enter, complete the Rafflecopter below.

Good luck!

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July 06, 2015

Protein-Packed Salad #lunchtime #protein

Since Madeline was born almost 10 months ago (where does the time go!?), I've been on a wonderful healthy ride and weight-loss journey. Not just to lose baby weight and additional poundage, but to eat well and build strength and muscle. I don't diet. I'm not good at diets. I'm also not good at following orders of being told what I can or cannot eat. I love good food, and I love to eat. Eliminating every bad food from my life is simply not an option.

That said, since balancing exercise with a healthier approach to eating, I've lost weight, I have more energy and I feel good. And there is still a way to enjoy healthy foods without sacrificing taste. Speaking of sacrifice -- I don't. Sacrifice, that is. I still enjoy treats and the occasional junk, but when I eat it, I make sure to over-indulge in the good stuff to make up for it. 

One trick I've taught myself is to over-compensate on the protein to avoid over-indulging on the carbs. There was a time I would have toast for breakfast, pizza for lunch and pasta for dinner. Too much bread! So while I'm not in a position to never eat pasta again (I love it!), I ensure if I have pasta, my other meals are protein packed and limited in carbohydrates. 

Pretty simple, right? If you have bread for breakfast, avoid having it for lunch and very little at dinner. Or vice-versa. 

Today I had peanut butter and toast for breakfast, and I'm making fish with rice for dinner, so I didn't want any carbs for lunch. So I made a DELICIOUS protein-packed salad that will fill me up and sustain me until a snack later on. There are no rules, just use what you have!

In a large bowl, I mixed a can of bean medley (drained and rinsed), a can of tuna in water, an avocado cubed, half a can of sliced olives, chopped parsley, a handful of heirloom tomatoes (halved), evoo, a drizzle of balsamic vinegar, a squirt of lime juice and salt and pepper to taste. Toss it all together and it's done. Oh, and I also threw in 2 handfuls of Hemp Hearts for good measure. 

This salad will just get better as the flavours come together and will be perfect for leftovers, or tomorrow's lunch. It even got the approval of my 3-year-old. 

What are your favourite protein-packed meals?

July 04, 2015

How Tall Am I, Mommy? #littlemonkeydesigns #productreview

When Isabelle was born, we were warned that she was "a little on the small side." Well, she's been consistently small through her three years, teetering at the 3rd percentile on growth charts for most of her life. It could be a combination of her prematurity, but it's most likely her genes. What can I say? I'm not exactly Shaquille O'Neal, breaking records at a lanky 5 foot nothing. (Daddy has the opposite problem by the way; he's always been off the charts and stands tall at 6'2".)

Still, we always like to celebrate growth -- whether it be physical, developmental or motor.

I've recently become a Brand Rep for Little Monkey Designs, a great local company based in Oshawa, ON. Diane Reitano started the company while on maternity leave with her first child. Her first creation? Custom Personalized Growth Charts.

These growth charts are awesome; not only are they designed and made in Canada, they are affordable and come in a variety of different patterns. Isabelle's growth chart is made of canvas and the colours match her room perfectly. How lucky was that!? Not really. To ensure perfect colour matching, Diane has her online boutique set up to accept photographs of the room, or the specific paint shade. Ingenious, really. Ordering is also really easy; once the design is ready, you'll receive a proof and it's in the mail shortly thereafter.

Funny sidebar: when our growth chart came in the mail, I happily announced it was my package from Little Monkeys, to which Isabelle excitedly questioned, "There's a little monkey in there!?" Super cute.

Hanging the growth chart is also very simple. It's so lightweight a single nail will do, or you can go for a removable 3M hook, like I have. I opted to use a metallic permanent marker to add my daughter's height, complete with the date. I also like how portable the growth chart is; if we ever move, we can roll it up and take it with us to our new home.
Simply Suppa readers will have an exclusive opportunity to score a beautiful Personalized Growth Chart (and anything else on Little Monkey Designs). Use the promo code SuppaMonkey to take 15% off your entire order. Visit their website to start your order.

Disclaimer: I am a Brand Rep for Little Monkey Designs and receive special perks as a part of my affiliation. As always, all opinions expressed on my blog remain my own.

July 01, 2015

Meal Plan or Price Match?

Do you Meal Plan or Price Match? Or both?

Let's get real: groceries are expensive. Donny and I are "perimeter" supermarket shoppers -- stocking up on lots of fresh produce, meat, poultry and fish. We rarely buy processed or packaged foods and our grocery bill shows it. We can rarely leave a supermarket without dishing out at least $150 -- and that's not including diapers.

And so, every Thursday or Friday we sift through the local flyers or our app and contemplate which grocery store we'll visit and decide, do we attempt to price match to save money?

I'm a fan of the Meal Plan. I love taking my time going through the flyers and deciding where I'll shop based on what's on sale. From there, I make my menu for the week. We have a different protein each night, and prepare pasta once a week. This allows me to be creative with my meals (like my zuppa di pesce, below), try new foods if they're on special and only buy what I really need. I also like clearing out my fridge each week, ensuring fresh produce and supply.

But I've heard of so many people price-matching and couponing their groceries that it got me thinking: "Can I really save THAT much money?"

Here's the thing: price matching and couponing isn't exactly hard work. But, it's time consuming work, and well, pretty tedious. You need to scour through all the local flyers (or Flipp app, which I prefer), and cut out or save the sale. You need to be organized or it just doesn't work. Then, once you have your list together, you go to the store and shop. For me, the shopping takes longer because I'm constantly checking what's on my list and what's on sale at another store. And when you're finally done, you find the shortest possible line and apologetically nod at the people behind you, whispering, "This may take a while...I'm price matching." Eye roll.

The last time I price-matched I spent $200. Ouch. Not including diapers, once again. And I think I figured out why -- I bought everything that was on sale at EVERY store, not just the one at which I was shopping! So I left the store with some pretty good deals, but SO MUCH STUFF. My fridge was loaded, the cupboards were packed and I spent more money than I normally do!

So here's my verdict: I love a great sale, a good deal, and an outstanding coupon. I think price-matching is an effective tool when you're buying big ticket items, or consistently expensive stock (like diapers!), but for day-to-day purchases, and when you're only saving $.08/lb on asparagus, for example, I say skip it.

What do you think? Are you a meal planner or a price-matcher? Any tips for saving money at the supermarket?