October 23, 2016

Get Winter Ready with Naturino

Over the past two weekends, the inevitable has happened. The weather turned. And with that sudden chill in the air came the panic -- am I ready for winter?! Are WE ready for winter!?

Fall cleaning is not as exciting as spring cleaning, but likely more important. So last weekend, I spent an entire day and sorted through all the summer wear, summer shoes and sandals and boxed them away, pulling out last year's snowsuits, hats, mitts and gloves. And then it was time to take stock. What do we have, what do we need, what sizes do we buy. The thing with winter shopping is you need to do it early -- pre-snow, because you don't want to risk a freak snowstorm in October or November and be ill-prepared. 2015 was a fairly light winter for us Torontonians, but something tells me we won't be as lucky this year. 

One of the first things I buy for (myself and) the girls is winter footwear. As I mentioned, the seasonal shift happens quickly, so not only do you want winter gear, you also need transitional items that will work when the weather is all over the place. 

Kids shoes are expensive, I get it. I kind of have a shoe addiction, and having two girls just magnified that addiction. But if you buy a few pairs of really great quality shoes, they will last you and your kids. I do a lot of my kids' shoe shopping at Naturino in Woodbridge. Naturino has been around since 2000 but last year opened in a new location at 3600 Langstaff Road in Woodbridge. They carry premium Italian footwear under the Naturino, Falcotto and Moschino brands. 
Here's what I love about shopping at Naturino:
  • Great quality shoes. From infant through pre-teen, the shoes are well made with solid structure and support. In fact, every single pair of shoes I bought for Isabelle as a baby have also served us for Madeline, and they're still in excellent shape. 
  • Fabulous design and style. Very few shoes on the market look like ones you'll get at Naturino. Leave it to Euro style. They're modern yet functional, and Isabelle especially loves that she can get some shoes and boots that look like they're for big girls, but they fit her little feet. 
  • Sales Galore.  There are always sales at Naturino (I love their back corner!), but you can guarantee a big clear out at the end of each season.
  • Treats for the kids.  Shoe shopping with kids is easier when the kids want to go. Every time we go to Naturino the girls know they get a treat from Lisa in the treasure chest. It's a little incentive that keeps the most discerning customers happy.

So if you're in the market for winter wear for your kids, I'd suggest a trip to Naturino (you can also shop online) The Naturino Rainstep collection offers a wide range of shoes, half boots, ankle boots and boots with fabric, leather or ultra warm woollen lining. The Natex Technology means feet will stay warm and dry in any weather. And just check out some of the styles.

Naturino is giving one Simply Suppa reader the chance to win one pair of shoes or boots (boys or girls!). WOW. So amazing.

To enter, fill out the Rafflecopter below and fingers crossed. The winner will be released before the snow hits (let's hope that doesn't happen before Halloween -- cause, well, that's when the contest ends!).

Good luck!

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Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. As always, the opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

October 20, 2016

I Don't Cook on Fridays: Quesada

I don't cook on Fridays. I pride myself on preparing homemade meals all week. But not on Fridays. 
I don't cook on Fridays.

Sometimes, we have leftovers. Other times, it's french fries, pre-made dumplings, or some easy frozen dinner. Most times, we go out. It's not usually a fancy dinner, but it must be a) kid-friendly, b) cost efficient, c) fast and d) tasty. Of course, healthy is always a bonus, although I do let that go every once and a while.

Because we go out for dinner often, we like to try new cuisines, and consequently, our girls enjoy an entire variety of cultural dishes -- from sushi to Thai, Chinese and Mexican. We believe exposure to new experiences (and flavours) opens up a new world of curiosity and taste. It's possible. Kids can enjoy more than hot dogs and chicken fingers.

I'm pleased to bring Simply Suppa readers this new feature: I Don't Cook on Fridays. I'll try and keep it as regular as possible, so you can get some great restaurant ideas for you and your families to enjoy. Sometimes, I'll feature local eateries, other times, a quick stop to grab a bite. 

The first on my list: Quesada Burritos & Tacos.

Here's what I like about Quesada:
  • Lots of fresh ingredients. You can customize your burrito, taco or bowl however you like
  • A variety of proteins available
  • Kids menu ($3.49! WHAT!?) 
  • Many locations, two within a 15 min drive of my house (More than 70 locations across Canada)
  • Fast, fast, fast
  • homemade dipping sauces -- SO flavourful

OK, so if you've never been to, or heard of Quesada, it's a Mexican dine-in, take-out burrito bar. You customize your order by selecting everything from your wraps, protein, beans, veg, sauces and more. If you're on a meal plan, or watching your diet, this is a friendly spot. There are many options for lean proteins and healthy choices without relegating yourself to a plain, simple, tasteless salad. 

Donny and I shared two dishes because we couldn't decide -- we went with a Flame Grilled Chicken Bowl (all the fun minus the shell) and a brand new menu item, the Pulled Pork Carnitas Burrito. I've made pulled pork before, but it never tasted like this. The Quesada pulled pork is loaded with flavour and spice -- wait for the recipe below -- but it's also mild for those who can't really handle the heat. If you want to jack up the fire, add one of the eatery's homemade sauces or salsas. 

And we can't forget about the kids. The kids menu is insane. There are only a few options, but with a price tag of $3.49 for two items (the girls picked quesadilla and cheese wrap), this works perfectly well for us. You're not going to get any toys with the meal, but again, that's just fine by me. ;)

All in all, I think Quesada could be a Friday favourite. Fast, healthy, affordable. A full meal for less than $30 and we're a happy family.

Want to try it for yourself? Enter below to win a $30 gift card to Quesada Burritos & Tacos. 

And if you DO want to cook on a Friday (or any night), Quesada Founder Steve Gill shares his DEEEELICIOUS pulled pork carnitas recipe with Simply Suppa! Maybe I'll try it one night next week. But not Friday. 

I don't cook on Fridays.

Pulled Pork Carnitas (Recipe by Steve Gill, Quesada Burritos & Tacos -- posted with permission.)

3 lb bonesless pork shoulder
1 medium onion, diced
2 cloves garlic, minced
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp ground cumin
1 tsp ground coriander
1 tsp smoked paprika
1 tbsp minced canned chipotle in adobo sauce
1 1/2 tsp salt
1/2 tsp pepper
1/2 cup orange juice
1/2 cup water

Mix together all ingredients, except for the pork shoulder, in a slow cooker. Add pork shoulder and ladle some of the spice mixture over pork to cover. Place lid on slow cooker, set on low and cook for 8 hours. 
Once cooked, remove pork onto a rimmed baking sheet and shred with 2 forks. Add some of the slow cooker liquid back into the shredded meat, if desired.

Steve's Slow Cooker Tips: 
  • Quickly sear your meat in a hot pan before putting it in a slow cooker. This will bring out more flavours in the meat.
  • Use less expensive cuts of meat, like briskets, chicken thighs, pork shoulder in your slow cooker. These tougher cuts have a lot of flavour and become fall off the bone tender once cooked.
  • Trim excess fat from larger cuts of meat before cooking. By trimming it first, you won’t have as much fat in the cooking liquid once the meat is done.
  • Don’t add too much liquid to your slow cooker--juices will naturally come out of meats and veggies while they are cooking. And because slow cookers have tight lids, none of this liquid will evaporate.
  • Use your slow cooker as a warmer on a buffet table. It’s a great way to keeping your slow cooker meals warm while serving a crowd.
  • Don’t forget drinks! Use your slow cooker like a punch bowl, by keeping hot drinks hot when serving a crowd. Serve your favourite hot beverage (mulled apple cider, Mexican hot chocolate) right out of the pot!
  • Avoid temptation and keep the lid on! Every time you remove the lid of your slow cooker, you release heat, which means your meal will take longer to cook.
  • Just turn it on in the morning! Prepare your slow cooker ingredients the night before and put the prepared slow cooker pot in the fridge. In the morning, take the pot out of the fridge and leave it at room temperature for a bit (30 minutes to an hour), to take the cold edge off. Then just turn it on and let it do its work while you’re at work.

Disclaimer: This is a sponsored post. As always, all opinions expressed on my blog are my own.

October 16, 2016

A Bra Fitting Guide with Wacoal

80 per cent of women wear the wrong bra. That means only 20 per cent of us are getting it right, and even then, only sometimes. Not very good stats. For women, and their ta-tas.

If you're like me, you've probably owned hundreds of bras. Well, you don't need to. A properly fit bra with solid support should last you months with proper care.

To get the goods on wearing the best bra for me, I went for a professional bra fitting with Wacoal, at Hudson's Bay. 

If you've never been for a real bra fitting, these tips will be super important to you, and if you have, this is an excellent refresher: 
  • Make an appointment with a professional. Why? Well, you don't get your hair cut by amateurs, or your car serviced by people who aren't certified. Give your boobs the same respect! Be prepared to remove your shirt so each bra can be examined on your body. I met with Maggie, fit specialist from Wacoal, who was very patient and kind. She listened to my requests and challenged me to try a few other bra styles as well. There is a lot of science to bra fitting -- no two breasts are alike, and the same is true for bras. Devote an hour to the fitting, and be open to trying different styles and sizes. The same size bra in a different style could have a very different fit. Also, bring a t-shirt to slip on top. It'll show you how the bra looks while clothed. 
  • Don't wear the same bra for every occasion. Switch up your bras and the style depending on your wardrobe and need. Wear the best bra for the occasion. For every day use, Maggie says it's best to have at least 3 bras -- "one to wear, one for spare and one in the wash." 
  • Different body types require different bras. Buy the best bra for your body and body type. Maggie immediately noticed my petite (aka short) frame, and reminded me that I need a bra with adjustable shoulder straps and an underwire that doesn't pinch or puncture. Breast composition varies, too. Some women may have fuller cups, while others are a bit more shallow. 
  • Put your back into it. Breasts should be held from the back, not the shoulders. So the strap along the back of the bra should hit at the centre of your spine, and there should be no digging into your shoulders. It should also fit snugly, with only two fingers fitting underneath. I usually clip on the middle latch, so there's room to take out, and room to take in, as the bra stretches. With a proper fit, your breasts should be situated between your shoulder and elbow. 
  • Lift and separate? Whether you're looking for a push up, a full coverage or a tshirt bra (and there are a gazillion more styles!), the centre panel of the bra needs to sit flush against your breast bone. If you're opting for an underwire, it needs to sit BEHIND the breast tissue. 
  • Preserve the fibres in your bra. Wacoal suggests 9 months of wear per bra, or 100 washes. At that point, the fibres will start to stretch out and you will no longer be getting the best fit for your breasts. For washing: (hand wash) or gentle cycle, hang dry is recommended. 
  • Get fit regularly. 7-10 pounds (loss or gain) affects bra size by cup or band. So does hormonal changes, pregnancy, nursing, exercising, etc. There are lots of factors that will affect the fit of your bras. 
  • Don't focus too much on price -- focus on fit. 
  • Everyone needs a sexy bra. Maggie reminds me that while I love plain, simple t-shirt bras in nude and black, everyone needs a sexy bra. And a sexy, lacy bra at that. Be open to stepping outside of your comfort zone and into something a bit risque, that can still be very comfortable!

In honour of Breast Cancer Awareness Month (October), Wacoal is selling their special Bra with a Cause. With every sale of an "Awareness" bra, $2 will be donated to the Susan G Komen Foundation. And that's not all -- you also get a beautiful charm bracelet (in stores and online).  For more information on Wacoal, you can visit their website.

October 09, 2016

Enjoy the Season with Camp Spooky #canadaswonderland #halloween

I'm the first to admit that I'm a big. time. scaredy. cat.
I don't like scary movies, being freaked out, eerie music, horror stories.

Halloween is an ironic occasion for me, because while I love the treats, I can do without the tricks.

And that's why I really like Camp Spooky at Canada's Wonderland.

Canada's Wonderland is known for putting on kick-ass Halloween Haunt festivities (not that I've ever personally been, but I have covered it for work. I really need to get over this.) Those who crave the fear can ride some of the park's signature rides in the dark and go through quite a few mazes and haunted houses that will have you jumping out of your pants. If the costuming and the make up on the hundreds of ghouls and goblins doesn't scare the crap out of you, it will most definitely impress you. It does both for me. 

But back to Camp Spooky. Camp Spooky is the much tamer version of a Halloween fall festival-- designed for kids and families, and, well, people like me. It celebrates the season, allows little trick-or-treaters to enjoy the park while in costume, take part in fun activities and see some great Halloween-themed shows. 

2016 is the 50th Anniversary of It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown, and Canada's Wonderland is pulling out all the stops for this occasion at Camp Spooky. 

When you first enter Planet Snoopy or KidZville, kids 12 and under will need to grab an orange Camp Spooky bag to collect all their goodies. Inside the bag? A little surprise, plus, a treasure map! 

We had a fabulous time making our way through the two kids' areas, transformed in fall and Halloween decor. We visited our familiar and favourite rides, of course, but were continually surprised by what was awaiting us at every turn and corner. There are literally HUNDREDS of pumpkins everywhere, a traditional hay maze, a pumpkin patch and an Enchanted Forest maze and so many special friends in costume, handing out goodies at various check points. Even the areas surrounding the rides were beautifully decorated in the theme. 

Here's Isabelle explaining the hunt:

Needless to say, she had a wonderful time.

Should you need a break from all the excitement, you can pause to enjoy some live entertainment at the Playhouse Theatre. We sat and watched Spooky Tales with Snoopy while we enjoyed our lunch.

And for the creative cats out there, you can also decorate a pumpkin for $3 per person/pumpkin. Plus, the Action Theatre also shows It's The Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown every 30 minutes.    
The folks at Canada's Wonderland really know how to cater to the crowd -- regardless of age, gender or experience with the park. And if you NEEDED another reason to visit? The season, of course. While the fall means you'll have to bundle up a bit, it also means the lines are a bit shorter and the crowds are less -- bonus, for this mamma! It makes for a perfect fall day with the fam. 
Camp Spooky is open every Saturday and Sunday in October and is included with Park Admission, free for Season Pass Holders. For more information on pricing or how to visit, visit the Canada's Wonderland website. 

Happy (scare-free) Halloween!

October 06, 2016

DIY Wiggles Tee

My kids love the Aussie kids' troupe The Wiggles. We've taken Isabelle to see the group a few times already, and this weekend will be Madeline's first concert in Toronto. 

Last year, I made a VERY SIMPLE DIY Wiggles Tee for Isabelle to wear to the show, so I thought I'd share it with you.

Isabelle's favourite Wiggle is Emma, of course, so the first task was to find a plain yellow tshirt. I actually scored this one at Dollarama for 2 bucks. 

Rest the shirt on top of a piece of cardboard so it doesn't stick together. Using painter's tape, tape off three Vs. Then it's time to paint. Using an acrylic or fabric paint and a foam brush, paint in between the lines. To get the Wiggles effect, paint tone on tone -- ie. yellow paint on a yellow shirt, blue paint on blue shirt, purple paint on purple shirt. 

Allow the paint to fully dry (overnight is best) before removing the tape. There you have it! Your kids will love it! Of course, you can do this for any of The Wiggles characters -- just pair with black bottoms and you have an easy and affordable costume!

Guess what I'm doing tonight?!

If you're headed to see The Wiggles soon, enjoy the show! I know we will!

October 05, 2016

The Plan to Pump #MedelaCanada

When I found out I was pregnant with my first in August 2012, I went out and bought baby books.
Quite a few baby books.
Too many baby books.
Many of them discussed "plans": birthing plans, plans at home, plans for visitors, plans for feeding. Great, I thought, I love plans. I'm a planner.

One thing I didn't plan on while pregnant was getting very sick and having to deliver my baby 10 weeks early. Having a preemie was definitely not part of my plan.

What I did plan for, or hope, was to be able to breastfeed. Well, having a preemie put a bit of a halt to that plan, too -- kind of. While I quickly learned that Isabelle would not be able to nurse (at least not at the beginning -- she didn't have the suck and swallow reflexes of a full-term baby), the nurses who were taking care of me encouraged me to hand express and eventually pump my breast milk.

Woah. Different kind of plan.

I had heard about breast pumping, sure, but I never really gave it much thought. Didn't register for a pump, and thought I would cross that bridge if and when I got to it. Well, here we were. The doctors and nurses reminded me that my preemie would benefit significantly with breast milk. It was the absolute least I could do.

I was first introduced to Medela at Sunnybrook. I was loaned a hospital grade pump while Isabelle was in the NICU and I pumped at minimum 8 times a day. I would wake in the middle of the night, as though I had a newborn at home, and pump, instead of nurse. I developed quite a supply and a freezer full of milk. We even had to go out and buy a separate upright freezer to house all my liquid gold. In the beginning, I used sterile hospital containers to store milk, and then moved to Medela bags when Isabelle was home.

Eventually, I bought my own pump that had its semi-permanent home on the floor beside the couch in the family room. I developed a pumping pattern and together, Donny and I managed a system -- he would wash and prepare my pump kit, I would sit and pump.

I did continue to try and breastfeed Isabelle, but she never really took it. I didn't mind too much. I pumped for 14 months. 14 months. Pumping gave me a certain freedom -- I could share the feedings with my husband or family members, I could give her a bottle wherever we were, whenever we needed. And my Medela pump came with me wherever I went, and I pumped just about everywhere: in parking lots, in the backseat of the car, while Donny was driving. My Pump in Style flew to Aruba, took a road trip to Ottawa and quite a few treks into the City. It's portable, both battery and electric powered and easy to use. And it never failed me.

By the time I got pregnant a second time, my plan to breastfeed shifted. While I still wanted to give nursing a try, I also had a plan to pump -- at least sometimes. And so, when Madeline came 5 weeks early, I turned to my trusty pump friend and gave it another spin. Pumping between feedings again gave me a sense of independence and accomplishment. Once again, we developed a stockpile of milk that we were able to use if we needed a date night or were heading out for a while. Maddie nursed for 9 months, and yet, I was still able to give her 12 months of ebm thanks to my pump.

Here are some things you need to know if you're planning to pump, or at least give it a shot:

  • It's not hard, and it doesn't hurt. Or at least it shouldn't. What it does take is dedication and the willingness to set aside 10-15 minutes various times of the day. When I first started pumping, I pumped 8x per day, then I dropped it to 6, then 4, and weaned myself from there. Remember, you need to produce milk, so you need to pump regularly.
  • Buy a double pump. Two heads are better than one. Same with two flanges. You've got two boobs -- may as well pump them at the same time. 
  • Pumped/Expressed breast milk can last days once it's freshly pumped (in the fridge) and months in a deep freezer.
  • You may actually cry over spilled milk. After you've pumped for any extended period of time, you will become almost obsessed with protecting your stock. Don't mess with my hard work.
  • It's a good way to remind you that there are so many ways of feeding your baby. If you can't breastfeed, or your baby won't latch, there are options. Of course, if pumping doesn't work for you, that's ok too. Feeding your baby is the most important thing. 
I mentioned earlier that my trusty pump is the Medela Pump in Style Advanced. It's a double pump that comes with a tote bag or knapsack. While I did love it, it was a bit bulky and heavy. I was recently able to take a look at the brand new Freestyle Pump from the masters of breast pumps -- Medela. 

This pump is pretty pumpin' great. Not only is it a double pump (highly recommended!), but it also comes with a handsfree contraption that you can rig up to your nursing bra. When I wanted to handsfree pump, I had to cut a hole in an old bra -- no joke. How far we've come in 4 years!

I love that the main unit of the Freestyle is small and can actually fit into your pocket or clip onto your pants. It has a decent size screen and it's super simple to use. Of course, the Freestyle also comes with a variety of accessories -- bottles, cooler bag, tote bag and other pumping essentials like breast pads, freezer bags and sterlizer bags. The Medela Freestyle double electric breast pump is the most popular Medela breast pump and is designed for frequent, daily use. For more information and scientific specs, research and all that jazz, visit the Medela website

So my advice to new moms, or moms-to-be is this: regardless of what your plan is, know you have options. When one plan doesn't work, there is always another way. And sometimes the other way, is pretty cool, too.

Disclosure: I am part of the PTPA Brand Ambassador Program with Medela Canada and I received Compensation as part of my affiliation with this group. The opinions on this blog are my own.

September 30, 2016

Take Charge like Elena of Avalor #DreamBigPrincess

If you have a young daughter at home, chances are, you've been introduced to Elena of Avalor, the newest princess on TV. In fact, Elena is the first Latin American Princess and she is on a journey to reclaim her parents' kingdom, despite many odds. 

The Crown Princess is a teenager, and needs help before taking the throne; she is bold and strong, a take charge individual, who is also learning all about leadership and compassion.

Elena is not an "official" Disney Princess yet, but she will certainly be a fan favourite in no time. And talk about relevance -- 2016 may be the year that the US sees its first female President -- a similarly bold and take-charge individual. For generations, women leaders have had to fight against resistance and criticism -- Elena of Avalor is no different. Elena teaches young girls that they can be leaders, they can be taken seriously, and they can be strong, and yet, still caring and compassionate. 

The Disney Hasbro Princess Collection includes two Elena of Avalor dolls -- one sporting her beautiful Royal Gown. I have to say, this is a decked out Princess. Both Elenas are adorned with various bling -- earrings, bangles, gold belt and crown. Beware these pieces are quite small and come out very easily, so if you have a toddler at home, perhaps keep these pieces out of reach. But take a look at the fabulous footwear on Elena: 

I have to say, I think she has the best shoes of them all! 

Simply Suppa is proud to be partnering with Hasbro to, once again, offer a wonderful giveaway to my readers. Enter below to win your own Elena of Avalor prize pack. Good luck!

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