May 22, 2018

Toyota Sienna for the Modern Mini Van Mom

Disclosure: I have partnered with YMC and Toyota and have received compensation for this post. All opinions are my own.

In 1990, my parents bought a minivan. It was a deep red Toyota Previa, the first of its kind, and that vehicle took us across the country. Literally. 

In 1991, we loaded up that van (my sister and I hid dolls under the seats!) and road tripped to Prince Edward Island, stopping in every province and major city along the way. 

That's my mom, sister and I in front of the Chateau Halifax -- with our beloved Previa to the left. She's even wearing a black leather bra!

Four years later, we went Westward, all the way to Victoria BC and back -- a three-week venture in the van. I remember sitting in the front seat with my dad, playing navigator or co-pilot, and videotaping out the window as we drove through days of canola fields in Saskatchewan. 

When we weren't road tripping, the Previa was my mom's daily ride -- and she loved that vehicle, and so did we. It was bittersweet when it came to trading it in; we put more than 300,000 KM of memories on that red spaceship. 

But since that time, there has always been a Toyota parked in my parents' driveway or garage. They continue to value Toyota vehicles for their safety, ease of navigation, and price point. My sister and I both learned to drive on a Toyota, and I have yet to find a vehicle that compares to the little silver RAV 4 I acquired from my dad. It was my first vehicle -- my little dinky dino ravioli. 

Fast-forward many years later, and I'm married with children, and many of our friends are trading in their vehicles for a minivan. Gulp.  While I'm so fond of our minivan memories, the thought of driving one scared me. 

They are just so. big. 
I am so. short. 

I mean, I can barely see out of the vehicle I currently drive. But the storage would be a huge help. With 2 kids, a dog, a business, dance classes, grocery shopping, we are constantly filling and OVER filling the vehicle we drive. Add a double stroller to the mix, and it was nearly impossible; the trunk was full before we left the house.

So when I got the opportunity to test drive a Toyota Sienna for an entire week, I was excited about it. This would be the best way to see if the vehicle would fit our lifestyle: drop offs and pick ups, highway driving, city driving, loading with gear, car seats -- just a typical week. There are 6 different models of the Sienna available, with various upgrades and features, starting at $34,690 CAN. We drove a 2018 XLE AWD. It's the only All-Wheel-Drive minivan available in Canada. 


Where do I start? Well, how about the second I sat in the driver's seat: beautiful visibility, fully adjustable seat and mirror control. My biggest fear of not seeing out the back was put aside when I saw the very impressive rear view camera. Not only does it show the rear of the vehicle, but it also articulates a bird's eye view shot (Limited AWD), so you can gauge where you are in relation to objects around you. It makes reversing and rear parking so much easier. There's also a camera in the front grill of the van so you can perfect all parking jobs. 

Let's talk blind spots and changing lanes -- the 2018 Sienna offers additional security of Toyota Safety Sense. ALL models are equipped with Lane Departure Alert with Steering Assist (it'll drift you back into the lane if you cross over the line without signalling!), Dynamic Radar Cruise Control, and Automatic High Beams. All models come standard with 8 airbags, and LE and XLE models also offer Blind Spot Monitor and a Rear Cross Traffic Alert (when you're reversing and another car drives by, the vehicle will beep). These added safety features not only impressed me but also made me feel much safer about driving with my kids.


But of course, one of the main reasons people move over to the minivan is storage. With 7 and 8 seater options, there is tons of room in the Sienna. The second row has just as much legroom as the driver and passenger, and even those sitting in the back row will have enough room to stretch out. The large sunken trunk is impressively large. My only wish is it had a trunk cover, but if you're looking for space to stow groceries, equipment, hockey bags, etc, you'll find more than enough room. We even used the back row for overflow storage and still had a very comfortable ride. 

(Photos Above: 1) That's 8 large garbage bags full of purses to donate to a local charity. 80 purses and the trunk is still half full. 2) The true storage test is a trip to Costco. Got all my groceries and even hanging baskets. 3) A Stella and Dot show, and I didn't have to disassemble my clothes rack.)


And some of the biggest selling points -- the bells and whistles. The add-ons to the Toyota Sienna definitely sell themselves and make life easier for a parent. Double sliding automatic doors, automatic trunk release, Dual Power Moonroof, premium leather seats, and Three-Zone Temperature Control, so everyone is comfortable. My kids LOVED the Dual-View Entertainment System featuring a widescreen display so you can watch a movie or even play a game in ultra-wide screen mode. You can even split the screen so two people can watch different things at the same time. 

Oh, and here's the best part -- two sets of wireless headphones, so parents don't have to hear what the kids are watching! And the best, best part? A silent ride with no fighting! If that's not a bonus, I don't know what is!
What else can I say? This is one fancy mini-van. And it's definitely a modern one at that. For the mom on the go, there's SMS-to-speech, email-to-speech, and advanced voice recognition. Entune 3.0 Audio is standard on all 2018 Sienna models, which includes cell-based Navigation. And the Driver Easy Speak is pretty cool, too. No more shouting to the people the back row -- with a built-in mic up front, you can convey messages to the back through speakers, with the touch of a button. The XLE models feature a Premium Audio package and even more sophisticated navigation technology, and you can certainly visit the website for all those impressive specs.


With a 3.5L V6 engine, the Sienna is designed for low weight and noise. It is a VERY smooth drive, and believe me, you do not feel like you're driving a bus. In terms of gas consumption, the ECO indicator, which is standard on all models, lets you know when you're being efficient with gas. In our week of use, we averaged 12L/100km, which is impressive for a vehicle of its size. 

There is so much more I can say about the Sienna, from the features to the stylish interior, the comfort and ease of driving. But it was the kids' reaction that topped the cake. We knew the monitor would be a hit, obviously, but I never realized how much they would love the automatic sliding doors, the ability to walk inside the vehicle, climb into their car seats easily, and transport friends and grandparents with us. When we returned the van, Isabelle asked me when we would be getting it back. Maybe sooner than you think, kid. 

Now, where should our first road trip be?

May 14, 2018

Ready for Another Season of Wonder?

Nearly 37 years ago, in the middle of farmer's fields and streets that would be unrecognizable today, a mountain was built in Vaughan. Vaughan wasn't even a city then, but Wonder Mountain may have put the community on the map. That beautiful mountain --and its surrounding area-- have evolved and changed over the years, but Canada's Wonderland has continued to be a focal point and tourist "must see".

Growing up in Vaughan, as soon as Victoria Day hit, it was time to get your season's pass. It was almost a given. It's safe to say we grew up at the park; we were so fortunate to have a world-class amusement park nearly in our backyard, and because my mom was a teacher, her summers off meant we had ample time to enjoy the amenities. As kids, we would spend entire days (from park opening to park close), riding the rides, catching the shows, and of course, eating a funnel cake. That, too, was most certainly a given.

As we got older, we continued the Season's Pass tradition, even though I refused to go on the thrill-seeking rides. We spent long, hot days at Splash Works, taking in the spectacles at Medieval Castle (at the time it was the only spot that had A/C!), and people watching on "the hill", which sadly, is no longer there.

Canada's Wonderland 2018 is much different than Canada's Wonderland 1988/89 (likely when those photos were taken). But it remains an amazing place to spend the summer. In fact, I still get the feels when I walk into the park and look out over the fountains to the Wonder Mountain.

We've been taking our girls to park since they were babies, fully immersing them into the culture of Canada's Wonderland. Some of the old school rides are still there, and there's always something new and exciting happening at the park, from rides, shows, festivals and events all summer long. With a season's pass, you get access to all these happenings, and lots of other perks, too. 

New to the park this year, a Canadiana tribute with two new rides -- Lumberjack and Flying Canoes. It's all set up in a quaint corner of the park (on the way to my fave ride -- White Water Canyon!). In this area, you can sit on a Muskoka chair, enjoy some Canadian craft and take in the rustic, woodsy atmosphere before heading off to the next zone. See, there's lots to do even if you DON'T do rides, like me.

Coming this weekend is Victoria Day (May 19-21), and as the unofficial start of summer, it's also a great time to be at the park. Of course, fireworks happen on Sunday, May 20 at 10 p.m. (weather permitting). The park also lights up the sky for Canada Day, Civic and Labour Day Holidays, as well. And Splash Works, as well as Splash Island, open the following week -- May 26!

What does this all mean?! It's time to get your season's pass, cause, prices go up May 21! 130 days of fun for $71.99 per person online, or 6 payments of $11.99, which, when it's put that way, is totally reasonable. Of course, when you're buying online, you can also add parking and dining plans to your pass for extra savings.

After a crazy long and cold winter, I'm ready for summer! And I can't wait to spend it with my family at Canada's Wonderland. 

Disclaimer: I am a 2018 WonderBlogger and receive perks as part of this affiliation. As always, the opinions on my blog are my own.

May 09, 2018

Roll Out the Red Carpet

Now in it's 6th year, the Vaughan International Film Festival rolls out the red carpet starting May 14!

What's this about a film fest in Vaughan?!

It's true. And it's an International one at that. Filmmakers from around the world submit their short films to be screened at the VFF, and the week is capped with an impressive Awards Ceremony on Thursday, May 17. It's like the Oscars, but in Vaughan. The Vauscars. (It's not called that, by the way)

Screenings take place on Monday, May 14 and Wednesday, May 16 at Cineplex Vaughan and tickets are still available. Also part of the festival is a speciality industry night featuring pros from the field, also held at Cineplex (on Tuesday, May 16). This year's theme is Sound Design.

Simply Suppa and Suppa Media (yes, there's a Suppa Media! More on that later) is a proud media sponsor of the VFF. Check out the video for more details, and hey, hit Subscribe while you're there!

See you on the red carpet!

May 07, 2018

Need Help Finding a Gift for Mom? Here's Some Inspiration From Lee Valley

With Mother's Day less than a week away, some people are probably struggling to find ideas for a great gift for mom. The ultimate gift, if you ask me, is to sleep in, have breakfast or coffee in bed and then just lounge in my pjs and spend time with my family. But I appreciate the sentiment of wanting to buy your mom (or the mom in your life) a present to recognize her. 

As you know, we do a DIY gift from the kids each year and we're working on one for this year, too. Still top secret :) For my mom, though, my sister and I usually take my mom's interests and find a gift from there -- whether it's a girls day out, a beautiful plant or flowers for her garden, a catch my drift. 

Moms don't need extravagant presents, but taking the time to notice her likes and interests goes a really long way.

This year, I took a trip to Lee Valley for some inspiration in finding a perfect gift for mom. Honestly, if you need inspiration for just about anything, go to Lee Valley. In addition to outdoors and gardening equipment, books, knick-knacks, tools and decor items, you'll also find a vast assortment of kitchen gadgets, baking supplies, woodworking items, crafting, nutrition and novelty items for just about everyone (kids included). 

I came up with just a few ideas I would love, and I'm sure others would, too.

This is the Cadillac of watering cans. Whether mom is a gardener or not, everyone needs a watering can, inside or out. This HAWS slim watering can makes watering easy and balanced. And it doesn't even need to be wrapped up, because it's simply gorgeous. It comes in a few colours. Add a bow, or a little plant, like I did, and present to mom. Tres impressive.

Seeding Square, $34 CAN.

This is a great gift for the mom who DOES like to garden, or the mom with little kids who may want to help. This seeding square makes growing fruits and veggies from seed easier, with colour-coded holes that are pre-measured for accurate rows. 

Add some of your favourite seeds and you've got an activity mom can try solo, or with the fam. The seeding square is a template and can be reused time and time again. I'm looking forward to seeding with the girls this weekend. 

The NutraTrack Mini Kitchen Scale is perfect for the mom who is active, health conscious, or just curious to learn more about the foods shes taking in. It takes the guesswork out of calorie counting and tracking, with dozens of pre-programmed foods in the memory and 999 others that can be added by entering nutritional information from the food package. Simply place your food on top of the scale, enter the code and reveal the weight, calories, carbohydrates, salt, fibre, fat, etc.

The scale is small and easy to store, about the size of a tablet, and it can be wiped down. Pre-weigh or measure your portions to ensure you're consuming just what your body needs and wants.

Gifts for mom don't have to be complicated or expensive. Try to find inspiration in everyday life. And when it doubt, spending time, a big hug and an "I love you" is priceless.

Happy Mother's Day!

May 02, 2018

Easy Mother's Day DIY

Mother's Day is around the corner, and every year, the girls and I ambitiously make gifts for my mom, mother-in-law and grandmother. It's become a simple tradition that is always appreciated and really shows the growth of the kids over the years. We've done photos, handprints, footprints, garden stones, potted herbs, picture frames; I'm always on the hunt for an impressive DIY.

Last year, if I do say so, we knocked it out of the park with customized dish towels.

This DIY doesn't take a lot of time, isn't messy and can even be done as a last-minute gift. 

Here's what you'll need:

- plain white cotton dishtowels (You can also use bar rags)
- iron-on heat transfer paper that will work with a colour printer (available at craft stores)
- scanner or free scanner app on your phone (I use Tiny Scanner)
- markers and paper
- iron

To start this craft, ask your kids to draw a picture on plain white paper with colourful markers. Their job is done! If you're making more than one dishtowel, each one gets its own image. Then, scan your picture and flip it so it's a mirror image. You can do this on your phone or with a scanner. Print the scanned image directly onto heat transfer paper.
Trim around the heat transfer so there isn't too much transfer paper showing that isn't marked up. Place it onto the dishtowel, properly oriented and face up, and slowly and carefully run the iron along the image. Do not steam. Also, make sure you've protected the surface underneath.

Start to lift and peel away the transfer paper. Depending on the style you purchase you may have to allow the ironed image to cool before lifting, others allow you to lift while it's warm. Confirm the procedure on the back of the box.

Your finished dishtowels are revealed. Tie with twine or ribbon and present to Mom or Nonna this Mother's Day!

April 22, 2018

Shoes Kids and Parents Love

When I learn about something really cool, I tell people. It's actually one of the reasons I started this blog -- to share what I discover with others. A few months ago, I met the husband and wife duo behind Shoe Fairy, an online shoe boutique offering exquisite shoes for kids from two brands you cannot find in Canada. The couple is from Toronto, and the shoes are imported; Bibi shoes from Brazil and Pablosky shoes from Spain. These brands are highly regarded in the shoe world. The Shoe Fairy is the exclusive Canadian retailer.

Most people know I love footwear. It's a bit of an obsession, actually. These days, I've cooled my own shoe shopping (slightly) but have channelled it into the kids -- kids' shoes are much cuter, too. The thing is: you can always tell the difference between a really well-made, supportive shoe, and the alternative. The same is true in adult shoes. You get what you pay for, and unfortunately, when you wear bad shoes, you can do some significant damage to other parts of your body. 

Let me say, I'm totally impressed by the selection and quality of the Bibi and Pablosky shoes available on Shoe Fairy. Each brand offers their unique patented technology to help a child's foot development. The shoes offer breathable, flexible insoles, heat absorption technologies, and support through the foot.


And when you hold the shoes, you can tell. They are supportive, sturdy shoes with detailed stitching and closures. Even the sandals have substantial insoles that cushion the foot. 

Shoe Fairy is an online boutique, but they do offer returns and exchanges, as well as flat rate shipping of $5.00/item. Plus, if you follow the instructions on how to measure your child's foot (available on their website), ordering is pretty simple. They also offer an In-Home Fitment service. 

And the best part -- my girls love the shoes, too. The styles are out of this world, unique and appealing. There are literally hundreds of options online and when I opened the boxes that were shipped to us, my girls swooned. These are shoes they want to wear, and I'm happy because not only do they look great, they are comfortable and supportive, too. Win-win.

If you want to see the shoes and try them on in person, The Shoe Fairy will be at The BabyTime Show at the International Centre in Mississauga from April 27-29, Booth #256. But I have two free tickets to get in!

To win, enter the Rafflecopter below!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Good Luck and Happy Shopping!

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