Monday, 23 December 2013

10 Ways to Celebrate Your Family This Christmas

Sure, Christmas is about drinking Starbucks peppermint mochas, trimming the tree and opening presents. But the most important part of the season is spending time with people you love- chosen family or blood relatives. Cheesy, but true! Here are 10 ways to show your family you care:

1 Take your time and write a thoughtful, heartfelt message in each loved one's card. They will cherish that more than any store-bought gift, no matter how sought-after, sparkly or expensive.
2 Bake some cookies or a casserole and take it to your relatives' house.
3 Sing Christmas carols together.
4 Sit around and look at old family photo albums or watch home movies. Reminisce.
5 Take your guy to the movies and let him choose what you'll see. Don't roll your eyes if it's 90 minutes of ass-kicking, gun-wielding and ridiculous special effects. Even if you really, really want to.
6 Organize a movie night for the guys, complete with beer, snacks and action flicks.
7 For the ladies, a swap party or an at-home spa day.
8 Gather the fam around the TV and watch your favourite Christmas movies. White Christmas and Elf are always popular choices in our family.
9 Regift party. Got a silly white elephant gift at work? Did Secret Santa bring you something you don't like, but your loved ones might? Gather the girls, anything you'd each like to regift, and some light refreshments.
10 After opening presents on Christmas morning, sit in a circle and take turns sharing your favourite shared memories from the past year.

How will you show your family you care, this Christmas?

Wednesday, 4 December 2013

You'll go wild for the Cleveland Zoo!

With a zoo this cool, there's no reason to stay inside-- even if it's cold out! Cleveland Metroparks Zoo is home to 3,000 exotic animals representing 600 species from 6 continents. On our first visit, we were barely able to see half of them!

With so much to see and do, it's lucky the zoo is such an affordable excursion; only $8.25 for adults and $5.25 for kids in the winter (add $4 in the summer). Visiting at this time of year means you save money, you're likely to beat the crowds, and you can catch events like Breakfast with Santa and Noon Year's Eve.

Learn more about the zoo here & check out the snapshots Becca took on our last visit to the Cleveland zoo:

What's your favourite animal?

Friday, 29 November 2013

This weekend, why don't you...

get matching holiday pjs with your mom/daughter/bestie?

or matching manis, if that's more your style? These ones are cute: gingerbread men, jewel tones, red and white stripes.

catch up on homework? Or... on Netflix.

enter this giveaway for a Stila Lip Gloss Trio (over at Pretty Thrifty)?

make fun bracelets on the Rainbow Loom your 8-year-old cousin got for Hannukah. (I won't tell!).

take advantage of online Black Friday deals.

make some yummy twice-baked potatoes or an apple crumble pie?

Have a wonderful weekend, whatever you do!


Sunday, 10 November 2013

Mad for Plaid

It's cozy, gender-neutral, and it never goes out of style! We're mad for plaid, because it's the perfect pattern for winter. Whether it's a warm coat, fun accessories or funky home decor, plaid adds lots of pizzazz!

Mad for Plaid

Mad for Plaid: Accessories

Mad for Plaid: Outerwear

Mad for Plaid: Decor

What's your favourite way to wear plaid?

Shopping info here. All images by Rebecca Esther on Polyvore.

Wednesday, 25 September 2013

Word on the Street 2013

This past weekend we had the pleasure of attending Word on the Street, an outdoor, one-day-only event celebrating literacy and the written word. WOTS is held annually in Toronto and four other Canadian cities.

More than a book fair, Word on the Street is an opportunity to be surrounded by Canadians who love to read, to get together with fellow readers, writers and teachers, and to discover great new (or new to you) books and magazines. Word on the Street is the largest festival of its kind-- and it's free!
Lin has attended WOTS since 2 years after its inception (which was in 1990), and I've tagged along since I could walk. It's one of our favourite events, and one every reader should attend at least once.

Thursday, 19 September 2013

Happy Birthday, Lin!

Last weekend I celebrated my birthday in Niagara Falls, Ontario with Becca, and my beau, David, who resides in the USA.

I love the falls in part because each time the experience feels similar to visiting Disney World; a paradise for both adults and children, that lends itself to the wonderment of incredible things to see and do.

To say that the falls aren't extraordinary is like saying that Michelangelo did not create something of magnificence with the Sistine Chapel.

“No offense”, I said to my guy, “but to experience the wonder of the Canadian Falls is something that cannot compare to the American side, pretty as it is”.

We were all excited to see the falls from the many different vantage points. To hear the thunderous roar of the water, to see the excitement on the faces of young and old was a reminder that no matter your age, the colour of your skin, the language you speak, the splendour of the falls unites one and all.

Couples like my beau and I strolled hand in hand, taking in the romantic nature of our surroundings. 

Families, sharing the contagious excitement with their children and grandchildren was a marvel to bear witness too.

Becca was clearly enjoying herself judging by the hundreds of pictures she was taking (showcased in the collage above). Everything from snaps of the falls, to the birds perching on large rocks awaiting their moment of fame.

The greatest thing about the falls is that visiting them gets old. As many times as you see them, you are still drawn in by their awe- inspiring beauty.

On a beautiful sunny day September 15, 2013 that is exactly what happened.

Monday, 26 August 2013

Back To School Must-Haves

Back to School Wearables

To Wear

Comfy shoes. You can't go wrong with a classic brand, like Converse or Dr. Scholls. Or try Payless' sneakers or flats-- they're surprisingly durable and comfortable, plus you can likely afford to buy a few pairs.

Schoolbag. A backpack is the go-to back to school bag, and with good reason, but there are other options too. If you seek a more stylish (but still functional) alternative, consider a messenger bag or a sturdy tote.

Outerwear. When school begins, there's already a slight chill in the air. Stay warm with a cozy cardigan or fun hoodie. These can be layered under a coat, come winter.

A scarf. It's light, it dresses up an outfit and, like outerwear, can be worn into winter.

Accessories. Arguably the best part of going to school is the opportunity to express yourself. Put cool buttons on your back pack, rock a sparkly bracelet or wear funky socks.
Back to School School Supplies

In Your Schoolbag

Notebook. Stock up on these at the dollar store. You can personalize plain ones with stickers, snapshots or washi tape.

Writing utensils. We love Bic round stic pens and Crayola crayons.

Pencils & pencil sharpener. No one wants to be that kid at the back of the room, using the teacher's obnoxiously loud sharpener. The horror! Bring your own!

Hole punch & 3 ring binders filled with lined and/or graph paper and dividers.

Post-its. For to do lists and quick notes to self.


Agenda. Stay organized and up to date.

Lunchbag & water bottle. Can't concentrate on an empty stomach, or if you're dehydrated.

Your turn: What do you consider your #1 back to school must-have?

Sunday, 11 August 2013

When Your Little Angel Bites

You need to know first and foremost this is a normal part of child development. But is this behaviour, though typical, okay?

Absolutely not. So how do you deal with it in a positive manner without damaging Junior’s psyche?

As a parents, we all too often can't help but turn a blind eye. When you do finally accept that you have a little tyrant on your hands, it is time to be proactive. Look for a pattern.

You need to become a detective and look for signs that your child is giving off: Is he tired, is he hungry or is he stressed about something at school or at home? Has his world changed? Take a close look at your family circle first. Any changes on the home front? Did Mom/Dad lose or start a new job? Is there a new sibling? Anything happening with his friends?

Finally, take a look at Junior’s demeanour before school and after school. Talk to the teacher. Is there something going on at school? Is one of your child’s regular teachers on holiday? Did a new child just start in your child’s class? Oftentimes at school, it is during transition time that these behaviours occur.

Noticing what triggers your child's unwanted behaviour is the first step to changing it.

Next, speak to your child’s teacher to discuss strategies that you can utilize at school and in the home. Suggest that she discuss biting during circle time, and offer her a copy of this book. When you are working in concert with one another, the end result will be a satisfactory one.

Some strategies to use with your child:

Talk to your child. Ask why he is biting. How was he feeling when he bit? Does he know that teeth are for chewing food, not biting our friends?

Is this a sensory issue? If so, give your child a 'biting toy'-- a chewable toy made of safe, non-toxic material.

And what not to do: Don't bite your child. Some parents believe in biting the biter, so they 'know what it feels like'. This won't teach your child not to bite; it will teach him that it's okay for big people to hurt little people. Similarly, don't advise your child to deal with a classmate who bites him by biting back. This reinforces negative behaviour, teaching him that physical violence is an acceptable way to manage conflict.

Has your child ever been a 'biter'? How did you curb his biting habit?

Wednesday, 7 August 2013

Cool Jewelry for Hot Summer Style

Now that August is upon us, it's the perfect time to find jewelery that's both on trend now and perfect for Autumn outfits. Check out these 3 great styles:

Gotta Have Faith

Cross 'stylish jewelry' off your fashion checklist, because you've found it! Wear your faith on your sleeve (or around your neck).
Gotta Have Faith

Make a Statement

Statement necklaces are all the rage this summer, and you can wear them into fall!
Make a Statement

Crazy Stylish

Choose a piece that's oversized and a little bit out there, and you're sure to leave a lasting impression.
Crazy Stylish

Tuesday, 16 July 2013

The Sky Is Not The Limit

From the time I was a little girl, I was fascinated by airplanes. My only exposure however, was to the 4-seater kind.

Many years later, my passion was reignited when I went on a trip to Mexico. The sound of the engines, the pilot asking the crew to take their seats, and by far the most exhilerating feeling of the plane speeding up just before it takes to the skies.

Imagine for a moment how thrilling it was for me to discover that there are people like me who enjoy watching planes take off and land! We are known as "plane spotters".

Temperate summer nights, I enjoy settling in at my favourite place to plane spot near Toronto's Pearson International Airport. I find the perfect grassy area, lay my blanket down, beverage and snacks at my side, and look upwards to the sky with my binoculars.

Fortunately, Becca indulges me and accompanies me on my trek in search of the biggest, loudest airplane. "Quick, Becca. I hear it! It's HUGE, and so low!". The satisfying sound of the camera clicking away.

Whenever time and money allow, my preferred mode of travel is by air.

Last year Becca and I had to go to New York. We chose to fly Porter on the way home, but little did I know we wouldn't be on a jumbo jet-- merely a tiny turbo-prop.

"Um, Becca, our plane has propellers". I choked on the words. "Oh my God. Count the seats. Do something!".

"Mommy, calm down. Breathe. Look at me. Breathe".

"Okay. Breathing," I said as I searched for the info sheet in the seat pocket before me. "Seating capacity: 70".

Positive self-talk continued. "Lin, you've been on a 4-seater; this is a jumbo jet comparatively speaking". With this thought, I'm finally calm. Before I know it, we're taking off down the runway and upwards to the sky we go.

Recently, Becca and I were in Cleveland. While there, we had the privilege to visit the International Women's Air and Space Museum-- an empowering experience that every woman or girl should have. [Check out the photos below, and be sure to visit next time you're in Ohio-- admission is free!].

From Amelia Earhart to the daring women who've flown to the moon; brilliant ladies ahead of their time, who knew then what has taken many of us years to appreciate: that we have the power and capability to achieve anything we want. We are merely limited by our dreams. The sky is not the limit anymore.

Monday, 1 July 2013

3 Fun and Affordable Summer Camp Alternatives

Whether money is tight or your children simply don't like camp (my daughter was one of them!), there are quite a few fun and cost-effective alternatives to summer camp:

1 Weekly Classes or Workshops: Instead of a full day of camp every day, sign your child up for a few weekly workshops at the local library or community centre. These could include: improv classes, dance classes, or sports teams.

2 Join a daily parent and tot program: During the summer before my daughter started kindergarten, she and I attended a local program, and it was great. It helped her socialize and learn how to play with other kids, and we got to spend time together.

3 Freedom!! aka Rebecca's Dream Camp: If your child is older, you might consider giving her a daily 'allowance' (the same or less than a day at camp would cost), a list of mutually agreed-upon activities and a check-in time. Then, let her create her own fun. Activities you might choose include: a day at the library, brunch with friends, a movie marathon. Any money left at the end of the day can either go toward the next day (some days may cost more than others) or can be split between your child's savings account and pocket money.

Tuesday, 25 June 2013

Fab Summer Frocks Under $75

A dress is the perfect go-to summer look, no matter your style, size or budget. Here, we round up some fab frocks under $75 apiece.
Summer Dresses

Summer Dresses 2

Find shopping info & image sources here and here.

Which dress is your favourite? What accessories would you wear it with?

Saturday, 22 June 2013

6 Frugal Ways To Celebrate Canada Day

Celebrating Canada's birthday doesn't have to be costly. With a little research and a dash of creativity, having a fun-filled July 1st is easy as pie butter tarts.

1 City Halls across the country offer free events such as concerts, carnivals and fireworks shows. 

2 Dress up in red and white. Accessorize with maple leaves, a hockey jersey and a Canadian flag.

3 Round up family and friends, head to the park and have a picnic. Bring your favourite Canadian snacks, such as sugar pie, locally grown berries and Nanaimo bars.

4 Go to Canada's Capital and experience the nation's biggest Canada Day celebration with Canadians from across the county.

5 Visit a museum or attraction. Many offer free admission on Canada Day, but be sure to check their website first, to avoid disappointment.

6 Get outside and appreciate the great Canadian wilderness. Camp, hike, swim or boat. Provincial parks are excellent and affordable places to spend a day or a weekend.

What are your plans for July 1st? Tell us in the comments below!

Thursday, 30 May 2013

May Wishlist

Becca's May Wishlist

Shorts-- the perfect way to stay cool and show off my gams! - Classic black cat eye sunglasses - Canvas sneakers in bright colours. Comfy! - An iPad case - a gigantic hairbow (you can never have too many!) - This dress - Will Arnett (just kidding).

Lin's May Wishlist

Todd Parr books. They're colourful and promote great values. And they are always happy! - I collect journals with inspiring quotes on them. I'd love another! - A Danier bag. They're multi-functional, stylish and durable. - A 7-year pen from Seltzer Goods. Environmentally friendly and pretty. - An iPad mini (with a cute case)-- perfect for work and fun!
What's on your wishlist?

Want us to consider your product for next month's wishlist? We're open to PR opportunities! Contact Rebecca. Full disclosure: none of the above products were gifted to us and we are not affiliated with any of the companies whose products are featured in this post.

Wednesday, 22 May 2013

10+ Things We Love About New York City

It's been only a month since our last trip to New York City, and we already can't wait until the next time we get to visit the Big Apple. To whet your appetite for travel, here's a list of 10 things we love about New York, New York:

1 A change of scenery. Even if you're accustomed to big city life, New York is a breath of fresh air. There's nowhere like New York anywhere.

2 Vendors, vendors, everywhere! On most any street in Manhattan, you'll find tables laden with goods from sunglasses to books to clothes, and hot dog or pretzel carts on many a street corner.

3 The Statue of Liberty, easily viewable via the free Staten Island ferry, is a beacon of hope, an historical landmark and a New York icon. She's larger than life, and the moment you see her up close and personal is absolute magic.

4 It's easily accessible by plane, train or automobile. No matter how you choose to travel, it's easy (and often affordable) to get to NYC. Travelling from Toronto like we did? Consider an overnight Greyhound bus or a flight via Porter Airlines to EWR (Newark Airport).

5 The people. Sure, they're always in a rush, but they're happy to help you lug your suitcase down the metro steps or offer advice about the best slice of pizza in town. Plus, the hustle and bustle of city life is invigorating!

6 The boroughs (Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx & Staten Island). Each offers its own unique flavour, yet is distinctly New York.

7 The food. From $2 pretzels to world-class fine dining, authentic ethnic foods to "all-American" grub, if it exists, you can eat it here.

8 It's multicultural. More than any other American city. This makes NYC inviting for people from any background, because you'll feel at home, and be exposed to other cultures.

9 New York City is pedestrian-friendly. No need to drive around the city (in fact, you're better off walking and taking the bus or metro). Public transit is affordable, subway stations are easy to find, and with a bit of practice, it's easy to find your way around Manhattan's grid-like layout.

10 Shopping. There's something for everyone, including thrift stores, the biggest Macy's in the world, unique boutiques and shops carrying locally made goods.

Honourable mentions: the burlesque scene; amazing movies, books and Broadway shows take place in NYC; LGBT-friendly; kid-friendly.

What do you love best about NYC?

Monday, 20 May 2013

How To Save Money On Clothes (even if you love shopping!)

Balancing a frugal lifestyle and a passion for fashion can be hard. How do you choose between saving money and splurging on the latest trends? This is something we've struggled with, but we do have quite a few tricks up our (very stylish) sleeves:
Only buy what you need. When money is tight, paying down debt and purchasing necessities has to be your priority. Only buy the shoes you need, and skip the cute top you want-- at least for now.

Splurge occasionally. We look at saving money the same way we look at healthy eating: If you only eat junk food, you won't appreciate how yummy it is. If you only eat salads, you'll crave junk food, and binge on it eventually. Similarly, if you never splurge on clothes, eventually you'll max out your credit card on one shopping trip. The lesson? Treat yourself (occasionally) remember: everything in moderation, including moderation!

Look for deals. Try sites like RetailMeNot for online discount codes, sign up for your favourite stores' newsletters (they often include coupons) and shop around for the best bargains. Also hit up stores like Winners (in Canada) or TJ Maxx (in the States) for lower prices on name brands-- and don't overlook the sales rack.

Share with friends or family. If someone you love (and whose style you love) wears the same size as you, consider sharing some of your favourite pieces. We do this sometimes, and it works great!

Have a swap party. Each kick in a couple dollars for pizza and a few bottles of wine (or non-alcoholic beverages), and bring clothes that you don't wear, but are in good condition. Have fun, and leave with a brand new wardrobe! 

Try thrifting. You never know what treasures you'll find at Value Village or Good Will. We've found vintage slips, cute purses and fun t-shirts.

Order online. Use coupon codes, keep up with sales and pay attention to return policies. Also consider leaving potential purchases in your cart for a day or two. That will give you time to ponder whether you really want that gold lame skirt, plus sites like Amazon sometimes offer small discounts to entice you to buy whatever is in your cart.

Your turn: How do you save money on clothes?

Sunday, 12 May 2013

Mars On Earth: Visit the Cheltenham Badlands

It's hard to believe somewhere like this exists so close to the city.

Appealing to both kids and adults, a visit to the Cheltenham Badlands is an experience like no other. The Badlands are located in Caledon, Ontario (near Toronto, north of Brampton) and are easily accessible from a parking lot near Olde Baseline Road, off Highway 10.

Because of the Badlands' topography, they have been featured in various films as a substitute for Mars. A TripAdvisor user adequately describes it: "it feels like you're on another planet". There's nowhere else like this in Ontario-- badlands are usually found in Alberta or South Dakota. The area, composed of Queenston shale, is soft and easily eroded, giving the Badlands their signature look.

The Badlands are a beautiful rust red, like a terracotta pot, with faint green streaks, due to iron oxide deposits. A fragile environment, The Bruce Trail Conservancy who manages the area is concerned that the delicate badlands may become damaged. Visit while you can!

Image Source

Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Magnificent Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Mother's Day is this month! Instead of a generic card and flowers, why not do something different for your mom's special day? It only takes a little extra effort to get creative, and she'll be thrilled with the result! Ideas:

Get creative. // If you're crafty, make your own card, cook her dinner from scratch or tackle a DIY project from Pinterest. She'll appreciate your time and effort, not to mention cherish the gift itself! 

Mother's Day Gift Ideas 2

It's the thought that counts! // If you're the type who remembers little details about the one she loves-- Mom's favourite movies on DVD, the cookies she can't resist, the bath products she's obsessed with-- purchase a few of her favourite things, fill a pretty basket with them, and wrap it with ribbon and tissue paper.

How about... Her go-to lip balm | Gourmet cookies | Scented candles | A Starbucks card and bottled drink | A bath pouf and shower gel | Fuzzy socks | Movies on DVD | Her fave magazines (this month's issue, plus a subscription) |

Mother's Day Gift Ideas

Something she'd never buy herself. // What has your mom always wanted, but never splurged on herself? It doesn't necessarily have to be expensive or luxurious (but if you can afford it, go for it!). Godiva chocolates? A trip to Paris? A massage? A bath fizzies, bottle of wine, and a day to herself? 

She'd love this! | A box of truffles | Fuzzy slippers and robe | Products from Lush | Body butter from The Body Shop | A bottle of wine | A weekend getaway with her lovely daughter! |

For more Mother's Day ideas, try here and here.

Voila! You are the best daughter ever!

Friday, 19 April 2013

How To: Set Up Your Home Office

They key to setting up your home office? Make it functional, and add personal touches that make you smile. After all, the more you want to spend time in your office, the more work you'll get done!

Pick furniture that's practical and stylish:
Office Furniture

Comfy chair - Sturdy desk and office chair - Lamps for extra lighting

Office Organization

Shelves for storage - Bulletin board - Book cases - Storage boxes - Cord organizer (not pictured) - Magazine holders - Document sorter

Add your own personal touches:
Office Personal Touches

Wall decals - Fun file folders - Cute push pins - Scented candles - Inspiring art - A desk set - Pretty pens - A bejewelled calculator - Snapshots of your favourite people and places

Extra Tips:

-To make furnishing your office affordable, mix high and low end, try thrift stores, curb sides and flea markets, and don't forget Ikea!
-Test drive your furniture before you buy it. Pretty doesn't necessarily equal practical.
-Invest the bulk of your budget in sturdy and comfortable furniture; you can stretch your dollar when it comes to decorating. Pick up odds and ends at the dollar store (we've gotten cute stationary, trash bins, picture frames and more!), find one of a kind items at Value Village, and try DIY.

For more ideas, check out Becca's Office Inspiration Pinterest board.