Tuesday, July 28

Tom Cruise at the Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation Premiere in Toronto

Last night I was excited to attend the premiere of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (the fifth MI installment) at the Scotiabank Cineplex Theatre in Toronto.

Even better: Tom Cruise and director Chris McQuarrie were there, and did Q & A after the movie! (Yes, I know there are Cruise naysayers out there, but Scientology isn't contagious and doesn't seem to affect his ability to make great movies. I thought it was pretty cool to be in the same - very large - room with him.)

As for the film itself, I'm not an action fan, per se, but it was a great movie, with enough humour to make it more than just a car chase/motorcycle chase/underwater-danger picture, and the international locales added interest for me, too.

Thanks to my wonderful stalker long lens camera, I got a few good shots of Tom, Chris and ET Canada's Rick Campanelli, who did a great job moderating the Q & A.

Rick gets ready

Tom arrives on stage

Tom and MI director Chris McQuarrie

The overall takeaway from the Q & A (which was streamed to several other Canadian Scotiabank Cineplex locations) was that Tom is a workaholic, does his own stunts, and starts thinking about the next project when the current one has only begun. They kept the focus firmly on this film (when asked their favourite MI villain, Tom and Chris agreed it's the one from Rogue Nation). Tom did share a few stories, one being that the first time he broke his leg was when he was a child living in Ottawa for a short period of time. Of course he was already attempting stunts, and was flipping off the roof into a snowbank. One flip wasn't enough, so he pushed himself to flip twice...with painful results.

Souvenir poster and lanyards

If you're an action fan - or a fan of any of the cast members (shown below; I particularly like Jeremy Renner) - you should definitely see the movie. Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation is in theatres Friday, July 31st.

Monday, July 27

Scott McGillivray Launches Digital Series "Good To Grow" on YouTube

Scott McGillivray, real estate and renovation expert and the host of the top-rated HGTV show, Income Property, has launched his first digital series, "Good to Grow," on YouTube. "Good to Grow"​is a 1​6​ episode series that ​follows​ McGillivray as he and his family prepare​, plant, and harvest their fourth-annual organic vegetable garden. McGillivray and his wife Sabrina ​share their passion for gardening as ​they try to make healthy food and healthy eating exciting to their young daughters, Layla (1) and Myah (3)​.

Each episode follows the growth of the family's seasonal garden​, reveals Scott’s tips and tricks for the perfect crop​, and offers some delicious treats from each harvest. New episodes premiere on Wednesdays (the first 5 episodes are already available), with a corresponding food prep episode released the next day (each Thursday) right through the first week of October.

I'm also excited to announce that I'm going to be chatting with Scott soon for Parents Canada magazine, so stay tuned for that!

"Good to Grow" can be viewed on Scott's YouTube Page at

Saturday, July 25

Help Me Out, Win a $25 Tim Hortons Gift Card!

Hello, lovely reader! Yes, I'm talking to you!

I'm working on an exciting new project (more details to come) and I need some reader input - in fact, as much as possible - from Canadian parents of school-aged children.

If you fit the bill and you would be so kind as to answer the questions below about school lunches and snacks, you will be entered to win a $25 Tim Hortons gift card. I'll make the draw on Sunday, August 9th 2015 at 11:59 pm EST (though you're still welcome to respond to the survey after that date).

You do NOT need to answer every question, so if you want to leave something blank, feel free.

If you wish to be entered into the draw, you'll need to leave your email address at the end of the survey. While your responses to the questions MAY be printed in the future, they will be used anonymously (I will never connect them to your email address, if provided).

Thank you so much in advance for your time. I can't wait to tell you more about what I'm working on!

Monday, July 20

My Stay-Slim Secrets! (Don't judge a post by its title)

Come on, admit it. You're not interested in my fun family travel stories. You haven't visited for any of my educational expertise. My celebrity interviews? Meh. I can appear on national television and you don't bother to click. But: WEIGHT LOSS! Now you're here.

I know one actress who laments the fact that no matter what project she's working on or what charity she's supporting, every time she's interviewed there's always a question about how she lost the weight (years ago). The worst part is, the answer isn't buried within the story, but is always the headline.

A current campaign is calling us to fight back against "dietainment", but is it the media we're battling? Do they have it all wrong? Publications and programs cater to their audience (and the spending power of said audience). Articles about diets and weight loss sell, because someone is buying them. It's not me (I swear), not for that reason anyway, because other than post-pregnancy, weight loss has never been my goal. However, promise me secrets to clear, youthful skin, blinding white teeth or minimized varicose veins and I'll pick up your magazine or tune into your network. We all have our "thing", and for millions of women it's weight.

I almost feel like I'm not allowed to weigh in (pun intended) on this issue, because someone could easily say I don't understand (I see some women - and men - work so hard to maintain a healthy weight, and it doesn't seem fair that it is easier for some than others), but I do know that I am allowed to look out for my girls, who are bombarded with these messages no matter how hard I try to protect them.

I never put down my appearance in front of my daughters or mention anything negative about my weight. Nor do I bring up the physical insecurities that truly do nag at me - you know, the grey hairs that pop up, the age spot that has appeared overnight on my right cheekbone. I keep my inner voice firmly contained.

As my readers already know, I'm a talk-show junkie, and the girls enjoy watching some of the segments with me (fashion for my older daughter, cooking for my younger) and sometimes they're playing or hanging out within earshot of other types of TV conversations. Frankly, I care less if they overhear comments about sex than I do weight, which means I'm frantically pushing the "mute" button quite a bit, though it's impossible to catch everything.

Now, since I lured you in with a misleading headline, I feel the need to share something helpful. But honestly, I think the fact that I am thin is due more to genetic luck than anything else. I must have a pretty brisk metabolism, which could easily give out on me at any time. Therefore, I don't have any "stay-slim secrets" to share with you, despite the experimental title of this blog post.

But since you're here (and thanks for visiting!) I do have some health habits that I am proud to share and model for my girls:

1. I insist on eight hours of sleep a night.

2. I drink mainly water (fine, with a few Diet Cokes thrown in).

3. I don't smoke or do drugs, and never have. (I had one drag of a friend's cigarette when I was about 19. One was more than enough.)

4. I walk on the treadmill at least six days a week, for 30 minutes. (I have a treadmill desk, and the machine is pointed towards our television, so being productive and entertained provides motivation.)

5. I wear sunscreen.

6. I eat regular meals and snacks.*

*I'm a fan of grazing, but I certainly can't promote my diet, since (full disclosure, right?) it's high-carb, low-fruit-and-veg, lots of fast food/restaurants, and I eat what I want, when I want - in reasonable quantities. I've never been one to eat a bag of cookies or full carton of ice cream, but not a day has gone by in my adult life (barring illness) when I haven't had chocolate.

Is there anything here that can help you stay or get slimmer? Maybe, maybe not. Does it matter? We all want to look our best, and to stay strong and healthy, and there's nothing wrong with the reasonable pursuit of these goals. What is wrong is telling women - and children - that there is one ideal when it comes to beauty, and you either make the cut or you don't.

I don't mind my girls seeing headlines (pulled from some of my current Next Issue selections) like:

"Fitness Trackers"
"Fresh Healthy Meals"
"Your 15-min get-fit plan"

However, I think the messages sent by some of the following headlines require a bit of conversation (because I swear, there are little, healthy growing girls out there who think that THEY should be striving to reach these goals):

"Lose Weight Faster" 
"Lose Belly Fat Forever"

I experienced great joy last year when my then-5-year-old stepped on the scale and announced "I want to see what size my feet are!" I'm not worried about sex ed; this is the innocence I am desperate to cling on to.

Friday, July 17

Fun and Easy Summer Learning Ideas

In my latest post for Oxford Learning, I'm sharing some easy tips for holiday brain boosting - no textbooks or worksheets required!

The list includes reading (with a link to popular family read-alouds), writing, math and questioning.

Just because I'm a teacher, that doesn't mean my kids are overworked on holidays. I'm an admitted screen-lover myself, so the rules at my house aren't very strict, but the girls are are allowed to watch TV when they wake up, and again before bed, with nothing in between. They do get some iPad/iPod time throughout the day, though when they're using their devices for music I don't think it "counts" the same.

They spend the rest of the time swimming or hanging out in the yard, playing with their toys, reading (one more enthusiastically than the other), working at their little cold drinks booth or practicing music (singing/playing instruments). I'm not big on overstructuring my their time (weekly soccer, a set of swimming lessons and one week of drama camp is enough for us) or "entertaining" them, as I think it's good for kids to be independent and figure out what to do on their own when they're bored, but we do a lot of errands and chores together, and I can always find time for stories and cuddles.

Plus, there's one family trip planned for later this summer - I'll definitely keep you posted about that!

Wednesday, July 15

Help Your Kids "Measure" Up This Summer

...and by "measure" up, I mean help reinforce measurement skills this summer. It's so easy, and the kids won't even know they're doing math!

In my latest CHEX Daily segment (just days before my first anniversary as a guest on the show) I chat with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson about all of the ways we use measurement in our daily lives...all you need to do is bring the kids in on the conversation!

I'm at the 26:40 mark, and you can also find the link here: https://youtu.be/yEFI560c6AQ

A few additional points:

  • The biggest issue kids have reading non-digital thermometers is the scale. If the mercury goes one notch above the 20, they assume it's 21...even though the notches may be going up by 2s or even 5s. Remind them to figure out the scale before coming up with the temperature.
  • Many parents ask if it's okay for kids to start with digital watches and clocks. My personal/professional answer is...absolutely. It gives them a great introduction to what times "look" like, they see the pattern of minutes starting over after 59 and hours starting over after 12, they start to "read" times properly, and get a sense for what activities happen at what point in the day. (On a parenting note, digital clocks have earned me many extra zzzzzs. My girls were very young when I set them up and taught them that they could not leave their rooms in the morning until the time started with a "7"!) That said, it's still essential that they learn analog clock skills when the time is right.
  • Finally: when it comes to measurement, estimating is a very important skill that we work on a lot at school, and kids need to realize that it's OKAY if their estimates are incorrect...even by a long shot. They don't need to erase or backtrack on answers to prove themselves smart. Good mathematicians learn from their errors and use that information to do better next time. Never mind mathematicians, that principle applies to people in general.

Now for some fashion fun (note that the beautiful apple necklace and gold chain were given to me by a student at the end of the year):

If you can't see the photo, click on the Instagram caption to bring it up.

Thursday, July 9

My Girls Model Limeapple Active Girls' Apparel

When I told the girls they could each choose a dress from Limeapple, they were like kids in a candy store checking out the website. There was a lot of discussion (my older daughter made it quite clear that her sister could not choose the same dress she had chosen) but finally they made their picks.

Shipping was pretty quick, about a week (with a holiday thrown in there). When the package arrived, I laid the dresses out on their beds for them to find when they arrived home that day, and they squealed with delight! (Especially Frannie. I have a little fashionista on my hands with her.)

We waited a couple of days for the right occasion, and then got all dressed up for a family afternoon spent in beautiful Bobcaygeon, Ontario - starting with an impromptu photo shoot at home!

As you can see, Limeapple is big on colour and colour-blocking, which looks so great on kids. (I'm trying to branch out, but there's a LOT of black in my wardrobe!) The fabric is super-comfortable - no complaints about anything "feeling funny'.

Limeapple is described as "the premier lifestyle brand for young girls and preteens". Their clothing comes in sizes 12 months to 14, and based on the response at my house, it certainly appeals right through 9 years old at least. Their lines include active wear (lots of dance pieces), swimwear, casual clothing and even fancier looks for special events. 

Limeapple wants to empower girls to lead positive lifestyles...which (as I mentioned last time I wrote about them) is certainly a philosophy I can get on board with!

The girls actually received a couple of compliments on their dresses that afternoon from strangers, as we had a wonderful lunch at Just For the Halibut and did some shopping on the main street of Bobcaygeon (the Visa was well-used at Bigley's Shoes and Clothing).

I already had a chance to test out the washability of the clothing, as some of  the Kawartha Dairy Death by Chocolate ice cream happened to make its way onto both dresses. I did a quick pre-treatment spray just in case (I find, from extensive experience, that chocolate ice cream can be tricky to get out) and regular cold water wash worked very well.

Frannie also chose a sporty swimsuit from Limeapple (shown on a model below). I was impressed by the variety in swimwear, whether you're looking for one or two pieces (including long-sleeved), athletic or frilly.

More good news? Shipping is free to Canada and US for purchases over $25.

I knew the Limeapple dresses were a hit when one of the girls gave me a big hug and said, "Mommy, thanks for starting a blog!"

Disclosure: We were provided with the above items for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, our own.

Sunday, July 5

"Cold Drinks!" (All About My Entrepreneurial Daughters)

As much as they adore school, my girls have been talking about summer for months now, and one of the most exciting things for them has been the prospect of setting up a cold drinks booth for people driving by.

Right from the beginning, they knew they wanted to donate some proceeds to charity, but they weren't sure which charity or how much to donate.

One wanted to share with a children's hospital, one with the local hospital ("since we were born there and Grandpa died there") and then my brilliant grandmother suggested a compromise: they could give the money to the children's floor at the local hospital. Decision made.

The breakdown of profits was a different discussion. Should we allow them to keep some of the money they made? They didn't even care, but I actually thought it was important. Now let me be clear: we are not hard up for cash, and as parents we're not touching any of the girls' earnings ourselves. However, I really do think that from an early age it's beneficial for kids to learn to work for their money, and let's be honest: it's a motivating factor for adults as well. The fact that charity was foremost on their minds tells me that we've done something right, and we decided it would be fair if they kept half (really 25% each) and donated the other half of the profits. (They're not advertising any affiliation with the hospital, since not all of the money is going to them, and we didn't get any sort of official permission.)

On the weekend, we added the girls' drink selections (Coke, Diet Coke, ginger ale and water, to start), to the grocery list at a grand total of $15, which they promised to repay as soon as possible. Grandpa was enlisted to build them a couple of plywood signs they could place at the side of the road to attract traffic, and card tables were borrowed.

This afternoon they were finally ready to open shop...and it went very well for them!

Their strategy: wave and smile at every approaching vehicle ("Who can resist this cuteness?" one of them joked). In two and a half hours, they made more than enough to repay their investment (sales were good, but the generous "tips" they received certainly helped), and they still have enough product left to go back out tomorrow (they kept a tally chart to keep track of the merchandise sold). I actually had to drag them in to have supper, they were having so much fun! They're considering adding a table of "yard sale" type items for sale (books, toys, etc.) but I'm not sure that the clientele will be interested. We shall see!

The teacher in me is loving the math lessons offered by their new business (e.g., they learned that water has the highest profit margin, so it's great that it sold the most), and as an added bonus, if they keep this up on a regular basis, my yard and gardens will look better than ever, since I stay outside and close enough to keep an eye on the transactions and assist in case of a problem while they're at the table.

Have your kids tried any money-making ventures? I'd love to hear about them!