Monday, June 22

My Interview with Sarah Allen from Global TV's Remedy

A few months ago I had the chance to interview Canadian actress Sarah Allen, from the Global TV medical drama Remedy. When we chatted (for Parents Canada magazine), she was still weeks away from giving birth, and we talked all about maternity wear, pregnancy rules and her flexible birth plan. While some stars are hesitant to get personal, Sarah had no problem elaborating on her responses to all of my questions.

Sarah has since given birth to a baby girl. Daughter Rae was born at home on May 12, 2015 weighing 4 lbs 10 oz. After a few days in the hospital to "fatten up", she returned home and began "eating like a machine", according to her proud mama.

We've recently learned that Remedy will sadly not be returning for another season, so we'll have to look forward to seeing Sarah elsewhere on the small (or big screen) in the future!

You can find highlights from the interview here on the Parents Canada website, and follow Sarah Allen on Twitter.

Friday, June 19

Parents: 5 Tips For Fostering a Growth Mindset in Your Kids

I've written about (and gone on TV to talk about) growth mindset before, and I recently had the chance to write an article all about it for Oxford Learning.

In the article, I'm sharing what it means to have a growth mindset and why it's so important for your kids (and you!) as well as five tips for parents.

Check it out here: 5 Tips For Helping Foster a Growth Mindset

Wednesday, June 17

School Year Wrap-Up Ideas For Parents (TV segment)

In case you haven't noticed, the school year is quickly winding down! Last night on CHEX Daily, I chatted with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson about some things to keep in mind as your child's school year draws to a close, such as:

  • the number one question to ask your child's teacher before the year ends 
  • if you should be making requests for next year's class/teacher
  • an idea for what you can do with all that artwork that comes home
  • the best way to thank the teacher (with a idea; my free printable can be found here)
  • some last-day-of-school traditions

I'm at the 28:05 mark, and you can also find the video here.

I really went wild with my look for the last CHEX Daily appearance of the 2014/2015 school year, as I noted on Instagram (seen below):

By the way, here's how my 9-year-old's thank you letter turned out - please don't tell her teacher!

So, enjoy these last few days! It's barely a week until my last-day tradition, when I will read Thank You, Mr. Falker and cry in front of my class. Good times.

Tuesday, June 16

Grad Gifts For the Class of 2015 (From Hallmark)

Every year I have my Grade 3 students write their predictions for their Grade 8 year. Who will the teacher and principal be? What activities will they participate in? Where will they go for their year-end trip? And of course, they think about all the grad details, including the super important question: what will they wear?

Today I went into the Grade 8 classroom and shared the predictions they had written five years ago, when they were my students. Four kids had moved away, and fortunately I had enough information to send their work to them, but the rest were present and eager to try to guess whose piece of writing was whose.

No game is complete without prizes, and thanks to Hallmark, I had some awesome Class of 2015 swag to give away to the students who were the best guessers! (Top score, by the way, was 12 out of 19).

Here are the goodies:

Autograph Graduation Bear 
($16.95 or $12.95 with any purchase; there's also an Autograph Photo Poster)

Dated Mug with Designed Handle ($12.95)

Graduation Frame with Sentiment ($12.95, this is nice for parents of the grad)

Invites and Thank You Cards ($5.99/package)

As always, Hallmark has you covered for gift-giving! Congratulations to the class of 2015, which includes my beautiful and talented niece, off to high school, and two of my cousins (one who's also my godson) and our treasured babysitter who are heading to university. I can't believe how the time flies!

Saturday, June 13

Teacher Gift Ideas (With Printable and Charitable Suggestion)

Let me be clear: teacher gifts are never expected or required, but this time of year I know there are some parents looking for ideas.

I wrote a magazine article a while back about Gifts For Teachers, and most of those ideas still apply - though it was Christmas-themed, and the ornament might be a bit out of place in June!

As I always say, the nicest thing to receive is a sincere compliment, whether from the child or the parents. ran a great post recently with tips to help your child write a thank you note to the teacher, and I loved it so much that I turned the prompts into a simple fill-in-the-blanks template that my primary grade daughters have used to write to their teachers. They printed their answers by hand (much cuter than typed responses) and then decorated the sheets. (I'm sharing it here; feel free to use it!)

For those who are looking to spend a little bit of money to show appreciation, charitable gifts are a great idea, and can be any dollar value.

What about a SickKids Get Better gift for your child's teacher? Here's what SickKids suggests:

School is wrapping up for another year and summer is around the corner. What better way to thank your child’s teacher and caregiver, who help and support your child throughout the year, than with something from the SickKids Get Better Gifts program.

These meaningful gifts provide an alternative to traditional gift-giving and recognize many of the special ways these teachers and friends help children learn and grow, similar to the way the staff at SickKids seek to motivate, inspire and teach the patients in their care.

When you give a Get Better Gift, you are not only showing your appreciation, but also helping to brighten the lives of sick children and their families.

Gift ideas include:

·         Arts and Craft Supplies: This gift provides therapeutic opportunities for special arts and crafts programs that can help children cope with hospital stays and make sure they get to do some of the school activities they’re missing.
·         Books for the Children’s Library at the Family Centre: Story-time and book delivery service, where books are delivered right to the children in their hospital bed, are just a couple of the children’s favourite services you can help support.
·         An Opportunity to Clown Around: Happiness and laughter are important for the mind and body. At SickKids, specially-trained therapeutic clowns help to ease tension and offer relief by using spontaneous humour and gentle play to minimize stress during treatments and hospital stays.

I can tell you for sure I would love to have any of these gifts made in my name...though if your child absolutely positively wants to give me a material item all wrapped up, you'll never go wrong with a Kit Kat.

Saturday, June 6

Father's Day Gift Ideas From Hallmark

Hallmark has some awesome gift ideas for Dads this Father's Day, and I particularly love the name of this line of products: "Life is good." Because it is.

Whether the Dad in your life is a golfer, BBQer, fisherman, handyman, enthusiast, Hallmark has the gift for him!

Let's start with this "Coolest Dad Ever" frame...adorable! ($16.95)

Keep things clean and dry with golf or BBQ towels ($16.95 each). Golfers might also like the golf ball set, and for grillers Hallmark offers a cutting board and oven mitt as well.

Wrap it all up with these "cool" gift bags:

And when the work is done, sit back and relax with a special bottle opener ($14.95, other styles include an open shaped like a lawn mower and one like a fish):

You can also find neat leather items (wallet, key chain, can sleeve) and mugs (the one with a hammer for a handle would be perfect for my Dad) in store.

Stay tuned for great grad gifts from Hallmark - post coming soon!

Disclosure: I was provided with the above products for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Monday, June 1

Kate's Favourite Things: June 2015

"Disclosure" : only one of these items (as noted below) was free, in case anyone's wondering about bias before you start reading!

Next Issue

If somehow you've missed this, I am totally in love with the Next Issue app. I pay ten bucks a month for unlimited digital magazine subscriptions (I currently have 26, including 2 for my husband and 1 for the kids). New issues load automatically, and it seems like I'm never without something to read...which is awesome! I'm not really an iPad person, but I have totally embraced reading magazines this way. It's so convenient, and of course it's environmentally-friendly (though I'll admit that's not often as big a concern for me as it should be). I still have a handful of hard-copy subscriptions (I think I'm getting Today's Parent until February 2017) which can still be handy for reading in the tub or anywhere else I don't want to take my iPad (plus not every magazine is available through the app), but as they expire I'll add them to Next Issue as well.

Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Sunscreen

I've had the same bottle of sunscreen for my face for about three years, and just realized it has officially expired. I'm so picky when it comes to this sort of product, because I've always had oily skin and hate to put anything on it that makes it look greasy or shiny. I was in Walmart and walked by a display of Neutrogena Ultra Sheer Face and thought I'd give it a try - and so far so good (I bought SPF 60 because I am adamant about protecting my delicate facial skin. Vanity can be a great motivator!) The product absorbs so quickly that I feel like I have to move fast to work it in...and while my discerning eye can still tell something's there, it's definitely the most matte finish I've had in a sunscreen.

Leaving Time by Jodi Picoult

I have loved most of her books, and Jodi had me right until the end with this one...the story of a young girl hunting for her (runaway? dead? kidnapped?) mother. I was even pulled right into the elephant-sanctuary setting (I may not love pets, but African animals hold a certain appeal). The end, though, disappointed me a little bit. You can find spoilers elsewhere, and I won't tell you what movie plot it reminds me of...but it's been done, and I didn't totally buy it. But otherwise I was engrossed!

Kids Who Help Kids 

I mean, first of all, there were the girls at my school who donated their hair, but I also received a great email from Alex, an 11-year-old Canadian entrepreneur. She created ‘Ivy and Alex’ a line of kids dresses, to support causes she cares about. Each dress is reversible with a pattern side and a solid side,  and the dresses can change as you grow. So girls can wear it as a tunic (with cool tights) or a shirt once she’s outgrown it as a dress.

World Vision helped her find four projects to support: if you buy a blue dress, World Vision will help provide clean water, the green dress will help provide nutritious food, the pink dress will help provide a chance to go to school or medicine (health stuff) and the red dress will support Canadian programs and help kids right here! Check out the Ivy and Alex website for more details.

Rimmel Colour Rush Balm

When my friend Sarah and I hit Lainey Gossip's SMUT Soiree last year, we were given a little swag bag that included a Rimmel lip crayon (The Redder the Better). This was my go-to lipstick for months - creamy, long-lasting and a classic colour that went with almost everything...except pink. So I went out and bought Boom Chic a Boom. These two now stay in my little Kate Spade makeup bag inside my purse, and every other Tuesday when I arrive at the CHEX studio, I take a glance at my outfit and decide whether it's a red day or a pink day. (My Canada AM appearance was definitely a pink day - and the makeup artist there hadn't seen the Rimmel  before and was very impressed, as she usually bought something similar - and much more expensive - from a bigger brand name.) Next I'll be picking up more of a "neutral" shade to add to my collection.


The details: $17 for a set of nail wraps, and I can get two full manicures out of each set. (Don't want to do the math? $8.50 per manicure.) It takes me about 15 minutes to do, cutting the wraps, warming them under the hairdryer, applying them to my nails, trimming, and applying heat again. I get at least two (though I stretch it to three) weeks of wear, with tons of both trendy and classic styles to choose from. Tip: I prefer patterns to solids, because the tips tend to wear out a bit, which you don't notice at all when the wraps are patterned. My dealer consultant Lindsey can hook you up!

That's it for this month! I'd love to know what you think about any of my favourites!

Friday, May 29

Our Basement Family Room - The Big Reveal!

Yes, we used to have a beautiful red family room. After several coats of primer and paint and some new leather furniture, I found out I was pregnant (this was 10 years ago) and suddenly the room smelled so terrible to me that I didn't get to use it for several weeks! It took so much effort to get our room red that we swore we wouldn't be repainting it for a while...but one decade is my cutoff for living with the same wall colour.

Today I'm sharing my newly-redecorated family room, as well as a few tidbits about decorating choices and accessories. First off, the paint is Charcoal Slate by Dulux, and I love it. The carpet is a fresh Berber, similar to what we had before, but with more of a dark-flecked pattern to it. (I know, I know - my husband told me when we built the house 12 years ago that I wouldn't want a light carpet, but I insisted!)

Here's a shot of the main part of the room (and no, it's not even staged for your benefit - I have issues with clutter).

If you look off to the right, you can see the my very favourite accessory: our new canvas from Posterjack. I've received promotions from them in the past, but the timing was never quite right to feature them on the blog. When looking for something personalized for our new room, I realized a photo on canvas would be the perfect thing! Posterjack was kind enough to provide me with a code for a 20 x 28 canvas, so I went to their site, uploaded my photo, chose the edging (there are three different options), and that was it! It takes a few days to process and a few more to ship, and then our new piece of art was at our door:

Isn't it beautiful? My husband took this shot of the girls on his phone Thanksgiving weekend 2013 when we took them for a walk on a trail near our home. It was totally spontaneous, and we thought it was so sweet the way they had their arms around each other as they walked (with my childhood Cabbage Patch Doll peeking out from Frannie's arms - hello, Marcelle Iona...or, more accurately, Marcelle Iona Robin Amelia Tracy Theresa Anne Jennifer Leona Leahy. I didn't want to leave anyone out!)

I was very impressed with Posterjack's service and the quality of the canvas...and I think it's super special to have such a personalized piece of art on the wall. (It doesn't hurt that it's right beside the treadmill, for extra inspiration.)

My Uncle Bernard drew this picture of my late Grandpa Leahy, based on a photograph. I thought it was a neat mix to put it on the same shelf as these punctuation symbols from Bouclair.

I'm going through a grey-and-yellow-accents thing (as you know, if you saw my bathroom reno
and these cushions from Bouclair fit the bill perfectly.

A few shots of yellow, like these candle holders from Bouclair, brighten up the very neutral space.

I love this piece of art (Bouclair) not only because it's different, but also because it shares lines of scripture from one of the readings we had at our wedding.

My favourite place to be, in the whole house, is sitting in front of the fireplace. We kept the mirror we had above the mantel, as well as the candle holders and silver "stick stuff" (proper term, anyone?), and subbed in some more pops of yellow.

We always end up watching TV under the blankets, so it was my goal to find some to match the new colour scheme, so I wouldn't feel the obsessive need to fold them up and hide them away after every use. I got these two for $26 at JYSK - you get what you pay for, and the stitching isn't going to last forever, but they go with the new look, and birds are very in right now.

Have I ever told you how much I love my treadmill desk? I do so much blogging, social media work and reading while walking, and as a productivity-junkie, it really motivates me to be able to get things done while I'm exercising. (The treadmill also directly faces the TV - I get caught up on my PVR while I walk as well.) You can see Maggie down in the corner of this photo - under orders to tidy up the play corner so it could be photographed!

I finally found the perfect table tray at Home Outfitters. "Some people" can't understand why the remotes and tissue box can't just sit directly on the table, but it seems a lot more streamlined to me when they're corralled inside one accessory! And yes, I did write "yellow Kleenex box" on the grocery list.

Another pop of yellow at the bottom of the stairs (canvas from Bouclair)

Previously, the girls had a huge number of toy bins in the back half of the room. After the renovation, we decided that they could keep one thing out at a time, and right now it's the dolls, and they have a cute little corner set up for playing. (I find that Maggie is very into Barbies these days, and she's also at an age where she loves to be near me, so this is perfect, nice and close to the treadmill.) It seems like only yesterday she was strapped into her baby swing, watching me walk!

A few parting shots:

Disclosure: I was provided with the photo canvas from Posterjack for review purposes. Everything else was purchased with cold, hard cash. Okay, fine, Visa. Opinions are, as always, my own.