Saturday, October 3

The Halloween Decorations Are Out!

Our house is now ready for Halloween! This morning I pulled out the bin of decorations, as well as our brand-new box from Hallmark, and the girls and I got busy!

One of my favourite Halloween items is our collection of photographs taken over the years, which I set out as a display on the kitchen buffet. The pictures inspired us to take a walk down memory lane...



(How could I not be Cinderella the one Halloween I was blonde?)



This year, the girls have convinced me to go with their theme (as characters from a particular piece of fiction) but I would be in big trouble if I spoiled the surprise!

Some of our favourite new Hallmark items for Halloween 2015:

My little one is crazy over Roary the Candy Monster ($17.95 with the purchase of 3 cards). He sings and dances to a parody of (what else?) I Want Candy!

Since she loves to scare people, my older daughter's favourite is Drop 'n' Greet Bernie the Bat ($14.95 with any purchase). This motion activated bat hangs from the ceiling and says something spooky (he has a repertoire of 10 different phrases) as he drops down and flies back up.

Mommy's favourite (because I'm a sucker for door decor) is this classy-looking BOO sign (a bargain at $7.95).

I'm also loving this Halloween Scarf ($9.95 with any purchase), since it's subtle and festive at the same time - though let's be honest - as a primary teacher I could get away with bright orange jack-o-lanterns with no problem!

Okay, time to get your decorations out...and send me a photo!

Disclosure: Hallmark sent me the items above for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Thursday, October 1

Kate's Favourite Things - October 2015

Here are my top picks for the month!


The Girl in the Spider's Web by David Lagercrantz

This one continues the series begun by the late Stieg Larsson, and Lagercrantz does a great job staying true to the feel of the original books and characters - though I often wonder how much credit should go to the translator.

Everything I Never Told You by Celeste Ng

A work of fiction that had me assessing my parenting practices - and how my every action and word can be interpreted by my daughters. There were several times I felt physical pain reading this book, and the tears flowed.

Let Me Die In His Footsteps by Lori Roy

Once I got the rhythm of the back-and-forth-in-time style (1936 and 1952), this one about secrets in Kentucky family had me hooked.

Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo

I'm recommending this one for kids. My 2/3 class is loving it as a read-aloud, and children always love DiCamillo's relatable characters (usually with an animal involved, like the four-legged Winn-Dixie). Funny, but with lots of teachable moments about relationships along the way. (I also told the kids that before I had an internet presence, every time I tried to Google myself I just got information about this book!)


No Escape  (Owen Wilson, Lake Bell, Pierce Brosnan)

This was my only trip to the theatre last month, and it was worth it for this action-packed thriller about a family overseas caught in the middle of a political uprising. I have to say though - I'm not a judgy parent (I swear, I'm really not) but if your child needs a booster seat, she is too young for this movie (rated 14A in Canada, R in the US). It is violent and disturbing, with child characters involved. Just no.

Also, random note: Pierce Brosnan is only three years younger than my dad. That's all.


Do your kids love to write or cook? A couple of amazing contests have come through my Inbox lately:

Kids Write 4 Kids

  • Open to Canadian students in Grades 4-8
  • No entry fee
  • Winning entries are made into ebooks (printed books available too)
  • Revenues from winners' ebook sales get donated to the children's schools

Little Chef Casting Call (from The Marilyn Denis Show and The Little Potato Company)

  • Open to Canadian children ages 8-13 (so my 7 year old souschef can't apply!)
  • Create a video of your child sharing an original recipe using little potatoes
  • Visit Marilyn's website to submit video
  • Grand prize is a family adventure in Paris, France!

Have a fantastic October, everyone!

Friday, September 18

Home/School Communication Tips - My CHEX Daily Segment

Last night on CHEX Daily I chatted with hosts Teresa Kazuba and Mike Judson (who always does a great job keeping the mood light!) about ways to establish strong home/school communication - and why it's so important!

I'm at the 28:44 mark, and if you can't see the embedded video you can find it here:

Something I didn't mention: don't forget to keep the school/teacher informed about changes in your child's life (medications, new glasses, custody arrangements) as that information can be important to know as well.

I hope Mike has his homework done for next time!

Friday, September 11

How Much Should You Help With Homework?

For the "Touchy Subject" in the latest Parents Canada magazine, I answer this question with: "not very much".

See my reasons why (as well as a counterargument) here:

P.S. As a primary teacher, I don't believe in assigning very much homework at all, nor have either of my daughters ever brought home an unreasonable amount throughout the primary grades. We'll see what happens as they get older!

Saturday, September 5

My Appearance on The Social

Yesterday a dream came true.

I was invited to be a guest on CTV's The Social (kicking off Season 3 this past week), to chat about ways parents can help their kids succeed in school.

It was an amazing experience, from start to finish. While I won't give away the inner workings of the show, they are very thoroughly planned, and I was highly impressed by the segment producer (Meghan) and the guest coordinator (Jen) who helped me through the entire process (which started months ago).

The video is below, and you can also find it here: (The Social - How to help your child succeed in school), along with a blog post which captures all of the tips (including the ones we didn't get to).

If you're wondering what the hosts are *really* like, I can tell you that they were all extremely kind and encouraging of me during my visit. Though my segment was just with Mel and Traci, as soon as I got backstage Cynthia and Jess were sweet and complimentary, and Cynthia went out of her way to send out a supportive tweet. (Lainey was away on assignment, in case you're wondering why I'm not mentioning her!)

I thought it would be fun to follow The Social's "What We Wore" idea, and share a little "What I Wore" info with you (since of course a LOT of thought went into it):

Credit for my great hairstyle goes to my sister-in-law Rose. You know someone cares about you when they spend hours practising on your hair - and wake up in the middle of the night thinking about it! Thanks for the awesome look, Rose!

Makeup was done for me at the show by Natalie, the very accommodating makeup artist. I appreciated how she asked me if I had any requests (dark eyeliner - and lots of it) while adding her own creativity to the look. She even took the time to show me how to properly apply my false lashes!

The dress is from Cleo ($30) and the shoes from Stepss ($20) - and yes, I am a bargain hunter!

After the show I had the chance to get a photo with the day's hosts, and then brought in my "fan club" - six friends who generously arranged their end-of-summer schedules so they could be in the audience to see me. The hosts warmly welcomed them too - and they do meet and greets and photos with all audience members after each show.

I was absolutely overwhelmed by the support I received from family, friends (including a gorgeous floral arrangement - Heather!), colleagues and strangers on social media. I truly appreciated every email, text, tweet and gesture of social media love. As I tweeted out last night, "People who say women don't support other women clearly don't know my women." Thanks so much everyone! (Now off to say a little prayer that they'll want me back again!)

Update: I have been asked to return!

For more on The Social:

My Behind-the-Scenes Visit to The Social
My Interview with Cynthia Loyst (1)
My Interview with Melissa Grelo
My Interview with Lainey Lui
My Interview with Traci Melchor
My Interview with Cynthia Loyst (2)

Thursday, September 3

My Interview With Scott McGillivray For Parents Canada

A few weeks ago, I had a great chat with TV host, contractor and real estate investor Scott McGillivray, and it's live now on the Parents Canada website. In the interview, Scott chats about his new YouTube series (Good To Grow), what he thinks is the biggest mistake families make when purchasing or renovating a new home, what inspired him to create a hilarious Father's Day Fail video, (pointing out the sexism that hands-on dads face), and what his wife Sabrina thinks of his "Sexiest Man" titles!

You can find the entire interview with Scott McGillivray here, and a condensed version will be in the November/December print issue of Parents Canada magazine.

Tuesday, September 1

Kate's Favourite Things - September 2015

This month's edition of Kate's Favourite Things is significantly shorter than last month - I spent July focusing on rest and relaxation, but I never get too far into August before I'm thinking about school again!

Here are my top picks for the month (please note: I'd love to hear your thoughts if you follow any of my recommendations - I'm always thrilled to know that people are reading them!)


Come Away With Me by Karma Brown

About the book (from the publisher):

An unexpected journey leads one woman to discover that life after loss is possible, if only you can find the courage to let go… 

One minute, Tegan Lawson has everything she could hope for: an adoring husband, Gabe, and a baby on the way. The next, a patch of black ice causes a devastating accident that will change her life in ways she never could have imagined. 

Tegan is consumed by grief—not to mention her anger toward Gabe, who was driving on the night of the crash. But just when she thinks she's hit rock bottom, Gabe reminds her of their Jar of Spontaneity, a collection of their dream destinations and experiences, and so begins an adventure of a lifetime. 

From the bustling markets of Thailand to the flavors of Italy to the ocean waves in Hawaii, Tegan and Gabe embark on a journey to escape the tragedy and search for forgiveness. But they soon learn that grief follows you no matter how far away you run, and that acceptance comes when you least expect it. Heartbreaking, hopeful and utterly transporting, Come Away with Me is an unforgettable debut and a luminous celebration of the strength of the human spirit.

I'm excited to say that this is a debut novel from one of my Twitter friends (follow her @writerkarma) and I loved it! (Book # 2 is coming next summer.)

Ana of California  by Andi Teran

This one is a reimagining of Anne of Green Gables - orphan moves to the farm and lives with a sister and brother - but with many differences, not only because of the geographical setting but to bring it into 2015.

Royal Wedding: A Princess Diaries Novel by Meg Cabot

My mom signed this out of the library for me, and it sat for a while, as I figured it would be a bit too juvenile for my liking...but I really enjoyed it. I have discovered that I am now old enough that a character can be 10 years younger than me, yet still be a grown woman to whom I can relate. Well, as much as one can relate to a princess of a fictional country! It's fun, funny and sexy, with a few surprises.

A Window Opens by Elisabeth Egan

Written by the books editor at Glamour magazine, this one is a fresh twist on the busy-employed-sandwich-generation-mom theme - though I'm still waiting for the book where a dad questions his workaholism and impact on the children.

The story really drew me in, especially since it's a book that talks a lot about books!


Speaking of Glamour magazine, here are a couple of quotes I loved from Mindy Kaling's interview in the September issue:

"Working parents have eclipsed Russian operatives as our most popular movie villains."

"People get scared when you try to do something, especially when it looks like you're succeeding. People do not get scared when you're failing. It calms them...But when you're winning, it makes them feel like they're losing or that maybe they should've tried to do something too, but now it's too late. And since they didn't, they want to stop you. You can't let them."


Southpaw - I love Rachel McAdams, and this movie gave me lots of feelings. I will be shocked if Jake Gyllenhaal is not nominated for an Oscar.

The Man From U.N.C.L.E. - I knew nothing about the series, but the movie was a nice, witty action flick. I'll definitely go see the sequel...which was set up perfectly at the end of this one.

Ricki and the Flash - My mom and I had a date to see this (we were celebrating the fact that she did not leave our family to pursue a rock star career) and we both enjoyed it and had lots of tears, though I could have done with fewer musical performances. I'm more a move-the-plot-along kind of gal.


I'd been admiring some of the "front and back" style earrings I'd seen on the ladies of The Social, and was keeping my eye out for some budget-friendly options. I found these ones at Claire's for $8.50, and for only $5 I got a different silver pair as well. I love a good bargain!


In my younger years, I made 13 blood donations, but since moving to our new home, much farther from a regular clinic, I hadn't gone once! I made an appointment and was in and out in about an hour and a half, and I'm already booked to return after the minimum number of wait days. You know what they say - it's in you to give!

Have a wonderful September, everyone!

Thursday, August 27

Sangita Patel: The ET Canada Momterview

In my latest Momterview I chat with Sangita Patel: Entertainment Reporter with ET Canada, wife (her husband Samir - she calls him Sam - is Chief of Radiology at Guelph General Hospital) and mom (daughters Ava and Shyla are eight and five and a half).

Here Sangita opens up about her engineering background, growing up with immigrant parents, her inspirational fitness routines, and her favourite celebrity interviews!

You have a degree in electrical engineering – which really impressed Tom Cruise! Why did you decide on that area of study?

I went into engineering partly because I loved math and science. They were my favourite courses in high school. I think I was trying to prove to myself that I could be as good as any male out there. It was actually my uncle who said that females could not be engineers, and I think that’s the reason I did it. I didn’t even know what engineering was all about, but I loved math and science and that’s where guys in those courses were going, so I thought why don’t I give it a try? I loved doing a lot of hands-on work with my dad – I loved to fix cars and VCRs, I fixed my Commodore 64, so it’s part of who I was, but I didn’t really know what I wanted to do until my last two years of high school when I decided I want to be an engineer.

How did you then make the shift to television?

I had a passion for television. I was in a pageant when I was 17 – don’t tell anybody! – and they asked me to be a spokesperson for them, and that opened the doors to what television was all about and I loved it! I loved being in front of the camera and had such a blast doing it, so there was a passion for it, but I didn’t think I could make a career out of it. Could I make money? Would I be happy? So I decided to apply for journalism and engineering, and got first year scholarships for both programs, and sat down and chatted with my dad about what to do. He asked, “Where do you think you’re going to make a living?”, and he was right that engineering was the way to go, there were so many struggling journalists out there. But I still had my passion! I volunteered at Rogers, I did film festivals, I worked for a show called Toronto Living, I did another show as well for ATM, which is an Asian Television Network, and I had the opportunity to host and do my own questions. I still did that while I worked as an engineer, and I continued to work as an engineer for five years until I got my P.Eng, which is my Professional Engineering designation, and things started growing from there. When I started working at Rogers and doing Toronto Living, they just opened so many doors, and then I was picked up at The Weather Network, and from there I was picked up at CityTV so things have just been rolling – knock on wood! It’s interesting how things came together, it’s not the regular story of struggling. I didn’t really have to struggle in this business, it was more a case of being in the right place at the right time.

You were born in Canada shortly after your parents and older siblings moved here from India. What do you think was the impact of being born into a family new to the country?

I look at my parents, even now to this day, and think about how hard they worked to get to Canada and give this life to us, and that keeps me really grounded and humble. My mom was on an assembly line, my dad was a welder, and he worked his butt off to give us what we wanted and I appreciate that to this day. I make the effort every week to go see my parents, all of us do, and I love hearing the stories – even the same ones over and over – about the impact that was made by them coming from India to Canada. I really appreciate having immigrant parents. The value of the dollar, the value of hard work – that keeps me going. I thank my parents all the time for bringing us here. I wouldn’t have the opportunities I have now. I’m a woman, and I believe I’m a strong woman able to do anything I want if I put my mind to it. I thank my parents a lot for that.

What are the most important ways you’re passing your Indian heritage on to your girls?

Okay, so I suck at that! I love Indian food? I’m passing that on to them! I blame my parents because they spoke a lot of broken Gujarati - that's where they’re from, Gujarat - and they spoke a lot of English with it, so I didn’t really learn the language. However, the culture part I try to introduce to my girls, like the Bollywood world, I’ve even put them in a class for dancing. My husband and I speak a lot of English, just once in a while we speak the dialect but not very much. They know their grandparents are from India and they love it, they love the culture so we’re trying to pass it on, but I’m not doing the greatest job when it comes to that!

You share a lot on social media about your workouts and fitness routines. Has that always been so important to you, or did it come from having kids or being on television?

I started working out at a younger age and stopped, because it wasn’t as important to me. At that age, you can eat whatever you want, and you don't gain the weight! Then I had my second kid, and my body changed - I was crouching down all the time, I was weak all the time, I couldn’t pick up my kids, and I thought, how did this happen? It can’t be aging, it must be that something’s wrong with me. I decided I needed to make a change and start watching out for myself, because no one else is going to do that for me. My attitude just switched. I went to CrossFit one day and I started doing weights and I thought, this is what I need to do! I’m not old, I just need to start working on myself. 

I think as a mother we all tend to forget about ourselves and take care of our kids and our families and we become one of the lower priorities, and the truth of it is, if you’re not happy, no one else is going to be happy. I learned that, and that’s when I started doing fitness and it changed my life. I’m so much happier now, my attitude is so much better in terms of my outlook and realizing that I have to start loving myself because this is who I am, especially being in my 30s. These fitness videos came about because a while back women were asking me, “How are you staying fit? What are you doing?” and I decided to use social media and it started picking up. People were following Fitness Tuesday and we started doing a segment and people were responding to it. It really was to motivate other mothers, but now it’s to motivate anybody to try anything. My videos show some things that are a little bit ‘out there’, to show you can do it.  If I can do it, you can do it!

You were named to Hello! Canada’s 50 Most Beautiful People List - 

I know – you’re surprised as much as I am!

Not at all! You’re gorgeous! But what would you say are your most beautiful qualities, on the outside and the inside?

One of the things I’ve always been told is that you are happy if you make someone else happy, so I love smiling. That’s partly why I don’t do serious news, because what a difference it makes when you smile at someone! Even if they’re having a bad day, just that little gesture makes such a difference, so I would say my smile is something that people enjoy seeing, especially on social media, people make remarks about it, and it is a genuine smile. It’s not a fake smile – I have my wrinkles, and I’m going to keep those wrinkles and wear them with pride! I like making situations lighter. I don’t like conflict, so I like making light of things, entertaining people and making them happy.

You often have to travel for your work on ET Canada. What are your best tips for keeping connected with family while you’re away?

Oh, social media! I miss my kids, especially on the second day – I don’t know what it is about that second day! We FaceTime, we Skype, we chat on the phone, and now my kids have their own email address so they’ve started texting me which is such a great feeling! I’m able to sing them a song before bed, and just making that effort to connect throughout the day when I’m traveling makes such a difference. They’re partly used to it, they know mom’s gone away for a while and she’ll be back, so I let them sleep in my bed with dad and they get all these perks when I’m gone, so they’re happy about that. One thing I try to do when I travel somewhere is always bring them back a small token, and it helps them to know that I’m always thinking about them.

Have you had any favourite celebrity interviews so far?

Oh my gosh, so many! The one thing about me being new to Entertainment Tonight Canada – I’ve been here for two and a half, three years – is that I get excited about anybody and everybody, and I hope the audience feels that when they watch my interviews. I walk into a room and I think that person is my best friend, and there have been some great interviews recently. I mean, Tom Cruise – I had no idea it was going to be that great, and for him to remember me? {Sangita interviewed Tom at the world premiere of Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation in Vienna, and when he was interviewed by Sangita’s colleague days later at the Canadian premiere, he asked about her!} I thought, oh you’re my favourite now! And George Clooney, making me coffee the second time around, we just had this great chemistry, and you know when you have good chemistry with someone. Julia Roberts...Helen Mirren just surprised me. Jon Stewart last year – I’m a huge fan, and to sit down with a man that smart! I was very nervous to sit with him, and to meet him was an honour. I’d say those are some of my top ones!

Anyone on your wish list?

Oprah Winfrey. Angelina Jolie. Women who make a difference. I just want to hear their stories. And for some reason, Tiger Woods. I don’t know why but I find him so fascinating. There’s something about him…I would love to talk to him too.

Besides your family, how would you finish the sentence, “This mom loves…”?

This mom loves cake. Cake, cake, cake all the time. I would have cake any time. I don’t respect my diet.
This mom loves CrossFit.
This mom loves to smile.
This mom loves to drive. I love cars.
This mom loves coconut oil. I use that all the time.
This mom loves to cook, loves to eat, loves pizza – a lot of food-related, isn’t it?
This mom loves to inspire and to make people laugh.
This mom loves to entertain.

Thanks for the conversation, Sangita! ET Canada airs weeknights at 7:30 p.m. on Global, and you can find Sangita Patel on Twitter and Instagram.