Wednesday, September 14

Sunglasses From Clearly (P.S. They're fit for royalty!)

For years, I've purchased sunglasses with single-digit price tags. Why pay more when I may just lose them, right? The problem is, it's pretty rare for me to lose my sunglasses. Much more often they break or, could quality be a factor?

That said, I'm certainly not in a position to pay hundreds and hundreds of dollars for designer sunglasses. I need a happy medium!

Enter Clearly.  While they also offer contact lenses and prescription eyewear, thanks to the joy of LASIK I don't need those anymore! I was, however, very interested in their affordable selection of designer sunglasses, including Christian Siriano, Nina Ricci, Marc by Marc Jacob, Oakley, Ray-Ban, John Galliano and more!

I was thrilled when Clearly offered to send me two pairs of sunglasses to try out...especially because they carry the exact same pair worn by Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. (You may have read about my interest in the RepliKate trend a few weeks ago.)

Their website is easy to navigate and is very informative: I actually learned sunglasses have specific measurements (something I had never realized when buying eight dollar pairs!) and one pair I ordered ended up being a bit wide on my face (I still loved the look, but the arms didn't sit as snugly as I would have liked) so it's important to check out the measurements of the sunglasses which are listed with the product description, especially when ordering online when you don't have the chance to try them on.

My sunglasses shipped really quickly, arriving one day apart, and even the packaging was appealing (plus, they came with attractive, sturdy cases...never included with my cheapies!):

Now, what I chose!

Derek Cardigan 7014, part of Clearly's in-house designer line (as a teacher, I thought the little multiplication and division signs were particularly apropos).

Next: the Ray-Ban Folding Wayfarer Classic in Tortoise,,,as often worn by the Duchess of Cambridge (formerly Kate Middleton) herself!

No, that's not me, silly! That's the other Kate.

This one is me!

I've been extremely happy with the quality of the products, and now that I have both black and tortoise, maybe I'll never have to buy another pair of sunglasses again! (Okay, that might be stretching it.) Check out Clearly for your own eyewear needs!

Disclosure: I was provided with two pairs of sunglasses by Clearly for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Wednesday, September 7

Shop Lands' End - Great RepliKates, School Uniforms and More!

I will admit it: I am a Lands' End newbie...but I have learned quickly!

Launched in 1963 as a mail-order operation for yachting gear‚ the business filled about 15 orders on a good day. Now they carry a huge variety of clothing for women, men and kids. Lands' End runs the range from casual to dressier wear, plus active and swimwear, in addition to uniform pieces for students...and the list goes on! Plus, they are famous for their unconditional return policy (customer satisfaction is a big deal to them). And yes, my Canuck friends...they do ship to Canada!

I came across Lands' End when I started paying close attention to the Replikate movement...women who like to follow and copy the fashion of Kate, Duchess of Cambridge. While it can be fun (if one can afford it) to own the exact same items as the Duchess, most often Replikaters hunt for similar yet more cost-effective fashions, and Lands' End certainly fits the bill!

I was excited when Lands' End sent me two items to try out (shipping was very fast, btw), so I could see the quality for myself.

First, I was looking for a navy pleated skirt, similar to Kate's Orla Kiely shown below (approx. $256 Canadian).

Lands' End sent me this great Replikate, the Girls Solid Pleated Skirt, which is actually from the school uniform collection (shopping trick: if something isn't available in an adult size, try a larger size from the children's section - the adjustable waistband is helpful, too!) The price? Under 40 bucks!

I look forward to wearing it to school in a traditional outfit (maybe with a button-up and nice navy blazer) but it can also be worn in more unexpected ways, like with a graphic tee or print sweater.

(Tip: if your pleated skirt gets wrinkled, just use the bathroom-shower-steam trick. 15 minutes of hot steam and my pleats fell perfectly.)

If you need to purchase neutral school uniform pieces for your child (sometimes I wish that was the case for my girls!), definitely check out Lands' End.

Next on my back-to-school shopping list was a pair of low-heeled black boots. I love wearing boots in the fall and winter, especially with skirts and dresses, and since I'm going to be teaching Kindergarten, a super high heel was off the list. I turned to Kate's Middleton style and loved the Stuart Weitzman HalfNHalf stretch riders she has been seen wearing...but didn't love the $400 price. 

But guess what? Lands' End carries a super-similar pair: suede at the front, stretch panel at the back, block a regular price of $162! (Watch for sales - I've seen the price even lower than that!)

But guess what? Lands' End carries a super-similar pair called the School Uniform Women's Stretch Suede Tall Boots: suede at the front, stretch panel at the back, block a regular price of $162! (Watch for sales - I've seen the price even lower than that!)

These boots are soooo comfortable, and I know they will be my go-tos for least until it's time to pull out the sandals again!

Now, I don't usually get much sympathy for the following problem I have, but I trust you to be kind, so here goes: I have skinny calves, and therefore tall boots don't fit snugly enough for me. The stretch panel on these boots is really forgiving for those with fuller calves, but since I'm planning to wear them over tights, I want them to be really snug. My local cobbler nipped them in for me, at a total cost of $25, which is fantastic, considering how often I'm going to be sporting goes with everything, right?

Next on my Lands' End list is stocking up on swimsuits for the girls. They wore theirs out this summer (several each - which is a reflection on what a great pool summer it was), and since there are huge discounts on the website, now's a great time to buy!

Thanks to Lands' End for letting me try out their products. I will definitely be turning to this site again, if not for more Replikates then for the vast array of other attractive, quality clothing they have to offer. Thank goodness they moved past yachting gear! (Though if Kate and I do become best friends, I may need some of that, too...)

Disclosure: The above items were provided for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Saturday, September 3

Dear Fellow Teachers: A Back-to-School Letter

This blog post began as a September pep talk for myself. Partway through, I realized I could tweak a few pronouns, broaden the focus slightly and possibly help to get other teachers geared up for the exciting new beginning that's quickly approaching. Hope it helps!


Dear Fellow Teachers,

There's no better way to start this letter than to remind you that you are amazing. As far as I am concerned, teaching is a vocation that can't be denied or escaped...and even if you aren't religious, I still believe that God has called all of us to take on this incredible job.

But wait a second: before you pour so much energy into your students (for me, every year seems to literally bring blood, sweat and tears), take a look inward for a moment. Check your own health, both physical and mental. You can only do this job well if you're at full strength, so make that a priority. While you're at it, check your extended health plan. I use every single penny allocated to massage, and I am absolutely positive it makes me better at my job.

You do this work in large part because of your love for children, but remember to extend your compassion to parents. Some may not support schooling because they never saw that modeled in their homes. Some may have a confrontational communication style because that is what they saw modeled. Be kind and understanding while making it clear you deserve to be treated calmly and with respect.

Continue to earn that respect. Arrive and leave at professional times, dress in a professional manner that suits your teaching environment. Watch your social media presence. There is a small but vocal portion of the population who will take any opportunity to teacher-bash. Don't read the comments, and if you put yourself through that torture, don't engage. Better for us to continue to prove the critics wrong, every day.

If you have children of your own, don't get sucked into the guilty-working-parent-quicksand. Make sure that, big picture, your family is your highest priority, and understand it doesn't mean that minute-to-minute they are your highest priority. This is hardest when children are really little and so physically demanding (been there, done that), but if you're confident in your caregiving decisions, don't feel guilty about spending your weekdays focused on 30 of other people's children (or, if you're like me, spending time awake at 3 am worrying about 30 of other people's children). I remember hiring a babysitter so I could spend an entire weekend writing report cards, and I won't apologize for that. My girls loved their's a win/win. (Or, as we always joke in our house, a Winn/Winn.) It's fantastic for any parent to model a work ethic and passion for their chosen profession.

That said, sometimes you have to unplug... or recharge.....whichever of those seemingly contradictory metaphors works for you. The school work will always be there (really, there is absolutely always something you *could* be doing) so at some point you have to leave it, or put it away. You will be a better teacher if you have other interests and hobbies, if you're physically active, if you read for pleasure and not just professional materials. Soak up your time with family (even if it's just on the couch...okay, maybe that's more for me) and friends. Teaching is a huge part of our identities, but don't allow it to push out everything else that makes you whole.

Prioritize. While test scores or other measurements of success may be on the back of your mind, make sure your overarching goals aren't quantifiable: I know I want my students to come to school feeling safe, cared for, and eager to learn. We will take it from there, one bit at a time.

Find the joy, as there is so much of it to be found. When you're experiencing the opposite of joy (you will have your own word for this and some can't be printed here) share with someone you trust, and then let. it. go. (Says the queen of never. letting. it. go. I told you this was a pep talk for me, too.)

In conclusion: Remember, you are amazing. Oh, did I already say that? It bears repeating. You are so extremely fortunate to have the privilege of molding young lives. But guess what? Those kids are also lucky beyond measure to have you. God bless them, and all of us and we embark on another adventure.

We've got this, everyone.

Thursday, September 1

Kate's Favourite Things - September 2016


None of my usual suspense/thrillers for you this month - I branched out!

After You by JoJo Moyes (an excellent sequel to the bestseller Me Before You; this one didn't pull at my heartstrings quite as much, but it was fun to revisit characters that I knew and loved from the first book)

Sushi For Beginners by Marian Keyes (I was in the mood for something Irish, and since Keyes does not like the term "chick lit" I won't use it - but now you've got the idea!)

This Charming Man by Marian Keyes (a bit long at 676 pages but I love her work)

When God Was a Rabbit by Sarah Winman (award-winning fiction, just pay attention to time lapses - there were moments that I was confused)

The Choices We Make by Karma Brown (I loved the first book by my Twitter friend Karma, Come Away With Me - read it if you haven't - and her second novel about a woman being a pregnancy surrogate for a friend is just as compelling)

The Rainbow Comes and Goes by Anderson Cooper and Gloria Vanderbilt (fascinating to learn about Vanderbilt's upbringing, and I should have been more impressed by her famous romantic partners, except she's in her 90s now which means I have never heard of most of them! Sinatra, yes, but not most of the others)


It was all about family movies this month:

Nine Lives I love Jennifer Garner, and the movie kept the girls and me entertained.

Pete's Dragon A lot of great messages to discuss in this one, and the CGI animation was really well done.


Need a makeup artist? Try Lacey West Makeup! I was in a video for a special project this month (I'm still not allowed to tell!) and Lacey did a fantastic job on my makeup!

My favourite mail delivery this month *might* have been this selection of notebooks an datebooks from Hallmark. It makes me happy just to look at the photo!

Some of my posts this month were particularly popular, so I'm going to lump them in with my "favourite things" as well!

My New Eyebrows: Microblading from Permanent Beauty by Kalyna (this post has so many views that I started to think I should switch to beauty blogging!)

Kate and the RepliKate Trend (following the style of the Duchess of Cambridge; I have a few upcoming posts on this as well, since I've purchased or received several more RepliKates since this first post!)

Kindergarten Advice From Teachers and Parents

oh yes, and I was back on THE SOCIAL with Back-to-School Tips and Tricks

And there you have it - my favourite things! I have a sneaking suspicion that I won't be reading many books or watching many movies in September, but we'll see when next month's edition brings!

Tuesday, August 30

Family Fun in Ottawa, Ontario

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by IHG. Opinions are, as always, my own.

I’ve always loved a good road trip, which is not surprising since I started travelling at such an early age. At only a few weeks old, my parents buckled me up (or, probably not – it was 1977!) and took me to Ottawa. 

Only two years later, here I am again in front of the Parliament Buildings with my baby brother, Ed. Do you see a road trip theme here?

Yes, my family has always loved spending time in Ottawa, Canada’s fourth largest city – with a rich history and so much to see and do. For visitors, there’s a huge variety of IHG hotels in Ottawa as well.

Of course as teachers, my parents were always big on educational fun, and the museum selection in Ottawa is fantastic. Here’s an amusing shot from our 1989 visit to the then brand-new Canadian Museum of Civilization (now called the Canadian Museum of History). I say amusing, of course, because of my XXL eyeglasses (yep, those were real.). Hey, this was before I was old enough for contact lenses and well before LASIK!

You can also visit the Canadian War Museum, which tells inspiring wartime anecdotes through exclusive photos, art, tours and presentations, or the Royal Canadian Mint (which is on my list for our next trip to Ottawa).

The outdoor scenery in the city is beautiful, too. Many visitors and residents enjoy walking alongside the Rideau Canal with a cup of cocoa in the colder months. Skating is also very popular when the Canal is frozen.

Of course, there’s a place for sports fans in Ottawa as well. In fact, a few years ago when our beloved Montreal Canadiens were in a playoff series against the Ottawa Senators, my husband, father and I went wild and crazy and got same-day tickets (on a workday, no less – if you know how much I love my sleep you must be totally shocked by this) and hit the highway for Ottawa, driving back straight after the game. Who won the game, you ask? Oh, it doesn’t matter.

I would be remiss if I didn’t mention the great shopping in Ottawa. The Byward Market is extremely popular, and for mall-lovers, the Rideau Centre is a popular choice with 20 million visitors each year.

Since Ottawa is the capital of our beautiful country, you can also find the Parliament Buildings here of course – a huge tourist attraction for my family, obviously!

Just this past spring, our ten-year-old Olivia made it to the Provincials for Lions’ Club Effective Public Speaking (her topic was “Careers of the Future” – let me know if you need any tips!), which was held in Ottawa. We took advantage of our family time in this beautiful city to introduce the girls to the Parliament Buildings, which they had never seen.

I love these next photos, taken at the same spot where the Prime Minister and Members of Parliament address the media outside the House of Commons. You never know, my girls could be back there someday!

There are seasonal events to consider in Ottawa, too. Thinking of visiting this fall? Note that the Ottawa Food and Wine Festival takes place in October.Who doesn’t love food and/or wine?

While we have done a couple of same-day Ottawa trips (over three hours each way…that seems crazy as I type it!), we usually try to take advantage of all of the great Ottawa hotels. By joining the IHG® Rewards Club, the world’s first and largest hotel loyalty program with more than 92 million members worldwide, you can get points for your hotel stay at IHG hotels. IHG is a global organization of hotel brands including Intercontinental® Hotels and Resorts, Kimpton® Hotels and Restaurants, HUALUXETM Hotels and Resorts, Crowne Plaza® Hotels and Resorts, Hotel Indigo®, EVEN® hotels, Holiday Inn® Hotels and Resorts, Holiday Inn Express®, Staybridge Suites® and Candlewood Suites®.

Ottawa certainly has something for everyone, and I would highly recommend it for your next family trip.

I started this post with a 1977 Ottawa family photo, so what better way to end than with one from 2016? This time, it’s a selfie!

Monday, August 29

My Segment on THE SOCIAL: Tips for Back-To-School Success!

I was thrilled to be invited back for my fourth (can you believe it?) appearance on CTV's THE SOCIAL, this time sharing insider back-to-school tips for parents.

The video is below, but first: the fashion!

Thanks to Le Château for providing the dress, shoes, bracelet and earrings - based on the compliments, the look was a hit, and apparently brocade is very "in" for fall! Hair was by Andrea Zarlenga, makeup by Caitlin Cullimore.

My segment was with Melissa Grelo and Marci Ien, and as always the ladies were incredibly friendly and supportive.

Jess Allen made a point of popping into the green room with kind words after the segment, so we squeezed in a selfie (also shown: my date for the day, my 'cousin-in-law' Lauren, who was great at navigating, role-playing, and keeping me distracted to help with my pre-show nerves!)

Now, here's the video for anyone who missed it!

If you can't see the video, it's also on the website:

As well, if you've missed any of my other segments on THE SOCIAL, you can catch up on them here:

Tips For School Success
Homework Help
Ask the Teacher

Thanks to THE SOCIAL for inviting me back again, and to everyone for their kindness and support, whether in person or on social media. It is truly appreciated.

Now, back to my classroom preparations! Happy back-to-school, everyone!

Thursday, August 25

What to Expect During William and Kate's Canadian Visit

I've taken a recent interest in the Duchess of Cambridge (as my Instagram followers certainly know) and in fact have joined the many women who have fun "RepliKating" her clothing and accessories. I was very interested to hear that the Duke and Duchess would soon be visiting Canada, and curious about a lot of the protocols and details surrounding William and Kate's Canadian Tour. 

For information, I turned to Amanda Effie, editor at What Would Kate Do? (one of my new favourite sites!) who also happens to be a resident of British Columbia, where the royal couple (perhaps entire family) will soon visit.

Amanda graciously answered all of my burning questions about the impending royal tour.

Would Prime Minister Trudeau's invitation have been sent and accepted privately before we heard about it, or were we really getting those details in real time? 

It would have been discussed privately well ahead of time between the offices of the Cambridges at Kensington Palace and the UK in Canada program, unfortunately not by Justin Trudeau calling up the Cambridges and asking them to come over for a visit (although isn’t that more fun to think about?)

When Canadians show up at royal appearances as spectators, is there any special protocol to keep in mind? What about anyone who has the honour of meeting the Duke or Duchess (how to address them, etc.)? 

As Canada is a commonwealth nation, curtsying would be proper protocol if meeting them in a formal capacity. We wrote an article a few years ago about the etiquette of meeting the Queen - and since William and Kate will be here representing Her Majesty, those rules would be very helpful. Since very few Canadians will likely have that honour, it is more likely that they will see Will and Kate as spectators during walkabouts or when they are en route somewhere. Given that distinction, there are several other “rules” which are also extremely helpful when meeting a Royal such as never touching them and always being respectful of both their roles as Ambassadors for the UK as well as the fact that they are human beings. We’ll also throw in a modern situation we see so often with people meeting the Duke and Duchess on walkabouts -  put your phone away! 

What fashion items do you predict we will see from Kate? 

Kate and her stylist team do significant research before all tours and often pay homage to the host country through fashion choices. The last time Kate was in Canada in 2011, for example, she wore a now iconic Erdem (Canadian designer) lace dress for one event and paired a gorgeous Maple Leaf brooch with several of her ensembles. For this Tour, we absolutely expect to continue to see her wearing Canadian brands or brands with Canadian designers at the helm such as Pink Tartan or Smythe. Also since Canada’s new “First Lady” is such a proponent and fan of Canadian fashion, it’s possible that Kate will step up her Made-In-Canada game for events when she is seen with Sophie Trudeau. Perhaps we will also see her break out the Lululemon we saw her buying in London a few months ago for casual events and I’d put good money on the Smythe blazer (that one of our team members desperately wants to borrow from Kate’s closet) making an appearance!

I know some critics have questioned the fact that royals often wear traditional clothing items from the cultures of the countries they visit - saying that it's "cultural appropriation". What do you think of this? Do you believe it's insulting or a compliment to the host countries? 

This is a tough question. Like we mentioned before, Kate and her team do extensive research on the country they are visiting and the traditions of the people in that country in order to pay respect to them, definitely not to insult or diminish their cultural values. Think of the cape that Kate wore whilst visiting Bhutan on the last tour - was absolutely a nod to the country’s rich heritage. With Will and Kate spending time on the West Coast on this particular tour, I think it could be very likely to see them spend time with members of Canada’s Aboriginal communities who have such rich and powerful histories and stories, so there could be clothing or items chosen to honour that part of Canadian history. 

When the royals visit other countries, how much input do you think they have in the itinerary? I know for example that being a "selective" eater would make some such events awkward for me! Do you think personal preferences and comfort levels are taken into account?

In all honesty, it is probably very little - it usually follows in line with their official patronages. To be fair though, the patronages are chosen by the Royals themselves. In Will and Kate's case, this includes wildlife preserves, children’s hospice care, the arts and mental health initiatives. I think we will see engagements entering around those things that the couple are passionate about… But I think there will also be some downtime on the trip given that they are traveling with their children - William was quoted as saying he wanted to take George fishing! 

Photo: Kensington Palace

Knowing they will be visiting British Columbia and Yukon, do you have any predictions for specific destinations? 

My house (just kidding!) It’s hard to guess without seeing their full itinerary, but since we are now hearing that Vancouver will be their first destination, I can imagine that whilst in Vancouver they could visit Stanley Park (perhaps if it can be arranged with security concerns take George and Charlotte to the Aquarium?), spend some time on Granville Island (there is an amazing non-profit community Arts studio there that I could see Kate loving) or perhaps a visit to one of our amazing gardens - perhaps either the Dr. Sun Yat-Sen Classical Chinese Garden or Van Duesen Gardens for an event. The couple will absolutely be making a stop in Whistler and I could also see them making a trip out to the Island.

I imagine William and Kate will have to balance the children's privacy with the public's desire to see the little prince and princess. How much should we expect to see the children during the visit? 

Unfortunately for us, it is likely very little. We saw George only a handful of times on the Australia trip. We will probably only see them upon arrivals and maybe 1-2 events which have been specifically designed with them in mind. 

There are some in Canada who wish to abolish the monarchy. Do you think this visit could have a strategic angle - getting younger Canadians to feel good about the monarchy again?

This is also a tough question seeing as everyone has such different political views on the matter. I think that no matter your view on Canada remaining or ceasing to be a member of the Commonwealth, you can agree that William, Kate, George and Charlotte’s visit will do a couple of things. One, it will direct the international spotlight on our gorgeous country which I think can never be a bad idea. And second, it will allow the media to focus on charitable patronages in Canada which the Cambridge family will shine a light on with their visit. No one can dispute that Kate has emerged as an international celebrity in her own right. What we’ve noticed in writing the blog for the last almost 5 years is that people are often initially attracted to Kate for her style, but then also learn that she supports mental health initiatives, for example. Then those girls and women take more active roles in their communities supporting charities that align with Kate’s patronages. Those two things can’t be all bad, no matter your position on the Royal Family overall!


Thank you so much to Amanda from What Would Kate Do? for sharing her expertise on the Cambridges with us, and we are counting on full coverage of the royal visit from you! (Fingers crossed you get to see the royal couple!)

Tuesday, August 23

Our Tour of Corus Entertainment (Plus My Girls' Interviewing Debuts!)

While in the big city recently, the girls and I were invited to tour the Toronto waterfront headquarters of Corus Entertainment...and had so much fun!

Since we arrived early (shocker, right?) we spent some time on Sugar Beach (adjacent to the Redpath Sugar Factory) right outside the building. No swimming allowed, but what fun to get our toes in the sand in the middle of such an urban environment!

Once in the building, the first stop was the radio studios - something the girls had never seen before. We caught the tail end of Fred and Mel with Rick Campanelli's morning show on 102.1 The Edge (one of several stations housed at this location) before Olivia and Eva turned reporters and fired some questions at the hosts! (Videos below)

Liv chats with Mel about forging a career in broadcasting, the pros and cons of doing a morning show, and what Toronto attractions she looks forward to visiting with baby-to-be!

Eva asks Rick about kids on social media, whether he prefers hosting on TV or radio, and what it was like to interview one of her favourite stars.

Liv throws Fred some hard-hitting questions about comic books, the appeal of radio, and back-to-school. He is particularly passionate about one school supply...

The hosts were so kind and accommodating - what a great experience for my girls! (Thanks Fred, Mel and Rick!)

While I had some idea about the wide variety of Corus brands (including radio and television), Eva was hooked when she heard that YTV was in the building, along with the Disney Channel. (My favourites would have to be W, HGTV and of course CHEX Television in Peterborough, the first station to let me on live TV!)

As the tour continued, we saw your usual run-of-the-mill workplace fixtures, like the two-storey slide...wait, what?? (I was the official photographer, but I did take a turn myself!)

I thought this double-sided 6-storey indoor living wall was pretty cool too.

Oh, just checking out the screening room.

Taking in the view from one of the decks

Liv's first (time standing beside an) Emmy! "Above all, I'd like to thank my mother..."  
(I can dream, right?)

As always, PR pro Hayley was prepared with fantastic brand swag for the kids...including some timely YTV collapsible lunch kits with sporks, perfect for back to school, and supersoft Disney Channel blankets. Maybe now they won't pull every comforter out of the closet when they're cuddled on the couch watching their favourite shows! 

Thanks for inviting us in, Corus...we had a blast!