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'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!

Monday, August 22

Family Fun at Casa Loma, Toronto

"North America's only full-sized castle and Toronto's premier historic attraction" - how could we resist the opportunity to take the girls to Casa Loma?

Photo courtesy Casa Loma

We started our self-guided tour on the lower level (full disclosure: because we were hungry and that's where the cafe is!) and worked our way up. The photos really tell the story...

800 feet of underground tunnels connecting two parts of the property - 
so no one back then had to go outside and cross the street!

Downstairs you can also find a display of posters from movies that were shot on location at 
Casa Loma (one of my favourites: Chicago!)

I asked Eva to pick her favourite old car - she went with the Model T!

I wanted to call out, "Rapunzel! Rapunzel!" but I'm on the borderline of becoming an embarrassing mom (because of their ages, not because of anything I've done, of course) so I restrained myself.

Even the gardens are impressive

Of course Liv's favourite place would be the library! This is only a fraction of the books.

A popular event venue - we got a sneak peek at some wedding photography

The fireplace is always my favourite spot in a home - 
and this one has secret passageways on either side! (The kids love that!)

Casa Loma provides a fascinating look at history, and makes a worthwhile class trip destination as well, with school programs running from Kindergarten right through secondary school.

A visit can also spark some interesting discussions about financial decisions. Sir Henry Pellatt had the castle built beginning in 1911 (it took 300 men almost three years to complete) at a cost of $3.5 million. He and his wife Lady Mary only enjoyed Casa Loma for less than ten years before financial misfortune forced them to move. Some of his visions (e.g., the indoor swimming pool) never even reached fruition. (We've decided to be satisfied with our beautiful home - with one percent of the square footage of Casa Loma!)

If you've never visited Casa Loma, it's definitely something to add to your must-see list!

Note: Because there was a wedding taking place, on-site parking was limited when we arrived, but we found a spot just a few minutes away in the George Brown College lot on MacPherson.

Disclosure: We were provided free admission to Casa Loma for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Friday, August 19

Reflections on Running (My Kids' Running, That Is)

Once the first of August arrives, we take the girls out almost daily to practise their cross country running, ahead of the family of schools meet that usually takes place at the end of September.

We start at the high school track for the first few days, so they can get a true sense of the exact distance they'll be required to run (Eva's age group is still at 1 km; Liv moves up to 2 km this year) and then move to the road or local trails.

As I watch them run, I'm often overcome with emotions.

I feel pride in my daughters for their hard work and determination. Rarely (I didn't say never) do they complain, and they're constantly striving to improve their performance. I have to admit I also have a twinge of good-mom-moment pride ("Look at me - modeling and encouraging healthy, active living! Mom points for that!")

However I'm also overwhelmed with a sense of gratitude: first, for my two healthy, happy little blessings who have the ability to get out there and run. When I say prayers of gratitude, I feel like God's response to me (note I said "feel", I'm not hearing voices or anything), is "Yes, your girls are healthy right now...which gives you time, energy and money to spare that you can use to help other kids." So I spend every school year trying to do that.

I'm also thankful for where we live - not only do we have access to a great track, but nice quiet country roads and more beautiful trails than we could possibly hit in one summer.

Plus, I'm even grateful for the holiday time that I have to get out and do things like this with my kids. (Though I'll be honest: I love the movies, plays, restaurants and shopping trips just as much as the sporty stuff. What, you're not shocked?) The free time will change when September comes, which is one of the craziest months around our house...so it's a good thing their coach will be running them at school! (Yes, that's also me.)

Don't get me wrong, I'm no Pollyanna - there are several things I'm worried and stressed about at the moment, but why dwell on those in a blog post? For today, I'm counting my blessings...and I'm not sure I can count high enough.

Thursday, August 18

Kindergarten Advice from Parents and Teachers

With the new school year right around the corner, there are many parents getting ready to send their little ones to school for the very first time.

To help make that big step easier, I hit up my social media friends and gathered words of wisdom from the trenches: from educators, parents and educator/parents...including some faces you just may recognize! (Feel free to add your own ideas in the comments section!)


Michele Harrison (mom and Early Childhood Educator)

"Create an environment at home that is conducive to oral language development. Children benefit from being able to take part in a conversation, ask and answer questions, share personal stories and retell stories."


Corrie Bell (mom and teacher)

"My biggest thing was realizing that my little one was more ready than I imagined. The amazing Kindergarten teachers "take it away" and really smoothed all my fears. Have faith in your little one, they will (most likely) exceed your expectations and are in good hands!"


Tracy Moore (mom and host of Cityline)

The fall line of Tracy Moore Designed by Freda's launches on The Shopping Channel on September 10th. Find them on Instagram @tracymoorexfredas!

"We had two different types of kindergarten kids. The eldest walked in shy and reluctant while the little one said, 'Later!' and immediately made 7 friends.

Regardless of the type you have, trust that they are ready to take this step. It's going to be fun, they're going to love it and every transition takes time. The daycare transition was much harder for me and my eldest. He cried so much during drop-offs I got my husband and mom to do it for me. Yes I'm a coward and my heart couldn't take it. But kindergarten was a breeze so just hang on and enjoy the ride!"



Natalie (mom, via Twitter)

"Don't take it so seriously. Don't be upset if your kids don't do what they're 'supposed' to do (read, write, etc.). Don't let the teacher or kindergarten stress you or your child out. I have three kids, and now that they're older I wonder why I stressed when I was told they couldn't use scissors properly or took too long putting their shoes on...they have no problem doing it now!"


Cheryl Hickey (mom and host of ET Canada, also founder of natural, family-safe product company Ours by Cheryl Hickey)

"Well, truth: I am really not looking forward to my daughter starting preschool! So selfish, I know. This means I have to accept she is growing up. That said, this is not about me!
So for her, we will read some books about first days of school to get her excited. I went and got her her first big girl backpack, just like her brother's but in her favourite colour. Then before the school year ended I took her for a play date at the preschool so she will have a good memory of the place on the day. Other than that I will be like every other parent choking back tears...and maybe a G and T that evening!"

Photo credit: @kittyholland


Michelle Green (mom and teacher)

"1. Encourage your child's independence by letting him carry his own school bag and enter the school/yard/classroom on his own, etc. Make him feel proud to be so big and grown up!

2. Send an extra set of clothes for the classroom if the teachers ask for one, no matter how neat and tidy your child is – and keep another set in his/her backpack if there's room (but make sure he/his teachers know it's there). And be sure to replace items as they get used!

3. Talk with your child about asking for help when he needs it. That's what teachers are for!

4. Don't expect your child to come home and tell you everything about his day, or to be able to answer a big open-ended question like "What did you do today?". Instead work on some specific, easy-to-answer questions to get a discussion going and break his day into smaller chunks, and be sure to model for your child by telling him a little about your own day. 

4. Label everything!!"


"In Kindergarten it's many children's first time fending for themselves, so we focused on assertiveness. We asked our kids to tell us ways they can be kind and helpful to the teacher and to kids who are struggling and what to do if other kids are being mean or bossy - we actually role played bullying them to prepare our kids to react in the situation, even giving them a shove and grabbing things out of their hands. It was hilarious and we all ended up laughing but it did come in handy for them as every class has a few out of control kids. Our teachers described our kids as being very helpful in class, and that was a big source of pride for me." 


Kristen Steinberg (mom and teacher)

"Independence skills are valuable as they help the child build confidence in their own abilities. Examples: opening lunch food containers and baggies, wrappers etc., putting on footwear and coats, washing hands (using soap and paper towel). Also social knowledge: listening, following directions, using manners, treating others with kindness, sharing, taking turns, etc."


Monica Lacy (mom and actress)

Monica will next be seen starring as a lead in the upcoming Amazon series "The Kicks", as quirky, idealistic soccer mom Sharon Burke - Watch Episode 1 for free on Amazon: http://www.amazon.com/The-Kicks-Season-1/dp/B00Z89OR0W)

"When your little one starts kindergarten, we moms can be overwhelmed with surprising emotions. We're so excited for our child to begin school and all the wonder that it brings, but we're also torn about saying 'goodbye' at the school gates for the very first time.  You're not alone if you feel a mix of thrill, sadness and pride all mixed together.  

1) Remember to project confidence in your child's new teacher and school.  Your child is looking to you for reassurance they are safe and that you are wholeheartedly behind this wonderful place called school.  For nervous kids, you might make a special book or calendar to illustrate how many things are NOT changing, even as one new thing called 'school' is added. The repetition of reading this book together can be very comforting.  For instance, illustrate that you will still be making pancakes in the morning and you'll still be cuddling with their teddy bear, and you will still have bath time and bed time routines every day.  Also illustrate general things that school will entail, like story time and snack time. My son especially needed these reassuring reminders about his day.

2) Expect your kid to come home exhausted for the first few weeks and months.  He/she may even save all their crankiness for you when they get home (mine did!). The many new expectations and challenges take their toll.  Don't schedule any big activities in the first month or so, and give them plenty of time to unwind when they get home each day. It looks easy to us, but being a kindergartner is hard work that challenges them emotionally and physically. Learning to control their bodies, wait turns, and follow directions as well as scholastic pursuits is hard work.

3)  Go easy on yourself too, mom.  There is a reason so many of my friends get puppies when their last child starts kindergarten! We have lots of mothering left in us still, and you are still an indispensable person in your child's life.  Enjoy the journey together."

Photos by Lesley Bryce

While you can find an abundance of school books based on licensed characters (Dora, Franklin and the Berenstain Bears all go to school!), there are many other great books out there to help your child get ready for this transition. Here are some of my personal favourites!

For even more ideas, check out this great article written by a mom and Registered Early Childhood Educator:

10 Things I Wish I Knew Before My Child Started Full-Day Kindergarten

If there's anything we've missed here that you think could help new kindergarten parents, please leave a comment below!

(P.S. My apologies for the gender imbalance in this post, but no dads replied to me!)

Wednesday, August 10

My New Eyebrows: Microblading from Permanent Beauty by Kalyna

Yes, I live a pretty blessed life that I have the time and money to spend on my eyebrows. Let's get over that one and move on.

And to be fair, I am not expecting that my kindergarten students will be paying any attention to the shape, colour or thickness of my brows. Partly because they will be just learning the concepts of shape, colour and thickness. However, my "moonlighting" work puts me on video and in photography quite often, and while I am naturally a very dark brunette, for some reasons my eyebrows seem to disappear on camera. Sure, I could keep filling them in for every special occasion, but when I started to see the great results women were having with the microblading technique, I was intrigued.

Enter Kalyna Cabral, who runs Permanent Beauty by Kalyna in Peterborough. I started checking out her Instagram account, and was super impressed by the before-and-afters I saw, so I took the plunge and made an appointment...which was today!

Since I was slightly nervous about the pain, I took two extra-strength Tylenol before leaving the house (that is NOT a professional recommendation, and please note that you're definitely not supposed to use alcohol or any drugs that are blood thinners before your procedure).

After filling out the standard paperwork (and realizing that I went to high school with the receptionist, and in fact knew her first when we were kids and our brothers played lacrosse together), Kalyna led me into the room where the magic happens. She and I also established that it's a small world (our significant others once worked together, someone she knows is engaged to someone I know) and we got down to business.

Kalyna asked me if I had any pictures or specific requests, and I just told her that I wanted my brows to follow my natural shape, but to be darker and fuller so they would stand out. She took some before photos (they're coming, be patient!), took some measurements, and then pencilled in the outline of the shape that she recommended, which I totally loved. She then cleaned up any hairs that were outside that shape (which you can tell when looking at the photos).

She numbed my skin before beginning, and then started the microblading process, which involves a micro machine, needle and organic pigments. (Random piece of info: I can't donate blood for six months now, because it counts as a tattooing procdure). Kalyna uses a feather stroke technique which really looks like individual brow hairs, and creates a 3D effect (it's not like a flat coloured tattoo on your eyebrow, there's actual texture there).

As far as pain goes, I would describe the sensation like someone scratching at my brows with a toothpick. I could feel something, and I could always tell where she was working, but it never actually hurt (though it did make me sneeze a couple of times, and luckily I was able to warn Kalyna so she wasn't mid-stroke!)

When it comes to colour, I've heard from a couple of people not to be afraid to go dark, and one girl regretted going lighter because the brows do fade over the first few weeks. In fact, Kalyna told me that the colour would lighten by 20%, so I went a bit darker than what I would want for my end results. The whole thing took less than an hour.

And...here are the results! (Photos are from the Permanent Beauty By Kalyna Instagram account - and if you're reading this post so far thinking I'm vain, please take note that I am voluntarily showing photos where I have absolutely no makeup and there are no filters used).

An extra highlight of the process was when we were all finished and Kalyna turned to me and said, "You know who you look like? Prince William's wife!" (My regular readers should already be laughing. My response: "Funny you should say that! Here's a picture...")

When I left, I was provided with a little bag holding the cream I would need to apply (antibiotic ointment for tonight and after care ointment for the next 7 to 10 days) as well as a cute themed cookie. (My girls don't know that I got a cookie, since I wolfed it down as soon as I got in the door, before they even made it up the stairs to check out the transformation. No one needs to tell them.)

I am booked to go back in December for a touch up, when Kalyna can darken or enhance the shape, as I wish.

For prices and more info about microblading and all of Kalyna's services, visit her website. Her Instagram account also has a ton of helpful before and afters to check out as well. While Peterborough might not appear (to the untrained eye) to be the most cutting-edge city, Kalyna is renowned far and wide for her work (and trains others in Canada and the U.S. on these procedures too) and there's a fairly lengthy waiting time so book as soon as you're ready!

In case you're wondering, this procedure wasn't a blog freebie - I'm a satisfied paying customer! However, Permanent Beauty by Kalyna does have a referral program, so if you end up there for an appointment, I'd love if you could put my name on the "Referred by..." line! (It's Kate Winn. You knew that, right?) And of course please don't hesitate to ask if you have any questions!

Saturday, August 6

Kate and the #Replikate Trend: Following the Style of the Duchess of Cambridge

Yes, I have begun to dabble in the world of RepliKaters (as my Instagram followers well know). What? Well, RepliKaters have fun following and copying fashions worn by Kate, the Duchess of Cambridge. Sometimes this involves making identical purchases (while the designer items are out of my budget, sometimes Kate shops mainstream too) or trying to find less expensive choices that resemble what Kate wore.

I do love Kate's style, and in fact when I edited my closet this summer I had her in mind. Would Kate wear this? (Though that can get a bit confusing when it seems like I'm talking about myself in the third person.)

Now, I'm not for a moment saying everything in my wardrobe is Duchess-worthy (so please don't point that out when you see me running into the grocery store for milk). I'm sure I kept a lot of workout clothes that are way too casual for that Kate, and since I am not in fact royal (shocker, I know) and don't have the same need to be quite so conservative, I do have some items with lower necklines and higher hemlines. But stylists agree that it's a great idea to have a fashion icon in mind when both shopping and purging clothing to keep yourself consistent and help with decision making.

Now, before we get too far with this, let's preempt the critical viewpoints.

By following the Duchess of Cambridge's fashion, I am not trying to *be* Kate. In fact, there's no reward in the world that would convince me to choose that kind of highly scrutinized life. Nor can I even pretend to know the woman. Even after reading two very thorough biographies, I likely know a tiny fraction about who she really is. Plus, why would I want to be Kate Middleton when I can be Kate Winn?

What I am doing, (and I think I speak for the majority of the other RepliKaters out there) is having fun following the fashion and tracking down the finds (there really is a thrill to the hunt - this could be a bit like Pokemon Go?) Plus, I actually feel I've become part of a community (just as you might if you share the same favourite sports team) as RepliKaters are very kind and supportive on social media as we share the same interest and goal.

There are certainly negative opinions about this out there. One online commenter (not on my site; my readers are much more savvy and understanding) talked about how women who copy Kate's style are "sheep", and others say that obviously these women have nothing better to do. Oh believe me, I have lots to do. But prioritizing some fun downtime always makes my list, so I am refreshed to do everything else. (Plus, treadmill desk = working out + RepliKating at the same time.) When I interviewed celebrity gossip blogger Lainey Lui and asked her how she responds to those who think that it's trivial to follow celebrities, I loved her response:

"It's about balance. We can still do our cerebral reading and our jobs and also make time for entertainment. I think sometimes it's an unfair question because nobody asks a man when he's doing his job and has an important career why he takes time out to watch the football game. I feel like the more that question is asked the more I bump up against it because men don't have to justify why they watch sports, so why should we have to justify why we like knowing about Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie, especially when the conversations about Brad Pitt and Angeline Jolie could lead us to a better understanding of ourselves." 

Long story short: no judging us!

Now, for the good stuff! Over a year ago, while perusing the jewelry at Walmart (seriously) I came across this fun replica of Kate's iconic engagement ring (which of course was first worn by Diana, Princess of Wales). In this photo, the top shows the original ring, and the bottom is my single-digit-dollars purchase.

My next RepliKate purchase was just this summer, when I ordered the exact same Breton sweater from Me + Em (definitely in my price range, and on sale too!) that the Duchess has often worn.

Continuing to stay frugal, one day at the mall I spotted coral jeans (again, worn by Kate on several occasions) for $14.99 on the sale rack at Gap. Now that's a deal...and also breaks me out of my neutral colour rut! (Of course I didn't try for an exact copy of the sweatshirt...I have my own alma mater to support!)

Then, there's the navy blazer. Not the Smythe one favoured by Kate, of course, but the H + M version for under $40. I wear blazers to school all the time and needed a navy one for my collection. (No photo yet - I'll add it to my next post...since I'm sure there will be one!)

I could tell that Kate was a good choice as fashion inspiration since when I turned to my closet I already had several items resembling hers, like the blue pants shown below. As for the golf shirt...well, remember you don't have to shop in the women's section! This was 5 bucks at Old Navy...it's an XL Boys' shirt!

Finally, I turned to eBay and bought an affordable replica of the Duchess' L.K. Bennett Lasa poppy dress, which is ready to go for my next TV appearance. (For the most part I've been following her more casual choices, as I have little need for ball gowns and tiaras, but I had to have at least one Kate dress to be an authentic RepliKater!)

If you're interested in learning more about the style of the Duchess of Cambridge, here are some of my favourite sites for Kate fashion (and make sure you're following me on Instagram for all of my Kate/Kate updates too!):

Kate's Closet
What Kate Wore
Kate Middleton Style
What Would Kate Do?


If you are a RepliKater or write about the Duchess of Cambridge's fashion, please leave a comment below so others can find you as well!

Monday, August 1

Kate's Favourite Things - August 2016

I've really appreciated the downtime in the last month, and I hope you enjoy these recos as much as I did!

By the way, if you do appreciate my suggestions - especially books - please consider following me on Facebook, Instagram or Twitter, as I share reading material as I go...and you won't have to wait for the next month to get the list! Thanks!


The Weekenders by Mary Kay Andrews - a fun summer read

Angelina: An Unauthorized Biography by Andrew Morton - this one was recommended by Melissa Grelo recently, and I really learned a lot about this fascinating actress

I Let You Go by Clare Mackintosh - amazing suspense novel full of twists and turns. I've spent a lot of time thinking about how it could be made into a movie without giving away the surprises!

The Happiness Equation by Neil Pasricha - nonfiction by the Canadian author who wrote The Book of Awesome (and other Awesome books)

The Children by Ann Leary - fiction about a now-grown blended family dealing with their issues and secrets

All Is Not Forgotten by Wendy Walker - this is one of the best books I've read in a long time (right up there with I Let You Go, actually). It's pretty dark (dealing with the rape of a teen) with multiple points of view (as told to the narrator psychiatrist) and all sorts of twists.


Ghostbusters - not at all my type of movie, I went strictly for Melissa McCarthy and Kristen Wiig and really enjoyed it...and can't understand why on earth a female reboot was so controversial. (The original cast members make fun cameo appearances, too!)

Eye in the Sky - this was a rental (starring Helen Mirren and the late Alan Rickman) about a military mission, asking great questions about the value of one life.

Lots more to come next month! Enjoy!