Wednesday, July 23

Our Bathroom Reno: The Big Reveal (With Before and After Photos)

Yes, it's finally done!

Other than Maggie's bedroom, there was only one room left in the house that hadn't been repainted since we first built in 2003, which was the main bath. Over the past 11 years I've switched up some accessories, but nothing major, and I was ready for a change!

I saved up my freelance money for the entire year to be ready to foot the bill(s) for a bathroom renovation...and here's how it went:

BEFORE

  • sage green colour (I believe the actual name was "Raintree Green")
  • single, basic vanity and light
  • builder's grade trim and fixtures

No, there was nothing "wrong" with it, other than being outdated, but if you have the means (definitely money, but also energy and patience) I think keeping your home up-to-date is a good investment. It's not just about vanity...so to speak!











(Notice the cheap-looking white kickplate? When we took the vanity out - and sold it on Kijiji- 
we realized the oak-looking side was on the back. It had been installed backwards.)














AFTER


  • "Grey Tabby" paint colour
  • double vanity from Anden Kitchen and Bath (the girls are still young but we're thinking ahead to having two teenagers getting ready at the same time), white shaker style with quartz countertop and rectangular sinks
  • all chrome fixtures (faucets, lights, even the vent cover)
  • new chandelier for ceiling (all lighting from Canadian Tire)
  • double mirrors: we actually had our original rectangular mirror cut into two ovals at the local glass shop for a labour cost of $30! Purchasing the chrome holders definitely brought the cost up though.
  • sheet vinyl floor, dark grey offset rectangular pattern
  • new crown moulding
  • additional trim around window and door frame
  • higher baseboard trim
  • new artwork (really high-end: my husband bought it for me last Christmas at a cost of $20 - doesn't it tie everything together so nicely?)
  • new shower curtain from Target

Now the photos:


















































I'm a bit jealous that the girls now get to use this washroom, while hubby and I share single sink and vanity!

There you have it - the big reveal of our new bathroom.

If you were interested in this post, you might want to check out our ensuite bathroom facelift or perhaps our laundry room reno

The girls' bedroom reveals are coming up in the next couple of weeks as well so stay tuned for that! 




Monday, July 21

Day Trip To Port Carling, Ontario

Today we celebrate our 13th anniversary. Since someone in my life prefers not to be discussed on the blog, I'm not going to say exactly with whom I am celebrating. But in honour of the occasion, that person and I hit the road yesterday and headed to beautiful Port Carling, Ontario.

Why Port Carling? The history! The shops! The water!

No, it was because I read online that there are tons of Hollywood stars vacationing in Muskoka these days, and Port Carling seemed to me like a destination-worthy Muskoka town.

We started our day at Ella's diner for a late breakfast, which was delicious - for a picky eater, I enjoy almost all breakfast foods, and the ambiance was just what we were looking for.

After we did a bit of shopping (you can really just leave your car in one spot and walk everywhere from there) and checked out the wall of photos (up close, you can see these are all individual photos honouring the history of Port Carling):






Next up: boarding the Peerless II (from Sunset Cruises) and taking a tour of Lake Rosseau. So much amazing historical information was shared, as well as the names of some of the past and present "cottage" residents, on the mainland or one of the many privately owned islands:  Lots of Canadian corporate money is in Muskoka: Seagram, Wood and Gundy, Maclean, and Rogers for example. (The Rogers land boasts two helipads and one of the largest residences in the area at over 17 000 square feet.)




Some of the celebrities on this lake alone (which connects at Port Carling to Lake Joseph and Lake Muskoka, also hugely popular) are Goldie Hawn and Kurt Russell, Martin Short and several NHL stars. Interesting note about Steve Yzerman: when he purchased his cottage property, he had his architect design the building to replicate the original cottage on the land, built by Timothy Eaton.

Another tidbit: we passed Windermere House, which was rebuilt after it was destroyed by fire during the filming of the movie The Long Kiss Goodnight (with Geena Davis and Samuel L. Jackson) back in the 90's.

While the weather didn't cooperate very well and it was a bit chilly, I was interested enough in the cruise to stay on the top deck for almost the entire time, and if you know me, that really says something. It's funny that I'm not at all outdoorsy, yet I really do enjoy being out on a boat, and this was no exception. It's a great way to get an overview of the area with commentary from someone who knows.

Here's a shot of a Catholic church where many couples choose to take their vows:




After the cruise: more shopping!

In Port Carling you can find a large selection of antiques and collectibles, plus tons of furnishings and accessories to fill a cottage or cottage-y home. At one shop I admired a ceramic jewelry tray with a quote from Coco Chanel: "A girl needs to be two things: classy and fabulous", until practicality defeated whimsy and I walked away without it. (In case you're thinking I should have just splurged, I will remind you that this month we have renovated a bathroom and two bedrooms. It's time to curb the splurge.)

Any respectable tourist town wouldn't be complete without a festive Christmas shop, 'Tis the Season (also the place to buy fudge), and a great bakery, Abbey's Bake House, offering delicacies such as Maple Bacon Butter Tarts, and brilliant signage:







And can I please get a moment of silence for this extra large chocolate chip cookie with a brownie baked into the middle (this, I could splurge for)?





Thank you.

At one store, we even bought each other our anniversary gifts...some nighttime attire, if you know what I mean. No, no, you totally don't know what I mean: it was Montreal Canadiens t-shirts and track pants for lounging around in the evenings. Hey, there's no judging what others may find romantic.

To end our day we dined at a chain restaurant which - you may not believe - I have never visited before: Turtle Jack's Muskoka Grill. Since it was so cool and drizzly, we ate inside, but there's a whole section of patio right on the water which would have been perfect on a nicer day.



I couldn't think of a more relaxing way to celebrate this special occasion with that person who will not be named or shown in photographs here.

Disclosure: We were provided with one free boat cruise for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.



Saturday, July 19

Win a Family Pass to Santa's Village!

Let me make this clear: if you have young children, you want them to experience the magic and fun of Santa's Village in Bracebridge, Ontario.

Last year, we took the girls (for the third time) and they had an absolute blast! (You can read the full review of our visit to Santa's Village here: http://thismomloves.blogspot.ca/2013/07/win-family-pass-to-santas-village.html)






Did you know:

• Santa’s Village is the oldest and the largest attraction in the Muskoka Region, drawing families, cottagers, youth groups, schools and many others to the region each year

• It’s Santa’s one and only Canadian summer home - visitors can meet and chat with him all summer long

• Santa’s Village offers amazing attractions for kids of all ages, including a roller coaster, riverboat and train rides, merry-go-round,  petting farm, splash pad, beach, playgrounds, inflatable bouncers, arcade, paddle boats, and more

• It’s celebrating its 59th magical season

• It is Bracebridge’s premier destination for kids of all ages, having welcomed almost 6 million visitors since opening in 1955

• Santa’s Village averages 100,000 visitors a year; and

• It sits on the 45th parallel, halfway between the North Pole and the equator









Right next door to Santa's Village is their Sportsland (with free admission), for those who no longer experience the magic of Christmas quite the same way as the little ones. Sportsland offers fun pay-as-you-play activities, including go karts, batting cages, laser tag, mini golf, a bungee trampoline, and an arcade pavilion.

New this year at Santa's Village: An awesome aerial park! Their newest memory-making adventure, Muskoka Tree Trekking and Zip-Lines at Santa’s Village, offers beginner, intermediate and advanced courses for adventure seekers 9+, 54 inches tall and less than 250 lbs. The aerial park includes zip-lines (some as long as 106+ metres/350 feet), monkey lines, wobbly and flipping bridges, balance beams, Tarzan ropes, and a climbing wall. All this at 3-15 metres (10-50 feet) above Santa’s Village’s famous whispering pines.

For those who have further to drive - or, unlike me, actually like camping - Santa's Whispering Pines campground has been voted the best campground in Muskoka for three years in a row, and I know several families that have taken advantage of its location right across from Santa's Village.

So...have I convinced you that this is a must-see for young families? While their prices are reasonable, wouldn't FREE be even bettter?

Thanks to Santa's Village, I'm giving away a free family pass for 4 to visit them anytime during the 2014 season!

To enter, simply leave your email address below, with extra entries for following This Mom Loves and Santa's Village on social media. The contest will run until Saturday, July 26th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck, and...Merry Christmas?

Pssst: since I know you want those bonus entries, sign up here first:

This Mom Loves on Twitter
This Mom Loves on Facebook
Santa's Village on Twitter
Santa's Village on Facebook





Friday, July 18

Swimsuit Confidence Tips From Celebrity Stylist Alexis Honce AND Win a Special K Pack!

Do you hate shopping for a swimsuit? Or wearing one in general? 

Today on the blog I'm pleased to share a special guest post with some great swimsuit-shopping tips from fashion expert and celebrity stylist Alexis Honce (you may have seen her on The Marilyn Denis Show, which you know I'm very familiar with!)





But wait! There's more! Read to the end for a fantastic (and quick) giveaway from Special K!

******************

The warm breeze, the bright sunshine, the backyard gatherings and beach excursions – there’s so much to celebrate now that summer has arrived. However, summer is also swimsuit season, and for many women, wearing one is met with mixed emotions. 

According to the recent Kellogg’s Special K Swimsuit Confidence Survey, 44 per cent of Canadian women  feel the most self-conscious about their bodies when in a swimsuit. And a majority (86 per cent) of women say their body type affects what bathing suit style they choose.

“Looking great in a swimsuit starts with confidence. You have to eat well, exercise, know your body type and choose a swimsuit that suits you,” says Alexis Honce, Canadian fashion expert and celebrity stylist who has worked alongside celebrities such as Michelle Williams, Shenae Grimes and Tatiana Maslany. “A large part of feeling confident comes from making smart food choices. Starting your day with a healthy breakfast and choosing smart snacks, like the range of delicious options available from Kellogg’s Special K, is a great way to stay on track without sacrificing taste.”

Honce offers these tips when considering which type of swimsuit suits you best:

Perfectly Pear Shaped

Pear-shaped physiques typically have broader hips and a smaller bust. When selecting a swimsuit, find a style that accentuates your best assets and adds volume to the top half. Ruffled bikini tops are a great option and are a popular style this season, too. A bandeaux or tube-top bikini style also helps to widen the shoulders and balance the hips. Brightly colored prints add visual intrigue up top, and are best paired with solid colour bottoms. Be sure to also look for high-cut bikini bottoms which figure flatter by helping to elongate the leg.






Lovely and Large Chested

Bigger busts require the right lift and support in a bathing suit top. Look for styles that have underwire which help shape the chest and keep “the girls” secure, whether you’re playing with your kids at the beach or swimming at the pool. Wider shoulder straps also help to provide support. Keep an eye out for swimsuits made of Lycra®, as this more structured material helps to shape the body and create a sleek, smooth line to really enhance those curves. Colour blocked swimwear styles are also very on trend this season and a great choice for this physique.




Amazingly Athletic

Athletic body types are typically lean with a muscular and more rectangular shape. The perfect suit for this shape is one that complements the silhouette, but simultaneously creates a feminine shape. A halter-top swimsuit style with a V-neckline broadens the shoulders, which helps to highlight and define the waist. For bottoms, look for high-cut styles that tie at the sides. Lastly, mix up the colour and print of your tops and bottoms as this helps to balance and accentuate a longer torso.






On-Point in Plus Size

A really flattering look for plus size physiques is a one-piece suit in a trendy colour-blocking pattern. Keep the colours on the top half of the suit light and look for styles that have darker colours over the tummy and hip area to bring attention up towards the face while enhancing your beautiful silhouette.

The most important thing to remember when choosing a swimsuit is that you should feel like the best version of yourself. Wearing the right swimsuit, just like wearing a fabulous outfit, should give you a boost of confidence knowing that you look as good on the outside as you feel on the inside. 





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Thanks so much for sharing your expertise with us, Alexis! 

To help you snack smart this summer, Special K is giving one lucky Canadian This Mom Loves reader a great prize pack with a limited edition tote bag and an assortment of tasty treats like cracker chips, pastry crisps and granola (see photo of prize pack)! All you have to do to enter is submit your e-mail address in the form below, with bonus entries for following This Mom Loves on social media. 

The contest ends on Friday, July 25th at 11:59 pm Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck!












Tuesday, July 15

Behind the Scenes at THE SOCIAL on CTV

The first season of CTV's new talk show THE SOCIAL has been a hit. Launched last September and hosted by Melissa Grelo, Cynthia Loyst, Lainey Lui and Traci Melchor, the series was touted as "what feels like a can't miss lunch date with friends", and I would have to agree (although I PVR the 1 p.m. episodes and watch them in the evenings, providing me with treadmill motivation, rather than a lunch date).

While most of us immediately assumed that this would just be a Canadian version of THE VIEW (there's no denying the similar format: four women discussing hot topics around a table, followed by lifestyle segments) we were told that it wouldn't be that simple, and THE SOCIAL has proven itself to be distinctive, especially with a high rate of viewer interaction through social media.

As they gear up for a second season which will kick off this September, I was thrilled to have the chance to hang out with the team and get a behind-the-scenes look at what goes into a day at THE SOCIAL.

First, of course, was my personal preparation, starting with the mani and pedi, even though I already knew I would be wearing closed-toe shoes. Carefully chosen ones, since they had a big conversation on the show one day about judging people by their footwear. I was especially worried about Lainey's opinion, but she did qualify on air that she holds the highest standards to those who are supposed to be fashion experts, not just the everywoman on the subway. I in no way identify myself as a fashion expert, so I was fairly confident I would be safe.

I also made time to get my brows done pre-SOCIAL, and in one panicked moment even thought "bikini wax!" before reassuring myself that it was most likely unnecessary for this event. I mean, they may have discussed "pelvage" on the show, but I'm pretty sure they don't require visitors to bare their own. 







After arriving downtown early, I hung out at the Starbucks across the street from the studio on Queen Street West, so as not to appear too eager and uncool. I enjoyed a slice of cinnamon loaf and went over my notes, which included questions for each of the co-hosts. I was hoping to get a chance to chat with the ladies one-on-one, but there were no promises due to the tight timelines of a live TV show. 

As I waited in the lobby a short time later, I watched a portion of the live taping of THE MARILYN DENIS SHOW until Tanya, the publicist for THE SOCIAL, greeted me and we began our whirlwind day. 

First stop: wardrobe. There we ran into Traci Melchor, who was warm and welcoming despite her pressing task at hand, which was getting dressed to go and interview her crush (or, as she put it, her "next husband"), Dwayne "The Rock" Johnson, who was at the Ritz-Carlton. She even found time to look me up and down, point at my outfit and say "This is nice. I like it." If the compliment was a ploy to get on the good side of a writer, then I would like the funny and charming Traci to know this: it worked.






Next, we were headed to the office where the four ladies have work stations. Cynthia greeted me with a big hug, and although we've only ever communicated on the phone and through email, she already feels like a friend. A producer was just finishing up a quick meeting, and then the co-hosts were hard at work on their computers, researching the discussion topics for that day's show. They have to be on top of what's trending each day in news, pop culture and lifestyle topics, and make sure their conversations will be supported by facts. The show floats different topics out to viewers through social media early in the day to get responses which are often shared on air, either verbally by the co-hosts or shown at the bottom of the screen. 

At that time they were looking into the fact that Brody Jenner, who skipped his stepsister Kim Kardashian's wedding, had just attended the wedding of her ex, Reggie Bush, leading into a discussion on the tricky etiquette of wedding attendance.

As you can see in the photo below, the hairstylist was doing her thing right there in the office as the co-hosts prepped.




I was then invited down to the makeup room with Melissa, and not a moment was wasted as a producer worked with her to run through the comments she might make about the day's hot topics (reminding her that one point would require the disclaimer of "allegedly" tacked on to it. That's what producers are for.)




As I listened, it was clear that some of the funny comments Melissa threw in were never meant to be shared on air, and though I was never once asked during the day to keep anything off the record, I don't think her ex really wants all of you to know what was said. What's discussed in the makeup room stays in the makeup room. 



Nice collection, right?

It was also important for the co-hosts to let staff know what photos they may need to have ready for topics of discussion. Those who work behind the camera don't have time in a split second to react to a mention and search out a picture (e.g. Jessica Simpson in her infamous "mom jeans"); they need to have them ready beforehand just in case.

One thing that surprised me was how the co-hosts seemed to be moving in all directions, with different times in wardrobe and makeup, and differing schedules before and after the show, especially because Lainey and Traci also work for eTalk. When I took a look at a week-at-a-glance that was posted for the ladies it absolutely boggled my mind. 

I also couldn't believe what a maze the place was, though I shouldn't have been surprised, knowing that several CTV shows are housed there. Up this elevator, down this hall, past a bunch of doors, up these stairs, around a corner...oh, hey Ben Mulroney over there on the set of eTalk. I felt a bit guilty taking up the publicist's day as she so generously escorted me around, but really I would have been lost without her.

Once the ladies are prepped for segments 1 and 2 (the hot topics), they head down to the studio and rehearse for segments 3 and 4 of the show, when guests come visit to cover topics ranging from travel to relationships to hair (my favourites) to food and fitness (not so much). Segment 5 is when they wrap things up with a quick chat on the couch.

The day I was there, Jess Allen was in the studio for a segment called The Social Chapter, where the ladies give their ratings out of five for their latest book club selection, and their casting call - who they would choose to play the lead roles from the story.  You can see them with a producer and the floor director in the photo below rehearsing for this part. While the "Talent" (i.e. the co-hosts) is fantastic, there's a whole lot of unsung "talent" behind the scenes as well. There were people bustling about everywhere and I couldn't even keep up with their names and titles, and they all work together like a well-oiled machine to get this live show out to the world every day.




I was happy to have a quick chat with Jess, where she shared that staff from THE SOCIAL actually came to her and offered her this role, impressed with her work writing for Maclean's and her blog Foodie and the Beast, as well as videos she made covering the Toronto International Film Festival.

In person, Jess comes across just as she does on TV (smart and earnest with a bumbling, self-deprecating sense of humour). She's thrilled with what she's doing now for THE SOCIAL: writing The Jess Files blog for the show's website, doing location shoots (for example at a farmer's market), and joining them on air for The Social Chapter (or whenever they need her).




Next the co-hosts ran through the segment on herbs which would take place near the end of the program (sometimes only two co-hosts do these segments, but this time it was all four of them), and made a few jokes about a couple of tools the guest brought with her. Let's say one looked particularly phallic, and the other looked like another part of the anatomy which, when combined, give a male his reproductive system (hey, Lainey's the one who put the two together!) Lots of laughter on the set for sure.

Behind-the-scenes note: the teleprompter shown below is prepped with scripts (especially for Melissa, the moderator, who does the opening and transitions) but a lot of the conversations really are off-the-cuff. 





The photo below was part of my audition to be a future guest co-host. 
No, not really, but you never know who's reading this post, right? 





Throughout the day, there was certainly no diva-ish behaviour in my eyesight or earshot from the ladies, who were extremely accommodating of me and friendly with each other.

When Sarah, the talent coordinator, offered to get the co-hosts sushi, Lainey declined as she had a big breakfast, and Melissa proudly waved her packed lunch. (You can see the cute little black bag on the table below.) "We eat well here, but I have food at home that needs to be eaten," she explained. She's also open about trying to make good choices as she works to lose the baby weight - though she looks amazing considering little Marquesa is only four months old!





Not a shocker to anyone who knows Melissa (especially viewers of THE SOCIAL), she spent lots of time on her smartphone! Since she was favoriting and retweeting some of my tweets, I certainly didn't mind!




As viewers are aware, fashion plays a big role on this show. "Our amazing stylist Alisa knows us so well, and tries to push us just past our comfort zone," says Cynthia, who's rockin' the outfit shown below as she gets a pre-show touch-up from a makeup artist. "One of the best parts of the job is playing dress-up like this every day!"





As I was whisked backstage for a quick group photo before the show, Cynthia commented: "You look like you're ready to join us out there today!", which I took as an ultimate compliment. And she didn't even see me sitting at the table! Uh, in her chair...





The co-hosts are working right through the summer, and the first week of August they'll be busy doing photo shoots and a new opening sequence for the second season - these need to be updated, especially considering Traci's major haircut and Melissa's major addition to her family! Season 2 kicks off in September, and I know my PVR will be set. 

If you haven't already, make sure to join the conversation:

The Social on Facebook
The Social on Twitter

Over the next couple of weeks, I'll be posting about each of the co-hosts, sharing my impressions and tidbits from the little chats we managed to squeeze in during the day. Some teasers: Melissa and I talked about the backlash she took for her decision to return early from mat leave, Cynthia shared why she thinks The Social is not like The View, and Lainey (with whom I disagree fundamentally about the importance of sleep) gave me the inside scoop on my favourite celebrity. Stay tuned!

And in case you missed them, catch up on the two hottest posts on my blog so far in 2014:

My Momterview with Cynthia Loyst
My recap of Lainey's most recent Smut Soiree