Wednesday, February 10

The Meaning of Flower Colours

I receive a *lot* of media releases in my inbox: most that are not relevant to This Mom Loves and my readers, many that don't pique my interest, and some that are great but I just don't have time to pursue.

This week when I received this information about the meaning of flower colours (just in time for Valentine's Day), I thought it was too cute not to share (the photos are gorgeous!) - plus I'm happy to support Flowers Canada (Ontario).

Take a peek, and see what your favourite colour means!

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Valentine’s Day is the perfect occasion to show your lover, family or friend just how special they are. Flowers have a long history of being the ideal gift whether you are celebrating 30 years of marriage, have just started to date someone or want to show your friend you appreciate them.

“The beauty of flowers as a Valentine’s Day gift is that they can easily be personalized depending on how you want to make someone feel” said Dejan Kristan, Marketing Director at Flowers Canada (Ontario). “You want to send out the right message to your Valentine, whether it is ‘I love you’, ‘I care for you’, or simply—‘you are a great friend’”.

Dejan offers insight into the meaning of flower colours:

Red: Undoubtedly the colour of passion. Giving out a red flower arrangement will communicate your strong and powerful love. With a colour the same as the heart, red means seduction, desire and passion. Try red roses, red gerbera daisies, or red tulips.





Pink: A colour of innocence and sensitivity, but also very romantic. Although red flowers mean love and passion, pink flowers can show your gentle, yet deep love for someone. Pink flowers can also indicate appreciation, joy and happiness. Try pink ranunculus, calla lilies, or potted azaleas.





Yellow: The colour of harmony, trust and kindness— a great middle ground between friendship and love. Yellow flowers have grown increasingly popular in the work place and at social and family gatherings. These convey meanings of sympathy, thoughtfulness and friend-like love. Try daffodils, yellow tulips, chrysanthemums, or potted begonias.




Orange: Symbolic for growth, enthusiasm and warmth—orange is the colour of friendship and community. Orange flowers send feelings of happiness and joy, with a hint of adventure and spontaneity.  Just like a beautiful sunset, these flowers can also convey a message of fiery passion and intense desire. Try orange parrot tulips, gerberas, or Asiatic lilies.




Green: This colour will send wishes of good fortune and harmony. Green is the colour of health, youth and prosperity. By giving this flower, you are telling your friend or loved one that you’d like your relationship to grow and continue to do well. Try an arrangement with lots of green ball chrysanthemums, or give a lucky houseplant such as jade or pachira.




Purple: A royal colour which often means fascination and respect. Purple flowers show a very romantic gesture as they carry with them feelings of elegance and charm. These can express feelings of love at first sight and say ‘I admire and adore you’. Try purple iris, campanula, or an elegant potted orchid.




Blue: Blue means serenity, intimacy and deep trust. Blue flowers are often used by long-term couples to communicate their never-ending love, trust and loyalty in a relationship. Try soft blue hydrangeas, or a bouquet of delphinium and muscari.




White: The colour of purity, innocence, sympathy and humility. This flower will show your friend or loved one that you are thinking about them. While it does convey messages of purity and innocence, this colour also means new beginnings. If given to a long-term partner, they show you want to move forward and think about marriage. Try white daisies, roses or gardenias.





“Flowers are known for having their own language” added Dejan. “It is important to keep these meanings in mind so that your flowers communicate exactly what you intend. One bouquet will tell a passionate love story, while the other will be the tale of a never-ending friendship.”

For more information, please visit www.pickontario.ca. Follow @pickOntario on Twitter and Instagram, and like them on Facebook.

About PickOntario
Pick Ontario is a comprehensive marketing communications campaign developed by Flowers Canada (Ontario) Ltd. to raise awareness, interest and demand for Ontario-grown cut flowers and potted plants. Launched at the Grocery Innovations Tradeshow in October 2007, the fully integrated strategy includes PR, media relations and outdoor advertising initiatives intended to promote the reasons why consumers and retailers should Pick Ontario. When you Pick Ontario, you are supporting the more than 200 greenhouse farmers who employ over 7,000 people in our province. The growers in Ontario work hard to produce quality flowers and are always looking for latest trends in technology and growing techniques. This is all done to produce the best flowers possible!


Monday, February 8

Children’s Book Recommendations for the 21st Century Family

I am thrilled to welcome today's special guest blogger, Vanessa Heron from Like Mother Like Daughter - who's also one of my most loyal supporters!

As a mom and primary teacher, I loved Vanessa's idea the moment I read it - and I'm sure you will too!

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It’s 8:00 p.m. and bedtime routine is in full swing. My daughter brings over her chosen bedtime stories and my husband and I look at each other, knowing exactly what we are about to read for the eleventy-fifth time: her favourite princess books followed by her favourite book about a little boy playing hockey. Same storylines. Same characters. Every night.       
                 
Don’t get me wrong, there is nothing wrong with predictability, my family thrives on it in many ways. There is also nothing wrong with my daughter having favourite stories; the fact that my daughter loves reading makes this mama swell with pride. But sometimes…every once in a while…it would be nice to break out of the monotony of defenseless princesses saved by heroic princes; little boys playing sports exclusively with other little boys; and stereotypical nuclear families having perfect, predictable days. These stories are classic and deserve a place on our shelves, but what about adding some variety to the mix? What about adding some stories that have modern heroes, non-traditional storylines, and diverse characters that represent the modern 21st century child and their families?

I am here to share a selection of books that do just that. These books add a little bit of seasoning to traditional children’s picture books.




Red: A Crayon’s Story by Michael Hall

This is the story of a crayon whose label reads Red. The problem is that Red cannot actually colour red no matter how hard he tries. Why? Because he’s actually Blue! A great story about ripping off labels and being true to yourself.




Not All Princesses Dress in Pink by Jane Yolen & Heidi E. Y. Stemple

Princesses may wear sparkly crowns, but their interests go far beyond sparkle and shine. They play with soccer balls, wield power tools, plant in the soil, and fight sorcerers. A refreshing take on what it really means to be a ‘princess’.




The Boy with Pink Hair by Perez Hilton

The Boy with Pink Hair stands out from other kids. His pink hair makes him different, and because of this he gets called names and teased by the other children. This is an important story about the power of believing in yourself and finding your own special gifts.





The Princess Knight by Cornelia Funk

A daughter teaches her royal father about the inner and outer strength and bravery that exist in a petite princess. A wonderful lesson about not underestimating or stereotyping.




The Only Boy in Ballet Class by Denise Gruska

Tucker loves to dance, and he is very good at it. Unfortunately, Tucker’s passion for ballet causes him to be misunderstood by both family and peers at school, until a chance meeting with some boys on the football team gives Tucker an opportunity to let his ballet skills shine in a whole new light. This is an engaging story about opening up your mind to non-traditional gender roles.




The Family Book by Todd Parr

There are many different types of families in the world. Some are small, some are big; some eat the same things, some eat different things. This adorable book highlights all different types of families and the love that exists no matter what kind of family you belong to.





This is a very small sampling of some of the fantastic books that break the mold of typical children’s literature, celebrate the unique differences in every child, and shine a light on the diversity of the 21st century family.  The next time you find yourself at your local bookstore or public library, I encourage you to think outside of the pink and blue box and take a chance on one of these great stories!

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Thank you so much, Vanessa! For more from Vanessa, visit Like Mother Like Daughter and find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram and Pinterest. Tell her I sent you!


Tuesday, February 2

Get Into the Valentine's Day Spirit - and Win a Prize!

Sure, some may see Valentine's Day as a commercial holiday, and no, I don't need a special date on the calendar to show my sweetheart how I feel about him...but it's still fun to get festive when a holiday arrives - especially as a parent and teacher of young kids!

Here are a few little touches that get me into the spirit...keep reading to find out how you can win one of them!

Hang a Wreath

I keep a hook on the mudroom door year-round and switch it up with a wreath for every occasion!




Embrace Pinterest

Of course the final results might not (or if you're anything like me, will not) look like the Pinterest-perfect photos you see online, but it can be fun to try! Here you see the a couple of my Valentine's Day-themed Pinterest attempts: XO frames and candy-hearts frame.








Throw a Cushion

This "Happy Pillow" (Hallmark, $34.95) has embroidered and applique front detail and pom-pom attachments and reads, "Let's get happy up in here".

[Giveaway has ended. Plus, guess what? I'm giving away one of these adorable pillows in a flash contest on social media right now (Canada only)! All you have to do to enter is retweet my tweet about the cushion on Twitter, like/comment on my post on Facebook, or like/comment on my Instagram post. You have 5 possible entries, and giveaway ends Thursday, February 4th at midnight Eastern. (I told you, it's a flash contest!)]





Bring it Into the Kitchen 

A few festive details make working in the kitchen even more enjoyable! (Ha ha - just kidding!) Plus, this time of year it's convenient that red is already my kitchen accent colour.





Give a Sick Kids Get Better Gift

What better way to warm someone's heart than to purchase a special if in their name? Ideas, at a range of prices, include a Memory Box, Valentine's Day Craft Supplies or Pet Therapy for a young patient, or a Heart Saturation Monitor - how appropriate! Check out Sick Kids' Valentine's Day Gifts page for more information.

Highlight some Blasts from the Past

As I do for most holidays, I pull out framed pics of my girls (here on their first Valentine's Days) to make a nice greeting at the front door.





Bring Out the Kids' Books

I keep holiday-themed books in the appropriate bins to pull out when the season arrives, and they're like brand-new stories to the girls every year.




Cuddle Up

The Count on Me Bear Techno Plush with Sound ($17.95 with purchase of 3 Hallmark cards, regularly $32.95) was a hit when it arrived at our house...the girls argued over who got to keep this sweet item! Press the button to hear a version of "Count on Me" by Bruno Mars (there's also a coordinating book, sold separately).




Happy Valentine's Day!

Disclosure: I was provided with the above-named two Hallmark items for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.


Monday, February 1

The Value of YOU - Trista Sutter's Powerful Ted Talk

As you likely already know, TED talks (short for Technology, Entertainment and Design) are short, powerful speeches presented on a variety of topics by speakers who range from high-profile to under-the-radar.

I recently learned of a talk given at TEDxVail by Trista Sutter called "The Value of YOU". While many know Trista as the first Bachelorette, more recently she fell into the trap of describing herself as "just a mom", which is part of what inspired her speech.




In an email, Trista says that this talk is for "anyone who has ever felt judged, either by personal friends/family, strangers on the Internet or otherwise, and worst of them, by their own personal demons.  Many stay at home moms are relating as well as anyone feeling alone and insecure. After being asked to be part of the Naturally Grateful section of TedxVail a year ago, it took me awhile to decide what to speak about, but ultimately, I thought about the kind of message I would want to give to my kids.  Thankfully, they haven’t experienced much judgment in their lives, but I hope that if they ever do, that they understand that they are unique, valued, and loved…and that’s what I want for everyone who hears it, whether they are insecure, bullied, or just need a little reminder to never devalue themselves, no matter their title or lack thereof."





I found her words very powerful, especially when you see and hear a real live person recounting the cruel things that have been said about her on the Internet. It really makes you stop and think.

Take a peek, and if you can't see the embedded video you can also find it here.


Kate's Favourite Things - February 2016

It's a short and sweet list this month, and I'm including only the items that I would recommend. (Believe me, there are some that didn't make the cut!)

MOVIES

(I'm trying to work my way through the Oscar nominees!)

Joy

Jennifer Lawrence was brilliant but to me (and my three companions) the movie - a true story - would have been more inspirational (and therefore less depressing) if the success part was more than an afterthought in the film. Also we wish Bradley Cooper had a bigger role.

Brooklyn

Something in my genes leads me to be fascinated by the Irish immigrant story, and I love Saiorse Ronan as an actress. I'd love to know what others think of the "love story" of the film...it led to a lot of post-movie discussion, but my conclusion is that it's refreshing to see Hollywood share a love story that's not so Hollywood-perfect.





Room

Disturbing, moving and yet very beautiful (it's the story of a young woman who gives birth to and raises a child while held in captivity by her kidnapper) - and I was impressed that it did justice to Emma Donoghue's book. I don't often feel that way about movies based on books. (Read the book first though, if you can.)

BOOKS

Sweet Misfortune by Kevin Alan Milne

This was a cute, light story. It reminded my of Irish chick lit, which always seems to involve a woman running a bakery, and has an interesting twist near the end that I sort of saw coming, but not exactly.

My Name Is Lucy Barton by Elizabeth Strout

This bestselling book is built around a mother's extended visit with her adult daughter who is in the hospital, but travels back and forth in time exploring the intricacies of family relationships. It's a quick read, but that's certainly not to be confused with a light read. There's a lot to process and think about.

ACCESSORIES

I just had to show my new watch, picked up as part of a 3 for $10 deal at Ardene. As I said when I shared this pic on social media, I'm all about the high/low shopping.




Have a fantastic February!

Friday, January 29

Creative Ways To Volunteer at Your Child's School

This week on CHEX Daily host Teresa Kaszuba and I chatted about ways parents can volunteer at school, even if they work (or are home with younger kids, or otherwise unavailable) during the school day.

I'm at the 27:49 mark, and if you can't see the embedded video you can find it here.





Teresa and spoke about using your skill set (she said she's been known to emcee a school event or two) or interests to get involved, and some ideas we didn't mention on-air also include tuning instruments, working in the library, or presenting to students about your career. There are so many ways to get involved, even outside the regular school day.




Just a reminder though: of course not all parents are going to have the time or ability to formally volunteer (whether during or after school), and there is no judgment on the part of teachers.

We get it, and unless you are completely and permanently inaccessible by phone, agenda or email to discuss your child's education (no one is THAT busy), there's absolutely no judgment from me.


Wednesday, January 27

Dread Grocery Shopping? Click & Collect from Loblaws To the Rescue!

Are you one of those people who actually loves to grocery shop, wandering leisurely through the aisles and savouring the whole experience, every single time? If so, this post is not for you. If not, read on!

I used to fantasize about having someone do my grocery shopping for me. In those moments when I daydreamed about ways to make my life more efficient and streamlined (other people do that too, right?) I would imagine the convenience and ease of handing my list to someone else and having that tedious chore taken care of for me.

Loblaws has made this dream come true with their awesome Click and Collect program.






Here's how it works:

From the convenience of your own home, you visit the Click and Collect website, and then "Click" to add every item on your list to your cart.  You place your order, and personal shoppers gather all of your items for you, ready to be picked up at the time you specified. Upon arrival at Loblaws to "Collect", you pull into a specially-marked reserved parking spot, call the designated phone number, and your bags are brought out and put in your vehicle. (I swear, I'm not making this up!)







Click and Collect is so easy to use, and I love being able to order my groceries on my laptop from the comfort of my own home (usually while relaxing in front of the TV, or at my treadmill desk - my loyal readers know I'm addicted to multitasking!) When I log in, the site remembers my previous orders and "My Favourites", so I can start by clicking on all of my regularly-purchased items, which is another time-saver. Once your order is ready, you get a notification which also lets you know if any items were out of stock, and if so what substitutions they suggest (which you can approve or decline).

This past weekend, I phoned to ask about a couple of substitutions before I arrived, and the personal shopper scooted around the store while on the phone with me, making sure that I got exactly what I needed. Now that's service!

I always pick up my orders at Loblaws in Lindsay, and I've been so impressed by how friendly the shoppers are, and how quickly my groceries are brought out. No getting kids out of carseats (or getting out in the cold myself!) By the way, you don't have to drive to use the service; you can walk up to get your order as well - no motorized vehicle required!




I've been raving about Click and Collect to family, friends and colleagues for a few months now, and the same questions often arise:

How much does it cost? The personal shopping service costs $3 or $5, depending on the day/time chosen, which I think is very reasonable (and tipping is not expected). Not only is that amount of my time worth the money, I'm also confident that I save at least 5 bucks every time I don't take my daughters into a grocery store with me. It's much cheaper to have them sitting in the back seat as our groceries get loaded! Prices online are the exact same as what you would find in store (no mark-ups for the service), and you get PC Plus points as well. (Another program I love - perhaps I'll share more about that in a future post!)

Do you get high-quality items? We've always been pleased with the produce and meat that has been chosen on our behalf, and the personal shoppers are actually trained to pick the best items for the customers. They want us to be happy with the service, so they're not giving us bottom-of-the-barrel merchandise. There's a box on the website to provide special instructions for your order and we always ask for green bananas, and so far have never had a problem.

What's the catch? There really isn't one! The only trouble I've ever had is that when you click to add an item to your cart, you have to wait for a quick second as the website processes your selection. Sometimes when I get ahead of myself and start clicking several items on a page I end up with something left off my order. If you're a touch more patient than I am, this won't be a problem (and my Loblaws contact tells me that they're working to resolve that minor issue).

Of course, the in-store experience is very different (my husband occasionally likes to walk through the grocery store for new ideas) and ordering online every week might not be right for you, but it's definitely worth checking it out!

Visit Click and Collect for more details, or to get started with your first order!

Disclosure: This post was generously sponsored by Loblaws. Opinions are, as always my own. Please note that I had already used - and was extremely impressed with - the Click and Collect service several times before partnering with Loblaws for this post.

Monday, January 25

5 Great Ways to Get Kids Out in Nature

Today I'm welcoming special guest blogger Alexa Hildebrandt from Agents of Discovery with super advice for getting your kids involved in the great outdoors! (I'll think about it...when the temperature warms up!)

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When I see a toddler tackle tasks on a smartphone, I’m both impressed and alarmed. At that age, I was proud of my maneuvering around an Etch a Sketch! I’d move those toggles around with finesse, creating mini Jackson Pollock-esque masterpieces. Now, toddlers are like, “I see your Etch a Sketch and raise you! First, finding your phone is a cinch (I know where you hide it, mom), unlocking your phone is literally child’s play. Let me take a super-cute selfie, then I’ll throw in a quick conversation with an imaginary friend!”

The “job” of growing up has changed in the last fifteen years, as kids are now born into a world immersed in digital technologies. Time spent by kids on mobile devices has tripled since 2011, with 77% of kids under two years of age using mobile devices daily! Old school methods of entertainment, like exploring in the great outdoors, are overshadowed by glitzy, fast-paced video games and mobile apps. In fact, kids today spend 50% less time outdoors than kids did twenty years ago. More and more research is connecting disconnection to nature to childhood obesity and learning challenges. This phenomenon was coined “Nature Deficit Disorder” by Richard Louv. Our kids deserve all the benefits we can give them. As influencers in our children’s lives, we are responsible for encouraging time spent outside! To combat Nature Deficit Disorder, here are a couple of my favourite ways to get “plugged into” nature.

Go on a picture scavenger hunt

One of my favourite things to do on a walk or hike is take pictures. It teaches my eyes to appreciate the colors, textures and shapes around me. I look at the world in a critical way, and truly I feel it instills a deeper appreciation of nature in me. This practice is extended even when I don’t have a camera in hand, I still strive to see the beauty around me - often wishing I did have a camera nearby. I recognize not everyone operates this way, but I would argue that even if you don’t find a ton of enjoyment in life behind the lens, it is at the very least a great exercise to train your senses to appreciate what is around you.

The process is pretty simple, and doesn’t require a whole lot of preparation! Grab a camera and go exploring. It is that easy!  Challenge your child to look for patterns, shapes and colours, or find the most interesting things along a path. Snap a photo and compare the findings at the end of the adventure. This is a fun way to encourage their little eyes to be open and aware of their surroundings. If they find something particularly interesting, you can refer back to it and research it later. Those photos can then be compiled into a craft book, or in a hiking journal which I will highlight later.





Agents of Discovery

When I was a kid, I remember exploring nature centres and park trails, which in theory should be the perfect place to learn about nature. But, instead of feeling excited and motivated to learn, I felt disconnected from the interpretive material placed around the park. As an eight year-old, I was eager to learn about the birds that flew overhead, or frogs that bellowed in between the reeds, but the faded images and academic sounding paragraphs instantly lost me. The lack of relevant material for youth in these outdoor venues is a huge opportunity lost.  Parks have the opportunity to instill a passion for nature, and the disconnection for younger generations was a problem until now.

Agents of Discovery (available for free to download in the App Store or Google Play) has a very viable solution to this problem, and I wish it was around when I was a kid! Agents of Discovery is a mobile game that kids play in participating parks to hike trails and solve educational challenges that teach them about their natural surroundings!

The creators of Agents of Discovery found a way to address Nature Deficit Disorder, the growing concern of childhood obesity, and disengagement from learning. Agents of Discovery gets kids moving and learning outdoors with the technology they love! It is a mobile game that gets kids from sitting on couches with their eyes glued to screens to actually hiking outdoors, keeping their eyes peeled for plants and wildlife, and their eyes open for bird calls! Agents of Discovery is presently available in over 35 parks across North America, including 14 sites in Calgary, Alberta!

Click here to find the closest mission site to you! Be sure to snap a photo of your mission for your hiking journal, and share it to Facebook or Instagram with the #AgentsofDiscovery. You could be featured on their Facebook or Instagram page!




Start a Hiking Journal

Creating a place to document findings like “Alesha’s Super Secret Adventure Findings Journal” or “Tommy’s Toads” is a great way to encourage kids to be mindful while they explore the outdoors. (And can  be a fun craft!) Get a journal from the dollar store, a gluestick and some markers - go collect artifacts like leaves or flowers to glue to the front - you could also laminate the cover! Once the journal is complete, encourage your kids to remember the sights, sounds, and feelings they experienced when they were out exploring. Make note of fun findings! This fosters mindfulness and awareness while out walking. The hiking journal will one day serve as an amazing memento of time outdoors with your kids! 






SkyView App

As a child, I remember hiking to the middle of an empty field with my dad, brother and sister, telescope in hand, and equipped with my dad’s infinite wisdom.  We sojourned into the blackness for the sole purpose of stargazing. Standing there in the dark with our chins pointed up, I remember fondly admiring the dark canvas of sky splattered with stars above me. In an instant my little heart would be humble and a cocoon of awe would engulf me as I stared at the expanse before my eyes.  Many (many) years before The SkyView App (available in GooglePlay and the AppStore) was around, I would create and name my own constellations only to later discover the real names of the celestial shapes that became like familiar friends. The SkyView App is an amazing and fun tool that takes the doubt out of deliberating names and places of the stars. Simply point the phone in the direction of the star or planet in question and it will not only give you the name, but information about the heavenly orb.





Go Camping

Some of the best lessons in nature come when you are outdoors for an extended amount of time.  As a child I remember camping and falling asleep to the smell and sound of a crackling campfire. I felt so closely connected to nature as the rain drummed gently on a tarp above my head, or the wind swept softly between the towering trees. In the majesty of nature, I became hyper aware of the sights and sounds around me and found a strange sort of contentment in those moments even as a child. I look back on them now and find so much value in those special memories that have helped shape my love of nature.

Camping may not be for everyone, but even the experience of pitching a tent in the backyard gives a similar sensation of the simplicity that can only be found outside. I believe even the least extravagant outdoor experiences can still have the power to fuse a connection between a child and nature. The challenge is to just go.




There are countless ways to motivate kids to learn about, and develop an appreciation for nature in a fun and engaging way, these are just some of my favourites.  What are your favourite ways to get kids excited and learning about nature?

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Thanks, Alexa! For more information, visit Agents of Discovery.