Thursday, September 30

Raspberry and Lime Hats: Review and Giveaway

Giveaway open to US and Canada.

As the cooler weather approaches, I'm sure you moms are starting to think about some winter wear for your little ones. My girls are set for snowsuits (Maggie obviously gets the hand-me-downs, and I bought a larger size for Frannie last year which still fits) but of course I want to pick up a few cute accessories.

Thanks to Beth from the Etsy shop Raspberry and Lime, I can check "warm yet stylish hats" off the list! Beth sent me a package of her high-quality handmade winter hats - with a couple of lighter-weight styles thrown in for fun!

These two are my favourites, as seen on my adorable models:

As you can see, she also does lighter-weight hats (like the more open weave on the far right), with a cute little matching purse (bottom).

I love this one from her Etsy shop with interchangeable flowers:

However, don't think for a minute that these are just for the girls. Beth threw in these two for my newborn nephew. The striped beanie is cute, but you can't beat the softness of the hat on the right! Very snuggly!

She also does animals, like this gopher:

And if your child is obsessed with any particular television character, Beth can also turn the critter in to a hat, like the Abby Cadabby example below (wouldn't this make a terrific Christmas gift?)

Now guess what? (You know what's coming!) I have a chance for you to win YOUR CHOICE of hat from Raspberry and Lime, with shipping included. You can choose something already available on the site, or Beth will be happy to work with you on a custom order. Choose the colour, the wool weight, the style...the options are endless!

Mandatory entry (residents of the US and Canada): simply visit the Raspberry and Lime shop, and come back and tell me about a product you like.

For extra entries (after the mandatory entry has been completed), leave a separate comment letting me know that:
  • you follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect
  • you subscribe to This Mom Loves through email (ensure your subscription is activated)
  • you follow @thismomloves through Twitter, and tweet about this giveway (feel free to retweet mine). Please do this ONCE TOTAL. (I don't like overwhelming the Twittersphere with giveaway tweets.)
  • you like Raspberry and Lime on Facebook
Contest will end on Thursday, October 14 at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. Good luck!

Disclaimer: I received the above-mentioned hats for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Monday, September 27

Potty Training: Part 1

We've been waiting for signs of readiness. How does this sound?

We made it home from the local fair, and got the girls into their jammies, which included a fresh diaper for little Maggie. Minutes later, she shouted out "I go poo in little one!" Thinking it was some sort of reference to a dirty diaper, I shouted "Daddy will be right there!" (Hey, I was busy lamenting the $80 we spent so that a two and four year old could ride a merry-go-round and look at livestock.)

He arrived in the washroom to find that our little girl had taken off her pj bottoms and diaper, opened up the potty-serving-as-a-stepstool and had done her business. (Apparently "little one" is her term for the potty - i.e. little toilet.)

In some ways, I'd like to hold on to the ease of the diaper phase. At this age, there are only a few changes each day, and I dread the out-in-public (or car) "I gotta go!" panic. I don't want to be stuck at home, but with Frannie we learned that spending the first 48 hours right by the potty, with frequent fluids and lots of good books and TV shows, can set a successful pattern. We also learned that Smarties are great incentives. One for a number one, and...well, you get it. "Bribes are bad!" you say? I've been teaching children for more than ten years now, and I have yet to meet one who requires a Smartie, sticker or potty dance in order to eliminate. You do what you gotta do.

So apparently she's ready. But are we?

Winner: Frieda Wishinsky Books

Congratulations to Krista S. of Peterborough, ON who left comment number 29 out of 47. Her number was chosen by random number generation, and she will be receiving Frieda Wishinsky's books "The Queen's Secret" and "You're Mean, Lily Jean", compliments of Scholastic.

Make sure to enter to win a cuff and $20 gift card from Bugalug, and stay tuned for another giveaway coming next week. Want a hint? Let's just say it will help top things off for your little ones this winter!

Saturday, September 25

Bugalug Accessories: Review and Giveaway!

Giveaway open to Canada and US.

Yes, you're right, I've told you before about Bugalug and their adorable children's accessories. The first time, I focused on the items that my little darlings tried out, like non-slip hairbands and pony loops.

Many of you will be glad to learn that Bugalug isn't just for girls, and they sent my nephew one of their boys' cinch belts and a stylish new matching cuff to try out.

It's clear that moms of girls think differently than moms of boys. While I was waiting for my sister-in-law to choose a design, I thought "Well, if she doesn't care, I'm going to pick the checkers. Definitely the cutest." However, she replied to my email within minutes, saying "I'm going with the skull and crossbones. Definitely the toughest!"

Her little guy tried them out, and here's what she had to say:

"He loved the cuff and the belt, and he thought the skulls were 'supercool'! The snaps were easy to use, and he was able to put everything on by himself (he's three). The problem? Getting him to take them off for bathtime!"

She also mentioned that she liked supporting a Canadian company, and after checking out the website, she was very impressed by the low shipping costs. The best part...his sister was jealous! It's nice that the boys can sport some fun bling for a change!

I've given away a Bugalug prize before, but you won't mind if I do it again, right? Up for grabs this time is your choice of cool made-from-recycled-materials cuff (hey, if you've only got girls I'm sure you'll have no trouble giving it away!) PLUS a $20 Bugalug gift card, which can be used towards any items of your choice!

All you have to do to enter is visit Bugalug, and come back and let me know what product interests you.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment letting me know that:
  • you follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect
  • you subscribe to This Mom Loves through email (ensure your subscription is activated)
  • you follow @thismomloves on Twitter, and tweet about this giveaway (once in total, please)
  • you like Bugalug on Facebook
  • you follow Bugalug on Twitter
Contest is open to residents of Canada and the US, and will end on Saturday, October 9th, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck!

Disclaimer: My sister-in-law was provided with a belt and cuff for review purposes. Opinions expressed here are hers. And her son's.

Thursday, September 23

Perfect Books for Imperfect Kids

Quick question: do your children always pick up after themselves, and always tell the truth? If yes, then go ahead and skip on past this post, because you don't need these great books from Free Spirit Publishing.

Respect and Take Care of Things

These books are written in simple text (just a couple of lines per page) but the illustrations are detailed enough to show children what's happening. I've read this book to my girls, and I also used it the very first day of school with my class, as an attempt to justify my obsessive-compulsiveness with my students. ("Mrs. Winn just wants you to learn to respect and take care of things. It's not that she has any sort of neat-freak issues!") Not just about tidiness, the book also extends to not touching things that belong to others, not littering, etc., and the reasons why these habits are so important. "Respect" is also our Catholic Virtue of the Month for September, so it fits in perfectly with the curriculum.

Be Honest and Tell The Truth

This book teaches children that honesty isn't just about not lying, but also owning up to your mistakes, doing your own work, and keeping the right things private. It also touches on the 'white lie', and when it's better to not tell everything. There's an illustration of a little girl receiving a pair of striped socks for a gift...the same ones she's already wearing. "Thanks! I like them!" she says. Not "I already have those!" like my daughter has announced in the past.  ("Honesty" is June's virtue, so I've filed this one away to share with my class then!)

At the back of each book, there are also suggestions for reinforcing the concepts, with page-by-page discussion questions, and ideas for activities and games which work on the book's skill. These titles are great starting points for discussions about the expectations in your own home, or to reinforce what's being taught at school. They also tie in very nicely with Character Education (or Catholic Virtues).

Other books in this series include: Accept and Value Each Person, Reach Out and Give, and Try and Stick With It (only $10.95 each). Next on my list is Share and Take Turns, which I think I should buy for Frannie's teacher. My daughter has so very many wonderful qualities, but this area could use a little work, and she'll listen to her teacher more than me (yes, she's been an official student for one day, and already her teacher is the ultimate authority).

You must visit Free Spirit Publishing and check out these titles. Unless, of course, your children are perfect. In which case, maybe you should be writing for this series instead!

Disclaimer: I was provided with the two titles named above for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own. "Be Honest and Tell the Truth" wasn't lost on me!

Monday, September 20

Winner: Alphabet Photography

Congratulations to the winner of the Alphabet Photography giveaway, # 106 out of 176 entries:

Stefany from Austin, Texas!

She chose the word "Love".

Enjoy your prize, Stefany, and thanks to Alphabet Photography for this terrific giveaway!

Power of Print Recap #1

In honour of the Power of Print campaign, I've decided to give you a regular roundup of my favourite bits and pieces from my vast repertoire of print magazines.

Parents Magazine
September 2010

"Parents don't need to entertain their kids all the time, and this includes giving them lots of things to play with. Children actually benefit from the opportunity to get bored."
Dr. Jenn Berman, Psy.D., child, marriage and family therapist

To that I say AMEN!


Ladies' Home Journal
August 2010

Cindy Crawford, quoted in an interview: "If the kids want to go for ice cream, I'll get ice cream, too. I don't want my daughter to think that being a beautiful woman is about depriving yourself. She sees me exercising. She sees me eating right. I want to be a good example for her."


Ironically, eight pages later there is a story called "Oops You Did It Again" about food cravings. I have no problem with this...I mean, I have no problem with the topic of the article, but I can't say I have no problem with cravings, because the accompanying photos tormented me! You aren't helping people fight their cravings for, say, french fries, with a FULL PAGE COLOUR PHOTO CLOSE-UP of the offending food. Same with the next page: larger than life chocolate bar chunks, followed by a pail of buttery-looking popcorn and a cream-cheese  bagel. Gee, thanks for the help!


In Style
September 2010

"A house should be continually cared for, adjusted and improved. It's like a growing child - you cannot build a home and then abandon it!" - Domenico Dolce  (in case you know a lot of Dolces, this one is of Dolce and Gabbana)

My husband and I totally buy in to this theory, much to the amusement of some of our friends and family. Our home is only seven years old, built and decorated to our specifications, but only two rooms in the house have not been redone (the bathrooms - so much work!)

Every year we try to freshen up at least one room with a new paint colour (remember my red paint fiasco?), and we are constantly updating light fixtures and upgrading features. For example, when we built the house, we put cheap carpet in the main hall instead of investing in hardwood to match the living room/dining room, so last summer we took the plunge and replaced it. We also added a backsplash to the kitchen, and actually finished a bedroom, office, and bathroom in our basement (certainly our biggest reno to date).

It's not only the inside either - my husband is VERY committed to landscaping, and had the foresight to plant trees as soon as we moved in, knowing, of course, that they would take years to grow. We are now beginning to enjoy some of the fruits of "our" (haha) labour. And of course, this summer we did a front door makeover!

Obviously everyone has different priorities (and finances, and sometimes the two don't coordinate so well) but for us, keeping our home updated is very important. (Actually owning something from Dolce and Gabbana? Not so much.)


Women's Health
September 2010

"Surfing the Internet might tune up your brain...A new study at the University of California at Los Angeles found that just one week of frequent web browsing can fire up your brain's complex-reasoning skills." (From the article "The Bad Girl's Guide to Good Health" by Jennifer Johnson.)

A nice bonus for bloggers and blog-readers such as ourselves!


I also really enjoyed an article called "Take Back Your Weekends!" by Jessica Girdwain, which offered tips for keeping Saturday and Sunday from turning in to an extension of your workweek. Some of the ideas: plan only three activities for any given weekend, force yourself to schedule breaks from technology {I'm so good at this - I never check my email at church!} and start a Sunday night tradition to help you ease back in to the workweek on a positive note. Does Desperate Housewives count?


Any thoughts?

Thursday, September 16

Momterview: Caroline Connell, Editor-In-Chief of Today's Parent Magazine

Recently, I had the pleasure of interviewing Caroline Connell, Editor-In-Chief of Today's Parent magazine. (She would have my dream job, if teaching weren't a vocation from which my heart sees no escape.)

With a Master's degree in Journalism and a nine year old son (John Lee), Connell is well-qualified to run the most read Canadian parenting magazine, with a circulation of 215,000 and more than 1.8 million monthly readers. She graciously agreed to a naptime phone chat.

This Mom: As the Editor-In-Chief of Today's Parent, you've obviously got a talented team working with you, but what are some of the daily tasks you face in your role?

Caroline Connell: Most important is the planning: the organizing of lineups, deciding on special projects and that kind of thing. Ideas, brainstorming, thinking about visual treatments. I read every story, so while the editors work one-on-one with the writers to get the stories to where we want them to be, I sign off on everything. The rest of it is sort of miscellaneous management and correspondence. I do answer every letter to the editor, which actually I really enjoy. I like to get back to readers because they raise interesting points, and even when they're sort of taking us to task for something they didn't like in the magazine, I like to let them know that we've heard their point of view.

TM: Are you able to leave your work at work, or do you bring it home with you?

CC: I do bring it home. Literally, I bring home stories I have to read and I spend an hour or two, not every night, but just what it takes to stay on top of the flow. More than that it's sort of with me all the time, in terms of looking for story ideas, cute kids to shoot for the cover...I have actually recruited people from my son's Tae Kwon Do class and that sort of thing. {Question to self: is there any way to get Frannie into a nine year old boy's Toronto Tae Kwon Do class?} Just thinking about ideas, hearing other stories, listening to parents I know, always having that idea filter out there trying to pull in ideas that might appeal to readers.

TM: You've received some awards since taking over at Today's Parent. {In 2009, she won Editor of the Year and Today's Parent won Magazine of the Year from the Canadian Society of Magazine Editors.} How do you think the magazine has changed during your time at the helm?

CC: We've broadened out a bit by doing more lifestyle coverage; we think that's an important part of what parents need to know - food, home decor pieces, beauty for moms. We're doing that because readers told us they want it. Many of them say Today's Parent is the only magazine they have time for, which is just the reality when you have little kids, so they're looking for a range within the magazine.

I'd say we've also loosened up a bit, too. We have a diverse set of viewpoints, we like to include different voices, we try not to preach or tell parents what to do. That's always been true of Today's Parent. We like to give people the range of options, which today includes alternative and complementary medicine, whereas five or ten years ago that wouldn't have been as big a part of what we do. Now readers are looking for ways to keep their kids healthy, and to many of them that's part of the package they want to hear about.

The core of Today's Parent has always remained true to its origins in 1984, which was very developmentally-oriented. We try to understand kids' behaviour from a developmental point of view, and share that with our readers so that when your kid's throwing a tantrum you know that it's not just to annoy you, it's because he's two and the following stuff is going on in a two-year old's brain. Really trying to help parents understand and come up with solutions to the problems they're facing.

TM: I'm very interested in the current "Magazines: The Power of Print" campaign.With the dawn of the Internet, obviously there were some concerns about that medium taking away from print magazines. What impact do you think it has had on Today's Parent?

CC: It has become a bigger and bigger part of what we do, and we'll continue to move in that direction. It has presented challenges in terms of keeping up and keeping ahead of readers' needs and meeting them where they are. I think that it has certainly increased the competition; a lot of our competition is online now, and there are some web-only parenting properties that are very popular and simply didn't exist back when Today's Parent started. It's an interesting ride.

Funnily enough, I got a letter from a reader last week who was complaining about our web links that we publish in the magazine. With a lot of stories we'll include a link in case readers want more information, or to refer them to other web resources, and this reader was complaining that she didn't have a computer and she wasn't going to get one in the near future, so could we please stop doing that. {Grandma? Was that you? I swear I had the exact same conversation with her a couple of weeks ago, but I'm betting the magazine she was referring to was a little less...youthful...than Today's Parent.} I had to tell her that the reality for most of our readers is that the large majority of them are online, and using online resources a lot, and they expect us to be there with them, so that's what we have to deliver. Unfortunately for her, that means she just doesn't have access to some of our resources.

I think it's a real challenge for everyone in the media to keep up with where the web and other technologies are taking us, but it's really exciting too, and we're going to be launching our first mobile app this fall, so it's fun. It's a crazy ride, coming up with ideas that are going to work online and in print. It's a great part of what we're doing these days.

TM: If you weren't a mom, how would your career be different right now?

CC: I don't think I'd be at Today's Parent! I was lucky enough to join the magazine basically on my way back from maternity leave. I was working for Chatelaine for many years before that and I was looking for a change and the opportunity arose when I was suddenly and totally immersed in the world of parenting, so I jumped at that chance and I've been here ever since. It's an incredible privilege to be able to work with this material, and I think my fellow editors would agree that we pull so many stories from our own lives. The kids we share among us span the range of ages from babies right up to teens, and our mandate covers age 0 to 14, and we're living it, the Today's Parent experience, every day and we bring that to our story meetings. We try to get outside of our own Toronto world as well, but living the parent life puts you in touch with the material in a way that I just wouldn't be if I weren't a parent myself.

TM: As a mom, have you ever found yourself ignoring or going against advice that you've published in the magazine?

CC: Oh, gosh, yes! Totally. My friends and relatives have called me on it. It amuses people to say 'Oh, I see the Editor-in-Chief of Today's Parent giving in to her son's whining,' or whatever the case may be, but oh yes, I am far from a perfect parent. I read a lot of experts as a result of this job, but I don't always do what I know is the right thing. I do my best, and I feel lucky to have access to all of the material that crosses my desk every day, but oh heavens, I am not a model parent by any stretch. I still feel like a beginner; I still learn from friends and relatives who are a few years ahead of me with children a little bit older. I don't claim to be an expert by any means!

TM: How are back-to-school preparations going at your house?

CC: Oh, gosh. It's okay. I've decided not to do any back-to-school shopping; I can't think of anything my son needs. Back-to-school shopping is a big thing for the magazine, but I looked around and I thought 'We have mountains of school supplies, he's got clothes...he only wears shorts and t-shirts and he's going to be in that for the next month anyway, so why bother?' I'm taking a rather laid-back approach to back-to-school this year. Whatever the classroom essentials are, I'll hear about those in the first few days and if there's anything we need we can pick them up then. {I have to pause here to tell her how my little girl is starting school this fall. Is it okay to interrupt an interview with someone else to talk about yourself? She is appropriately encouraging, and we move on.}

TM: What do you like to do when you have time to yourself?

CC: Reading fiction is where I go when I have spare moments. I always have some novel on the go. I am trying to stay fit, getting to the gym a couple of times a week and playing some tennis this summer. Keeping up with friends. I find that's hard to do with everyone's busy schedule, so finding time to fit in the odd glass of wine with a girlfriend is something I like to do.

TM: Do you read magazines in your free time, or does that just feel like work? Can you relax with one, or are you always reading with 'work eyes'?

CC: I do read them. It does feel a bit like work, but I still have that bug where I pass the newsstand and I can't resist picking something up. It is part of what I enjoy doing on my own, but I certainly find as I'm doing it my work brain kicks in to gear and I'm thinking about formatting ideas or stories that we could learn from, that kind of thing.

TM: Final question. My blog is called This Mom Loves, and I ask this of all of my interviewees: aside from your family, of course, what else do you love?

CC: One place that I love is the island of Grenada in the Caribbean. I spent a year there in my early twenties and I was a volunteer teacher and it was a very memorable experience. I think Grenada is a hidden gem, and I haven't been back in a while, but it's time for another visit. I also love New York, getting there when I can. Not often enough. {Of course I have to tell her that we went to New York this summer. I'm sure you haven't missed those posts.}

I'm also just loving the peaches and tomatoes this time of year! I'm pigging out on those things. They're here for such a short time, but I love the Ontario fruits especially.

TM: Thanks so much for speaking with me!

To learn more about Today's Parent, or to subscribe, you can visit their website...or just pick up an issue if you don't have a computer. Though if that were the case, you probably wouldn't be reading this. You can also follow them on Twitter.

Monday, September 13

Our Newest Art Acquisitions - and My Bad Mommy Moment

We had one little bare wall beside our laundry room door, so I decided to commission a couple of talented artists to create custom-designed paintings for the space. Yes, I'm talking about little Frannie and Maggie - and boy, were they cheap. A couple of chocolate chip muffins and they were ready to roll!

I knew I wanted an "abstract" style, so we pulled out Ian Falconer's book "Olivia", and turned to the part where Olivia's looking at a Jackson Pollock piece -- which she is sure she could recreate herself, and proceeds to do on her bedroom wall.

I set out the small canvases I had picked up at Michael's (you can get them at the dollar store as well), paintbrushes, trays of paint, and of course some coverups, and the girls went to town.

Frannie went first, and wasn't quite as uninhibited as her sister who followed. Of course, I didn't help matters. At one point, I looked over to see her globbing paint on the sides of the canvas, and my immediate response was: "Oh, you're not supposed to paint the sides!" You should have seen the crestfallen look on her face. Tears filled her eyes, and I knew I had broken her little heart. What a bad mommy! If she wants to paint the sides of the freakin' canvas, who am I to say it's wrong? (Believe me, I'm no artist!) I attempted to repair the emotional damage, and I think it worked, as she proceeded to happily glob paint on the other three sides.

Once the masterpieces were dry, I used a permanent marker to add their names and the year to their work, and then promptly hung them in their reserved space.

Next stop, the Metropolitan Museum of Art!

Saturday, September 11

Frieda Wishinsky: Review and Giveaway

Giveaway open to Canadians.

I'm really excited this month to tell you about an award-winning, Toronto-based children's author: Frieda Wishinsky. I have several of her Canadian Flyer chapter books in my classroom (they're terrific historical fiction for kids, and "Beware, Pirates!" was on our School Board's Battle of the Books reading list last year), but I hadn't seen her picture books until I received two titles for review: The Queen's Secret and You're Mean, Lily Jean.

In The Queen's Secret (illustrated by Loufane), a little girl wonders about what secret treasure is hidden in the queen's purse. By the end of the book, she finds out! I absolutely love the illustrations in this one, and the rhyming pattern makes the story flow along (it was even fast-paced enough to keep Maggie's attention.) I am already excited to use this in my class when we work on prediction, and I'm percolating some ideas for having kids put their own secret items in bags and allowing the other students to guess at the contents. Frannie fell asleep with this book in her hands the first night I read it to her.

You're Mean, Lily Jean (illustrated by Kady MacDonald Denton) is a little bit heavier. It covers the topic of bullying, but not in an obvious "here's the moral of the story" kind of way. Instead, the situation just unfolds as it is: sisters Carly and Sandy deal with the unfair behaviour of their new neighbour, Lily Jean, yet manage to find a happy ending. What I like about this book is that it depicts the type of bullying I see most often: not the big, scary kid beating up a small child for his lunch money, but the 'mean girls' type of behaviour that often goes unnoticed by adults. I honestly got tears in my eyes when first reading how Lily Jean allows Carly to play, but only if she'll be the most demeaning character in the game (e.g. the dog. "Say bow-bow!" she tells her.)

The press release says "Parents will be eternally grateful for this wonderful new picture book", but I would have to revise that to include teachers as well. Unfortunately, school is often the scene of the crime for bullying, if not in the classroom than in less-supervised areas (halls, bathrooms, playground) so it's a good place to spark discussion with kids. I will read it to my students, especially because it empowers children by modelling some of the language they can use, as the victim or the bystander, to attempt to improve their situation. This title is (very deservedly) nominated for the Marilyn Baillie Picture Book Award (winner to be announced in November). Good luck, Frieda!

Fans of Frieda, take note: she will be at the Telling Tales Festival in Rockton, ON on Sunday, September 19th, and also at Word on The Street (Children's Reading Tent) at 1:00 p.m. on Sunday, September 26th. This literacy festival is a great place for booklovers of all ages. We've never been, but it's on the calendar for this year.

You can also visit her website,

As always, I have books for you to win! Scholastic is giving away a copy of both The Queen's Secret and You're Mean, Lily Jean. To enter, simply leave a comment below! Be sure to include your email address, if it's not available on your profile.

For additional entries, leave a separate comment indicating that:
  • you follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect
  • you subscribe to This Mom Loves through email (be sure your subscription is activated)
  • you follow @thismomloves on Twitter, and tweet ONCE about this giveaway (feel free to retweet mine)
Good luck! Contest will end on Saturday, September 25th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time. A winner will be chosen through random number generation.

Another note for booklovers: Scholastic is currently running a Pick-A-Munsch promotion, allowing readers to vote for their favourite story idea, which will become Robert Munsch's 30th book!

Disclaimer: I received the above-named titles for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Thursday, September 9

Magazines: The Power of Print

I'm going to go out on a limb here and assume that you are reading this on a computer screen. (I know, I know, my psychic abilities are astounding.)

The question is: how much of your reading do you do from a computer screen?

Obviously I am a blogger, and also enjoy reading other people's web work. If someone in my family presents some sort of medical symptom, I am quickly Googling it to access the information as quickly as possible. (Okay, let's me honest, if I hear a celebrity couple has split, I am quickly Googling it to access the information as quickly as possible.) Although the Internet has enhanced my reading experiences (as well as replaced the need to do many of my errands in person, e.g. banking, shopping), there's no way it will ever replace my need for print media.

I love magazines. I come by it honestly, as my grandmother, mother, aunt and great-aunt have taken part in a complicated magazine exchange since I was a child. ("Take the Chatelaine to Grandma's. Tell her I need the Ladies' Home Journal and Maclean's, Aunt Shirley hasn't seen the Good Housekeeping, and Susan can read the Redbook before me, as long as she sends it back after.")

Once the issues had made their rounds, they would come back to our house with "Discard" written in black marker on the cover, an indication to me that they were fair game for tearsheets and collages. I can remember my Mom reading "Glamour", then foregoing it in favour of (what I believed at the time to be) old lady magazines. (I have since followed suit.) Her sister, only eight years older than me, first passed me her Teen, then YM, then Seventeen, which taught me many womanly facts before my time, but fostered my adoration of the medium.

I love being able to throw a magazine in my purse, enjoy it in the tub, or flip through it while on the treadmill. (One of my workout secrets, by the way. I force myself to save the best magazines for my treadmill sessions. Very motivating.) There's also a satisfaction that comes with devouring your favourite title cover to cover - much more daunting if attempting to navigate an online edition.

Plus, there seems to be a credibility that comes along with print media. Information in a "real magazine" must be true, advertisers must be legit. It saves a lot of wasted time being sceptical.

Although I often check out various parenting websites (and the online editions of print magazines), between my brother's wife and myself, we subscribe to the print version of pretty much every North American parenting magazine on the market.

You may think that perhaps I am biting the hand that feeds me, by promoting print magazines over the all-powerful Internet. The thing is, I make nothing from blogging, a minimal amount from magazine writing, but my true salary is paid by the taxpayers of the province of Ontario. (Thank you, by the way.) Therefore, I feel no particular loyalty to digital media.

I am intrigued by the recent ad campaign by magazine publishers called "Magazines: The Power of Print". (Is it ironic or perfectly appropriate that they also have a website?)  If you're a regular reader like me, there's no way you have missed the 2-page spreads found in every title I've seen lately, touting research which shows that magazine readership is actually increasing, and adults between 18 and 34 (who presumably would be the most web-savvy) are among the most dedicated readers when it comes to issues read per month and time spent per issue.

One of my favourite quotes from the advertising campaign: "We surf the Internet. We swim in magazines...people aren't giving up swimming just because they also enjoy surfing."

I'd love to know what you think. Do you still read magazines? Which ones? Has the Internet replaced any of your print magazine reading?

Monday, September 6

Extreme Makeover: Baby Room to Big Girl Room

Okay, so the makeover isn't actually that extreme, but the emotions are. My baby is now in a big-girl bed, and the room has been transformed for the third time.

When we built our home seven years ago, the corner bedroom was "the guest room". (In three years, I think maybe we had guests sleep in it half a dozen times! Maybe because it was so plain and uninviting?)

The Guest Room

Planner that I am, the room was originally painted yellow so that it would be ready to go when (and if) it were repurposed as a nursery, which it was in early 2006. I laugh at myself when I look back now and remember some of the items I had all ready in what was to be Frannie's room, such as the toy bin, all stocked and ready to go (full of items which, as you know, baby won't even look at for two months, let alone play with).

The "Me and My Mummy" picture frame on the dresser was a sympathy gift from husband when the first round of "morning sickness" (a post in itself) set in, and I informed him that I would never be pregnant again. Ever. Then came the miracle of Diclectin...(which, again, will make for another great, if not controversial, blog post.)

I really wanted to buy a diaper bag in advance (surprise, surprise!) so I went with a somewhat neutral but clearly predominately blue item...which of course I hated as soon as my little girl was born. I promptly  passed it on to my sister-in-law, who had her second baby boy three months after Frannie was born and was in need of an updated tote. Ironically, I actually didn't even choose something girly after all that; insead I went for a classic black which I still use now.

The Nursery

Oh, and can you see the two VHS cases on the bookshelf? Yeah, those are informational videos from the 80's on breastfeeding and baby care. I thought maybe I would use them, and enjoy them during all of my time at home after the baby arrived. I was wrong. As a teacher, I also thought the ABC, 123 wall theme would be very educational...though I doubt the girls ever really noticed it! ('s amazing how nostalgic I feel as these memories are stirred up!)

The gender-neutral bedding was purchased at a local shop (I spotted it when shopping with a friend, but hadn't announced my pregnancy yet so I had to go back for it later!) I saw something very similar in a celebrity nursery featured in a magazine around the same time, so I was confident that stripes were "in". Because of course, the baby would care. Oh, and the bumper pads were used as decoration before Frannie arrived and transitioned from bassinet to crib. I realize we aren't supposed to have those anymore, so no need to comment and remind me!

Frannie turned two right before Maggie was born, and we spent our March Break transitioning her to a big-girl room next door (I'll talk about that one another day), leaving the nursery as-is for her baby sister. It's been just over two years, and last week we decided that we were ready: no more nursery!

We went cold-turkey: all of the changes were made on a Tuesday morning, and by naptime Maggie was in her new bed, with the crib stored away in the basement. (If you're looking to avoid having more kids, try spending a morning disassembling a crib and carrying heavy furniture up and down stairs with your husband. Works like a charm.)

So, voila, Maggie's big-girl room:

In a "if-it-ain't-broke-don't-fix-it" move, we left the walls yellow, and worked with them. The captain's bed was actually mine as a teen, and was then painted brown for my cousin's room. We got it back, returned it to its original white, and put new white knobs on the drawers.

The flowered bedding (which I am hoping will grow with her, moreso than a licensed-character theme) is from the Sears catalogue, and the rails were purchased at Wal-Mart for Frannie two years ago.

The art on the wall beside her bed is actually cross-stitch quilt sections that I made while in university, and had framed for a future child's room. (Yes, I was already assuming that someday I would have a daughter.) I had a terrific part-time job as a receptionist at a convent (seriously) where I had time to read, do homework, and obviously cross-stitch while waiting for the Sisters to receive phone calls or visitors. Best job ever.

As for the wall stickers, they were an impulse buy one evening at Canadian Tire, when I spotted them and realized how well they would match the bedding. The girls had a great time directing me as to which stickers should be placed where.

Maggie absolutely adores her big-girl room, and proudly shows it off to all visitors. (For some reason, the FedEx guy wasn't interested. Can you believe it?) The only snag is that in the morning, although she is excellent to announce "I awake!", if we don't immediately give her permission to get up, she just assumes it, and waltzes on in to our room. Frannie was too much of a pleaser to do that, and still waits in her bed until we give her the go-ahead. She also has her bed made by the time we get there. Really.

I think our girls are very lucky to have such lovely big-girl rooms to themselves, and I know we are lucky to have these big-girls in our life. Next up (gulp): potty training!

Friday, September 3

Alphabet Photography Giveaway

Contest open to Canada and US.

This isn't the first time I've told you about Alphabet Photography, but it is the first time that you can win one of their beautiful products right here!

Not only has Alphabet Photography been mentioned on This Mom Loves (their pinnacle of achievement, I'm sure), they've also been featured by The Tyra Banks Show, On Air With Ryan Seacrest, ABC News, FOX News, CityLine, The Steven and Chris Show, Breakfast Television, Chatelaine...the list goes on!

Canadian mom Jennifer Blakeley has travelled the continent finding and photographing letters of the alphabet in their natural environments, and turning them into art. Some letters are modern looking, some are more traditional, and you can choose which version of each letter suits you.

When I made my first purchase from Alphabet Photography, I chose to spell out my family's last name (which now hangs in our dining room), and I know many moms have chosen to decorate baby and children's rooms with personalized art as well. You can buy letter photographs separately (for only $5 each), or have your whole word completely framed and shipped to you.

Now you have a chance to join me (and a bunch of other celebrities) as the proud owner of a work of Alphabet Photography art, as I am giving away your choice of product from their Inspirational Series! Maybe you want to give "Mother" or "Sister" as a gift, to hang "Family" or "Faith" in your home, or to decorate your child's room with "Dream" or "Courage" choose, and the word comes completely matted and framed! (The prize is worth $45, and your shipping will be included!)

"Home", from Alphabet Photography's Inspirational Series

The entry couldn't be simpler: if you're a resident of Canada or the US, check out Alphabet Photography's Inspirational Series, and pop back here to let me know which word you would select from the choices provided! (Be sure to leave your email address, if it's not on your profile!)

For extra entries (after the mandatory entry has been completed), leave a separate comment letting me know that:
  • you follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect
  • you subscribe to This Mom Loves through email (ensure your subscription is activated)
  • you follow @thismomloves on Twitter, and tweet about this giveaway (feel free to retweet mine). Please do this ONCE IN TOTAL. (I don't like overwhelming the Twittersphere with giveaway tweets!)
  • you 'like' Alphabet Photography on Facebook
Contest will end on Saturday, September 18th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern Time, and a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck!

Disclaimer: I received no compensation for the above post. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Winners: Brain Quest and 3M

Winner of the Brain Quest Write and Erase set:
# 74 of 77 entries
Aja from Peterborough, ON

Winner of the safety products from 3M:
# 41 of 56 entries
Chelsey from B.C.

Congratulations! Watch for another exciting giveaway coming very, very soon!

Thursday, September 2

New York City Day 3: Downtown and Around

Just in case you need to get caught up on the Winns' whirlwind Manhattan visit:

NYC Day 1: Julia Roberts
NYC Day 2: Live! With Regis and Kelly

Ready to continue?

For Day 3 in NYC, we switched gears from the thrill of celebrity sightings and world-renowned tourist attractions, and went into a completely different mode to visit Ground Zero.

After my third Crepes Nutella at Cafe Un Deux Trois (so delicious, if perhaps a tad childish), we made our way to the site of the World Trade Centre. Although we could have saved a few bucks by braving the subway, we took a cab downtown (we only took three cab rides the whole trip, totalling less than $40).

The first thing we saw was the memorial sculpture pictured above. We agreed it was beautiful, but had no idea what it was supposed to be! After coming home and showing our pictures to our (patient) friends, one suggested it looked like a balloon creation. "Yeah, right," we scoffed. "As if that's what it is!" I promptly hopped on Google, and found the title of the stainless steel sculpture: "Balloon Flower (Red)". I stand corrected!

One of my family members asked me if we found the site desolate and depressing, but in fact all of the new construction gives a very hopeful feeling to the area. However, we also went in to visitors' centre, where I was not the only one with tears running down my cheeks. I found the timeline along the walls to be very powerful, as I remembered where I was when I learned of each event of the 9/11 morning.

We then lightened up with a bit of shopping at the popular department store Century Twenty-One. There were definitely some great deals, but we weren't exactly in shopping mode. At the end of this post I'll be showing you a photo of all of our amazing NYC purchases, so hold tight for that.

Next we walked the Brooklyn Bridge, which you must do if you visit New York. It was an easy 20 minute walk each way, and if we're ever there again we'll leave time to explore Brooklyn a little bit instead of turning around and heading right back once we reach the other side.

The final activity of the day was our very worthwhile Circle Line Cruise. It was a really great experience to do the three hour circumnavigation of the island, and to see everything from the water. We got a broad perspective of Manhattan as a whole, and the bridges, surrounding islands, boroughs and cities. The live tour guide was terrific, and gave us tons of important (as well as amusingly trivial) information. We learned a lot, and I would suggest doing this on the first day of a trip, just to start with the big picture and then work your way in as you explore the city on foot.

Statue of Liberty shots taken from the cruise

Dinner was pieced together from a deli and a bakery that we hit on the way back up 44th street towards our hotel. NYC is amazing for the variety and availability of food on every block!

Since we left the next morning, I'll sneak in our last touristy moment here: a visit to St. Patrick's Cathedral on Fifth Avenue. Devoted Catholic that I am, I truly intended to go to 8 a.m. Mass before heading to the airport. Hubby wanted a quick morning jog, so we decided he should be back at the hotel by 7. When 7:40 arrived and I realized that we wouldn't be attending Mass (and that perhaps something was wrong) I was a bit concerned. He arrived back soon after, with a plausible excuse about "getting lost in Central Park". (I'm sure he's not the first.) I was a bit suspicious though when I learned that the Jonas Brothers were playing in the Park that very morning. Hmmm...

Although the shuttle ride back to the airport was quite lengthy (I'd say double the time it took us to come in to the city a few days before) LaGuardia was amazingly easy to navigate, and our Air Canada flight took off on time and returned us home. It's funny that sometimes Toronto is the desination of our road trips, but after being out of the country it felt like home as soon as we touched down. My brother and his wife, who had kindly looked after Frannie and Maggie during our absence, dropped them off and our magical adventure was over.

Oh, don't worry - I'm not wrapping this up yet. I did promise you a shot of everything we purchased and brought home from NYC: (try not to be too jealous)

Yes, that would be two "I Heart NY shirts", two Polly Pocket toys and an Olivia DVD for the girls, a commemmorative Live! With Regis and Kelly tee, and two St. Patrick's rosaries. Aren't we WILD? (And can you believe we're so rich that we didn't even have to dip in to the line of credit for any of these purchases?) I didn't even pick up a too-close-to-tell knockoff designer handbag as I had planned. I'd say we did the complete tourist gamut in only three days, except for the all-important shopping. There's always next time....oh, and there will be a next time.

Whew. So that's the complete "Winns Take Manhattan" recap. I'd love to hear if any of you New York residents or former visitors know of anything I missed, and should see/do next time? Any questions from those of you who haven't yet made it to the Big Apple? I'd love to help you make your trip as successful as ours!