Tuesday, November 30

Read It: A Vintage Affair by Isabel Wolff

I loved the book A Vintage Affair. My mother, a total Anglophile, bought it simply because it takes place in London. (I'm guessing.) When she passed it along, I was expecting total chicklit (which wouldn't have bothered me) but I was very pleasantly surprised to find that it was so much more. While later doing a bit of research, I learned that this title was extremely well-reviewed, and with good reason.

A Vintage Affair is the story of Phoebe, who has recently broken off her engagement (there's a big secret involved) and embarked on her dream career, as owner of a vintage clothing shop. It is such a fun book...well, as fun as a book with a Holocaust sub-theme can be. It's smartly written, with many characters, but they're well-developed enough to not clutter up the story. There's romance, there's friendship, and for those of you who like to cry, there are certainly those moments, too. It was one of those books where you just want to flip ahead to find out what happens, because sometimes the tension is too much to bear!

American cover

And of course, the vintage fashions play a very important role in this book. Just like in Sex and the City, the wardrobe is almost a character in itself. And while "cupcake dresses" contribute to plot development, "the little blue coat" is an essential component of the story. But don't think that you have to be a vintage expert to appreciate this one. While I am definitely into clothing and style (in a recessionista kind of way) my limited knowledge of vintage did not keep me from enjoying this book, and in fact, I loved learning a little something about it.
Isabel Wolff

Now that I've done this review, my next task is to decide which friend of mine will be lucky enough to get the book next. I have fashionista friends who aren't avid readers, and vice versa...but this title might be enough to encourage both passions!

You can visit the author's website, http://www.isabelwolff.com/. I'll certainly be seeking out some more of her books, after being so impressed with this one.

Friday, November 26


So, there are some cool perks to being a mommy blogger. A few weeks ago I got an invitation to an advance screening of Disney's new animated feature "Tangled"...so we went wild and skipped Frannie's swimming lesson one Saturday and headed to the cinema to check it out.

Eating popcorn and Smarties at 10 in the morning is a gift in itself, but we were actually all impressed by the movie (Disney's 50th animated feature), too.

I loved that it wasn't exactly a prince-saves-maiden plot, although there were some traditional moments. The story was similar to the Rapunzel you know (witch keeps Rapunzel in tower, climbs up and down her hair at will, etc.) but with some original twists. Hubby thought there were some too-violent-for-the Disney-crowd scenes (e.g. do we want kids to think that magic hair can heal a vicious stab wound?) but the characters were entertaining and there were many for-the-grownups laughs.

I didn't even realize that Rapunzel's beautiful voice was provided by Mandy Moore until checking my press kit afterwards. You know how you think 'I know that voice!' but you just can't place it? That distracted me a bit, but I got over it. And now I've saved you that dilemma!

The 3D aspect is something new for the princess movies, but it does require the little ones to keep their glasses on!  And in terms of Disney royalty, I have to say that this Rapunzel rates behind Beauty and the Beast's Belle and Hercules' Meg as my favourite characters (Belle speaks French, Meg has attitude and they're both brunette. You can see why I relate!), but she was extremely likable.

If you have little Disney lovers, you really have to go. It was two year old Maggie's first post-stars-and-strollers movie and just to see her with the 3D glasses on and bag of popcorn in hand made it worth the hour's drive to the theatre! (Plus - no potty accidents the whole morning!) Four year old Frannie was completely entranced the whole time, and already wants to go back to see it again...and since it's now open nationwide, we just might go back! See you there!

Wednesday, November 24

What Teachers Really Want For Christmas!

First of all: no, you don't have to buy a gift for your child's teacher. Or preschool instructor, or daycare provider. But this is a great time of year to acknowledge someone who is doing a great job and making a difference in your child's life.

As a teacher myself, I am often asked by family and friends for gift ideas, and for that reason I wrote:

"What Teachers Really Want For Christmas" (Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids, Dec/Jan 2009/2010) (Click on link for complete article.)

I don't want to give away what we will be buying for Frannie's very first teacher (there is also an Early Childhood Educator and Integrated Literacy teacher in her classroom who will get something as well), but I can tell you that the girls' daycare provider will get a clothing store gift certificate for the fourth year in a row. Yes, she reads this blog, but it's certainly not a surprise gift.

We're both very practical, and she's a "flowers die, chocolates are bad for you" kind of gal (her husband sticks with jewelery, if you're wondering) so every year I just ask her what she wants and then I buy it. Might sound unoriginal,  but it works for us.

As for teacher gifts, I can promise you that no matter your budget, you can never go wrong with a heartfelt note. Of course we teachers can afford to buy things for ourselves, and while all Christmas offerings are gratefully received, it really is the thought that counts. Those meaningful letters that tell me I'm doing a good job honestly mean the most. There's nothing like starting the holidays knowing that I'm appreciated, and this sort of affirmation is truly priceless.

For more ideas (including tips for do-it-yourself, budget, and charitable gifts) and a section where teachers share their favourite gift ever, be sure to check out "What Teachers Really Want For Christmas!" from Peterborough, Northumberland and Lakeridge Kids.

I'd love to hear your gift ideas for teachers past and present...and if there are educators out there who want to share their favourites as well, please feel free!

Monday, November 22

Guess Who's 70??

No, not one of my relatives you've never met. (Well, I'm sure out there somewhere I have a relative who's 70, but that's not the point.)

It's everyone's favourite inquisitive little monkey, Curious George!

I recently received two hardcover, special edition books honouring this big birthday:

Curious George Storybook Collection (Eight stories with activities and more than 100 stickers) It has neat craft ideas to go with the different stories, and the art is based on the PBS Kids television show.

The Complete Adventures of Curious George, with seven original classics, and a photo album of the authors (Margret and H.A. Rey). I particularly love all the non-fiction additions, which allow the kids (and parents) to learn more about the story of George, whom some of us have loved for years.

Do you ever get a wave of nostalgia when reading a story that you enjoyed as a kid? Frannie was flipping through "Curious George and the Boat Show", and although the art is different, the story took me back to my own childhood.

I also love the "Complete Adventures" book because it comes with over an hour of storytelling on two CD's. At four years old, Frannie loves the stories, but is a little young for the CD's, as they don't have any sort of indicator for when to turn the page, and she doesn't read well enough to follow it herself. I am a huge fan of books with CD's. In my class, the favourite centre in our daily Reading Workshop rotation is always the listening centre. However, usually it requires putting a tape in the old tape recorder and putting on the brown headphones (you know, the same ones you used as a kid.) Now, though, many books are available on CD as well. Frannie loves to listen to her books in bed during quiet time (our enforced 'stay-in-your-room-while-Maggie-naps' time) and before going to sleep.

And guess what? The little guy also stars in "Curious George Christmas Carols", which is another book and CD combo made up of ten favourite Christmas tunes like Deck the Halls and Silent Night. Warning: there's no "silent night" when your daughter thinks firing up the CD player at 2 a.m. is a good idea, but hey. We're encouraging reading.

Curious George Christmas Carols Book & CD

One of these choices might be something to add to the Christmas list of your little George lover!

Winners: Otterbottle and Philips Sonicare

The winner of an Otterbottle Lunch Tote:

# 31 of 79

Lilac from Lethbridge, AB

The winner of a Philips Sonicare kids' electric toothbrush, courtesy of Aquafresh:

# 19 of 57

Leanne from Port Coquitlam, BC


Saturday, November 20

Caillou Reminder

Just a reminder that Caillou's Greatest Skate of All is currently on tour in Canada! We'll be taking our girls in just a couple of weeks, and we can't wait!

Visit the Koba Entertainment site for tour locations and dates. You might also be lucky enough to have Max and Ruby, Toopy and Binou, The Doodlebops, Franklin or the Backyardigans coming to a theatre near you, so check it out!

Friday, November 19

Fun Games For Kids and Families: Review and Giveaway

Giveaway open to US and Canada.

I can't think of a better way to bring the family together than to sit around the table with a great game. (In truth, my favourite activity is sitting around the TV, but that makes me sound a little lazy and antisocial. Therefore I'm going with my second best.)

Today I'm recommending a terrific new family game called "Bubble Words". This one is for ages 8 and up (the post-Candyland crowd) and refreshingly involves no dice or markers. Instead, the materials are simply a stack of 150 photos, and  300 caption cards, with speech bubble sayings such as "Maybe I should get my eyes checked", "I hope I'm not overdressed", and "This is soooo gonna leave a mark."
Bubble Talk
Each player is dealt 7 speech bubble cards, and has to choose which one is the funniest match for the hilarious photo card which is turned up in each round. A judge decides on the winner, who is awarded the photo. The object of the game is to collect as many photos as you can.

You may be wondering how I tried this game out, when my daughters are too young to play. Fortunately, I have daily access to a room full of game-loving eight year olds...and man, do they LOVE Bubble Talk! It's a fantastic little supplement to my language program (with reading, oral communication and media literacy components) and let's face it, kids are funny.

Some of the sayings are mature ("Come here often?") and there is occasional bathroom humour (e.g. a man holding his nose outside a port-a-potty) but everything is age-appropriate.

My students still ask every day if we can play, and I am certain is will be a well-used rainy-day recess option.

The  second game I tried out is the new Rubik's Slide - an electronic game with over 10,000 puzzles, reminiscent of the original Rubik's Cube. The goal is to slide and twist the game until the squares light up in the required pattern. This is definitely not my idea of fun, so I again called on my students to try it out at recesstime (a great motivator, let me tell you!) As someone with experience in Gifted Education and Multiple Intelligences, I also think it's important to encourage and develop both the visual/spatial and kinesthetic aspects which are incorporated in this game. The manufacturer is promoting it as a perfect game for the hard-to-buy-for 8 and up crowd, and I would definitely consider it if you have a child in that age group on your list.

Rubiks Slide 2

You can win both of these games (total retail value almost $50!), simply by leaving a comment below and asking to be entered. For additional entries, leave a separate comment letting me know that:

The contest is open until Friday, December 3rd at 11:59 p.m., after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck!

Wednesday, November 17

Christmas Titles from Scholastic (Giveaway)

It's beginning to look a lot like Christmas...definitely in the stores (that started in October) but also now in my house and classroom. I love to extend the season at the front end...and take everything down immediately after!

When I pulled out the Christmas bins, I rediscovered a lot of great storybooks that my girls have enjoyed in the past, but I am now adding two more titles to the mix, courtesy of Scholastic Canada:

A Porcupine in a Pine Tree by Helaine Becker

This is a cute, Canadianized remake of the traditional 12 days of Christmas, where five Stanley Cups replace the traditional five golden rings (we all know which is more valuable) and Mounties and Maple Leafs round out the crew. Frannie is now able to name several more members of Canadian wildlife after hearing this version of the song!

Listen, Said The Donkey, by Jean Little

I am all about Christmas - from Santa Claus and reindeer to candy canes and gingerbread, I certainly embrace the less religious aspects of the holiday. I do, however, work on teaching my students and children that the "reason for the season", so to speak, should be foremost in their minds. That's why I requested a copy of this book, which is described on the jacket like this: "Five animals gather at a lowly stable, speaking of the child who was just born there, and of how each one came to be in Bethlehem. Their tales cast the Christmas story in a new and wondrous light."

The stories are beautifully written by one of Canada's most treasured children's authors, with soft illustrations to spark the kids' imaginations. There's a lot of text on these pages, so it's not for the really little ones, but my four year old daughter and eight year old students all enjoyed it.

(Just an aside - if you're looking for another way to reinforce the religious aspect of Christmas, my girls LOVE their Fisher Price nativity. Frannie was saying "Jesus" at 19 months old, and for the right reasons!)
As always, Scholastic is offering to share both of these titles ("A Porcupine in a Pine Tree" and "Listen, Said the Donkey") with a lucky This Mom Loves reader. All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below telling me when you did (or will) decorate for Christmas this year. (Me? It was all done on November 12th, except for the trees which go up December 1st. Yes, I said "trees", plural. The blue-and-silver on the main floor, and the random kids' ornaments tree in the family room downstairs.)

Be sure to leave your email address, if it is not on your profile! If I can't contact you, you can't win!

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 (activated subscription)
  • you follow @thismomloves on Twitter
  • you follow @scholasticCDA on Twitter 
This contest will run until Wednesday, December 1st at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck!

Sunday, November 14

Tracy Moore: My Exclusive Momterview

CityLine is one of my favourite television shows, which is in part because of the beautiful and talented host, Tracy Moore. With a background in journalism, Tracy joined CityTV's Breakfast Television in 2005, and in the fall of 2008 was chosen to succeed Marilyn Denis at the host of CityLine.

Tracy recently returned to work, six weeks after the birth of her second child, daughter Eva...and is unfairly energetic and enthusiastic! She carved a few minutes in to her busy schedule to chat with me (with some cute baby sounds in the background).

This Mom: Let's rewind a couple of years. Take me back to the moment you found out you were chosen as the new host of CityLine.

Tracy Moore: Ah, that was such a good moment. Whenever it's been a show I'm not exactly happy about I think back to when they told me I got the job and it makes me happy. It was a long quote-unquote "interview process". My firstborn was about three months old when I started auditioning for the show, and there were so many people coming in and out of there I wasn't sure which way it was going to go, and I remember near the end of the process I had actually called up the supervising producer, and I said to her "Listen, I'm on my maternity leave, it's short enough as it is, and if this is going nowhere, can you please let me know because I would just as soon spend more time at home with my kid, rather than jumping in to hair and makeup every couple of weeks and auditioning for this thing." I didn't know how it was going.

She said to me "I strongly suggest you stay in there and go through the entire process," and I thought "That might be a good sign!" So I stuck around 'til the end. They told me at some point right near the end of the summer "We want you to do a whole week on your own, we think it's yours to lose, if you can knock it out of the ball park the job is yours," and I remember just thinking "Oh my God, I can't believe I've come this far!" We did the week, and at the end of that week they called me up and told me that they were offering me the job. It was so exciting! I told my husband right away, because of course he's my biggest cheerleader, between him and my parents, and we had a little "This is amazing!" party, and then I started the following week. I've honestly been in the honeymoon stage ever since.

Photo Courtesy of Tracy P. Makeup: Tracy Peart is makeup artist to the stars...
and Tracy Moore's official makeup artist!

{The whole TM/TM thing isn't going to work for this interview, so I'll stick with the full names!}

This Mom: Why was the decision made for CityLine not to air live anymore?

Tracy Moore: We wanted to follow Breakfast Television, and the situation is that we share a studio with Breakfast Television, and our show needs about an hour to set up furniture, but because we're in the same studio as BT, and we wanted to air at 9:00, we basically had to keep our tapings at 10 a.m., but then air at 9 a.m. a week later. We didn't want to confuse the days, because people are used to coming in Monday for an "Around the House" show, and Friday for a "Fashion Friday", so we decided to air a week later so we could follow the ratings giant that is Breakfast Television and also still keep our days uniform.

This Mom: It must help too now that all of the recipes and directions and links are on the website ready to go by the time the shows air.

Tracy Moore: It does. Now we're packaging our promos and teasers and all of that can be done a week in advance so it's great.

This Mom: What is your favourite day of the week on CityLine?

Tracy Moore: It's changed! In the beginning I was a devout "Fashion Friday" girl, and now I'm loving Wednesdays, when we do Family Days. It's a huge mix of family-friendly recipes, and sometimes we talk about sex, or health. I just find the atmosphere really fun because we get parents to bring their kids in, and it's chaos. And I'm sure you're living in chaos, because I'm living in chaos, so when I go on Wednesdays it's just like being at my house! {I noticed she didn't mention Mondays, which are my least favourite day, solely because I do not cook! Although the chefs can be entertaining, as soon as I see one of them I realize that the episode will have little impact on my home life!}

This Mom: How does it work with your fantastic wardrobe...do you wear your own clothes, or are they provided?

Tracy Moore: I do switch in some of my own pieces, but for the most part I borrow from Freda's. Basically they know my sizing, and I'll go in every once in a while and get resized if I'm pregnant, or losing baby weight, and they know my style and pick out a bunch of stuff for me with accessories, and I'll come pick it up and drop it off.

Photo courtesy of Tracy P. Makeup
This Mom: I know you're a big shoe fan. Do you have a favourite?

Tracy Moore: Nine West is my sponsor and I've always been a big fan. Like a girl's dream come true!

This Mom: Switching gears to the parenting side of things now - when you first became a parent {her son Sidney was born in April 2008} what do you think was the biggest sacrifice you had to make?

Tracy Moore: Sleep. It is and will always be the saddest thing about being a parent. {Oh, how I agree.} Some people handle it so well and I don't know how they're hardwired. To be honest with you, I didn't think it was going to be as devastating as it was. My husband could handle it better because he's never been a good sleeper, but I've always been a 'get six to eight hours' kind of girl and with Sidney, my first, he wanted to graze constantly. That is the hardest thing. Eva is a little different. She sleeps for longer periods of time. I'm less crazy this time, and I don't know if it's because I've done it already or if it's because Lio's home and we're doing shifts now, but I'd love to be able to sleep for eight hours and I know that's not happening for what, 18 years?

Tracy with baby Eva

This Mom: How do you and Lio find couple time?

Tracy Moore: Lately it's like turning on the PVR and watching our favourite shows together. {Which is coincidentally exactly what my husband and I do every night...and we're two and a half years out of the newborn phase!} Sometimes I'll sacrifice some of the time I could be sleeping to just hang out with him, because quite frankly I miss my husband. You go through all these months and months of divide and conquer, because he's always with the toddler and I'm with the baby, and then it's like "I remember when we used to hang out! It used to be fun!" We miss each other. Sometimes we just hang out in the kitchen and he'll be reading a newspaper and I'll be reading a magazine and we just talk about that, like we used to do. What we also did while I was on my very short maternity leave is going to the Movies For Mommies, and we can bring the baby with us.

This Mom: You knew you were having a girl this time but you didn't tell?

Tracy Moore: I didn't tell my parents! I basically told the audience every day at CityLine, I just didn't say it on air because my parents watch the show and I didn't want to ruin it for them because for some reason they like to keep the surprise going.

This Mom: What was your decision-making process in terms of only taking six weeks of maternity leave this time around?

Tracy Moore: I had already decided that I would want to have another child, and I talked about it with my boss and I said "I know we're in this situation where it's not like Breakfast Television {the show she was on when Sidney was born} where there are five people doing the show. There's one of me, so it's a little bit different and a little more challenging to take off a lot of time." So I said "Listen, I'm willing to take off only a few weeks for maternity leave, as long as when I come back it's a reduced shift." I'm just coming in, doing hair and makeup, doing the show, and going home. I can do that for a long period of time, until I've weaned the baby off, and I also talked to Lio and he decided he was willing to take the year off for paternity leave. As long as I knew that I could leave the baby with my husband and that I'd only be gone for a couple of hours every day, I was okay with it.

Of course my boss was elated, because even for the six weeks it's a tough transition to make, bringing in different hosts. It's fun and it's a nice change for a little while but there's a lot to remember hosting the show and it's hard to be breaking in a new person every day and still keep the quality where they want it to be. The producers put so much work into their shows so it's nice when the host can just jump in and do what they're supposed to do.

Plus, we all know it's the television industry, people can not go away for a year. {I was so glad that she mentioned this point and didn't shy away from it. In her business, being gone for the entire length of a mat leave and allowing yourself to be replaced is dangerous, even for someone as talented as Tracy.}

This Mom: You moved to a new home last Spring. What can you tell us about it?

Tracy Moore: We probably closed at the end of March but we didn't actually move in until June, so there were about six weeks that we were living at my parents' house. Interesting. That's while I was pregnant, and we were renovating the kitchen. We moved in at the end of June, and it's been a great move. As frustrating as the renovation was, and it was frustrating, it was never done when it was supposed to be done and there was always something and I was regretting the whole thing, now that we're actually in here the extra space has been just great for having a baby because we have three floors now. So I'm up on the third floor with the baby at night when she's screaming because she's got gas, and they can't really hear her, and Lio is on the same floor as Sidney, so if Sidney happens to wake up over night Eva and I aren't disturbed. It's been nice. We have a basement with a TV and her swing and a playroom. It's great. 

This Mom: How would you complete the sentence "This Mom loves..."?

Tracy Moore: Some things I find essential right now are nursing tops from My Bump; the line is called Boob. Love this stuff. I have two tops, two tank tops and a dress, and it's what I rotate every time I come home from work. I use Weleda Baby Tummy Oil for her gas, it calms her down overnight. Burt's Bees products I love, their Baby Bee products, particularly their Nappy Ointment with Vitamin E, and their Buttermilk Lotion, and Boiron, which is a homeopathic brand which is all-natural stuff which you can give your little ones for coughs and colds. I like their Stodal for Sidney's cough and Coryzalia for colds, and I have Camilia for when the teething starts. These are the things I use constantly and love.

You can catch CityLine with Tracy Moore weekdays on CityTV. She also has her own Behind The Scenes blog on the CityTV website, and you can follow her on http://twitter.com/tracycityline.

Friday, November 12

Beautiful Oops!

I love this book.

(Just to reiterate, I do not love every book, and there are a great many I receive which never even get a passing mention here.)

But this book, I love. The funny thing is, I think I love it for grownups just as much as (or more than) I do for kids. In fact, it may very well become my go-to gift for anyone in my life lamenting an "oops"...a breakup, a missed job opportunity, an accident.

"Beautiful Oops!" by Barney Saltzberg is a colourful, tactile book which urges the reader: "When you think you have made a mistake, think of it as an opportunity to make something beautiful!" Crumples, holes, stains and drips are all repurposed into something else in what has been called "a singular work of imagination, creativity and paper engineering." There are pop-ups, flaps and folds for little ones to explore, leaving the grownup with time to reflect on the real message of this book.

What a wonderful way to teach our children, and remind ourselves, that it's okay to make mistakes. Add this one to your list right now.

Wednesday, November 10

Know Any v.i.b.'s (very important babies)?

Do you:

a) Have a new baby, or know someone who does?
b) Have a baby on the way, or know someone who does?
c) Have no connection to babies at the moment, but plan to change that in the near future?

If you answered "yes" to any of the above questions, you need to hear about Shoppers Drug Mart's v.i.b. (very important baby) program.

When you sign up for the v.i.b. program, you receive enewsletters with exclusive Optimum (Shoppers points) offers, hot deals on baby products, and life stage relevant content. Prenatal moms who sign up will receive a New Baby gift pack when the little one arrives, full of the terrific items like a v.i.b. bib, samples of great baby products like Huggies diapers and wipes (we were all on board with Huggies when our girls were newborns, and switched to store brands when things got a little less messy!), Johnson's baby wash, and Aveeno body wash and lotion.

Want more? Shoppers is also running a contest promoted exclusively through this blog tour, where you can win one of 50 $50 Shoppers Drug Marts gift cards, simply by signing up for the free v.i.b. program before December 1st! As a new member, you'll also receive 2500 points the next time you purchase any Pampers diaper products! Click here to sign up and be eligible to win!

Now for the required legal jargon:

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY. Visit www.shoppersdrugmart.ca/babycontest for full contest details, and information on how to enter without a purchase. Approximate retail value of prize is $50. Chances of winning depend on the number of eligible entries received. Correct answer to a skill-testing question required to be declared a winner. Must be a Canadian resident and age of majority or older in province or territory of residence. Valid Shoppers Optimum Card required to participate. Contest ends December 1, 2010.

Disclaimer: I am participating in the Shoppers Drug Mart v.i.b. program by Mom Central on behalf of Shoppers Drug Mart. I received a gift card and a new baby pack (which I don't plan on ever needing again, and am passing on to a colleague) as a thank you for my participation. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Monday, November 8

Perfect Parties Theme Four: The Jumping Party

Welcome to the next installment of Krista's Perfect Parties! Today I'm filling you in on the "Jumping Party" she threw for her oldest daughter's 5th birthday.

The activities:

A bouncy castle (of course) with a princess theme.
Jumping beans (which were apparently very hard to find, but so cool to see - they actually jump!)

The food:

It's all about what you call it: regular hot dogs fit the theme perfectly when they're renamed "hoppin' hot dogs!"

The cake:

Cupcakes with "jumpin' jelly beans" (again, it's all in the name!) forming the number 5

Loot bags:

(This time she made a bag for each set of siblings, as the contents were a bit more expensive)

Leapfrog DVD
bouncing frogs
jelly beans
bouncing balls
skipping rope

You could throw in anything that bounces: jacks, paddle ball, etc. In terms of activities, what about hippity hops as well?

Just another creative idea from Krista, the queen of party themes!

Winners: Scholastic Hockey and Just Me! Music

Congratulations to my two latest winners:

Scholastic Hockey Books:

# 2 out of 50 entries

Tara from Penticton, BC

Personalized CD From Just Me! Music

# 37  out of  87 entries

Colleen from Lindsay, ON

Congratulations, Tara and Colleen!

Don't forget to enter to win an OtterBottle insulated lunch tote, and a Philips Sonicare Electric Toothbrush. Stay tuned for more great giveaways!

Saturday, November 6

Aquafresh Futures: Kids' Electric Toothbrush Giveaway...and a $10 000 RESP

Giveaway open to Canada.

Quick: what are your wishes for your children? I asked this question once in another post, and got many thoughtful responses. Of course I want my girls to be healthy and happy (and in fact, that is like a mantra that I tack on to the end of every prayer: "Healthy, happy children. Healthy, happy children.") I want them to grow up and find love, be fulfilled in the way they spend their days, and have a warm home with plenty of food. Doesn't that all sound lovely and blog-worthy?

Yeah, well, those are my selfless hopes, but I happen to have some selfish ones too. For example, I've been a mother for four years, and I already know I want grandchildren. Is that weird? I also secretly hope that my girls won't move too far away. A few hours' drive would be acceptable, but my family (and my husband's) are all so close geographically that we can't even fathom the idea of having to fly to see relatives. I mean, I don't want my daughters to feel stuck in our little rural community, but we're only an hour and a half from the biggest city in Canada...surely they can find work there? Work may not be the problem, though, as many a woman (myself included) has relocated for love. Junior Kindergarten is probably too early to try to set up a local arranged marriage, right?

Now that you know my oh-so-noble aspirations for my girls, go and share your wishes for your child at www.aquafresh.ca/contest for a chance to win a $10,000 RESP, courtesy of new Aquafresh Advanced!! (Yes, that says TEN THOUSAND DOLLARS!) You have until November 30th to get yourself entered...imagine the impact that prize would have on your child's future!

Though not quite as exciting at $10,000, I do have a Philips Sonicare for Kids toothbrush (valued at $70) and a sample of Aquafresh Advanced Toothpaste to give away to one lucky This Mom Loves reader!

Philips Sonicare for Kids HX6311/02 Rechargeable Toothbrush
This toothbrush has a KidTimer which increases brushing time slowly over 90 days, building towards the dentist-recommended two minutes. There is a low-mode for smaller children, and a high-mode for the 7 and up crowd, and two separate brush sizes. It's also designed to be held comfortably by the child, or by an adult doing the brushing, and comes with interchangeable panels. Plus, it has its own charger. No more toothbrush batteries!

While I'm not ready to shell out 70 bucks for a kids' toothbrush myself, I would LOVE to win one, as I am certain it would help with the whole brushing drama routine. Don't worry, I'm not entering my own giveaway. But you can!

All you have to do to enter is leave a comment below sharing a toothbrushing tip, trick, story...anything related to cleaning those little pearly whites!

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 (activated subscription)
  • you follow @thismomloves on Twitter
  • you brush twice a day. Just checking if you're paying attention! I'll let you use that as a bonus!
Contest will end on Saturday, November 20th at 11:59 p.m., after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck! Happy wishing and brushing!

Disclaimer: I am participating in the Aquafresh Advanced Futures program by Mom Central on behalf of GSK. I received a sample of Aquafresh and a gift card as a thank you for my participation. Opinions are, as always, my own. This contest is running on multiple blogs. You may enter on as many as you like, but can win only once.

Friday, November 5

You Can't Choose Your Family...

I never had a sister growing up, but now I have seven...the beauty of in-laws!

I have many wonderful friends: a special cousin, a few fabulous university friends, my book club, and some very close colleagues. My daily go-to-girls, however, are my husband's three sisters and my brother's wife.

Once you have kids, it is so hard to maintain your friendships. Without email, I honestly don't think I would have ever been able to keep in touch with some of the terrific women who mean so much to me, just because we really don't have the time.

Family, however, is a bit easier. There's always a birthday party, religious holiday or local function to attend, and my sisters-in-law are there. Plus, with nine kids in the family, my husband and his siblings were raised to be very family oriented: they were each other's playmates and learned to stick together, which I think has helped them develop the relationships they still share today. We all have young kids, so convesation is easy, especially since two of his sisters are fellow teachers, and one provides daycare for Frannie and Maggie ---there's always lots to talk about. Living in the same community also means there's no lack of gossip either! (Not that we do that. Much.)

When I married my husband, I inherited his three sisters (as well as three of his brother's wives, who are also fantastic, but unfortunately live out of town). Then when my brother got married, another "sister" was added to my life...lucky for me! I am in contact with all of these in-laws on an almost-daily basis, whether through email, (mostly) brief phone chats, or picking-up-the-kids-at-daycare discussions. A couple of times a year, I go away with my husband's sisters (the trips usually focus on shopping, food and movies) and when I have a girls'-night-out, you can bet it's with them.

On my side of the family, my brother's wife has been a constant supporter of my freelance writing and blogging, and has taught me many lessons about bargain shopping and cooking. (I'm not saying I cook more, but I know more about how to!)

As for the Pandora bead in the photo? That was my birthday present from two of these special women...and the perfect visual to represent this post. My sisters-in-law have been an absolute gift for this sisterless gal, and I truly do thank God for putting them in my life.

Tuesday, November 2

Otterbottle Lunch Tote: Review and Giveaway

Giveaway open to Canadians.

I fell in love with Otterbottle the day I received my first water bottle for review. I'm an even bigger fan now that they have expanded their products to include insulated drink and food containers.

My favourite? My stylish new lunch tote. The PR rep emailed me to say that "it's gorgeous and it's huge"...but of course she's supposed to say that. In the photo, it looked like a regular-sized lunch bag to me, but I was very pleasantly surprised. Of course it's attractive, as all of their products are (yes, we're vain when our food containers have to look nice, but that's a whole other issue), however what I really appreciate is the size of this bag.

I've been taking a reusable lunch bag to work for a few years now, but my water bottle sticks out the top, and I can't zip it up. Plus, I try to put my lunch and snacks in small reusable containers as well, and they take up space. (Enemies-of-the-environment baggies and wrap require so much less room!)

This lunch bag actually holds my lunch (which is, I'll be honest, either a frozen dinner or a container of leftovers), a couple of snacks, plus my water bottle, and still zips up, keeping everything cool and fresh.

Next on my wish list is an insulated food container. I bought one this summer for my daughter's lunch, and I'd love to have second one in rotation.

Now, the moment you've been waiting for: I have a brand-new Otterbottle lunch tote to give away to one lucky Canadian This Mom Loves reader! All you have to do is visit Otterbottle, and leave me a comment letting me know what product appeals to you the most!

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 subscription is activated)
  • you follow @thismomloves on Twitter
  • you like Otterbottle on Facebook
Contest will run untul 11:59 p.m. on Wednesday, November 17th after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck!

Monday, November 1

Jessica Holmes: My Exclusive Momterview

I'm not a laugh-out-loud kind of girl. When I first started going to the movies with my husband, he used to think I didn't enjoy a film if he didn't hear me laugh. To his surprise, I could find something hilarious, yet never let out an audible chuckle. Reading "I Love Your Laugh: Finding the Light In My Screwball Life", by Jessica Holmes, I actually burst out laughing several times, starting on the first page.

I Love Your Laugh

Known for her comedy (The Holmes Show, Royal Canadian Air Farce) and most memorably her impressions of icons such as Celine Dion and Liza Minelli, Jessica Holmes can now add book author to her resume. She is also the mom of almost four year old Alexa and two year old Jordy.

Jessica and I recently chatted about the book, her career, and her absolutely complete family.

This Mom: On the book jacket, you are described as "comedian, actress, writer, speaker": which one of those do you identify with the most?

Jessica Holmes: I would say I've always been a writer, so definitely that one.

TM: When did you first feel like you had made it as a "celebrity"?

JH: You know what, I felt like I had made it the first time I did a twenty dollar acting job, but it wasn't until I was a guest on the Mike Bullard Show that my parents were like "Oh, you're an actress!"

Jessica with her Royal Canadian Air Farce costars

TM: Looking back now, why do you think The Holmes Show {Jessica's sketch comedy series} was cancelled, despite its success?

JH: {Short off-the-record comment, ending with}: Let's just say I was heartbroken about that.

TM: You mentioned Peterborough several times in your book {her grandparents live there}, which is a city close to my heart as well. What memories do you have of visiting Peterborough?

JH: We used to go for Easter egg hunts in Burnham woods, and it was hilarious, one year my family forgot to even take the eggs out of the car. Everyone thought someone else had hidden them, so we searched for an hour in the snow. We also used to go for picnics at the dam, and a lot of walks at the Peterborough Zoo. {Amazing FREE zoo, for anyone who's interested.}

TM: Have you had any interesting reactions from people you mentioned in the book? {Jessica lets it all out: family, friends, exes, you name it.}

JH: No, anyone that I hadn't asked permission of, I changed their names, so hopefully I put out those fires. What shocked me is I got a really bad review from a website called "Guys' Reads" or something like that. I just happened upon it accidentally, and the guy said he wanted to kill himself halfway through reading the book, it was so bad. And I feel like "Dear, it's a pink cover. Don't call it Guys' Reads!" It's not necessarily relevant to the men out there! {I agree, it's not a book for guys. It actually has a bit of a 'you had to be there' kind of feel, but if you're a woman in the same age bracket you have been there, if that makes sense.}

TM: Something I didn't know about you that I learned from your book is that you spent some time as a Mormon missionary, living for 18 months in Venezuela. What do you think you took away from that whole part of your life?

JH: I took away how good service makes a person feel. It was so wonderful to just give my life away for a year and a half, and I have to remember now, when I'm feeling down about something, to be good to other people and that's the quickest shortcut to happiness, I think. {Jessica has since left the Mormon church, and she and her husband Scott consider themselves Unitarian.}

TM: Jenny McCarthy was on Oprah recently and she was talking about how you can invite a comedian over for dinner, and you expect him or her to be the life of the party, cracking jokes and entertaining, but really comedians are real duds in those situations. Does that apply to you?

JH: Really, I'm only funny when I'm on stage. I feel like I have two or three performing hours in me a day, and the rest of the day I'm just practically dead and recuperating, a walking zombie! Part of it is that I'm an introvert, but I happen to do comedy for a living, so I'm able to drum it up for a few hours a day. It's hilarious to me when people come up to me, when I'm just shopping or going for coffee in my pyjamas or something, and they'll be like "you're that girl! Do Celine! Do Liza!" And I'm like "Oh my God, it's seven in the morning, I'll be wiped out all day, I'll have to go have a nap if I do Liza! I don't know how Liza does Liza!"

TM: Speaking of napping, you have a son and a daughter: Have you seen any differences so far between raising boys and girls?

JH: I would say the big difference is with my girl I have nervousness around a lot that she does, because I feel like 'oh my gosh, I want her to avoid the pitfalls of womanhood', and with my boy I just kind of have an easy time because I don't have those same fears with him. But I can tell anyone who had girls, wanted boys or had boys, wanted girls, I can just say I promise you, you love them both. I did have that worry, having one of each, I thought 'I'm used to a girl, what do I do with a boy?' and now he's our little monkey.

TM: Do you see any more kids in your future?

JH: Never! I sort of feel like I'm going to give the best of me to the two I have, and quite frankly I can't always even give them the best of me! My husband and I are both the babies of our families and we agreed, we are not cut out for more than two kids! {This next part I'm sure was added just in case she was insulting me} I'm envious of anyone who has more than that, though! {I assured her that I think two kids is just right for many families, ours included!}

TM: The one thing I wished for after reading your book is that there had been a lot more about parenting. Your writing is so honest and funny; I would have loved to read more about your experience as a mom. Perhaps the topic of a future book?

JH: So many of the chapters have opposing themes, and I want to see which one gets the most reaction from readers, and I'm hoping that the editors will get me to write something about that. I thought it was really fun writing about in-laws. Not just fun, but useful, because most if not all of my girlfriends were in the exact same boat as me. My mother-in-law was wonderful enough to give me permission to write this chapter {where Jessica is extremely open about her initial conflicts with her husband's family} and so I feel like that might be the most important one to follow, but if people aren't in to that I'll write about something else. I just loved writing a book. It's a perfect job for a mom. {By the way, I myself have never had any difficulties with my in-laws whatsoever, so frankly I don't know what she's talking about. In all seriousness though, I would love to see a motherhood book next from Jessica, so please take note, editors!}

TM: What's next for you, career-wise? Any messages from your "inner muse" {an important character in the book} lately?

Alexa and Jordy (must be laughing at one of Mommy's jokes)

JH: Oh, gosh, I still keep having ideas for TV shows that I like, so now I just have to get other people to like them! So I have a few things in development, so hopefully this time next year I can make some announcements.

TM: Comedy sketch shows?

JH: Yeah, I'd like to do a special, and I'm also pitching a reality series.

TM: Now, my standard concluding question: how would you complete the sentence "This Mom Loves...." ?

JH: I love my new anti-rosacea moisturizer! I have issues with an incredibly red face. I have a tropical fish aquarium, and I just love my nemo fish. I also love getting back to nature. We downgraded from a cottage to a trailer, and that means that we can actually enjoy ourselves instead of doing work when we go to the lake. I'm proud to say I love my trailer!

"I Love Your Laugh: Finding the Light In My Screwball Life" is available now in bookstores and online. You can also find out more about Jessica on her website, http://www.jessicaholmes.com/, or visit the official Jessica Holmes Facebook Page.