Wednesday, November 30

Wednesday Words on Miracles

"There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle. The other is as though everything is a miracle."


Albert Einstein

Monday, November 28

Hot New Gift Idea: Teacup Piggies and Piglets

This Christmas morning, my girls will both be finding a Teacup Piglet (retailing for approximately $10) under the tree. These little baby pigs (toy, of course: no mess, no smell,) come with names, birth certificates and accessories, and speak (25 responses, available in English or French) when their noses are pressed. If it says it’s tired, that means time for a rest in the teacup or tote. If you ‘wake’ it up too early, however, it may whine: “Why are you waking me up?”




You can also buy larger Teacup Piggies ($20) which also respond when you pet them, and sneeze when you touch their noses! Each toy has its own personality and is equipped with touch point sensors to encourage imaginative play through life-like interaction. Of course, you can also purchase fashion wardrobes separately.


Considered one of the hottest toys of 2010 by Chris Byrne, “The Toy Guy,” Teacup Piggies and Piglets are the latest craze in collectibles, and based on last year's success in the US, they are expected to be a hit in Canada. Apparently, they are not only taking the place of real-life pets for kids, but they’re also considered a hot, new collectible item by adults as well. (I'm not one of those adults.)

Check them out...available at retailers nationwide.

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

Wednesday, November 23

Anastasia's Picks: Books For Kids

Here are my ten year old niece's latest recommendations:

The Inquisitor's Apprentice by Chris Moriarty



This book is about a young boy who becomes a magic crimes policeman's apprentice, and goes on several adventures and tries to figure out who a master killer is. At the same time I liked and disliked the creepy parts. I like when I feel scared, but since I read it at night, I was a bit too scared. This book I recommend for 9 to 12 year olds, and I shall give it 3 stars.

The Chronicles of Harris Burdick by Chris Van Allsburg



I LOVE THE PICTURES IN THIS BOOK!! They are so beautiful and they inspired me to draw something of my own. This book is telling you about the illustrations of a man named Harris Burdick, and stories made up to go with them. This book is also a good writing tool, so teachers, take a look! I even made up a few stories. I didn't have any favourite parts, but I did have a favourite picture and story, "Oscar and Alphonse", with a picture of a girl staring down at two caterpillars. This book is for ages 7 and up. Five stars!!

Ivy and the Meanstalk by Dawn Lairamore

Ivy and the Meanstalk

I really like this book because it's a twist from your average "Jack and the Beanstalk". This is a story about a girl who tries to get a harp back from a giantess, and keep her kingdom from being crushed by giant rocks. I like the jokes in this book. They made me laugh even though the story has a twinge of sadness. I didn't like the part where things go wrong. Although it's a book, I can't help thinking it's real. This book is for 8 to 12 year olds. I would give it three stars!!

The Cellar Door by Brett Gadbois


This is a story about a boy named Sam, who bumps his head and wakes up in a different world. There, a man named Franklin helps Sam out, and Sam makes friends with lots of people. He escapes from part-bird, part-people animals, and goes back home. I like the parts in this book where Sam changes into different things. I don't like the part where the evil crow-men capture Sam. This book is for 9 to 11 year olds. I would give it four stars.

Monday, November 21

Will Work For Food: Black Magic Chocolates and Two-Bite Pancakes

So last week I talked all about being a PR-Friendly blogger, and the high standards I uphold for product reviews.

Today, I am writing a whole post about two very inexpensive products I found on my doorstep...just because they're yummy.

Black Magic Chocolates, in their black box with red ribbon, are being re-introduced just in time for the holidays. Six bucks for a box, and handy as a hostess gift, or perhaps something for your child's teacher (hint, hint).

My favourites are the "Dreamy Fudge" and "Whole Hazelnut Praline", while I allowed my husband to indulge in the "Raspberry Parfait" and "Orange Sensation"...too fruity for my taste!


Another tasty new item is "Two Bite Pancakes", available in Morning Maple and Chocolate Chip Flavours. With real maple syrup baked right in, these were a fast favourite of my girls. However, since "sugar" is the first ingredient, I justify them more as a dessert (or a quick grab-and-go snack) than a meal. These would be a delicious addition to a holiday brunch, and taste even better when warmed in the microwave. They're also a nice portion-controlled sweet treat (portion-controlled if you eat one, not one package!)


Did I make you hungry?

Thursday, November 17

Why I Can't Give Up Naptime

Every mom knows the importance of naptime. Even when the fog of sleep deprivation subsides, for some of us earlier than others, those precious hours still give us the chance to get something done without another human being attached.


When my girls were babies, the morning naptime was when I got on the treadmill and took a shower. Even before naps were well-established, I'd put the little one in the baby swing beside me, and she'd be out like a light. Experts strongly recommend against this, but I argue that it got them in the habit of taking a solid nap at that time.

When they took their afternoon snoozes, at first I'd follow the "sleep when the baby sleeps" adage, which never worked well for me, and then realized crossing something off the list was much more refreshing, so I would clean, organize, etc. (as much as I could without waking the baby. Vacuuming, of course, had to wait.)

If I was making appointments or running errands and leaving my kids with their Dad, grandparents or babysitter, I would always try to schedule things for the mornings, so I wouldn't lose out on those precious afternoon hours of repose.

During my second mat leave, the afternoon became my official freelance writing block, as I decided to start pitching parenting magazines, and ended up with a few contracts.

Between and after my leaves, there were (and are) still weekends and holidays with the girls at home for what sometime seem to be LONG days. Although the general practice at their daycare is to cut the afternoon nap around 3 years of age, Frannie has continued to have "quiet time" when at home for the past 2 and a half years while her sister naps, and I think it's one of the best decisions we ever made.

You just can't scrub the kitchen floor with a child around. Even at age five, you know she will feel the need to walk across it way too early. You can't wrap gifts (or attempt to throw out "precious" objects) with little eyes watching. You also can't catch up on great PVR like Blue Bloods and Grey's Anatomy with little ears listening. Plus, there's my schoolwork to consider. It's not recommended that you write report cards with your own children in the background, as you're bound to subconsciously type in a "mommy, mommy, mommy!" where it really shouldn't go. And there's the blog. If "quiet time" was not a rule in our household, "This Mom Loves" would cease to exist. Even if I weren't such a productivity-based kind of Mom, I still think having some time apart is healthy for all of us.

And really, what's so bad about spending two hours in a well-stocked children's room? Frannie has a wealth of toys, books, CD's, and drawing and colouring paraphernalia, and I think it's important for her to learn some independence, and how to keep herself entertained.

I share this tip with some people this and they react like I'm a child abuser, "locking" my child (as per her request, the door isn't even closed tight) in her room on weekend afternoons.

But seriously, wouldn't you love for someone to tell you that you absolutely must stay in your room alone for two straight hours on a Saturday afternoon? As long as I could have my reading material and toys (by which I mean Blackberry and Netbook; keep it clean ladies), I would absolutely be in heaven. I would also come out very refreshed for the remainder of the afternoon and evening, which often involve Mass, meals out, visiting, and later nights. (Despite the impression you might be getting, I really do cherish family time!)

Although three year old Maggie's afternoon nap has officially been cut at daycare, I still refuse to change our home routine (and she still falls asleep quickly every time I put her down). Even when she outgrows the sleep, she'll still enjoy quiet time just like her sister. It's nice to know that we can come and go in the afternoons for special occasions, and not have to worry about grumpiness or out-of whack routines, but if we don't have to be anywhere else, the girls have to be in their rooms.

Go ahead, call CAS on me right now. At least my floor is clean.

Tuesday, November 15

Want the New KitchenAid Food Processor?

Contest open to Canadians.

I know, I know: it's ironic that my biggest single-item giveaway yet is a cooking-related product. But man, what a product!

Up for grabs for one very lucky This Mom Loves winner is the new KitchenAid 13-cup Food Processor, perfect for holiday meals! Yes, you read that right. I'm giving one of these babies away, with a manufacturer's suggested retail price of $399.99!





Key Features of the Food Processor:

  • New external adjustable, stainless steel slicing disc provides ultimate versatility
  • Dual shredding disc easily flips the disc from 2mm to 4mm to achieve ideal slicing thickness
  • Large 13-cup (2.75L) leak-proof work bowl, plus chef’s bowl and mini bowl 
  • Ultra Wide Mouth Feed Tube™ adjusts to 3 different sizes to accommodate foods of varying sizes, including whole potatoes and cucumbers
  • 17 precise food processing options for speed-controlled slice, shred, chop and puree functions plus three maximized slice, shred and puree/chop blades and bonus dough, egg whip and Julienne blades
  • 4 speed-controlled functions
  • Comfort design side handle allows easy viewing while the food processor is in use



The Food Processor comes in Contour Silver, White and Onyx Black...and it's almost enough to make me want to cook. Almost. But it would look fantastic sitting on my counter...

I know many of you are absolutely in love with your KitchenAid mixers, and this new product will be added to your holiday wish lists, I'm sure!

To enter, please fill out the form below and click submit. Easy enough! Extra entries if you follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect or Twitter, or subscribe through e-mail (see sidebar to sign up). The contest will run until Tuesday November 29th at 11:59 p.m. EST, after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation.

Good luck!


Wednesday, November 9

Are PR-Friendly Bloggers Sellouts? Discuss.

A friend recently sent me the link to a ParentCentral.ca article entitled: "Big brands are lining up to harness the clout of online moms". The piece discusses the incredible influential power that mom bloggers hold, and how companies are understandably lining up to partner with (or take advantage of) them.

For several years now the debate has raged over whether you're a "real blogger" if you review products, or accept paid advertisements. One blogger quoted in the article asserts: “I feel (blogging) is no longer democratic and I’m sad to say that. If I go onto a blog and I see they have ads or sponsors I don’t trust their voice."

As far as advertisers go, I am confident in my theory that when they pay for a piece of sidebar real estate, that's what they get, with no inappropriate affect on any of my other content. Another blogger mentions how hard this is, as when someone is paying you money, you do stop and think before mentioning them or their competitors in your posts. Stopping and thinking is, in my mind, seldom a bad thing. Letting that affect your actions (i.e. your writing) in the long run does, understandably, prevent you from being authentic.

When I started blogging, I couldn't wait to do reviews and giveaways, because in my mind, that meant I had hit the big leagues. Someone thought I was "good enough", or at least popular enough, to warrant using my blog as a promotional tool. But I can truly say that I have never accepted a product for review if I wasn't interested in it, and there have been a great many that I have sampled, and then refused to write about. Loyal readers know that I mention this often, because am very aware of the reputation some mom bloggers get as sellouts, and certainly don't want to be perceived in that light.

Things have evolved in the almost two years since This Mom Loves began. Now I find that I field 20-30 e-mails a day from companies and PR reps. Many are just press releases, some with the "contact us if interested in samples or further information" line...and the samples are never forthcoming. If the correspondence begins with "Dear Kate," I take the time to read it. One PR assistant really did her homework and mentioned something from one of my recent posts in her first paragraph, which certainly caught my attention. The "Dear Blogger" or "Hello Everyone" emails might get skimmed, but I don't take them nearly as seriously.

The part of the ParentCentral article that resonated the most with me was: “'Good writing deserves to be rewarded, and women have historically undersold themselves,' says May Friedman, assistant professor of social work at Ryerson University and co-author of the 2009 book Mothering and Blogging: The Radical Act of the MommyBlog."

I'm starting to assert myself a bit more in terms of working for nothing. For example, I'm too set in my cleaning routine to try out a new household cleaner and spend the time writing about it, just for the thrill of the free bottle.

Another motivator for me not to go overboard with PR is that I also want to keep enough of a mix of content that I'm not doing more product reviews than I am discussing parenting, education, and entertainment - the original pillars of my blog.

Running giveaways is a fantastic way to attract readers, and I find many sign up to follow me through Google Friend Connect, Twitter, or e-mail in order to get extra entries, and then remain on those lists. Are they loyal readers, passionate about my work, and anxiously awaiting each new instalment of This Mom Loves? Likely not. So some of my pride is strictly because of the popularity contest aspect. However, having your "stats" up increases your further opportunities. (On a completely unrelated note, be sure to enter my Christmas Extravaganza Giveaway, ending November 25th!)

My favourite part of blogging, as many of you know, has been the opportunity to conduct "Momterviews" with famous Canadians. While some (like the wonderful Marci Ien of Canada AM, who generously gave of her time to a beginning mom blogger) are kind enough to do me a favour, many of my Momterviews have been born through PR reps contacting me, as their clients had something (new show, book) to promote. If I had few readers, and just waxed poetic on the ins and outs of my daughters' days all the time, I wouldn't be sought out for that sort of opportunity. I'm also going to go out on a limb and add this: I have no interest in reading blogs solely about strangers' kids. My own two keep me busy enough. Entertain me or educate me, or I'm gone.

Some bloggers (and readers) believe that a quality blog is all about the (not-product-related) editorial content. As much as I would like to think that I am a font of wisdom with deep thoughts to impart on you all on a regular basis, there are days that Jack Handey* would have me beat, and I might as well just tell you about some good children's books (games/beauty products/shoes)  I've come across. The ParentCentral article states that three quarters of active online women rely on blogs for product information. Why not share what I know?

I deal with a few book publishers (Scholastic Canada and Thomas Allen Ltd. being two who are very supportive; no compensation was provided for a mention in this post) and as a teacher as well as a mother, I really don't understand what's wrong with free books, as long as I tell the truth about them. (Which I always do. I would wager a guess that I mention only 15-20% of the books that I receive, and my contacts are very clear on my interests and standards.)

Organizations have been created solely to link bloggers with advertisers, and my affiliation with Mom Central Canada means that I am provided the opportunity to apply for certain partnerships (I think I've only been rejected once, and I'm sure it's because they were looking for a Facebook presence that I don't have). Sometimes, this just means I get a free product in exchange for sharing the news, though usually there is compensation in the form of gift cards. Disclosure language is always required (which I use for all my reviews, not just those through Mom Central). But again, I only apply when it suits me. Right now I'm part of the "Barbie I Can Be" campaign, and while I know I will be compensated (I'm not sure if I was even given an amount when I signed on, but the gift cards are usually worth $25-100) I actually feel strongly about sharing the information or I really wouldn't bother.

Believe me, it's not worth the time it takes me to do the product testing or research associated with a campaign and then pore over the post just for a gift card. My blog is not a money-maker in any sense, nor do I need it to be. I have a well-paying full-time job, with overtime galore, so my hobby ("activity or interest pursued outside one's regular occupation and engaged in primarily for pleasure", ) has to actually bring me that pleasure inherent in its definition.

I would never trade the connections that I have made, in the blogging world as well as the corporate world, due to my PR-Friendly status, or the incredible knowledge I've gained about advertising, marketing, and small and big business.

I sleep well at night knowing that This Mom Loves is exactly what I want it to be. (Actually, I rarely sleep well, but it has nothing to do with the ethics of blogging.)

So, you tell me: am I a sellout?

*Deep Thoughts By Jack Handey: "Before you criticize someone, walk a mile in their shoes. That way, you'll be a mile from them, and you'll have their shoes."

Thursday, November 3

New Parenting Website: Barbie I Can Be

I was thrilled to find out recently that I've been chosen to be part of the new "Barbie: I Can Be" campaign, to help promote a new website that will help Moms with the task of raising their daughters so that they are smarter, stronger, happier, and more fulfilled. You can find this great new site at http://www.bethevoice.ca/.

Computer Engineer Barbie

Leading Canadian Parenting Coach, Terry Carson (http://www.theparentingcoach.ca/) will provide perspectives, wisdom, and experiences with visitors who, like all of us, want to become better at parenting. Each month, she'll be sharing new themes and parenting tips and ideas.

(In case you think I'm ignoring the elephant in the room, I'd like to point out that on the website, one reader already commented on the whole "Barbie's-unrealistic-body" issue! You'll have to surf over to find out more.)

I'm sure we all second-guess ourselves in terms of how we're raising our daughters (or sons). I was lucky enough to have a fantastic mother to look up to, and I certainly followed in her footsteps. I've written before about how she inspired me and made me believe I could "have it all": a fulfilling career and a family.

I also had the example and support of two wonderful grandmothers and several special aunts. My mom's sister is only eight years older than me, and was more like my own sister than an aunt. I could count on her for hand-me-downs (I especially loved the magazines: Teen, YM and Seventeen) as well as advice. And of course I am very well aware of the impact that teachers can have on their students, and Mrs. Clancy (who taught me in Grades 3 and 4) definitely left a lasting impression with me. In fact, I'm pretty sure that I loved Mrs. Clancy so much that it made my own mother a little jealous!

I think the whole idea of the "I Can Be" theme is great, and when I look back on my childhood, I can recall exactly what my ambitions were: wife, mother (preferably of girls), teacher, homeowner and writer. (Yes, I was that boring. Although "movie star" made a fleeting appearance on the list.) What can you do when all of your dreams come true other than get down on your knees and thank God? I have to admit though that gratitude is unfortunately elusive sometimes, considering that each of those roles comes with strings (of varying thicknesses, lengths and entanglements) attached.

Although I often feel guilty (I've mentioned I'm Catholic, right?) for not being an in-house entertainment director or constant playmate for my girls, some of the important values that I want to instill in them (see website for more on values) are strength, independence, creativity and curiosity. I feel confident that they are on track with those, despite (or because of) my aversion to hovering.

I must be doing something right (or making things look too easy!) since my five-year old tells me regularly she wants to be a mommy, teacher and writer like me. She also insists that she will do all this while still living with me. We have time to negotiate that part.

Be sure to check out the new Barbie I Can Be website at http://www.bethevoice.ca/.

Disclosure: I am participating in the Barbie I Can Be campaign by Mom Central Canada on behalf of Mattel Canada. I will receive compensation as a thank you for my participation. The opinions on this blog are my own.

Winners: Skechers Shoes and Tween Titles From Scholastic

Congratulations to the two most recent This Mom Loves winners:

Skechers Shoes:

Tracy from Victoria, BC

Klutz Tween Titles from Scholastic:

Andalene from Eganville, ON

Congratulations, ladies...and be sure to enter the Christmas Extravaganza, everyone!

Tuesday, November 1

Christmas Extravaganza 2011: Hundreds of $$ in Prizes!

Giveaway open to Canadians. 

Let me be straight with you: you don't want to miss this contest. By filling out the form at the bottom of this post, you have the chance to win one or more of hundreds of dollars' worth of terrific products, just in time for Christmas. Enter now (extra entries if you follow This Mom Loves publicly through Google Friend Connect, e-mail or Twitter) and let your friends and family know about it as well! Sure, it's more competition...but you still could end up finding one of these great gifts under your tree! There will be a winner chosen for each prize, and all names remain in the entire draw.

Up for grabs:

Secret $100 Gift  Basket


This gift basket will contain approximately $100 worth of Secret's newest products (I reviewed their Fall line of hosiery recently here). The winner will receive a variety of coloured and patterned tights, as well as some of Secret's great shapewear.

Moonjar Moneybox Classic



My oldest has one of these, and uses it regularly. It's a fantastic way to teach your kids about money, and the important values of spending, saving and sharing. Find out more at http://www.moonjar.ca/. Retail value: $29.95.

Rubbermaid Goes Pink Collection

Last month, Rubbermaid went pink to help support the Canadian Breast Cancer society. Now just in time for Christmas, they're giving one lucky This Mom Loves reader a care package of their pink products worth $25. Included will be 1 Refill Reuse bottle and 16 food storage containers (4 each of 760mL Round, 1.2L Deep Square, 669mL Square, and 284mL Twist and Seal). Products are available for purchase at Loblaws and WalMart.

RUBIK's Race

You all know the RUBIK's Cube, and now there's the RUBIK's Race, bringing a retro twist to holiday giving. This ultimate face-to-face game challenges players to get their brain and fingers racing to match the given pattern of nine coloured squares faster than their opponent. Like the original RUBIK's cube, the game requires skill, speed and logic...but this time as a race against another player! RUBIK's Race is suitable for children ages 5 and up, and requires no electricity or batteries. Suggested retail price: $19.99.

My Friendship Bracelet Maker




My Friendship Bracelet Maker's design innovation loom lets you create friendship bracelets quickly and easily! Includes 56 precut threads in 14 different colours, and the slide-out tray with inside storage keeps strings organized. You can even access bracelet patterns and free video tutorials online! Find more information on their website. This prize is worth $30.

My Ribbon Barrette Maker


This one's a blast from the past! Girls can design and create their own 1980's retro-style braided ribbon barrettes! The website has more info as well as an instructional video. When my girls are older, I am so getting them one of these. This prize is worth $30.

$50 Voucher For Posterjack

Floater_Front2.jpg


Is there any better gift for loved ones than a photo gift? Posterjack.ca offers great Christmas ideas like posters, canvas, acrylic and metal prints, and collages...all created with your own photos! Upload your image and select a product and size...simple as that! Sophisticated technology and high-quality materials help capture a memory that will be treasured for a lifetime. One lucky winner will receive a $50 voucher to be used towards the product of her choice. Everyone else should check out their Photo Prints and other creative ideas, whether you're thinking of a gift, or a unique way to display your own holiday photos after Christmas!

3-Pack of hot new Swagger Tags (2 sets up for grabs!)



A SwaggerTag is an identification tag that reflects your personality and helps you keep track of your gear. By customizing SwaggerTag with your own photo, image or logo, you can let everyone know it’s your stuff. You decide what personal information to include and your SwaggerTag reveals the information only if it is opened. Water, weather and impact resistant, with strong attachment points and ties to ensure it will stay with your gear, SwaggerTags are available in six distinctive colours.

I received one of these for review, and it's a neat little gadget...and a perfect stocking stuffer! Whether you want to make sure your kids' backpacks or sportsbags are identified, or you have a family member or friend who's a frequent flier, there's sure to be someone on your Christmas list who would love to be surprised with one of these!

One winner will receive a set in "girl" colours (Gecko Green, Hot Pink and Mustang Purple) and another will receive the "boy" set (Dolphin Blue, Dragon Red and Spider Grey). Each set is worth $18. Find out more at http://www.swaggertag.com/.

The Very Cranky Bear Gift Set (2 sets to be won!)




My friends at Scholastic Canada are offering up two of "The Very Cranky Bear" gift sets. The set includes a mini hardcover copy of the cute story by Nick Bland and a cranky bear stuffed toy. (Each set is worth $19.99).

Skechers Shoes of Your Choice!

Yes, that says "of your choice"! One lucky winner will receive any pair of Skechers shoes selected from http://www.skechers.com/! You could go with the Tone-Ups or girls' Twinkle Toes, both of which I reviewed in the past couple of months, or maybe there's a special guy in your life who would love to find a new pair of shoes under the tree. The choice is all yours, and this prize is valued at up to $120!





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So, are you convinced that it's worth your while to take a few seconds to enter the This Mom Loves Christmas Extravaganza 2011? Simply fill out the form below, and click "submit". The Extravaganza will run until Friday, November 25th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner for each prize will be chosen through random number generation. Good luck!