Monday, February 27

Family Favourites From Cineplex: Go To The Movies For $2.50. Seriously.

I have evolved enough as a blogger that I now simply delete e-mails which expect me to share, for free, promotional information with all of my readers. Charities excepted, but not always.

However the cinema-lover in me just had to let you know about Cineplex's new program called Family Favourites.


A different family movie will be offered exclusively at participating Cineplex theatres each Saturday morning at 11 a.m. (local time). Family Favourites will be offered at a discounted admission price of $2.50 for all ages. A portion of all ticket sales will be donated to the Starlight Children’s Foundation. (See, a charity is involved, which also softened my resolve).

Family Favourites

The movies are classics, not new releases (think Jumanji, Shrek, ET, Babe, Madagascar and The Neverending Story) but are still a great and economical way to get out of the house and enjoy an old favourite as a family.

More information, including participating locations and a listing of which movies will be shown each Saturday, can be found at the Family Favourites website.

Thursday, February 23

Bathroom Facelift: Before and After

After almost nine years, I decided it was time to update my ensuite bath. When we built the house, I was absolutely in love with the yellow-with-blue-accents look, but it had seen its day.


Here's what it looked like before the facelift:


I fell in love with a grey/blue paint colour I saw on Pinterest, and while I couldn't find the exact same one, I went with the closest: "Night Sky" from CIL Paints.


This wasn't a huge renovation, as I kept all of the big-ticket items: vanity and counter, shower/tub unit, toilet, and flooring. Here's what I did change:

Faucet Before (Builder's Grade)



Faucet After



Light Fixture Before (hard to tell that it's rusting in spots, but I swear it needed to be replaced)



Light Fixture After (not hugely different)



Ceiling Moulding Before (nonexistent)



Crown Moulding After (We figured that as we redecorate rooms in the house one by one, we might as well upgrade the moulding as well.)



Baseboard Trim Before



Baseboard Trim After (Another idea I saw on Pinterest: our carpenter added some decorative trim a couple of inches above the existing, and I painted white in between, giving the illusion of higher trim. No one spends enough time in our master bathroom to stare and notice the difference. In fact few people are ever in there, but I am, every day, and I wanted it to look pretty!)





Towel Bar Before



Towel Bar After (I still need some art to go above it. I'm thinking of taking a black and white landscape shot on our property and having it put on canvas. Maybe a fall/winter one and a spring/summer one.)




I don't have any shots specifically of the old mirror, but as you can see if you scroll up to the original "before" pic, it was just a huge frameless kind. I replaced it with a smaller one, framed to match other accessories. That would be my biggest piece of amateur advice here: stick to one finish. When we built the house I loved "silver" but that ended up being a mix of shiny chrome and brushed finishes, which just never seemed to look right. This time I went with brushed nickel everything. I even changed the heat register cover!

So, here are the final "after" shots:





I'm quite pleased with the spa-like results. I'm still looking for a white shower curtain and window treatment ideas, but those may take some time.
I'm also very proud of myself for pulling everything together, as well as for the elbow grease! My brother's talented carpenter friend did all of the trim work and installed the faucet, but I did the patching, sanding, painting, and assisted in the towel bar, light fixture and mirror installations. It really does bring a great sense of accomplishment...but can you guess what I'm thinking now?

On to the next room!

Monday, February 20

For Those Who Ridicule My Early Bedtime: Ha!

Words cannot express to you how thrilled I was to see Sarah Boesveld's article in the February issue of Chatelaine called "The Sleep Cure".


Yes, you could call me "early to bed". If you take it back thirty something years, I am told I did not sleep well. I can remember as a young girl begging my parents to "sit with me" until I fell asleep...and the crazy loving people obliged! Wow, were they nicer parents than I am. (See previous posts about sleep training.)

I can't recall any sleep problems throughout my childhood or teenage years, and I pulled as many late nights and all-nights as the rest of my friends.

Until my first year of university, when I was hit by mono and spent months living in a fog of exhaustion which no amount of shut-eye could cure. Thus began my paranoia about getting enough sleep. You have no idea how absolutely annoyed I was when the bars in Ontario started staying open until 2 a.m. instead of 1. That just meant everyone arrived an hour later than they used to...and the fun started happening when I was ready to nod off!

I also worked weekends and summers and had to be up just as early those days as when I was in school...and I could never understand how people could function without at least six (preferably eight) hours of sleep. I had fun, but maybe not enough, because very few experiences were worth being up all night. (I said there were few, not none!)

And then I had babies. Though I've had three and a half years of sleeping-through-the-night bliss (except for Maggie's occasional request for a midnight tuck-in) but I haven't lost that survival instinct of sleep-when-the-sleeping's-good. Hey, if I could guarantee that I could sleep through 'til 8 a.m. on the weekends, a midnight bedtime would suit me fine. But try explaining this new rule to the kids.

Since I have had to suffer so much ridicule for  being a snoozophile, I feel more more than a little validated by Boesveld's article. For example:

Can you really tell me that you don't want to lose weight, slow aging and have glowing skin and more energy? Avoid diabetes and heart disease and boost your immunity? How about an edge at work? And of course, wealth, fame and a better love life. Okay, I made up that last sentence, but who knows?

I will no longer be ashamed when I am the first to leave book club, when I turn down late movie dates, and  unplug my phones on random nights at 8 p.m. just so I know I won't be awoken.

And honestly, if you aren't getting eight hours a night, you truly don't know what you're missing. Although a coworker recently said the same thing to me about eating vegetables, so I guess to each her own.

Thursday, February 16

Kidz Bop 21: Today's Biggest Hits Sung By Kids For Kids

Just a quickie post today: I love Kidz Bop. Reminiscent of the Mini Pops, it's today's biggest hits (for grownups) cleaned up and sung by kids.

I've been using it with my young daughters and my class (of eight and nine year olds) in the gym and as background music and they all think it's fantastic. I'm not sure they even realize that the more questionable lyrics have been changed, but it sure makes me feel a lot more comfortable about using (relatively) authentic music with them.

Here's what you'll find on the latest CD, KidzBop 21:



I do have one warning: even though Junior and Intermediate teachers probably shouldn't be deliberately using the original versions of some of these songs with their students, anyone above about ten years old will probably find this too cheesy and may be hard pressed to buy in.

Parents definitely should stick to the 10-and-under crowd for this one as well. Give this to your seven year old, and you're the coolest mom ever. Your thirteen year old? You may never live it down.

Monday, February 13

Clutter Control #3: The Linen Closet

So, I consider myself a pretty neat and organized person. That said, when I decided to "straighten up" my linen closet, I was mortified by how badly I had let it go. I mean, for the most part, things were folded, and like items were together...but it still looked junky and cluttered. It was time for an intervention!

BEFORE


As always, I took everything out and started pitching. I came to the realization that I do not need five sets of sheets for every bed "just in case", and the old ones could go. You really need to decide what you absolutely have to keep, and what you could do without. Years ago, I participated in some chain letter teatowel exchange, and I was still holding on to three or four never-used kitchen towels that do not (and will not ever) go with my kitchen decor. They have found a new home in my school's staff room.

You also have to think creatively. I never send things to the landfill if they can be donated, but it's even better if they can I can repurpose them myself. When I was in teacher's college, a teacher I did a placement with made me these cute, school-themed pillowcases. I had them sitting in a "Do I donate them even though they have some sentimental value?" pile until I realized that I was also planning to throw out a couple of retired pillows. These items have now found a new home under a table in my classroom where kids like to hide read during Self-Selected Reading time.


Speaking of sentimental items, I have a very important question for you creative folk out there: what can I do with this leftover (pink satin) fabric from my bridesmaids dresses? It doesn't exactly match with any of my current colour schemes, and I'm too practical to have pink satin dresses made for my daughters, knowing they will never wear them. (And the pieces are too small for any adult-sized clothing. Not that I'm in the market for anything in pink satin at the moment. That I'm going to admit to you.) I considered doll quilts...which I'm sure my Grandma would be more than happy to create...but if anyone has a better idea I'd love to hear it!


Once you know what you have left, put like items together and decide how to store them. One would think that folding and piling items would be a pretty neat and effective system, but clearly it wasn't working for me. My answer? Baskets (from Zellers) and bins. As you can see in the "after" photo below, having things hidden away really makes all the difference.

Here's how I organized my closet:

First shelf: dining room linens in a Rubbermaid bin, heirlooms (doilies, etc.) in another, and adult sleeping bags right on the shelf

Second shelf: kids' comforters, baskets with twin and queen sheet sets (each set kept in its own pillowcase; no Martha Stewart fancy fitted-sheet folding for me)

Third shelf: baskets of throws and extra blankets as well as kids' sleeping bags

Fourth shelf: extra comforter and duvet, rolled instead of folded since they seemed to look better that way (maybe I am folding impaired? Visual/spatial is my weakest area of intelligence, so I might be on to something there.)

Still hidden in bottom corner of closet: the bag of pink fabric shown above...until one of you gives me a really great suggestion for what to do with it!

AFTER


If you're wondering where the heck all the towels are, I must admit that I also have a closet in the bathroom where those linens are all kept. Another great idea I've seen (probably on Pinterest!) is hanging towel bars on the inside doors of linen closets to allow for even more storage. Something to consider if space is an issue for you.

Since this photo was taken, I've decided to move swimming bags (bathing suits, towels, flip flops, etc.) to the bottom of this closet too, instead of having them in the mudroom, considering we don't need them that often during the winter months.

Now, it's time to go clean your own linen closet! Yay! I wonder if I should give up teaching, and just dedicate my life to making the world better, one linen closet at a time...

If you're inspired to do more, be sure to catch up on Clutter Control #1: The Underwear Drawer, and Clutter Control #2: Beauty Products.

Thursday, February 9

Just-Right Readers From Scholastic: Review and Giveaway

Giveaway open to Canadians.

Is your child reading "just right" books?

As teachers, we use that expression constantly to refer to books that are at a student's level (not too easy or too challenging), and that will help move them forward and grow as a reader.

How do you know what your child should be reading? Scholastic Canada can help. They have put a great deal of thought and effort into producing a levelled set of books for beginning readers, within an easy to understand system:

Pre-Level 1: First Reader, 30-100 words, ABC's and first words

Level 1: Beginning Reader, 50-250 words, sight words, words to sound out and simple sentences

Level 2: Developing Reader, 250-750 words, new vocabulary and longer sentences

Level 3: Growing Reader, 700-1500 words, reading for inspiration and information

My almost six year old daughter Frannie recently went through a slew of the Level 1 books, so I requested to sample a few from the Level 2 category, which work perfectly for her right now. They are challenging enough that she doesn't know every word (especially proper names of people and places) but accessible enough that she doesn't lose the flow of reading or sacrifice comprehension. The ones we've been working on are:

Perfect for Black History Month:


What little girl doesn't love the Rainbow Fairies?


An off-season selection...but kids don't care!


One of the fantastic things about the Levelled Readers is that they aren't just canned stories meant to hit certain abilities. The Scholastic books feature favourite authors, illustrators and characters (I Spy, Clifford, Lego City, Fly Guy, Scooby Doo, Word Girl) as well as tons of seasonal (St. Patrick's Day, Christmas) and non-fiction choices (proven to be very important, especially for our boy readers).

Overseeing the development of the books is Francie Alexander, Senior Vice President of Scholastic Education and Chief Academic Officer of Scholastic Inc., who has taught students from kindergarten to college...so it's safe to say she knows what she's doing. "Kids should read because they want to," she says. "The best books are the ones that match a child's interest with reading level."

I also appreciate how the Grade Level markings on the back covers are very flexible, so even Grade 1 students reading Level 3 books won't feel at all out of place, because they still fit within the suggested range. There are no true set equivalents when it comes to age and grade levels for reading, and I've seen many students who struggled early catch up and even surpass their peers when the skill finally clicks for them...and the best way to make this happen is to find as many just-right books as possible for your child to enjoy and learn from.

And guess what? Scholastic is giving away a customized set of three books to one lucky This Mom Loves reader. You will be able to specify the Scholastic Reading Level and the gender of your child, and three readers will be chosen especially for you!

Simply fill out the form below and click "Submit" (extra entries for following me through email, GFC or Twitter - see sidebar for links). The contest will run until Thursday February 23rd at 11:59 p.m. Eastern, after which time a winner will be chosen by random number generation. Good luck!



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

Monday, February 6

Disney's Lady and The Tramp: Diamond Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack Released Tomorrow

I've said it before: Disney is brilliant.

Confession: before Saturday I had never seen Lady and the Tramp. I have always collected the "Princess" movies and some of the more recent releases, but this is one that never really appealed to me. Of course I knew all about the famous spaghetti scene, but animal movies usually don't do it for me.

However, when I was invited to bring my family to a special screening of Lady and the Tramp in honour the February 7th Diamond Edition Blu-ray Combo Pack release, I just couldn't say no. I love the big screen and the whole cinema experience, as do my girls, so we were all on board, and Daddy was dragged tagged along.



As most of you already know, the movie, originally released in 1955, is the love story between refined cocker spaniel Lady and stray mutt Tramp. Sweet and entertaining, my daughters thoroughly enjoyed it, and already want the DVD.

Following the screening, moviegoers headed to Toronto's The Old Spaghetti Factory (oh, how appropriate) for a fantastic lunch of soup, salad, bread, spaghetti and meatballs, and Spumoni ice cream. (Hubby and I did not mortify our daughters with a romantic movie reenactment with the spaghetti.) There was a superb accordian player, face painting, and a spot for a professional photo. We were also treated to a parting gift of movie posters and some other great Lady and The Tramp loot (book with CD, double straws, Valentines, etc.) It was a fantastic family outing...and on top of that, we even snagged a downtown Toronto parking spot with a flat rate of $10!

So...connecting back to a post I did recently about being "PR Friendly"...was I bought off here? I will gladly admit that snatching up the movie and writing about it probably wouldn't have been high on my to-do list if I hadn't been given this opportunity to see it on the big screen and enjoy a great meal with other Disney fans. (That's where Disney's brilliance comes in.) However, every word I have written here is my honest opinion, and there was never any obligation to post positively about the movie, or to write about it at all.


If you're a Lady and the Tramp fan, you might also be interested in clicking here for some downloadable Valentines and activity (dot-to-dot, colouring, spot-the-differences) sheets. (I clicked "download all", saved and opened them, and I can promise the files are safe!)

This film can't come close to matching Beauty and the Beast or Hercules as my favourite animated features, but if you're looking to add something to your children's collection, this is certainly a worthwhile classic, and one that my daughters are still raving about. (They're also still arguing over how to divvy up the Lady and The Tramp valentines.) Plus, it's always nice to have a few movies that don't involve castles, crowns and ballgowns.

Disclosure: My family was provided with the experience described above for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own. I cannot be bought with free pasta.

Sunday, February 5

Flashback: Making Icy Decorations

I'm pulling one out of the archives to share with you today, since many of you weren't around for it back when This Mom Loves was in its infancy, so to speak, and because the timing is right:

Making Icy Decorations


Click here for the simple instructions. It's a kid favourite!

Saturday, February 4

Anastasia's Picks: The Latest Selections For Kids and Pre-Tweens

Here is my ten year old niece's latest recommended reading:

CIRCUS GALACTICUS by Deva Fagan



Summary: I like this book because it talks about magic and aliens. This book is about a girl [Trix], who finds an alien circus, and decides to join them. On the way she discovers secrets about the circus, and tries to stop some evil men.

Not-fave part: I didn't like the part when someone tries to kill Trix.

Fave part: I liked the part when Trix saves her best friend from death.

Age: I would reccommend this to 10 to 12 year olds. 5 STARS!


WHEN APPLES GREW NOSES AND WHITE HORSES FLEW: TALES OF TI-JEAN by Jan Andrews




 
Summary: This book is comical and sensible. It tells the story of Ti-Jean, a funny fellow who makes problems [by accident!] , but always manages to solve them in them in the end. I think this book is a bit too short, but interesting, and best for 8 year olds. 

Favourite part: I like when Ti-Jean saves the day in all the stories.
Worst part: I did not like how the book was very short. I perfer longer stories, personally,  but it still was a good book.

4 STARS!

Thank you, Anastasia!

Thursday, February 2

BIC Prize Pack (Worth $75) Up For Grabs: Make It "Write" In 2012!

Giveaway open to Canadians.

Yes, yes, we all love technology, but there are times that only a handwritten message will do. Family members were making fun of me just recently for still using an old-fashioned date book (how can you go wrong looking at gorgeous images of New York City every day?) but I'm just not ready to make that leap. I also still do lesson plans and most notes to parents with good old paper and pen, despite the fact that using the computer may seem more convenient.

They may be a little biased, but BIC wants to remind us all that there's nothing more personal than handwritten notes...and 2012 can be the year for you to stay better connected with family and friends.



“The simple act of handwriting is more than the sum of its words; it’s extremely personal and very powerful,” says Michael Salfi, Brand Manager, Stationery, BIC Inc. “Even in this digital age, leading research reveals that handwriting information enhances retention better than typing on a keyboard. The process of putting our personal pledges in writing helps retain the ideas more firmly in our minds, leading to greater recall, ownership and dedication throughout the year.”

Get a fresh start to the New Year with BIC’s Top Ten Tips to help make 2012 better than ever!

1. Rewrite your New Year’s Resolutions by hand. This personal touch will motivate and give ownership to your commitment. How are those going by the way?

2. Reduce emails and connect with family and friends by sending them handwritten notes and birthday cards throughout the year.

3. Create a handwritten “Bucket List” to keep track of all the exciting stuff you want to accomplish in life!

4. Handwrite a letter together as a family, describing where you hope to be in five years. It’s a great keepsake to look back at your children’s handwriting and how it has progressed.

5. Encourage parents and grandparents to handwrite their children/grandchildren’s favourite story in a journal as a keepsake for when the children get older.

6. Include a handwritten note in your husband’s suitcase before a business trip and your child’s lunchbox or overnight bag for their first sleepover.

7. Why wait until Valentine’s Day? Write a love note to your loved one – a personal way to show how much you care.

8. Stay connected during family vacations and send postcards to loved ones so they know you were thinking of them and sharing your vacation memories.

9. Start a diary or journal to record memorable occasions. Try and write daily about little anecdotes about your day.

10. Keep a pen and pad of paper by your bed at night. Write down any ideas you have through the night so you can clear your mind and have restful, worry-free sleep.

Just to help you out, BIC is offering one lucky This Mom Loves reader a goody pack of assorted BIC stationery products valued at $75!
 
 
 
All you have to do to enter is fill out the form below and click submit! Extra entries for subscribing to This Mom Loves through e-mail, GFC, Twitter or follow me (Kate Winn) on Pinterest (NEW!) See sidebar buttons to sign up for any and all.
 
The contest will run until February 16th at 11:59 p.m., after which time a winner will be chosen through random number generation.
 
Good luck, and get writing!