Thursday, March 28

How I Spring Cleaned My Twitter Account {And Tim's Card Up For Grabs!}

{Prologue: If you read to the end, you could win a $25 Tim Horton's gift card!}

Twitter can be wonderful, especially for bloggers. Last week, I sent out this tweet:

Within minutes, 8 people had "Favorited" the tweet (Why? I still don't understand "Favorites"; can someone please tell me how you use them?), 9 had replied to me with their support, and 5 had very kindly retweeted my message. Including Today's Parent, who sent it to their 423,753(ish) followers. Which then (again within minutes) landed me 14 new followers. When I checked them out, I followed several back, and noticed that I shared something fairly important in common with one, which led to a series of interesting DMs (Direct Messages). All because of one Tweet.

But I know I haven't always used my Twitter account to my (or my followers') advantage, so I decided it was time for a Spring clean.

I reread my copy of Twitter For Dummies, basically because one night I wanted to have a bath and had no reading material (which will make sense to some of you) so I went down to the reference section of my bookshelf (yes I have a reference shelf, and no it is not alphabetized, thank you very much), chose an old favourite and gleaned some new ideas.

Here's what I did to refresh @thismomloves on Twitter:

  • Updated my profile photo. The last one was three years old, but I liked it! And yes, I've taken some other decent pictures over the last three years but some have other people in them, or distracting backgrounds or were from when I was blonde, and now I'm brunette again so that seemed silly. You may be able to see the new shot above on my tweet, but just in case you desperately want to see it in detail:

(By the way, I was dressed up for an important reason. Which I will share here someday once I get my nerve up. I don't know if you can tell, but I'm wearing a LOT of makeup.)

  • Updated my profile page. It used to just have the boring and functional description: "Mom, teacher, freelance writer, blogger". Lately I've seen some inspiring profiles that were more personal and/or clever, so I decided to add a few more details (more personal, still not clever). You'll have to check out my profile to see!

  • Checked my Settings, and visited the Help Centre to learn more about Twitter. I wasn't sure about some things, for example why I wasn't seeing when the people I followed sent @replies to others  (which I would sometimes notice when looking at a person's profile). Here's why:  "People will only see others' @replies in their home timeline if they are following both the sender and recipient of the @reply." Learn something new every day. (When your kids come home from school and say they learned "nothing", they are lying.)

  • Found Friends: when I joined, not a lot of my friends were on Twitter. I used the Find Friends feature to search my Yahoo mail contacts to see who else is on. I actually only found a few to follow (wow, tongue-twisters galore here)...and how did I not know my Mom is on Twitter?

  • Checked in with This app shows you the users you follow who do not follow you. Most of the celebrities I follow show up on this list (I can "whitelist" them so they don't pop up every time I check) but I can also see if anyone has unfollowed me lately. Case in point: someone who just followed me last week, whom I followed back because she looked interesting, proceeded to unfollow me a day later. Nice. So yes, I unfollowed her too. Maybe she is indeed interesting, but no longer someone I want to support if she's that shady about boosting her Twitter numbers. I'm sure some of my followers have checked out because the only reason they followed in the first place was for a giveaway...which is why using that as a bonus entry sometimes seems ridiculous to me, but I still do it occasionally to reward those who do follow @thismomloves.

  • Rethought how I use Triberr. Long story short, Triberr is a network where you form a "Tribe" with other bloggers, and tweet out their post headlines, as a way to help increase each other's reach. I did a whole post questioning the value of Triberr a few months ago, and finally decided to just relax. I check in every couple of days, and only tweet out headlines that really interest me, and which I think my followers would also be interested in. And yes, I do this more often for my Tribesmates who actually go to the effort to tweet out my stuff too (I'm talking about you, Raylene @OKtobeWEIRD, you generous Tweeter).

  • Made a decision to use Twitter less as a "Here's a link to my post so come on over" tool. I've posted a few favourite quotes (from The Little Prince, most recently), retweeted some interesting things I've come across in my stream, and I've been making an effort to (in a genuine way), engage with others by replying to things they say.

  • Tried to start using more photos, like the one last week that showed how my new Target dress was falling apart more and more - in several different places - as my workday went on (see below). Yeah, it was so embarrassing that it became funny. At least I never flashed more than my arms and some upper-leg tights. In other questionable photography, there was also my 4 year old with her temporary Guinness Shamrock tattoo on St. Patrick's Day.

When it comes to Twitter, one thing that frustrates me is when I send out a general question, e.g.:  "Anyone see anything good at the movies lately?" which theoretically goes to 2200 people, and I get crickets in response. Christy from @morethanmommy commented somewhere  (sorry I can't be more specific) that is seems like "Everyone is talking and no one is listening", which really resonated with me (I mean, if I can't keep up with 300 people, how can others actually see tweets from the thousands that they follow?) but I think the more I engage with others, the more I'll get back in return.

In closing, here is my secret for not being overwhelmed by Twitter: As of the writing of this post, I have 2230 Twitter followers, and I am following 298. Many whom I follow are those who followed me from the beginning (lots of Mom bloggers) and I don't have the heart to unfollow them, despite the fact that I cannot possibly keep up with the stream. On my BlackBerry, I can scroll for a full minute, and not even get through the last hour's worth of posts, which is crazy if I'm trying to read a day's worth in one sitting (and I can also scroll for minutes and only see giveaway tweets).

While I do offer giveaways on my blog, at my readers' request (I actually did a poll) I'm not a big entrant so these tweets aren't helpful to me. So what I did was create a list I first called "Celebs", but where I have basically listed anyone whose tweets I don't want to miss (about 50 people. And the list is private, so you'll never know who's on it!) When I log in, I go straight to my "Celebs" list, and within a few scrolls I can catch up on the entire day for these Tweeters. Or Twits. When I have more time, like on the weekends, I scroll through my general timeline but can't possibly read every tweet that's been sent out.

So that I never miss anything that's personal to me, I have my e-mail notifications set up so that if anyone @mentions me or sends me an @reply or a Direct Message, I find out right away and can respond.

I'm hoping this Spring Cleaning will help me to use Twitter in a more meaningful way, and to give my followers a better experience with @thismomloves too.

How about you? Are you a Twitter boycotter, newbie or expert? What will you do to Spring Clean your Twitter account?

{Epilogue: This is a bit of an experiment. Here is a link to the tweet for this post:
 Anyone who retweets it before Sunday, April 7th at 11:59 p.m. Eastern time will be entered to win a $25 Tim Horton's gift card. Your odds are good, because I am predicting that maybe a dozen people will do this, but perhaps I'll be surprised. Good luck!}

Monday, March 25

Hallmark's Spring Treasures

Spring is prime gift-giving season (Easter, Mother's Day, Father's Day, Graduation) and Hallmark is one-stop shopping for both useful and keepsake gifts.

When my latest Hallmark Ambassador box arrived on the doorstep (Maggie was very proud of herself for spotting the delivery truck and dragging the box in herself) I found tons of great goodies, including:

Thumpin' Thumper ($14.95 with three card purchase, reg. $24.95)

When Maggie was a baby, we used to call her "Thumper" because of the noises she made in her crib every morning. I wouldn't be surprised if the Easter Bunny left her something just like this: a plush toy who thumps and says three different greetings.

Mason Interactive Story Buddy and Interactive Storybook ($34.95)

Product View

I'm a longtime fan of Hallmark's Interactive Story Buddies. When you read the books aloud, the animals respond to certain phrases and make comments. This one also comes with a read-along audio CD and free access to digital storytime. You can also purchase other Mason storybooks for $9.95 each. (There's a new female Story Buddy too - Posey the cat.)

While the Squawkin' Egg Droppin' Hen arrived with last year's collection, she's still a favourite at our house, and was the first fought-over item when I brought the Easter decorations out this year ($15.95 with three card purchase, reg. $30.95):
Product View

Magic Prints ($4.99 - $24.95)

Magic Prints Gifts - Just Like You Magnet Frame

Available in a range of formats, these personalized gifts come with Mess-Free (safe, nontoxic and easy to clean) Crayola Magic Solution which reveals handprints or footprints from children or pets.

My final fave item:

Pics 'N' Props For Mom, Grandma, Dad and Graduation ($24.95, special price $16.95 - $19.95)
Pics 'n' Props: Graduation Celebration Kit
These kits come with special themed props (e.g. signs to hold up in photos) and a frame or album to store the memories. I know an upcoming graduate who will love to make use of the Graduation kit I received.

Other Spring items include mugs, stationery...and of course, cards!

Disclosure: I received some of the above-named items for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Sunday, March 24

As Seen On Cityline: Framed Doily

I have several gorgeous doilies made for me by my Grandma, but hiding in a special box in the linen closet, waiting for the use of doilies in general decorating to come back into style (or to pass on to my girls, whichever comes first).

Thanks to an episode of Cityline (all about how lace is very trendy right now) I was inspired to recreate one of the ideas from the show: framing a doily for wall display.

You know I love my dollar store frames, but because of the shape of the doily, I needed something square (most frames are rectangular) so I went to Michael's and picked up one of their 12 x 12 record album frames. It was $29.99, and since Michael's always has coupons, I really should have brought the one from their weekly flyer which could have saved me 40%. But I didn't. My coworkers will be very amused to learn that I actually did something without being fully planned in advance, an oversight which cost me $12.

For the background, I knew I wanted to use a sheet of scrapbook paper, so I selected one from Michael's as well ($0.99) which you can see in the photo below:

Once I assembled things, however, I realized that the small pink floral print looked much too granny-ish (no offense, Grandma!) with the doily, and I needed something with a bit more of an unexpected pattern. I looked through some of the scrapbook paper I already owned, and made a different selection. The final product:

The great thing about this project is that the background can be replaced anytime, when I want to switch rooms (right now it's hanging in our main bathroom) or if I ever want to put something seasonal behind it.

While incorporating doilies into my decorating wasn't a high priority on my list, having an heirloom (from someone as special as my Grandma) on display like this is very meaningful, which I think is important for all accessories. Thanks for the idea, Cityline!

Wednesday, March 20

Like Mother, Like Daughter

On the March Break, I came across my seven year old working busily in front of the Barbie house:

When I asked her what she was doing, she said she would show me when the work was done. My patience was rewarded when she proudly held up:

And then she enlisted her little sister to help her implement the interior design she had carefully planned.

Monday, March 18

Dr. Karyn Gordon, Relationship and Parenting Expert: The Momterview

So, what would you say if you received an invitation to have your own private appointment with a relationship and parenting expert who's making her mark on both sides of our friendly border? Yeah, me too!

I first became acquainted with Dr. Karyn Gordon's work when she was a guest expert on The Mom Show, which I basically inhaled daily during my first mat leave in 2006. Since then, I've seen her quality advice and encouragement pop up on Cityline and in print (Chatelaine and Today's Parent, just to name a couple); media appearances which complement her solution-focused marriage and family counseling practice in Toronto. (Oh, and did I mention she's married with five year old twins?)

About Dr. Karyn

You may be wondering what deeply personal parenting and marriage concerns I run by Dr. Karyn in our session...but sorry to disappoint you, the journalist in me is much more interested in learning about her than giving away anything too personal about myself!

I do ask her what some of the most common struggles are for parents of our generation, and she responds that one of the top questions she's usually asked is about discipline and structure, and how to get our kids to do what we want (or need) them to do. There's also the whole issue of parents worrying about how to maintain their relationships with the demands of young kids, which is a really common concern as well.

In case you're wondering about her title, "Dr." isn't just some television nickname; Dr. Karyn has a Bachelor in Psychology, a Masters in Counseling, a Doctorate in Marriage and Family Therapy and has done extensive studies in generational differences, personalities, leadership and EQ (Emotional Intelligence). Dr. Karyn's practice (she works with kids, teens and adults) is very solution-oriented, which contrasts with the traditional talk-therapy that many of us may think of when we hear the term "counseling".

"Solution-oriented therapy really resonates with me," she says. "I like to fix problems, I don't just like to talk about them, so I built my entire practice around that. It works really well as people see results quickly. People are busy and clients don't want long-term talk therapy."

This approach is particularly effective for men in marriage counseling, notes Dr. Karyn: "It keeps husbands engaged. They don't want to talk about their feelings, they want a strategic action plan to fix this problem. Some people find talk therapy helpful, it can be cathartic to talk things out, but in terms of really changing anything I let people vent but quickly move over to finding solutions to the problems."

Does it really work? "Part of the reason that it's so hard to get into my office is because everybody hears about our phenomenal results. Our track record with teens and couples is well over 95 percent."

When I ask Dr. Karyn what she loves best about her job, her answer is immediate: "The highlight would be seeing people change. I find it's very energizing when I see people make progress. That's one of the reasons I don't want to do talk therapy. I'm not into the small talk, I want to see people progress and move forward, whether that's at my practice, or speaking, or media. I certainly see the change more at my practice, but I love the media side because it's a great platform for teaching things to people who never come into my office."

Curious to know how someone goes from having an area of expertise to becoming an in-demand media and speaking presence (she's spoken to over 1/4 million people), I ask Dr. Karyn for her tips, which are:

  • Figure out what your niche is
  • Figure out an angle that's not out there now
  • Start pitching it
  • Start small with local media and work your way up
  • Focus on word of mouth and a lot of networking: "When I started, it was somebody knew somebody who knew somebody and following up on all those different leads."
  • Remember that each medium is different; TV is  harder to break into than radio and print as it's more competitive.
  • Manage your expectations (so, I guess I won't start with The View!)

Karyn and Tracy Moore (photo

As a Catholic teacher, I was interested to see on her website that she is booked for several days with an Ontario Catholic District School Board, so I ask her what her task will be with them. "Some boards have me training teachers, but in this case, the Director of Education heard me speak and she rounded up some funding to bring me in for three days focused completely on the kids. I'll be speaking to students, mostly high school but I believe some elementary, and it's focused on self-esteem and confidence." (Hmm...wonder if we can round up some funds for that? Though I'd be torn between having her work with the students or having her speak to us adults!)

I am also curious to know how the "parenting expert" deals with her own busy sons. "I find it physically tiring, but emotionally very energizing. I work part time, usually Monday, Wednesday and Friday and I'm home with the kids on Tuesday and Thursday, so for me I feel that's a really good mix. It's fun applying all this stuff to my own boys. I've been working for approximately 17 years but it's different with your own kids. It's fun for me to take all this information that I've learned and worked on with families and apply it to my own kids and realize how incredibly effective it is. It's cool to be kind of the student of my own teaching in a way. I love that part, it's very exciting for me."

She adds, "Being a parenting expert, I had hoped I'd love being a mom, but you don't really know until you get there! I really do love it. It's the purest form of joy there is. I love how they ask questions and they're inquisitive. They're picking up stuff I've taught them and they challenge me. The other day, one of my sons said: 'Mommy, you and Daddy have got to get on the same page!' using the same language he'd heard from my husband and me."

Dr. Karyn is also a best-selling author (Dr. Karyn’s Guide to the Teen Years / Harper Collins) and founder of dk Leadership: An Inspirational Leadership and Coaching Center For Teens, Couples and Adults.

For more information on Dr. Karyn, visit the dk Leadership website or follow her on Twitter.

Friday, March 15

Family Fun at the Royal Ontario Museum

March Break at the ROM (Royal Ontario Museum) is popular. Very popular. In fact, when we arrived an hour after opening, the ticket line outside stretched well past the "30 minutes to admission" sign posted on the sidewalk.

Once inside, however, there's more than enough room for everyone. This was the first time we've taken our girls (ages 7 and almost 5) and the first time I've been there in almost 30 years. It was a fantastic day!

There was a neat "Passport to the World" March Break program taking place where kids could complete activities in various galleries and get their passports stamped, but our kids just wanted to roam.

Some of the highlights:

The Mummies

Animals of any kind (there were several touchable versions as well;
here Maggie attempts a roar)

Replica Tomb

A dig for dinosaur bones  (in what you will later see referred to as "the sandbox")
 with safety goggles and paintbrushes:

Trying on costumes, like this Chinese Court Robe

Hanging out in a tipi (I'm not used to this spelling but I'm going to
assume the ROM knows these things)

Dinosaur bones (before Maggie's interest waned). Display ends March 17th.

Moonwalking Photo Op

When I asked my girls for their favourite parts of the day:

Maggie: "I liked the Bat Cave because it was creepy and I wanted to run because I thought there was a real snake inside. I really liked the sandbox because you got to dig and dig and dig until you found the bones. I liked seeing the queen and the knight {Medieval Times live presentation} but I didn't like that we had to go before it was over."

Frannie: "I liked the Bat Cave because it was kind of freaky but also cool because I got to be scared and I had a chance to see what it's like with bats and I felt kind of like I was a bat. I also liked the dinosaurs and the tipi, because my sister and I could pretend we were Aboriginal People."

A couple of my personal highlights (unfortunately I never made it to "Textiles and Costumes" on Level 4, which I had hoped to see):

"An Egyptian Woman Prepares for a Banquet" (On a related note, who knew that
Egyptian women enjoyed the same social and legal status as men?)

While Celtic artifacts aren't heavily represented at the museum, I did come across these treasures from our family's ancestors: Irish gold. Wouldn't mind finding some of this at the end of the rainbow this St. Patrick's Day!

I was also impressed by the very thorough recycling station in the Food Studio, and the presence of a nursing station set up near the kids' Discovery Gallery.

Final Tips:

  • Young kids enjoy the hands-on experiences best. If you have your heart set on checking out the look-but-don't-touch artifact cases, alternate them with more active displays, or divide and conquer if you have another adult to trade off with. By the end of the day, even the most amazing items can lose their appeal, as demonstrated by this conversation with my four year old:

Maggie: When can we go to the other room? This is boring!
Me: Uh, when you say "boring", are you referring to this authentic Tyrannosaurus Rex skeleton?
Maggie: Yeah! Can we go back to the sandbox now?

T Rex. I know, yawn.

  • You can buy your tickets online to avoid long waits to purchase admission.
  • Consider arriving later in the day if your kids' schedules can handle it. The lobby was almost empty when we left at 2:30 (open til 5:30 6 days a week), and I know there are big discounts for Fridays after 4:30 (open til 8:30).
Note to teachers: there are way too many curriculum connections at the ROM to list, but since listing is one of my favourite pastimes: Plants, Animals, Habitats and Communities, Medieval Times, Ancient Civilizations, First Nations Peoples, Space, and that's only scratching the surface.

Disclosure: My family received admission for review purposes. Opinions, as always, are my own. Oh, and we didn't have to wait in line to get in. (Wouldn't have felt like full disclosure without mentioning that.)

Wednesday, March 13

Arisa Cox: The Big Brother Canada Momterview

If you're one of the 4.2 million Canadians who tuned in to the first week of Big Brother Canada on Slice, you've already met the upbeat and energetic host (and mom of two), Arisa Cox.

For those of you who didn't tune in because you think Big Brother isn't your thing...I have to tell you, I used to be in your shoes. Then my brother and sister-in-law got me hooked on the American version three summers ago. The timeline went something like this:

Episode 1: "Fine, I'll just watch one episode - with a book in my hand -  but I won't like it."
Episode 2: "Well, I guess I'll watch one more just to see what Rachel's up to."
Episode 3: "Drive faster! Big Brother starts in five minutes!"

I was really excited to hear that the franchise was branching out to Canada, and thrilled to get a chance to pose some questions to the beautiful new host. Here's what Arisa has to say about her new gig, motherhood, and her favourite things:

This Mom: What was the audition process like for landing the role as Big Brother Canada host?

Arisa Cox: The audition process was a treat, I have to say. Considering I was on a reality show in 2001 (back at the dawn of the modern reality tv age), it was like coming full circle. Most hosts in Canada threw their hat in the ring for Big Brother Canada, so I wasn't too precious about the audition process. In general I find you have to do an audition, do everything you can to rock it, then forget all about it. Otherwise you'd be constantly heartbroken! Before I got the coveted gig, I was flown in from Edmonton for a final meeting with the executive producers, and at that point the possibility became real. And then the news came just before Christmas, and it was the best gift ever.

TM: Did you spend much time researching Julie Chen's style, or just forge ahead with your own? Do you see any similarities or differences between the two of you?

AC: I love Julie Chen in her role, but I also love some of the other international Big Brother hosts. Everyone is so different, so doing that research chilled me out. Every host brings their own flair and experience to the table, so I wasn't too worried about being similar or not to Julie Chen in particular. I have an entertainment journalism background, but I've also been a producer, been part of casting other shows, and lived for a year on camera for Canada's first big reality experiment U8TV: The Lofters. I understand the entertainment value of Big Brother, but I'm extremely empathetic to the participants. So that's where I'm coming from.

TM: BB Canada seems to be doing a good job of continuing the franchise without just slapping a "Canada" on the end. How do you think the new show is distinct from the American version that most Canadians are used to?

AC: Big Brother Canada definitely has stuck with the US model, but that was just the beginning. This is a really high budget production, with a beautiful, unique house, an incredible staff of producers and technicians and some of the best characters ever to live in a Big Brother House, so there's that. I think the "Canadian-ness" comes out in some of the challenges (lumberjacks, anyone?), the secret talking moose and definitely some of the accents. Plus Canada is such a diverse country, and that is reflected in front of, and behind the cameras.

TM: Do you have any favourite houseguests from previous seasons of Big Brother?

AC: I am totally in love with the gamesmanship of Dan Gheesling (who is so good at this game it's scary), and I love Mike Boogie for sheer entertainment value. I also spent a bit of time with Eddie McGee (winner of the first Big Brother USA, and good friends with Tre Smith, one of my old Lofter pals), and he's amazing too.

TM: With a 3 year old and 1 year old, do you have any recent parenting joys and/or dilemmas to share?

AC: I've thrown sleep out the window, as many parents can relate too. Recent joys? Watching my son go from rolling to crawling to the zombie walk to a drunken cowboy walk. Now he just looks tipsy, and amazes me that his knees aren't black and blue. My daughter grows and changes every day, and I love watching her relate to the wonderful people in her life, and now that I'm back in Toronto, watching her meet so many of my old friends. She's a total handful. Energetic and funny and outgoing and smart and curious. My mother used to call me a "day's work" when she reminisces about raising me, and my daughter is definitely a day's work, so I suppose history repeats itself. My son meanwhile is a very cool customer. Very laid back. I'm very blessed. I also love that my children have forced me to let go of so much. I feel like I'm much more supportive of other women and especially mothers. It's hard to be judgemental now when I know first hand how tough it is to be superwoman - which is the expectation these days.

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

AC: This mom loves West Edmonton Mall...our daughter dubs it the "crazy mall." Seriously, it IS crazy what with the water park, the sea lions, the playground, the rides, and it was the first place Aella ever went skating, making a super healthy dinner that the kids eat without prodding, Baby Centre emails, Scholar's Choice for cool toys, the incredible options for inexpensive but awesome kids clothes (Joe Fresh is one of my faves),,,, bubble bath time with 2 babies in the tub, cuddling with my husband and a good movie (I'm an insane film buff) when the kids are finally down for the night. Hiking in Canmore and at Lake Louise, the aquariums at Atlantis in the Bahamas, and visiting my uncle-in-law's farm in rural Alberta. Oh and iPads = lifesavers!


Thanks, Arisa! For more about the BB Canada host, visit her website or follow her on Twitter.

Big Brother Canada airs on Wednesdays, Thursdays and Sundays on Slice, and you can catch Arisa at the Big Brother House on Thursdays for the dramatic eviction episodes! If that's not enough, there's a 24 hour live feed, and you can check out Big Brother After Dark seven nights a week, also on Slice. Go to the Big Brother Canada website for more info, or follow Big Brother Canada on Twitter.

Monday, March 11

Rearranging Kids' Rooms: Better Than Christmas

Looking for something free and (relatively) easy to entertain and inspire your kids for the March Break?

My darling Frannie (who turned 7 yesterday) had been asking me about rearranging the furniture in her room, so one day last week before she got home, I took it upon myself to do so. The girls' rooms are fairly small (10 x 12) so there aren't that many options.

One piece of furniture had to go, so I (tentatively) peeked inside my hope-chest-turned-toybox and was relieved to see that Frannie was only storing a few items in it, which could easily fit in the unused under-bed drawers. (The hope chest is now in my bedroom, as I ponder what to do with it. I know some people shudder at the thought of painting natural wood - especially a beautiful item that my Dad lovingly made for me - but painted wood is all the rage now...okay, I digress.)

So when Frannie arrived home, I told her I had a surprise for her, led her to her room...and based on her reaction, you would think that Santa Claus had come. Her eyes lit up and got really wide, and she threw her arms around me, thanking me profusely (days later, she's still thanking me). I'm telling you, there wasn't a single new item in the room, and I had even left a pile of junk for her to sort sitting on her bed, but for some reason she was just thrilled, and has been super excited to play in her room ever since.

Here's a before and after of the incredibly dramatic transformation:

From this (desk and bookshelf hidden around the corner on the right):

To this (dresser and bookshelf  hidden around the right hand corner):

Seriously, that was it. Then, of course, Maggie was terribly disappointed (those of you who know her and think she is always smiling would be very disheartened to know what she looks - and sounds - like when terribly disappointed) and we quickly did her room too.

It's a great chance to freshen things up (and do a little Spring dusting/vacuuming behind the furniture) and if my kids are any indication, inspires them to purge unneeded items and rediscover their old favourites.

Let me know if this works for you!

Friday, March 8

Take a Crack at the Egg Farmers of Ontario Egg Decorating Contest!

Eggs Farmers of Ontario has just launched The Eggs Factor Contest! It's an online egg decorating contest – i.e. egg decorating without the mess! (You had me at "without the mess"!)

With Easter a few weeks away and March Break next week, it's a fun, free activity to do as a family over the break or to do with your students (I like both ideas!)

The contest can be found at 

The contest runs from March 6th to April 2nd, with iPad Minis up for grabs! For every entry, Egg Farmers will donate a carton of eggs to Breakfast Clubs of Canada.

The Eggs Factor is divided into six age categories: 0-5, 6-12, 13-18, 19-29, 30-59 and 60-plus. A panel of eggs-perts – Ontario egg farmers – will shortlist each category to six entries.  The chosen entries will then be posted on, where Canadians will have the chance to cast their votes from April 4th to14th.  The top two winners of each age category will be awarded an iPad mini. Egg artists will also have the chance to win weekly prizes.

If you want to take a crack at traditional (non-digital) egg decorating Eggs Farmers has tips on their Eggs Factor website from how to prep your egg to how to make a disco egg!

I'm waiting for St. Patrick's Day to pass before I get full-on into Easter mode, but my daughters and students will certainly be checking out this site!

Wednesday, March 6

Anastasia's Picks: More Books For Tweens and Teens

Here are some more book recommendations, courtesy of my lovely 11 year old niece, "Anastasia":

Twelve Kinds Of Ice by Ellen Eryan Obed, illustrations by Barbara McClintock

Summary: Twelve kinds of ice demonstrates the beautiful stages of ice in the wintertime, and how amazing ice just is. Enjoyable and understandable, this book is surely a keeper for everyone!

Age recommendation: Every person of all ages can enjoy this book!

Rating: Three out of five stars for sure!

Favourites: I love how detailed the descriptions are, and how beautiful they are as well.

Least favourites: If this book could be a little longer, it would be even greater.


Safari created by Dan Kainen, written by Carol Kaufmann

Summary: Cool pictures, cool descriptions, and cool facts, Safari is certainly a book to read! {This is a "photicular" book - each image is like a 3D movie on the page, as the animals in the photos move before your eyes!}

Age recommendation: Safari's descriptions of animals are for middle grades, but the pictures are definitely for everyone!

Rating: 4 out of 5 stars

Favourites: I loved the pictures the most, I flipped them over and over for hours!

Least favourites: None at all, it was great!


The Wrap-Up List, by Steven Arntson

The Wrap-Up List

Summary: A girl gets a letter from a "Death", saying that she has a week to live. Determined to find out her Death's weakness, she searches through her neighbourhood to find a way to stay on earth.

Age recommendation: 12 to 16

Rating: 3 out of 5 stars

Favourites: I love the touching moments, and the connections I make with the character.

Least favourites: Maybe a little longer, even more detailed!

Saturday, March 2

Winners: Magazines, Scholastic and femMED

Congratulations to our latest winners:

Three Magazine Subscriptions:
Sally of Omemee, ON (she chose Canadian Living, Style at Home and Parents Canada)

Discover More Non-Fiction Books from Scholastic:
Sarah of Winnipeg, MB (she chose Animal Babies, My Body and The Farm)

femMED Supplements:
Amy of Allenford, ON  (she chose - and is allowing me to share with you - Multi + Antioxidants)

Congratulations to the winners, and thank you to everyone for entering!