Wednesday, July 31

A Coat Intervention With My Personal Stylist, Lisa McLatchie

As you may remember, last summer I had a housecall from Lisa McLatchie, my personal stylist, who helped me with a wardrobe makeover (you can refresh your memory here). We went through my closet to purge, match and make lists of fall/winter items to purchase. It was a fantastic experience, and I used her shopping list to supplement my wardrobe with a few key clothing items and accessories...for a reasonable price. (I modeled my Lisa-inspired Back-to-School wardrobe here. Yes, I was blonde then. Yes, I thought it looked good.)

Oh, and if you think you live too far away to work with Lisa, read to the end for information on her new Online Style Consults!

This summer, I asked Lisa if she would take a look at photos of my coat collection (photographed by my seven year old daughter!) and give me some advice. Here is Lisa's (gentle but clear) feedback for me!

Black Puffy Coat #1:

Lisa says: As a basic warm weather coat, there is nothing wrong with this. The fit is good, the length is fine, and the colour is neutral. One thing I would do is to add a colourful knit infinity scarf to add a pop of colour and some personality to the look.

Black and White Tweed Coat:

Lisa says: Again, there is nothing “wrong” with this coat. It is a pretty classic style and material, though I would consider shortening it to end more at the mid thigh. The knee length style can appear somewhat matronly. I would also consider replacing the buttons with something more fun – like a silver or something sparkly. You could easily find something at your local fabric store, and by doing that and having it shortened at your local tailor, you’ll have a brand new coat and it won’t cost that much.

{I like this idea...I think I'll follow through on it.}

Lisa says: This style of leather jacket speaks of a particular time (Lisa's polite way of saying "dated" - I heard it several times last year!) - it also lacks some personality and style. I would replace it with a shorter, more detailed, modern style leather jacket. 

Black Puffy Coat #2:

Lisa says: I would just get rid of this one. You already have the other black puffy jacket, which I find more flattering on your shape anyway.

It's already in the donate pile.

Trench Coat:

Lisa says: I am not sure about this one. It’s hard because yet again, this is a pretty classic style, so there is nothing “wrong” with it per se. But I find the colour washes you out, and I am not sure if it is too big or if it’s the quality of the coat, but it looks a bit sloppy. I would consider replacing it with a different trench and going for one in a stand out colour and some interesting details so you stand out from everyone else. 

Pink Puffy Vest:

Lisa says: Nice pop of colour for you. Don’t be afraid of wearing it with other colours, and not just black - would look great with jeans and a cozy white sweater, or head to toe grey.

Red Puffy Jacket:

Lisa says: A basic red ski jacket… not much to say except maybe no more puffy jackets for you, you have enough now. J

{Hee hee...little does she know that I didn't even show her my black North Face parka! Hello...sub-zero winter yard duty in a cold country field, people! Style is of little concern for those four shifts each week!}

Tan Suede Jacket:

Lisa says: This colour is a bit better than the washed out trench, but still a little dull for you. I would add some punch to it with a printed scarf and change out the belt. People often revert to the belt that a coat comes with, but forget they can dress it up and add their own personality to it with a cool stretch belt (in a metallic or bright colour) with some visual interest.

Again, I'm surprised she's "letting" me keep this one, as it's many years old and I didn't think even a scarf and belt could save it...but I'm glad!

What I've learned: I buy too many puffy coats (they've all been yard duty coats at one point or another before making my North Face purchase), and I am way too safe when it comes to colour. When spending money on a coat I always feel like I should be practical and go neutral, but I am going to try to punch things up a bit (as Lisa taught me last year when working on my fall/winter wardrobe).

If you'd like to tap into Lisa's expertise yourself (regardless of where you live), she is now offering great Online Style Consults, where she will work with you through Skype from the comfort of your own home, which includes:
  • A 1 ½ hour complete style assessment via Skype
  • Your own personal, custom-made comprehensive style guide
  • Complete shopping list based on your specific needs
  • An online style-board with links to your complete wardrobe, head to toe, so all you have to do is click “Add to cart” – check out a sample one here (this is really neat)
  • Follow-up session

I     I personally feel that it's worth the investment, because not only do you feel good about getting your closet organized and donating extra items to charity, but you also save so much money in the future by knowing exactly what you need - and don't need - to buy. No more items hanging in your closet with the tags on them, and no more "I've got nothing to wear!" mornings!

      Thanks for the coat intervention, Lisa! I'm sure this won't be the last time I need you...

Monday, July 29

Sunny South Suggestions?

No, I'm not complaining about the cold Canadian climate right now; just thinking ahead to the inevitable drop in mercury that is the trade-off for living in the best country in the world.

After taking a year off, we're thinking of planning another Sunny South spring vacation this year (you may recall our Mexico fun of 2012), and we're open to suggestions.

Lucky for us, we travel with another family, and our friend is willing to take on the responsibility for planning (thanks, GD!), but if anyone has recommendations for great destinations (in terms of countries or specific resorts) we'd be glad to hear them. We'll be travelling with five kids ranging in ages from five to ten, so somewhere child-friendly is a must.

My one non-negotiable criterion is that the destination has to be hot. Not just "warmer-than-Canadian-spring,-take-your-coat-off hot", but "bikini-in-March-hot".

I think we're leaning towards Caribbean resorts (maybe Bahamas or Dominican?) but we haven't committed to anything yet, so if your family has had a great experience somewhere, please leave a comment or send an email to let me know. Thanks!

Friday, July 26

My Top 10 Posts of All Time

Summer feels like the right time for some flashbacks, and today I'm sharing links to my top 10 most-read posts (excluding giveaways and Momterviews) of all time!

1. Perfect Parties Theme Five: The Rock Star Party (I have my friend Krista to thank for sharing tons of her kids' party themes!)

2. They Searched What? (Some of the craziest - and not always entirely appropriate - search terms that have led web surfers to This Mom Loves)

3. New York City Day 2: Live With Regis and Kelly (Not only did we meet the hosts after the show, but Kelly even told me that my hair is the colour of lice. An unforgettable moment indeed.)

4. Perfect Parties Theme One: The Polka Dot Party (I think Pinterest has also been really helpful in drawing readers to the party posts.)

5. Front Door Makeover (This one is pretty simple - painting our white front door black - but apparently popular.)

6. Perfect Parties Theme Two: The Pajama Party (again, thanks to Krista! We actually copied some of these ideas for Maggie's 5th birthday this year. Guests came to the evening party in their pj's, the cake was made to look exactly like the birthday girl's bed, and loot bags contained a bedtime snack, cheap pj's from Walmart, a toothbrush, lip balm and a little stuffed animal for bed.

Krista's daughter's bed cake:


7. PC Cooking School Birthday Party (we've done this with both of our girls, and I would highly recommend it. It's so much fun, a great experience for the kids, and keeps the work and mess out of your house!)

8. Baby Room To Big Girl Room (it actually started as a guest room, then was the nursery for both girls before becoming Maggie's big girl room!)

9. Behind The Scenes at Cityline (One of my favourite things about being a blogger is the backstage opportunities I've been given, especially this one with Tracy Moore at Cityline!)

10. What To Give a New Mom: (A friend did this for me right after Frannie was born, and it was an absolutely amazing gift. I'll never forget it...because it was for mom, not baby!)

So there you have it: This Mom Loves' Top Ten. 

I'd be curious to know, even if these posts are all new to you today, which one appeals to you most? It's always interesting to learn what types of posts my readers are interested in, since this list runs the gamut from entertainment to decorating to parties to blogging...all topics I love to write about!

Tuesday, July 23

Win a Family Pass to Santa's Village!

Located in Bracebridge, Ontario (about a 90 minute drive from our place) and now in its 58th magical season, Santa's Village is the jolly guy's summer home, halfway between the equator and the North Pole.

We first took the girls when Frannie was two and Maggie only two months (Frannie met Dora that year!), and then again the following summer when they were three and one. We took a few years off before returning this week, but it didn't take long for me to remember just why I love it so much as a family destination. ( on to the end for your chance to win your own family pass!)

Here are some highlights from our visit to the park:

Free elf hats on arrival

Riding the train with Grandma

Ringing the bell at Santa's chapel

Mommy with her "angels"

Feeding the reindeer ($1 for a cone full of feed)

Seeing Santa, of course!
(Frannie asked for Star Wars toys, and Maggie asked for an iPod, to which Santa replied: "I'm just a toymaker! That sounds like something that needs a family conversation!")

Out on the water on Santa's Summer Sleigh (you have to go this year if you want to see the legendary Captain Ricky, who will be retiring at the end of the season).

Bi-Plane Ride (Our kids could do all rides by themselves)

Colouring the Crayola wall (yes, you're allowed to colour on the wall...MUCH different than at home!)

Enjoying the playground action on Elves' Island

Decorating a gingerbread cookie (we did this at the end of the day)

Five year old Maggie says her favourite parts were: the rollercoaster (very fun for small kids), seeing Santa, and feeding the reindeer.

Seven year old Frannie says: feeding the reindeer and farm animals, decorating the gingerbread cookie, and going on the boat ride.

My favourite things about the park (from a parent perspective) are that it's clean, the staff seems very positive and helpful, and it's just the perfect size for kids this age (not a ton of walking or an overwhelming amount of activities).

I can definitely say that Monday was great in terms of crowds and lines, though I realize that not every family has the luxury of going such places during the week.While my parents were part of our complimentary group, they would have been free anyway as Monday is also grandparents grandparent gets in free with every paid admission!

We certainly didn't do it all: we could have checked out a musical performance in the theatre (I'm sure their performers are very talented, but none with the name recognition that Dora had five years ago!), and skipped the spray n play beach and splash pad. Because we have a pool at home, we wanted to spend as much time as possible on rides and other activities, but the splash pad has tripled in size this year and is a great way to cool off on a hot day!

For older children, keep in mind the attached Sportsland (free admission, pay-as-you-play) has tons of activities for the eleven and up set, and there's also a campground.

More information and deals can be found on their website.

So...wouldn't you love to take your family to Santa's Village? I have a family pass for four to give away (for the 2013 season), and all you have to do is leave a comment letting me know which aspect of Santa's Village you - or your child(ren) - would be most excited about. Bonus entries for following/liking This Mom Loves and Santa's Village on Twitter/Facebook. Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: We were provided with free admission for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Monday, July 22

A Day At LEGOLAND Discovery Centre

When the temperature is soaring, what better place to spend the day than at the air-conditioned LEGOLAND Discovery Centre, located at Vaughan Mills? (The fact that it's attached to a huge shopping centre is a bonus for moms!)

With over 3 million bricks under one roof, this destination is an absolute must for LEGO fans...and school field trips and birthday parties are also available!

A map of the LEGOLAND Discovery Centre:

Visual map of LEGOLAND® Discovery Centre Toronto

Some of our family's highlights included finding out our weight in LEGO bricks on our way in:

One of the first things the girls did when they got inside was the LEGO Fire Academy (a fantastic enclosed jungle gym) and they absolutely loved it (unfortunately I didn't get a picture). Bring socks for that one.

We also got a kick out of MINILAND, where Toronto's landmarks are transformed into miniature replicas (do you recognize this?):  

The LEGO Friends area (with more feminine touches, in contents and colours); this was seven year old Frannie's favourite part:

Trying out the LEGO Friends Karaoke stage:

Posing with favourite LEGO Friends:

The Merlin's Apprentice ride (five year old Maggie's favourite part of the day):

There's also a cinema showing short 4D films with lots of surprises...I think this was one of my favourite parts of the visit. (Yes, I go somewhere superfun like LEGOLAND and I still want to watch a movie!)

The recommended visit length is 2-3 hours (though you're welcome to stay all day if you want). We lasted just over two hours, but kids with the building bug will want to play much longer. As casual Lego users, our girls thoroughly enjoyed their time spent there, but ardent fans of the bricks would be even more enthused.

Okay, now I'm just going to go there and make a sexist generalization (oh, yes I am): the boys I know would get even more out of it than the girls. And this isn't just coming from a mom of two girls who knows nothing about the opposite gender: I have seven nephews and have taught over 200 boys at this point so I'm pretty confident with this assertion. (By which I mean, I know exactly who goes for the Lego in my classroom when there's free time and I know who doesn't.) But that said, there's a ton of fun and learning to be enjoyed by both genders.

While we didn't eat at LEGOLAND, I took a stroll through the café and was very impressed by the fresh and healthy options for parents and kids: sandwiches, yogurt tubes, juice boxes, apple slices, etc. (Which is why I wanted to eat in the mall later where I could get a greasy slice of pizza. Wait, did I just write that?)

If you're considering a visit, the LEGOLAND Toronto website is extremely thorough with lots of information and tips. This place is a must-see for any little LEGO lover in your life!

Disclosure: We were provided with admission to Legoland for review purposes. Opinions are, as always, my own.

Thursday, July 18

Teaching Kids Independence: My Walmart Mom of the Year Post

I was honoured when asked to write a post for Walmart's Mom of the Year website, and took some time to ponder my topic.

Finally, I settled on a parenting issue that's very important to me (not only as a mom, but also as a teacher) which is teaching kids to be independent...and my philosophy isn't always popular!

My article is now live, and you can check it out at the following link. Be sure to let me know what you think...even if your disagree with me! (You can leave comments directly on the Walmart site as well.)

Monday, July 15

Photo Shoot For My Magazine Article

I was super excited when Jackie Kovacs, Editor in Chief of Professionally Speaking (magazine of the Ontario College of Teachers) tweeted out this photo on Friday:

Why did I care so much? Well, because the photo will run with the article that I pitched and wrote for the magazine, that's why!

If I were someone else, jaded and cool, I probably wouldn't have posted about this. But I'm neither jaded nor cool, and yet you're still here, right?

The article will run in the September issue of the magazine, and of course I'll provide the link when it's available! And try to cut back on the exclamation marks! (But hey, only one set of parentheses today. Wait, two...)

Wednesday, July 10

Happy 80th Birthday, Grandma!

Today is a very special day in our family, as my beloved maternal Grandma turns 80!

Last week we threw her a garden party luncheon (my Aunt Jane has a gorgeous backyard, perfect for the occasion) and Frannie and Maggie provided some singing and dancing entertainment for the guests.

Just to give you a glimpse of what my Grandma means to me, I'm sharing below a "love letter" I wrote her before Valentine's Day this year, as a model for my students. (Remember, this was meant to be at a Grade 3/4 reading level...I'd like to think my usual writing is a touch more sophisticated!)


Dear Grandma,

Do you know how much I love you? Since Valentine’s Day is coming soon I wanted to let you know how special you are to me.

When I was a kid, you always came to see me in plays and I knew how proud you were of me. Now you come and watch my daughters when they are performing, and it makes them happy too!

You are very helpful, always doing my sewing and mending for me...and never telling me that I should just learn to do it myself!

I love your cooking and baking, and I bet you can guess what my favourite is...that’s right, your chocolate pie!

I think you are so smart, and you know so much about politics. You are open to learning new things too, since you are figuring out an iPad and e-mail at 79 years of age!

Plus, we have so much in common, like our love of family, magazines and shopping!

Thanks for being such a wonderful Grandma! Happy Valentine’s Day!



Happy 80th, Grandma! Here's to many, many more!

Wednesday, July 3

Personalized Backpack From Stuck On You~Giveaway (Can and US)

Giveaway open to Canada and US.

Preface: I am loath to refer to "back to school" the first week of July, but for this, I will do it.

The mail lady showed up at our door yesterday with a package containing two brand new backpacks for my girls from Stuck On You...and they were pumped! (Why else would 5 and 7 year olds break into a game of "school" on the second day of holidays???)

Ever since Frannie was in Junior Kindergarten my girls have used Stuck On You backpacks, and I love them. The quality is excellent and they make it through the year without problems. (Though it's funny how two kids can be different...Frannie got two full years out of her first backpack, yet Maggie's is too worn and dirty to keep around for another year!)

What I really like about the Stuck On You personalized backpacks ($49.95) is that they are totally customized. You go to the website and choose the colour (pink, navy or red), the design (far too many to list: Frannie chose the French-themed "Oui Oui" design and Maggie picked "Fantasy") and enter your child's name (very helpful when belongings go missing). You can even see what the completed backpack will look like before you order it.

The packs have several zippered sections, and easily hold a lunchbag and water bottle (lots of these back to school items are available personalized from Stuck On You) as well as an agenda and random "necessities" (sunglasses, markers, books, rocks, whatever).

Of course Stuck On You is giving away a customized backpack for a lucky This Mom Loves reader! All you have to do is use the Rafflecopter form below and let me know your favourite backpack design from their website. Extra entries for following Stuck On You and/or This Mom Loves on social media.

Please enter...and then forget about "back to school" for at least another six weeks! Good luck!

a Rafflecopter giveaway

Disclosure: I was provided with two backpacks for review purposes. Opinions, as always, are my own.