Friday, August 29

School/Work Snacks Makeover with Registered Dietitian Stefanie Senior

I love my carbs. Pasta, breads, crackers, name it, I love it (and my daughters seem to be following in my footsteps).

Carbohydrates are an important part of a healthy diet, but I know that all carbs are not created equal, and as I work on improving my nutrition, I asked for some advice from Stefanie Senior, Toronto-based registered dietitian and nutritionist.

Here's the challenge I put forth to her:

My school lunchbag is usually full of carb-y snacks like granola bars and crackers (don't worry, there's dairy in there too, and the girls are great for packing fruit - yes, they pack their own lunches).

I want to be able to purchase my snacks at the grocery store (no homemade granola-bar making for me) and of course I'm looking for yummy flavour.

Stefanie was up for the challenge and came through with some very helpful recommendations, while making the point that ideally each snack should include some carbohydrate AND protein (so I need to remember the cheese when I'm packing my crackers) and be as natural and unprocessed as possible.

Here's what she suggested (some suggestions do have peanuts so I'll choose carefully for work):

Granola Bars: Kashi (this is the only brand she recommends; I picked up their Chocolate Almond and Sea Salt With Chia)

Protein bars: Elevate Me, Vega, Quest, The Simply Bar, Taste of Nature (Argentina Peanut Plains)

Energy bars: other Taste of Nature bars, Kind, *Lara bar, *Go Raw, Bumble Bar, *Pure organic, Raw Revolution

Other carb choices: Air popped popcorn, Crisp Breads (Ryvita, Wasa, Lavash), Finn Crisps, Mary's Crackers, Baked tortilla chips (Que Pasa)

I also got the clear idea from her suggestions that "whole grain" is an important term to look for when I'm buying bread, english muffins, tortillas, etc., and for the most part I'm okay with that, though I still struggle with the taste of whole grain pasta. Mixing half white and half whole grain is a good way to start adjusting the taste buds.

While I want to begin with a carbohydrate makeover, Stefanie has several other healthy-snack suggestions from different food groups. Here are my favourites:

-light Mini Babybels
-low-fat cottage or ricotta cheese
-cheese strings
-Laughing Cow light
-yogurt (Greek is higher in protein)
-boiled egg

What I love about these suggestions is that I now have some healthier brand-names in mind when I'm scanning the grocery shelves for my school snacks. I've already added Kashi bars, Mary's Crackers, Finn Crisps and Babybels to my shopping list.

Stefanie Senior

Stefanie offers customized nutrition and weight loss plans, sport nutrition counselling, and motivational speaking (among other services) and is available through Skype for anyone across the country looking for assistance.You can find more information as well as some handy resources on her website.

Thanks so much, Stefanie! You have me on the path to (slightly) better nutrition!

Tuesday, August 26

Your Child's Classroom Placement - Why It's Great (Really!) My CHEX Daily TV Segment

Our school is almost completely made up of split-grade classes this year, and parents are eagerly (?) anticipating the announcement of who their children's teachers will be.

I know there can be a lot of anxiety (and some misconceptions) about how class placements are decided, which is why I tackled this topic for my most recent CHEX Daily TV segment. I also discussed, with hosts Caley Bedore and Mike Judson, why it's important for parents to keep their teacher preferences to themselves. If you're positive about your child's teacher, class placement and school in general, your child will be too!

Thanks for your support, everyone!

Monday, August 25

To Do: Get Your Kids' Eyes Checked!

When was the last time your children had their eyes checked? As a parent, I've been taking my girls to see the eye doctor (officially known as a Doctor of Optometry) since the age of three. I got glasses when I was eight, and wanted to make sure that we don't miss any developing problems my kids may have.

As a teacher, I also see (no pun intended) a huge importance in this annual exam for kids. If students can't see the front of the room, or the words in the book in front of them, how can we expect them to learn? It’s true that undiagnosed vision problems can affect your child’s ability to reach their full potential. I've seen attention and behaviour difficulties which ended up being the result of the fact that the poor kids couldn't see properly.

According to Doctors of Optometry Canada, 1 in 4 school-age children has a vision problem, and since 80% of learning is obtained through vision, an eye exam is vitally important for your child's education...which makes the start of the school year the perfect time to book your appointment. Check out this video from a Doctor of Optometry on vision and problems at school:

While your family doctor may perform a simple sight test, or a screening may be done at school, it's still important to have a comprehensive eye exam from a Doctor of Optometry to identify any potential problems that might exist, with vision or eye health.

It is recommended that infants have their first eye exam between six and nine months of age. Children should have at least one eye exam between the ages of two and five, and then every year after starting school. My girls just had their annual exam, and they were very excited to model for you what you can expect - and are hoping that you will show your children! They also want other kids to know that there's no discomfort whatsoever with the exam. (Okay, maybe they didn't use the words "discomfort" or "whatsoever", but they want kids to know it doesn't hurt at all!)

Remember my daughters are six and eight; the steps will be different for very young children and may vary by doctor.

Getting a picture taken of your eyes

Waiting in the doctor's office

Covering one eye with a "spoon" and reading some letters on the wall

Reading letters (or naming pictures, e.g. cake, bird) close-up on a card

Pointing at some pictures (testing depth-perception)

Looking through a neat machine - like a HUGE set of glasses

Putting your chin and forehead in special spots on a machine
 so the doctor can look at your eyes REALLY closely

Posing with the amazing optometrist, Dr. Kwiat
(Thanks for letting us take pictures in your office!)

This was actually a very exciting exam for Frannie as she learned that the time has come for glasses, and we spent some time after the appointment trying on frames. I'll be sharing a picture of her chosen pair in the future.

The Doctors of Optometry Canada website offers additional information, including great tips for what to expect in terms of eye health and vision at different phases of childhood, and symptoms that may indicate a problem.

It's also important to note that you don't need a referral to book an appointment. Simply use the the Find a Doctor tool to locate a Doctor of Optometry near you.

Disclosure: This post was brought to you by Doctors of Optometry Canada, however the images and opinions are my own. For more information please visit

Thursday, August 21

Behind the Scenes at ET Canada with Cheryl Hickey

I first interviewed Cheryl Hickey, host of Entertainment Tonight Canada, three years ago, when we talked about (among many other things) her almost two-year-old son. Now Jaxson will soon be turning five, and has a little sister Nyla, born almost sixteen months ago.

Busy mom Cheryl recently welcomed me behind-the-scenes at ET Canada, and when we first met in person she was undergoing what she calls the "restoration process" with makeup artist Anne, while working on her laptop and talking on the phone. (I told you, busy.)

As we chatted (full interview at the bottom of the post), Cheryl proceeded to do her own hair, which surprisingly is the norm. “I have someone come in twice a week to give me new ideas but I really like doing my own hair! My mom used to perm and cut and do all that stuff – she wasn’t a hairdresser but she did it – and I kind of find it relaxing and I prefer to do it myself. I do have Donato Spa come in to give me ideas, and they colour my hair. I’m not a real blonde – shocking, right?" she jokes.

While all this was happening, co-host Rick Campanelli popped in for his own makeup session (he thought he noticed a pimple, and Cheryl quipped that it would be appropriate, since he seems to be reverse aging like Benjamin Button!) The two then took a moment to review Taylor Swift's new video (Shake It Off) in order to discuss it later on the show, as publicist Natasha looked on in the background.

(Random note: Executive Producer Sholeh Fabbri also stopped by and said hello during our chat, and I had to restrain myself from going into audition mode. You all remember this audition, right?)

Next, it was into Cheryl's well-stocked wardrobe closet, where she selected her outfit for the day (maybe my jumpsuit inspired her?) As she gave me a mini-tour, she pointed our her family photos and artwork, which I paid more attention to once she clarified that it was actually her artwork - she likes to paint in her spare time. (She gets credit for the painting you can see on the shelf in the photo.)

While Cheryl headed to do some voiceovers for the day's show, I took a moment to snap a pic of this poster, showing Cheryl and Mary Hart, the original hosts of their respective ET programs.

I then met Cheryl on set, where all of the TV magic happens. A couple of surprises for me:

  • The show isn't live (I knew that part), but while I envisioned it being taped in sequence, with the hosts watching the clips/interviews, in fact they do their bits in no apparent order, and don't view the other portions of the show while on set. (I thought I would see the whole content of the show while I was in studio with Cheryl, but only saw the portions where Cheryl and Rick were speaking.)
  • Despite the fact that the show is taped early in the day, they prepare for last minute events: Cheryl taped "We begin now with breaking news." (serious voice) and "We begin now with breaking news!" (happy voice) intros just in case.

Cheryl's look for the day (thanks to ET Canada for this pic)

A quick beauty tip from the set: Cheryl recommends Sally Hansen Airbrush Legs for covering up any blotches, pale spots or varicose veins before going on-camera. "All the stars use it!" 

She also demonstrated that if you stand on set like you normally would, you look like a slouch. She then modeled the proper "meeting the queen" stance, which I have been trying to imitate from that moment on.

Since returning from mat leave (when Nyla was six months old) Cheryl has been working part-time so she can spend the afternoon with her little ones, so by 1:00 she was wrapping up and ready to head home and put her mommy hat back on.

You all know how much I love my behind-the-scenes experiences, and I had lots of fun on the set of ET Canada...and learned a ton about how the show is put together!
Now, as promised, here's my one-on-one with Cheryl!

I’m going to start off with the most burning question from my readers: what are your beauty secrets?

Well, I think it all begins with water, water, water. Then good skin care: washing, exfoliation. I had a lot of pregnancy mask after my son and then a bit after my daughter, so I was going for some photofacials and things like that and also I use sunscreen every day. I did some damage when I was 16 like we all do but now I’m good about wearing sunscreen. A good serum is always important. I love Elizabeth Grant and their Vitamin C creams. I also love SkinCeuticals. I use Jane Iredale every day for skin care and makeup because it’s all natural and it lets your skin breathe. There are a few things I use and I dance between them because as you know if you just use one your skin gets used to it, so I go between Elizabeth Grant, SkinCeuticals and Jane Iredale.

Any opinions on the cosmetic surgery debate? 

I think every woman should do what they need to do for their bodies. I am not going to stand up on a pedestal and say “you can’t do this, you should do this”. I think childbirth does amazing things to the body and what a woman chooses to do afterwards is her decision. It’s her body. In terms  of being a mom, I think you do what you need to do.

Do you feel a pressure in the TV business to keep looking young? Is that something that stresses you as a TV personality?

No, it doesn’t stress me. Maybe it would if I didn’t have the perspective I do, with someone in our family fighting a degenerative disease. My mom has MS and I watch what happens with her and I think we’re lucky to get to age. Is there a little more spotlight on me in television? Absolutely. I gained 70 pounds on the show and I lost 70 pounds on the show...twice! There were days when I felt extremely self-conscious and vulnerable but that’s the beauty of being a woman – the gift and the curse. I’ve had days where I’ve thought “Oh, I have all these blotches and I’m sticking out everywhere!”, but I can’t sweat the small stuff when I watch what’s happening to some other people I know. Plus I have the magician here {gestures towards makeup artist Anne} so really I’ve got a leg up over what most women get! I’ve got great lighting, excellent cameramen and an amazing makeup artist so it’s really nothing to do with me!

What do you do to keep fit and in stay in shape?

I have two kids! I have a toddler and a four-year-old with more energy than you can imagine so right now my physical activity revolves around theirs, which is very physical! When that subsides a bit I will get back into Pilates and the things that I like to do but that’s my fitness right now.

So your son is heading into year 2 of kindergarten?

Yes. Full-time this year, but we made the controversial decision to send him part-time last year {Ontario has a new full day, every day Early Learning Kindergarten Program}. It was not a popular decision but it was the decision we made as a family. When he started school he was three. I understand what the government is doing and they want to help parents but my guy was not ready to do his own shoes and zipper and be responsible for eating and drinking on his own. He was three and that was still a mommy’s job, so we made the decision that he would be part-time and it was a great experience for him. He loved it.

Is back-to-school a big deal at your house?

Yes, I finished all his back-to-school shopping last week. He’s picked out his Transformers backpack and lunchbox and thermos so everything’s organized and ready to go!

Any tips for making the school day run smoothly?

Schedule. When kids are in school – and I’m not on a soapbox because I’ve just had a JK-er, what do I know? – but what works for our family is a consistent bedtime, good nutrition, no sugar before bed, and a positive attitude about a school year. That really helps. If I’m excited about it, he’s excited about it. Being organized is important, getting your back-to-school shopping done before everything’s picked over. Letting them make choices too. He picked out his backpack and everything to get excited and have some ownership.

You had a little piece in Today’s Parent recently {she and co-host Rick took on opposite viewpoints of trampolines for their "Debate" feature}. How did that come about?

Our publicist, Natasha, handles these sorts of things and she came to us with this idea. Rick and I have fun debating things – from Taylor Swift and her latest song to parenting. We both have different ideas and different perspectives, plus he’s a dad and I’m a mom, and our kids are different ages but this opportunity came up and we went for it.

Is writing something you’d like to do more of?

Well, I’d like to but my plate is pretty darn full! {At this point Cheryl shared a *big* secret project she’s been working on that I can’t tell you about for another few weeks...but I promise I will then!}

(Because of course I needed a photo on set!)

You’re active on social media, and I’m curious how you handle the negativity that comes your way?

I read it, I understand it, I respond to the ones I need to and I move on. Really I can count on my hand the number of negative comments I’ve received so I guess I’m lucky. There was one woman who didn’t like my outfit for a whole week and thought I had a bad choice of wardrobe and I respect that. Sometimes I hit it and sometimes I miss it, and that’s on me.

Most stations show ET and ET Canada back-to-back. The news is the news, so how do you ensure that the content isn’t going to be repetitive for viewers?

We start the day with our morning meeting at 9:00 where we run down the entire list of options for the day , and they have a discussion with everybody about what else ET is having, so there are times we overlap, but the conscious effort is to make sure we put our touch and Canadian spin on it, whether we take the story further with an expert or with someone else who can speak to it.

What about when a big story breaks, like Robin Williams’ suicide?

The scheduled lineup has to change for sure. With that particular example, we were already packaged and the show was in bed when we got the news, so for the next day everyone started to make phone calls and make sure we had our experts ready and everyone goes to the wall and gets it done.

I’m not expecting you to name any names, but can you give any examples of bad celebrity behaviour you’ve seen at junkets or in interviews?

I always find it fascinating why people want to know the bad stuff...but I guess I understand! I’ve never had a bad celebrity. When I do an interview, it’s agreed upon. They’re there to promote a movie and I’m there to do my job so they would be shooting themselves in the foot if they decide not to play ball, so for the most part people are professional.

Who’s still on your list that you’d like to interview?

I really want to interview Kate Hudson and her mom at the same time. I love what Goldie Hawn is doing with mindful parenting and teaching mindfulness. I think it’s so important in this society where we’re so plugged in with Twitter and Instagram and Facebook, it’s reminding people how to communicate again and giving parents tools on how to engage their kids in this era. I love what she’s doing, and I just love her positive, free-spirit attitude. I’d love to sit down with the both of them.

I was also a huge New Kids on the Block fan – still am – and every time there’s an opportunity to interview them I shy away from it because I don’t want to ruin my “thing”. I was in love with Joey McIntyre. Everyone had someone. So I haven’t done that yet, and I’m hoping this year for our 10th anniversary I’ll be able to interview them. I’ll take my sister and my best friend and turn it into a thing!

I’d love to interview Michelle Obama too because I find her really interesting. Betty White. I love her! Melissa McCarthy is my funny lady, who makes me ugly laugh.

As hosts, do you argue over who gets what interview?

No, because we don’t get to decide! They know us by now, and what makes us tick, and who we’ll gel with so they make those decisions. It's also based on what we have going on with our lives. The show is very family-oriented.

Do you have to travel much for ET Canada?

I used to travel a lot, but now I’m mostly in studio. I travel when they have a big interview and they want me to go. When I was pregnant I wasn’t travelling much because I was large!

You have TIFF coming up again very soon. Does it ever get old, covering the Festival year after year?

No, because it’s always different. Who’s going to be here, how we cover it, the interviews, the movies. It’s all different. The one thing that remains the same is the fans, because they’re such educated movie-goers in Toronto. They really know film, and I think the stars know that, because they say it in interviews. It’s exciting, and a time to get extra-glammed up and interview some exciting people. I’m excited to maybe interview Jason Bateman this year. Love him!

Thanks, Cheryl! You can find Cheryl on Twitter, and of course catch the entire ET Canada gang weeknights on Global. They'll be celebrating Season 10 beginning September 2!

Sunday, August 17

Cynthia Loyst: Behind the Scenes at THE SOCIAL

{If you missed it, my Momterview with Cynthia Loyst from a few months ago is HERE. She spoke about how she landed the role on the show, her thoughts about the institution of marriage, and being a mom to her now fourteen month old son Jaya. The interview has held the top spot for pageviews here on This Mom Loves for several months, though it had some competition from coverage of her co-host Lainey's Smut Soiree. Clearly a lot of my readers are fans of THE SOCIAL!}

When I had the chance to go behind-the-scenes at THE SOCIAL, I walked into the co-hosts' office in the morning and Cynthia immediately jumped up and greeted me with enthusiasm and a warm hug. I really do feel like we're friends already, and the more I hear her talk on the show, the more I feel we're kindred spirits. Need proof? She likes to go to bed early. She never really cared for the bar scene, especially when strange guys would try to dirty dance behind her. She used to be a belly-dancer. Fine, we don't have that trait in common, but still..

After the show, Cynthia and I had a chance to sit down and catch up, and I had a few new questions (some mine, some from my readers) to throw at her.

What are your favourite topics to cover on the show?

We cover such a range of topics, but I'm fired up about anything to do with love and sexuality and gender, particularly when we start to pigeonhole people into gendered ideas, though it's hard not to do that I must say. I'm one of the people who often is saying "we can't say all men are x, y and z," or "we can't say all women are x, y and z" that stuff kind of gets me fired up.

But then the most random topics will get me worked up. One day when I was riding into work I heard about a Mississauga bylaw that was taking place because a man saw his neighbour's laundry hung up too high, and there was too much of it, so they actually passed a law legislating what types of drying mechanisms you can have in your backyard or how much laundry you can have, and I thought "Oh my goodness, what have we come to in this world?" Talk about first-world, suburban problems, where someone's not harming anybody, except maybe the vision of your perfect home, and they're actually trying to help the environment, and yet you're going to cause such a big stink over this. Now a small caveat: when I actually saw a photo of the laundry when I got to work it was alarming, but I still stand by the fact that I hope we live in a world where we can throw out some of those ideas, especially when it's for the greater good.

Long and short of it, when it comes to love, relationships, family and gender, those are the stories I most gravitate towards.

And what about guest segments? Do you ever get to work and think "Yay! We're doing this today!" or "Oh no! We're doing this today!"?

I have a love/hate relationship with the exercise segments. Right now I am woefully out of shape. {Here I gave her the required "Yeah, right!" look, though I totally understand that there's a difference between being thin and being fit.} I think I'm eating less, or I'm running around chasing the baby, but I actually am the least in shape I've ever been in terms of muscle tone. Whenever I do an exercise segment which is maybe five or eight minutes long I hurt the next day afterwards. That's how pathetic I am right now! I know Lainey and I were rolling our eyes because I think we're in the fitness segment tomorrow and we often feel like we get very winded - they're tough!

I love fashion segments. Erica Wark is our guest stylist on the show - and she, of course, as you probably know just got engaged live on the show - and we love her. She's like part of the extended family of our team, and she's so talented at what she does. Let's face it, fashion is just so fun! On that note too, Matthew is our guest hairstylist on the show, and I learned great ideas from him last week. I'm not one of those people who has ever really looked at a magazine and been able to teach myself a new hairstyle, but I do learn from those segments and there are things I've gone home and tried.

At other shows you've worked on before you've also worn a "producer" hat. How different is it to just be on-screen this time around?

You know, it's been a hard transition for me. I never wanted to be in front of the camera. Part of what interested me about television was producing real people's stories and I was into documentary production for a long time, and I loved getting to meet people and sit down with them in their home and having them tell their own stories. I never felt the need to be in front of the camera. But things change in the world and in a way it was a survival mechanism for me. At the time, there were a bunch of layoffs, kind of like what's going on right now in the world of television, and I made a pitch to someone because I thought my job was in jeopardy, that I could produce and host a show about sexuality. That was my wheelhouse at the time, I was writing an advice column, and it just so happened that it was accepted because it cost next to nothing to do so that's when I hosted Sex Matters on CP24 so I got to do both at that time, the whole thing rested on my shoulders.

But now, I get to take a step back as producers do their jobs. I still sometimes have to remember to, as Traci puts it "stay in my lane," because I'll be thinking in my head about things that should be happening or should be done, or this needs to move on, and I've learned to just let that hat be tossed away. But it's hard! Producers by nature can be control freaks and part of the thing about being on-air is you have to let things go.

Can you think of any funny mishaps or bloopers that have happened on the show?

There are a lot of undergarment mishaps! Some of us are all about the supportive undergarments and layering though some of us...okay, I'll say it, Lainey often doesn't wear underwear! But sometimes we'll get dressed and realize that a bunch of stuff has to change because undergarments are showing, so that happens. It doesn't make it to air!

One time early on when the show first launched I was walking down the stairs and my shoe somehow just came off! God bless Traci, she picked it up and put it Cinderella-style back on me right before I was going to sit in my seat because it was way behind me. I also worry that one of us is going to trip down those stairs. I know we've gotten more confident and cocky and I don't often use the handrail so that might happen, we might pull a Jennifer Lawrence sometime, but it hasn't happened yet!

Before THE SOCIAL started, people (like me!) used to say "I wish we had a Canadian show like THE VIEW". Then when you started, it was made clear that there shouldn't be a comparison, and that this show would be very different. Lately, I've seen at least two American guests come on THE SOCIAL and say "I wish we had a show like this in the States", which makes it seem like you've almost surpassed what they're offering. What do you think it is that sets you apart?

I think there are a few things. I really do think it's our dynamic with each other. I didn't know the other girls very well before we launched the show, and when I first heard this was our lineup I wondered "Are we different enough? Is this going to stand out? Are we going to butt heads?" Then the show started to evolve and I realized we are such distinct personalities so that's what people say to us, that we're very strong, opinionated women and that we're all very different from each other. So I think that's one.

We also very much care for each other, so there's not the same kind of drama behind-the-scenes. We have gotten into some intense discussions but we do really all deeply care for each other, and I think that shows through too, that it's not speaking this story that we often hear where women can't have arguments with each other without having trouble off-camera, so I think maybe people are picking up on that dynamic.

I also think that we're able to let topics breathe. I know from watching THE VIEW more recently, they fire off and go through a lot of topics very quickly and I think it's harder to get in depth into an idea that way.

Plus we also bring our own personal experiences and I think - or I hope - that people really feel they become a part of our lives, through the interactivity with social media as well. People can literally tell us, in the moment, what they're thinking about something we've said and we respond back. I think that whole thing has created a kind of intimacy.

Who's your dream guest for THE SOCIAL?

I've been a huge fan of Prince since childhood. I'm a total dork about him, I grew up on his music and had fantasies at one point in time about being in a relationship with him. He's such an odd bird but I have huge respect for him as a performer. He's so shy and complicated that I would be beside myself but I would love for him to be on the show. Plus maybe I could try on his heels!

Thanks, Cynthia!

Be sure to follow Cynthia on Twitter, and of course catch her on THE SOCIAL weekdays on CTV.

Thursday, August 14

The Happiness Project: August (Contemplate the Heavens)

For the month of August, "The Happiness Project" author Gretchen Rubin tackled a pretty big project, which was to "Contemplate the Heavens":

I definitely consider myself a religious person. I've inherited a very strong faith and I value Catholic education, Mass and sacraments.

This chapter of Rubin's book was about more than religion, though.

Her goals:

  • Read memoirs of catastrophe
  • Imitate a spiritual master
  • Keep a gratitude notebook

These ideas didn't resonate for me this month. I've certainly done the first, and since Jesus counts as a spiritual master, I spend my life attempting to do the second.

As for gratitude, I've tried the notebook approach before, but couldn't stay consistent (which is what happened with the author as well). I do, however, take time every day to be thankful for all of the blessings I have in my life.

I don't think it would be appropriate to start rambling about what I have, especially when there may be readers out there who are struggling with what they don't. I would, however, like to share a quote that, while biblical, can be applied in all sorts of contexts regardless of your beliefs:

"To whom much is given, much will be expected." (Luke 12:48)

Are we meeting the expectations?

Wednesday, August 13

Teacher Tips For Back-To-School Shopping: My CHEX Daily TV Segment

Last night I made my second appearance as a guest on the CHEX Daily Show to share teacher tips for back-to-school shopping, and again I had a great time. I was a lot less nervous (the night before and day of) and the whole process (from segment preparation to self-makeup application) seemed much easier since I'd already done it once.

This time I was sitting at the table on set, which was helpful since I had school supplies to spread out, and I found it so easy to chat with hosts Teresa Kaszuba and Mike Judson and share all of my tips.

Looking for some practical back-to-school ideas (and pet peeves) from a teacher's perspective? Check out the video clip below.

A few bonus tips that were on my list, but I didn't share on the show:

  • When the weather is nice (until we start wearing boots, which will probably be, oh, in October) kids should have running shoes for outdoors as well as indoors. They have over an hour of outdoor recess each day, plus DPA (Daily Physical Activity), and they'll be more active and safe in proper footwear. (Flipflops and party shoes don't cut it in the classroom either!)
  • If kids are bringing technology to school, keep it physically safe in a sturdy case, but password-protect items whenever possible too (making sure you also know the password!)
  • A tip from a Grade 1 teacher: even though there shouldn't be much homework at this age, kids still need a large enough backpack to hold their lunchbag, water bottle, agenda and anything else they may want to shove in there. Some kids bring cute little bags that just don't have enough room.
  • LABEL EVERYTHING. Your child may be old enough to recognize her belongings, but it's pretty tough when three other kids have the exact same thermos or hoodie. You would be shocked if you saw the amount of clothing that gets donated from our lost and found bin every year...and our school is tiny!
Finally, here's a shot of the Crayola Twistables pencil crayons - a very neat invention, though they do produce garbage compared to traditional pencil crayons. (I even called Crayola to ask if the leftover plastic cases can be recycled, and while they're working on that, the answer right now is no.)

Thanks to Teresa and Mike for having me, and all of the teachers who shared input for this segment - I'll be picking your brains again soon!

Monday, August 11

Blog Bits: How Email Subscriptions Work

Warning: this post is not intended for experienced bloggers with email delivery programs set up and running. I'm actually writing this for the large majority of my readers who are not bloggers, many of whom have asked me questions lately about how it works when you subscribe to a blog through email. Newbie bloggers might take away some helpful info, and of course everyone is welcome to read on!

How it works from the reader's end:

If you love a blog (like This Mom Loves, of course) you can usually find a spot on the homepage directing you to sign up for blog updates through email.

Mine is a little logo that looks like an envelope at the top of my sidebar, and if you click on it, you are directed to a FeedBurner Email Subscription page for This Mom Loves. (I chose to go with FeedBurner, but there are other popular services like MailChimp that you can use to send out your posts for you.)

You enter your email address, type in the captcha that's shown, and click on "Complete Subscription Request". There's still one more important step: you'll receive an email called "FeedBurner Subscription Confirmation" (check your spam if it doesn't arrive right away), and you MUST open that email and click to verify the subscription before you'll start getting updates.

After that, you'll receive any new blog posts from that site in your email daily (though I don't post that often), which some people appreciate so they don't have to keep checking the site regularly for new posts. Most bloggers send links to their new content through social media as well, but if you don't want to have to go looking anywhere, you can get posts delivered right to you, which you can read and/or delete at your leisure.

If you want to head to the blog to read the post, you just click on the title of the email. Sometimes people choose to do this because they want to see what comments have been left (they don't appear in the emails) or because photos or videos can't be seen properly. After I posted the video of my first CHEX Daily appearance a couple of weeks ago, I quickly learned that most people reading my posts in email could not see the video I had embedded in the blog post. From now on, I'll include a link to the clip as well to make it easier to find.

I have my FeedBurner subscriptions programmed to be automatically delivered to readers at 9 a.m. each day (which hopefully reinforces to you that I am not sitting at my desk in my classroom blogging when I should be teaching!)

When the emails land in your inbox, the "from" line reads "This Mom Loves", and the "subject" is the title of that day's blog post.

I made a choice to have the entire posts available in the body of the email, but this is a heavily debated topic in the blogging world. Many bloggers just email the start of the post, with a "click here to read more", directing you to the blog to finish reading the post in its entirety. I find as a blog reader, it bugs me when I have to take that extra step. I sign up to receive blog posts because I WANT to do the reading in my email, and it's an inconvenience (however slight) to click, open a browser, and pick up where I left off.

As a blogger, I understand the theory that your pageviews may very well go down if you make it too easy for people to stay away, (and stats can be very important when it comes to working with brands, plus advertising revenue is often based on how many times your blog is seen online) but I'd rather respect my readers' preferences and keep my content circulating.

It's easy to unsubscribe if a particular blog just isn't doing it for you anymore, or if you decide you'd prefer to read it directly on the web instead of in your email. On that note, I have a confession to make: when I first started using FeedBurner, I checked off the box "Send me an email whenever people unsubscribe". Why on earth did I do that? Those messages, though infrequent, would always bring me down. (Interestingly, there's no option to be notified when someone new signs up!) When putting together this blog post, I made a decision to uncheck that box...and it feels so freeing!

Subscribing through email can be a very convenient way to get new content from your favourite bloggers right in your inbox. Why don't you go ahead and sign up for This Mom Loves right now?

If anyone has questions, I'd be glad to answer them, and comments are welcome as always!

Friday, August 8

Girl's Bedroom: Facelift # 2

It's been a busy summer! You may have already seen our bathroom reno, or my older daughter's bedroom facelift. Today we're moving on to Maggie's room (she's the six-year-old).


This bedroom was the last room in our home to have the original paint colour (from 11 years ago). It started as a guest room, then became the nursery for Frannie, followed by Maggie, who has been in there ever since.

Here are a few "before shots":


Maggie selected her bedding from Target, and while at first she was drawn to the patterns with horses, etc. I convinced her to choose a pattern that would grow with her, as I don't plan to redo her room for several years.

She knew she wanted pink walls, so we grabbed several paint chips to bring home and look at with the bedding, and I gave her a few suitable choices, leaving the final selection to her.

We considered changing the girls' flooring (they still have carpet) but it wasn't in the budget so we gave it a good cleaning and will keep a change on the list for the future.

I had the bright idea to move her dresser into the closet, which I did before I thought to grab the camera for the "before" pics, but it's definitely helping with organization "after".

Here's what it looks like:

Quick idea - I used some adhesive shelf liner to dress up Maggie's play table (and cover up all of the marks from being so well used).



I had framed one of my Grandma's doilies (an idea I saw on Cityline) and it was in the bathroom prior to our latest reno. It didn't match anymore, so I painted the frame white, picked up a roll of wrapping paper at Dollarama to use as the background, and gave it an update to work with Maggie's new colour scheme. 



More AFTER shots:

Yes, I'll admit, I wanted to move the doll bed to make the room look cleaner for the photo, but I resisted!

Maggie has become a "beauty products" junkie (lip balm, moisturizer, hand sanitizer). These new bins keep things contained on her headboard.

I'm absolutely loving the dresser-in-closet move. 
Our next big task will be to go through the girls' wardrobes for fall!

And that, dear readers, should be the end of our home renovating/redecorating for 2014. Thanks for following along!